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Battle of San Carlos (1982)

The Battle of San Carlos, also known as Bomb Alley , was a major air naval engagement during the Falklands War ( ). Took place between May 21/25, 1982 during the British landings on the shores of San Carlos Water and was the scene of repeated air attacks by low-flying Argentine jets. Its was the first time in history a modern surface fleet armed with surface-to-air missiles held a campaign against full-scale air strikes. Despite the losses and damage received, the British forces were able to land and consolidate the beachhead.


After the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands the United Kingdom initiated Operation Corporate sending a Task Force 12000 km south in order to retake the islands. Under the codename Operation Sutton, the British forces planned amphibious landings around San Carlos, on an inlet located off Falkland Sound, the strait between East Falkland and West Falkland. The choice of the site was due within the bay the landing force would be protected against Exocet and submarines attacks and distant enough of Stanley to prevent a rapid Argentine reaction . The landing took completely by surprise the Argentines which had leave the zone without any major unit for its defence due Navy officers suggested the site was not optimal for such type of operation.

Argentine Aircraft

A-4 Skyhawk: The A-4 was used by both the Argentine Air Force (FAA) and Argentine Naval Aviation (COAN). In spite of using two 295 gallons drop tanks they needed aerial refueling twice during missions. The ordnance used during the conflict were one British-made 1000 lb (Mk 17) unguided bomb or four 227 kgs Spanish/American built retarding tail bombs.

IAI Dagger: The Israeli-built Mirage 5 did not have aerial refueling capacity and even using two 550-gallon drop tanks to carry extra fuel, they were flying at the absolute limit of their range. Their main weapon during the conflict was the British-made 1000 lb (Mk 17) unguided bomb.

Mirage IIIEA: The french-built interceptor has a internal fuel tank less than the Dagger so they cannot even descend to escort the strike aircraft. They carry a pair of R550 Magic IR missiles in their high altitude flights to the islands but the Harriers combat air patrols concentrated, wisely, on the low-flying bombers.

FMA IA-58 Pucara: The Argentine-built counter-insurgency aircraft operated from the Goose Green grass airstrip during the battle.

British Amphibious Force

Landing force: HMS Fearless, HMS Intrepid, RFA Sir Geraint, RFA Sir Tristram, RFA Sir Galahad, RFA Sir Percivale, RFA Sir Lancelot, SS Canberra, RFA Fort Austin, Europic Ferry 4 and Elk 5.

Escort force: HMS Amtrim, HMS Coventry, HMS Broadsword, HMS Brilliant, HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, HMS Argonaut, HMS Plymouth and HMS Yarmouth

File:Sea-dart DN-SN-90-08592.jpg|Sea Dart

File:Sea wolf missile.JPG|Sea Wolf

File:SeaCat HMNZS Wellington DN-SC-92-05763.jpg|Sea Cat

File:Swiss rapier missile.jpg|Rapier


[[Image:FAA Air Bases 1982.gif|right|400px|thumb|Argentine airbases: Distances to Port Stanley Airport: Trelew: , Comodoro Rivadavia: , San Julian: , Rio Gallegos: and Rio Grande: .
Due to the distance required to fly to the islands, two minutes was the average time Argentine attack aircraft had available in the target area.]]

This is a list of the main sorties carried out by Argentine air units showing approximatte local time, Aircraft and Call signal.

May 21

The Argentine Army force on site was a section from the 25th Infantry Regiment, named Combat team Guemes ( ) and was located at Fanning Head. The British fleet enter the strait during the night and at 02:50 it was spotted by EC Guemes which open fire with their support guns (81mm mortars and 2 recoilless 105mm guns) but were soon engaged by British naval gunfire and a 25 men SBS team and were force to retreat, loosing the comunications equipment in the process, but shooting down two Gazelle helicopters. 1st Lt Carlos Daniel Esteban, from EC Guemes, was able to inform Goose Green garrison about the landings at 08:22 and was finally evacuated by own helicopters on May 26. The Argentine high command at Stanley initially suggested that a landing operation could not been done in that place and was surely a diversion manouver. Finally at 10:00 a solitary COAN jet Aermacchi MB-339, based on the islands, was dispatched to San Carlos Water in a reconnaissance flight. In the meantime, the FAA started launching their mainland based aircraft from 09:00.

10:15 : COAN MB339 4-A-115. Lt Guillermo Owen Crippa in a reconnaissance flight flown over the landing force twice to determine the exact composition of the fleet earning the highest national military decoration the Argentine Nation to the Heroic Valour in Combat Cross. He attacked with guns and rockets HMS Argonaut.

10:15 : FAA Pucara Tigre. Three (of 4) planes scramble from Goose Green during HMS Ardent'' naval gunfire. Cpt Benitez is shot down by a Stinger missile fired by the Special Air Service, he ejected and walked back to his base, arriving 19:00. The other two pilots Mj Tomba and 1st Lt Micheloud successfuly fired 2.5 inch rockets on a shed, apparently used by British forces as an observation post, but were intercepted by two Sea Harrier during their escape. Mj Tomba was shot down (ejecting safetly) by pilot Nigel Ward while the Lt Micheloud outmaneuvered a second Sea Harrier and landed in Stanley's airstrip.

10:20 : FAA MIIIEA. Four aircraft as diversion flights flying north of the islands.

10:25 : FAA Dagger Leon. From San Julian, Cpt Dimeglio and Lt Castillo attack HMS Amtrim with their 30mm cannons. Their 1000 lb bombs failed to explode.

10:30 : FAA Dagger Nandu. From Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Cpt Rodhe and Lt Bean attacked HMS Argonaut, being the second shot down by SAM Sea Wolf from HMS Broadsword which in turn is attacked by third pilot Cpt Janet.

10:35 : FAA Dagger Zorro. Cpt Dellepine, Cpt Diaz and Cpt Aguirre-Faget attacked HMS Brilliant but the bombs hung-up, although they straffed the frigate with their 30mm cannons.

10:50 : FAA Dagger Perro. Mj Martinez, Cpt Moreno and Lt Volponi attacked HMS Antrim. Their 1000 lb bombs do not explode, but one of them hit the stern of the destroyer, which also received damaged from 30 mm straffing. During their escape Sea Harriers launched Sidewinders against the Daggers but they fell short.

12:45 : FAA A-4C Pato. Cpt Almono, Cpt Garcia, 1st Lt Daniel Manzotti and Lt Nestor Lopez intercepted by Sea Harrier being the last two of them shot down and killed by Sidewinders.

12:45 : FAA A-4B Mula. Cpt Carballo and Ensign Carmona. Mula 2 attacked an unknown ship, having expended his ordnance, Carballo ordered him to return to base. Some sources identify this ship as the Rio Carcarana but other sources place the cargo vessel in Bahia Rey ( King George Bay ? ) at the moment Carballo continued alone and attacked HMS Ardent straddling her with two bombs, both of which failed to explode.

13:37 : FAA A-4B Leo. 1st Lt Filippini, Lt Autiero, Lt Osses, Lt Robledo and Ensign Vottero hit HMS Argonaut with 1000 lbs bombs which not explode, but crash through her Sea Cat magazine, detonating two missiles.

14:30 : FAA MIIIEA. Two aircraft as diversion flights

14:35 : FAA Dagger Cueca Cpt Mir Gonzales, Cpt Robles, 1st Lt Luna and Lt Bernhard are intercepted by Sea Harriers and Lt Luna is hit by a Sidewinder and ejected safetly. The other three pilots attack HMS Ardent and return to base.

14:53 : FAA Dagger Laucha Mj Puga, 1st Lt Roman attack HMS Brilliant. The third pilot attack an unknown ship, probably HMS Antrim.

14:58 : FAA Dagger Raton Mj Piuma, Cpt Donadille and 1st lt Senn are intercepted by Sea Harriers of Nigel Ward and Lt Thomas. The Daggers drop their ordenance (2 fuel tanks and one 1000 bomb) and tried to escape but the three are shot down by Sidewinders although ejecting safetly. After recovering the pilots, the FAA realized that San Julian based Daggers appoach corridor had been discovered and made efforts to correct the situation.

15:15 : COAN A-4Q Tabanos. Cpt Philipi, Lt Arca and Lt Marquez hit HMS Ardent with several bombs and cannon fire. Two aircraft are shot down by Sea Harriers during their escape killing Lt Marcelo Marquez on the process. The third A-4Q, Lt Arca, was damaged and the pilot bailed out near Port Stanley.

17:02 : FAA A-4C : No ships found.

17:12 : FAA A-4B : No ships found.

May 22

Bad weather on the Patagonia airfiels prevented the Argentines carry most of their air missions whilst the British completed their surface-to-air Rapier battery, launchers deployments. Only a few Skyhawks managed to reach the islands.

May 23

13:30 : FAA A-4B Nene. Four A-4B attacked HMS Broadsword and HMS Antelope. Carballo's plane was damaged by the explosion of a Sea Cat missile, fired from Antelope, while on his bombing run, so he broke off from the attack and returned to Rio Gallegos. Lieutenant Guadagnini, was hit by HMS Antelope 20mm cannon before crashing through her main mast, while prosecuting his bombing run and was killed, his bombs pierced the frigate's hull without exploding. After the attack, one of these detonated while being defused and the ship was lost.

13:45 : COAN A-4Q Tabanos. Cpt Castro Fox, Cpt Zubizarreta and Lt Benitez attacked HMS Broadsword, HMS Yarmouth and HMS Antelope without visible success. Cpt Carlos Maria Zubizarreta would be killed in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego when his parachute did not fully open after he ejected from his A-4Q due a tyre burst on landing with his bombs still loaded. Ironically the plane stopped by itself and did not suffer any damage. 3ra. Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque

15:10 : FAA Dagger Punal. Mj Martinez and Lt Volponi intercepted by Sea Harriers which shot down the second aircraft, whilst Martinez returned to base.

15:10 : FAA Dagger Daga. Struck targets inside Ajax Bay

15:10 : FAA Dagger Coral. Struck targets inside Ajax Bay

May 24

10:15 FAA A-4B Chispa. Four A-4B attacked ships inside the bay. RFA Sir Lancelot is hit by a 1000 lbs bomb which do not explode. Two LCU are also targeted.

11:02 FAA Dagger Azul. Cpt Mir Gonzalez, Cpt Maffeis, Cpt Robles and Lt Bernhardt attacked not identified ships, probably RFA Sir Bedivere, inside the bay.

11:07 FAA Dagger Plata. Cpt Dellepiane, 1st Lt Musso and Lt Callejo strike ground targets with 227 kgs retarding tail bombs.

11:08 FAA Dagger Oro. Mj Puga, Cpt Diaz and 1st Lt Castillo intercepted and shot down by Sea Harriers. Castillo was killed whilst the other two ejected safetly.

11:20 FAA A-4C Halcon. Cpt Pierini, 1st Lt Ureta and Lt Mendez intercepted by Sea Harrier but managed to return to base.

11:30 FAA A-4C Jaguar. 1st Lt Vazques, Lt Bono and Ensign Martinez attacked not identified ships, probably RFA Sir Galahad, inside the bay. The three aircraft received battle damage with Bono's being lost during the returning flight. The other two Skyhawk were rescued by the KC-130 tanker which approach to the islands and delivered 30,000 litres of fuel while carrying them to its airfield at San Julian.

May 25

09:00 FAA A-4B Marte. Cpt Palaver's aircraft was damaged in a friendly fire incident when he accidentally flew over Goose Green and straffed the pier there, in the belief that they were over Ajax bay. Official site of the Argentine Air Force: Fuerza Aerez Argentina - Martes 25 de Mayo The main anti-aircraft artillery identified the fighters as friendly and did not fire, but soldiers on the ground engaged with small arms fire.Piaggi, Italo A. (1986). Ganso Verde. Ed. Planeta, p. 83. ISBN 9503701864. When he returned to the strait he was shot down by a Sea Dart missile, fired by HMS Coventry

12:25 FAA A-4C Toro. Cpt Garcia, Lt Lucero, Lt Paredi and Ensign Issac after attacking ships inside the bay, probably RFA Sir Lancelot, Lucero is shot down by Sea Cat missile fired from HMS Yarmouth. He successfully ejects over the landing force , is rescued then transferred to the hospital ship, SS Uganda. Garcia, who was damaged by small arms fire during the attack, is shot down to the North of San Carlos by another Sea Dart, fired by HMS Coventry. Cpt Garcia ejects but is not recovered from the water, (his body washes ashore on Golding Island in 1983). Ensign Isaac was loosing fuel but was rescued by the KC-130 which carried him to his base.

15:20 FAA A-4B Volcano. Cpt Carballo and Lt Carlos Rinke attacked HMS Broadsword picture from ship slightly damaging the frigate and destroying her Sea Lynx helicopter Pictures of the Damage

15:20 FAA A-4B Zeus. 1st Lt Velazco and Ensign Barrionuevo sink the destroyer HMS Coventry


In spite of the massive air defence network, the Argentine pilots were able to attack their targets but, although undoubtedly brave, some serious procedural failures prevented them from getting better results - most notably problems with their bombs' fuses. Thirteen bombs hit British ships without detonating. Lord Craig, the retired Marshal of the Royal Air Force, is said to have remarked: "Six better and we would have lost" . Also the British warships, although suffering most of the attacks by themselves, were successful in keeping the strike aircraft away from their primary targets, the landing ships, which were well inside the bay . With the British troops on Falklands soil, a land campaign followed until General Mario Menendez surrendered to the Major General Jeremy Moore on June 14 in Stanley.

The actions had also a profound impact on naval design. During the 1980s most warships from navies around the world were retrofitted with close-in weapon systems and artillery guns for self-defence.

See also

Argentine air forces in the Falklands War

British naval forces in the Falklands War

Battle of San Carlos (1813)

External links

Interview Video on HMS Ardent attack


Commodore Ruben Oscar Moro: La Guerra Inaudita, ISBN 987-96007-3-8

Commodore Pablo Marcos Carballo: Dios Y Los Halcones, ISBN 987963361X

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Battle of San Carlos (1982)

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