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Argentina is on the brink of buying a £40m warship from America ideal for invading the Falklands - as Royal Navy withdraws similar vessel from service

By Mark Nicol Defence Correspondent For The Mail On Sunday - 02 September 2017

The United States is on the brink of selling Argentina a £40 million ship ideal for invading the Falklands – just as the cash-stretched Royal Navy is withdrawing a similar class of vessel from active service.

Senior Pentagon sources have confirmed talks are ongoing with the Argentinians over a Landing Platform Dock vessel capable of launching 800 troops, six helicopters and 2,000 tons of equipment into a war zone.

The prospect looms just as the Royal Navy prepares for the decommissioning next year of its flagship HMS Ocean as part of cost-saving measures.

Last night, Admiral Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, said: ‘At a time when the Argentine government still refuses to accept that UK sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is not up for discussion, I would prefer if our friends such as the United States did not sell them a landing ship capable of launching helicopters and large numbers of troops.

‘Such a ship is an offensive weapon and could play a significant role as part of an invading force. It is more unfortunate that this is happening as we are about to lose HMS Ocean from service without a direct replacement.’

Argentina tried to complete a deal last month during a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, who was apparently sympathetic to their request.

It is thought the Argentinians want to buy USS Ponce which is due to be retired by the US Navy in 2018. The Pentagon refused to comment but The Mail on Sunday understands that a deal is expected to go through in the next few months.

John Pike of US-based think tank Global Security said: ‘The British would have to increase their protection of the Falklands in light of Argentina acquiring an amphibious assault ship. For this would give them capability to land on the isles and establish themselves with a lot of troops and military equipment.’