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ARA Hercules (Type 42)

The two Hercules class destroyers were ordered in 1970, to a design that is essentially the same as that of the Royal Navy's Type 42 Batch 1 (Sheffield) class. This resulted in an encounter nearly unique in the annals of 20th Century naval warfare. When the two navies' Type 42s faced each other in 1982, HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry were sunk.

The main mission of the Santisima Trinidad and Hercules was to protect and support with their sophisticated electronic systems, radars and Sea Dart missiles Argentina’s only aircraft carrier 25 de Mayo. Type 42s gave the Argentine Navy comprehensive capacity management in a air combat, becoming the first navy in South America to operate such a complete and advanced system. However by 1989 because of the British arms and spares embargo on Argentina, Santisima Trinidad begun to be cannibalized to provide for ARA Hercules. There were even talks about making her a floating museum on the Malvinas war.

ARA Hercules was built in the UK, her sister ARA Santisima Trinidad was fabricated in Britain and assembled in Argentina. Santisima Trinidad was originally supposed to be the leadship, but was seriously sabotaged by a terrorist bomb during construction.

ARA Hercules ship was ordered on May 18 1970 and completed on May 10 1976 at the Vickers Shipbuilding yard in Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom. She was delivered to Argentina and entered service on September 19 1977. The ARA Santisima Trinidad was built at the Argentine AFNE shipyard and commissioned in 1980. Commissioning of the ship, whose construction began in 1973, was long delayed by a bomb attack carried out by the guerrilla organization Montoneros in 1975. Santisima Trinidad's hull suffered severe damage and the ship's performance after entering service was greatly hampered as a result of the attack. The Argentine Navy upgraded the warship by enhancing her offensive capabilities with MM-38 Exocet missiles.

ARA Santisima Trinidad was the spearhead of the initial Argentine invasion; landing a shore party of 84 commandos (via 21 RHIBs) at Lake Point; south of the Falklands' capital, Port Stanley. The landing took place at about 9:30PM on 1 April 1982. At one point during the landing, the destroyer was as close as 500 yards to the shore. The ship then proceeded northwest to the mouth of Mullet Creek, which was obscured by hills from a direct radar line to Port Stanley. Later in the war, both ships served as the escort for the aircraft carrier ARA Venticinco de Mayo. The closest they came to combat was on 1 May 1982, when Santisima Trinidad locked on to a Royal Navy Sea Harrier, however the Sea Dart launcher failed and the plane escaped unscathed.

The ships have synchronous clutches which self-engage the Olympus GT's as they are brought online. Several small Paxman Ventura diesels are carried to generate electricity if the gas turbine engines are lost. The funnel has distinctive "dog ears", contrary to some reports they do not reduce the IR signature (in fact they increase it); instead they serve to flow the Tynes' waste heat away from the aerials. After the Falklands War, the ships encountered severe difficulties due to a spares embargo by Britain. The ordered Lynx ASW helos were obviously cancelled by the UK, leaving the ships with just the inadequate Alouettes. In 1984 both ships were put up for sale, although no offer was ever forthcoming. The Sea Dart SAMs are certainly non-operational; the last successful firing was in 1987 and any remaining Sea Darts in Argentina are a quarter-century old by now. Some of the components had to be replaced and rebuilt because the equipment embargo applied post 1982. For example the 114 mm ammo for the main gun had to be manufactured in the Goverment arsenals.

Due to maintenance hardships, both ships stopped participating in regular exercises in 1989. Hercules was put into reserve around 1994, supplying spare parts for Santisima Trinidad which continued on in a reduced operational status as the Argentine flagship. In 2004 the converted Hercules re-entered service and Santisima Trinidad was placed into reserve. It was hoped to give her a similar conversion but funding was not available and it is likely she will be stricken and converted into a museum ship.

In 2000, Hercules was reactivated and transferred to the ASMAR Shipyard in Talcahuano, Chile for conversion to a "fast-attack transport". This entailed replacing the superstructure aft of the mainmast with a large hangar for a pair of Sea King helicopters, extending the flight deck, adding facilities for launching and recovering RHIBs, and deleting some items including the aft Type 909 radar, Exocet missiles, and ASW systems. It retained most of the radar and barrel armament but the Sea Dart launcher was not removed but is inoperable. The ship returned to operation out of Puerto Belgrano naval base.

Santisima Trinidad had eight years of active service, though well remembered. In 1975 the guerrilla group Montoneros almost sunk the docked destroyer with underwater mines. The British designed Argentine missile destroyer ARA “Santísima Trinidad,” participated in the Falklands conflict in 1982. In 1982 as flagship of the Argentine Navy at the beginning of April transported part of the commandoes that invaded and captured the Falklands.

“Santisima Trinidad” was declared in “temporary recess” in 2000 and definitively decommissioned in 2004. Moored at the Puerto Belgrano Navy base, by 2013 she was listing to port and under the risk of sinking. The vessel “presented a heel to port due to a breakdown in the hull,” after a “six inches pipe tear, that led to the entrance of an important volume of water”. And indeed, on 23 January 2013 the ship rolled over and sank at her berth.

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Page last modified: 17-01-2015 19:48:51 ZULU