Attempts to Minimise the Argentinian Exocet Threat


From the beginning of the Falklands Campaign, all avenues were explored to find ways of defending against the deadly Exocets. Pressure was put on Aerospatiale via the French Government to withdraw its technical support team which had been helping prepare the Argentine missiles for use. Diplomatic pressure was put on various governments, including Israel, to try and prevent them selling on further missiles to the Argentine military. The British military explored options for covert missions to destroy the existing Argentine Exocets and the aircraft that could carry them.


The British Government also opened a dialogue with the US Government about the possibility of the Royal Navy borrowing an aircraft carrier as these units were essential to the conduct of the war and Britain only had two available. It sounded a bit like the warship lend-lease agreement of WWII all over again.


But events moved on. By late May 1982, the British had established a bridgehead on the Falkland Islands that required full commitment of available air power. The British aircraft carriers on station off the Islands, each carrying half the Harrier jets, had become vital to the success of the invasion. Pragmatically, Admiral Woodward, the British Task Force commander, agreed with the command in Northwood (London) that loss or disablement of either of the aircraft carriers would mean abandonment of the invasion. This unthinkable outcome would have had all sorts of military and political consequences, possibly including the fall of the British Government and had to be avoided at all costs.


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