Tag Archives: ARA Independencia

Warship Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Flattop of the Americas

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Flattop of the Americas

Library and Archives Canada 4950939/WO-A057319

Here we see an incredible original color photo of the Colossus-class light aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior, Canada’s first flattop, at sunset circa 1946. She would fly three different flags across her short career and get close enough to an H-Bomb to almost touch the sun.

British birth

Warrior was one of 16 planned 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers for the RN. This series, broken up into Colossus and Majestic-class sub-variants, were nifty 19,500-ton, 695-foot-long carriers that the U.S. Navy would have classified at the time as a CVL or light carrier. They were slower than the fast fleet carriers at just 25-knots with all four 3-drum Admiralty boilers were lit and glowing red, but they had long legs (over 14,000 miles at cruising speed) which allowed them to cross the Atlantic escorting convoys, travel to the Pacific to retake lost colonies or remain on station in the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean for weeks.

The classes’ 1946 Jane’s entry under the RN’s section. Note that Warrior is missing. 

Capable of carrying up to 44 piston engine aircraft of the time, these carriers had enough punch to make it count.

The thing is, only seven of these carriers were completed before the end of World War II and even those came in during the last months and weeks. They effectively saw no service. Laid down beginning in 1942, most of the ships were launched but when the war ended, construction was canceled. Two were completed as a peculiar RN invention of a “maintenance carrier,” intended just to repair and ferry but not operate aircraft. Some were immediately transferred to expanding Commonwealth fleets. Suddenly, the Australians, Canadians, and Indians became carrier operators. The Dutch (then Argentines) and Brazilians soon followed. Class leader Colossus was sold to France as Arromanches.

HMS WARRIOR (FL 21271) At a buoy. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205121624

Speaking of being sold off, Warrior was ordered, originally as HMS Brave, on 7 August 1942 from Harland and Wolff (builders of the Titanic) at their yard in Belfast. Launched on 20 May 1944, just two weeks before D-Day, she was the last of the Colossus class to finish construction in WWII on 2 April 1945, just as Berlin was falling. Intended for use in the Pacific, she was made available to Ottawa on a “try it before you buy it basis” while Japan was still in the war.

Oh, Canada

The Canadians were not entirely neophytes to carrier operations, having used a couple of Ruler/Bouge-class escort or “Jeep” carriers (the RN-flagged HMS Nabob and HMS Puncher) during the war already. Outfitting four squadrons (803, 825, 826, and 883 for the RCN), she would soon be ready to fly Supermarine Seafires (later replaced by Hawker Sea Fury) fighters, and Fairey Firefly IV strike aircraft (later replaced by TBM Avengers). Commissioned as HMCS Warrior on 24 January 1946, she was the largest warship Canada operated up until that time, having previously just had cruisers and escorts.

She arrived at Halifax in March 1946 and, had Japan not surrendered six months prior, would have likely gotten in on Operation Coronet, the planned and likely very bloody Allied invasion of Honshu, where the British Pacific Fleet was scheduled to play a big part. After all, her sisters HMS Colossus, Glory, Venerable, and Vengeance had already joined the BPF in Sydney in 1945.

Instead, Warrior never went to war under a Canadian flag.

HMCS Warrior, broadside view taken from shore, 14:30 hours, 23 Aug. 1946. LAC 3198949

Warrior underway, circa 1946. Original color. LAC 4950938/WO-A057319

The batsman on HMCS Warrior, signaling aircraft to land on the flight deck, circa 1946-48. Original color. LAC 4950874/WO-A057319

R.C.N. PR434. Vickers “Seafire” Mk15. R/R Griffon 6. 803 SQD. H.M.C.S. Warrior 30 August 1946 LAC

HMCS-Uganda (C66) as seen from the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior circa 1946, note the Fairey Firefly and Maple Leaf insignias. LAC-MIKAN-No 4821077

Fairey Firefly on the deck of HMCS Warrior, circa 1946-48. Original color. WO-A057319

Crowded hangar deck of Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior

Warrior passing under the Lions’ Gate Bridge in Vancouver 10 February 1947. Photo by Jack Lindsey/City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-3461

HMS Warrior (R-31) passing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, Vancouver. Feb 9, 1947. Jack Lindsey/City of Vancouver Archives

Deck Landing Control Officer (DLCO) signaling Hawker Sea Fury to take off, on an RCN aircraft carrier, circa 1947-57. Original color. LAC 4950873/WO-A057319

RCN 881 Anti-Submarine Squadron Grumman Avenger in flight LAC 4951377

Canada’s first proper flattop was returned to the Royal Navy on 23 March 1948 at Portsmouth, replaced by the Majestic-class near-sister HMCS Magnificent.

London Calling

Upon her return to Britain, Warrior was used as a trial ship for flexible deck experiments and then was laid up. Reactivated for Korea, she was used as a transport carrier to haul troops and aircraft to the epic battle for the Peninsula, arriving there in August 1950. 

 

 

HMS Warrior off Gibraltar MOD 45139702

HMS Warrior (R31), USS Des Moines (CA-134), and HMS Gambia (48) at Malta, circa in 1951. IWM A32043

Same, IWM A32044

After a refit with new commo gear and radars, she would embark Sea Furies and Fireflies for a West Pac cruise in 1954, where she would have the White Duster in both South Africa and Hong Kong.

FAR EAST FLEET EXERCISES. 3 OCTOBER 1954, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AIRCRAFT OF THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS WARRIOR OF THE BRITISH FAR EAST FLEET. EXERCISES CARRIED OUT OFF THE CHINA COAST AND WITH THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY. (A 33037) HMS BIRMINGHAM and HMS WARRIOR in line ahead while exercising off Hong Kong. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016333

FAR EAST FLEET EXERCISES. 3 OCTOBER 1954, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AIRCRAFT OF THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS WARRIOR OF THE BRITISH FAR EAST FLEET. EXERCISES CARRIED OUT OFF THE CHINA COAST AND WITH THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY. (A 33035) HMS WARRIOR sailing from Hong Kong for the exercises. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016331

During this cruise, she served as a “floating nursery,” clocking in to carry refugees from newly independent North Vietnam down to the Republic of Vietnam.

THE FRENCH INDOCHINA WAR, VIETNAM 1945 – 1954 (A 33001) The aircraft carrier HMS WARRIOR evacuates 1,455 refugees from Haiphong, North Vietnam to Saigon during Operation PASSAGE TO FREEDOM, 4 September 1954. Rice and other food are issued to refugees in the forward lift well. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187799

As above. Note the spare wings on her hangar deck bulkheads. IWM A 33003

HMS WARRIOR VISITS SOUTH AFRICA. ON 11 NOVEMBER 1954, ONBOARD THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER AT PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA. (A 33059) A section of the large crowd of South Africans who visited HMS WARRIOR at Port Elizabeth. More than 10,000 visitors went aboard on one afternoon. Here some are looking at A Sea Fury on the WARRIOR’s deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163735

Given another refit to add an angled deck– the Brits were the first to use such a novelty, she would embark both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft on occasion. This included another trip to the Pacific where she would standby of the Grapple X test at Christmas Island– the first British hydrogen bomb.

Grapple test as seen from HMS Warrior via Histarmar. The carrier would be very close to three separate bombs during the tests. 

There, her Avengers, Vampires, and HAR3/4 Whirlwinds would collect fallout samples the old-fashioned way, by flying through it.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Warrior (R31). The photo was taken circa 1957, as Warrior wears the deck code “J” which had been assigned to HMS Eagle (R05) from 1951 to late 1956. Eagle then received the new deck code “E”, whereas deck code “J” was assigned to the newly refitted Warrior. NNAM No. 1996.488.037.025

Same, different view, NNAM 1996.488.037.024

 

HMS Warrior on speed trials in 1957, note her “J” deck designator. 

On her way back from the Grapple tests, Warrior stopped off in Argentina, then a British ally, for a very special set of tours. You see, the carrier was surplus to RN needs and was very much for sale.

Back to the Americas

Sold to Argentina, HMS/HMCS Warrior was renamed ARA Independencia (V-1) on 6 August 1958 while at Portsmouth undergoing refit. Leaving for her new homeland, she arrived in December and wasn’t officially commissioned until mid-1959 with the first Argentine carrier landing in history taking place on her deck in June.

Her initial airwing would be made up of Korean War-era F4U-5L Corsairs complete with wing-mounted radars, a few navalized SNJ-5Cs Texans, the occasional T-28A Trojan, and, after 1962, a handful of early S-2A Trackers.

Archivo Fotográfico Portaaviones “Independencia” 27 de mayo de 1960 Archivo General de la Nación Dpto. Doc. Fotográficos.

Argentina carrier ARA Independencia with Corsairs on deck, colorized by Diego Mar of Postales Navales

Aviacion Naval Argentina F4U-5 Corsair carrier

F4U-5NL Vought Corsairs of the Aviacion Naval Argentina, circa 1962, original color. The country operated 26 F4U-5/N/5NL Corsairs from 1956 to 1968, primarily flying from Independencia

Archivo Fotografico ARA INDEPENDENCIA Puerto de Buenos Aires Julio/60 Fotografia Archivo General de la Nación Dpto. Doc. Fotográficos. Buenos Aires. Argentina. Note the white-painted F4U-5 Corsairs on deck

In August 1963, an ex-U.S. Navy F9F-2B Panther flown by Capt. Justiniano Martínez Achával became the first jet to land on an Argentine carrier when it was trapped on Independencia. However, it had to be craned off as her catapults were not thought to be powerful enough to launch it safely.

At least one of the country’s two F9F-8T Cougar trainers was photographed aboard as well.

First aircraft carrier of Argentina ARA Independencia (V-1) and Vickers G-class destroyer ARA Misiones (E-11) via Histamar, circa 1965

Argentina carrier ARA Independencia y ARA Punta Médanos Foto By N del Sr Adolfo Jorge Soto‎ Buques de guerra colorised by Diego Mar Postales Navales

Argentinian light carrier ARA Independencia -ex-HMS Warrior, a Colossus class carrier) operated “navalized” T-6 Texan (SNJ), a unique force. The USN used them but in the Great Lakes in the training carriers USS Sable & USS Wolverine.

With the delivery of the more modern Colossus-class sister HNLMS Karel Doorman (ex-HMS Venerable) from Holland in 1968– which could launch Panthers and Cougars and would later carry A-4 Skyhawks– the Argentines commissioned the new flattop as ARA 25 de Mayo (V-2) on 12 March 1969 and Independencia’s days were numbered. Laid up, she was sold on 17 March 1971 and scrapped.

Today, little of Warrior remains, with her bell still washed up in Canada at the Shearwater Aviation Museum in Nova Scotia.

HMCS Warrior’s bell at Shearwater Aviation Museum via Wiki Commons

There are, also, assorted scale models of her aircraft, including those flown by the FAA, RCN, and Armada.

The last of her class in the Royal Navy, Triumph, was kept around as a repair ship until 1975 then scrapped. The final vessel of her class sent to the breakers, the third-hand ex-HMS/HMAS Vengeance/ex-NAeL Minas Gerais, was sold for scrap by the Brazilian owners in 2004, torched to man-portable pieces on the beach at Alang.

There is one, more somber legacy of Warrior as well. Members of her Grapple crew, many of which have long-term generational health issues, are often represented by the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association. 

George Baulch on the deck of HMS Warrior after the first explosion. “One of his daughters was born with severe learning disabilities, which Mr. Baulch blames on the radiation. She died in her 30s of unexplained reasons.”

Specs:

Warrior’s 1946 Entry in Janes

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Own a Flying Nightmare

A U.S. Marine Corps Vought F4U-5N Corsair night fighter of Marine night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 Flying Nightmares on the flight line at Wonsan, Korea, on 2 November 1950.

A slugger, the gull-winged F4U-5 was the first post-WWII Corsair to enter production, filled with lessons learned from combat use in that conflict. Some 538 were produced of which 315 converted to the -5NL configuration with a wing-mounted radar for nighttime operations and other tweaks including winterizing– both of which would come in very handy in Korea.

Speaking of which, Bu.124541, as detailed by Warbirds News, spent more than 200 hours with the Flying Nightmares in Korea before she was charged off and transferred to the Argentine Navy in 1958 for operations from the Colossus-class carrier ARA Independencia (ex-HMS/HMCS Warrior).

The Argies kept her on the books until 1966, then she spent a period in storage before weathering life as a gate guard at the Museo del la Aviacion Naval in Buenos Aries before she was purchased by a French group of aviation enthusiasts in the 1990s.

Extensively restored, today she carries her historic VMF 513 livery, sans the radar dome which was deleted in the late 1960s.

F4U-5NL Bu.124541 via Platinum Fighters

F4U-5NL Bu.124541 via Platinum Fighters

Best yet, this flyable Corsair is airworthy and for sale at Platinum Fighters, just don’t ask how much.

Warship Wednesday April 26, 2017: Always a bridesmaid

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 26, 2017: Always a bridesmaid

Here we see the fourth ship of the Colossus-class of British Royal Navy carriers, HMS Venerable (R63), in her final career as the Argentine carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (V-2). As you can tell from this statement, she would go on to change flags a few times and later serve as a very real threat to her original owners.

Venerable was one of 16 planned 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers for the RN. This series, broken up into Colossus and Majestic-class sub-variants, were nifty 19,500-ton, 695-foot long carriers that the U.S. Navy would have classified at the time as a CVL or light carrier. They were slower than the fast fleet carriers at just 25-knots with all four 3-drum Admiralty boilers were lit and glowing red, but they had long legs (over 14,000 miles at cruising speed) which allowed them to cross the Atlantic escorting convoys, travel to the Pacific to retake lost colonies or remain on station in the South Atlantic (Falklands anyone?) or the Indian Ocean for weeks.

Capable of carrying up to 52 piston engine aircraft of the time, these carriers had enough punch to make it count.

The thing is, only seven of these carriers were completed before the end of World War II and even those came in during the last months and weeks. They effectively saw no service. Laid down beginning in 1942, most of the ships were launched but when the war ended, construction was canceled.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

THE LAUNCHING OF HMS VENERABLE. 30 DECEMBER 1943, CAMMEL LAIRD’S YARD, BIRKENHEAD. THE LAUNCH OF THE 8,OOO TON AIRCRAFT CARRIER BY MRS HERBERT MORRISON. (A 21186) Men who helped build her watching the VENERABLE glide down the slipway. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205153550

The hero of our tale, the fourth HMS Venerable in the RN since 1784 and the last hull to bear the name in that fleet, was laid down at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead on 3 December 1942 and launched just over a year later. Commissioned on 17 January 1945, she was made flagship of the RN’s 11th Aircraft Carrier Squadron, Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt, CB, CBE, commanding.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 27086) HMS VENERABLE steaming at moderate speed during her acceptance trials. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119935

HMS VENERABLE (FL 14300) Underway, at sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205017364

Destined for service in the Far East where the war was expected to linger through 1946 or 1947, she was outfitted with an airwing of F4U Corsair fighters and Fairley Barracuda torpedo bombers of 814 and 1851 Squadrons and set off to join TF 37 of the US 3rd Fleet by way of the Med, which by early 1945 was quiet.

ON BOARD HMS VENERABLE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. APRIL 1945, ON BOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER HMS VENERABLE, FLAGSHIP OF THE 11TH AIRCRAFT CARRIER SQUADRON, IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. (A 28673) Fire and rescue party, with mobile foam extinguisher, double to the rescue when a Chance-Vought Corsair, though its hook had caught the first wire, nearly spills over the side. In the background is the attendant destroyer the Italian ORIANI steaming alongside ready to pick up crashed aircrews. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160011

ON BOARD HMS VENERABLE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. APRIL 1945, ON BOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER HMS VENERABLE, FLAGSHIP OF THE 11TH AIRCRAFT CARRIER SQUADRON, IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. (A 28674) From the island in the background the Commanding Officer, Captain W A Dallmeyer, DSO, RN, and Commander Flying, Commander (F) J Borrett, RN, direct the take-off of a Hellcat 6-gun naval fighter. Above is the flag deck and below the starboard wing can be seen some of the aircraft handling party and aft the fire and crash party. As she carried Barracuda and Corsairs at the time, this could be a cross-decked Hellcat. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160012

WITH THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS VENGEANCE. MARCH AND APRIL 1945, IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. ACTIVITIES OF AIRMEN AND SISTER SHIPS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. (A 28908) A sister carrier HMS VENERABLE off the coast of Tunisia on passage from Gibraltar to Malta. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205160216

She arrived just in time to join with the carrier HMS Indomitable and the battleship HMS Anson to re-occupy Hong Kong in August 1945, followed by the re-occupation of Kowloon the next month. As far as I can tell, Venerable did not engage either German or Japanese forces in live combat during WWII.

October found her in Haiphong, French Indochina, picking up liberated Indian and Commonwealth prisoners of war to be repatriated home. November and December found her supporting Dutch efforts to reoccupy the Dutch East Indies before spending Christmas of 1945 in Freemantle, Australia. The next year saw her continuing her trooping efforts, shuttling refugees, displaced persons, and soon-to-be-mustered out servicemembers from Singapore to Hong Kong and other parts of the Far East, and bringing in fresh troops for garrison duty.

By February 14, 1947, after fleet exercises with the British Pacific Fleet, she set sail for Plymouth where she was laid up in May, having served just 29 months on active duty, mostly as a taxi service.

Dutch Service

The British, flush with flattops, broke and at peace, began a clearance sale over the next several years. In the end, class leader Colossus was sold to France as Arromanches. The Australians picked up Vengeance, Majestic and Terrible; the Canadians got Warrior (more on her later), Powerful and Magnificent; and India picked up Hercules.

On 1 April 1948, our still relatively new carrier, Venerable, was sold to the Royal Netherlands Navy, who commissioned her 28 May as HNLMS Karel Doorman (R-81), named after the famed Dutch admiral lost with his flagship light cruiser De Ruyter in WWII. She was the second, and last aircraft carrier of the Royal Netherlands Navy (their previous carrier, also after Doorman, was the former British escort carrier HMS Nairana.)

A Dutch propaganda poster, depicting Admiral Karel Doorman and his flagship, the doomed light cruiser De Ruyter

With the country fighting separatists in the Dutch East Indies and facing the always-curious Venezuelans in the Dutch West Indies, she was quickly given a topicalization that included boiler modifications and partial air conditioning and deployed along with the cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck and frigate Johan Maurits van Nassau to the Caribbean.

HNLMS Karel Doorman with former USN TBM-3E Avengers on deck

Dutch aircraft carrier KAREL DOORMAN, ex British VENERABLE, circa 1950. Note the Carley floats and extensive small boat arrangement

She carried a mix of 24 Fireflies and Sea Furies as her initial air wing. For rescue duties, a yellow Sea Otter was included, later replaced by an S-51 helicopter, called Jezebel. On the cruise was Prince Bernhard, who had a long history of military service and had racked up several thousand hours in combat aircraft.

(Bernard flying off the carrier later in life, in an S-2 Stoof in 1967)

From 1955-58, Venerable saw extensive modernization at Wilton-Feijenoord Shipyard in Holland. During this time, she was fitted with a new steam catapult, an 8-degree angled deck, mirror landing sight, new island, massive mast, and funnel, as well as ultra-modern radar equipment, air search, height search, target acquisition, navigation, and carrier controlled approach radar systems. The latter was produced by the electronic company Holland Signaal.

Her dated AAA guns were replaced by 10 Bofors 40mm/L70s. Her new air wing consisted of 14 anti-submarine Avengers, 10 Hawker Sea Hawks, and 2 S-55 helicopters and she acted as the flagship of Smaldeel V (Task Force 5) operating in the North Sea as part of NATO.

Hawker Sea Hawks and Avengers on Karl Doorman

With Indonesia rattling the sabers over West Papua New Guinea, the Dutch carrier embarked a dozen Hawker Hunters besides her airwing and went to the Far East again in 1960 until that crisis was settled through negotiations. The Indonesians had planned to sink her with a six-aircraft sortie of Tu-16KS-1 Badger bombers using a dozen AS-1 Kennel anti-ship missiles, which her Bofors likely would have been unable to counter. Again, the carrier avoided combat by the luck of the draw.

Colossus-class aircraft carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman (R81)

Marine Luchtvaart Dienst, ‘Kon Marine’, VSQ-4 ‘D’ CS2F-1’s S-2A’s aboard HNMLS Karel Doorman R81. Note her distinctive green deck

The crisis abated, she returned to the Atlantic and made another trip to the New World in 1962, her air wing modified for ASW-only missions with 8 Grumman S2F Trackers and 6 S-58 (H-34) helicopters along with a company of Dutch Marines.

Dutch Aircraft carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman in 1962; All Hands and remembrance ceremony in the Dardanelles; Royal Marine Corps Band marching towards the bow

This is the English version of a film about the Dutch aircraft carrier Hr.Ms. Karel Doorman (R81). It shows everyday life onboard the aircraft carrier during the journey it made in 1962 to Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. The destroyers Hr.Ms. Groningen (D813) and Hr.Ms. Limburg (D814) joined her during this voyage:

In early 1968, the 23-year old carrier suffered a boiler room fire that extensively gutted her engineering spaces. The Dutch, defense budgets always slim, moved to replace her with land-based ASW aircraft and helicopters borne by surface combatants. She was stricken on 29 April 1968, deemed not worth the repair.

Third-hand aircraft carrier? Anyone?

Remember HMCS Warrior mentioned above? The Colossus-class carrier loaned to the Canadians? Well, the Canucks didn’t need so many carriers so they gave her back to the Brits who decommissioned the unmodified flattop in February 1958. Argentina, feeling outclassed by the purchase in 1956 by neighboring Brazil of the Colossus-class carrier Vengeance after the Australians were done with her– the first Latin American country to have a carrier– moved to pick up the Warrior from the UK which the commissioned as ARA Independencia (V-1) in July 1959.

ARA Independencia (V-1). She flew F4U-5s in 2′ Escuadrilla de Ataque. Colorized by Postales Navales

Independencia flew a wing of former USN F4U Corsairs, SNJ-5Cs Texans, and Grumman S2F-1Trackers but, with the Argentines looking to swap their aging Corsairs and Texans for jet-powered F9F Panthers, they needed an angled flight deck. This led them to purchase Venerable/Karel Doorman in crippled condition on 15 October 1968 and refurbish her as a cheaper option than giving Independencia the needed topside improvements to run jets.

Following a six-month repair at Rotterdam that saw her disabled boilers replaced by new ones transplanted from her incomplete sister ship HMS Leviathan, Venerable/Karel Doorman was commissioned into the Argentine Navy as ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (25 May– Argentina’s national day) (V-2) on 12 March 1969. For two years, on paper at least, Argentina had two carriers, though Independencia was soon withdrawn and by 1971 scrapped.

For the next 21-years, the Brazilian carrier Minas Gerais and the Argentine Veinticinco de Mayo— built as sister ships– were the yin and yang of Latina American carrier operations.

In 1971, Argentina bought 16 USN A-4B Skyhawks plus two for spare parts, then modified them with five weapon pylons and the ability to carry AIM-9B Sidewinders, creating A-4Q fighter bombers. These replaced the 1950s era F9F Panthers. Sea King ASW/SAR helicopters were added to the wing. Though it should be noted that in 1969 the Brits tested an early Harrier GR.1 on board her, which the Argentines declined to buy.

Argentina carrier 25 de Mayo along with the Gearing class destroyers Miguel Angel Gutierrez Barquin Al frente la 2da división de destructores (Espora, Brown y Rosales).

Note the Skyhawks. Colorized by Postales Navales.

With the Argentina military junta in charge in the late 1970s, the U.S. cut support to the country because of the fratricidal Dirty War, which made Veinticinco de Mayo‘s air wing increasingly hard to fly. The Argentines looked elsewhere and in 1978 negotiated a contract to buy 14 Dassault-Breguet Super Étendards and a quantity of air-launched Exocet anti-ship missiles from France. This came in conjunction with the surface-to-surface Exocet sales and France throwing in two corvettes, originally built for the apartheid Regime in South Africa. The corvettes, Good Hope and Transvaal, could not be delivered because of anti-apartheid embargoes. In Argentina, they were renamed ARA Drummond and ARA Guerrico.

The Argentine Navy, with their carrier in the forefront, moved to invade the Chilean islands of Picton, Nueva, and Lennox in the Beagle Channel in a territorial dispute in 1978, however, the junta reversed themselves before the conflict turned hot. Once more, our flattop did not fire a shot in anger.

Then came the Malvinas.

With just four Super Étendards (with five Exocets) and 10 A-4Qs operational in the Argentine Navy, the carrier made ready to sortie for that country’s push to retake the Falkland Islands from Great Britain in yet another dangerous territorial dispute. In April 1982, 35 years ago this month, she put to sea as the flagship of Carrier Task Force (CTF 79.1) tasked by the Naval High Command to support the invasion, codenamed Operation Azul.

Carrier ARA 25 de mayo (V-2) S2-Trackers, A4-Q Skyhawks, Aerospatiale Alouette. Note the camouflaged S-2. It should be noted the Etendards were not carrier certified until after the Falklands war.

Once the Brits mustered a task force to take the islands back,  25 de Mayo was ordered to sea to attack the arriving English carrier battle group, made up of the HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. With the two British carriers bristling with over 25 radar-equipped Sea Harriers armed with later model AIM-9L Sidewinders and surrounded by dozens of Sea Dart and Sea Wolf equipped escorts, the likelihood that the Argentine A-4s could have prosecuted a successful attack on the fleet was slim. Nonetheless, a strike was prepared and, with her S-2’s picking up the British fleet over the horizon, was only scrubbed at the last minute due to poor weather conditions. It would have been the first time since 1944 that a carrier v. carrier fleet action occurred.

ARA Veinticinco de Mayo makes A-4 Skyhawk jets ready during the 1982 Falklands War note Invincible marked bomb

The image summarizes the deployment of Ar+Br naval forces around the Falklands Islands before the sinking of the ARA Belgrano during the Falklands War according to Ruben O. Moro with a hint that Middlebrook set the Argentine forces no more than 60-90 nautical miles from TEZ in opposite to Moro who set it further. Via Wiki

Further, once a British submarine sank the WWII light cruiser ARA General Belgrano (former USS Phoenix) with heavy loss of life on May 3, the Argentine Navy lacked the appetite to further risk their carrier. While her Skyhawks and Étendards made gallant and even successful strikes on British escorts and auxiliaries while flying from land at the Rio Grande over the next six weeks, Veinticinco de Mayo returned to port and remained there for the rest of the war, again not bathed in the blood of her enemies.

With the junta swept away after the Falklands War and military funding withering, the Argentines could put all their working French strike planes online but their carrier was increasingly restricted to port with bad engineering casualties. With her Skyhawks lost in 1982, her last air wing in her twilight years was 12 Etendards, six Grumman Tracker ASW aircraft, four SH-3D Sea King ASW, and one utility helicopter.

Argentine carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo 25, A-4 forward, Etendards aft

Inoperable by 1990, the Brazilians were allowed to plunder her for parts to keep their own carrier at sea in exchange for granting Argentine carrier pilots a chance to tail hook on their neighbor’s ship to keep their qualifications up to date.

By 1997, Veinticinco de Mayo was officially decommissioned and towed to India in 2000 for scrapping. As for the Brazilians, they replaced her sister with the larger and slightly more modern French aircraft carrier Foch the same year.

All the Colossus/Majestic class carriers are now gone, with the Indian INS Vikrant/HMS Hercules, saved briefly as a museum ship, scrapped in 2014 ending the era of these well-traveled light carriers.

Oddly enough, the British Imperial War Museum has some Argentine relics of the Veinticinco de Mayo, a UZI submachine gun and FN FAL rifle captured in the Falklands that are Dutch-marked and believed to have transferred with the carrier to the “Argies” then subsequently used with that country’s Marines ashore in the Falklands.

Specs:

CV R81 Karel Doorman via shipbucket. Click to big up

Displacement

15,890 tons standard
17,500 tons normal
19,890 tons full load
Length:
630 ft. (190 m) between perpendiculars
695 ft. (212 m) overall
Beam:     80 ft. (24 m)
Draught:     24.5 ft. (7.5 m)
Speed:     25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) at 120 revolutions
Range:
12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
6,200 nautical miles (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) at 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)
Complement: 1,000 + 300 air group
Sensors and processing systems: (1982)
Air search: Lockheed SPS-40B; E/F band
Surface search: Plessey AWS 4; E/F band
Navigation: Signaal ZW06; I band
Fire control: 2 × SPG-34; I/J band
CCA: Scanter Mil-Par; I band
Aircraft
52 piston (as-built)
20~ jets by 1958
Armament:
(As designed, 1942)
6 × 4-barrelled 2 pounder anti-aircraft guns
16 × twin 20 mm Oerlikon mountings
(1958)
10 × Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns (2 quads, 1 twin)
2 × 47 mm saluting guns

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