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|Argentina to invade Falklands after 30th anniversary furore dies down, commander warns|
Argentina to invade Falklands after 30th anniversary furore dies down, commander warns.
Argentina is likely to reinvade the Falklands once Britain drops its guard after the furore over the 30th anniversary events dies down, the former commander of British land forces has said.
In one of the starkest warnings over the islands’ future sovereignty Major Gen Julian Thompson said once the reinforced garrison and naval presence disappears at the end of this year Buenos Aires will look to repeat its 1982 action.
“The Argentines could invade and seize the Falkland Islands again,” he said in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, the respected military think tank.
The former Royal Marine disclosed that after the British Government was “alerted” by the Argentina president Cristina Kirchner “stoking the sovereignty fires” it discretely reinforced the Falklands garrison and naval presence.
This would make an invasion “highly unlikely” this year but “in a few years time however, when the fuss has died down, and the UK’s guard is lowered, an Argentine coup de main operation to take the airfield is perfectly attainable”.
With at least four RAF Typhoons stationed at Stanley airfield alongside 1,200 troops, equipped with radar, surface-to-air missiles and the Navy’s latest Type 45 destroyer in the area, a conventional attack would be difficult.
But military analysts have suggested that a lighting Argentine special forces raid could seize the airfield with just 200 troops hiding in a civilian aircraft.
“With no airfield, reinforcing the islands by air would be impossible, as would any form of air-lifted attempt at recovering them. The only way to take them back would be an amphibious assault as in 1982,” Major Gen Thompson said.
While today’s Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment, the key units used in the war, were far better trained, battle-hardened and equipped than 30 years ago the “problem would be getting them there”.
“Once in the Falklands, they would have even less trouble defeating an Argentine invader, than we did in 1982,” he said.
While Britain could still “cobble together” a task force to carry a brigade of up to 5,000 troops the “killer” point was that without an aircraft carrier neither the fleet nor the landing force would have air cover, the general said. This would make it extremely vulnerable to the Argentine air force “notwithstanding its poor quality”.
The nearest airbase at Ascension Island would not be able to provide air cover as it was 4,000 miles away.
The Navy sent 112 warships, submarines and freighters in the 1982 task force and the campaign would have been lost without its power.
“Those fighting on land administered the coup de grace, but the conditions enabling them to do so were shaped by sea power at considerable cost not only in ships, but also in lives; of 253 British servicemen killed, 173 (68 per cent) were lost at sea,” the general said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Unlike in 1982, the Ministry of Defence has a well-defended airfield in the Falklands with ground-based air defences, and continues to have the ability to reinforce by air and sea. People should be reassured by the contingencies that we now have in place compared to 30 years ago.
"That said, there is absolutely no evidence of any current credible military threat to the Falkland Islands.”