Difference if Stanley airfield extended in April 1981?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Admiral Beez, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Admiral Beez Banned

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    http://wikimapia.org/5685805/Former-Runway-Extension

    Built by Royal Engineers and Royal Air Force personnel following the cessation of hostilities in the 1982 Falklands War, this 2,000ft/609m extension of the original Port Stanley Airfield runway was made entirely of AM-2 Aluminum Matting laid over a compacted bed of stone mined from the quarries to the North. Completed between August 15th and August 27th 1982, the extension along with additional upgrades to the original runway and taxiway areas permitted the RAF to begin full-scale operations at the airfield with F-4 Phantom fighters and C-130 transports, allowing the establishment of Royal Air Force Station Stanley. Following the relocation of RAF forces to Mount Pleasant, the AM-2 Matting covering this section of the runway was removed and the extension remains unused by the modern-day airfield.

    This extension made the one long runway at Stanley over 5,000 feet in length.

    What's the difference in the pre-war and wartime events if this 5,000 ft runway was made in April 1981? Without inflight refueling capability, it's still a stretch to get C-130s there with any load other than avgas. What about Vickers VC10?
     
  2. David Flin Three coded messages. Gone Fishin'

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    In all probability, the UK will still have essentially zero defences in place come April 1982, the Argentine forces will take over as per OTL, and the runway will then be in Argentine hands.

    Given how much attention the UK Government paid to the Falklands prior to April 82, given given how keen the FCO was to get a leaseback solution for the islands, I really can't see the UK Government spending money on the islands at this time. Bearing in mind that it had been busy scrapping Endurance and avoiding spending any money on Moody Brook barracks.
     
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  3. Riain Well-Known Member

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    The Stanley runway in 1 April 1982 was 4100' long, the Argentines extended it 500' during the war with PSP (steel) matting making it 4600' long, but the braking curves for fast jets in the wet were too marginal so they didn't use it during the war as a staging/emergency field. If the British had extended it to 6000' before the war; either made it 6000' in 1979 or extended it later then there is no doubt that the Argentines would have used it as a staging base, most likely for simply refuelling aircraft after missions. For example once Sid's Strip was operational Sea Harriers would transit 30 minutes to San Carlos, do a 40 minute CAP, transit 5 minutes to Sid Strip, refuel and do the same in reverse. If Port Stanley was available Mirage IIIs could transit to the Islands, do a prolonged CAP, land at Port Stanley to refuel, do another long CAP and transit home.

    What would have been interesting is if the Mirage III that was damaged by a Sea Harrier on 1 May wasn't shot down by friendly AA on approach to Port Stanley. I wounder if he could have landed successfully, and if so what would have happened?
     
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  4. jony663 Well-Known Member

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    While I doubt that the British would build it, could a 6,000 ft runway allow for a transfer of troops on C130s once the British knew something was going on. I believe they had at least two days notice.
     
  5. David Flin Three coded messages. Gone Fishin'

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    I don't know if the British had two days notice, but I had my leave cancelled on March 30 and told to get myself to base straight away, and the Argentine invasion took place April 2. That could have been coincidence.

    Of course, the British military knowing it was happening, and the British government approving anything being done about it are not the same thing. I understand that even when directly told something was happening, it wasn't widely considered to be actually happening.

    But let us assume that there is instant belief and an instant decision; 8000 miles at say 400mph gives us a 20hr flight time. Add to that the time needed to get the troops competent enough to do anything Down South to the planes, the time to get the equipment in place, the time to get the RAF to finish their drinks and hustle a bit, and it's going to be at best touch and go whether they can get there in time to be anything other than too late.
     
  6. Geordie NAME OF OWNER

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    Makes for an interesting thought exercise. UK troops disembarking at Stanley as the Argentineans approach.

    However, while less dramatic, would a UK government announcement/message that a decent number of troops were en route as of now be enough to make Buenos Aries pull the plug?
     
  7. Admiral Beez Banned

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    Does the longer runway make invasion easier for the Argies? C-130s and other transports could move troops faster.
     
  8. GarethC Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it would have been enough to cause the plug to be pulled. Anaya was going for a low-key approach envisioning minimal resistance from forty Royal Marines with man-portable weapons, resulting in a fait accompli which would then be accepted as reality by London in a possession-is-nine-tenths-of-the-law kind of way with some sort of face-saving solution like granting all the islanders dual citizenship or giving them a bribe to piss off back to Blighty, which would be sold as a massive and glorious patriotic victory for the Argentiniean miltary - and by extension, for the military junta - over a moribund decadent European state so weak that it let a woman be in charge. If there had been a real sense that London was willing and able to contest the invasion, it would have been abandoned because an open war with the UK is not one Argentina can actually win. The RN can project force to the South Atlantic; the ANA cannot do the same to the North Atlantic.

    Galtieri wanted a short victorious war to stem the tide of revolution. A war that isn't both short and victorious was thought in Buenos Aires to mean the end of his regime just as much as no war at all would; while a near-bloodless conquest of the Falklands would allow him to wrap his junta in the flag, there wasn't such a sense of outrage at their Britishness as to create support for a bloody campaign that resulted in coffins being unloaded from C-130s on national TV. There would not have been a war if Britain had ever entertained that Argentina was entertaining thoughts of a coup de main at all. Some sort of flag-waving exercises would do it - maybe an armor course for a tank regiment to trial difficult terrain or something, or a few SS vs CVH games in the littoral (leaking that it was a practice for the counterassault of Jan Mayen Land after a Soviet occupation).

    In a sense, Galtieri didn't actually want the Falkands per se - a boring bloodless transition of sovereignty as the British Foreign Office was considering would not have generated the groundswell in opinion that he needed to avert the massive crisis in public support that came from being a bunch of evil bastards mostly noted for murdering thousands of Argentinian citizens and stealing their newborn children. He wanted a triumph.

    C-130s could and did use the Stanley (aka BAM Puerto Argentino) runway OTL making 33 night flights - FAA 800 Sqn CO Ward shot one down on June 1st.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  9. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

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    If they had not cancelled your leave, would they still have been able to retake the islands?
     
  10. James G find me on alternate-timelines.proboards.com/ Gone Fishin'

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    I have read that ships of the Royal Navy were already moving south to go to the Falklands before the landings begun there. So, London and the Armed Forces did know.

    Say the runaway is there and the RAF transports fly south with men and just make it in time, with troops out and deployed, it would still be a mess as those troops would have to deplane, set-up and fight in short order in unfamiliar terrain. More of a mess would be the transports inbound laden with men, maybe a few hours out and over the ocean, and word comes that the Argentinians have landed and Stanley Airport is taken (true or not). What to do then? The potential there is for a serious problem with jets needing somewhere to land rather than ditch. So someone has to think about that before and get divert sites set along with enough fuel to make the latest of late divert. It would have been more and more complicated and fraught with the danger of not just going wrong but losing many hundreds of men for nothing.
     
  11. David Flin Three coded messages. Gone Fishin'

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    It depends on which troops get sent. The Marines are reasonably familiar with the terrain, having had quite a few people cycle through it, and a lot more train in similar terrain and conditions. For obvious reasons, Marines and Paratroopers are trained to be able to operate effectively on deplaning or hopping off a landing boat. It's part of the job description. Therefore if Paratroopers or Marines (and those would be by far the most likely), then they would be able to operate as soon as boot hits ground.

    Part of the problem is getting the RAF to get into gear quickly. In OTL, they weren't exactly thrilled with the idea of getting involved Down South, and it was only when the decision had been taken out of their hands that they got behind the scheme. I understand that at the highest level, there was a feeling that it would be a disaster, and they didn't particularly want to be associated with it. That only came when the ball was rolling.
     
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  12. Geordie NAME OF OWNER

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    Of course, if it was a Known Thing before it actually happened, then there's a big question about who knew and when they found out.

    I seen to recall something about Callaghan having a quiet word about submarines in the South Atlantic in order to deter any ideas a few years earlier.

    If people in the forces did know, or even had an inkling , I wonder how long it was before they told the Great White She Elephant. Too late, it would seem. I bet they didn't admit they'd been cancelling leave two days earlier.
     
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  13. David Flin Three coded messages. Gone Fishin'

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    Operation Journeyman, 1977.

    It's hard to keep secret the fact that you're calling people back from leave, including one poor chap who got his leave cancelled between wedding and reception (and he spent the next 3 months going on about it). It might not have been widely publicised, but no-one told us to keep quiet about it.

    Thatcher said that she first became aware of a potential problem on March 28, and asked Al Haig (US Secretary of State) to lean on the Argentinians.
     
  14. jony663 Well-Known Member

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    A submarine was used in the mid 70s for a deterrent when it slipped out there was a Royal Navy boat in the area.

    I joined my first US Navy submarine after the Falklands and they told plenty of stories of being in the neighborhood during the war.
     
  15. Admiral Beez Banned

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    Could Tornados or Phantoms operate from this new field? Presumably the arrestor gear added post-war for Phantom-ops would not be part of the peacetime set-up.

    Ascension was situated 6,100 km from the Falklands. Per Wikipedia, the max ferry range of the Tornado F3 is 4,265 km, so at least one refuel stop is needed, likely during peacetime in Chile.
     
  16. Riain Well-Known Member

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    I think Phantoms and Tornados could operate reasonably comfortably from 6000'; arrestor gear is pretty much standard at fighter bases for emergencies and the shorter the runway the more often it'd be used.

    A Tornado F3 would hit the tanker at 2000km and maybe again at 3000km and still be within peacetime safety margins, the margin being able to return to Ascension if the first tanking fails and the second to get to Ascension if it fails and Pt Stanley if it succeeds. Bear in mind ferrying aircraft these sorts of distances isn't something taken lightly or done very often.
     
  17. James G find me on alternate-timelines.proboards.com/ Gone Fishin'

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    The UK to the Falklands via Chile. Sounds good apart from whose airspace they would have to transit through or more likely around.
     
  18. AndyC Shadow Secretary of State for Infrastructure Donor

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    The cynic in me would suggest that if there was both time and capability to do something prior to the apparent fait accompli, the opposite incentive would be there - to be associated with pulling the fat out of the fire (and support budgetary arguments on the need to project Air Power).
     
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  19. Admiral Beez Banned

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    True, but what of jet aircraft? Could Canberras, Daggers, Super Etendards, etc. use the field? If Phantoms did post-war, presumably yes. So, what's the impact of Argentine air force strike aircraft based at Stanley? Might be a juicy SAS/SBS target?
     
  20. Dathi THorfinnsson Da├░i ├×orfinnsson

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    You know, if the Brits were showing enough interest in the Falklands to upgrade the defenses like this, would the Argentinian even try?