Cover Image: Air Power in the Falklands Conflict

Air Power in the Falklands Conflict

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Member Reviews

This book approaches the Falklands conflict from a strategic overview of air power and how it was utilised during the conflict by both sides.
Written from the perspective of an air war planner this makes the book a little dry, more of a text book you would reference then a deeply absorbing book to settle down to read.
The book uncovers the reality of war, trying to dispel some of the myths generated about performance of air assets, it also does this from an Argentinian point of view detailing such things as ground and air aborts, how many weapons were dropped per day and how many hit their target.
An interesting book from a strategic point of view, but rather dry and a slow read.
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This is without doubt a book that provides an alternative perspective to much of the vast range of published literature on the Falklands Conflict that, amazingly, is now almost forty years in the past - so around twice the ‘distance’ from the outbreak of the Second World War to the conclusion of the Great War. John Shields has many of the credentials that make his account worth a considered read. He is an experienced fast jet navigator and, more recently, a well regarded figure in military education. 

His conclusions, however, challenge many of the received opinions over aspects of this much studied conflict. In particular, he seeks to challenge what he refers as ‘myths’ of the conflict, including: the contribution of the Sea Harrier to the eventual victory; the persistent and enduring bravery of the Argentine pilots; and the contribution of the Vulcan ‘Black Buck’ raids on Port Stanley airfield.

However, for this reader, an unashamedly lay student of military conflict, John Shield’s analysis may stray into one or two areas where his conclusions may be less securely based on unassailable evidence. In the first instance, the analysis provided pays scant regard to Helmuth von Moltke’s fundamental military maxim ‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy’.  Whilst Shield makes a compelling case that there were many aspects of the planning that were clearly suboptimal, it is less clear that his analysis in terms of  Centres of Gravity and  Critical Vulnerabilities is as distant from the approach actually adopted as he suggests. In addition, his detailed analysis of the fate of all ‘weapons’ deployed from mainland Argentina towards the Falklands (ie the fate of essentially the bombs carried by the aircraft) may have led Shield into error over the effectiveness of the British resources. In particular, he regards bombs that were ditched by Argentine pilots prior to entering the engagement zone, or that missed, were unrelated to British activities. This ignores the well-documented instances in a range of conflicts where these kinds of outcomes, in respect of the fate of the bombs is concerned, reflect the impact of the opposing fighter and ground defences on the morale and effectiveness of the pilots tasked with delivering this ordnance. Whilst this is unquantifiable it is surely disingenuous simply to regard this as a factor unrelated to the effectiveness of the defences. 

Shield asks the reader to judge the extent to which he had achieved a service-agnostic perspective in his writing. From this agnostic reader’s perspective it would have to be a somewhat curate’s egg judgment that leaves a subtle pro junior service partiality. 

Finally, and from a more personal perspective, this reader found the repetitive and somewhat dismissive judgments on the contributions to our collective understanding of the conflict from those who were strapped into a cockpit, commanding a warship or leading soldiers into battle somewhat uncalled for. Whilst there will always be gaps and misunderstandings in such first person accounts their contributions are invaluable. 

Despite these nit picking observations, the book provided an opportunity to reconsider aspects of the way the conflict was fought. It will be unusual for any reader interested in the Falklands War or military history more generally not to find this book a stimulating and thought provoking read.
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A book having its edifice on research that is meticulous, and penned by an expert on the subject, "Air Power in the Falklands Conflict" makes for some absolutely rousing and revealing read. At the crux of the book is an informed and educated "dissection" of the centres of gravity employed by both the British Forces and their Argentinian counterparts in the short but infamous Falklands War. When the Argentinian military invaded the Falklands in 1982, then Prime Minister of Britain Margaret Thatcher had no choice but to declare aggression against the invaders. The fear of huge casualties and unfortunate outcomes weighed heavily on her mind. However she braved all odds and sent her troops in.

Shield's book focuses on the three centres of gravity that the UK relied on in the combat. Shifting between air power, aircraft carriers and the land forces, The author provides a classic dissertation on the craft of war and in the process rebuts a great many pieces of 'received wisdom'.

A great book!
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An interesting book which looked at the Falklands war from a statistical frame to determine if the current perceptions of the war were valid. A good history read.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Air Power in the Falklands Conflict is a fascinating and informative read. It delves deep into the actual operations side of the air conflict and not how it was hyped up by the media.
There are multiple tables and charts depicting the sorties flown, and the weapons deployed. Plus, there are all the stories related to the engagements and much more.
At the tail-end of the book is a huge list of resources used, including essays in books and dissertations. There is also a list of online material and official publications that were used. It gives podcasts and pre-amble, introduction to chapters.
The only thing that let it down in my view was the shortage of pictures in the book. There were some but these were few, in B&W and limited to the back of the publication.
Air Power in the Falklands Conflict is an excellent reference tool.
Thank you, NetGalley and Pen&Sword, for the ARC of the book.
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