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Panzerknacker
06-01-2007, 07:17 PM
Operation Algeciras

How Argentina tried to blow up the Rock

By Simon Winchester, Robin Morgan and Isobel Hilton

The Sunday Times


AT THE height of the Falklands war, a well-equipped Argentine underwater sabotage team slipped secretly into Spain and made its way towards Gibraltar. Its aim was to blow up vital ammunition and fuel dump in the colony, and sink any British warships in the harbour.
But according to senior British military and intelligence officials, the Spanish authorities arrested the team of four men in a small town some five miles from the border. And in a hitherto undisclosed gesture of goodwill to the British Government, Madrid ordered the four to be deported back to Buenos Aires.

The decision caused a serious diplomatic rift between Spain and the then military junta in Argentina, at a time when Spain was ostensibly giving moral support to the Buenos Aires regime. The planned raid on the strategically vital colony would have caused havoc to the Falkland task force supply lines. Many lives among the 34,000 strong civilian and military population of the Rock would have been lost.

A prime target was the fuel dump which task force ships used to top up en route for the South Atlantic. Huge storage tanks carved out of the rock lie just a few yards off Williams Way - one of 32 mile of road and tunnel driven through the mountain by miners during the Second World War. They are guarded normally by just one man.


The more heavily-guarded Admiralty magazine, connected by one of those tunnels to the dockyard, contains a vast stockpile of ammunition including missiles, torpedoes and naval nuclear weapons. That stockpile became a vital source during the conflict as arsenals in Britain emptied fast. Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships called in at Gibraltar almost daily to take ammunition and fuel on board. It was there, early in April, that the nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror received the Mark Eight torpedoes that sank the Argentinian cruiser, General Belgrano.


Secondary targets identified by the team of saboteurs were any warships in Gibraltar, and the airfield, which was an important bridge between Britain and Ascension Island.

RAF Hercules planes flew daily to refuel and pick up supplies to be dropped by parachute to the task force.

Details of the raid have come from a variety of highly-placed sources. They include a senior army officer in another British colony who was ordered to increase security when the planned raid on Gibraltar was discovered. A high-ranking officer with access to intelligence information of the affair independently confirmed to us the Argentinian team's plans.
Members of the intelligence community itself have given us further information. The Foreign Office. however, says it knows nothing of the incident.

But according to our sources in London, and others in Buenos Aires, the team of four civilian acting under the control of the Argentine Navy, arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport early last May.

Their mission was to purchase arms, limpet mines, plastic explosives and under-water swimming gear - all freely available off the shelf from arms dealer's in Spain. Then they were to make their way south to the border town of La Lineá.

They were to penetrate the colony's defences - preferably by swimming the one mile from the La Lineá docks to the Gibraltar dockyard - and attack the oil storage depot, the Admiralty magazine, shipping, including the Gibraltar guardship, the frigate HMS Ariadne, which was known to be regularly bcrthed in the dock.

But the four were intercepted by the Spanish authorities, probably the army, in the town of San Roque. According to British sources, the four men were fully equipped for their expedition, and were stripped of arms and equipment that included the limpet mines and high explosives.
They were detained for a few days and then, despite protests from Buenos Aires, were deported back to the Argentine capital.


It is clear that British signal intelligence became aware of the arrival of the team almost as soon as the men disembarked from their scheduled Aerolineas Argcntinas flight at Madrid. Messages were flashed from London both to the governor of Gibraltar, General William Jackson, and to the governors and commanders-in-chief of. other overseas military bases thought vulnerable to attack.

Precautions had already been taken in Gibraltar, largely because the colonial authorities had been warned - ironically, in the circumstances - of a possible Spanish attack aimed at recovering the peninsula during the confusion of the Falklands operations. General Jackson had arranged for day and night guards by men of the then Gibraltar garrison - the 1st Battalion the Staffordshire Regiment - and for naval "anti-swimmer" teams to be on constant alert. Patrol boats operated by the RAF Regiment were also on duty.
After the emergency message about the arrival of the Argentine sabotage team, "every inch" of the Rock was placed under guard, a military source said.

There was considerable confidence that the colony could be defended against a Spanish attack and equal assurance that, as the same officer put it, "we would have fished any saboteurs out of the water before they could get within sniffing distance of a ship."
In other colonies and overseas army bases - particularly Cyprus and Hong Kong - the news of the team's arrival in Spain triggered a series of security operations. Officers in Hong Kong were briefed secret-ly, within hours of the detection of the team's arrival in Madrid, by the local representative of the Joint Services Intelligence Staff For the next two weeks all available manpower was put on the lookout for possible arrivals from Argentina.
"It would have been quite simple for them to have come in here while our backs were turned," commented one Hong Kong staff officer. "But after the attempt in Spain we made sure we were well battened down." Because of a reluctance by the intelligence community to comment on the incident some aspects remain a mystery.

royal744
06-01-2007, 08:11 PM
Geez. Glad they failed. So much effort for something they didn't own.

1000ydstare
06-02-2007, 01:45 AM
Pretty audascious plan, and a good target. Asscension woud have been much better but harder to get to.

I am of the opinion ALL British bases would have been on higher states of alert than normal, just because of hte alert. Whether Spain were beleived to be preparing for an invasion I don't know.


Their mission was to purchase arms, limpet mines, plastic explosives and under-water swimming gear - all freely available off the shelf from arms dealer's in Spain.

Not sure about this though. They could have bought arms and under-water swimming gear, which are indeed freely available in Spain. However I am under the impression that Plastic Explosive would be harder to get, and Limpet mines are not going to be freely available at all, as they only have one use, the destruction of shipping.

Panzerknacker
06-02-2007, 09:39 AM
Geez. Glad they failed. So much effort for something they didn't own.


It would be very weird to make war for something that you already own Royal.

The admiral Anaya was not a brilliant commander but I think this in particular was an brilliant idea; use a former terrorist save time because was already trained in blasting things tand in case to be captured or killled nobody going to miss him.

Rising Sun*
06-02-2007, 12:33 PM
Such an operation may have been mounted, but the article sounds like the usual militarily uninformed journalistic bullshit.


AT THE height of the Falklands war, a well-equipped Argentine underwater sabotage team slipped secretly into Spain and made its way towards Gibraltar.

If the team is so well equipped, how come


Their mission was to purchase arms, limpet mines, plastic explosives and under-water swimming gear


Next


But according to our sources in London, and others in Buenos Aires, the team of four civilian [sic]acting under the control of the Argentine Navy, arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport early last May.

So now we have four civilians dumped in Spain to buy weapons for a raid with little prospect of even limited success if carried out by trained military people.

This just gets better and better. As fiction.

Not least because these characters have been landed in Spain in 'early May' at the 'height' of the war while the serious ground fighting, where parachute supply would be useful, hasn't yet occurred but Hercs are flying out of Gib to parachute supplies in. ???


Next


RAF Hercules planes flew daily to refuel and pick up supplies to be dropped by parachute to the task force.

They’d need to refuel several times during, never mind after, a flight to drop supplies by parachute to the task force. Supplies normally aren’t dropped to ships by parachute, but only to land forces. Combining that fact with the statement that this was happening at the height of the war, it means that supplies were being parachuted in to the Falklands. Let's just ignore the fact that there weren't any British land forces in the Falklands in early May that required constant large scale air supply, from anywhere.

The maximum range of a fully loaded current Hercules is at best in round figures 2,500 miles, and less for various earlier models down to about 1,500 miles. I have no idea how far it is from Gibraltar to the Falklands, but it’s a bloody sight more than 2,500 miles. It’s about 6,500 air miles from Barcelona to Buenos Aires. If the Hercules were being refuelled at Gib to supply the task force in the Falklands, they wouldn’t need parachutes because they’d be falling out of the air when they ran out of fuel. A long way short of where their loads might have been of any value.

Ascension is irrelevant here because it's not mentioned. The article clearly implies that Hercules were flying out of Gib to parachute supplies direct into the Falklands. If they were routing through Ascension, then surely that would have been the place at which to aim this attack.

Next:


They were to penetrate the colony's defences - preferably by swimming the one mile from the La Lineá docks to the Gibraltar dockyard - and attack the oil storage depot, the Admiralty magazine, shipping, including the Gibraltar guardship, the frigate HMS Ariadne, which was known to be regularly bcrthed in the dock. [

1. Swimming one mile (I’d like to know about the currents) carrying enough explosives, detonators, limpet mines etc to deal with the oil storages; magazines; ‘shipping’, including a frigate? They wouldn’t need weight belts. A one mile swim is a big effort in calm water with no load and no current. Assault swimmers can do it, but these blokes are, according to the article, civilians. I don't recall Argentina figuring in the Olympics etc as a great swimming nation.

2. After sinking the threatening frigate and other ‘shipping‘, were these four frogmen going to do a James Bond and reveal their dinner suits under their wetsuits and just casually stroll up to the other targets while everyone that matters there is on full alert as a result of the conflagration in the harbour?

2. What possible tactical or strategical benefit is obtained from sinking a frigging frigate half a planet away from the action? Did they think it might have charged out of the Straits of Gibraltar at warp speed and snuck up on and destroyed the Belgrano overnight, or got in among ARA destroyers etc and sunk them? It’s only a bloody frigate, FFS! At best it had twin 4.5” guns. It was hardly going to shell Buenos Aires with those and force Argentina to surrender.

3. ‘Shipping’. What does this mean? How does attacking shipping here alter the tactical situation in the South Atlantic with forces on land in the Falklands? Apart from stopping supplies being parachuted in.

4. Timing. If it’s at the height of the war, everything that matters is down at or on the way to the Falklands, not sunning itself in Gibraltar. But then it wasn't at the height of the war, so maybe there was some sense in such an attack. But not in any way that could be deduced from the idiotic article in the OP.

1000ydstare
06-03-2007, 03:08 AM
As an added bonus, HMS Ariadne was the West Indies Guardship at the time. I wouldn't discount her presence in Gib, but it is highly likely she was on the other side of the Pond.

In all honesty though, just because the mission was bound to fail from the outset doesn't mean it wasn't planned.

Ascension was a complete no go. The only way that could have been attacked is by sub and both of the ARA subs were tied up around the islands, or in dock after Belgrano sank, but tied up none the less.

Fly some denyables in to SPain and let them crack on. The Airfield of Gib is not that far from the Spainish border. The idea of getting to the Admiralty magazines and fuel depot is pure idiocy.

Panzerknacker
07-31-2007, 10:29 PM
Maximo Nicoletti the man who would lay the explosive charges.

http://www.portierramaryaire.com/imagenes/nicoletti.jpg


By the way the link above overreacted about the wish of Spain to gain back Gibraltar rock, actually there is no a strong feeling in that country as Argentina in the Malvinas scenario.

1000ydstare
08-01-2007, 12:19 PM
By the way the link above overreacted about the wish of Spain to gain back Gibraltar rock, actually there is no a strong feeling in that country as Argentina in the Malvinas scenario.

Er, yes, yes they do have a strong feeling about who owns Gibralter.

In the same way as the Falklands, Britain has owned them for years and the Locals want to stay British.

It is only the Argentines who were bonkers enough to start a war to their "property".