Argentina demands Britain cancels military exercise in the Falklands

The UK government was made aware of the protests when a letter of complaint was delivered to the British ambassador in Buenos Aires. In it the Argentinian foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, declared the exercise scheduled to start later this coming week as “illegitimate” and that “the behaviour of the United Kingdom contradicts the principle of the peaceful settlement of controversies supported unanimously by countries in the region.”

Rapier SAMThe letter also made specific note of British forces conducting live firing tests of a Rapier Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system. This weapon was responsible for destroying or damaging five Argentine warplanes during the Falklands War in 1982 (the exact figures are disputed but the weapon gained a certain level of notoriety regardless in Argentina).

An MoD spokesperson responded by saying that the exercises were routine being intended to maintain the skills and test the effectiveness of the British garrison that has been guarding the islands since the Argentine invasion 34 years ago. Despite being repelled by a British taskforce the Argentinians maintain a desire to claim the islands for themselves, a cause which has grown in intensity in recent years as oil deposits continue to be found in the region. In January of this year, approximately 500 million barrels worth of oil was discovered in the Elaine oilfield to the north of the islands.

hms-clyde-royal-navy-river-class-offshore-patrol-vessel-opv

HMS Clyde (shipspotting.com)

Mrs Malcorra’s letter is an unfortunate step back in Argentine-UK relations after efforts by both parties in the last year to repair the diplomatic damage caused by the presidency of Cristina Kirchner. President Kirchner launched an aggressive foreign policy against the UK regarding ownership of the islands, going as far as asking the new Argentina-born Pope to intervene in support of her country’s claim. Of considerable concern to the UK during this time were the efforts Buenos Aires took to encourage support for their claim from neighbouring Latin American countries resulting in the British warship HMS Clyde being refused permission to dock in Brazil in 2011 because it was on Falklands protection duties.

The situation became so serious that the Falkland Islanders conducted a referendum in 2013 regarding their future in which they voted overwhelmingly to remain a British overseas territory hoping that this would send a message to the Argentinians that they need to accept their position.

Since the presidency was assumed by Mauricio Macri, the situation has improved with new trade deals covering oil, fishing, navigation and trade in and around the islands between both parties. However it is quite clear that the sovereignty of the islands is still an emotive issue in Argentina and that seems unlikely to change in the near future.

Advertisements

34 Years Ago Today

34 years ago today Argentinian forces invaded the Falkland Islands sparking the Falklands War. Under Operation Corporate, British forces mobilised to retake the islands. The operation was a success but cost 255 British soldier’s lives.

Today, Argentinian rhetoric and propaganda continues to vilify the UK and British forces during the war. The situation has been made worse by a questionable decision by the United Nations to increase Argentina’s territorial claim to include Falklands territories.

It must be remembered that the islands, while a British protectorate, are self governing. They are an island nation that have existed longer than many European countries. They have farmed the land and built a society there that deserves to be protected and not challenged by a country desperate for a distraction from its own internal problems which has always been the driving force behind Argentina’s claim over the islands.

So, today on this anniversary please spare a thought for those British service personnel who gave their futures to protect the islander’s and their cherished way of life.

Lest we forget.

NEWS: £280M Falklands Garrison Investment Necessary?

Falklands signThe Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed that a £280m investment plan is to be instigated on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic to guarantee the sovereignty of the islands in the face of present and future threats. Included in the plan were the deployment of up to two Chinook heavylift helicopters and a replacement for the Rapier surface-to-air missile (SAM) when it goes out of service later this decade. The Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Clyde will also remain on station being backed up by regular visits from destroyers and submarines.

The news comes as reports resurface of an Argentine deal with Russia over Sukhoi Su-24 strike aircraft. Speaking in relation to this story Mr Fallon said that the deal had not yet been confirmed but the investment in defending the islands was necessary to keep the garrison based there credible against any threat that may emerge including any new Argentine aircraft acquisition. The possibility of a deal between Buenos Aires and Moscow does look increasingly likely as in the last few days Russian officials have raised questions over the legality of Britain’s claim to the islands. It is likely however that this is merely an extension of the war of words between east and west regarding the Ukraine crisis.

The news no doubt comes as a welcome relief to the islanders themselves as Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government shows no sign of relaxing their policy of continuing to stir up a near obsessive frenzy amongst their people over the islands. The extremely public expulsion of the BBC’s Top Gear program from the country in 2014 only worsened the situation despite the fact that Argentine television crews frequently report from the “Islas Malvinas” on the so-called occupation.

As for Argentine military aspirations for the islands most experts agree that Argentina is in no condition to mount a military operation like that of the 1982 operation. The Argentine Navy is almost entirely non-operational with the exception of a few patrol boats operated by the Coast Guard and the Argentine air force has no new combat aircraft yet. Even if the deal with Russia goes ahead the question remains of how effective they will be against the RAF’s Typhoon force based on the islands. The Su-24s are relatively old aircraft conceived for the low level strike role in the 1970s. The RAF has been preparing to fight these very aircraft for over 30 years whereas the Argentinians have very little experience of operating them. Additionally, given the fact that if the deal is going ahead then the Argentinians will pay in meat then one wonders if the Argentinians can even afford to fly them.

What the British garrison should be worried about however is if in the current climate of obsessive-patriotism regarding the islands that a group of Argentinian air force officers don’t take it upon themselves to launch an unauthorised attack on the islands in the hope of inspiring their fellow countrymen to join in. It has happened once before when in 1966 a group of Argentinians “invaded” the islands aboard a hijacked airliner. These men are now seen as heroes in Argentina by the current administration despite the fact they took ordinary Argentinians on the aircraft hostage at gunpoint.

With Argentina also negotiating for Chinese fighters and to build a version of the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen jointly with Brazil then it is clear that Britain does need to think carefully about the security of the islands in the air. However, until Argentina’s economic situation improves the threat level remains relatively low despite what some sensationalist newspapers in both Argentina and the UK might try to say to the contrary. Any large military operation against the islands would likely break the Argentinian economy even if the operation was a success.

Testing the Pucará

8E37A82B8

The FMA IA 58 Pucará was feared by British troops more than any other aircraft fielded by the Argentinians in the Falklands War because it was the one aircraft designed specifically to fight infantry. Had the aircraft been utilised in a European conflict it would have no doubt suffered horrendous losses but over the Falkland Islands where British fighter cover could often be described as patchy at best the aircraft was in its prime. The Pucará was made all the more lethal by the fact that it was one of the only fixed wing attack aircraft actually based on the islands which meant they were closer to the battlelines thus speeding up response and turnover times. Proof of the success of the Pucará is demonstrated by the fact that it was the only Argentinian aircraft to shoot down a British aircraft in air combat during the entire conflict (a Royal Marines Scout helicopter on the 28th May).

Me410

Me410

The Pucará emerged as a result of the Argentine Air Force’s need to counter revolutionary forces inside the country’s borders. Of a conventional low wing monoplane design it was intended to carry out the Forward Air Control (FAC) and Counter Insurgency (COIN) roles which involved spotting hostile troop formations and calling in artillery or fast jets to destroy them. Many observers have looked at the Pucará and drawn similarities with several German aircraft of World War II such as the Messerschmitt Me410 and concluded that Nazi engineers hiding in Argentina had a part in its design. This has been denied by Argentine sources but several Argentine aircraft designed in the post war period did benefit from foreign expertise.

Pucara destroyed on the ground by the SAS at Pebble Island

Pucara destroyed on the ground by the SAS at Pebble Island

The British recognised the value of this aircraft early in the conflict and on the 1st May 1982 Royal Navy Sea Harriers of No.800 NAS bombed the air strip at Goose Green where a handful were operating from. The Royal Navy Sea Harriers destroyed three aircraft and damaged a fourth. This was followed up by an SAS raid at Pebble Island on the 15th May which destroyed six Pucarás. It’s interesting to consider that given the world’s impression of the SAS as a counter terrorism unit it was actually formed in North Africa to carry out the very kind of mission it undertook at Pebble Island; destroying enemy aircraft on the ground. Almost a week later the Pucará met the SAS once again when an SAS patrol destroyed one with a FIM-92 Stinger shoulder launched Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) and in doing so became the first victim of this famed American weapon. During the course of the conflict thirteen Pucarás were lost to enemy action and a few more were lost to accidents. A large number based on the island became unserviceable either due to battle damage or from lack of spares but when the Argentinians surrendered on the 17th June the victorious British forces found themselves in possession of eleven intact aircraft four of which were deemed airworthy. Six of these aircraft were broken down and shipped to the UK aboard the MV Atlantic Causeway.

MV Atlantic Causeway arrived in the UK on the 1st August 1982 with its war prizes onboard and these were offloaded and transported by road to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. Upon arrival the aircraft were each inspected and it was decided to make one (Argentine serial number A-515) airworthy again after an inspection of the six. The reassembly process included stripping the other airframes of vital parts – Buenos Aires was hardly going to be open to providing any. Due to the unfamiliarity of the aircraft to engineers at Boscombe Down it was a slow process and it would not be until February 1983 that the first tests of the two engines was undertaken in preparation for impending taxi run testing. Fortunately the Pucará was powered by two French built Turbomeca Astazou turboprops parts for which were widely available on the commercial market should they be needed during the test phase.

On February 22nd 1983 the Pucara, now sporting RAF roundels and the serial number ZD485, ran its engines up to full power for the first of a series of taxi trials. Once the test pilots selected for the program (Squadron Leader Russell Peart and Squadron Leader Tony Banfield) were comfortable enough handling the engines on the ground and once all the engineering data had been analysed the aircraft was cleared to fly and on April 28th 1983 the Pucará left the ground for the first time in nearly a year. The last time it flew was with the Argentinians and was to bomb British artillery positions and troops on the northern side of Mount Kent and Murrell Ridge on East Falkland.

ZD485

Upon returning to Boscombe Down the test pilots reported delightful handling characteristics. The aircraft seemed to leap in to the air after only a short distance down the runway (900ft) and was very responsive in the air. From a pilot’s perspective the aircraft afforded excellent visibility although it was noted that the forward positioning of the Astazou engines tended to block much of the view from the rear cockpit in the 3- and 9-o’clock low positions which for a FAC/COIN aircraft would provide operational difficulties (other aircraft of a similar role such as the OV-10 Bronco had high mounted wings to allow the crew an unrestricted view below where the greatest amount of “trade” could be found).

A rigorous test program was planned out at Boscombe Down for the aircraft designed to test almost every aspect of its combat performance as well as test new British defences/tactics. Some queried the necessity of the trials with the cessation of hostilities but there were a number of reasons why they were necessary;

  • Although the British forces had been victorious the Argentinians maintained their claim to the islands and should a conflict spark up a second time the Pucará would no doubt once again be put in to the firing line. Developing effective countermeasures to the aircraft would therefore be of high importance.
  • The Falklands War itself showed that even a relatively low-tech enemy can be a deadly one and so the lessons learned from these trials could be applied to other scenarios such as in Africa where FAC/COIN aircraft are more prevalent.
  • There was a call by some members of the Ministry of Defence for either the RAF or the British Army Air Corps to acquire a dedicated FAC/COIN type of a similar capability to the Pucará for use in low intensity conflicts such as UN peacekeeping or even Northern Ireland. The tests failed to convince either service to push for such an acquisition.
  • There was a rather bizarre anthropological purpose behind the tests. While the great power blocks of the East and West squared off against one another with their sophisticated technologies some saw the testing of the Pucará as an opportunity to view Latin American/Third World approaches to military engineering problems.

ZD485 2#May 1983 would prove a busy time for the test program with further handling assessments and navigational flights including to Larkhill firing range. On the 20th May the first take off was undertaken from a grass strip to test its rough field performance and these tests continued throughout June until the pilots were perfectly competent in its operation. Load testing soon followed with a variety of ordinance put on the aircraft’s three pylons to test how their weight affected performance. This was made easier by the fact that the aircraft used American Aero 7A-1 and 20A-1 stores pylons and so were compatible with most NATO stores. The aircraft was capable of lifting up to 2,205lbs of weaponry which was quite impressive for an aircraft of its class however the pilots noted immediately that this resulted in a dramatic deterioration in performance. Take off distance almost doubled and every aspect of its handling was affected with it becoming a much more sluggish aircraft. It is important to point out however that being a FAC/COIN aircraft the Pucará was expected to merely find targets and direct fast jets or artillery on to them. It was only really used as a bomber in the Falklands because the Argentinians needed every weapon at their disposal (they even flew jet trainers against the British taskforce!).

Rapier SAM

Rapier SAM

With all aspects of it’s flight regime fully investigated the testing team now turned their attention to testing its combat performance. On the 23rd June the Pucará conducted simulated attacks on a Rapier SAM battery. The Rapier emerged from the Falklands War with an enviable reputation that no doubt helped its sales prospects however the truth that was largely covered up by the British military was that it hadn’t performed as expected. It should be noted that the weapon hadn’t matured by 1982 and operator experience was limited but after the war it went on to become one of the most capable battlefield SAMs in the world. During the course of a one hour flight the Pucará made numerous mock attacks against a fixed Rapier site allowing the operators to gain experience in engaging this relatively slow aircraft. Tests such as this would find a new importance in the 21st century with the threat of highjacked or stolen light aircraft being used by terrorists.

The next series of tests were far more adventurous however and included pitting the aircraft in combat with other aircraft. The loss of the Royal Marines’ Scout prompted tests to develop tactics for helicopters to defend themselves with and this saw the aircraft engage in mock attacks first with an RAF Puma HC.1 helicopter (27th June 1983) and the next day with a Royal Navy Sea King. The results showed that the Pucará enjoyed an obvious speed and firepower advantage making (relatively) high speed passes on the aircraft. The helicopters’ best defence was to keep the door gunner in view of the aircraft while engaging in evasive manoeuvres. This was more difficult with the Sea King which only had a door on the starboard side for the gunner. Regardless of how many guns it has a helicopter is always at risk from attack by faster fixed wing aircraft and this was probably why the aborted Lynx 3 prototype was designed with an ability to fire an air launched version of the Stinger missile. Tests were also carried out fitting this weapon to older model Lynxes although this was never done operationally.

More air combat followed on the 12th July when the aircraft was flown against two RAF Phantom FGR.2s in preparation for the Phantom deploying to the South Atlantic as part of the growing garrison protecting the Falklands. A week later the aircraft was flown against its old nemesis from the war – the Sea Harrier FRS.1. The Sea Harrier was piloted by Flt. Lt. David Morgan, himself a Falklands War veteran with two Argentinian Skyhawk and two helicopter kills to his credit.

The air combat trials more or less concluded the testing of the aircraft and after a few short handling flights it was flown from Boscombe Down to RAF Cosford on September 9th 1983 to become a display at the museum. During the 1983 air show season the aircraft appeared in displays at Boscombe Down, Yeovilton and the prestigious Royal International Air Tattoo. Total flying time for the aircraft in British hands was around 25 hours and in that time it provided valuable data to help nullify the threat it posed.

Attack on the Río Iguazú

The Rio Iguaza

The Rio Iguazu

In the darkened early hours of the morning of May 22nd 1982, a pair of Sea Harriers of No.800 NAS made their run along the deck of the ageing carrier HMS Hermes before leaping off the ski-jump mounted on the foredeck and in to the air. Armed for a combat air patrol, they carried a pair of AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles under their outer wing pylons while tucked under the fuselage in two streamlined pods were a pair of 30mm ADEN cannons. Their patrol route took them over Choiseul Sound, a stretch of water north of East Falkland island. Unbeknown to the two British pilots but a solitary vessel draped in camouflage was already traversing this stretch of water hoping to use the poor early morning light for protection from British aircraft. It was the Argentine Coast Guard (Prefectura Naval Argentina) vessel the Río Iguazú under the command of Captain Prefectura Olemda.

Rio Iguaza

Rio Iguazu docked at Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley)

The Río Iguazú  was one of twenty Z-28-class patrol boats built for the Argentine Coast Guard by Blohm & Voss in Germany during the 1970s. 90ft in length she displaced just 65 tons and had a typical crew complement of 15 while armament comprised of two browning 12.7 machine guns and various small arms carried by the crew. The vessel was dispatched along with her sister-ship the Islas Malvinas to the Falklands on April 11th still resplendent in their immaculate white paint schemes denoting that they were maritime security vessels. They arrived at Puerto Argentino (the Argentine occupational name for the Falklands capital Port Stanley) just after midnight on the 13th April and in doing so had violated the maritime exclusion zone established by the British following the Argentinian occupation of the islands on April 2nd. This meant that to the British the vessel was subject to attack without warning. On April 14th the crews of the two patrol boats began to paint over their white schemes with a brown and green camouflage pattern indicating that the Argentinians had every intention of using them in a combat role.

The Río Iguazú  and the Islas Malvinas both carried out a wide variety of duties around the islands as the British taskforce sailed south and these ranged from security missions, escort missions, radar picket duties as well as providing pilot services to ships entering Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley). After the taskforce reached the Falklands on May 1st 1982 the ships also undertook a combat search and rescue role for Argentine pilots shot down in battle with the British. This put the two vessels in combat quite early in to the campaign when on May 2nd while both vessels were searching for a downed FMA IA-58 Pucara crew they were spotted by a Royal Navy helicopter. Early Argentinian reports that the helicopter was a Sea King proved false and it was in fact a Lynx helicopter operating from HMS Ardent. The Argentinian vessels and the helicopter both exchanged machine gun fire before the door gunner in the Lynx was wounded forcing the aircraft to withdraw. The two vessels, fearing further attacks, quickly withdrew also.

On the 21st May the first British forces landed at San Carlos and the ground war for the islands began. Later that very night Captain Olmeda received word that his vessel was to transport two OTO Melara 105mm howitzers and 15 members of the Army from Puerto Argentino to Goose Green to bolster the defences there. Some reports claim that the vessel was also carrying parts for Pucara attack aircraft, the only Argentine attack aircraft to operate from the islands themselves, although this is disputed. The equipment and the soldiers (who effectively doubled the patrol boat’s usual complement to 30) were loaded aboard under the cover of darkness. Due to the size of the patrol boat and the weight of the equipment it was carrying the artillery pieces had to be laid down flat across the deck to prevent the Río Iguazú  from becoming top heavy. At 0430hrs on the morning of May 22nd the vessel slipped its moorings and set off for Goose Green via the Choiseul Sound.

Sea Harrier Rio IguazaAt 0820hrs two Sea Harriers, XZ496 flown by Lieutenant Hale and XZ460 flown by Lieutenant Commander Frederiksen of No.800 NAS, passed over the Choiseul Sound. The murky low light of the early morning over the Falklands can give the islands a rather oppressive feeling but it meant that on the dark grey waters below the wake from the camouflaged patrol boat drew a short white line on the sea visible from the air. Hale signalled his intention to attack while Frederiksen stayed high to protect him from any Argentine aircraft that might try to intercept them.

Argentine comic strip depicting the attack

Argentine comic strip depicting the attack

The Argentine crew saw the two specs in the air and knew they were under attack. They quickly manned their action stations including the two 12.7mm machine guns and prepared to defend themselves. Hale flew in low and switched to his two 30mm cannons before strafing the vessel at a rather shallow angle. The shells struck the rear of the ship striking electrical equipment and damaging the rudder. Several shells also passed right through the hull causing the vessel to take on water. The loss of electrical power inhibited the crews ability to start pumping out the water.

The two 12.7mm guns on the Río Iguazú , manned by Corporal Julio Omar Benitez and Senior Assistant Juan José Baccaro, retaliated firing rounds at Hale’s aircraft during his attacks. Benitez and Baccaro were both hit with Beccaro’s gun being destroyed by a 30mm shell. As the Sea Harrier finished its last attack the one remaining serviceable gun was manned by Corporal Ibáñez who fired shots at the Sea Harrier. In the confusion of the attack the Argentine crew saw the Sea Harrier fly behind a plume of smoke and believed that Ibáñez had scored a direct hit bringing the aircraft down. This proved not to be the case however and both Sea Harriers returned to HMS Hermes.

Captain Olmeda knew that he could not pump out the water seeping in from the holes in his vessel fast enough to remain afloat and so he gave the order to drive the vessel on to the shore at Button Bay. The patrol boat beached and its sharply raked hull left to fall onto its starboard side. Despite the ferocity of the attack only Corporal Benitez was killed in the incident while Bccaro was seriously wounded and a few others sustaining minor injuries. Considering the number of men crammed aboard the vessel it is a miracle the death toll was not higher and Olmeda’s decision to beach almost certainly saved the remainder.

Rio IguazuDespite the fact the patrol boat was taken out of the fight the howitzers onboard remained intact and the Argentinians wasted no time taking them off; they were afraid that a follow up attack might destroy the boat and its precious cargo completely. These guns were later used to defend Darwin from the advancing British before they were captured intact and used against their former owners. Efforts to refloat the Río Iguazú were impractical given the war situation and so Olmeda and his men abandoned the patrol boat at Button bay. The vessel was captured by the British who saw no use for it and so they too left it rot.

Then on June 13th a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter from HMS Penelope spotted the vessel unaware of its condition and believed it was an operational vessel. The Lynx fired a Sea Skua missile which struck the bridge destroying all of its internal equipment and damaging the superstructure beyond repair. This guaranteed that the vessel would never be returned to service. After the war the British towed the hulk off Button Bay and beached it for a last time at Goose Green. It was then broken up and sold for scrap. The name plaque of the Río Iguazú was presented to the Royal Navy and remains on display at the Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm museum.

The Río Iguazú name plaque at Yeovilton in 2015

The Río Iguazú name plaque at Yeovilton in 2015


Rio Iguazu photo credits: Patrulleras Argentinas

Operation: Condor (1966) – Argentina Invades Stanley Racecourse

DC-4 Condor

It was supposed to be just a regular flight for the crew of the Aerolineas Argentina DC-4 airliner. On the morning of the 28th September 1966 at Buenos Aires airport the pilots worked through their checklist as the thirty five passengers boarded. Among them were eighteen members of a scrap metal union and a journalist named Dardo Cabo. The flight took off as scheduled and the passengers and crew seemed to settle in for their flight to Rio Gallegos.

However, shortly after take off the metal workers and Cabo rose up and took control of the aircraft in what was one of the first major hijackings in South America. The other passengers and crew expected to find themselves being held hostage but were astounded (some even joyous) when they found out that the hijackers planned to fly the DC-4 to Los Malvinas but known in the English speaking world as the Falkland Islands.

Their plan was simple; to “liberate” them from the British.

This bizarre incident took place during one of the most volatile times in Anglo-Argentine relations over the islands. Over the previous year the Argentinians had stepped up their efforts to reclaim the islands through an extremely aggressive diplomatic program. The British government actually seemed to be supporting the idea of handing them over preferring to promote good relations with Argentina who was a major trade partner in the region over retaining the windswept islands that seemed to have little strategic or economic importance anymore.

DC-4 Condor 3The island’s population however had other ideas and lobbied the British government to retain the islands. The islanders had tended to their land for generations and weren’t just about to give it up because Whitehall said so. As political support for the islanders grew in the UK the government was forced to accept the islanders’ wishes. It became such a sore subject that when the England football team beat Argentina during the World Cup that year Argentine television claimed that first the English had stolen the Malvinas and now they had stolen their World Cup aspirations. This prompted the metal workers and Cabo to take action and to do that they needed a plane to get to the islands.

As the DC-4 approached the islands the pilots were becoming increasingly concerned. They knew that there was no airfield on the islands (Stanley Airport was opened a few years later) with which they could land on but the hijackers/liberators had already thought of that and told the pilots to head for Stanley racecourse; the flattest and firmest terrain near the capital of the islands. The islanders’ sleepy lives were shattered by the drone of the aircraft as it swooped low over their homes with its landing gear down. The Argentine markings caused panic as they rightly believed that an invasion was taking place.

The islanders weren’t exactly defenceless. The Falkland Island Defence Force could trace its origins back to the Falklands Volunteers founded during the Crimean War in 1854 to protect against Russian warships. In 1966 it comprised of a handful of local volunteers and six full-time Royal Marines who provided training. They were lightly armed with rifles, pistols and shotguns and were no match for the well equipped Argentine military. Nevertheless the volunteers and the Marines mobilised supported by local residents who were determined that if their islands were to fall then they weren’t going down without a fight.

They marched on the racecourse where the aircraft had touched down digging a long trench in the grass as it’s wheels struggled to bring it to a stop. The Royal Marines immediately took command of the situation and decided to contain the Argentine “paratroopers” in their aircraft. What they saw however was anything but a highly trained military force. Instead they saw a rough looking, disorganized mob emerge from the aircraft and plant an Argentine flag in the racecourse. It would have almost seemed comical had it not been for the fact that before the aircraft could be secured the Argentinians captured three curious locals.

DC-4 Condor 2From here however their plan seemed to be collapsing around them. They realized that they were vastly outnumbered by the frightened locals lead by the competent Royal Marines who had them completely surrounded and any chance of fighting their way out would be almost impossible. However news of what was happening was already reaching back to the mainland and crowds gathered in the capital demanding that the Argentine military follow the hijackers/liberator’s lead.

Argentinian and British diplomats began a frantic round of negotiations as the scene on Stanley racecourse remained stagnant save for a few crude exchanges of words. The hours passed and the brutally cold night set in. The Royal Marines and the islanders seemed to receive a never-ending supply of warm food, drinks and clothes from a grateful population while the Argentinians shivered under the wings of the airliner. A Catholic priest was sent out to them and gave mass before convincing them to surrender 36 hours after the aircraft landed.

Over the next day the Argentinians were repatriated to face charges in Argentina. However only three of them would actually be prosecuted for the hijacking such was the popular support for their action. One of them was the journalist Dardo Cabo who was expecting to write the story of the liberation of the Malvinas. The incident not only failed to succeed but actually forced the British government to reinforce its position on the islands by increasing the permanent military presence there in the form of around 20 Royal Marines. The incident destroyed any political hope for the Argentinians gaining control of the islands but the will remained.

Thus the scene was set for the 1982 invasion.

The story was all but forgotten about until the current Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in her seemingly ceaseless efforts to rouse her country in to a blind frenzy over the islands, put the flag carried by the Argentinians on display to celebrate the incident. Furthermore she gave all the surviving members extremely generous pensions claiming them to be heroes despite the fact that they hijacked an Argentine airliner.