Exocet missile in the Falklands war

Discussion in 'Military History' started by LETHALFORCE, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Thatcher 'warned France to cut off Exocets in Falklands war'

    Britain's relationship with France was strained at the height of the Falklands War over fears the French could allow Argentina to acquire Exocet missiles, previously secret files showed on Friday.

    Publicly the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher praised president Francois Mitterrand for his support during the conflict, but papers released by the National Archives reveal London's intense suspicion of the French.

    At one point, a furious Thatcher warned Mitterrand it could have "disastrous" consequences for the entire NATO alliance if a fresh delivery of the French-built Exocets was allowed to reach Argentina.

    Britain saw the threat of the Exocet on May 4, 1982, when a pair of Argentinian air force fighters attacked the British naval task force heading to the Falklands and fired two sea-skimming guided missiles.

    One Exocet hit the Type-42 destroyer, HMS Sheffield, crippling the ship -- which eventually sank six days later -- and killing 20 crew.

    It was thought the French had supplied around 100 Exocet AM39s to air forces around the world, of which 30 to 35 could be available for sale on the international market.

    Such were the fears that Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 launched a "James Bond-style" deception operation designed to convince the Argentines they were buying Exocets on their behalf, when the real aim was to ensure no missiles ever reached Argentina.

    In London, concern was growing that France was preparing to release a consignment of four Exocets to Peru, despite clear warnings from British and French intelligence that they would end up in Argentina.

    Thatcher raised the issue with Mitterrand directly and won an assurance that the missiles would be delayed "as long as necessary".

    Two weeks later on May 29, Mitterrand telephoned Thatcher to say he was in a "difficult position" over the Peruvian deal because it was putting France's contracts with other Latin American countries "in danger", the files show.

    When the president asked for a "precise estimate" of the date by which the missiles would no longer represent a threat to British forces heading for the Falklands, Thatcher was dismayed.

    The following day she fired off a blistering telegram.

    "If it became known, as it certainly would, that France was now releasing weapons to Peru that would certainly be passed on to Argentina for use against us, France's ally, this would have a devastating effect on the relationship between our two countries," she told Mitterrand.

    "Indeed, it would have a disastrous effect on the (NATO) alliance as a whole. This is the last thing that either of us would wish. I greatly hope therefore that for the time being you will be able to find some way of keeping these missiles in France."

    Her protests had the desired effect -- France told the Peruvians that the missiles could not be sent for "political reasons".

    Other previously secret papers reveal Thatcher was "taken by surprise" by the Argentine invasion.

    She dispatched a British naval task force which retook the South Atlantic islands after a short war that left 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers dead.
     
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  3. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    How France helped us win Falklands war, by John Nott - Telegraph

    How France helped us win Falklands war


    FRANCE was Britain's greatest ally during the Falklands war, providing secret information to enable MI6 agents to sabotage Exocet missiles which were desperately sought by Argentina, according to Sir John Nott, who was Defence Secretary during the conflict.

    In his memoirs he reveals that while President Reagan was pressurising Lady Thatcher to accept a negotiated settlement France helped Britain to win the conflict.
    Although Lady Thatcher clashed with President Mitterrand over the future direction of Europe, he immediately came to her aid after Argentine forces invaded the Falklands in April 1982.

    "In so many ways Mitterrand and the French were our greatest allies," Sir John says. As soon as the conflict began, France made available to Britain Super-Etendard and Mirage aircraft - which it had supplied to Argentina - so Harrier pilots could train against them.

    The French gave Britain information on the Exocet - which sank the Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor - showing how to tamper with it.

    "A remarkable worldwide operation then ensued to prevent further Exocets being bought by Argentina," Sir John says.

    "I authorised our agents to pose as bona fide purchasers of equipment on the international market, ensuring that we outbid the Argentinians, and other agents identified Exocet missiles in markets and rendered them inoperable."

    He contrasts the French attitude with America's attempts to find a face-saving deal for President Galtieri, the Argentine dictator."For all Margaret Thatcher's friendship with Ronald Reagan, he remained a West Coast American looking south to Latin America and west to the Pacific. Sometimes I wondered if he even knew or cared where Europe was."

    Caspar Weinberger, the US defence secretary, supported Britain but the State Department was "dominated by Latinos".

    "There was incredible pressure from the White House and the State Department to negotiate. It was hugely damaging," Sir John told The Telegraph. "They couldn't understand that to us any negotiated settlement would have seemed like a defeat."

    Asked if he found it irritating that the Americans expected Britain's total support in the war against terrorism, Sir John said: "I am against the Americans smashing things up with bombing raids, then letting us be the auxiliary policemen to pick up the pieces."

    Sir John says he held the Foreign Office "in deep contempt" for the caution it displayed when Lady Thatcher proposed sending the Task Force to the Falklands.
     
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  5. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Thatcher urged to steal French-made Exocet missiles during Falklands war | UK news | The Guardian

    Thatcher urged to steal French-made Exocet missiles during Falklands war


    One of Britain's most senior law officers at the time of the Falklands conflict, the attorney general, Sir Michael Havers, urged the prime minister to steal deadly French Exocet missiles to stop them ending up in the hands of the enemy.

    The ingenious scheme is revealed in previously secret documents released to the National Archives on Friday which show how the UK government attempted to subvert South American solidarity with Argentina.

    The Chilean junta offered secret help to British forces during the Falklands conflict, the documents disclose, including the use of remote airfields. The clandestine relationship involved arms sales to General Augusto Pinochet's regime while agonising over its human rights record.

    But it was the French-manufactured Exocet anti-ship weapons, used by the Argentinian air force against the British relief convoy as it steamed into the south Atlantic, that most exposed the weakness of the Royal Navy's anti-aircraft defences. HMS Sheffield and the SS Atlantic Conveyor were among those sunk.

    On 1 June 1982, the attorney general sent a handwritten note to Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister, outlining his plan to hijack missiles being transported through South America. It was dreamt up by a friend, Charles Hughesdon, who ran an air freight company.

    "The risk of resupply to the Argentines of further air-to-sea missiles justified consideration of all options to prevent this – even the most way-out, which may be thought to be more appropriate to a James Bond movie," Havers told Thatcher.

    The idea was to tender for the cargo contract "where the exporting country will not want to risk its own aircraft for publicity reasons". He explained: "The loadmaster has total control over the flight and therefore could redirect the aircraft, in transit, to (for example) Bermuda. This will cost money (this is an expensive dirty business) but would, in my view, be cheap at the price.

    "This seems to me although highly unlikely, an option we should keep open. It is probably unnecessary to add that Charles Hughesdon's loyalty and integrity is beyond question."

    Israel and Israeli companies, a separate Foreign Office briefing warned, "… have made offers or are involved in negotiations on the supply of weapons [to Argentina] … despite assurances" that they would not make any new deals.

    It was the French who held the largest stocks of the deadly weapons. Thatcher despatched an emotional secret appeal to President François Mitterrand, pleading with him to delay the export of more French Exocet missiles to South America.

    In her telegram on 30 May 1982, she said cabinet colleagues were "all dismayed by the prospect of France supplying these missiles to Peru when, as you yourself agreed, there can be no doubt that Peru will pass them on to Argentina".

    She added: "It would have a disastrous effect on the alliance as a whole. This is the last thing that either of us would wish. I hope therefore that for the time being you will be able to find some way of keeping those missiles in France."

    Publicly, Chile adopted a position of "strict neutrality", a policy dictated by its need to defer to Latin American solidarity with Argentina and its own dispute with Argentina over the Beagle Channel.

    For a short but important time after the invasion of the Falklands, Chile secretly allowed Britain to base a Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft at an airfield on San Felix, a small island off the Chilean coast. It also agreed to delay the handover of a British tanker, RFA Tidepool, which Britain had recently sold to Chile.

    And the Chilean junta kept quiet when a UK special forces Sea King helicopter landed on Chilean soil after a failed attempt to blow up Argentinian Super Etendard bombers based at the southern Argentinian airbase of Rio Grande.

    The Chilean armed forces had a long and close relationship with Britain and military sales reflected this. Early in 1982, just before the invasion, the Ministry of Defence noted that providing Chile with pilot and weapons training for the Hunter fighter/bomber would "create a favourable climate for the sale of further secondhand Hunters".

    It added: "None of the courses can be said to be training the Chileans in the techniques of repression, except in so far as the tactical weapons course involves training in low-level ground attack."

    A Foreign Office official noted in the margin of the document: "Weren't Hunters uses to attack Allende's Palace" – a reference to the key role played by Hunter aircaft in the 1973 coup d'etat which overthrew the socialist president.

    Another official noted that the FCO minister Richard Luce suggested "we should try to prevent the press from getting wind of such training". In July 1982, after the Falklands war was over, the FCO undertook a review of Anglo-Chilean relations, the papers show. Robin Fearn, a senior official, noted: "We need to decide what price we are prepared to pay for long-term Chilean co-operation over the Falklands."

    After a passage redacted by Whitehall censors, Fearn's memo continued: "The main difficulty for us will be now to adjust our human rights policy in a way which is sufficient for the Chileans … without exposing ourselves to criticism from the domestic lobby that we are subordinating human rights concerns to political and commercial expediency."

    However, another senior FCO official, John Ure, warned that Britain was in danger " with some justification of adopting a cynical policy". He added: "The fact is that Chile is still not free of human rights abuses and has some particularly bad skeletons in the cupboard."

    The files refer to detentions without trial and torture, including that of the British doctor Sheila Cassidy and the British businessman William Beausire, by the DINA, Pinochet's secret police.

    An FCO official commented later in the year: "We cannot afford to restrict our trade to those countries of whose internal repression we disapprove."

    In 1998, Pinochet was arrested in Britain, were he was undergoing medical treatment, for human rights abuses. He was freed by Jack Straw, the home secretary, on the grounds that medical experts said he was unfit to stand trial.

    Thatcher welcomed his release at the end of what she called a "political vendetta" which had "tarnished" the reputation of British justice.

    In 2004, Chilean judge Juan Guzmán Tapia ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and placed him under house arrest. The former dictator died in 2006.
     
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  6. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    BBC News - How France helped both sides in the Falklands War

    How France helped both sides in the Falklands War

    In his memoirs, former UK Defence Secretary Sir John Nott describes France as Britain's "greatest ally" during the Falklands War. But formerly secret papers and other evidence seen by the BBC show that was not the full story.

    Before the war, France sold Argentina's military junta five Exocet missiles.

    At the time, few suspected that the regime's longstanding claim on the Falklands would lead to war, and the sale went largely unnoticed. But when in May 1982 these Exocet missiles were used to strike Britain's HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor, with the loss of 32 British lives, near panic ensued in London.

    At the start of the conflict, France's left-leaning president, Francois Mitterrand, had come to Britain's aid by declaring an embargo on French arms sales and assistance to Argentina.

    He also allowed the Falklands-bound British fleet to use French port facilities in West Africa, as well as providing London with detailed information about planes and weaponry his country had sold to Buenos Aires.

    Are the French duplicitous people? Of course they are”

    Sir John Nott
    Former UK defence secretary
    Paris also co-operated with extensive British efforts to stop Argentina acquiring any more Exocets on the world's arms market.

    But Mitterrand's policy of supporting Britain provoked dissent among some senior officials in the French foreign ministry.

    In a stinging memo dated 7 April 1982, France's then ambassador to London, Emmanuel de Margerie, described British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as "Victorian, imperialist and obstinate". He went on to add that she had a "tendency to get carried away by combative instincts".

    In another document entitled The Falklands: Lessons from a Fiasco, senior French official Bernard Dorin accused Britain of "superpower arrogance" and claimed the country had shown "profound contempt for Latinos".

    Behind the scenes, actions were speaking louder than words. In what would appear to be a clear breach of President Mitterrand's embargo, a French technical team - mainly working for a company 51% owned by the French government - stayed in Argentina throughout the war.

    In an interview carried out in 1982 by Sunday Times journalist Isabel Hilton, the team's leader, Herve Colin, admitted carrying out one particular test that proved invaluable to Argentinian forces.

    "The verification process involves determining if the missile launcher was functioning correctly or not. Three of the launchers failed. We located the source of the problem and that was it. The rest was simple."

    The BBC made efforts to contact Mr Colin to request an interview, but received no response. The French company he still works for, Dassault, told us that after 30 years that it was unable to confirm whether or not it had authorised the work his team carried out in Argentina at this time.

    But it is now clear that, thanks to tests they carried out, the Argentinians were able to fire Exocets at British forces from three previously faulty missile launchers.

    Francois Heisbourg, who at the time was international security adviser to the French Minister of Defence, Charles Hernu, insists that his government did not know that the technical team was there. But, he says, the fact that it evidently was is inexcusable.

    "It is now undeniable and... one should not belittle it. This was not what was supposed to be done. It is the sort of thing which mars what should otherwise have been picture-perfect co-operation between the two countries," he says.

    But not all in the French government were in the dark about the technical team's presence in Argentina during the conflict. Pierre Lethier, former chief of staff of the DGSE - the French equivalent of Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 and signal intelligence headquarters GCHQ - admits that his department did know about them.

    "This is what intelligence is for. You need sources. We had difficulties to penetrate the Argentinian army at that time during the Falklands conflict. So, the more helpers you have the better you are," he says.

    Radar-guided anti-ship missile developed by Nord and Aerospatiale in 1970s, now built by MBDA
    It skims over the water towards its target at a height of 1-2m, making it hard to detect

    Lethier told me that the DGSE had an informer among the members of the technical team who was able to give them some information about what the Argentinian military was doing. But he is fiercely critical of the French team for the technical help it gave.

    "It's bordering on an act of treason, or disobedience to an embargo," he says. "I mean, it's clear that if the head of state in France decrees an embargo, it's an embargo. Full point."

    Britain's Defence Secretary at the time, Sir John Nott, told me that although he knew that a French technical team was in Argentina then, its work was not thought to be of any great importance. British efforts, he insists, were mainly focused on stopping the Argentinians getting hold of any more Exocets.

    Had he, I enquired, asked Paris to withdraw the team? That, he could not remember. Overall, he added, the French did give Britain substantial help during the conflict.

    But, does he, nonetheless, now feel a little let down by a nation that he had previously described as Britain's greatest ally? This was his response:

    "We asked Mitterrand not to give assistance to the Argentinians. If you're asking me: 'Are the French duplicitous people?' the answer is: 'Of course they are, and they always have been.'"

    Document is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 20:00 on Monday 5 March.
     
  7. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Exocet


    Radar-guided anti-ship missile developed by Nord and Aerospatiale in 1970s, now built by MBDA
    It skims over the water towards its target at a height of 1-2m, making it hard to detect
    An air-launched Exocet disabled HMS Sheffield on 4 May 1982, with the loss of 20 lives - it sank six days later
    Two air-launched Exocets sank Atlantic Conveyor on 25 May, with the loss of 12 lives
    A land-based Exocet hit HMS Glamorgan on 12 June 1982 with the loss of 14 lives
    "Exocet" means flying fish in French
     
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  8. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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  9. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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  10. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    HMS Sheffield

    HMS Sheffield
    HMS Sheffield was a Type 42 guided missile destroyer. An Exocet missile destroyed HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War – the first major British casualty of the Falklands War conflict.

    HMS Sheffield was launched in June 1971 and was commissioned for service in February 1975. Type 42 destroyers were designed to provide a naval fleet with defences against an attack from the air. Each Type 42 destroyer was fitted with Sea Dart surface-to-air missile systems. Each ship also carried on board an anti-submarine helicopter.

    As the Task Force fleet approached the Falklands, the Sheffield and other ships like her provided protection for the larger ships such as the ‘Hermes’ and ‘Invincible’. If these ships had been successfully attacked, the Task Force would have been severely weakened and there would have been the possibility that the whole venture might have been called off. HMS Sheffield took it in turns to be on the outer perimeter of the Task Force and was, therefore, the first line of defence. She was also, therefore, the first in line for attack when she was on this so-called picket duty.

    On May 4th, 1982, HMS Sheffield relieved her sister ship, HMS Coventry, from defence watch. The first anyone knew that something had happened to the Sheffield was when the Coventry received the message “Sheffield is hit”. HMS Arrow and HMS Yarmouth were ordered to investigate. It was only when Sheffield’s Lynx helicopter unexpectedly landed on the deck of HMS Hermes that any specific information was gathered. The Lynx carried HMS Sheffield’s Operations Officer and Air Operations Officer. They confirmed that a missile had hit HMS Sheffield.

    HMS Sheffield was fitted with the Type 965 radar system. This was an old system that was due to be upgraded to the Type 1022 system. As with so many ships in the Royal Navy, HMS Sheffield had been designed with the Cold War very much in mind. The 965 radar was capable of picking up aeroplanes flying at reasonable heights – and missiles launched from a reasonable height. Neither happened with HMS Sheffield.

    The Exocet missile that hit HMS Sheffield had been fired from a French-built Super Étendard. The pilot, Captain Augusto Bedacarratz, had launched his Exocet when only six miles from the Sheffield – to all intents, this represented point blank range. The ‘rule book’ stated that an Exocet would be launched at a ship from 45 miles away and from a reasonable height. In this sense a 965 radar would pick it up. This Exocet was launched and flew just above sea level and was not picked up by radar until it was too late to react. The Sea Dart missile system was also generally not overly good at picking up sea skimming missiles. The crew had just 5 seconds warning that a missile was incoming.

    The Exocet caused great damage to the Sheffield. It hit 8 feet above the water line and tore a gash in the Sheffield that measured 4 feet by 10 feet. The missile’s burning rocket motor set fire to the Sheffield and sufficiently damaged the ship’s electricity generating systems to prevent anti-fire mechanisms from working effectively. The Sheffield’s water main had also been ruptured. The combination of lack of electricity and water meant that there was no way that the fires could be contained. A process of evacuation was initiated with the burns casualties being taken off first. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, there was little chance of the ship sinking so the crew who were not injured simply had to wait their turn on deck to be evacuated.

    A decision was taken to tow the Sheffield away from the Task Force, as there was a fear that the proximity of so many ships that were assisting the Sheffield might be too tempting a target for the Argentine Air Force. As the Sheffield was being towed by HMS Yarmouth, the weather got worse and water started to pour into the ruptured hull of HMS Sheffield. A decision was taken to scuttle the ship and this was duly carried out, though it is probable that the rough seas would have done this.

    Twenty men had been killed in the attack – an attack that gave the Task Force due warning that it was a vulnerable entity.

    ‘HMS Sheffield’ is now a recognised war grave.
     
  11. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    They were scared shitless over Exocet. If we wanted, Malvines would be Argie territory.
     
  12. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Its funny how france forgot the history of losing wars to Britain and helped britain win a war :D
     
  13. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    France has won many wars with Britain... Crimean War, 2nd Opium War, WWI, WWII, Gulf War, Libya... ect.
     
  14. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    You mean to say france repaid the debt of btitain rescuing france from nazis during WWII :D
     
  15. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Yeah, that is why we let them win the Falklands War. :D
     
  16. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    WTF, none of these wars were between France and Britain.
     
  17. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    wtf, I was referring to France helping Britain win wars. We have beaten them so many times I lost count, but we are allies after all. :rolleyes:
     
  18. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Good joke.

    I think an in-depth historical discussion would be futile here, so I'll just post a picture instead:
    [​IMG]
     
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  19. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Good joke.

    British ran faster from Hitler than it took for Napoleon to conquer Germany.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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