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Sea Harrier over the Falklands

The Black Death

Sea Harrier over the Falklands
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This intriguing book takes you to war in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft. It is more than an authoritative, first-hand and detailed account of the air war in the Falklands, 1982. Indeed, it is a real life and very exciting adventure story in which the author ‘calls a spade a spade’; revealing both the successes and the failures of the British air campaign. The reader will gain an intimate insight into the persona of the Royal Navy fighter pilot which differs vastly from that of his RAF peers. That persona is aggressive, completely dedicated, thoroughly professional and pays no regard to “Crew duty times”. As a fully integrated part of the Naval Service, it achieves continued success in combat and has done so on behalf of the British public for the last 100 years of British carrier operations overseas. Sharkey Ward commanded 801 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Invincible, during the Falklands War of April to June 1982 and was senior Sea Harrier adviser to the Command on the tactics, direction and progress of the air war. He flew over sixty war missions, achieved three air-to-air kills and took part in or witnessed a total of ten kills; he was also the leading night pilot and was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry. Those are the bare facts, though they do no sort of justice to this remarkable and outspoken book, nor to its author. For what, after all, could twenty Sea Harriers, operating from a flight-deck bucketing about in the South Atlantic, do against more than 200 Argentine military aircraft flown by pilots who, as the raids against British shipping proved, displayed enormous skill and gallantry? The world knows the answer now; as it knows the debt owed to the author and his fellow flyers. What is puzzling, therefore, is this book's truthful depiction of the attitudes of some of the senior non-flying naval officers and of the RAF towards the men (and indeed the machine) that made possible the victory in the Falklands. This extraordinary first-hand account charts the naval pilots' journey to the South Atlantic in clear and forthright detail and how they took on and triumphantly conquered the challenges they faced. It is a dramatic story, leavened with brilliant accounts of air-to-air fighting and of life in a squadron at sea and on a war footing. But it is also a tale of inter-Service rivalry, bureaucratic interference and the less-than-generous attitudes of a number of senior commanders who should certainly have known better; indeed, some of them might even have lost the campaign through a lack of understanding of air warfare— particularly if all their instructions had been followed to the letter and without question. The author puts the record straight. For those who would like to know more about the iconic history of the Harrier jump jet and the appalling decisions that led to the misguided withdrawal of this aircraft from British service, this book provides the answers: especially within the Epilogue. Admiral Sir ‘Sandy’ Woodward GBE KCB records his impressions of the book as follows: 'Maverick' he may have been, I know he enjoys the description, but if I were able to change anything in Sharkey's book, it would be to say that the short but complimentary quote of his captain, JJ Black, saying "he made a significant personal contribution to the defeat of the enemy" greatly understated Sharkey's contribution. And if I were to add anything in the way of general comment on Sea Harrier performance in 1982, it would be to say "Land forces usually claim that they are the only people who can win wars but without the Sea Harriers the land forces wouldn't have even have been given a chance to win the land battle in 1982". Book Cover Illustration: A pair of Sea Harriers over the Falklands, 1982. They were christened “The Black Death” (La Muerte Negra) by the Argentine media during the war.
Hillcrest Media Group, Inc.; October 1992
320 pages; ISBN 9781937860400
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