Four Lessons of the Falklands War
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Four Lessons of the Falklands War


Yesterday morning, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed from a stroke at the age of eighty-seven. Many have marked the passing by noting (for good or ill) her leadership during the 1982 Falklands War. Victory in that war helped cement her government, while dealing a deathblow to the military junta that governed Argentina.

Lyle Goldstein, Christopher Yung, and The Diplomat’s James Holmes have all gone over the many lessons the PLA Navy (PLAN) may have drawn from the Falklands War. Unlike many countries, China is in a position to draw lessons from both the British and the Argentine experiences during the war.  The effectiveness of British naval aviation surely impressed upon the Chinese the need for intrinsic air support for maritime operations, while at the same time providing grist for the need to improve the anti-access system of systems. Submarines had long played an important role in PLAN doctrine, but the destruction of General Belgrano by HMS Conqueror put an exclamation point on the vulnerability of surface ships to undersea attack.  Perhaps more importantly, the sinking deterred the Argentine Navy from any further serious sorties during the conflict. The Argentines were unable to reply in kind due to their small and obsolescent undersea force.

All this said, the war is now more than thirty years past, meaning that many of the operational details can no longer provide useful guidance. Nevertheless, some strategic lessons endure:

April 15, 2013 at 23:59

Reading through the article on the lessons the PLA has learned from the Falklands war, they heavily emphasise the UK's long supply tail. It's true that the Argentines didn't do as much to disrupt the British supply chain (the Britis, on the other hand, cut off the islands by sea after they sunk the Belgrano and by air by shooting down Argentine Hercules transports)  as they could have, but it's highly dubious whether this would have been enough. There weren't large numbers of convoys between the Falklands and the UK, the two groups of British ships carried most of what was needed for the campaign – sinking the ships that were arriving from the UK would have inflicted pain on the British, but not have stopped them. There is also the issue that the Argentines would have risked sinking neutral ships in going after British transports – unlike the Battle of the Atlantic, most of the ships in the South Atlantic weren't British. Finally, the Argentines would almost certainly have lost the remainder of their fleet in trying to do this – and they just didn't want the Falklands that much.

April 13, 2013 at 16:07

@Otto Rapauken – Brits are no more known for their warcrimes as any other organisation that delivers war – you can name pretty much every single state in the world to some degree or other and lay claims that they performed some warcrime, so to make such a statement is a little disingenuous

Tom F
April 12, 2013 at 10:06

Not the link you want (and from a leftie press), but relevant?


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