Argentinians plot to raid Falklands and plant THEIR flag on British soil
The nighttime operation would see 14 Argentinian commandos and an official photographer use two US-made Bell Huey ll helicopters to fly low to a remote part of the British territory.
Images of the Argentine flag planted on British soil would then be published in the days leading to crucial mid-term elections in the country in a move aimed at embarrassing Britain and humiliating their own government.
President Mauricio Macri has been informed of the plot, planned for September
The British Foreign Office has also been told and sources have confirmed that an RAF Chinook has been placed on permanent standby, ready to carry troops to the point of any incursion.
“President Macri was horrified, and has ordered an investigation,” a close source said last night.
The president has faced mounting criticism by nationalists over his decision to tone down the anti-British stance espoused by his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
She is hoping to revive her political career by running for Congress in October.
In 2016 a meeting with Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan led to a new accord between Argentina and Britain in which both nations agreed to develop “mutual areas of interest”.
But opposition groups criticised him for agreeing to boycott any mention of sovereignty of the Falklands.
The raid was sanctioned by at least one general in Argentina’s Comando de Aviación Ejército – the equivalent of Britain’s Army Air Corps – and was revealed to US helicopter contractors by a senior officer opposed to the plot.
This was then passed on to US and British diplomats.
A provisional operational order details the number of Bell helicopters and commandos to be used, the use of electronic counter-measures in case of detection and the grid co-ordinates of the destination as well as the names of the commanding officer and photographer.
“Intelligence information points to an incursion at night in a remote mountainous area involving a small force which would then be withdrawn by small fast boats,” said the Whitehall source.
“Clearly, the propaganda value of landing a handful of troops, if only for a brief time, and raising the Argentine flag cannot be under-estimated.”
In 2015 defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced a £280million boost to British military assets on the islands in response to rising tensions.
Key defence assets include four Typhoon fighter jets and a Rapier air defence missile system to protect the islands against Argentine jets and helicopters.
The Rapier’s radar can pick up targets at a range of 10 miles. However, the system is primarily intended to prevent a repeat of the 1982 military invasion.
It is believed the planners behind the raid hope to avoid detection by flying low and targeting a remote location.
Ministry of Defence chiefs were warned to expect a similar stunt following the 2013 referendum in which almost 100 per cent of the island inhabitants voted to remain British subjects.
In 2015 the Sunday Express revealed how 20 members of the Special Boat Service made undetected landings on West Falkland during a test of defences.
Last night experts said the plans typified the mood of Argentine nationalists concerned by President Macri’s rapprochement with Britain.
“We’ve seen aerial and maritime incursions of this type over many decades,” said Dr Alasdair Pinkerton, of Royal Holloway University of London.
They include an incident when Miguel Fitzgerald landed a private plane on Stanley racecourse and planted an Argentinian flag.
“Macri’s presidency has seen a welcome softening of the anti-British rhetoric employed by his predecessor,” he said.
“That there may be plans to embarrass him before crucial elections in October should come as no surprise.”
Celia Szusterman, of the Institute for Statecraft, added: “Macri is facing tough problems domestically, mainly due to the economic mess he inherited after 10 years of reckless rule by the Kirchner family.”