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25 de Mayo

Originally a sister ship to the Brazilian Minas Gerais, the 25 de Mayo was completed as the Royal Navy's carrier HMS Venerable, which was sold to the Netherlands in 1948 as the Karel Doorman. Acquired by Argentina in 1968, the Second Aircraft carrier entered service in 1969. She was A.R.A. Veinticinco de Mayo (V-2). This ship was also a CVL (light Fleet Carrier), of the British Colossus Class, but upgraded with steam catapult, mirror landing system and an angled deck. From her deck, various aircraft operated, such as A-4Qs, Super Etendards, S-2Es, SH-3H, etc. She participated in the South Atlantic War in 1982. She was also a key factor in the Beagle Sound Crisis in 1978.

HMS Venerable was built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, and laid down 3 December 1942. Launched 30 December 1943, she was commissioned 17 January 1945. Served with the British Pacific Fleet 1945-1946. She was sold to the Netherlands as Karel Doorman II in May 1948, and reconstructed 1955-1958 with 8 degree angled deck. She was withdrawn off from Dutch service in April 1968 due to a boiler room fire.

The vessel was sold to Argentina as the Veinticinco de Mayo (25 de Mayo) on 15 October 1968. Refitted with replacement boilers [from the incomplete HMS Leviathan] she was commissioned into Argentinean Navy 22 August 1969.

In 1980, the 25 de Mayo underwent a further refit to increase the strength of the flight deck and allow more aircraft parking space. The carrier supported the original Argentine landings on the Falklands, but was not used to any great extent during the Falklands war. A major refit planned for the late 1980s was to re-engine the carrier, which had suffered from a notoriously unreliable powerplant, but lack of funds postponed that refit.

The carrier's air group included 12 Super Etendard strike fighters, six Grumman Tracker ASW aircraft, four SH-3D Sea King ASW and one utility helicopter. Not operational since 1985, the primary reason for continued existence was to justify a fixed-wing naval-aviation component.

Out of service since June 1986, plans to refit 25 de Mayo, originally issued in October 1990, called for completion of a refit by 1992 at the latest. However, the aircraft carrier remained laid up at the navy yard at Puerto Belgrano, minus her propulsion plant. In late 1994, Ficantieri of Italy examined proposals to completely overhaul and modernize the carrier, though a lack of adequate funding precluded this. In January of 1999 she was towed away for scrapping in India, and beached at Alang, India by March 2000.

A significant step forward was taken in 1958 with the purchase of the British light aircraft carrier HMS Warrior which became the ARA Independencia. Its first deployed unit was the F4U-5 equipped 2' Escuadrilla de Ataque, which thus became the first carrier-based squadron of any Latin American air arm. In 1958, twenty ex US Navy Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighters - the Aviacin Naval first jets - were delivered for use by the 1' Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Ataque; and ten years later, an adequate tactical support force was formed with sixty Sud Fennecs (a ground-attack conversion of the North American T-28A), which were divided between the Escuela de Aviacin Naval and the 2' Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Ataque.

ARA 25 de Mayos Air Group (Grupo de Aviacin Embarcada) eventually operated from the 16,000 ton ARA 25 de Mayo. The Squadron replaced by Sikorsky HSS-1 and Sud Alouette Ill, followed by four Sikorsky S.61D4 (the export version of the SH-3D in US Navy service). Two Westland Lynx Mk.23 were ordered in 1972 (though delivery did not in the event take place until 1978), and in early 1980 an order was placed for three late-model SA.330 Pumas.

The US supplied Douglas A-4Q Skyhawks were complemented by fourteen Dassault Super Etendard strike fighters, ordered in the first part of 1980, but not all delivered by early 1982, when many aircraft were lost in the Falklands conflict.

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