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Electronic Warfare In Falkland War

Info: 3513 words (14 pages) Essay
Published: 24th Apr 2017 in History

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1. Since WW 11 to 1970s cold war periods, USSR and US develop electronic battlefield aimed to increase their military capabilities designed to offset each other. The scopes of military planners at that time were concentrated in SEAD, command, control and communication countermeasures (C3CM). They describe this military electronic activity as EW or electronic warfare and the framework that encompassed the electromagnetic action required to support modern military operation is termed as Electronic Combat (EC).

2. Definition of EW. EW can be define as a military action involving the use of electronic energy to determine, exploit, reduce or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum and action which retain friendly use of it. It involves ESM, ECM and ECCM.

a. ESM is Electronic Support Measure. It involve action take to search, intercept, identify and locate radiated electromagnetic energy to provide electronic warning and surveillance data for the commander.

b. ECM is an electronic countermeasure. It’s involve the use of electromagnetic or directed energy to attack personnel, facilities and equipment with the intent of preventing or reducing an opponent’s effective use of the electronic spectrum. There are active and passive sub-categories of ECM as follows:

(1) Electronic jamming.

(2) Electronic deception.

(3) Electronic neutralization.

(4) Chaff and flare.

(5) Towed and expandable decoys.

c. EPM is an electronic protection measure or sometime referred to as ECCM (Electronic counter-counter measure) involve active and passive measures taken to ensure the friendly use of the electronic magnetic spectrum despite an opponent’s use of electronic warfare techniques.


3. The aim of this paper is to study and analyze the employments of EW by both nations between Argentina and Britain during the Falkland war. We hope RMAF will get the lesson learnt from this war and apply it to the forces.


4. The scope of the paper will cover as follows:

a. Background of the Falkland War.

b. Applications of EW during Falkland War by both nations.

c. Lessons learn and Recommendations.

d. Conclusion.


5. The Falkland Islands or the Malvinas are a group of islands situated over 400nm from the eastern coast of Argentina and about 8000 miles from Great Britain. The islands comprises of two main islands, East Falklands and West Falklands and about 200 smaller islands that formed a total land areas of approximately 12,200 square km. The capital city of the Falklands Island is Port Stanley.

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6. A look at the history of the islands and British/Argentine relations provides an answer, as the series of events dating to the late 1600’s set the historical precedence for the conflict. No one knows who saw the islands first but the first man to set foot on the islands was a British seaman, Captain John Strong in 1690. Strong did no more than chart the sound between the two main islands and names it after the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Falkland. He then sailed away.

7. To make the story short, the dispute between British and Argentina over the Falkland Islands and its dependencies had a history as long as that of Argentina herself. The dispute continued, unnoticed by the world, for more than a century. For much of that time, the Argentine government made periodic official statements to indicate that it still considered the islands a national territory. For their part, the British remained, and the islands were administered as a crown colony. But until March 1982 both sides had accepted a process of negotiation and compromise to resolve their claims. At the end of that month and despite the fact that negotiations were still in progress, the governing right-wing military Junta in Argentina took advantage of a local dispute to settle its claim by force.


8. The final crisis began when scrap dealers landed on South Georgia Islands (approximately 1000nm from Falkland Islands) on 19 March 1982 by the Argentine Navy for the purpose of dismantling a disused old whaling factory. The landings were made without the permission of the immigration authority in Grytviken, the settlement that served as the dependency’s “capital”. Once ashore, their first action was to raise the Argentine flag and sing their national anthem. Annoyed by their activity, the British dispatched HMS Endurance, an Antarctic survey vessel with marines embarked, to remove the scrap dealers.

9. The dispatch of HMS Endurance placed the Argentine junta in a difficult position. With Argentine citizens on an island claimed as Argentine territory, any move to evacuate would be a serious blow to national prestige, and would be viewed as an informal recognition of British sovereignty. Unwilling to take that step, the junta withdrew some of the workers to forestall the British while sending their own expedition of marines to protect the scrap metal workers. When Argentina had determined on a course of military support for the contingent of scrap workers on the Georgia, it realized that it would be in no position to maintain a force in the Georgia’s alone. Thus, in order for an Argentine position in the remote Georgia to be tenable, Argentina could not afford to leaves the Malvinas/Falklands under British control. With confrontation imminent, the junta in Buenos Aires decided that the time was ripe to execute Operation Rosario, a long standing plan for the invasion and capture of the Falkland Islands and Dependencies. As March drew to a close, Great Britain and Argentina were on a collision course with war.

10. In the Falkland Islands, news of the imminent invasion reached the governor-general on the afternoon of 1 April. With only a small contingent of Royal Marines, there was little he could do except to prepare for the inevitable. The timing of the invasion was fortuitous in that the garrison was temporarily at double strength, being in the process of turning over to a relieving force that week. The marines deployed to strategic locations to interdict the expected landings and to protect Government House, the seat of local government.

11. The Argentines were already off the coast of East Falkland when they intercepted radio transmissions that indicated the loss of the tactical surprise they had hoped for. Not wishing to allow the islanders any time to prepare defenses, the invasion’s timetable was accelerated by a few hours, and the first Argentine commandos slipped ashore after midnight on 2 April. By early morning of 3 April, 2,800 Argentineans landed on the Falklands. The 80 strong British garrison surrendered after brisk fighting, on the orders of the island’s governor, Sir Rex Hunt, to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

12. South Georgia was invaded the following day, by a third Argentineans task group. The Royal Marine defenders put up fierce resistance, even downing an Argentine Puma, with a Carl Gustav anti-tank rocket and a support Allouette was damaged by machine-gun fire before the Marine surrendered.

13. Having failed to deter the Argentine invasion, British assembled a task force to retake the islands, under the codename ‘Operation Corporate’. The war lasted for 72 days involving 25,000 British soldiers, operating 8000 miles from their home bases, and over 12,000 Argentina soldiers were deployed under the protection of substantial air and maritime resources based 400 miles away.


14. In general, both Argentine and British forces use minimum electronic warfare techniques, primarily due to the limited equipment available in the engaged forces. However some of EW employment can be studied as described in following paragraphs according to EW fundamentals of ESM, ECM and EPM.

Electronic Support Measure (ESM)

15. As describe earlier, ESM are the actions taken to search for, intercept, identify and/or locate sources of radiated electromagnetic energy for the purpose of immediate threat recognition. Some of the EW equipment involved such as Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Frequencies Analyzer, Missile Launcher Warner, Missile Approach Warner and Laser Warner. The ESM equipment commonly available during that era was RWR and Frequency analyzer.

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a. Frequency Analyzer. It is believed that the frequency analyzer for Signal Intelligent (SIGINT) onboard Royal Navy ships existed at the time but problems of coordination prevented timely utilization of vital information, especially giving the warning of AM-39 Exocet anti ship missile attacks. The British airborne frequency analyzer, of which normally incorporated with Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft was not available in Falkland conflict simply due to lack of an aircraft carrier with conventional take off and landing facilities for Gannet AEW and lack of long range land based Nimrod AEW aircrafts.

b. RWR. Most of the aircrafts were not equipped with RWR. The only aircraft having the RWR capability was Harrier.

c. Missile Launcher/Approach Warner and Laser Warner. The warner equipments were just recently developed and the technology was not commonly available in most of the combat aircraft especially in the third generation types that involved in Falkland conflict. Some of the aircraft mainly Argentine’s was manufactured as early as in 1950s.

Electronic Counter Measure (ECM)

16. ECM is the actions taken to prevent or reduce the hostile force’s effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum. The utilization of ECM by both forces will be studied according to the sub-element within the ECM itself; active onboard, passive onboard and passive off board.

17. Active onboard ECM utilization.

a. Noise or Electronic Jamming. RAF Vulcan bombers which attacked the Falklands on several occasions carried Westinghouse AN/ALQ 101 active ECM jammer which may have blocked out the Fledermaus radar used by the Argentines for directing Roland surface to air missiles based at Stanley airfield. It is significant to note that no Vulcan was lost on any of their attack missions.

b. Deception. There was no specific record stating the employment of deception tactics by both forces. However it is believed that the deception might possibly be used by RAF Vulcan since the Westinghouse AN/ALQ 101 ECM pod was capable of such employment as well.

c. Neutralization. RAF Vulcan bomber originally equipped with Martel air to surface anti radiation missile, then switched to US made AGM-45 Shrike Anti Radiation Missile (ARM) for some operational and capability reasons. Two Vulcan missions to employ the missile were aborted; firstly on 13th May 1982 due to adverse weather enroute and on 28th May 1982 due to an in flight refueling probe was damaged. 31st May 1982, was the first successful anti-radar mission equipped with AGM-45A Shrike missiles. The main target was a Westinghouse AN/TPS-43 long range 3D radar that the Argentine Air Force deployed to guard the airspace surrounding the Falklands. In order for the missiles to work the targeted radar had to transmit up until the missiles impacted. The first missile impacted 10 meters away from the target, causing minor blast damage to the wave-guide assembly, but not disabling the radar. Fearing further attack, the Argentine operators used the simple counter-measure of turning their radar off preventing further damage. The AN/TPS-43 radar remained operational during the rest of the conflict. On 3rd June 1982, Shrike equipped Vulcan attacked and destroyed a Skyguard radar fire-control radar of the army’s Anti-aircraft battalion, killing 4 radar operators.

18. The only passive onboard ECM feature which is the Signature Reduction Design was hardly to be studied since the aircrafts involved in the conflict were mainly from the third generation design as described earlier. For example, the technology of radar absorbent material and paint, reflecting shape and angle were not maturely developed and was not in design features of the third generation combat aircraft.

19. The passive off board system such as chaff and flare were widely used by both sides. The electronic towed and expandable decoys were newly developed and not widely used even today. However, unconfirmed resources stated that simple made decoy has been used by British to counter the Exocet attack.

a. Chaff and Flare. The British Harrier was equipped with ALE-40 chaff and flare dispenser. The British made wide use of chaff to confuse enemy radar. Lacking automatic dispensers, chaff was packed between aircraft and bomb cases so that when weapons were released a chaff cloud was created to automatically protect the aircraft. The British believe this was effective against Argentine radar controlled defenses. As for Argentine, chaff was placed in the aircraft airbrake for an additional protection. Many of the Royal Navy surface ships also employed chaff to defend against the Argentine’s Exocet anti ship missile, but it is unknown whether the chaff successfully countered an Exocet missile. However it is interesting to note that the Atlantic Conveyour, the British merchant ship used for logistic had no chaff, nor did HMS Sheffield dispense the chaff it had. It has also been speculated that the Atlantic Conveyor was hit by a missile that was deflected from its intended target, a nearby aircraft carrier. The Atlantic Conveyor, in effect, became a superb very expensive decoy.

b. Towed and expandable decoys. The technology of electronic decoys was not yet developed. Despite that, it was possible that some British helicopters towed a simple radar corner reflector, similar function with the radar reflector at the end of the runway to decoy the Exocet attack. However, since no decoys themselves were hit by Exocet missiles, it was not possible to judge the effectiveness of such decoy.

20. The Argentine Air Force did not use any “smart” weapons, instead relied upon dumb bombs or unguided rockets, except that the Exocet missiles were operated by the Argentine Navy. The Argentine aircraft did not use any active electronic countermeasures to degrade Royal Navy anti aircraft missiles other than chaff. The typical Argentine tactic was to delay facing the missiles by flying low or using the nearby land mass of the Falkland for terrain masking. When possible, the ‘Resolution Cell’ tactic was used whereby multiple aircraft flying in tight tactical formations at low level attacking from various directions. Some Royal Navy fire control radar computers onboard ships had difficulty separating two close targets. Most of the RN fire control radar for the SAM such as Sea Dart was only capable of tracking two separated targets simultaneously in which leaving other Argentine aircrafts in formation were untargeted.

Electronic Protection Measure (EPM)

21. EPM is the actions taken to ensure friendly effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum, despite the hostile force’s use of ECM. The elements covered by EPM are design for anti ECM, anti ECM training, emission control and emission security.

a. Design for anti ECM. HMS Coventry was the first RN ship to successfully fire the Sea Dart missile during the conflict, for example. The ship shot down an Argentine Puma helicopter flying over one of the islands, demonstrating the ability of the Sea Dart semi active missile system to overcome ground clutter.

b. Anti ECM training. The Argentine’s action of shutting down the air defence surveillance radar on Mount Tumbledown when being attacked by RAF AGM-45 Shrike HARM was a good indication of well trained radar operators. Quick recognition of such detection by Shrike system and immediate action drill to switch off the radar system had saved the radar site from being neutralized by British.

c. Emission Control. It is related to the above unsuccessful AGM-45 Shrike attack by RAF Vulcan on Argentine air defence surveillance radar site at Mount Tumbledown. The AGM-45 Shrike radar homing missile was not passive but transmits own signal as it homes on the radiation of its target radar. This missile transmission can be detected even before the missile is launched. The enemy’s most effective EPM is simply to shut the radar down, giving the missile nothing to home on of any radar emission.

d. Emission Security. There was no specific resource stating any usage of emission security in this war. However it is believed that each force employed the emission security technique such as station call signs, frequency management and etc.


22. The Falklands Campaign was in many respects unique. Although it is difficult to identify any single most important lesson of any conflict, this chapter will attempt to examine several important lessons that might have impact or relevant to Malaysian Armed Forces generally and RMAF specifically. This Falkland war has provided us with a great deal of lesson to be “learned”, “unlearnt” and “relearned”.

23. Key element in British success in the South Atlantic conflict was the skill, stamina and resolution of the individual servicemen. The need in war for physical and mental toughness as well as high proficiency in tactics especially in EW was underscored in the adverse environmental conditions of the Falklands. The British felt the operation clearly demonstrated the value of professional, highly trained and carefully selected armed forces and justified their priority on realistic and demanding training at all levels. The RMAF should posses the knowledge of EW for the whole servicemen and EW operator must be competent in their field and not forget the important of training in RMAF.

24. Predominant among British defensive problems was the egregious lack of airborne early warning (AEW). The Royal Navy’s former carrier Ark Royal with F-4 and Gannett AEW aircraft would have been a real asset. The British task force’s greatest vulnerability during the campaign was the lack of an airborne early warning system. To meet the need for an AEW aircraft, the Royal Navy has successfully deployed several Sea King helicopters equipped with Searchwater Early Warning Radar. An AEW version could expand the capability of amphibious ships or surface action groups operating outside carrier protection. From this deficiency, RMAF can learn that how important of the AEW & C aircraft to ensure the successfulness of future warfare.

25. The British needed a system which would include capable detection radar, an accurate fire control system, an effective close-in missile and an electronic countermeasures suit. In this conflict, it was proven that the chaff and electronic warfare capabilities need to be improved.

26. The British determined that optical designation and guidance modes for their close in surface to air missile systems were necessary in coastal areas where terrain masking and land clutter degraded the radar controlled operating modes. In like circumstances, high sea conditions, or when battle damage or electronic countermeasures defeat or degrade the radar capability, a visual, back up mode for close-in defense weapons could be extremely important. Those systems lacking a visual mode should receive one. Future weapons systems should be designed with an optical back up system. RMAF should put into considerations to have the same back up system in future SAM’s procurement.


27. Based on our research we can say that EW technique was not fully utilized by both forces due to some reason/circumstances. There were lacks of EW equipment or asset in Argentine forces. As for the British, they were capable but they were unable to bring all the EW asset due to the distance of the AO which situated at Ascension Island about 4000 Miles away from Falkland Island. For example RAF Nimrod, AEW & C aircraft not fully utilized and in same time the conventional aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal had been decommissioned and the only aircraft carrier they have are the HMS HERMES and HMS INVINCIBLE to facilitate the V/STOL for Harrier’s and Helicopters. From this Campaign we learn the importance of EW in any modern warfare and to determine the success of any operations. As conclusion, EW is an essential element as 4th dimension warfare beside land, sea and air power them selves. Even two opposing forces having same EW capabilities, it depend which one smartly utilized to their advantage.

(3274 words)


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