Britain cannot defend Falklands: 1982 task force chief

14th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Military cuts mean Britain would be hard put to defend the Falkland Islands from another Argentine attack, the commander of the naval task force that recaptured them exactly 29 years ago said Tuesday.

"As things currently stand, we'd have serious trouble defending anything much further than the other side of the English Channel," he added, in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper.

Woodward cited the lack of an aircraft carrier and weakening US support for British sovereignty.

"Twenty-nine years ago today, we re-claimed the Falklands for Britain in one of the most remarkable campaigns since the Second World War," Woodward wrote.

"The simple truth is without aircraft carriers and without the Americans, we would not have any hope of doing the same again today."

The Falklands "are now perilously close to being indefensible".

Britain, which has held the windswept Falklands islands since 1833, won a short but bloody war in 1982 after Argentina's military junta invaded the islands.

Woodward also commented on remarks Monday by the head of the Royal Navy, about the effect of the defence cuts on the current NATO-led operation in Libya.

Admiral Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, suggested that elements of the Libya operation would have been cheaper and "much more reactive" if Britain had still had an aircraft carrier.

Stanhope's comments "that Britain does not even have enough ships to continue even the small operation in Libya highlights the weakened state in which defence cuts have left our navy; a position from which we are incapable of defending our territory in the south Atlantic," wrote Woodward.

Britain is without an aircraft carrier since the Royal Navy's flagship HMS Ark Royal and its Harrier jump jets, returned to base for the last time in December.

That leaves Britain without an aircraft carrier capable of launching jets for the next decade.

The move came as Prime Minister David Cameron's government cut the defence budget by eight percent in a bid to curb Britain's huge deficit.

Responding to Woodward, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Claims that the Falkland Islands could be taken without a fight are completely without substance.

"The current garrison in the Falkland Islands is much larger in scale and has a greater capability than in 1982 and this together with our ability to reinforce rapidly by air has been maintained."

The Argentine forces, which invaded on April 2, 1982 surrendered on June 14. The conflict cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

© 2011 AFP

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