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Battle of San Carlos
Part of Falklands War
Fotoametralladora Dagger Malvinas.jpg
Argentine Air Force Dagger attack on May 24
Date 21-25 May 1982
Location San Carlos Water, Falkland Islands
Result British established successful beachhead
 United Kingdom  Argentina
United Kingdom Sandy Woodward
United Kingdom Jeremy Moore
United Kingdom Michael Clapp
Argentina Gral Mario Menendez
Argentina Brig. Ernesto Crespo
2 destroyers
7 frigates
11 Landing ships
Sea Harrier CAPs
90 fighters on mainland
2 KC-130 Hercules tankers
10 attack aircraft on islands
Casualties and losses
1 destroyer sunk
2 frigates sunk
8 ships damaged
22 aircraft [1]
11 pilots killed

The Battle of San Carlos, also known as Bomb Alley [2][3], was a major air naval engagement during the Falklands War ( Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas ), that took place between May 21/25, 1982 during the British landings on the shores of San Carlos Water and was the scene of repeated air attacks by low-flying Argentine jets. It was the first time in history that a modern surface fleet armed with surface-to-air missiles held a campaign against full-scale air strikes. Despite the losses and damage received, the British forces were able to land and consolidate the beachhead.



After the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands the United Kingdom initiated Operation Corporate sending a Task Force 12000 km south in order to retake the islands. Under the codename Operation Sutton, the British forces planned amphibious landings around San Carlos, on an inlet located off Falkland Sound, the strait between East Falkland and West Falkland. The choice of the site was due within the bay the landing force would be protected against Exocet and submarines attacks and distant enough of Stanley to prevent a rapid Argentine reaction [4]. The landing took the Argentines completely by surprise who had left the zone without any major defence, because Argentine Navy officers suggested that the location was not the best choice for such an operation [5]


Argentine Aircraft

  • A-4 Skyhawk: The A-4 was used by both the Argentine Air Force (FAA) and Argentine Naval Aviation (COAN). In spite of using two 295 gallons drop tanks, they needed aerial refuelling twice during missions. Ordnance used during the conflict was one British-made 1000 lb (Mk 17) unguided bomb or four 227 kgs Spanish/American built retarding tail bombs.
  • IAI Dagger: The Israeli-built Mirage 5 did not have aerial refuelling capacity and even using two 550-gallon drop tanks to carry extra fuel, they were flying at the absolute limit of their range. Their main weapon during the conflict was the British-made 1000 lb (Mk 17) unguided bomb.
  • Mirage IIIEA: The French-built interceptor has a internal fuel tank smaller than that of the Dagger so they couldn't fly low enough to escort the strike aircraft. They carried a pair of R550 Magic IR missiles in their high altitude flights to the islands but the Harriers combat air patrols wisely concentrated on the low-flying bombers.
  • FMA IA-58 Pucara: The Argentine-built counter-insurgency aircraft operated from the Goose Green grass airstrip during the battle. The aircraft were armed with rocket pods, two 20 mm cannons and four 7.62 mm machine guns.

British Amphibious Force


Argentine airbases: Distances to Port Stanley Airport[6]: Trelew: 580 nautical miles (1,070 km), Comodoro Rivadavia: 480 nautical miles (890 km), San Julián: 425 nautical miles (787 km), Rio Gallegos: 435 nautical miles (806 km) and Rio Grande: 380 nautical miles (700 km).
Due to the distance required to fly to the islands, two minutes was the average time Argentine attack aircraft had available in the target area.

This is a list of the main sorties carried out by Argentine air units showing approximate local time, Aircraft and Call signal.

May 21

The Argentine Army force on site was a section from the 25th Infantry Regiment, named Combat team Güemes ( Spanish: Equipo de Combate Güemes ) and was located at Fanning Head. The British fleet entered San Carlos during the night and at 02:50 was spotted by EC Güemes which open fire with their support weapons (81mm mortars and 2 recoilless 105mm rifles) but were soon engaged by British naval gunfire and a 25 men SBS team and forced to retreat, loosing their communications equipment in the process, but shooting down two Gazelle helicopters with small-arms fire.

1st Lt Carlos Daniel Esteban, from EC Güemes, was able to inform Goose Green garrison about the landings at 08:22 and was finally evacuated by helicopter on May 26. The Argentine high command at Stanley initially suggested that a landing operation could not be done at San Carlos and was just a diversion. Finally, at 10:00 a solitary COAN jet Aermacchi MB-339, based on the islands, was dispatched to San Carlos on a reconnaissance flight. In the meantime, the FAA had already started launching their mainland-based aircraft at 09:00.

Naval Aviation Aermacchi MB-339
  • 10:15 : FAA Pucara Tigre. Three (of 4) planes scramble from Goose Green amid HMS Ardent naval gunfire. Cpt Benítez is shot down by a Stinger missile fired by the Special Air Service, he ejected and walked back to his base, arriving 19:00. The other two pilots Mj Tomba and 1st Lt Micheloud successfully fired 2.75 inch rockets at a shed, apparently used by British forces as an observation post, but were intercepted by two Sea Harrier during their escape. Mj Tomba was shot down (ejecting safely) by pilot Nigel Ward,[7] while Lt Micheloud outmanoeuvred the second Sea Harrier and landed at Port Stanley's airfield.
  • 10:20 : FAA MIIIEA. Four aircraft as diversion flights flying north of the islands.
  • 10:25 : FAA Dagger Leon. From San Julian, Cpt Dimeglio and Lt Castillo attack HMS Antrim with their 30mm cannons. Their 1000 lb bombs failed to explode.
  • 10:30 : FAA Dagger Ñandu. From Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Cpt Rodhe and Lt Bean attacked HMS Argonaut, Lt Bean is shot down by SAM Sea Wolf from HMS Broadsword which in turn is attacked by third pilot Cpt Janet.
  • 10:35 : FAA Dagger Zorro. Cpt Dellepine, Cpt Diaz and Cpt Aguirre-Faget attacked HMS Brilliant but the bombs hung-up, although they strafed the frigate with their 30mm cannons.
  • 10:50 : FAA Dagger Perro. Mj Martinez, Cpt Moreno and Lt Volponi attacked HMS Antrim. Their 1000 lb bombs do not explode, but one of them hit the stern of the destroyer, which also received damaged from 30 mm strafing. During their escape, Sea Harriers launched Sidewinders against the Daggers but they fell short.
  • 12:45 : FAA A-4C Pato. Cpt Almoño, Cpt Garcia, 1st Lt Daniel Manzotti and Lt Nestor Lopez intercepted by Sea Harriers being the last two of them shot down and killed by Sidewinders.
  • 12:45 : FAA A-4B Mula. Cpt Carballo and Ensign Carmona. Mula 2 attacked an unknown ship, having expended his ordnance, Carballo ordered him to return to base.[8] Carballo continued alone and attacked HMS Ardent straddling her with two bombs, both of which failed to explode.[9]
  • 13:37 : FAA A-4B Leo. 1st Lt Filippini, Lt Autiero, Lt Osses, Lt Robledo and Ensign Vottero hit HMS Argonaut with 1000 lbs bombs which do not explode, with one crashing through her Sea Cat magazine, detonating two missiles and causing damage.
  • 14:30 : FAA MIIIEA. Two aircraft as diversion flights
  • 14:35 : FAA Dagger Cueca Cpt Mir Gonzales, Cpt Robles, 1st Lt Luna and Lt Bernhard are intercepted by Sea Harriers and Lt Luna is hit by a Sidewinder and ejected safely. The other three pilots attack HMS Ardent and return to base.
Gate guardian painted in the colours of 3-A-314, the last A-4Q to attack HMS Ardent
  • 14:53 : FAA Dagger Laucha Mj Puga, 1st Lt Román attack HMS Brilliant. The third pilot attacks an unknown ship, probably HMS Antrim.
  • 14:58 : FAA Dagger Raton Mj Piuma, Cpt Donadille and 1st lt Senn are intercepted by Sea Harriers of Nigel Ward and Lt Thomas. The Daggers drop their ordinance (2 fuel tanks and one 1000 bomb) and tried to escape but the three are shot down by Sidewinders although ejecting safely. After recovering the pilots, the FAA realized that San Julian based Daggers approach corridor had been discovered and made efforts to correct the situation.
  • 15:15 : COAN A-4Q Tabanos. Cpt Philipi, Lt Arca and Lt Marquez hit HMS Ardent with several bombs and cannon fire. Two aircraft are shot down by Sea Harriers during their escape killing Lt Marcelo Márquez on the process. Lt. Philippi ejected safely and after been sheltered by local farmer Tony Blake during the night ,[10] he rejoined Argentine forces. The third A-4Q, Lt Arca, was damaged and the pilot bailed out into the sea approximately 800 to 1,000 meters of the coast of Port Stanley. Arca was rescued from the water by Capt. Jorge “Picho” Svendsen's Huey UH-1H from Army's 601 Helicopter Battalion. The winchman was 1st Corporal San Miguel and both crew were decorated with the medal issued by the Argentine Congress to Bravery in Combat.
  • 17:02 : FAA A-4C : No ships found.
  • 17:12 : FAA A-4B : No ships found.

May 22

Bad weather on the Patagonia airfields prevented the Argentines carry most of their air missions whilst the British completed their surface-to-air Rapier battery, launchers deployments. Only a few Skyhawks managed to reach the islands.

May 23

HMS Antelope
  • 13:30 : FAA A-4B Nene. Four A-4B (Carballo, 1st Lt Guadagnini, Lt Rinke and Ensign Gomez) attacked HMS Broadsword and HMS Antelope. Carballo's plane was damaged by the explosion of a Sea Cat missile, fired from Antelope, while on his bombing run, so he broke off from the attack and returned to Rio Gallegos. Lieutenant Guadagnini, was hit by HMS Antelope 20mm cannon before crashing through her main mast, while prosecuting his bombing run and killed, his bombs pierced the frigate's hull without exploding.[11] After the attack, one of these detonated while being defused and the ship was lost.
  • 13:45 : COAN A-4Q Tabanos. Cpt Castro Fox, Cpt Zubizarreta and Lt Benitez attacked HMS Broadsword, HMS Yarmouth and HMS Antelope without visible success. Cpt Carlos María Zubizarreta would be killed in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego when his parachute did not fully open after he ejected from his A-4Q due a tyre burst on landing with his bombs still loaded. Ironically, the plane stopped by itself and did not suffer any damage. [12] [13]
  • 15:10 : FAA Dagger Puñal. Mj Martinez and Lt Volponi intercepted by Sea Harriers, which shot down the second aircraft, whilst Martinez returned to base.
  • 15:10 : FAA Dagger Daga. Struck targets inside Ajax Bay
  • 15:10 : FAA Dagger Coral. Struck targets inside Ajax Bay

May 24

IAI Dagger
  • 10:15 FAA A-4B Chispa. Four A-4B (Com Mariel, 1st Lt Sanchez, Lt Roca, Lt Cervera and Ensign Moroni) attacked ships inside the bay. RFA Sir Lancelot is hit by a 1000 lbs bomb, which does not explode. Two LCU are also targeted.
  • 11:02 FAA Dagger Azul. Cpt Mir Gonzalez, Cpt Maffeis, Cpt Robles and Lt Bernhardt attacked not identified ships, probably RFA Sir Bedivere, inside the bay.
  • 11:07 FAA Dagger Plata. Cpt Dellepiane, 1st Lt Musso and Lt Callejo strike ground targets with 227 kgs retarding tail bombs.
  • 11:08 FAA Dagger Oro. Mj Puga, Cpt Diaz and 1st Lt Castillo intercepted and shot down by Sea Harriers. Castillo was killed whilst the other two ejected safely.
  • 11:20 FAA A-4C Halcon. Cpt Pierini, 1st Lt Ureta and Lt Mendez intercepted by Sea Harriers but managed to return to base.
  • 11:30 FAA A-4C Jaguar. 1st Lt Vazques, Lt Bono and Ensign Martinez attacked unidentified ships, possibly RFA Sir Galahad, inside the bay. The three aircraft all received battle damage with Bono's aircraft crashing during the return flight. The other two Skyhawk were rescued by the KC-130 tanker, which approached the islands and delivered 30,000 litres of fuel while carrying them to airfield at San Julian.

May 25

Skyhawk departing to the islands
  • 09:00 FAA A-4B Marte. Cpt Hugo Palaver's aircraft was damaged in a friendly fire incident when he and Lt Daniel Gálvez accidentally flew over Goose Green and strafed the pier there, in the belief that they were over Ajax Bay.[14] The main anti-aircraft artillery identified the fighters as friendly and did not fire, but soldiers on the ground engaged with small arms fire.[15] When they returned to the strait, Palaver was shot down by a Sea Dart missile, fired by HMS Coventry
  • 12:25 FAA A-4C Toro. Cpt Garcia, Lt Lucero, Lt Paredi and Ensign Issac after attacking ships inside the bay, probably RFA Sir Lancelot, Lucero is shot down by Sea Cat missile fired from HMS Yarmouth. He successfully ejects over the landing force [16], is rescued then transferred to the hospital ship, SS Uganda. Another Sea Dart, fired by HMS Coventry, shoots down Garcia, who was damaged by small arms fire during the attack, to the North of San Carlos. Cpt Garcia ejects but is not recovered from the water, (his body washes ashore on Golding Island in 1983). Ensign Isaac was loosing fuel but was rescued by the KC-130, which towed him to his base, transferring the necessary fuel.
  • 15:20 FAA A-4B Volcano. Cpt Carballo and Lt Carlos Rinke attacked HMS Broadsword picture from shipslightly damaging the frigate and shattering the nose of her Sea Lynx helicopter Pictures of the Damage
  • 15:20 FAA A-4B Zeus. 1st Lt Velazco and Ensign Barrionuevo sink the destroyer HMS Coventry


British troops Yomp to Stanley
I think the Argentine pilots are showing great bravery, it would be foolish of me to say anything else

John Nott British Defence Minister [17]

In spite of the massive air defence network, the Argentine pilots were able to attack their targets but, although undoubtedly brave, some serious procedural failures prevented them from getting better results - most notably problems with their bombs' fuses. Thirteen bombs [18] hit British ships without detonating. Lord Craig, the retired Marshal of the Royal Air Force, is said to have remarked: "Six better fuses and we would have lost"[19] . Also the British warships, although suffering most of the attacks by themselves, were successful in keeping the strike aircraft away from their primary targets, the landing ships, which were well inside the bay [20]. With the British troops on Falklands soil, a land campaign followed until General Mario Menéndez surrendered to the Major General Jeremy Moore on June 14 in Stanley.

The actions had also a profound impact on naval design. During the 1980s, most warships from navies around the world were retrofitted with close-in weapon systems and artillery guns for self-defence. Early reports of aircraft shot down by the missile systems was subsequently decreased years later [21]

See also

External links


  • Commodore Ruben Oscar Moro: La Guerra Inaudita, ISBN 987-96007-3-8
  • Commodore Pablo Marcos Carballo: Dios Y Los Halcones, ISBN 987963361X
  1. ^ [9 Dagger, 5 A-4C, 3 A-4Q, 3 A-4B & 2 Pucara]
  2. ^ Yates, David (2006). Bomb Alley - Falkland Islands 1982. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781844154173. 
  3. ^ "Americas | Charles ends Falklands tour on sombre note". BBC News. 1999-03-15. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  4. ^ clarin: Julian Thompson interview
  5. ^ Commodore Ruben Oscar Moro: La Guerra Inaudita, ISBN 987-96007-3-8, ... consideraban que el desembarco Britanico no podia ser alli ... debido a un concepto naval que asociaba la capacidad de una flota con su espacio de maniobra para un desembarco ...
  6. ^ Argentine Airpower in the Falklands War: An Operational View
  7. ^ "Major Carlos Tomba’s Pucara". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  8. ^ Some sources identify this ship as the Rio Carcaraña but other sources place the cargo vessel in Bahía Rey ( King George Bay ? ) at the moment
  9. ^ Board of Inquiry - Report into the Loss of HMS Ardent, page 2
  10. ^ La balada del piloto bahiense y el estanciero kelper (Spanish)
  11. ^ Primer Teniente Guadagnini
  12. ^ 3ra. Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque
  13. ^ "Carlos Zubizarreta". Retrieved 2009-December-06. 
  14. ^ Official site of the Argentine Air Force: Fuerza Aérez Argentina - Martes 25 de Mayo (Spanish)
  15. ^ Piaggi, Italo A. (1986). Ganso Verde. Ed. Planeta, p. 83. ISBN 9503701864. (Spanish)
  16. ^ Cpt Tomas Lucero interview
  17. ^ Los Angeles times, May 27 1982
  18. ^ "British Ships Sunk and Damaged - Falklands War 1982". Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  19. ^ Gethin Chamberlain (5 April 2002). "Would British forces be able to retake the Falklands today?" (subscription required to access archive service). The Scotsman: p. 12. Archived from the original on 5 April 2002. 
  20. ^ Pablo Carballo: Halcones sobre Malvinas
  21. ^ Of 14 kills and 6 probables, only five Argentine aircraft might have been shot down by Rapier, and, as originally noted by Ethell and Price, only one of these was certain, with the others subjected to the full force of the San Carlos Air Defences, with claims going to Sea Wolf, Sea Cat, Blowpipe & Small Arms. Similar discrepancies arose over other weapons systems, notably Blowpipe (one confirmed kill as against nine confirmed and two probables in the White Paper) and Sea Cat (zero to one against eight confirmed and two probables in the White Paper). FREEDMAN, Sir Lawrence, The Official History of the Falklands Campaign (Abingdon, 2005). Volume II, page 732-735


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