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    The secret Falklands 'suicide mission'

    The story of the Falklands soldiers who refused to carry out a dangerous raid on an Argentine fighter base.

    Five in the morning, May 21 1982, seven weeks into the Falklands conflict. The Argentine radar operator at Rio Grande airbase, on the island of Tierra del Fuego, is looking forward to his bed. Outside, rain is blowing across the deserted airfield.
    The blip appears out of nowhere, 25 miles out to sea, coming in fast and low. Suddenly alert, the operator calls over his duty officer, but the blip has already faded.
    Out over the South Atlantic, two C130 Hercules transports of 47 Squadron Royal Air Force battle through the night. Buffeted by strong headwinds, they skim the waves at 50 feet to evade detection. The co-pilots peer through night‑vision goggles, guiding the pilots towards the coast, one lapse enough to cause disaster. Night vision is in its infancy, the devices a secret gift from the Americans. Tension mounts as landfall over Argentina approaches, the conclusion of a 13‑hour flight from Ascension Island involving two mid-air rendezvous with Victor tankers.
    Behind the crews, in the cavernous holds of the Hercules, some 60 men of B Squadron, 22nd SAS Regiment, ready their weapons and vehicles, Land Rovers bristling with machine guns. This is a one‑way mission, the best outcomes being escape to neutral Chile, or capture. The worst outcome is all too obvious.
    Minutes later, the C130s slam down on the runway at Rio Grande. The rear doors are already open, the lowered ramps scraping the ground. In an instant, the Land Rovers are charging straight for the apron where four French-built Super Etendard fighters of the Argentine navy stand. Some of the SAS fling charges into the engine intakes while others search for the Etendard pilots, who are to be shot on sight. Another group search for the weapon that above all others threatens Britain with defeat in the South Atlantic: the Exocet. Moments later, the first charges explode. Gunfire erupts. The world dissolves into chaos.
    Had it happened, Operation Mikado would have been the most dramatic raid staged by Britain since the Second World War, a desperate coup de main intended to remove the Exocet threat to the Royal Navy task force seeking to retake the Falklands. With the approach of the 30th anniversary of the war, some of those involved have cast fresh light on an operation that can be seen either as an audacious assault in the finest traditions of the SAS, or a hubristic suicide mission.
    “In my own mind I saw it as a one-way ticket,” says Tom Rounds, navigator in one of two Hercules crews trained for Mikado. “In my final letter to my wife I said as much. We all had our bags packed. If we didn’t come back, they just had to put them on the next plane back to the UK and hand my stuff to the missus.”
    The SAS, known as “hooligans” to the RAF crews, began planning assaults on Argentine airfields within days of the invasion of the Falklands on April 2, and a month before Exocet, a French-built sea‑skimming anti-ship missile, burst on to the world stage.
    “The planners had decided that fighter bases were acceptable targets,” says Rounds. “We reckoned it would take 20 to 30 minutes. The vehicles would rush out full of hooligans to reap mayhem. We would seal the aircraft up and take off in a minute – real Second World War stuff.”
    Training was intense, involving simulated nocturnal attacks on RAF airfields from Kinloss in Scotland to Binbrook in Lincolnshire. The rule book was torn up as the Hercules roared low over Britain, trying to get into airfields without being spotted by ground radar. “The station commanders were told that we might arrive at any time and would not call the control tower,” says Rounds. “We came in as low as 50 to 100 feet.”
    Rounds’ pilot was Jim Norfolk. “It was huge fun,” he says. “So exciting, so bloody dangerous as well. There was no night vision, there were no runway lights. One time, the rear aeroplane ended up in front. We passed each other in the descent and never knew a thing about it.”
    On April 19, Argentina deployed four of its five Super Etendards to Rio Grande. Only five air-launched Exocets were available. On May 4, two of the fighters, each carrying one Exocet, went in search of prey. They found it in the shape of HMS Sheffield, alone on radar picket duty. She had three minutes to react before one missile scythed through her hull, killing 20 men. Shock at the loss of a modern destroyer to a single guided weapon was profound, but solutions to the threat posed by the remaining missiles were few. Argentina’s Patagonian airfields were 4,000 miles from Ascension, Britain’s nearest airfield, making a sustained RAF bombing campaign impossible. A Sea Harrier strike would involve exposing the task force’s two irreplaceable aircraft carriers, Hermes and Invincible, to attack.
    Enter Brigadier Peter de la Billière, director of the SAS and a favourite of Margaret Thatcher since the Iranian embassy siege in London in 1980. He now championed the Mikado assault to the War Cabinet. There was a problem, however. Some RAF ground controllers claimed to have spotted the Hercules approaching their airfields. Surprise was the essence of Mikado, and early detection would be fatal.
    “There was a degree of professional pride,” says Rounds. “Air traffic control was saying, 'We spotted you way out.’ I thought, 'No, you didn’t.’ Also, they were forewarned about our coming – the Argentines wouldn’t be. Nevertheless, it created negativity that was picked up by some of the SAS.”
    Major John Moss, commander of the SAS’s B Squadron, became steadily less convinced about the operation’s viability, matters coming to a head as his unit prepared to leave Hereford for Ascension. The Argentines were believed to be taking steps to thwart such an attack, garrisoning airbases and dispersing aircraft.
    A major setback occurred on May 17, when a covert mission to insert an SAS team to observe Rio Grande was aborted. The helicopter involved flew on to Chile, where the crew and SAS team gave themselves up. Chile was a secret ally of Britain throughout the war, allowing an RAF Hercules to be based first on Easter Island in the Pacific and later on the mainland. The aircraft markings were painted out and the crew disguised with American-style flying suits.
    Moss’s objections earned him summary dismissal. In his autobiography, de la Billière states: “I was dismayed to find that the attitude of this unit [B Squadron] remained lukewarm. The trouble, I found, lay in the squadron commander, who himself did not believe in the proposed operation.”
    A more gung-ho CO was appointed and B Squadron shipped out for Ascension. Despite the failure of the covert reconnaissance mission, Mikado proceeded. It came nearest to taking place between May 19 and 23 when one, not two, Hercules was prepared for the attack.
    “I had a hearty all-day breakfast,” says Rounds. “Jim [Norfolk] was pacing around smoking, going, 'Rounds, how can you eat at a time like this?’
    “It’s not bravery, it’s just backing yourself. If you’re worried about death, you’re in the wrong business. Get out and become a bloody accountant. It’s war. You are trained to fight and die, if need be. It didn’t matter if we couldn’t get out, but we had to get in. There was always a good chance of that. If the aircraft got shot up on the runway it didn’t matter, as long as the hooligans destroyed the fighters. Coming home was a bonus.”
    “You knew you weren’t coming back because there was no tanker plan for the return leg,” says Norfolk. “The plan was for us to sit on the runway waiting for the hooligans to do their stuff and come back, but they had no intention of doing that. They were going to bog off on foot to Chile, and I was going to take the aircraft and do the same.”
    Would it have worked? “The SAS were bloody good. If they could get off the aircraft they would have destroyed everything in sight. There would have been a lot of revenge, though, which probably would have been directed at the Hercules.
    “The Mikado raid? I thought it was bloody stupid, actually. Too bloody far. We didn’t go because it wasn’t authorised. Hereford had run wild with this idea. Luckily, our flight commander was down on Ascension, keeping us on the sensible side of hooliganism. With half an hour to go, he told us no order had been received. It came down to Margaret Thatcher, I suppose. It would have been too much of an escalation.”
    “We were geared up to go,” says Rounds, “a hair’s breadth away from the trigger being pulled. It was a huge anticlimax. The intensity of the training was immense.”
    John Moss has remained silent on Mikado for 30 years, but now allows himself a modicum of self-defence. In a pointed reference to de la Billière, he says: “Only four people knew what was happening, I was one of them. One person, who has written a book, didn’t actually know everything as he wasn’t at the training. Afterwards we all shook hands and decided we would never say anything about it, but one person decided to do otherwise.
    “I put my point of view across at the time, which I felt was the right one. After leaving the Army I went down to Argentina to look at things in a bit more detail. I’m happy with the decision I made. It was the correct one and I couldn’t care less what other people have done.”
    Argentina’s remaining air-launched Exocets were to claim one more victim, the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, sunk by a single hit on May 25, Argentina’s national day. With her went Chinook and Wessex helicopters intended for the British assault on Port Stanley.
    “Moss articulated what a lot of his men felt, and took the flak,” says Rounds. “Personally, I regret we didn’t do it. I really wanted to be tested. But we would have been lucky to get out.”

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  • ChrisBV
    Originalmente publicado por artuandres Ver Mensaje
    Si mal no recuerdo ese cuadro se lo obsequió Chavez a Cristina K. y dijo q era un cuadro q el mismo había pintado
    Sí, sí, fue un error tipográfico mío, debió leerse:

    y que se lo obsequie a la viuda del desaparecido ex-mandatario está más raro todavía.

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  • artuandres
    Originalmente publicado por ChrisBV Ver Mensaje

    Por cierto, ese cuadro de Chávez junto al finado Néstor Kirchner está bien sospechoso... y que se lo obsequie la viuda del desaparecido ex-mandatario está más raro todavía.
    Si mal no recuerdo ese cuadro se lo obsequió Chavez a Cristina K. y dijo q era un cuadro q el mismo había pintado


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  • ChrisBV
    Qué folklórico:

    Chávez insta al Reino Unido a devolver Las Malvinas

    Lima - El presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, calificó hoy al Gobierno inglés de "ridículo" en su postura sobre las Islas Malvinas y consideró que lo que tiene que hacer es devolver ese territorio a Argentina "cumpliendo con resoluciones de las Naciones Unidas".

    "Es ridículo el Gobierno inglés, es ridículo en verdad, amenazando a Argentina, porque en verdad lo que debería hacer el Gobierno inglés ya es abandonar las Islas Malvinas que son de Argentina", dijo el mandatario durante un acto que fue transmitido en cadena nacional de radio y televisión.

    Chávez indicó que ayer llamó a la presidenta de Argentina, Cristina Fernández, para saludarla y comentar algunos temas entre los que destacó el conflicto que el país sureño mantiene con Inglaterra por la posesión de las Islas Malvinas.

    Según el mandatario venezolano, Reino Unido debe entregar las Malvinas a Argentina "cumpliendo con resoluciones de Naciones Unidas", aunque señaló que esto no sucederá porque, a su juicio, la nación europea aún mantiene una visión de colonialismo.

    "Entonces mandaron un buque de guerra para las Malvinas y creo que viene un príncipe, no se qué de un príncipe a bordo, bueno, no se equivoquen (...) hace 30 años Argentina se quedó solita, íngrima, las cosas han cambiado", dijo Chávez.
    Por cierto, ese cuadro de Chávez junto al finado Néstor Kirchner está bien sospechoso... y que se lo obsequie la viuda del desaparecido ex-mandatario está más raro todavía.

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  • Tempano
    Originalmente publicado por slipk Ver Mensaje
    Si el asunto es no dejar pasar a ninguna nave britanica entonces la situacion es diferente, Uruguay ha optado por hacer cumplir los requisitos, aun HMS, en mi opinion lo veo como un "test".
    No solo Uruguay..............

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