Wider aspects of Operation CORPORATE


I originally posted this on the Falklands War - The Untold Story thread, but naturally it got lost amid the recollections and particular anniversaries of some of the actions in 1982. I think that some of these are worth remembering as lessons for future crises:

1. NATO and UK Defence Policy

The NATO focus meant that the UK had capabilities like carriers (it was emphasising non NATO contingencies that was partly to blame for losing large csrriers) with primary roles of ASW and Air Defence - these were the main roles for carriers in the NATO theatre. The NATO role also meant we had amphibious forces - 3 Commando Brigade, LPDs, LSLs, and Commando Helicopter Force, with experience of Norwegian conditions.

However the almost exclusive focus on the NATO central front led to the 1981 Nott cuts, which sent a signal to the Argentines that Britain was no longer interested in the Falklands and were no longer willing to fight or send task groups out of area. The focus on NATO was probably also the reason that there task group has no Airborne Early Warning.

2 The 'Whole Force' concept

As far as I know this term originated in the United States post Vietnam. However, all successes or failures of HM Forces belong not only to the units and personnel involved, but all those involved in making policy, recruiting and training personnel, procuring and supporting equipment; and forces deployed to free up units deployed to the war zone, or ones that had helped develop tactics from previous operations and exercises.

The efforts of diplomats and the defence attaches is also largely unsung.

3. The role of the Merchant Navy

In more recent crises merchant vessels have been chartered on the open market, but in 1982 STUFT (Ships Taken Up From Trade) arrangements were used for requisition. What were the legal implications? Ships with the Red Ensign and British seamen? Some of these ships and their owners had longstanding arrangements with HM Government - such as the BP tankers that were fitted for Replenishment At Sea.

Since 1982 the merchant fleet has got smaller, although in recent years measures have been taken to get more vessels under the Red Ensign. The reduction in Royal Navy personnel numbers would make it difficult to find sailors for naval parties aboard STUFT vessels.

4. Asymmetric aspects

In 1982 the Argentines attempted to conduct sabotage against British vessels at Gibraltar using divers with limpet mines. If they were prepared to do that, what would stop them from conducting operations in the UK? The Argentine dictatorship has murdered an opponent on Washington DC, which showed they felt little restraint.

5. Industrial Support

This was key, and shows the importance of Industrial capabilities and skills. The naval bases sweated blood to get the task group ships ready, some of which were in maintenance periods or had been destored in preparation for disposal. Other places and companies designed and fabricated things such as GPMG mounts and the fittings to allow helicopter operations from some of the larger STUFT vessels. Chemring opened a new production line for chaff rockets, Marshalls of Cambridge designed and produced AAR probes for the Hercules and Nimrod at very short notice, and Ferranti hurriedly developed a system for interfacing the navigation system of the Harrier GR3 with that aboard HMS Hermes.

Many other companies were involved. A few years ago I was talking to a local guy who had done things such as electronic assembly and producing cable assemblies his whole working life, and he mentioned working for a local company and being busy with urgent orders in 1982.

All these things are worth remembering as lessons for coping with future crises.
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If I can make a suggestion for another heading.

6 "A Cry of "They've done WHAT?" echoed through the halls of the Frunze.


Other Nations: Lessons Learned (or Not).


The recapture of the Falklands did not only mean sailing 8000 miles, it meant achieving sea and air control around the islands to an extent that a landing could be attempted. In this way it was similar in some ways to the NATO flanks. At the time our forces were built to deal with the Soviet threat, and this included our ASW carriers. Much has been written about carriers and their value to NATO - such as on these threads: CVF and Carrier Strike - ARRSE, Future Carrier - PPRuNe, and Late 1970s US Congress Report - The US Sea Control Mission (carriers needed in the Atlantic for Air Defence and ASW - both then and today) - ARRSE.

Carriers and amphibious forces were key to recapturing the Falklands, and were also key to NATO, but the 1981 Nott cuts contracted on European central front at the expense of NATO's flanks, particular Norway, or out of area capabilities.

I previously discussed the limitations of HM Ships Hermes and Invincible here on the Falklands War - The Untold Story thread. The design of the Invincible class CVS has been discussed many times on multiple threads and multiple forums, but it was designed for the Royal Navy's Cold War role which was ASW - that needed multiple ASW Sea King helicopters which led to the idea of a through deck cruiser. Then Soviet Naval Aviation started to use the Bear not only as a reconnaissance platform for their submarine force but also to provide targeting for long range missiles launched by their submarines - so there was a need for a platform to intercept the Bear. The ship design was able to be enlarged to operate a few jets, and the UK had the Harrier with could be adapted for an air defence role. Nott wanted to sell one of the class of three, despite the fact that it would cause us problems in meeting NATO commitments in time of crisis.

Another aspect was amphibious forces - despite these being committed to NATO, John Nott's 1981 cuts would have destroyed our amphibious capability, as he focussed on the Central European Front at the expense of NATO's flanks and non NATO contingencies. The timing of the campaign was based in no small part on the time needed to bring the Landing Platform Dock HMS Intrepid back to operational condition (Nott had decided LPDs were not needed) and to the Falklands.

Saving the Royal Navy's LPDs was a boost to NATO, particularly the developing Maritime Strategy that was intended to take the pressure off the NATO Central Front. So was retaining all three of the Invincible class, and crash developing a naval AEW capability - that would have saved several, perhaps all, of the ships sunk by Argentine aircraft.

There is a lesson here about not ignoring the flanks, as they give you options, which may also come in useful in other crises in other parts of the world.

All of the equipment lessons of the Falklands (for example the AEW Sea King, increasing the number of Sidewinders that Sea Harrier could carry, acquiring the Phalanx close in weapon system, and increasing the number of RAF tankers, and others) had direct relevance to NATO. So did the training and tactics lessons - from improved firefighting training to the training and education of future commanders.


This is a video about the second of the Invincible class, HMS Illustrious, and how she was completed something like a year ahead of a schedule, commissioned at sea, did operational sea training, and was able to relieve Invincible in August 1982 - still providing air defence with her Sea Harriers until the Sappers lengthened the runway at Stanley enough for RAF Phantoms.

She is fitted with the newly acquired Phalanx system and has AEW Sea Kings embarked.

Her CO, Captain Jock Slater (later an Admiral and First Sea Lord), gives an acceptance speech in which he comments on the value of the carriers to the Western Alliance and the increasing maritime threat.

Ten Sea Harriers, Nine ASW Sea Kings, and two AEW Sea Kings...

Question for @Not a Boffin and @jrwlynch - were their any moves to enlarge the Sea Harrier squadrons post conflict? Am I right in thinking that we have put 800/801 NAS to sea with ten or twelve jets to sea in the event of a Cold War crisis?


Book Reviewer
Whole Force part of some US doctrine? Didn’t know that, thought it was part of some recent recent buzz word bingo about Regs plus Reserves, plus CS plus civvies, that’s the only time I’ve heard it.

Still means **** all frankly.


I thought that the 'whole force' concept was part of the Abramms Doctrine?

Does it mean FA? Maybe it depends on how you consider it. Three Falklands examples:

1. The first British response was the deployment of warships that had been on Exercise Springtrain in the Mediterranean. Not every ship on the exercise was suitable to go South, but everyone that was was supported by one of those returning home to supply any stores, from ammunition to helicopter spares, and in some cases personnel.

2. Getting the carriers to sea not only depended on their ship's companies, but also the support staff in the dockyard and beyond - both other naval personnel and civilians, not all of whom were civil service. Getting the aircraft ready meant effort at the air stations, at Fleet HQ, at repair yards, and at places like BAe, Westland, Rolls Royce, Ferranti, etc.

3. Follow on forces. After the Argentine surrender they task force needed to be relieved by other forces - naval forces such as those mention in the Illustrious video, infantry, RAF Phantoms....

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