British lawmakers have demanded an inquiry into whether France was dishonest about the existence of a “kill switch” in missiles used by Argentina in attacks that killed British sailors during the Falklands War, with the sinking of several vessels, the first of which was Type 42 HMS Sheffield.
Forty years on from the sinking of the destroyer, lawmakers have called for answers on how transparent France was with the UK in discussions on the Exocet missile.
The anti-ship weapon was used by Argentina in the 1982 conflict and led to the deaths of 46 British sailors, including 20 servicemen on HMS Sheffield.
France are understood to have given assurances to Britain that the Exocet did not contain a “kill switch”, technology that can be used to disarm weapons.
On the 40th anniversary of the deadly attack on the ship, British MPs have called for an inquiry into whether France lied to the UK.
Tobias Ellwood, a member of the ruling Conservative Party and chairman of Parliament’s defense select committee, said the lack of answers “warrants further investigation”.
Liam Fox, a fellow Tory MP and former defense secretary, said the French government owed it to Britain to be “open and honest” about the information relayed to London during the war.
Argentine forces invaded the Falklands on April 2, 1982. HMS Sheffield as part of a Task Force was sent to the region and disputed Islands. And on May 4, 1982, two Argentine pilots fired Exocet missiles at the British vessel. The attack came days after one of their country’s warships, ARA General Belgrano, was sunk by a Royal Navy submarine, resulting in the deaths of 323 Argentines.
Fired from 48 kilometers away, one of the missiles failed to reach the RN destroyer, while the other struck the ship, which was carrying 281 crew. Twenty sailors died in the attack, the first British casualties in the war.
Francois Mitterrand, the French president at the time, publicly backed Britain in the conflict. UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher at the time, appealed to Mitterand's government to secretly share information about the Exocet missiles, which had been made by the French company Aerospatiale.
According to a report from The Telegraph, British authorities asked Paris whether the missiles was fitted with “kill switches”