ARA Santisima Trinidad

The ARA Santisima Trinidad was a British designed type 42 destroyer although constructed in Argentina. She was the headquarters ship for the initial invasion of the Falkland Islands. Both the navy and the army commanders of the operation were on board. A team of 84 amphibious commandos and 8 tactical divers landed at Mullet Creek at midnight in 21 Gemini boats lowered from her deck. The wireless message asking the surrender of the British Governor and the Marines detachment was also radioed from the destroyer.

During the remainder of the Falklands War, along with her sister ship H'rcules, the unit served as the main escort to the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo. At first Hercules operated independently along with a group of older destroyers, but the development of mechanical problems in her sister ship forced the Argentine commander to merge the two Type 42 destroyers into one escorting force. The carrier naval group was known as Grupo de Tareas 79.1 (task force 79.1), and was intended to search for and engage its British counterpart from waters north of the Falklands. Sant'sima Trinidad was responsible for the command and control of the group's air defence. Late on 1 May, the carrier launched a number of S-2 Tracker surveillance aircraft, with the aim of finding the British Task Group. One of the Tracker's crew radioed that they were being chased by an unknown jet while returning to Veinticinco de Mayo. Shortly after midnight, Sant'sima Trinidad was ordered to switch her Type 965 radar on and track the unidentified contact. She then locked up a Sea Harrier with her Type 909 fire-control radar, followed afterwards by her sister Hercules. The British aircraft, Sea Harrier XZ451 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Ian Mortimer and belonging to the 801 Naval Air Squadron, was fended off by the threat of the Sea Dart, but not before spotting the area of deployment of the Argentine Fleet. After realising that the enemy was not engaged in a major amphibious operation as supposed, which made any attempt of the Argentine against the British carriers extremely dangerous, the Argentine commander, Admiral Allara, decided to withdraw his forces to shallow waters close to the coast.

The destroyer lost her Sea Lynx helicopter on 4 May when the aircraft hit her flying deck as the Argentine fleet was redeploying. She spent the next few days in dry dock to repair the mechanical problems which reduced her speed during the operations of 1 May. Right to the end of the conflict, she was engaged in patrol duties off Patagonia. A lesser known task of the Sant'sima Trinidad was the transmission of interference signals on the frequencies used by the Sea Harriers air controllers during the Air Force attacks on Bluff Cove on 8 June. Once the end of hostilities was declared, Sant'sima Trinidad escorted the British transport Canberra into Puerto Madryn with about 3,000 Argentine prisoners on board

Falklands War | Argentine Ships

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by Stephen Luscombe