Cannibalized Falklands’ war Argentine destroyer sinking in Puerto Belgrano
The British designed Argentine missile destroyer ARA “Santísima Trinidad,” that participated in the Falklands conflict in 1982 and has been out of service since 2004 moored at the Puerto Belgrano Navy base, is currently leaning to port and under the risk of sinking.
The Argentine Navy reported that the vessel which on Monday morning appeared leaning on a fishing 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.
The situation remains under control, and we'll work in order to stabilize its buoyancy said the Navy following on a report from the Rescue and Divers service.
“Given the volume of water and the limited bail capacity the personnel working on board was sent ashore to wait for the vessel to reach the bottom and then resume operations” with the low tide.
“Santisima Trinidad” was declared in “temporary recess” in 2000 and definitively decommissioned in 2004. Since then only a small group of personnel was on duty.
The Type 42 destroyer with missiles and her twin sister were ordered from Vickers in August 1969. ARA Hercules was built in the UK and the Santisima Trinidad assembled in Argentina’s shipyards. However the destroyer only had eight years of active service, although well remembered.
In 1975 the guerrilla group Montoneros almost sunk the docked destroyer with underwater mines.
In 1982 as flagship of the Argentine Navy at the beginning of April transported part of the commandoes that invaded and captured the Falklands.
In 1982 the Royal Navy had several improved version Type 42 destroyers, one of which HMS Sheffield was sunk with an AM-30 Exocet missile by a Super Etendard from the air branch of the Argentine Navy. Another similar vessel HMS Coventry was also sunk by the Argentine Air Force.
The main job 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.
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.
Going back in history because of the underwater explosions with mines, ARA Santisima Trinidad was five years out of action and finally repaired underwent in the UK a full checking operation in 1981.
According to the Buenos Aires media, Maximo Nicoletti the diver that almost sunk the Santisima Trinidad in September 1975 was finally caught by the Argentine Navy special anti-terrorist groups.
Following interrogations he changed sides and begun working for the military government and in 1982 was called to perform what was known as Operation Algeciras, a similar attack to the now sinking destroyer in Puerto Belgrano, but this time against a Royal Navy vessel when she docked at Gibraltar.
Nicoletti with other Navy agents and former Montoneros flew first to Malaga and then to Algeciras where they poised as fishermen. The Italian manufactured underwater mines were shipped to Madrid from Buenos Aires via the embassy.
The group waited for over a month and then Leander class frigate HMS Ariadne docked in Gibraltar but before any action, orders were to consult with Buenos Aires. However at the time the Argentine military were hopeful that diplomatic negotiations with the British through third parties would help freeze the situation in the occupied Malvinas Islands..
But then, following the sinking of the cruiser ARA Belgrano by the submersible HMS Conqueror on May 3 the order was finally given by Admiral Jorge Anaya.
The attack was foiled because by then the Spanish police was on their tracks and had all their phone lines bugged and the Nicoletti team was arrested.
In 2004 a documentary film “Operacion Algeciras” reconstructed the events and Admiral Anaya confirmed all the facts.