I decided to do a tricky one this week, the Falklands War. Why is it so tricky? Well on one hand you have a lot of misinformation kicking around the net as some individuals seem to have a vested interest in lying about the war.
|Argentinian paper claims, I love how HMS Invincible is doing 28 knots forward while the smoke is blowing to starboard, no one is tackling the blaze and Harrier operations are continuing as normal... For a more detailed view on the claims see this video.|
Equally a book a I picked up to help with it by Max Hastings was written only a couple of years after the event, so some of the information may well have been proven wrong, but on the flip side he had a full range of veterans to interview.
The war had quite a lot going on in it, so I'll be focusing on a few of the more interesting events based around the air to sea aspects.
|The classic Newsweek cover... I had to get it in somehow.|
At the time the Royal Navy was armed with the Sea Dart missile, designed to shoot down high altitude Russian bombers attacking the fleet, so you'd think that a 707 would be an easy target. However the 707’s were flying right at the edge of the envelope of engagement of Sea Dart. When the missiles were launched, by the time they reached the 707 the target would be outside of range. If however the 707 had altered its course slightly the missile could have struck. So two Sea Darts were fired from HMS Cardiff. Luckily for the Argentinian crew they kept their course and the missiles missed.
The missiles missed the Hercules, and one exploded near the Skyhawks. The crew of HMS Coventry thought they'd had no effect, but suddenly both Skyhawks disappeared from radar. Max Hastings thinks that both pilots ejected. However the Argentinians claim that both crashed in bad weather... at the same time, coincidently seconds after someone had shot at them and missed. HMS Coventry rounded off the night by shooting down a Puma a little while later with another Sea Dart, which became the Royal Navy's first missile kill.
The weeks that followed are a complicated mixture of events, mistakes, casualties and unhappiness for both sides. But they have been studied in depth by lots of other authors. The net result was another nineteen Sea Darts were fired for two further kills.
Now we come to May the 30th, and here the misinformation ascends to the highest levels, and it all revolves around HMS Invincible and the Argentinians decision to sink her.
On that day the Argentinian Navy and badly wounded Air Force decided to launch one last attack against the British fleet. The Air Force had suffered heavy losses during the intervening weeks in men and planes, but they had made it through to hit their targets. Four Skyhawks, code named Zonda, would join a pair of Super Étendards from the Navy, one of which was carrying an Exocet missile.
After refuelling from a C-130 the flight approached the task force, and began their attack, with the Étendard launching the Exocet, and the four Skyhawks were to follow the missile in.
One officer in the ops room of HMS Glamorgan said that as this happened his heart rate began to rise, until they spotted the incoming missile, and as it neared the fleet his heart felt like it was going to burst through his chest as it was hammering away. For people away from the ops room the fear lasted only a few seconds, One crewman said they got the Red Air Warning, and about 45 seconds later it was all over. In that time he had lain down and heard the cry of "BRACE! BRACE! BRACE!”.
However during that 45 seconds HMS Exeter had fired two Sea Darts, with more modern missiles and radar she was able to lock on and fire about fifteen seconds earlier than other Type 42's with the fleet.
Initially a confused warning had been issued, giving the wrong bearing for the attack, and one of the ships (HMS Avenger) had launched chaff and turned to present the smallest possible cross section to the incoming attack. However she now found herself heading directly towards the incoming strike.
The Sea Darts from HMS Exeter shot down one of the Sky Hawks as they barrelled in, that just left the three Skyhawks and the Exocet, and HMS Avenger was directly in their path. HMS Avenger had had a modification over the normal type 21 Frigate. Her divers had recovered a 20mm cannon from HMS Antelope, which had been sunk earlier in the campaign, and it had been mounted on the ship. The gun carried the nickname "Antelopes Avenger". They also had Captain Hugo White, who was a gunnery expert. Some sources claim he personally calculated the range and bearing to fire their 4.5" gun, and managed to hit the incoming Exocet.
There was one other attack on the fleet that day. A bomb rolled out the back of a C-130, hit but did no damage to a tanker called British Wye.
USS Missouri fired chaff, the USS Jarrett immediately locked onto the cloud of metallic strips in its close defence stance and opened fire at the chaff... The rounds passed through the cloud of chaff and hit the USS Missouri causing no damage or casualties. Meanwhile HMS Gloucester locked on with her Sea Darts and shot the incoming missile down, becoming the first naval missile to missile kill in history.
But by the early 2000's Sea Dart was nearing the end of its life. Due to certain money saving choices made by the, then Labour, government Sea Dart maintenance was halted, leaving the Royal Navy with just four ships that could fire SAM's, and those were all Sea Wolf. Luckily no major airborne threat developed during the period, and many years later the Type 45's arrived.
This final video is of a Sea Dart engagement sequence, with a bit of a twist.
www.shipspotting.com and navynews.co.uk