HC Deb 10 November 2000 vol 356 c414W
Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much time HMS Invincible had to alert other warships to the first Exocet attack during the Falklands war; what action was taken during that time; how much warning HMS Sheffield received of the attack; and if he will make a statement. [137302]

Mr. Spellar

On 4 May 1982, during Operation Corporate, the British operation to re-take the Falkland Islands after the Argentine invasion, the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield was attacked by Super Etendard aircraft carrying Exocet anti-ship missiles.

Some 13 minutes before the missile impact on Sheffield, which resulted in the tragic loss of HMS Sheffield and 20 of her crew, HMS Invincible had detected a contact initially at a range of approximately 180 miles from Invincible which would have been consistent with the Argentine aircraft. However, for the previous few days, the force had experienced a high incidence of spurious radar contacts. These contacts were also assessed as spurious. There were at the time no other indications of impending attack.

Some six minutes before the Exocet hit Sheffield, her sister ship Glasgow detected the radar transmissions of the Exocet carrying aircraft—the first certain indication of imminent attack—and alerted the rest of the force to the threat. The process of detection and assessment absorbed little time and Sheffield thus had five minutes warning of the imminent attack.