1982 - Third Invasion: Argentine Patagonia - (Planned)

The book of the English historian Lawrence Freedman on the Malvinas war, based on secret documents from London and just published in Britain, contains detailed information about the sustained cooperation of Chile under the Pinochet regime with British forces, who arrived to the point of making think the British military in the possibility of invading Argentine territory of Tierra del Fuego from the Chilean side of the island.

The plan, which was rejected by operational issues, sheds light on another controversial act of wich  we had news. Mysterious crash of an English helicopter, 18 kilometers from the Chilean city of Punta Arenas May 20, 1982 At that currently three crew members-Alan Bennett, Richard Outching and Blain Imrie, were "returned" to London.

But Freedman now reveals that the helicopter had eight crew members, who were taken from Chile quietly (see page 37). According to the historian, were officers in the British Special Forces that should destroy an Argentine base on Tierra del Fuego. The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Chilean support

Chile's collaboration with London:

One of the most controversial issues with regard to the Malvinas campaign was the extent to which Britain enjoyed the benefit of close cooperation with Chile.

This issue was particularly dominant in 1999, when General Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London because of an extradition request from Spain to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

The Baroness Thatcher showed vigorous in his defense, among other things because of its support for Britain in 1982. Pinochet himself spoke of how "when Argentine forces occupied the Malvinas in 1982, I instructed my administration to offer, within the context of our neutrality, any assistance we could to our friend and ally. I considered it a matter of national honor in Chile. "

Cooperation logic was clear. Both countries had territorial disputes with Argentina and both cases Argentina behaved in an unacceptable manner, ignoring the attempts to arbitration in Beagle Channel case the same way he had resorted to the armed forces in the case of the Malvinas. The main obstacle to cooperation was open Chilean reluctance to contradict the hemispheric solidarity and British concern about the tension between his claim that he was acting on behalf of democracy and the dismal history of Chile in the area of ​​human rights. Chile was also to reflect on the superior military force Argentina to assess the risks of intensified support British military forces. So it was inevitable that any cooperation out secret.

The possibility of cooperation with Chile was raised since the beginning of the crisis. (...) When the April 2, 1982 the first assessments of likely South American responses to Argentina invasion took place, immediately the importance of Chile noted.

They began to be raised doubts about whether Britain could request facilities and how to react if Chile offered those. A first indication of the positive Chile attitude was an offer to postpone delivery of the ship HMS Norfolk to the Chilean Navy, which was held on April 6. This was not considered very useful because of the small size of the crew of the Royal Navy, its poor communications and lack of weapons. On the other hand, the auxiliary ship of the Royal Navy Tidepool, a tanker was also to be delivered on April 7, was fully manned and if could buy a full load of fuel, solve refueling problems for the Task Force. Chileans accepted. He sailed on 14 April to the rendezvous with Task Force and played a key role in taking South Georgia.

There was a seductive possibility of direct military action depended on cooperation with Chile, Tierra del Fuego, an island at the southern tip of Argentina, was divided into the provinces of the Chilean west and eastern Argentina. The Argentina province was sparsely populated but included an oil producing 24,000 barrels per day and two airfields in Rio Grande and Ushuaia.

If it could be captured, it would be a slap to the Argentine national pride; provide an element of bargaining in any negotiations while allowing useful military installations to take advantage that otherwise could be used against British forces.

To the Commanders, the island seemed at first glance an easier target for military Task Force that the Malvinas. Would be Defended worse and more suited to an attack it by land from Chile to a British attack by sea. There would be less risk of civilian casualties and a greater element of surprise. However, a successful landing first require intensive operations against Argentine Navy and land based fighter jets And therefore, though a British force could be established on the island, it would be vulnerable to attack by Argentine aircraft that operate from airfields on the mainland. This, then, justified secret special forces operations to inhibit the Argentine air attacks. Therefore, although the short-term risk seemed manageable, the longer term problems were greater. Politics was also problematic. Collusion between the two countries, which is essential for the operation to work, would cause a storm.

All port facilities and airfields could accelerate the advancement of the British forces, alleviate the problems of support and refueling and mitigate Argentine geographical advantage. against Was the risk of becoming too dependent on their help, fearing if it was withdrawn if regional pressure on Chile became irresistible.

Cooperation proposals focused on obtaining intelligence. In particular, the commanders were interested in analyzing the possibility of betting a plane Nimrod Maritime Patrol in southern Chile. The information on targets from the Nimrod significantly increase the effectiveness of submarines which would soon arrive to the South Atlantic. Internationally it could be described as reconnaissance aircraft, but had no offensive capability against combat aircraft transported by ship or land. Their Searchwater radar will allow stay out of the battle zone.

A delicate question was to establish what was the best approach to cooperation. The British ambassador in Santiago understood that he must speak directly with the Chilean military. It was supposed to be a quid pro quo necessary. Ideas are first turned to selling Hunter aircraft in which Chileans were interested. At the same time, the Chileans had a strategic interest in a rapid British success against Argentina, and they were concerned that otherwise the attack "in three weeks" and they were providing military preparations to meet this contingency. (...

Although the Joint Intelligence Committee felt that Chile would agree that a plane unrarmed reconnaissance Nimrod operate from Chilean landing fields the ambassador was more cautious. For example, was unlikely to be made available an airfield to the south. One that was mentioned-on the island of San Felix was 3,000 miles from the area of ​​operations, unless the Nimrod fly over Argentina. It would only be useful as a base if the runways further south you could provide refueling.

The ministers did not know well how to bring the ties with Chile. (...) There was also caution the Chilean side, reflecting a growing awareness that the best interests of the broader Chilean continental interests was "not to extend too much the neck."

The media in general were in favor of Great Britain, although public opinion was divided between meeting the arrogant and aggressive Argentina finally received his due and anguish for Latin American blood shed. In Santiago there was still afraid that if Argentina could go on with their aggression with a low cost, then turn against Chile. (...)

At the same time, Chileans were distressed at the prospect of hostilities between Britain and Argentina to overflow on its long and exposed frontier. If there was evidence of collusion in obtaining British intelligence, Argentina could suddenly turn against Chile. There were more Argentine troops concentrated in Rio Gallegos and Comodoro Rivadavia of which could be needed for the Malvinas Islands. To not take the situation beyond what prudent the ambassador John Heath chose carefully worded requests, avoiding asking for something that would show that English or Chilean planes flew over Argentine airspace from Chile. (...)

The commanders were wary for another reason. Would they be respected offers of assistance? Heath hoped so. Very few knew the secrets and considerable efforts had been made to the Foreign Ministry would not know, but apparently supported Pinochet cooperation. There was a desire to support the British resolution, but in private. In public position would be neutral. If rumors of Chilean cooperation with Britain, would refuse immediately. (...)

In exchange for help, Chile wanted arms transfers. (...) After the invasion, was performed. a proposal for which one or more aircraft Canberra would be sold to Chile and fly with British crews would train the Chilean conducting photographic reconnaissance from an air base in southern Chile (...) This prospered to the point of selecting aircraft and crews and leave them in reserve, but Chile rejected the project because it was certain that the aircraft would be identified and it was possible they were shot down.

It was then considered the possibility of providing Canberra aircraft at an attractive price. On April 16, it was agreed to be sent on loan or to buy some Canberra and Hercules support aircraft, all with Chilean markings. The Hercules could be described as purchased by Chile to transport its own force although Britain could retrieve them after the war. It was not possible to send Nimrod as it would be incredible that Chile was buying them. They however allow the Nimrod fly over the Chilean airspace and to land in an emergency. Also take a radar. Finally, details would be available surface movements of the fleet for transmission.

On April 18, Lewin informed Nott on the progress. His priority was the intelligence on the Argentine forces. (...) The use of a suitable Chilean landing field would give Britain a new and essential capability. Due to the urgency of this requirement, there was little time to lose. (...)

Crews of the RAF (Royal Air Force) would operate two Canberra in the South Atlantic during a handover. Hercules support aircraft would be deployed manned up Chilean landing field. Chileans wanted to announce his purchase agreement for Canberra airplanes, but London preferred to keep all the secret collaboration, to ensure that any initial survey of the Malvinas be kept secret. Initially the operation progressed as planned, and on April 26 had reached Santiago concealed two Hercules aircraft. It is now expected to reach Canberra Chile after 30 April. (...)

The Chileans were also getting anxious about the possible impact they would receive if Argentina decided the game was over and Malvinas were turning to Chile to "regain national honor." (...) It was observed, after the capture of South Georgia, the satisfaction with the frustration of Argentina had to counterbalance the apprehension that saw Chile dragged into the conflict. Pinochet told reporters he was "concerned" about the events in the South Atlantic, and the chancellor said ambiguously "sincerely regret that the so-called peace have been ignored."

The vote in the OAS was imminent. Chilean Foreign Minister had proposed a cautious stance, which would have been denied by Pinochet. Chile would abstain on April 27, although this would be seen as an "unfriendly act." This reflected a greater conviction that Galtieri and his government would not survive the conflict and the internal crisis would be a prelude to an attack against Chile.

On April 28, just after the vote of the OAS, Reuters reported what was described as an official statement of the spokesman of the Ministry of Defence in London, in the sense that Chile had given her permission to divert tanker RFA Tidepont with so it was to join the British Task Force in the Malvinas.

Later, it was learned that the subject had appeared in a press conference in which he had stated, in response to questions, it was not known "if money changed hands" but he knew "that the sale went ahead but delivery had been postponed with the agreement of Chileans. "(...) Chile wanted an immediate denial (...).

The view of the Foreign Office was that it would be unwise to risk a formal denial simply because it could generate more interest. By then, the Chilean Government had already issued its own denial. Chile considered that the question had been raised by a French journalist as a way to exert pressure on Chile after its abstention in the OAS, as Argentina apparently knew the position of the ship for a  while.

Chileans then warned that as the operations of Canberra were sensed by Argentina or the press, the men of the RAF (18 officers and 24 NCOs) who had arrived before the plane would have to leave Chile immediately. On April 27, the (British newspaper) Daily Star reported: "Last week, Phantom fighter planes flew secretly south of Chile, via Ascension Island, from an RAF base in Suffolk (.... ) Britain has paid the Chilean underhand for allowing our aircraft use their vital base Punta Arenas. price eight Hawker Hunter aircraft unmarked planes left RAF Brize Norton on Sunday aboard a civil Boeing 747. American ".

(...) The details of the story were so bogus that Heath was asked whether Argentina would not be deliberate disinformation. (...) Chile also denied as "totally baseless" reports that RAF Phantom aircraft would be allowed to land and refuel in Punta Arenas.

On April 29, was broadcasted a British declaration. Heath warned that Argentina was trying to debunk the neutrality of Chile in the Malvinas with questions asked by friendly journalists, and proposed the most carefully worded repudiation.

On the afternoon of April 29, the Canberra had not yet received approval from Chile. It had appeared another news report, this time from Reuters, saying that Britain had permission to use aviation facilities in southern Chile. This delay caused the greatest excitement of the Ministry of Defense for the operation began to fall, and plans were made to remove a Hercules. When I finally received the nod for the arrival of the Canberra on May 3, the prudent course of action seemed to be a first mission of Hercules while Canberra was delivered more slowly to Chile. Chileans would have liked to stay with the Hercules and were eager for both Canberra.

So in early May they were delivering the first six Hunter and two others were choosing, but had not taken any decision on others (and apparently had orders 20 more). Two Canberra and parts were on offer for Chile. (...) Chile had expressed interest in a radar that would be installed near the Argentina border. The offer was at a discount to support operation and maintenance cost. In mid-May, had sent a draft letter of intent for the sale of the two Canberra, along with a number of spares and ground support equipment, and had concluded negotiations regarding the two additional Hunter. (...)

In an interview in 1999 but published in 2002, General Fernando Matthei, commander in chief of the Chilean Air Force in 1982, described how he agreed with a "secret agent" intelligence delivered to Britain in exchange for military equipment on all Hawker Hunter fighter jets, a powerful radar and Canberra aircraft. Matthei recalled that after the war "retain aircraft, radar, missiles.

They received timely information and we were all happy. "Also stated that Pinochet had not been fully informed of the agreement," so that if the operation was discovered, could claim that he knew nothing. "Described the creation of a center of underground command well protected in Punta Arenas, where information on the flight movements of Argentina was sent from all sources to Northwood using a satellite communication system.

Matthei's daughter, in fact, had already informed of this in a letter to The Sunday Times controversy when Pinochet was at its height, noting correctly that the main contact his father had been a brigade commander in the RAF (not a secret agent), and emphasizing the importance of Chile control of the Argentine air activity, information transmitted by a satellite connection to the Task Force. By this means, he warned the South Atlantic fleet any impending attack.

Then progress began to occur in all areas. Was agreed that a Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft would be accepted in the airfield of San Felix, a remote island off the coast of Chile. From San Felix, the plane could make several valuable missions, night fuel reloading in the Chilean airbase Conception on the mainland coast, then fly the Chilean airspace towards the South Atlantic. The plane could collect useful information out of reach of the Argentine radar and transmit it to the Task Force.

The Nimrod would be supported by a VC10. The first mission took place early on the morning of Sunday, May 9, a second on 15 May and a third two days later. Limited but significant information was obtained.

On May 18 there was concern it was too risky to continue with the flight, since this would probably ruin the whole operation as affect future operations. Woodward wanted the plane to fly the nights of May 19-21 just in case the Argentine Transport Group was at sea during those crucial days, but the Chilean desire to see completed that mission was firm. (...)

Meanwhile, the Chilean connection was beginning to attract attention in Britain. On May 24, Prime Minister and other senior ministers received identical letters from members of Parliament connected with the Commission on Human Rights in Chile. (...) Great Britain did not want to endorse the Chilean human rights policy and also wanted to make sure not to be involved in a direct Chilean action against Argentina.

During the course of the war, the presence of a strong Chilean force on the border had helped Britain if only for the fact that he had pinned up  two superior brigades of Argentina Marine Corps: Chile had not stopped in the short time to be perceived as a threat by Argentina.

As the war neared its conclusion, concern arose that Chile might want to take advantage of the difficulties of Argentina.

Seemed to rather hastily organized a major operation with 10,000 men would begin in early June. Heath suggested giving directions to convene privately to some high Chilean figures to clarify that Britain had no intention of being part of any "border incident" between Chile and Argentina. While the Foreign and Commonwealth Office still thought it was unlikely a precipitous Chilean action, Heath received permission to contact to find out what was going on, provided they do not express any opinion on the question. Heath reported on the Chilean view of the reinforcements in the South had been considered necessary because of uncertainty about Argentine intentions, especially if kept away to Britain, but considering that now this was unlikely and that Great Britain return to Malvinas, they felt calmer and were removing some.