The Stuff of Movies (The 1982 Falkland War, the Super Etendard and Exocet missile) March 09 2016
In the late 70s and 80s there was a lot of political turmoil in Argentina. This lead to an arms embargo from the US to Argentina. Because of this, Argentina could not get the spare parts to service its A-4s so Argentina decided to purchase 5 Super Etendards coupled to 5 Exocet anti-ship missles from the French. This purchased was delivered in late 1981.
On April 1982, Argentina decided to invade and take the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas, in Spanish). For the British, fighting a war half way around the world and based exclusively on ships, they knew they would be vulnerable to the French made weapons.
With stuff made for movies, the British came up with a plan to send SAS troopers (about 55 of them in two C-130s) to raid the Super Etendard base in Rio Grande. The objectives of this operation (Operation Mikado) were pretty merciless:
- Land on a C-130 right on the base's runway
- Keep the aircraft running for the return trip
- Destroy the aircraft
- Destroy the missiles
- Kill the pilots
- IF the aircraft survives, use it for the return trip
- IF the aircraft does not survive, run to Chile, about 50 miles away
Because so little intelligence was available, they did not know if the planes would indeed be there, or where the missiles were stored; it was deemed a suicide mission and abandoned. Also, the failure of such a daring operation would have been a great morale booster for the Argentinians.
At the end, the Super Etendards and the Exocets made a name for themselves when they fired (two missiles but only one hit) on the British destroyer HMS Sheffield, heavily damaging it and it eventually sank. Two more Exocet missiles were fired and both hit the merchant ship Atlantic Conveyor, which was carrying helicopters and supplies to the front line; 12 of its sailors died. Eventually the ship also sank. The fifth (and last) missile was launched on the carrier HMS Invincible. The Argentinians claim that the Invincible was damaged, the British say it was not.
Believe it or not, there are some who claim and/or enjoy conspiracy theories and maintain that the Invisible was really sunk but covered up.
What is the morale of the story? That one plane and one missile can inflict heavy damage on a war ship. Imagine the outcry if a carrier of battleship with thousands of crew members went down by a number of missile hits.