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Attack on HMS Invincible

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Invincible returns to the Solent after the Falklands War

A thwarted attack on HMS Invincible was conducted by Argentine Naval Aviation in late May 1982, within the last two weeks of the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas). Although HMS Invincible returned home unharmed in September 1988, the Argentine Air Force continues to claim that their missile hit the carrier and two A-4 hit the carrier with four 500 lb bombs.


The Argentines had one operational Exocet missile left.[citation needed] On 28 May 1982 the Argentine Navy decided to attack HMS Invincible, with the Exocet missile, to be delivered by Navy aircraft.[1]

Thwarted attack[edit]

Thwarted attack on Sunday 30 May 1982

On 30 May, two Super Étendards, one carrying Argentina's last remaining air-launched Exocet, escorted by four A-4C Skyhawks each with two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs, took off to attack Invincible.[2] Argentine intelligence had sought to determine the position of the carriers from analysis of aircraft flight routes from the task force to the islands.[2] However, the British had a standing order that all aircraft should conduct a low level transit when leaving or returning to the carriers to disguise their position.[3] This tactic compromised the Argentine attack, which focused on a group of escorts 40 miles south of the main body of ships.[4] Two of the attacking Skyhawks were shot down by Sea Darts fired by HMS Exeter,[2][4][5][self-published source?] with HMS Avenger claiming to have shot down the missile with her 4.5" gun (although this claim is disputed).[6] No damage was caused to any British vessels.[2] During the war Argentina claimed to have damaged the ship, although no evidence of any such damage has been produced or uncovered.[7][self-published source?]


On Monday 31 May 1982, several Argentine newspapers claimed that Invincible had been hit. The conflicting claims were due to incomplete or misinformation, attributable to the fog of war. The attack was duly noted in log books by the British, and a report was sent to the Cabinet, even though the whys, hows and wherefores were muddled. The fleet's commander said they were taken "completely by surprise." He continued:

Invincible returned to Britain without damage, disproving the Argentine claim of a successful attack.[8] Notwithstanding this, there are still false claims in Argentine sources that Invincible was seriously damaged or even sunk.[9][10][11][12][13]

The results of the attack were further confused by a deliberate propaganda misinformation campaign by the Argentine junta, including fabricated pictures of the Invincible and other ships in flames. In fact, this has been the source of continuing and wrong-headed conspiracy theories, going so far as to implausibly theorise that the UK built a replacement carrier to hide their loss. Compounding the confusion, the Royal Navy responded first with an inaccurate explanation — that the attack was on the hulk of the Atlantic Conveyor, which in fact had already sunk — and then with an entirely different scenario three days later.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

  • Argentine air forces in the Falklands War




  1. "HMS Invincible returns home following the Falklands War, 1982". Rare Historical Photos. July 16, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Freedman 2005, p. 545.
  3. Pook 2008, p. 132.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Morgan 2007, p. 240.
  5. Sciaroni, Mariano; Smith, Andy (translator). May 30th, 1982 Attack on HMS Invincible, A British View Address to the Argentine Air Force Congress, discussing British sources, and origins and confusion of conflicting claims due to The fog of war. Includes full sourcing notes. Sources: "ACTAS DEL III CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL DE HISTORIA AERONÁUTICA MILITAR ARGENTINA "ACCIONES AÉREAS EN EL CONFLICTO DEL ATLÁNTICO SUR, 1971-1982"" (in Spanish). Buenos Aires. September 8, 9, 10, 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  6. Southby-Tailyour 2014, p. 238.
  7. "Argentine Airpower in the Falklands War: An Operational View". Air and Space Power Journal. Federal Information and News Dispatch, Inc. 2002-08-20.
  8. "HMS Invincible returns home following the Falklands War, 1982". Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  9. Carballo 2017.
  10. Carballo 2016.
  11. Landaburu 1989.
  12. Quellet & Martini 1992.
  13. Historia de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina Tomo VI (PDF) (in Spanish). II «La Fuerza Aérea en Malvinas». Dirección de Estudios Históricos. 1998. ISBN 987-96654-3-0.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link) Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png


Further reading[edit]

  • Friedman, N. (2006). The Naval Institute guide to world naval weapon systems – Fifth Edition, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press..
  • Middlebrook, M. (1988). Task Force. The Falklands War 1982, Londres: Penguin Books.

External links[edit]

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