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Sea Harrier over the Falklands

A Maverick at War

Author Sharkey Ward
Publisher Naval Institute Press
ISBN  #  1557507562
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Cover Notes

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, in clear and forthright detail, the naval pilots' journey to the South Atlantic, 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 - no one interested in the Falklands, or in aircraft and air combat as a


Rob Hoole rated this book Good
A book that describes in detail the Royal Navy's 'can do' ethos and inventiveness in meeting the air warfare challenges of the Falklands conflict but doesn't cringe from highlighting the systematic, individual and collective shortcomings of both sides which could so nearly have turned success into disaster. Highly recommended.

Iain Thorpe rated this book Good
This is an exciting read and a good book. Unusally for a memoir, the author does not shy away from the aspects of his own personality which are unpleasant. As well as driven, passionate and highly competent he comes across at times as self-important, insensitive to others, over-sensitive to slights and arrogant. This honesty is to the the author's credit. The story of his conflicts of others and attempts to fight the air war in the Falkalnds as he thought best gives the book much of its narrative drive. It also means that the book contains forthright criticisms of the actions of others. I have seen this book and its author criticised for his arrogance and egotism. The objections usually appears to be that the author is acting dishonourably by critising others who were doing their best. These objections are misguided. If errors made in war lead to needless casualties then they must be examined after the event to stop them happeing again in future. I have not yet read any criticism of the author's views that convincingly sets out why he is wrong.

Sekhar rated this book Excellent
I just read this book after reading excerpts of it on the net.
I think it is an excellent book and give great insight into the way a naval squadron functions at war and the great difficulties that are in front of you when at war with limited equipment.

I happen to know many indian navy SHAR pilots and can fully understand the frustration and irritation that Sharkey shows at the Brass. The "attitude" that some people talk about is pretty much a pre-requisite for being a fighter pilot, supreme confidence is required to be successful up in the air. I have flown the SHAR Sim and I know how hard it is to fly low over the sea and how high the workload is in the plane just to fly it to a required point, leave alone searching the sea at low level and doing air combat. Most people who think that the fighter jocks are just a bunch of arrogant show off's, just dont know what they are talking about.

The point is (as someone up in the comments also makes it)When you go to war you have to make the best use of the available equipment and talk to the guys in charge of the equipment for the knowledge. The RN admirals did a great disservice to the nation and to all the people who died needlessly.

All in all a great book and should be required reading for everyone who aspires to command anything in the RN or any Navy.

A Crawley rated this book Excellent
A fantastic account of the war, a must read for any military history buff.

Andrew Rawlinson rated this book Excellent
I read the book on it's first publication in the UK and this essential reading for any students of Joint Warfare or dis-jointed, as some of the narrative illustrates! Cracking read.

Rene rated this book Excellent
Great book. After reading 'Vulcan 807' I read this one about the falkland conflict. Wonder how light blue men review the book! ....and what is the adress of the sharkey fanclub?

Simon Mallett rated this book Excellent
I'm halfway through and agree it is one of the best books on the subject of the Falklands war. Sharky, Arrogant? Not at all. I am reading about somebody who is totally dedicated to his mission and his men and who is telling it like it is. It must have been fantastic to serve under and with Sharky and I am sure that somewhere on his report there are the words "Doesn't Suffer Fools Gladly". I know my wife, ex FCO has that on her personnel file, I hope I have it on mine!
There is plenty of arrogance described in Sharky Ward's book, but that is the arrogance of those who clearly didn't know what they were talking about and were too arrogant to listen to the acknowledged expert.

Richard rated this book Excellent
Although a little heavy going at the outstart this is brilliant account of the Falklands air conflict and shows that not all the conflict was in the air. I should think that this book ruffled more than a few feathers when it came out and rightly so but it is also worth reading 'Hostile Skies' by David Morgan RAF which covers the same conflict from the RAF Harrier pilots point of view. Both books are exceptional reading.

Mark Philpott rated this book Excellent
What more can I add? Is there a Sharkey fan club? I've read it so many times my wife is seeking to destroy it.

Peter Pellatt rated this book Excellent
An absolutely splendid account, "un-putdownable" indeed. I've read lots about the Falklands and this is easily the best. Arrogant and egotistical he may be but I suspect they are the vital ingredients that go to make up a supreme fighter pilot and war leader. I'd give my eye teeth for an evening down the pub with Sharkey to hear his account of his career first hadn !

James Roberts rated this book Excellent
Fantastic! After reading every book written on the Falklands War it tells of the differences of opinion within the task force. I know that even now Commander Ward is still spoken about as a legend aviator within the Royal Navy. It is a shame that they pulled the Sea Harrier from service. I have two copies of this book, one for me to read and the other for when the first wears out!

Robert Cronk rated this book Excellent
I have re-read Sharkey's book several times over the years, and have also read several other accounts of the Falklands conflict from various other viewpoints. Sharkey's book is both the the most entertaining and the most insightful; as a flying sailor myself (in a leisure context only!) it has a special interest to me. I find it amazing that the military command structure at the time did not appear to appreciate the SHAR's capabilities or the importance of using it effectively; the accounts from other perspectives certainly appear to confirm Sharkey's comments on the lack of understanding of its capabilities (as proven in action).

It is interesting to realise that the RN in the 1930's and early 40's did not understand the importance of effective fleet-based air superiority - leading to the loss of Prince of Wales and Repulse, amongst others - before the point was properly understood. The lesson was well learnt into the '70s but seems to have been forgotten with the retirement of the previous generation of large carriers and fast jets, a while before the SHAR and the Invincible class of carrier was fully up to speed.

Chris Leary rated this book Excellent
Loved this book, superb insight into rivalries at local and inter-service levels within the armed forces in general and Navy / Air Force in particular. Written in an entertaining manner whilst retaining the dry, gritty personality of a man at war with serious business to attend to. There's stuff in here I've not seen written anywhere else. So I'm about to use this account as the centre-piece for an MSc assignment on leadership behaviours, it's that illustrative!

Richard Lewis rated this book Excellent
Just finished reading it, very good book. I think a couple of the people saying the book was poor and accusing the authors ego of spoiling it are misreading his intentions.

I got the feeling that his misgivings about 800 squadron weren't due to anything personal or his wish to make out his own superiority. It seemed that he just really believed in the Sea Harrier and its capability and also the importance of the Fleet Air Arm. And that the mistrust of the SHAR's systems by 800 squadron wasn't doing the service any good in the face of pressure from the RAF.

Also read Vulcan 607, which is very interesting but certainly put into perspective by this book.

Ben Hollinsworth rated this book Excellent
It seems that every problem that I've come across in the workplace exists because somebody with a lack of focus on critical matters or who lacks training is screwing things up. I buy into Sharkey's version of events because of his obvious focus on the job at hand and furthermore, because he never stops showing that he is professional through and through by supporting his arguments and opinions with cold hard facts and experience.

There's no shortage of evidence to prove just how evil the human mind can be. If you hold the likes of Hitler and Stalin at the extreme, you start to realise how comparably minor, unjust and selfish acts can easily slip under the net.

Increasingly, we believe whatever reaches us first - often television and tabloids. I love the reality check this book gives. The story is fantastic and the insight is priceless.

Bob Hoyle rated this book Excellent
I re-read this book probably every 2 years. Granted I have not read any other books about the Falklands war so I am only getting a single-sided viewpoint but - although I am from a different division of a different branch of a different service in a different country - the inter/intra-service rivalry rings too true (and unfortunately too familiar) to have been fabricated.

If the admiral had the brains of a potato (or more) then when he got such vastly differing opinions on the capabilities of SHAR from his 2 commanders he should have told them to "put up or shut up"; in other words one of you is right - so prove it. I mean if you disbelieve that a SHAR can detect a small aircraft over water 20 miles away and Sharkey claims it can, then run a test. It simple to prove - tell 800 to bring a SHAR in low down and tell 801 to intercept it. It takes 60 minutes and now you know the truth. Once thats done, start using whoever was telling the truth to design your Air Power plan.

And the statement that 800 was running drills on 801 while 801 was in CAP - incredible, especially in view of the fact that this BS probably led to the loss of Sheffield.

While from a USAF background I feel that the RN should not have retired SHAR until F-35 was operational (if then), especially in light of AMRAAM and modern radar capability.

RAF can not defend a fleet and missiles are inadequate. We had a looney in charge over here in the form of Robert MacNamara and it took us 20 years to pull back from the disaster he inflicted - and retiring SHAR is exactly the stunt he would have pulled.

Ashton Ward rated this book Excellent
Sharkey is my Dad, and yes he is an arrogant bastard sometimes, but he had the right to be, because he proved that he and his team were regarded as the worlds best fighter pilots! His life prior to 1982 was completely focused on delivering the best possible aircraft and team of pilots. At that time, the results speak for themselves. His team were the best in the business. My brother is now a front line Harrier pilot - he and his colleagues do a great job, and they all share extremely rare qualities of duty, purpose, focus, determination and absolute comitment to getting the job done. I can understand why a reviewer of his book commented on the 'arrogance and biterness' of Sharkey. However they should understand where it comes from - Sharkey knew his men and his business better than anyone. Look at life's superstars in sport or the world of business.....supreme achivement often comes from supreme confidence in one's own ability. Sharkey had 'the right stuff'
In 82 he was at war with the enemy and his own side - at the same time he was losing men and working in one of the most intensely stressful environments imaginable with a small handful of jets on a tiny ship in the South Atlantic. Did he deliver? - yes.

Since the war he has developed a great relationship with Sir Sandy Woodward, and yet he still would not change a thing in his book. Perhaps writing the book was his 'release' of his anger and frustration.

I work in the world of executive recruitment. I introduce interim managers who turn around businesses. 90% of the issues in business result from a break down in internal communication, except people don't die as a result. It is clear to me that if Dad and Sir Sandy been on the same ship, they could have perhaps saved more lives, but there will always be the 'what if's' in life. Communication was the key - the CEO at the top did not have the right channels of communication with the right expert on the shop floor.

Sharkey is a good man - a generous and selfless sole. Those who know the real Nigel Ward, understand his complete comitment to getting the job done in every walk of life. He is a superstar and so were all the people involved in the Falklands. Well done Dad - good book and you told it exactly as it happened. That is what makes this quite a special account of the Falklands War.

Tim Parrott rated this book Excellent
The book provides a clear and accurate description of the way things were in 1982. It does miss out on some of the critical shortages of basic equipment and the innovation that went into getting the aircraft fit to fly. Not all the aircraft had radars, pre-production and bench test equipment was utilised. The airframes leaked and the salt water ingress affected the electronics, badly corroding magnesium alloy connectors. Aircraft availabilty was high but with very little margin for losses. The author is correct in describing how some of the suggestions for aircraft tasking was received from the command with incredulity and common sense in preventing losses was taken as a reluctance to fly the missions. He is right to criticise. Compare this narrative to second world war ones and you will see that the same lessons are learnt in every conflict. Read it and form your own opinion, but learn from it as well.

Steve Piercy rated this book Excellent
I served under Sharkey Ward in 1982 and he has given a totally accurate account of what we all did down there. I was on deck as a Bombhead (weapons) in all weathers & this book pays tribute to the task force and the fallen.
If you get a chance visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton & see the FRS MK1 Sea Harrier! John Richards Shame on you.

Philip Deller rated this book Excellent
This book is written from a background of an Officer in the Royal Navy, who has come through all the events affecting the the Fleet Air Arm through the 60, 70,s and early 80,s. And subseqently his fears about this branch of the service which has gone on to be diluted of its strength in the 90's and 2000's, AS predicted by him.
This is a straight nononsene approach to what happened in the South Atlantic and how the Fleet Air Arm fighter squardons performed with the Sea Harrier. It is from a prespective of a person who has intermate knowledge of Air Warfare and one who has had, hard one pratice and experiance. This is a lone voice from the South Atlantic conflict from a man who kept his own integrity and viewpoint. And long may he do so.
An excellent book from a brillent Naval Officer.

John Fiedor rated this book Excellent
A great account of the overlooked Sea Harrier. Exciting and informative, giving a critical account of the performance of the Royal Navy in 1982 Falklands conflict from somebody who knows better than anybody.
"Kicking the tyres and lighting the fires." Fantastic.

David Geaves rated this book Excellent
A book that sits at the top along with other aviation classics. As a former RAF Weapons Controller who served in the Falklands twice and served 7 years on the AWACS I understand his frustration with some of his peers. Sharkey Ward was a supremely professional fighter pilot. He knew better than anyone else how to fly and fight in the Sea Harrier and what tactics to employ, unfortunately some of his peers did not value his knowledge or opinion. I understand his bitterness but there are very many people who don't like those who rock the boat, and if they are above you in rank they won't give you the time of day; no wonder he left. Well done Sharkey and the Sea Harrier pilots.

David Chalmers rated this book Poor
This book gives a gripping insight of one individuals part in a complex war. It's a shame it is so badly coloured by the authors ego, which seems to have little regard to others around him.

Leadership: yes. But it should be tempered by humility and respect for others who were doing their best.

jan vlaanderen (holland) rated this book Excellent
A fascinating story of courage, skill and sacrifice. It nevertheless leaves an bitter aftertaste! The real hero, who willingly puts his life on the line, is put quietly aside for the glory of the 'politically correct' deskjockeys. Unfortunately a situation that occurs so often!

Rhys Morgan rated this book Excellent
I can only echo the majority of comments here and suggest that John Richards reads "Lions, Donkeys & Dinosaurs" by Lewis Page, well as Vulcan 607 to get a full picture of real life in the forces. The MOD has a lot to answer for..

Mark "Rabbit" Lim rated this book Excellent
The Sea Harrier is my favorite Royal Navy aircraft! My personal U.S.Navy favorite is the F-8 Crusader. In 2003 my friend, Neil Oldham(former RAF), loaned me the book to read. I found it exciting to the very end! I wanted to purchase a copy. Unfortunatly, every local bookstore in Chicago claims that the book is out of print! Purchasing a used copy proved fruitless! Will they ever reprint the book? Sharkey's accounts are quite excellent! It provides excellent insight on what a Sea Harrier could do in combat against a "Blowtorch"(aircraft with afterburner)! A perfect collection for the naval aviation or Falklands enthusiasts! Thanks Neil for letting me read this book and my hats off to you Sharkey!

Martin Griffin rated this book Excellent
I lived throught the Falklands War as a kid and later served in the Falklands 17 years after the event. I found this account to be well written and much of his bitterness is well founded. The MOD were very shortsighted. Look at the standard of kit of all services then(putties anyone?). Despite his personal beliefs it gives the reader a first hand account of how the war was won from the air with such scant resources. Would the Argentines have attacked if we have proper A/C carriers and not through deck cruisers? and I'm ex-RAF.
Read "No escape Zone" By Nick Richardson for a 801 squadron sequel.

Andrew Lyons rated this book Excellent
Anybody who has worked in a monolthic organisation (I work for the NHS)can recognize the problems encountered by the author in the Royal Navy.The outstanding contribution of mavericks in air warfare is well recognized (e.g. Douglas Bader), and has been well fabled by Len Dieghton in "Bomber". It is said that the side that makes the least mistakes wins and this is why the Falklands War was one. Many errors were made and like all errors some were avoidable.
Everyone is enitled to an opinion, but I disgaree with John Richard's views because the facts speak differently. Argentine records suggest that tactics used by 801 were much more effective than those employed by the SHARs from Hermes. It has been acknowledged that the loss of Sheffield was negligent but that in the aftermath of the war the facts were swept under the carpet so as not to dent the post war victory euphioria, and the vast increase in prestige gained by the Royal Navy.
In Vulcan 607 the shambolic contribution made by the "Dads Army" of the RAF in their ageing Vulcan illustrated clearly why the RAF played a very poor second fiddle to the Fleet Air Arm in the Falklands Air War, although I would not denigrate the outstanding contribution of RAF Harrier pilots one of whom was shot down and lost his life.
Probably the best air war book I have read and certainly up there with First Flight.

Laurie Stewart rated this book Excellent
This book is above excellent (my fourth reading at the moment)& the man in my opinion is just outstanding.
If the Harrier operations had been lost so would the Falklands. Man after my own heart speak your mind & follow your instincts, absolute logic & experience what ever the re-percussions from others who are supposedly superior & in charge.
This book gives us the tale of a man dedicated to his career in which he uses this dedication in a short period of his life & without fear (with bravery) of his superiors to support his theories his pilots & his country.
A true Englishman.
Laurie Stewart.
On your bic John Richards. Any person who rates this book as other than magnificent must be a goon or madly jealous.

John H Olsen rated this book Excellent
I my humble opinion Sharkey Wards points are made very clear in that searching for his no. 801 squadron on the Internet, very little info is available.
I have read the book 3-4 times over the years and I rate it to be excellent still.

Nathan Lucy rated this book Excellent
A fantastic book. This was a gripping and honest account of one man and his squadrons achievements against not only the enemy but against the ever increasing levels of bureacracy and the failure to listen to his real experience by his superiors. You are kept totally captivated throughout the book from the first page to the "Fleet Air Arm Toast".
A refreshing experience to read the account of someone who is not afraid to tell it how it is as opposed to telling them what they want to hear. I felt honoured to read it.
If you have any knowledge or interest of the sea harrier world or the falklands this book is an absolute must.

Frank Wouts rated this book Excellent
I totally disagree with John Richards.
Sharkey's story is one word excellent. When his proposals and advices should have been followed by his arrogant and incapable superiors from the flagship Hermes, less casualties would have taken place. When the flag would have trusted to rely on the CAP stations, provided by the SHAR's, HMS Sheffield would not have been hit by an Excocet. What's even worse, is the cover up of Sharkey's report of the event. Perhaps mister John Richards was serving on Hermes at the time? Sharkey may be stubborn and sometimes have a big mouth, but he sure is the man they should have listened to at the time. More so, they should have give him the opportunity to rewrite his report, that was altered along the way up. That would have contributed a lot more to the nations defence than a cover up for the sake of the carreer of individuals.

Ken Summers rated this book Excellent
Well written account of the Falklands Airwar wriiten by a true warrior. Sharkey Ward is controversial, (Chopping down a fleeing Herk with 30mm after winging it with a 'winder), confrontational, (facing off his superiors over tactics) and not inclined to make friends in the ministries, (His accounts of inter-service rivalries must make bitter reading for anyone who lost kin down there)but is never boring and although finally "eased out" of the FAA he and his happy band of brothers together with their beloved Seajet have added fresh and perhaps final laurals to that force.
If you liked this book read "Chickenhawk"(Huey slicks) or "First Flight"(Spitfires)

James Thackray rated this book Excellent
An amaising insite into life of a pilot in the war

Robert Stanley rated this book Excellent
A superb book... easily the best to come out of the Falklands War.With the authority that can only come from someone who was not only "there", but was indeed the Royal Navy's "Mr Sea Harrier", it provides a wonderful insight on the activities of the Seajet and the men who flew it.  Ward's unique perspective (a "maverick" indeed) makes the reader ask himself what the points of view of others were too (Admiral Woodward ?  the pilots of 800 Squadron ?), and indeed almost encourages it - a sign of supreme confidence on Ward's part in the accuracy of his account.
Above all, the book is exciting... historical battle narrative can easily be dry, but this is simply un-putdownable.
An essential purchase for anyone interested in the Falklands, in modern air combat - or just wanting a good read.

Kris Green rated this book Excellent
This book provides an exelent view of the internal war bieng fought by the fleet air arm during this conflict, and from a naval point of view extremly accurate withought bieng boring

John Roberts rated this book Excellent
Brilliant and forthright. It should be read by every Goverment minister before they decide to 'retire' the Harrier from service.

John Richards rated this book Poor
This book is a badly written account of the the Falklands Conflict by an author who is clearly bitter and resentful. The reason for this anger is unclear as the author is a skilled aviator with a lot to offer and an important story to tell. The author insistence on stating his own superiority and importance over and above all others and his own levels of influence is more symptomatic of a a need to be seen as the best or even maybe a crisis of confidence. A book written by someone who clearly feels he has not recieved the appropriate amount of respect for his ability. Not the best account of the conflict, aerial warfare or naval operations.

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