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Friday, November 29, 2013

Nuclear weapons deployed during the Falklands Conflict 1982 Part II

I got this comment on my last entry and as I started to type up a reply, I realized that it was rather lengthy, so I decided to make it a separate entry.  (Hope you don’t mind, Benoit!) 

Below is Benoit’s comment:

“Very interesting but if:

"I am fairly confident that Thatcher would have never authorized the use of the NDB’s during the Falklands conflict"

then, why did she support to bring them there? I cannot imagine she was not aware of the embedded NBD's. What is your opinion?

Kind regards,


So here is my reply:

My opinion is fairly much in line with the official MoD’s document, as it is the only logical reason for sending the NDB’s to the Falklands Conflict.
Thatcher would have most certainly had known of their existence.  I also believe that even with her reputation as the ‘Iron Lady’ and regardless of the ultra-left’s opinion of her, she was smart enough to know that the use of nuclear weapons against a Third World nation that had no nuclear weapons and opposed no global or Home Islands threat would have been not only been political suicide, but national suicide for the UK in all future global relations, if not to provide an excuse for the Warsaw Pact the use for military intervention into the conflict.  The USSR was neutral to the conflict as the Argentine junta was furiously anti-communist, but the use of a nuclear device would have sent them in to panic. I also believe that she probably pushed the MoD to address the issue to relocate the NDB’s to the deep magazine ships so not to violate the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

I am sure that her MoD's advisors explained the reasons for needing to keep the NDB’s with the task force and that she agreed with them.  How hard they would had to persuade her would be a difficult question to answer, but with her history of a hard stance, I would say, “probably not much at all.”

The logic with keeping the NDB’s with the task force was two main reasons, which were also covered in the MoD’s document.  The first one is related to the actual operational timeline for the mission to retake the Falklands islands.  As stated, had the task force stopped at the Ascension Island to also to off-load the NDB’s, they would have lost an additional 36 hours, estimated.  This would have meant that operations would have delayed two more days.  With the sever winter season approaching fast, this was a critical factor.  Had they waited, and not knowing how the weather would be like, it was very likely that they would have to call off the operation without reaching a final objective (forcing the Argentine forces into a position to call for surrender.)  Had the task force failed to reach that objective before the winter called off the operations, The UK might have been force into a treaty with Argentina to accept their claim to the islands and to forced into an agreement similar to China at that time with Hong Kong.  The second part to this actual operational timeline was that by sitting at the Ascension Islands two more days could have possibly allowed the Argentine forces to spot the route of the task force and to intercept it with their submarines.  While in reflection this turn out to be a false fear, but for the protection of the task force it could not be overlooked.
The second reason is the UK’s commitment to NATO.  While looking back, we could see that there was not a great chance of war between the NATO vs. Warsaw Pact during the period, but it was always a threat.  Keep in mind that the international war game, Able Archer 1983, was only about 18 months later and there are conflicting accounts on how close we came to a war with the Warsaw Pact over that.  (Actually, this would even make a cool campaign tie-in for a post Falklands game and excuse to do a USSR naval campaign!) Had the task force off loaded their NDB’s at Ascension Island or the Home Islands, if a war would have broke out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the task force would have been in trouble.  Not only would they have been without a much needed resource for destroying ballistic missile submarines (better to have an assured kill, verse a crippled sub that can still launch before being hit again), but it had to sailed to Ascension Islands first and take roughly 60 hours or less to reload the NDB’s.  It could also be possible that the Soviet intelligence could figure out that the NDB’s were located there and set up a trap for the task force.



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