The Falklands Guns
...Captured Argentine AA Artillery, from Frontline Books
Title: The Falklands Guns
Author: Wing Commander Mike Fonfe
Publisher: Frontline Books
The Story of the Captured Argentine Artillery that became part of the RAF Regiment, a new book from Frontline Books, part of Pen & Sword. A 274-page hardcover book which tells the story of the Oerlikon 35mm guns and their associated Skyguard radars captured from around the Falkland Islands following the Argentine surrender in 1982.
The book splits essentially into 3 main parts. The first tells us the relevant elements of the story of the Falklands War in 1982, and the deployment and operation of both British and Argentine anti-aircraft systems on the islands. The most modern system deployed among the mix were the Oerlikon 35mm twin-barrelled guns, linked to a Skyguard radar targeting system. It was a danger which did cause the British to adapt some of their tactics for the Harriers in their attacks on Argentine positions. We fielded the Rapier SAM system which had both pros and cons, operated by both the British Army and the RAF. The author was not in the Falklands but was then working within the Ministry of Defence in London, and was responsible for an aircraft recognition training package which he updated for the conflict, to include Argentine aircraft. Once the fighting was over he also recognised the potential for the captured gun system which was a modern and very effective system. He goes on to explain how he managed to make the case for the RAF to make use of this multi-million pound weapons system and to retrieve the surviving guns, generators, radars and ammunition not only from the Islands, but also from the various units who had 'acquired' them as battle trophies. There were an interesting series of hoops he had to jump through in order to get the go ahead to form this new unit, and make it part of our NATO commitments. There is also the help provided by the Swiss based Oerlikon Company in the refurbishment of the equipment. The third part then goes through the process of recruiting a core group of regular personnel plus the bulk of the unit then coming from recruiting RAF reserve personnel. This was a group of part timers, made up from both male and female members. Again there was some unique arrangements both in their tailored training programmes and the level of employment of female personnel.
There is a section of archive photos providing some illustration of the different stages of this story and I found it all interesting reading. The author, who was made commander of the unit when it was formed, clearly had a real focus on what he believed was possible and he did managed to overcome any obstacles and bring his vision to reality. The days of anti-aircraft guns was not over, despite a variety of missile systems, and the effectiveness of this particular system is clearly presented.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.