The Naval War in the Falklands, Part 3

Part 1 of this series is here.

Part 2 of this series is here.

The Opposing Forces Order of Battle- Argentina

The Argentinian armed forces had not fought a significant external war since 1860. One of the oddities of this war was that much of Argentina’s armed forces were organized along British lines, and much of their equipment was virtually identical to that of Britain.

Argentina was in the midst of a dispute with Chile at the time, known as the Beagle conflict. This meant that a significant faction of the nation’s forces were committed to defending against a possible conflict with Chile.

Naval Forces

– The Argentinian Navy was mostly a mix of surplus US Navy vessels from World War II and ships bought either new or used from Britain.

Surface Forces

  1. Carrier forces- The flagship of the Argentinian Navy was the ARA 25 de Mayo, a Colossus class carrier formally of the Royal Navy. Unlike the powerful attack carriers in the US Navy, this small carrier had a tiny air group, consisting of mostly obsolescent aircraft, surplus US A-4Q Skyhawks and S-2E Trackers. Further, the ship had poor sensors and was in poor materiel condition. It would be reasonable to presume that Argentina maintained the carrier more for reasons of national prestige than for any genuine military value it had.
  2. Cruiser- The ARA General Belgrano was formerly the USS Phoenix (CL-56), a Brooklyn class light cruiser armed with five triple turrets of 6” guns. Updated with French MM38 Exocet anti-ship missiles, she had considerable anti-ship capability, and her gun armament could have been devastating to British forces ashore.
  3. Destroyers and Corvettes
    1. Type 42 DDGs- Argentina owned two Type 42 guided missile destroyers virtually identical to the Sheffield class the British deployed to the Falklands. Armed with the Sea Dart missile system, ARA Hercules and Santisima Trinidad were primarily tasked as escorts for the ARA 25 de Mayo forming Task Group 79.1.  These were by far the most modern ships in the Argentine fleet.
    2. Sumner/Gearing DDs- The ARA Hipolito Bouchard and Pierdrabuena were former US Sumner class destroyers. They were tasked to serve as escorts for the ARA General Belgrano forming Task Group 79.3.
    3. D’Estienne_d’Orves Corvettes- Corvettes are small warships, bigger than patrol craft, but smaller than frigates. ARA Drummond, Guerrico, and Granville formed Task Group 79.4. These small ships were intended for inshore anti-submarine warfare and patrol. They were relatively modern ships, but not intended for offshore operations.
  4. Amphibious Forces- The primary amphibious warfare ship was the ARA Cabo San Antonio, a  Tank Landing Ship, or LST built in Argentina based on the US Desoto County class .
  5. Miscellaneous craft- Argentina also operated several small patrol craft, many of which were former US Navy auxiliary tugs.
  6. Auxiliaries and merchant craft- Much as Britain supplemented its forces with fleet auxiliaries and pressed merchant ships into service, Argentina used its own merchant fleet to support operations, as blockade runners, and some fishing vessels were used as spy trawlers to locate the British task force as it made its way south.

Submarine Force

  1. The ARA San Luis was a modern German made Type 209 diesel electric submarine. A second Type 209 submarine, the ARA Salta was not operational at the time of the war. The Type 209 was designed for operations close to shore in restricted waters.
  2. The ARA Santa Fe was the former USS Catfish(SS-339), a US WWII fleet boat that had been modernize through the GUPPY program.  The GUPPYs were long range boats best suited to blue water operations, but were badly obsolete by the 1980s.

Air Forces

– The various air arms of the Argentinian military were to play a pivotal role in the Falklands campaign and will be their order of battle will be the subject of our next post in the series.

Ground Forces

– The Argentinian Army was organized and equipped largely along the same lines as the British Army. But the similarity ends there. While the British Army was an all volunteer, thoroughly professional force, in the Argentinian Army, things were a bit different. The Ejericito de Argentina had not fought an external war since the 1860s. Its officers and senior NCOs were long service professionals, but the bulk of its enlisted personnel were short service draftees. Annually, year groups of 19 year old men were called up for 12 months of service. The short period of active duty meant that few lower enlisted troops had the experience to be considered properly trained. Basic training in most armies may only take a couple months, but it takes a couple years to make a truly proficient infantryman.

Further, the threat of war with Chile over the Beagle crisis meant that many of Argentina’s best units were unavailable to serve in the Falklands. So instead of forces trained for cold wet climates in remote areas, units from northern, tropical Argentina were sent to the Falklands.  Further, because of a lack of shipping, virtually all troops were flown into the Falklands. This meant that while large numbers of troop units were on hand, very few of those units had the vehicles and equipment they were notionally provided with. In essence, it was an unbalanced force. Large numbers of infantrymen without transport or supporting arms are almost more a liability than combat power.

The initial seizure of the Falklands was made by a force of roughly 500 Argentinian marines in 20 LVTP-7 amphibious assault vehicles.  They quickly overwhelmed the 84 British troops on the islands

But as it became clear that Britain intended to regain control of the islands. the junta deployed to the Falklands roughly a divisional sized force consisting of:

  1. The 3rd Mechanized Brigade
  2. The 10th Mechanized Brigade

As noted, since these troops had to be flown in, they left their vehicles behind, and in effect were foot mobile only.

Supporting artillery units of the 3rd Artillery group were also deployed, using towed 105mm howitzers, and a handful of 155mm guns.

Various support units were also deployed, as well as significant numbers of Argentinian AF troops to operate aircraft and air defenses at Stanley airport and outlying fields.

We’ll take a look at the Argentinian air order of battle next in Part 4, then a timeline of significant event, and then we’ll get into the nitty gritty. Sound good to you?

4 thoughts on “The Naval War in the Falklands, Part 3”

  1. Interesting series. Tip of the hat, most histories I have scanned did not pay as much attention to the Argie ground forces, beyond logistical and Politically appointed leadership constraints. A couple of ITN reporters put out a decent book named “Don’t cry for me Sargeant (sp?) Major. Might be worth tucking into your kit, if only for the antecedents . Poor private Bloggs on the recieving end of the sewer pipe was a favorite as was the congratulatory message back to the UK on occasion of the birth of the son and heir to the seat of Windsor.

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