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Air Power in the Falklands Conflict (Hardback)

An Operational Level Insight into Air Warfare in the South Atlantic

Aviation Falklands

By John Shields
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 384
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399007528
Published: 20th October 2021
Last Released: 27th January 2022

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From the television footage shown in all its stark reality and the daily coverage and subsequent memoirs, the impression delivered from the air battles in the Falklands Conflict was that of heroic Argentine pilots who relentlessly pressed home their attacks against the British. While, by contrast, there is a counter-narrative that portrayed the Sea Harrier force as being utterly dominant over its Argentine enemies. But what was the reality of the air war over the Falkland Islands?

While books on the air operations have published since that time, they have, in the main, been personal accounts, re-told by those who were there, fighting at a tactical level, or back in their nation’s capital running the strategic implications of the outcome. But a detailed analysis of the operational level of the air war has not been undertaken – until now. At the same time, some analysts have inferred that this Cold War sideshow offers little insight into lessons for the operating environment of future conflicts. As the author demonstrates in this book, there are lessons from 1982 that do have important and continued relevance today.

Using recently released primary source material, the author, a serving RAF officer who spent two-and-a-half years in the Falklands as an air defence navigator, has taken an impartial look at the air campaign at the operational level. This has enabled him to develop a considered view of what should have occurred, comparing it with what actually happened. In so doing, John Shields has produced a comprehensive account of the air campaign that has demolished many of the enduring myths.

This is the story of not why, but how the air war was fought over the skies of the South Atlantic.

As Featured in

Airmail, April - June 2022

"This is a fascinating work. Historians of the conflict have much reason to thank John Shields for his research."

Battlefield magazine, Spring 2022

Featured in

RAF Historical Society Journal

"Thought-provoking, and a cracking read."

4 Stars

Aeroplane - February 2022

"In many ways it is a useful reference book, helping to piece in gaps in knowledge, an especially practical device if you are considering creating a model archive of aircraft used in this arena. If the events of spring 1982 are a lasting draw then this book is a must for your reference library."

Scale aircraft Modelling

"The book does offer a view of fighter and strike missions that differs from earlier works on the subject. I found it to be an interesting read and believe that others will do so too."

Read the review here

David Hobbs - Australian Naval Institute

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A scholarly and very detailed analysis of the air war in the Falklands. Deeply analyzes the causes and events surrounding nearly every air combat in the war between the Britain and Argentina. Breaks new ground by countering common perceptions in the air combat effectiveness of the Harrier jump jet.

NetGalley, Sandra Hood

There is a lot of detail in the book, and the work effort the author has put into this is evident. Much use has been made of records made public now, long after the war, though as is mentioned, there are still some records that remain sealed, so maybe there are some things which may yet put a different slant on some of the conclusions that have been drawn. Overall though, this is certainly the most detailed look at the Falklands Air War I have read to date, and it is also well worth looking through the detailed endnotes as there is a good deal of additional information held in those.

Read the full review here

Military Model Scene

The level of detail provided for anyone trying to piece the conflict together from fragmented popular histories is exceptional. This book could be considered to be essential reading for anyone seeking a balanced view of the air war, and is highly recommended.

Chris Kemp

Much has been written about this conflict in 1982 in the South Atlantic but until now there has been little detailed analysis of the operational level of the air war. The author attempts to put this right and to extract lessons from that period that still have relevance today. In order to produce a complete picture he has drawn on two and a half years spent in the Falklands as an RAF air defence navigator, plus recently released primary source material from both the British and Argentine sides of the conflict. Its not all pleasant reading for mistakes were made and public relations propaganda obscured facts. Notably the author claims that the Sea Harrier attacks on Stanley Airport were an error, and far more damage to the invasion forces was done by the Vulcan bombing raid, which at least provided a strategic shock to the enemy, as well as creating holes in the airport runway and holding up the delivery of vital supplies and equipment-albeit for a very short time. There’s much more, but you’ll need to buy the book!

Helicopter International - Volume 43, Number 01, 12th January 2022

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.

NetGalley, Kevin Manley

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!

NetGalley, Venkataraman Ganesan

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.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

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... Air Power in the Falklands Conflict is an excellent reference tool.

NetGalley, John Derek

About John Shields

JOHN SHIELDS was born and brought up near Edinburgh. He joined the RAF in 1989 and, following initial officer and navigator training, was posted to the Tornado F3 in 1991, the force was responsible for air defence of the United Kingdom, the Falkland Islands and preparing for global contingent operations. Spanning a flying career of 18 years, John has accumulated over 2,500 hours on the Tornado F3 with tours across the UK and in the Falkland Islands as a squadron navigator, weapons instructor and commander. More recently, John’s career has focussed on Professional Military Education in the UK and the USA, both as a student and as an instructor.

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