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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).

On the 25th of May 1810, after a week of events taking place in Buenos Aires which would eventually be known as the May Revolution, the first independent government of Argentina, La Primera Junta, was established, bringing the nation one step closer to its independence. The 25th of May is now Argentinas National day, which along with the 9th of July commemorates the Declaration of Independence.

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 She was withdrawn off from Dutch service in April 1968 due to a boiler room fire.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 nominal air group included 12 Super Etendard strike fighters, six Grumman Tracker ASW aircraft, four SH-3D Sea King ASW and one utility helicopter.

Since the Super Etendard was the newest addition to the navy and had not been integrated to launch from the 25 de Mayo, in 1982 it was land based out of Rio Grande, Argentina's mainland. At that time the 25 de Mayo embarked ten carrier based A4Q Skyhawks .

After learning from radio intercepts that the Argentine fleet was preparing for an invasion, on 26 March 1982, at least one British nuclear submarine was ordered to the Falkland Islands in attempt to deter it. This deterrence effort failed when the Argentine aircraft carrier 25 de Mayo with twenty planes, four warships, and 5,000 Argentine troops successfully executed Operation AZUL and retook the Falkland Islands on 1 April 1982.

On 02 May 1982 the carrier was ready, loaded, and waiting to launch eight Skyhawks at dawn. Yet the mission was aborted. Reasons given include that a S-2E Tracker could not locate the British warships on its radar, despite two recent fixes by separate Tracker sorties, with one being less than four hours prior to mission briefing time. Many sources have suggested that unusually light winds that morning prevented the Skyhawks launching at their maximum take-off weight. But what about taking off with less than a full fuel load? How about "buddy fuelling"? What about using the KC-130H from the mainland for refuelling? Even in a calm wind, the carrier could generate speeds close to 15 knots. Whether the aircraft should have been able to take off in the cold temperatures of the South Atlantic in May bears closer investigation.

One possible explanation might be that the decision was directed from higher authority as a result of the bombing of Port Stanley earlier on 01 May 1982. A message allegedly sent at 2307Z on 1 May from Vice-Admiral Lombardo at Comodoro Rivadavia instructed Commodore Allara on '25 de Mayo' to withdraw all elements of his task force and to discontinue offensive operations. That message was allegedly reiterated at 0419Z on 2 May. President Belaunde of Peru had made a peace proposal to both Britain and Argentina that included a cease-fire, a mutual withdrawal of forces, temporary administration of the islands by a third party and a fixed time for settlement. Apparently Argentina was seriously considering the plan before any major bloodshed took place.

Although no Argentinean ship is known to have violated the 200-mile total exclusion zone throughout the war, the decision on 02 May 1982 to attack the Belgralio outside it reinforced the capabilities of the nuclear powered attack submarines. Ultimately, this action and capability influenced the Argentine navy in its decisions on how to not employ the 25 de Mayo, Argentine's sole aircraft carrier. At approximately 9 p.m., four hours after the sinking of the Belgrano, the Argentine naval command ordered Admiral Allara to withdraw the entire surface fleet to protected waters. Thus in an apparent move to protect the 25 de Mayo from British's submarines, the carrier was retired to port for the duration of the conflict, and its Skyhawks were sent south to operate from the airfield at Naval Air Station Rfo Grande.

On 05 May 1982 '25 de Mayo' returned to home port and disembarked her aircraft. Although a number of sorties were flown, the CANA Skyhawks, once disembarked from the aircraft carrier '25 de Mayo', spent from 9-20 May at Rio Grande flying operational training missions in anticipation of the flying surge which would occur with the British landings on the Falklands.

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.

Argentina has been able to keep their pilots current by utilizing the Brazilian carrier that is the former French carrier Foch. Argentina so far has not publically declared whether it will seek a new carrier for its navy.



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Page last modified: 20-01-2015 19:01:36 ZULU