Falklands 40

Salty-Dog

War Hero
Interesting article from the Telegraph...
The full story of the Falklands war Exocets deserves to be told
It would be good if accolades could be given to the scientists who worked to outwit the enemy and counteract our own lack of preparedness

CHARLES MOORE
3 May 2022 • 6:00am
Charles Moore
Forty years ago tomorrow, HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile in the South Atlantic. Twenty men died. She was the first Royal Navy ship lost since 1945. These were the first British losses in the Falklands war, coming hard on the heels of the sinking of the Argentine cruiser, the Belgrano. I was working in this paper’s offices when the news came through. I remember the shock, and the utter seriousness: emotions rare in a newsroom.

The French-made Exocets were Argentina’s deadliest weapon. Fired from Super Étendard strike fighters, they would drop to the lowest possible level and skim the sea to avoid detection. It was within their power to cripple the British Task Force before it had reached the Falklands.

Sadly, official secrecy has so far prevented the story of Britain’s response to the Exocet threat being told in full, though bits have come out. I have seen no more official documentation than anyone else, but there is clearly a good tale here. A couple of elements of the story
One is British work with Chile. Margaret Thatcher, prime minister at the time, was much criticised for her lifelong loyalty to General Augusto Pinochet, the country’s dictator. But there was reason for it: through MI6 and others, Britain established a high level of trust with the Pinochet regime, which was hostile to Argentina. Chile possessed Exocets from the same stable as those sold to Argentina. It handed us the secrets about them that it found.

We also obtained information about Argentina’s desperate attempts to buy more of the missiles. This allowed us to block the trade.

Another aspect was our own expert work on the Exocets. Before hostilities, Britain, too, possessed some. Given President Francois Mitterrand’s declared support for Britain in the conflict, the British authorities asked the French about devices, colloquially known as “kill switches”, customarily inserted in the missiles’ seeker-heads. These are placed by manufacturers so that if the weapons, once sold, are ever used against the seller, they can be disabled. The French indicated that they did not include kill switches in their sales lest their presence deter
At least one official, however, doubted the French account and wanted to inspect the seeker-heads of the British Exocets. Because normal defence contracts with foreign powers forbid such investigations, approval had to be sought from No 10.

It was, I understand, forthcoming. A seeker-head was taken apart. The official’s anxieties were confirmed. From what was found, it was possible to work out electronic counter measures (ECMs) that could re-programme the missile as it approached its target. (In one case, ECMs worked to tragic effect. The measures successfully distracted an Exocet attacking HMS Ambuscade, but this meant that it flew on beyond the target and locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor which, being a merchant navy ship, lacked protection. She was hit, with 12 men killed and the helicopters intended to carry troops across the islands destroyed.)

In addition, experts at the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment (ASWE) worked out how to put up “chaff” to confuse the missile, including a decoy in the shape of a perfect “box” that could fool the Exocet that it, and not a British ship, was the right target. This was attached to the helicopters. One of the helicopter pilots volunteering was the nowadays much-derided Prince Andrew. The Sheffield had carried no active decoys. This lack was remedied for other
As a result of the ASWE’s work, the Task Force gained much greater security than before. It also benefited from key information about how to face an imminent Exocet attack. In the few minutes’ notice before the missile hit, it was necessary to “roll” the ship so that it did not present itself broadside. In the case of HMS Glamorgan, hit by the only land-based Exocet fired, quick thinking by the navigator to execute such a roll prevented the destruction of the entire ship. Fourteen men died, which was bad enough, but a small proportion of the total crew of over 300.

The courage of sailors, soldiers and airmen in the Falklands is rightly celebrated. But it would be good if comparable accolades could be given to the ingenious scientists who worked so resourcefully to outwit the enemy and counteract our own lack of preparedness.
 

Perry

Lantern Swinger
As well as the scientists perhaps a recognition and BZ to the dockyard mateys who worked around the clock to get ships ready to sail and “lost” some of the red tape required to get jobs completed.
 

BusterQuin

War Hero
Book Reviewer
As well as the scientists perhaps a recognition and BZ to the dockyard mateys who worked around the clock to get ships ready to sail and “lost” some of the red tape required to get jobs completed.
A lot of whom knew they were being made redundant within a year
Praise must also go to the shipyard workers at Swan Hunter who enabled HMS Illustrious to be completed over a year ahead of schedule and relieve HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible in the South Atlantic 10 weeks after sailing down the Tyne
 

dapperdunn

War Hero
Book Reviewer
Approaching the 40th anniversary of the loss of the Ardent, here's an excellent podcast with Dan Snow interviewing Admiral Lord West, Captain of Ardent at the time.
 

Tigga

Newbie
I can’t believe that 40 years have passed….I have been invited by the Tamworth RBL Chairperson to talk about my experiences together with another Falklands veteran at a church service dedicated to all involved. My “war was over on the 12th June…my “battles” continue
 

dapperdunn

War Hero
Book Reviewer
I can’t believe that 40 years have passed….I have been invited by the Tamworth RBL Chairperson to talk about my experiences together with another Falklands veteran at a church service dedicated to all involved. My “war was over on the 12th June…my “battles” continue
What were you and what were you on buddy?
 

Latest Threads

New Posts

Top