HMS EAGLE in the Falklands

If the timing is right,
simply buy the IM model direct from HAL and get
  • Multi mode Agave radar up-gradable soon
  • 2xsidewinder without losing hardpoints
  • guns for both air-air & air-mud
  • ~ 10k lb stores
  • sea eagle ASM to add to the existing Martel ARM capability
    and
  • better thrust
Afaik, that version is nowhere carrier capable. You still to redesign the landing gear to withstand landings, add a hook and a catapult lock, and reinforce the struture around the gear. All of which is not cheap or fast.
 
If the timing is right,
simply buy the IM model direct from HAL and get
  • Multi mode Agave radar up-gradable soon
  • 2xsidewinder without losing hardpoints
  • guns for both air-air & air-mud
  • ~ 10k lb stores
  • sea eagle ASM (and therefore presumably Martel ARM) capability
    and
  • better thrust
immediately
First 40 'HAL' Jags where UK Built in 1979+ at Warton

Next 45 were kits form aircraft built in UK, Warton and finished in India from 81+

Remaining aircraft mostly Indian built but production is out of scope time wise

So had the decision been made for 'Shamsher' Jags why not Warton Built ones?
 
First 40 'HAL' Jags where UK Built in 1979+ at Warton

Next 45 were kits form aircraft built in UK, Warton and finished in India from 81+

Remaining aircraft mostly Indian built but production is out of scope time wise

So had the decision been made for 'Shamsher' Jags why not Warton Built ones?
True for the early Jaguars for the India Air Force used for ground attack and recon missions
(though the Indians upgraded a lot of the electronics with their own designs for both performance and reliability reasons)

By the "IM" model, I was referring to the relatively few Maritime Strike versions (? around a dozen or so).
That had added Agave radar for over sea search and Sea Eagle capability for attack.
I understood both these were also purely Indian projects
(though whether as upgrades to existing airframes or new built by HAL I don't know).

However on further investigation, I don't think they would work for the RN carriers without further changes.
The "I" model being based on the "S" is only land based.
AS has now been pointed out It would need work
- perhaps using lessons from the old french "M" prototype for CATOBAR operation.

Afaik, that version is nowhere carrier capable. You still to redesign the landing gear to withstand landings, add a hook and a catapult lock, and reinforce the struture around the gear. All of which is not cheap or fast.
Me Culpa
 
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Afaik, that version is nowhere carrier capable. You still to redesign the landing gear to withstand landings, add a hook and a catapult lock, and reinforce the struture around the gear. All of which is not cheap or fast.
Probably re engine the design as well, one of the reasons the M failed its French trials was lack of power with the extra weight that the reinforced structure and landing gear brought. At least that's one of the problems listed in my copy of French secret projects...
 
All of these ideas are great. But, the OP has not made a change in fleet aircraft procurement. At this stage, it's 'run what you brung'. Any attempt to change the outfit will require substantial changes prior to the POD. The easiest changes are additional AEW Gannets and possibly adding a few FG.1's from the RAF. These are at the expense of Buccaneers. Either way you are walking a tightrope on overall capability. Additional tankers are the most cost effective addition.
 
Another somewhat preposterous idea. The Royal Navy used AEW Skyraiders back in the 50-60s, perhaps maybe a few airframes are still in good condition, question is how you gonna get them to HMS Eagle?
 
Another somewhat preposterous idea. The Royal Navy used AEW Skyraiders back in the 50-60s, perhaps maybe a few airframes are still in good condition, question is how you gonna get them to HMS Eagle?
The bigger issue, is that Skyraiders used AvGas, not jet fuel. And AIUI RN carriers no longer had provision to store AvGas onboard.
 
With the airgroup Eagle has plus the SHAR 1s and RAF GR1s and GR3s operating from Hermes (is it Hermes ITTL?) and probably soon to be operating from a hardened airstrip (Pebble Island?) - it's probably enough

I imagine that Eagle might possibly once the Bridgehead is established and supplies are ashore might possibly be able to head North for several days and take on replacement aircraft for her airgroup from Ascension - F4M is listed as having a ferry range of 1,750 miles / 2,816 kms / 1,521 NMs

Ascension to Port Stanley is a Great Circle distance of 3,889 miles (or 3379.5 NMs or 6,259 kilometers) - so Eagle would have to eat up quite a few sea miles leaving the task force exposed in order to take on replacements

Lets say she cruised at a relatively economical 20 knots - she could maintain 480 NMs a day she is going to be out of position for more than a week there and back (including I imagine at least one full RAS)

Also of the remaining F4Ks (18 in total of the original 28 RN ac in 1978) not on Eagle or lost for whatever reason - how many would be hanger Queens in 1982 (or 1978 for that matter) - I would imagine that many would be rapidly be made air worthy again (probably involving cannibalism of the surviving airframes of the 20 RAF F4Ks) during the period that Eagle was travelling and conducting ops down south

So it's not impossible - just pointing out the basic logistics of it.

Unless um by possible chance say the USS Nimitz or one of her sisters just happens to be innocently conducting cross deck exercises in the Central Atlantic - just saying like....

 
If you need fighters/attack craft wouldn't it make more sense to go with the A-7 Corsair II? The US had them and would love the opportunity to get them into service with another nation. They would be relatively quick to acquire although the training time might be an issue and could launch from the Eagle without any modifications (I think, their weight certainly is less them a Bucc) and while designated as an attack craft they can probably do a credible job as a dog fighter... or if you want just go with the A-4, or wait till the F/A-18 comes into service.
 

Nick P

Donor
It strikes me that flying refurb Phantoms down to Ascension Island isn't that hard. All you need is tankers and a willingness to be uncomfortable for 6+ hours. o_O
The real issue is engine time - how long could they fly for without maintenance?
Websites quote a range of 1750 miles, I assume this is on fuel limitations without tanking.

In 2009 the RAF flew 4 Typhoons to the Falklands in a 3 stage flight via the Canary Islands and Ascension Island. This took them the best part of 2 days and numerous refuels midair. Should be the same for the F-4s, right?
 
Post #1595 on Page 80 amused me...

...Is the aircraft flown by Wing Commander J. Bond, FAA, perhaps ?

Thank you, Hammerbolt - I am shaken but not stirred, sirrah !
 
In 2009 the RAF flew 4 Typhoons to the Falklands in a 3 stage flight via the Canary Islands and Ascension Island. This took them the best part of 2 days and numerous refuels midair. Should be the same for the F-4s, right?
The issue when flying FJs* from Ascension to the FI is what to do if for some reason they can't land when they get there. The RAF flights (Typhoons most recently, Tornados before that and I think it was Phantoms before them) were done in summer, with a FI-based tanker airborne to support them when they arrived, so that they had plenty of fuel if they had to take a few tries to get in or, in extremis, to fill them up to fly back to Asy, from where another tanker would have launched to meet them part-way. In this situation, it's autumn/winter, so the weather is much worse, and if they couldn't land on Eagle for some reason (weather or anything), they'd have no other option but to fly to near friendly forces and bang out, like the unfortunates ITTL after the crash on Eagle.

*Fast Jets
 
If you need fighters/attack craft wouldn't it make more sense to go with the A-7 Corsair II?
Excelent idea, and I'm ashamed I didn't think of it, considering my country once had them. My head got stuck on the F-18... duh...

Post #1595 on Page 80 amused me...

...Is the aircraft flown by Wing Commander J. Bond, FAA, perhaps ?

Thank you, Hammerbolt - I am shaken but not stirred, sirrah !
Wot, only now noticed it! It was just the best image I found to show the long main leg! :D
 
With the airgroup Eagle has plus the SHAR 1s and RAF GR1s and GR3s operating from Hermes (is it Hermes ITTL?) and probably soon to be operating from a hardened airstrip (Pebble Island?) - it's probably enough

I imagine that Eagle might possibly once the Bridgehead is established and supplies are ashore might possibly be able to head North for several days and take on replacement aircraft for her airgroup from Ascension - F4M is listed as having a ferry range of 1,750 miles / 2,816 kms / 1,521 NMs

Ascension to Port Stanley is a Great Circle distance of 3,889 miles (or 3379.5 NMs or 6,259 kilometers) - so Eagle would have to eat up quite a few sea miles leaving the task force exposed in order to take on replacements

Lets say she cruised at a relatively economical 20 knots - she could maintain 480 NMs a day she is going to be out of position for more than a week there and back (including I imagine at least one full RAS)

Also of the remaining F4Ks (18 in total of the original 28 RN ac in 1978) not on Eagle or lost for whatever reason - how many would be hanger Queens in 1982 (or 1978 for that matter) - I would imagine that many would be rapidly be made air worthy again (probably involving cannibalism of the surviving airframes of the 20 RAF F4Ks) during the period that Eagle was travelling and conducting ops down south

So it's not impossible - just pointing out the basic logistics of it.

Unless um by possible chance say the USS Nimitz or one of her sisters just happens to be innocently conducting cross deck exercises in the Central Atlantic - just saying like....


It makes zero sense for the Eagle to swap it's aircraft after the bridgehead has been established as the whole point of moving from 14 to 24 Phantoms is to virtually eliminate any possibility of British ship losses during the landings.

In my scenario the Glasgow would not have been sunk as it would never have been used as bait to tempt the Argentine airforce.

I did say 2-3 days to change the aircraft out which may have been too optimistic and so let us make this 4-5 days. Eagle heads north for 2 days and then it is 1000 miles closer to Ascension Island. 10 crash-programmed RAF F-4Ks(these were built for RN originally and so not much modification would be required) then fly off Ascension Island and re-fuelled once during their nearly 3000 mile flight by Victor tankers. If required for any emergency the Eagle has Buccaneers that could meet the RAF F-4Ks closer to the carrier to allow them to refuel again. On the other way 10 Buccaneers fly off the Eagle and are met by Victor tankers for one mid-air refuelling to allow them to get to Ascension Island. This would be less complex than what happened during the Vulcan bombing runs done for real from Ascension Island.

After 1 day the rest of the task force no longer moves north and the Eagle continues by itself. Eagle only takes 1 Type-42 destroyer and 1 sea-wolf armed Type-22 frigate with her. The task force is so far away from Falklands and the mainland that there is little threat to it anymore from Argentina. After 2-3 days the task force is rejoined by Eagle and her two escorts and then the landings are ready to begin. Remember even with 24 Phantoms and 6 Buccaneers in the air-refueller role available now, the task force could still provide air support to the landing forces as they would have Sea Harriers on the Invincible.
 
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The issue when flying FJs* from Ascension to the FI is what to do if for some reason they can't land when they get there. The RAF flights (Typhoons most recently, Tornados before that and I think it was Phantoms before them) were done in summer, with a FI-based tanker airborne to support them when they arrived, so that they had plenty of fuel if they had to take a few tries to get in or, in extremis, to fill them up to fly back to Asy, from where another tanker would have launched to meet them part-way. In this situation, it's autumn/winter, so the weather is much worse, and if they couldn't land on Eagle for some reason (weather or anything), they'd have no other option but to fly to near friendly forces and bang out, like the unfortunates ITTL after the crash on Eagle.

*Fast Jets
Eagle would have sailed for 2 days and would be 1000 miles north of the Falklands and so the weather is likely to be much better. Buccaneers would be available on Eagle to refuel the RAF F-4Ks if required.
 
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Although it is a great idea, I see no need to change out the Buccs. They are quite capable for the remaining tasks. If the Phantom numbers were reduced, I could see this done.
 
I can see the plus and minus in relation to swopping the planes around some good and some bad.

But what about the pilots are there enough carrier trained pilots that are up to speed in landing on a carrier in the Royal Navy or in the younger service the Royal Air Force. It would be asking the pilots to possibly kill them selfs if no one is currant or even trained on carrier landing. To make it worse we do not have any carriers for them to train on.
 
As for carrier trained pilots there will be some around the place as instructors, flying desks, on sick leave, and all the other fun jobs pilots get given besides flying.
They will probably need to re-qualify on carrier landing as this is a perishable skill but since both the French, and the USA have shown a willingness to help out it is possible to have a 'previously scheduled' exercise involving a French or USN Carrier operating British aircraft to provide this training.
 
Operation Black Buck
Vulcan XM598, 23rd May, 0300

Guiding his delta winged bomber through its final course adjustment which marked its attack run Squadron Leader Reeve went through his final preparations with his navigator. It was far to dark outside for him to be able to make out any more than the largest of geographical features and he was trying to find a target that only covered a relatively small area of the landmass below him.
Given the sheer distance his aircraft had flown from its base on Ascension Island to even reach the Falklands Reeve considered it something of a minor miracle that they had even found the islands seeing as an error of even a few degrees at the start could have meant that they ended up flying right past them.
Whereas arriving in the right place was possibly a minor miracle Reeve was adamant that managing to find the Victor tankers and conduct without incident the five air to air refuelling’s that it had taken to get his Vulcan this far. That was before he even dared think about the fact that those Victor tankers had had to be themselves refuelled from other Victors (some multiple times) just to get them into position to refuel the Vulcan.
There was an acronym he quite liked which had been taught to him many years ago in training at RAF Cranwell and had proved itself true time and time again. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. Because the more complicated a plan was the more things there were that could potentially go wrong with it and this was by far and away one of the most ambitious and complicated sorties that the RAF had ever attempted. Statistically his aircraft should not have even made it this far and definitely wasn’t supposed to make it home again.

This mission codenamed BLACKBUCK 1 was the RAF’s first direct intervention in the Falkland Islands. Up until now the services contributions to the campaign had been extremely vital but of the non-combat support variety. They had been running the airfield on Ascension Island which was acting as the Task Forces supply base and maintaining an airbridge back to the UK. Nimrod’s had been operating from Ascension and had been providing vital MPA support to the Task Force and there were various RAF personnel imbedded with the various ships and units further south. The Vulcan crews had been able to see all of these things in action owing to the fact that they themselves had had little else to do but sit in deck chairs in the shade under the enormous wings of their aircraft and watch the world go by.

Operation BLACK BUCK had been initiated at the start of the conflict back in April. Satellite imagery had shown that the Argentines were lengthening the runway at Port Stanley airfield and appeared to be carrying out work to enable the airfield to operate fast jets. Once operational the aircraft operating from this facility would have been a major threat to any ships operating in the vicinity of the islands and would have made a landing to risky to be attempted while it was operational. Therefore, a requirement had been identified which called for the runway to be put out of action. The RAF’s solution to this requirement had been called for a long ranged strike by a single Vulcan carrying conventional munitions to crater the runway.
To this end a herculean effort had been undertaken to get all of the necessary preparatory work done. A sizeable majority of the UK’s tanker fleet in the form of Victor’s had been deployed to Ascension Island arriving from April the 5th. The Victor crews were already well prepared for their contribution to the campaign as their peacetime role mainly consisted of refuelling fighters that were scrambled nearly every other day to respond to Soviet incursions into UK airspace. The proportion of the Victor fleet that had been flown south to Ascension had at first left many worried that the RAF would no longer be able to adequately respond to threats to and violations of UK airspace due to a lack of air to air refuelling and sustainment capability. Thankfully the Americans had stepped in and provided a number of KC-135 Stratotankers to fill in for the Victors. The number of Victors operating from Ascension Island had reached a peak of 14 aircraft and unlike the crews of the Vulcans the Victor crews had certainly been kept busy. They had been supporting the Nimrod’s which had been carrying out long range maritime patrol missions and had even carried out some patrol and intelligence gathering missions themselves during the operation to recapture South Georgia. The good thing about this was that the Victor crews had become experienced at long duration flights, air to air refuelling’s and most importantly locating each other in the vast expanse that was the South Atlantic.

Regarding the Vulcan itself as with HMS EAGLE this entire campaign was something of a last hurrah. The futuristic looking delta winged bomber that had once been part of the V Force which had stood ready to unleash nuclear Armageddon was now reduced to a handful of elderly and decrepit aircraft. The final three remaining squadrons all based at RAF Waddington had been due to disband by the end of June with the Vulcan consigned to the history books and the scrap heaps.
Having been designed to carry out nuclear strike missions against the Soviet Union the Vulcan had seen its primary mission disappear with the advent of the Polaris SLBM and the navy taking over responsibility for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. Since then the aircraft had been struggling to find a useful role to justify its existence with aircraft being rerolled as conventional bombers, maritime patrol, ect. As time went on these roles either began to become regarded as superfluous or allocated to other more suited aircraft.
In one corner of RAF Waddington at the time was a site that would break the heart of many an aircraft lover. Dozens of retired Vulcans having been stripped of useful parts were unceremoniously ripped apart and the pieces left to rot.
Then the order had come to prepare to carry out some operation codenamed Black Buck.

As with getting HMS EAGLE in a fit state to deploy Black Buck had required a herculean effort on the part of the Vulcan squadrons just to get it off the ground.
The individual aircraft were selected for this operation for two reasons. The first was the fact that they were fitted with the more powerful Bristol Olympus 301 engines and the second was that at only 22 years old they were the youngest in the Vulcan fleet and thus were considered to be not quite as worn out as the rest.
one of the biggest and most important challenges was regaining the ability to conduct air to air refuelling’s. This capability had been assessed as unnecessary a few years previously. The result of this was a cessation of training for this and the removal of the aerial refuelling system from the aircraft themselves in order to save the money it would cost to maintain them. The maintainers had scoured every RAF base that had ever hosted a Vulcan in the hopes of finding the necessary parts. Their efforts were partially rewarded when a set of 20 non-return valves that had been sitting on a shelf long forgotten at RAF Stafford. Things even got to the point where more than one museum curator was outraged to discover that their exhibited Vulcans had been “vandalised” with parts missing from the nose. In one well known case a vital component was discovered by chance in an officers mess being used as an ash tray.
Other parts relating to ECM equipment were scavenged from the RAF’s Buccaneer squadrons.
While the Vulcans were still theoretically capable of conventional bombing again this was something that had years before been deemed superfluous and skills and equipment allowed to fade away. This had resulted in crews suddenly having to be put through something of a crash course where even the most experienced instructors desperately struggled against the clock to relearn old skills. The time it was taking to make the Vulcans capable of AAR again meant that training in this area was limited to “dry runs” where the aircraft would connect with the tanker without actually receiving any fuel.
There weren’t even any bombs to practise with which many felt had a detrimental effect on the effectiveness of the training that the crews were receiving.
When the need for conventional Vulcan bombing missions had been deemed unnecessary the need for actual bombs had been much reduced. Between budget cuts reducing the number being procured, the ones allocated to NATO missions and the large number that had found their way into the magazines of HMS EAGLE and INVINCIBLE and the various auxiliaries finding sufficient bombs had been difficult.
Eventually a total of 167 1000ib bombs had been located and commandeered for the operation. This gave the Vulcans enough to be able to conduct 8 combat sorties. As with the aerial refuelling systems the RAF engineers were forced to search far and wide for the necessary components for arming and deploying conventional munitions eventually locating the control panels in a scrapyard in Newcastle.
Having somehow managed to overcome the almost insurmountable challenges in switching from winding down the RAF’s Vulcan fleet to making it ready for a mission it hadn’t been prepared for for years the entire ensemble over the course of a few days made its way south to RAF Ascension. For the Vulcans it was a 9 hour flight with two in air refuelling’s which served as a good warm up for what was expected to come next. With the ground crews and munitions flown in by Hercules transport aircraft and established at Ascension the crews had eagerly awaited the order to go. Then disaster had struck.

The higher ups had decided that a Buccaneer strike from HMS EAGLE would be more effective with a greater chance of success justifying the greater risk of bringing the carrier closer to the islands and using more than one aircraft. This had almost completely removed the whole purpose of Black Buck and had hurt morale somewhat as the airmen found themselves with nothing to do while the navy covered itself in glory by destroying the Argentine navy supported by other RAF units based at Ascension. Despite the fact that they no longer had an immediate objective there was still a possibility that the Vulcans may still be required and so they had found themselves waiting on Ascension Island for an order which may never come. They had tried to use this unexpected extra time to further hone their skills and practise long duration sorties and AAR but this had been very difficult. Unlike the Vulcans the Victors were already busy enough flying actual operational missions and had very infrequently been available to support training sorties. Furthermore, the base commander had been less than willing to allocate some of the bases limited fuel supply to these sorties and considered them to be almost unnecessary burdens on his already overworked airfield staff and infrastructure. In fact he’d almost given the impression of regarding the Vulcans as a waste of (admittedly very limited) space on the airfield. With training sorties limited by these considerations the Vulcan aircrew and ground staff had found themselves with little to do but sunbathe. This had drawn more than a few digs from personnel in the other much busier squadrons. Still at least it wasn’t all aimed at them. There was a detachment of RAF Phantoms present to provide local air defence who knowing that being thousands of miles away from the nearest Argentine airbase reduced the air threat to practically nothing looked as if they almost couldn’t be bothered to even pretend to try anymore.
The few sorties they had carried out however had at least allowed them to identify potential faults with their aircraft. In one case one of the seals on the side windows in the cockpit of XM598 had failed meaning that the crew was unable to pressurise the cabin. Had this happened during an actual mission it could very easily have scuppered the whole thing.

Yesterday morning however that had all changed when the order had been given to carryout a strike against an argentine airfield and troop concentration at Goose Green.
Having taken off 7 hours, 7 in flight refuelling’s and more than 3000 miles ago Black Buck one was fast approaching the climax of the sortie and the Vulcans first ever wartime mission.
As XM598 had approached the Falklands Reeve had established contact with the fighter controller first on INVINCIBLE to the north of the islands and then with HMS COVENTRY near San Carlos. The ships had been tracking the Vulcan with their long ranged air search radars and had been updating the navigator with a much more accurate location than his elderly equipment could give him. This was especially important for the final run into Goose Green as the target was located on a long thin stretch of land. This meant that the aircraft would need to fly over it in a SSW direction when it released its bombload to ensure that the maximum possible number impacted the target area rather than dropping into the sea. A Gannet AEW aircraft from EAGLE would have been especially useful for providing information but for reasons which no one could seem to discover they were not currently available. Reeve had been briefed that should he need help a pair of Sea Harriers were on INVINCIBLE’s deck at alert 5 status but there would be no possibility of Phantoms from HMS EAGLE, again for unknown reasons. It was almost as if someone somewhere was trying to hide something.

As he made the final part of his bombing run south west a number of thoughts went through Reeves’s mind. Many a V bomber crew had spent their entire careers training for what he was about to do while hoping with every bone in their being that they never would have to it as to do so would most likely have involved bombs in the megaton range and the unleashing of Armageddon. Yet here he was about to carry out what was effectively a Vietnam style Arclight strike against an enemy he’d never really thought about in a place that a few months ago he’d never even heard of as opposed to a thermonuclear strike against a city in eastern Europe.
Furthermore, he realised why this moment felt so strange. There was no music! Even in his fantasies of carrying out an operational bombing mission he’d always had something like the dam busters march playing in the background without really thinking about it. To carryout a mission this daring without a good sound track just didn’t seem right at all.

Nearly at the release pint the bomb bay doors were opened and those last minute course adjustments made. It did feel a little futile doing this as the Vulcans bombsight had been designed with thermonuclear weapons in mind where a miss of even a mile let alone a few hundred meters wouldn’t really affect the outcome. Whereas with conventional bombs the margins of error were considerably smaller. Feeling his aircraft lift up into the air as the bombs were released and the Vulcan suddenly became 21,000ib’s lighter Reeve powered the engines to get away from the fireball and mushroom cloud that would never come. When soviet SAM’s had shown themselves to be unexpectedly effective by shooting down a high flying U2 spy plane in the 60’s all Vulcan mission profiles had been switched to ultra-low level. The AA and SAM threat over the Falklands and fuel constraints of this mission had dictated a high altitude bombing run. The doctrine and thus training for doing this in a Vulcan had not been updated for quite some years and was still based on the assumption of dropping a nuclear weapon. Indeed, Reeve and his co pilot had without thinking about it even pulled on their eyepatches because that was what had been drilled into them for many years. The eye patches had been issued to V bomber crews to be protect one eye in during the deployment of a nuclear weapon. It was expected that the uncovered eye that they would need to still be able to fly the aircraft would have retina burned out and permanently blinded by the flash from the detonation of the weapon they had just deployed. The patch would ensure that they still had one good eye to guide the aircraft home.

It said a lot about what the RAF expected the likely outcome of a full scale nuclear war to be that they were happy to overlook the fact that the crews of their entire strategic nuclear bomber fleet would be rendered half blind and thus medically unfit to ever fly again after the first day.

Realising that he didn’t actually need the eye patch Reeve removed it as his aircraft began a turn northwards to exfiltrate from the area and get a look at the results of his efforts. Still he thought that carrying out the Vulcans first and possibly only combat sortie without wearing the eye patch was probably another thing that just wouldn’t be right and proper. With the view from the Vulcans cockpit notoriously limited he was unable to make out anything more than an orange glow from flames indicating that some of his bombs had at least hit the ground. Whether they had hit anything worth hitting as opposed to just moving mud around was something that would be answered in a few hours when an early morning photo reconnaissance sortie by one of the Sea Harriers was planned.
Anyway, it was now time to go home. Despite everything the Vulcan was still only half way through its mission and now had a 3,400 mile return trip. Mercifully with only one more in flight refuelling. All the same it was going to take a lot of coffee to stay alert for the next few hours.



The bombs had indeed found their mark. The Argentine garrison at Goose Green had become somewhat used to air attacks by now but being carpet bombed was a new and horrifying experience. The bombs used were older cast iron weapons as opposed to newer machined ones. These older bombs did have something of a habit of shattering and exploding immediately upon impact with the surface as opposed to penetrating into the ground. With the aim of this mission being to cause casualties to “soft” above ground targets as opposed to cratering a concrete runway these weapons had been specially chosen. The first one had impacted Darwin hill to the north of the airfield and settlement causing considerable casualties amongst the Argentine troops using it as the lynchpin of a north facing defensive line. The rest of the bombs had landed roughly in a line stretching from there to the airfield just over a kilometre SW. The men moving along the route between the airfield and settlement and the defensive positions had not stood a chance.

It was noted in later years that the soldiers who had been based at Goose Green suffered a disproportionally higher rate of mental breakdowns and PTSD than those based at other locations and it was theorised that Black Buck may have played a considerable role in this as many of the flashbacks seemed to centre around seeing a line of explosions.

One survivor who was at the time a conscript and a member of 12th Infantry Regiment and located on the westernmost edge of Darwin Hill where he had a clear view of the bombs impacting in a line would later become a priest and a world-renowned artist. His most famous piece depicts the earth opening up to allow the flames of hell to rise up out of the ground. When asked about his inspiration for the painting (which has been displayed in many famous galleries around the world) he nearly always replies that he wasn’t inspired by anything but simply painted what he had seen on that terrible night in the Malvinas where he had witnessed hell rising out of the ground to claim many of his comrades.





Pebble Island, 0305

Trudging through the cold darkness the miserable conscript once again thought about how he had ended up here. Again, it was his turn to do sentry duty overnight which meant again no sleep. It wasn’t as if he would be excused work tomorrow just because he had been up all night. Given the numerous air attacks that this airfield had been subjected to the aircraft and other equipment and tents had been dispersed as a form of damage limitation. The downside of this was with a larger perimeter to patrol more men were required for sentry duty meaning that sleepless nights were now a much more frequent occurrence. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were two of them doing this so he had someone to talk to but there simply were not enough men to make this sustainable. Indeed, two men whose areas of responsibility had overlapped had indeed been caught talking while on sentry duty a few nights previously. The unfortunate men had received a very savage beating from one of the NCO’s before being staked out flat on the ground for 24 hours completely exposed to the elements.
They hadn’t spoken much to anyone after that ordeal and seemed almost like broken men. To prevent this from happening again the officer in charge of the sentry detail had redrawn the sentry routes to ensure that there were gaps between the various areas of responsibility.

It was so unfair! He had already done his time. Three months ago, he had completed his one year term of national service or as he had described it the worst year of his life. He had been so happy during that final week when he had gone through the discharge process and handed back his uniform and equipment. Sure he still had a reserve liability but virtually no one had ever been called up for that.
Then just as he had been leaving the house to go out with his girlfriend who had so patiently waited for his national service to end his mother had shouted after him that there was a phone call for him.
The news had been devastating and it wasn’t as if he could say no (unless he suddenly decided he didn’t enjoy having life and liberty anymore). He had fought back the tears as the uniform he had taken so much pleasure in getting rid of was handed back to him along with a rifle. Without even having a chance to tell his family what was happening he had been squeezed into the back of a transport aircraft with numerous other recalled conscripts and others who had been looking forward to discharge and flown out to the Malvinas and ultimately found himself posted to protect this small airstrip god knows where.

His thoughts were interrupted by what sounded like something in between a long and loud rumble or roar. To the SE he could see an orange glow on the horizon. He stopped to look and wondered what could be making that noise. It sounded like someone was being bombed but he hadn’t heard the noise of any aircraft engines or any of the other normal tell-tale signs that he was by now sadly familiar with.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted when it felt like he had just been punched in the chest. It happened with such force that he had dropped his rifle and been knocked back onto the ground. On his front the left side of his chest he could feel this sharp pain almost like he’d cracked a rib like he had done years previously. On his back roughly opposite it felt much worse. Almost as if he had been stung by a hundred bees all at once. Reaching back to put his hand on it he felt something sticky and wet. Bringing his hand back round to have a look in the darkness he could see it was covered with something thick and dark. The pain on both his front and back was becoming more pronounced and he noticed that every breath he took sounded laboured and wheezy.
He began to feel dizzy and faint and quickly his muscles seemed to be relaxing causing him to end up flat on his back. As he looked up at the night sky the last conscious thought that his brain registered was that the stars in the sky seemed to be going out.



A little over 600m away the spotter whispered to his sniper “target down”.
 
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