MRF-D 22

07/01/2022

U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268, Aviation Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) 22, and U.S. Navy Corpsmen with the Enroute Care Team, Logistics Combat Element, MRF-D 22, perform a long-range casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) as a part of exercise Southern Jackaroo 22, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, May 24, 2022.

The CASEVAC was performed as a proof of concept by MRF-D 22 personnel for providing long-range medical treatment within the Indo-Pacific region.

SHOALWATER BAY, QLD, AUSTRALIA

05.24.2022

Video by Cpl. Frank Webb Marine Rotational Force – Darwin

The Key Role of Training in Dynamic Evolution of Capabilities for the High-End Fight and Crisis Management

06/29/2022

By Robbin Laird

Training is one of the words that changes meaning as the liberal democracies face the military dimension posed by the 21st century authoritarian powers. Rather than being just about training to be prepared, which is obviously crucial, advanced training capabilities drive the adaption of the force which is crucial to prevailing in the high-end fight.

Learning to adapt the force in a dynamic combat environment is always crucial, but especially so when the United States and its allies need to operate closely in crises where the 21st century authoritarian powers concepts of operations and forces are designed to divide and conquer throughout the multi-domain spectrum of warfare.

And the art of warfare focuses on the need to understand the ends being pursued in a dynamic crisis or combat situation and to match those ends with the appropriate means understood as force packaging.

As my Williams Foundation colleague, John Conway, put it in a recent interview I did with him: “We have demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq that we are good at warfighting, but we are not so good at warfare. And I think we have a generation of generals and politicians who only know war fighting. They don’t understand that there is a significant difference between warfighting and warfare.”

If we indeed focus on the art of warfare, the key focus is upon how to get the crisis management effect we need; not simply engaging in ongoing warfighting and positioning for warfighting.

And this means in turn, that the focus for the ADF or its allies is not simply providing balanced funding for the joint force, but prioritizing investments and training to shape a force with the most lethal effect and with most useful impact on advancing the art of warfare for the liberal democracies.

As the ADF moves forward, Conway discussed the “triangle of tradeoffs” for development of the force, namely, lethality, survivability and affordability. It is not about investing in balanced force development for its own sake; rather investments need to be directed to those elements of the ADF which can deliver lethality and survivability at the most affordable cost.

In such a context, advanced training is critical and as such will provide a key focus for discussion in the September seminar. As he put it: “Within a limited budget, you’ve now got to think really, really hard about survivability. And you’ve got to think really hard about preparedness and that links to the training piece.

“And we’ve now got an adversary, who is making us spend more and more money on survivability. We’d rather spend money on lethality, but they’re making us spend money on survivability because they’re becoming increasingly sophisticated, because it’s coming harder and harder to survive.

“And this is driving up the cost of survivability. But one way of mitigating that risk is getting your training systems right. And being able to fight the best fight with what you’ve got and invest in warfare rather than just war fighting.”

Put in other words, how to use U.S. and allied military capabilities to have the right kind of crisis management and combat effects?

And how to train to focus on such an approach?

This is how Paul Averna from Cubic Mission and Performance Solutions put the challenge in an interview I did with him in December 2021: “For effective training, we need to discover how to work our various platform capabilities to deliver decisive effects.

“And it’s not just the high-end kinetic end game of a conventional fight between us and a peer competitor. It is down at the lower rungs of conflict to manage escalation points. We need to be able to use asymmetric advantages to shape escalation options, and we need to train to do so.”

Training in the evolving combat environment is a key way ahead to shape not simply the skill sets to operate the force, but to provide significant domain knowledge to drive the development of the force or in other words, training when considered in terms of how to leverage the virtual world along with the live training piece can drive how the force can be continuously redesigned.

A key driver of change is the proliferation of fifth generation systems as the F-35 has become a key element for both the U.S. joint forces and the allies.

Fifth generation systems are multi-mission systems which drives further change in training requirements, which will become more significant over time as multi-domain operating capabilities are highlighted in defense acquisition.

In a recent discussion with Paul Averna, he highlighted how he saw the impact of the F-35 and fifth generation systems on the operating force and training. According to Averna: “Historically, we have operated and trained to single mission threads, such as counter-air or counter-surface warfare and we have used either a purpose-built system or operated with a pre-planned and interconnected group of capabilities synchronized to deliver a single domain effect. With the F-35, we have a multi-domain machine which can support multiple mission threads, and to do so at the same time.”

How do you train to leverage this capability?

Or as Averna puts it, “How do you create an authentic training environment for multi-domain effects?”

To do so, requires an ability to blend simulation or the virtual world with live training, but this requires a focus in the near term on funding such capabilities and getting the operators to operate in a more integrated manner.

Averna argued that “we are ready to proceed down the path of getting such capabilities live on the ranges within the next three years. We can leverage what we are learning in the joint simulation environment in terms of TTPs and can take those effects and model them into the training environment on the live ranges.”

And driving change in training systems associated with the F-35 would see a shift from prioritizing embedded learning systems in the aircraft to being able to work LVC dynamic training. With the current embedded learning systems, the operators learn to work in a wolfpack environment with four ship formations.

With the transition to LVC dynamic learning, the focus would be upon working force packages in a fluid combat space and using a multi-domain system – the F-35 more fully – which in turn would lay the groundwork for introducing new multi-domain systems in the future with a very clear notion of how to use them to get the kind of combat and crisis management effects desired from the combat force.

For the United States and our allies, training to deliver greater integrated capabilities will be critical in dealing with the 21st century authoritarian powers, both to gain the combat mass desired as well as the coalition operational cohesion which can deliver crisis management dominance.

Again, the F-35 global enterprise can be a driver for innovation in enhanced interoperability.

As Averna put it: “The whole concept of the F-35 global enterprise is rooted in partner nations having a common capability so that one could replace a UK asset with a US asset or a Finnish asset or a Canadian asset, because they have a common operational capability. Training to leverage this commonality is crucial which then allows one to build around that idea that ‘whoever shows up with their F-35, the rest of the coalition knows what can be done with that asset from a coalition warfighting perspective.”

By forging an authentic training environment one can contribute to dealing with Conway’s triangle of challenges – survivability, lethality, and affordability.

Averna added two other dimensions to that triad. Averna noted that survivability, lethality, and affordability provide a design constraint for creating effects. “But the other two dimensions are time and interoperability. If you only design a unique stovepipe solution that works for your specific country that reduces interoperability and creates a vulnerability.

“And the kind of peer adversaries we face now require not only rapid decision making but timely evolution or adaptation of the force in terms of acquisition. The general focus now on designing a force for 2030 is simply too far away to deal with the threats we have now. We have to be able to shape force packages rapidly to tailor the effects we need now and not some abstract distant future.”

And while training for such effects, both the software can be reshaped for specific platforms to enable greater integratability and capability as well as learning how to adopt more rapidly to the opportunities for change.

For example, recently I spoke with a senior U.S. Navy Admiral about how he was using the findings of Task Force 59 – the autonomous systems task force in 6th fleet – to enhance the capability of his strike force. He noted that they were adopting capability and trying it out and adopting what worked for them and provided inputs to other elements of the fleet with regard to what particular systems could contribute now to the operating force.

In short, training is not simply preparing to operate the force you think you have; it is about generating the force packaging and operational capabilities you need in joint and coalition operations now and in the near term.

And in so doing, one is able to lay down requirements for acquisition going forward.

But this requires a significant shift in understanding the central role of training and providing the funding to accelerate the LVC elements within the training environment as well.

The graphic is credited to Paul Averna.

Training for the High End Fight: The Strategic Shift of the 2020s

Defense XXI: Shaping a Way Ahead for the United States and Its Allies

USMC Operations in Estonia May 2022

U.S. Marines with 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion attached to Task Group 61/2.4, conduct a movement to a helicopter pickup zone to relocate radar sensor to another site on Saaremaa, Estonia, May 22, 2022.

Task Group 61/2.4 provides naval and joint force commanders with dedicated multi-domain reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance (RXR) capabilities.

Task Group 61/2.4, under Task Force 61/2, is executing the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ Concept for Stand-in Forces (SIF) to generate small, highly versatile units that integrate Marine Corps and Navy forces.

Task Force 61/2 is deployed in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., Allied and Partner interests.

SAAREMAA, ESTONIA

05.22.2022

Video by Sgt. Dylan Chagnon U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet

Why Prime Minister Albanese Must be Careful About NATO Commitments

06/27/2022

By Paul Dibb

Prime Minister Albanese is attending the NATO Summit in Madrid on 28 June, along with the leaders of Japan and South Korea and representatives from Sweden and Finland. President Zelensky has also invited him to visit Ukraine after the NATO leader’s summit. There will clearly be expectations in both meetings of additional Australian support.

Australia should, of course, strongly support Ukraine diplomatically and promise to do more in terms of supplying appropriate military equipment. However, there are other limitations about what we can do in Ukraine and how we can respond to NATO expectations.

No doubt, there will be discussion at this NATO Summit whether Russia will extend its military aggression to include the targeting of the supply of military equipment by the U.S .and its allies to Ukraine through Poland.

There is the further complication of whether NATO will discuss its planning for military contingencies involving Russian military attacks on one or more of the Baltic countries, all three of which are vibrant democracies. A Russian attack would raise serious moral questions for us, including our vital interests in seeing a democratic Taiwan not being attacked by China. As Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has observed: there are clear implications for East Asia of the war that is now being waged in Europe.

There is the further question that has been raised by Ukraine’s Ambassador, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, who claims that “if the sovereignty of any Indo-Pacific country was violated, Australia would expect NATO and other allies to come and support it.”

Unfortunately, that is not what history teaches us in this part of the world. In the Second World War in the Pacific, once the Japanese had defeated Britain in Singapore, no other major European powers participated in the defeat of Japan.

And we all recall the way the UK dropped its strategic interests in our part of the world when in 1968 it announced the policy of withdrawing all its troops East of Suez.

In the Vietnam war the Europeans and the British were nowhere to be seen in this prolonged conflict with communist North Vietnam. While the UK was directly involved in the war against the communist insurgency in Malaya in the1950s, as well as against Indonesia’s Confrontasi in the 1960s, no European country chose to be involved. Most of Europe was not concerned that Indonesia had the world’s third-largest Communist Party and was being heavily armed with advanced Soviet military equipment. It was at this time that Australia purchased F-111 strike bombers and Oberon class submarines. We recognised that if push came to shove, we might have to manage Indonesia alone.

Accordingly, because of these developments and US expectations under the 1968 Nixon Doctrine, Australia for the first time started to focus on the defence of the Australian continent without reliance upon our US ally – short of nuclear war or an attack by a major power. During the 1970s and 1980s, Australia underwent a major revolution in its approach to defence planning, which gave priority to our own defence and the security of our own region of primary strategic concern rather than expeditionary forces at great distance overseas.

The idea of the defence of Australia encountered great resistance – especially from the Army. And Coalition governments from time to time continued to give preference to Australia being able to mount distant military operations alongside our U.S. ally. So, the 2016 Defence White Paper gave equal weight to the three strategic priorities of the defence of Australia, our region, and our broader global interests. That simply undermined any attempts to discipline the three single services to give priority to our own defence.

However, all this changed for the better when the Coalition’s 2020 Strategic Update announced a radically changed policy:

“The Government has decided that defence planning will focus on Australia’s immediate region: ranging from the north-eastern Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland Southeast Asia to Papa New Guinea and the South West Pacific…..That immediate region is Australia’s area of most direct strategic interest.

The 2020 Update also stated there was a need to build a more potent, capable, and agile defence force, including acquiring capabilities that enable Australia to hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia. Accordingly, it said that our immediate region “will provide a tight focus for defence planning.” The Update concluded that consideration of making wider military contributions outside of our own region “should not be an equally-important determinant for force structure compared to ensuring we have credible capability to respond to any challenge in our immediate region.”

These key defence policy guidelines must be firmly etched into the decision-making of our Prime Minister and Defence Minister when it comes to responding to expectations from NATO. With China deliberately building up military pressure against us, now is not the time to ditch decades of hard-won work in Defence that has put in place the priority to be given to our own region of primary strategic concern and the defence of our homeland.

The Government’s commitment to having an independent review of the ADF’s force posture —including its basing in Australia and deployments overseas —should be guided by this fundamental defence planning principle.

Paul Dibb wrote the 1986 “Review of Australia’s Defence Capabilities” and was the primary author of the 1987 Defence White Paper “Defending Australia.”

An earlier version of this article was published in The Australian on June 27, 2022.

Cross-Decking and Distributed Maritime Operations

According to a story published by 3rd Marine Air Wing on August 20, 2021, VMFA-211 conducted the first cross-deck aviation mission in modern naval history.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 conducted a first-of-its-kind operation which saw F-35B aircraft launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth land on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) to load ordnance, refuel, and strike follow-on objectives on August 20th,2021.

The operation highlighted the interoperability of the F-35B and the strategic importance of the joint integration between the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group (UK CSG) and the U.S. Navy Amphibious Ready Group / Marine Expeditionary Unit.

This mission was the first time in modern history the United States has cross-decked aircraft for a mission utilizing a foreign aircraft carrier, demonstrating naval partnerships in action.

“The evolution underscored our continued effort to shift away from static, built-up airfields towards distributed maritime operations (DMO),” said Col. Simon Doran, U.S. Senior National Representative to the UK CSG. “Doing so as part of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group 21 strengthens our alliances and partnerships through the development of interoperable capabilities, combined operations, theater security cooperation, and capacity-building efforts.”

DMO calls for U.S. Naval forces to operate in a less concentrated and more distributed manner to complicate an adversary’s ability to find, track, and target them while still delivering decisive combat power where needed. The multi-national maritime aviation operation extends the reach of the F-35, enabling the 5th-generation aircraft to effect objectives farther away, for extended amounts of time, and with increased ordnance capacity.

In planning guidance released to the fleet, the Commandant of the Marine Corps highlighted that the Marine Corps is a naval expeditionary force capable of deterring malign behavior and, when necessary, fighting inside our adversaries’ sensors and weapons engagement zone to facilitate sea denial in support of fleet operations and joint-force horizontal escalation.

VMFA-211’s F-35B short take-off and vertical landing aircraft capabilities make them uniquely qualified to support distributed maritime operations, and capable of operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth.

For U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brian Kimmins, the executive officer of VMFA-211, this mission wasn’t his first-time landing on USS America.

“Having previously deployed on amphibious assault ships while flying the AV-8B Harrier, I looked forward to the opportunity to work with the Marines and Sailors aboard USS America from the cockpit of an F-35B,” said Kimmins. “Being able to demonstrate the interoperable nature of the F-35B amongst partner nation vessels further highlights our flexibility and lethality as a war-fighting organization.”

This phase of the deployment represents a crucial milestone in the development of UK Carrier Strike and our integration with partners in the INDO PACIFIC region.” said Royal Navy CAPT James Blackmore, Carrier Air Wing Commander. “Exercising with a range of allies, including the US and Japan, provides an invaluable opportunity to gain further experience in operating the Lightning F-35B, Merlin and Wildcat helicopters from the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers alongside other nations, which will be key to delivering the Carrier Strike Full Operating Capability by the end of 2023.”

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 and USS The Sullivans, are humbled and proud to continue the special relationship with the United Kingdom through the deployment of Carrier Strike Group 21. Their interoperability with the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and additional international allies will preserve our collective military advantage and reinforce rules-based international order. The United States and United Kingdom’s forward-deployed forces remain ready to respond to crises globally as a combined maritime force – “we stand together.”

 

Ramstein Legacy 22

NATO and partner nations are taking part in exercise Ramstein Legacy 22, NATO large-scale live-fire air defence exercise.

Seventeen Allied and partner countries are exercising in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with aircraft, missile defence systems and electronic warfare systems from 6 to 10 June 2022.

Around 50 aircraft have flown from bases across Europe, and 17 surface-based air and missile defence systems are being integrated and tested in live-fire scenarios.

Footage includes live-fire demonstrations in Ustka, Poland with Czech, French, Polish, Slovak and UK troops demonstrating various weapons systems, including the Starstreak air defence system.

POLAND

08.06.2022

Natochannel

Preparing for Kill Web Concepts of Operations: Squaring the Testing-Training Circle

06/25/2022

By Robbin Laird

For the Australians, it is called fifth generation warfare. For the British, it is called the integrated operating concept. For DARPA, it is called mosaic warfare. For me, it is kill web concepts of operations.

But what is entailed is building a distributed force that is integratable throughout an extended battlespace, in which the force is able to distribute sensors and strike systems to enhance the force’s survivability and lethality.

The kill web is a collection of sensors netted with C2, able to pass critical data to the optimal delivery system in order to rapidly achieve the Commander’s intent.  Software technologies are key parts of the way ahead to allow for switching across multiple domains to provide for a secure operational web.

Training for such operations is challenging.

As a P-8 operator put it: “We’re talking about taking targeting data from one domain and quickly shifting to another, just like that. I have killed the target under sea. I am now going to go ahead and work the surface target and being able to understand the weapon sensor pairing network and being able to call in fires from different entities using commander’s intent to engage the target.

“That’s what we’re trying to do: to get our operators to understand that it is not just a one-piece answer. There may be a time when you have to kick to another shooter.”

To train with such a concept of operations means that the operator of a particular platform has to be knowledgeable about what other platforms in the battlespace can do, while creating or operating in what Paul Averna of Cubic Corporation refers to as “dynamic sanctuaries.”

In the stress of combat, how will the operators of a particular platform recognize the changing dynamics and deliver the deliver the right effect at the right place and the right time?

Effects based training is focused on operators of specific platforms working with their joint and/or coalition force partners and their unique combat capabilities to deliver the desired combat or crisis management effects.

These effects are typically pre-determined by strategic decision makers, however, once the fight is underway, who will have the clearest picture of a rapidly moving engagement?

In the past, the tactical decision maker would, however, in the future, it will be whomever has access to the kill web data.

Such training can be done most effectively by combining ways to do live training blended with LVC capabilities.

The simulation part blended into the live training environment is key as well given the nature of the dynamic adversaries we are dealing with. The physical training ranges are too limited to encompass the kinds of new technologies and the combat situations to be anticipated in a dynamic strategic and combat environment.

Put in other words, advanced training encompasses effects-based training but in the context of preparing and engaging in limited war with blue forces operating in dynamic sanctuaries and delivering decisive effect to gain escalation control.

When operating advanced multi-mission systems such as the F-35, operators are using L, V, and C or Live, Virtual and Constructive capabilities as well because there is a desire not to highlight to adversaries’ Blue capabilities that might be used in an actual combat setting.

The reality is that the equipment will only be as good as the operators and decision makers are able to master.

But this requirement is in tension with the evolving focus of the testing community for advanced systems.

Testers are focused on systems and their performance and discovering ways to make them better. As software upgradeability has become a core element of how advanced systems are evolving or being upgraded, the testing community wants to take those modifications into an environment where testing happens behind closed doors.

Because software upgradability is driven by what the operators see as the needed capabilities, there is a growing tension between the evolving testing approach for highly classified equipment development dynamics, and the need for real world operator training.

In a recent interview with Paul Averna, he described how he saw the importance of finding ways to square the circle between evolving testing and training approaches. 

“The push from the test community has been, “We have to take everything indoors in order to accurately replicate the complex electromagnetic operating environment anticipated in a Peer fight.” And this has been echoed by some in the fifth gen world who argue in effect that “The only way to get real outcomes from our 5th gen platforms in training is  to take everything indoors into that  Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) to test performance where the latency of participant parametric data can be maintained within the spec for 5th gen sensor fusion engines.”

He underscored that this “is not going to work in the real world, we have to operate with the joint and coalition force, rather than simply operating an exquisite platform as envisaged by the JSE testing process at a few ‘mountaintop’ locations.”

He noted that “in an effects-based world, you can actually create the cognitive presentation that you need your operators to experience in training, and for them to be doing the right things based on the information that is coming through their systems.”

And the operators experiences and evolution need to become core drivers for the test community, notably with the arrival of software upgradeability as a key reality for advanced combat systems.

The core goal for the operating force was expressed by Averna as follows:  “How are we going to create the right TTPs for the dynamic sanctuary we need to deliver the desired effects?”

He argued that the mosaic warfare paradigm shift requires both a testing and training paradigm shift in which the circle  is squared between testing in a simulation world and the training of operators in the real world who are going to work with the wider joint and force community in real world combat situations.

If the testing community shapes what it thinks is a new capability for a particular platform, the challenge then is to translate that into a training paradigm that determine how to use such a  capability, but there is also the need to do this in reverse, whereby the operators drive the testing they want to see to develop what they value as the key players in real world combat situations.

The real world is significantly different from the testing world.

As Averna put it: “The approximation of the real world misses the mark, if it’s exclusively virtual. How do you bring an integrated combat capability from several platforms together in that common environment, and really validate performance?

“How are you going to manage escalation in conflict with the delivering of the correct effects?

“How do you do this irrespective of what the test community has validated as the current technical baseline for blue operating against the red forces?”

“ The missing link between the push towards training in the JSE and the need to train with thousands of joint and coalition operators is in the translation of how effects identified in the virtual world are presented to Live operators training in their actual platforms given the limitations of the physical training ranges.

“The JSE can be leveraged to not only validate system capabilities but to develop the best Tactics Techniques, and Procedures needed to achieve mission success in a complex peer threat environment.

“But we can’t send the entire Joint and Coalition force through a few high end sim complexes and expect that they will be proficient when the time comes to cross the line of departure.

“Using a blended LVC training environment allows for the presentation of effects developed in the JSE to be seen in live Blue cockpits, to include the guising of adversary participants at the scale of a potential peer fight. To only do one approach (JSE or Live training) will leave the promise of the kill web on the shelf of what could have been.”

For a detailed look at the evolution of training, see the following:

Training for the High End Fight: The Strategic Shift of the 2020s

For an update on the assessment in that book, see chapter four in the following:

Defense XXI: Shaping a Way Ahead for the United States and Its Allies

And for our recently released assessment of the emergence of the kill web approach to the operating force, see the following:

A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making

The 40th Anniversary of the Falklands War: ‘Global’ Britain and Reality

06/22/2022

By Kenneth Maxwell

On 14 June 2022, the UK remembered the 40 year anniversary of the Falklands War. Looking back provides insights as well with regard to the state of “global” Britain.

In the age of the Brexiters self-proclaimed “global Britain’ two very distinguished British historians, the late Michael Howard and Max Hastings, disagree about the relevance and the meaning of the British victory 40 years ago over Argentina in the Falklands War.

Sir Michael Howard (1922-2019) who served with distinction in the Italian campaign during the WW2 founded the war studies department at King’s College, London, and was one of the founders of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was the Regis Professor of History at Oxford. He died in 2019 at the age of 97. He saw the Falklands War as perpetuating the “silly illusion about brave little Britain.

Sir Max Hastings, the distinguished military historian, who was the first journalist to enter Port Stanley after the British victory in the Falklands War, writing last week in The London Times said that it is “unlikely that a Latin American junta will again provide us with a pitch on which to achieve a cup-winning triumph against an adversary which was exactly the right size for Britain to defeat in 1982.”

Max Hastings is no friend of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson now seeking political salvation though his avid support for Ukraine in its war against the Russian invasion. Max Hastings believes that Britain needs a “future” not a return to “imperial weights and measures” which is among Johnson’s latest wish list.

Max Hastings called Johnson, who he had known since the 1980s when he was the editor of The Daily Telegraph and Johnson was his correspondent in Brussels, “a cavorting charlatan who will be an unfunny joke as PM.”

Mrs. Thatcher whatever else she may have been was certainly no charlatan. Nostalgia about the Falklands War is all right up to a point. No one would deny the heroism of the British armed forces involved in the Falklands campaign nor Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s determination to launch and sustain the military campaign over 8000 miles away from Britain in the far South Atlantic.

Some in the U.S. at the time believed that the British task force was doomed to failure. The circumstances at the time, however, were very special, both in the U.S. and in Europe. Britain obtained the support of the UN Security Council where only Panama supported Argentina. Both China and the Soviet Union abstained. Britain was also supported by French President Francois Mitterrand.

The quiet but essential support of Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher was essential. Reagan had initially sought a compromise and sent Secretary of State Alexander Haigh on a South Atlantic shuttle. The U.K. was totally unprepared for the Argentinian invasion. John Nott, the UK Defense Secretary, did not even know where the Falklands were located.

The American Ambassador to the UN, the formidable Jeane Kirkpatrick, had argued that the U.S. needed to have strong relations with the Latin American military regimes. She was dining at the Argentinian embassy in Washington on the very evening that the Argentinian armed forces invaded the Falklands.

Kirkpatrick had evidently missed the not too subtle hints from the Argentinian ambassador at the UN who had ended each lunch with Kirkpatrick by standing and shouting loudly “Malvinas, Malvinas” which greatly puzzled the American Ambassador who did not seem to know what he was talking about. The Malvinas was what the Argentinians called the Falkland Islands.

But Admiral Sir Henry Conyers Leach, the First Sea Lord, who had been fighting John Notts plans to phase out the Navy’s “out of area” capacity, gate crashed the meeting Thatcher was holding on how to respond to the Argentinian invasion and persuaded the PM that a task force could be assembled within a week and could indeed retake the Falklands.

Mrs. Thatcher regarded the support of Ronald Reagan essential, The U.S. had airport facilities at the Wideawake airfield on the British overseas territory of the Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic. The U.S. had used the base during the WW2 but abandoned it at the end of the war. In 1956 the Americans returned and the airfield was expanded in the 1960s and a joint U.K. government communications HQ and US National Security Agency was set up. Reagan found General Leopoldo Galtieri, the Argentinian dictator, drunk and intransigent.

In 1982 Ascension Island became the major staging area for the British Task Force and the airfield was a base for the British Vulcan Bombers and for a time because the busiest airfield in the world. The U.S. provided critical fuel to resupply the empty storage tanks there as well as provided the British with satellite intelligence. The British task force was composed of 127 ships, submarines, and requisitioned merchant ships, carrying troops, aircraft and equipment, including two aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, and two nuclear powers submarines, HMS Conqueror and HMS Courageous, and four other submarines.

The French provided training to British Harrier pilots to counter the Argentinian French supplied Super Etendard jets carrying Exocet missiles. Four were used to great effect by the Argentinians in attacks on the HMS Sheffield and the SS Atlantic Conveyor and severely damaging both ships which eventually sank. A technical support team from Dassault, however, had remained in Argentina throughout the conflict. At least seven Royal Navy ships were damaged by Argentina’s Exocet and bomb attacks.

The British nuclear powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentinian cruiser the ARA General Belgrano with the loss of over 300 crew. Four Royal Navy ships sank. On HMS Sheffield 20 were killed and 24 injured. And two Royal Navy Fleet auxiliary ships also sank after Argentina attacks. The British landed 4000 troops and after intense fighting over 11,000 Argentinian troops surrendered and were repatriated. In the end 907 lives were lost, 649 Argentinians, 255 British, and 3 Falkland islanders.

Mrs. Thatcher told Ronald Reagan in 1982 that “If you allow dictators to march in to take over, no small country is going to be secure.” The Falkland campaign proved to be Thatcher’s finest hour.  It is doubtful, however, that Britain could today launch a similar task force and successfully repel another attack on the Falklands by Argentina.

Nor does it have a Ronald Reagan in the White House. Nor is Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street a Mrs. Thatcher.  And in the Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, evidently did not hear the Thatcherite admonition about dictators invading neighboring countries.

Featured Photo: Avro Vulcan Bomber on display at the National Museum of Flight Scotland at East Fortune Airfield. XM 597, was involved in the Falklands war and attacked Port Stanley Airport in the famous Black Buck Raids.