WITH diplomatic relations increasingly strained with Argentina over the Falklands, there are questions about the ability of today’s cut-back Royal Navy to reclaim the islands if they were invaded.
Defence experts, including Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, who was in command of the Falklands Task Force, have repeatedly stressed that without aircraft carriers it would be impossible to provide the 24/7 air support Sea Harriers did in 1982.
Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord Alan West, says the navy has been ‘cut to the bone’ by the 2010 defence review, which left the UK with no carriers and a surface fleet of 19 destroyers and frigates. And Falklands naval air observer Rear Admiral Chris Parry has too raised concerns over the ‘hollowing out’ of the navy.
This was in evidence last year when the war in Libya meant the stretched navy couldn’t spare a Fleet Ready Escort for the whole of October – leaving no warship tasked with being on patrol in UK waters for four weeks.
But a look at the Argentinian military today reveals they are in a comparatively far weaker position than 1982.
The country’s annual spend on defence is less than four per cent of the MoD’s budget this year.
And there’s been little or no advances in Argentina’s military equipment for 30 years.
The air force still uses 40-year-old Mirage jets, whereas Britain has invested in Typhoons and six new £1bn Type 45 air defence destroyers designed to take down supersonic targets.
Professor Michael Clarke, of the leading RUSI think-tank, said: ‘In military terms, the difference between Britain’s and Argentina’s relative technologies is probably approaching 80 to 100 years.’
He also said Argentina would struggle to take Mount Pleasant air base, which, unlike 1982, is now defended by 1,300 troops, four Typhoon jets, patrol vessel HMS Clyde and a warship – soon to be the Type 45 HMS Dauntless.
So while it’s true to say the Royal Navy couldn’t pull off re-taking the Falklands today, it’s also true that Argentina – for all its sabre-rattling – would struggle to invade and go to war in the first place.