Friday, May 25, 2012

All out effort on Independence Day -- Falklands 1982

Stunning photo from the HMS Broadsword showing two A-4 Skyhawks on a low-level bomb run through flak attacking the ship on May 25th, 1982.
The Argentinian high command decided to cap off a week of raids against the ships in San Carlos waters with an all-out effort on May 25th, Argentina's Independence Day.

The raids were not as large as the first ones a few days earlier, but they were just as intense, and in the end just as deadly for the British fleet, with the destroyer HMS Coventry and the container ship-turned aircraft transport Atlantic Conveyor sunk and the frigate HMS Broadsword damaged.

Sadly for  the Argentine war effort, however, this level of effort was unsustainable. Three more jets were lost on May 25th, which, when added to the four lost the day before and two lost on May 23, left the Argentine land-based air arm well and truly decimated. There would only be a handful of raids for the rest of the war, as reflected in the loss rates. Only six more high-performance planes would be lost before the final surrender.

Explosions rip through the HMS Coventry after several bombs hit the ship on May 25th. The photo was taken from the HMS Broadsword.
Perhaps even worse for the Argentinians, the May 25th attack that took out the Atlantic Conveyor used up the last of their small stock of highly effective Exocet missiles. Despite strenuous efforts by the Argentinians to somehow find a few more of the air-launched versions of the missile from sources as diverse as Iraq, Libya ad Peru, British counter efforts helped all those efforts fall short. Given that the British were losing a ship for every 2-3 Exocet missiles expended, having a few more of them could have proven decisive.

The loss of the Atlantic Conveyor meat the loss of all but one of the task force's heavy lift CH-47 helicopters, which would soon be felt keenly.

With the Argentine Navy and Air Force largely neutralized, the war was about to move into its final and decisive phase as the British and Argentinian ground forces confronted each other. Despite all the high technology of guided missiles, high-performance aircraft and advanced warships, the war was about to be decided, as wars usually are, at the end of a bayonet wielded by riflemen.

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