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British MoD:No Altercation With Argentine Corvette

February 26, 2010

ARA Granville-an Argentine Drummond class corvette, of 3 vessels purchased from France. Author Martin Otero via Wikimedia Commons

Despite stories to the contrary, the British Government says there was no truth to the tale that the Royal Navy destroyer HMS York had an angry run-in with the Argentine Navy. Here from the Ministry of Defence Website:

The Sun has reported that ‘the Navy has intercepted an Argentine warship in our waters in the first head-to-head of the Falklands row’. The article says that HMS York spotted the vessel up to ten miles (16km) inside the disputed ‘oil zone’ around the South Atlantic islands and radioed her to change course.

This is factually incorrect. We can confirm that on 28 January 2010, during rough weather and at night, HMS York and an Argentine ship were operating in the same locality in international waters around 50 miles (80km) from Falkland Islands territorial waters. After a friendly dialogue by radio, they each continued with their own exercises.

Apparently, in mid-January, HMS York did “intercept” the corvette, but this was before the present crisis of words, and on much more friendly terms. From Royal Navy news we read:

In mid-January York conducted an exercise with a French Naval task group consisting of the French Warships FS Jeanne D’ Arc and FS Courbet.  York then ventured into international waters to exchange pleasantries with an Argentine Warship, the FFG Drummond, who was in transit during heavy seas. 

See? One Big Happy Ocean, so far. Thanks to James Daly for pointing out the last link!

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Anthony permalink
    October 15, 2010 3:01 pm

    Chuck hill I think you are incorrect about the overall capabilities of the British as having worsened compared to the Argentines.

    For starters we now have a small number of Eurofighters out there. Needless to say combined with the somewhat larger garrison the Argentines are already running into problems.

    So as they begin an invasion they are going to straight away start suffering casualties in an air war. The small detachment of marines last time completely embarrassed even the commandos the Argentinians used so with a much larger garrison they are going to have an even tougher time.

    Intelligence would have revealed that the situation was beginning to get a little tense and so it wouldn’t surprise me if 1 or 2 SSN’s were dispatched to the area as well.

    Unlike last time we now have Tomahawk on our subs and so numerous Argentinian airbases would be at risk of being damaged and thus disrupt the Argentine attack even more.

    Additionally, Sea slug was a major weakness in the fleet last time, you can bet that this time the Type 23 would be the main combatant and with Sea Wolf VLS system they would be far more capable of handling exocet etc. Coupled with the fact that the Type 45’s we do have would be quickly fitted out with CIWS’s and that they are now capable of using Sea Vyper the Argentinians would be in serious trouble from the get go.

    OH we have a far more capable amphibious group now, and we could get 2 Invincible class to support an assault if the island was taken.

    I’m sorry but I just think that the Argentinians would have some serious problems if we deployed a major battle group against them.

  2. March 7, 2010 11:28 am

    We have just posted a couple of articles on the issue including one that looks at how this might play out with ISAF contributing nations

    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/03/the-falklands-and-isaf/
    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/02/looking-south-%e2%80%93-an-alternative-slant/
    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/03/the-falklands-and-our-allies/

    Those in the White House and State Department are seriously underestimating the impact of Hilary’s performance down south

  3. March 1, 2010 3:13 pm

    Jed said “x – it was, I have been on a T42 that has shot 2 rounds at a surface target on the ranges, it worked fine.”

    Thanks Jed! I am not going daft(er) then….

    Jed also said “if modern warships are close enough to each other to be using 40mm anti-missile / anti-aircraft weapons against you, your probably dead in the water already !”

    This reminded me of the first time my father and I went to Navy Days together. We had a look at a Phalanx and he said that it would make a sieve out of any ship that got too close. I had to explain gently that wasn’t its function.

    But gentlemen I am still not convinced that if it comes to fisty cuffs it will be a rerun of ’82. I don’t see missiles flying everywhere. And I don’t see AAVs on the Stanley sea front either. As I have said we are heading for a Cod War scenario; major warships jostling around trying to interdict/protect the drilling operations.

    Imagine that drilling goes well and the Argentines ramp up the diplomatic noise. Imagine the escort going home at the end of her deployment (not enough escorts to be relieved on station.) Imagine HMS Clyde well down south on fisheries protection duties. Finally imagine the ARA turning up at the drilling rig with an escort or two plus ocean going tug, a boarding party, and some oil experts to arrest the rig. You are bright and imaginative bunch you can take it from there.

    I fear HMG are going have to tread careful. I think who ever fires the shot (gun not missile, and not even main guns or secondary battery any firearm) will loose a lot of diplomatic ground.

  4. Jed permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:14 am

    TangoSix – your right ref radar horizon. 4 x SM38’s from about 25nm – take 2 with Sea Dart, 1 with Phalanx, hope soft kill seduces the other ????

    x – it was, I have been on a T42 that has shot 2 rounds at a surface target on the ranges, it worked fine.

    :-)

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 28, 2010 6:35 pm

    I don’t think the Argentines have had a long term plan to retake the Falklands, otherwise it would seem that they would have addressed some of the obvious shortcomings of their previous effort. Specifically, apparently they still have only two KC-130s to provide aerial refueling and they have no AEW aircraft.

    When the war was fought, because the Argentines could not operate their higher performance aircraft from the one airport at Stanley, their supersonic fighters, which were not equipped for aerial refueling, only had about 5 minutes on target and could not use their afterburners or they would not have been able to make it back to base. The A-4s and Super Etandards could be refueled in the air, but because they only had two KC-130s, strikes were limited to four aircraft.

    Still the Argentines seem to be in better shape at least in some respects, while, except for the standing forces in theater and the prospect of aerial reinforcement, the British forces seem to have suffered a relative decline.

    The question of the practicality of an new Argentine attempt revolve around questions:

    1. Can they deny the Brits use of the airfield at Mount Pleasant long enough to permit invasion and prevent reinforcement from arriving by air?

    2. Having seized the islands, can they use the airfield themselves and make it too dangerous for the British Fleet to approach the Islands? A significant related question is would the Argentines be able to use their surface fleet in view of the likely deployment of British SSNs?

    There are a number of changes, since the 1982 campaign, which have been reported:

    The Argentine Air Force has fewer airplanes than it did in 1982, but there has been some improvement in quality. The A-4 model they are now using is equipped with a variant of the F-16’s radar that can be used for both air to air and ground attack. They are also equipped with a radar warning receiver, jammer, and chaff, which they did not have then. The radar should allow them to maintain a better picture of the situation in the air.

    Reportedly Argentina obtained the French AS30 air to surface missile from Peru just as the 1982 conflict was ending. They now have more Super Etandards and presumably they now have ten air launched Exocets instead of only five.

    Argentines are now using the same advanced AIM-9s that gave the Brits the advantage of being able to attack from any quadrant, not just from the rear, in 1982.

    Their ability to search for British surface ships and submarines has been improved by replacing P-2V Neptunes with P-3B Orions. The addition of 2 Beech BE200s, a radar equipped version of the King Air, also improves their surface search capability.

    Questions that might be significant:

    Have the Argentine Mirages and Daggers been fitted for aerial refueling?

    Are the A-4ARs more fuel efficient than the model they replaced? Sufficiently more efficient to obviate the need to refuel en route? This might allow more massed attacks.

    Would the Argentine P-3s be able to at least localize a British SSN? How many SSNs are or will be in the area? Where would they position them? Would they operate in support of British surface Assets? Wait outside Argentine ports to track their surface vessels? Track Argentine SSKs? There are certainly more potential uses than there will be SSNs available.

    Could the Argentines put special forces ashore by SSK equipped with MANPADs to take out the Typhoons and perhaps more importantly the tanker aircraft?

    Have the Argentines developed ComInt sufficiently to know when RAF patrols are taking off, tanking, or landing?

    Have they developed a GPS guidance for any of their missiles that might be used to crater the runway?

    If Argentine surface ships can get in position Mount Pleasant is within gun range of navigable water. Can they get there with getting sunk first?

  6. February 28, 2010 4:57 pm

    I thought Sea Dart was tested in a limited anti-ship role from the get-go?

    In ’82 didn’t one of the Counties use a SeaSlug or two against some target or other shore side?

  7. February 28, 2010 3:30 pm

    Hello Jed,

    there is no doubt that a Sea Dart would make a mess of a corvette given the chance but it has a specific limitation which might prevent it from doing so.
    Sea Dart is semi active and hence depends on it’s illuminators to paint the target for it.
    But these are on the hangar and bridge roof,significantly lower than the radar mast.
    Being lower down,they have a more limited horizon than the radar.
    If Drummond and York were to come into eachother’s radar horizon,Drummond would be able to launch all four of her active guided exocets.
    York however would be unable to illuminate Drummond for Sea Dart to home in on until she got closer (except for her radar mast of course!).

    On the other hand,if York did manage a combination of soft and hard kills against a surprise attack by four exocets,Drummond would be too slow to run away and all out of heavy weapons whilst her gun would be outranged by both Sea Dart and the Mark 8.
    The question is,could York react quicly enough to such an unexpected attack?

    tangosix.

  8. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 28, 2010 2:37 pm

    No guarantees at this point that it will be one on one or any kind of “fair fight.”

  9. Jed permalink
    February 28, 2010 2:05 pm

    On Type 42’s from someone who has sailed into harms way on them:

    Mike – they are certainly not ‘large, high end ships’ they are small compared to, for example your Burke Class Flight I, which are probably the closest match. Sea Dart is obsolete, but having said that it has been updated and would probably be able to take down the Exocets of the Argentine fleet, as long as its not swamped by a mass of targets. Soft defences are pretty good, with off-board active jamming, inflatable radar decoys and chaff.

    TangoSix – don’t under-estimate Sea Dart in the anti-ship role – although it has a ballistic flight profile, and as you note a small warhead, it is highly supersonic, so the kinetic energy of the impact is going to translate to a lot of damage on a vessel the size of a Meko Corvette.

    For those who commented that the Argentine ships are better equipped with guns – so what ? The RN 114mm / 4.5 inch is far longer ranged than the 100mm of the corvette, but the Almirante Brown class DDG’s have the superior Oto-Melara 127mm / 5 inch. However targeting is a big deal, and I wonder if the Argentine helicopter crews are as well practiced in directing naval gunfires as our Lynx crews. As for 40mm guns – if modern warships are close enough to each other to be using 40mm anti-missile / anti-aircraft weapons against you, your probably dead in the water already !

  10. James Daly permalink
    February 28, 2010 9:01 am

    I believe the T45 ships are to be fitted with the Phalanx CIWS from the remaining T42’s as they are being withdrawn from service. They should have had them from the start – they’re pretty vulnerable until they get them – but better late than never I suppose.

    I like the Type 22 Batch 3’s a lot, they’re a very sensible adjustments on the original Type 22 concept based on lessons from 1982. There was a lot of controversy about us selling some of the Batch 2’s for a knock down price after little more than 10 years service.

  11. February 28, 2010 7:22 am

    The Batch 3 Type 22 are such balance ships. Big flight deck, as you say Harpoon, Seawolf etc. Plus Goalkeeper. I still think the place for Harpoon is under the belly of the ship’s helicopter not bolted to the deck.

    It is indicative of Labour’s outlook on the UK’s position in the world that unlike our some of our European neighbours they didn’t use economic stimulus funds to invest British shipbuilding especially T45s.

    Hopefully it won’t come to war. But I do hope that if these oil revenues do start to flow some of the “fitted for, but not with” becomes “fitted with” for certain pieces of important ship equipment. It would be good to see T45s with Harpoon, CIWS etc.

  12. James Daly permalink
    February 27, 2010 5:10 pm

    Thats if they dont all get sent south! I was at the Dockyard today funnily enough. HMS Cornwall, HMS Daring and RFA Diligence all alongside. They could do with something like Cornwall down there – Harpoon and Sea Wolf.

    Its funny how we’re in such a similar situation to 1982 with our economic and defence policy. Government plans swinging cuts to Armed Forces. Unexpected crisis blows up. Navy uses crisis as a weapon to derail the planned cuts. I wonder if Stanhope is hovering outside no 10 with full dress uniform on…

  13. February 27, 2010 1:52 pm

    Of course British canon were superior with their flintlock triggers. Many French and Spanish guns had only touch holes. {Have a care, giving fire!!! :)}

    BTW: Read your Navy Days post on the Pompey blog. I am looking forward to seeing T45’s and revisiting Argus and HMS Warrior.

  14. James Daly permalink
    February 27, 2010 12:49 pm

    “And crews count for a lot”

    As in 1805 at Trafalgar – the French and Spanish had been largely bottled up in port or were freshly pressed landsmen, the Royal Navy’s gunnery and seamanship was unmatched. Thus it hardly matter that the Franco-Spanish fleet was larger and had bigger ships. Weapons and ships might not change but the human factor remains.

  15. February 27, 2010 8:38 am

    “Am I right in thinking that we might expect the Argentine Navy to be in slightly better shape with its effectiveness, after the end of conscription?”

    All this talk of guns and missiles!!! Stop it. In the end of it despite a decade or two of politically correct dilution of training standards and economic cut backs our old ships still have better crews than their old ships. And crews count for a lot. :)

    As I said I think if we are headed for conflict it will be more Cod Wars than Falklands ’82. And perhaps yes it will come to down to the gun on the fo’c’sle.

    (The Argentines don’t have any NATO bases do they? That is what scuppered us in ’76.)

  16. Graham Strouse permalink
    February 27, 2010 6:53 am

    Is this 1898 all over again?

    Looks to me like the Sun is trying to start a fight.

    Viva Yellow Journalism!

  17. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 27, 2010 5:15 am

    Wikipedia echoes our own comments:

    The Sun incident
    On February 25, 2010 Drummond became notorious when British tabloid The Sun published a story about the corvette being intercepted and shepherded away by Royal Navy destroyer HMS York in the vicinity of the Falklands Islands. This was in the middle of a diplomatic dispute between the United Kingdom and Argentina about oil drilling escalating the crisis as the first head-to-head of the Falklands row [1]. The British Ministry of Defence rapidly denied the story. The event actually happened once month earlier, long before the oil dispute began, and not in the way the yellow tabloid show it: both ships were in the same zone on international waters during rough weather and at night and after a friendly dialogue by radio they each continued with their own exercises. “It just the normal The Sun style” the spokesman said.

  18. jor permalink
    February 27, 2010 5:04 am

    The picture is ARA Granville (P-33). ARA Drummond is P-31

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drummond_class_corvette

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 27, 2010 5:01 am

    Tangosix wrote “If York had a towed aray,torpedos and anti-ship missiles,she would be much better suited to patrolling the South Atlantic given the range of threats there.”

    It’s also a call for a balanced fleet, with a broad range of capabilities. Such large, high end vessels like York are vulnerable and have always been, as with the torpedo threat of the last century against the dreadnought battleship. It is impossible to create the perfect warship. There are some things a battleship can do that a small corvette like Drummond cannot, and vice versa.

  20. James Daly permalink
    February 27, 2010 4:00 am

    Does indeed look like the gutter press were trawling the RN website, found that snippet and decided to take historical licence with it!

    Am I right in thinking that we might expect the Argentine Navy to be in slightly better shape with its effectiveness, after the end of conscription?

    I remember pointing out not long ago that its those MEKO ships that are a real threat.

  21. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 27, 2010 1:23 am

    I was thinking in terms of the way a first engagement might develop. Argentines try to stop and board an oil industry vessel. York intercedes, sides are scrapped, then the shooting starts.

    In terms of gun armament the Argentine Corvette and the York are close, but the York is likely to be much more survivable. Comparing the Almirante Browns with the York, York probably still has some advantage in passive survivability, but the Argentine Frigate’s gun armament is better.

  22. Matthew S. permalink
    February 27, 2010 12:51 am

    Argentina has 13 ships that are exocet capable. Does anyone know what version of the exocet they have? The Almirante Brown destroyers have the newer box launchers while the smaller ships have the older launchers.

  23. February 26, 2010 10:58 pm

    Hello,

    Chuck Hill said:

    “One on one, depending on state of readiness and who shot first, I
    would think HMS York would come out on top, but would not say the same about an encounter with one of Argentina’s MEKO 360 Almirante Brown class frigates.”

    I would say weather and rules of engagement would be deciding factors.
    If weather permits use of helicopters (and one is available) York can detect and engage first,but only if she is cleared to engage Drummond.
    In a situation short of war or in bad weather conditions,she will not have that luxury and Drummond will have the advantage.
    Although York can shoot down anti-ship missiles which Drummond is highly unlikely to be able to do.
    If things get very close,both ships have decent guns.

    tangosix.

  24. February 26, 2010 10:42 pm

    Hello,

    Mike Burleson said:

    “tangosix-Your last statement seems to contradict the first.Isn’t York already a large multipurpose ship, yet she seems inadequately defended in your comment about the Drummond’s anti-ship missiles?”

    H.M.S. York is not a multipurpose ship,she is an anti-aircraft destroyer with very limited capabilities in other respects.
    The Royal Navy tends to label anti-aircraft ships as destroyers and anti-submarine ships as frigates.
    This is a doctrinal issue which has arguably left the Royal Navy with a less capabe and more expensive fleet.

    The destroyers lack the towed array sonar and torpedos of the anti-submarine frigates and the frigates lack the area air defence weapons on the destroyers.
    Consequently,on a one ship patrol task,either type has a serious weakness against threats it may encounter.

    The frigates also have Harpoon anti-ship missiles while the Type 42 destroyers have can use Sea Dart in an anti-ship role.
    As a semi active weapon with a small warhead,Sea Dart is somewhat limited against ships.

    If York had a towed aray,torpedos and anti-ship missiles,she would be much better suited to patrolling the South Atlantic given the range of threats there.

    tangosix.

  25. Alex Mk.2 permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:29 pm

    HMS York, 2 Phalanx, Sea Dart, 4.5″ Mk.8, Lynx + Sea Skua

    Although I’d wager MM38 would be no match for even the soft-kill systems in place on HMS York, ARA Drummond wouldn’t be able to defend herself from Sea Skua at stand-off range (whether that would be enough is another question)

    T6, without ARRSE the Sun would be even more clueless with regards to defence matters, last week it had misidentified RFA Largs Bay as HMS Clyde… Still some work to be done.

    – Alex.

  26. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 26, 2010 9:39 pm

    In the photo it doesn’t look like the Exocets are mounted, but the twin 40mm/70 could be very damaging at close range.

    One on one, depending on state of readiness and who shot first, I would think HMS York would come out on top, but would not say the same about an encounter with one of Argentina’s MEKO 360 Almirante Brown class frigates.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almirante_Brown_class_destroyer

    They look like they are designed for a close range “knife fight in a phone booth.”

  27. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 26, 2010 9:22 pm

    “Unlike H.M.S. York,A.R.A. Drummond has anti-ship missiles.
    York would have to rely on engaging with her helicopter from stand off ranges,close in she would be at a real disadvantage.
    Which is why the Royal Navy’s patrol tasks are better served by multipurpose vessels.’

    tangosix-Your last statement seems to contradict the first. Isn’t York already a large multipurpose ship, yet she seems inadequately defended in your comment about the Drummond’s anti-ship missiles?

  28. February 26, 2010 9:01 pm

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    much of the “news” media in Britain comes from journalists who trawl websites such as a certain British Army site where I often post.
    The not very well informed “journalists” then sell their new found “stories” to even less well informed consumers.
    Often these stories bear no relationship with reality.
    I found this line interesting:

    “But she would be no match for a destroyer in a battle.”

    Unlike H.M.S. York,A.R.A. Drummond has anti-ship missiles.
    York would have to rely on engaging with her helicopter from stand off ranges,close in she would be at a real disadvantage.
    Which is why the Royal Navy’s patrol tasks are better served by multipurpose vessels.

    tangosix.

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