During the Falklands War, the British used two aircraft carriers: the HMS Invincible R05 and the HMS Hermes R12

When the war between Britain and Argentina broke out in 1982, the Royal Navy hastily formed a fleet of special warships, with the flagship, a Centaur-class aircraft carrier, the HMS Hermes. Her mission was to advance thousands of kilometers deep into hostile territory to defeat the enemy.

The Hermes sailed for the Falklands with an airgroup of 12 Sea Harrier FRS1 attack aircraft of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, and 18 Sea King helicopters.

A few weeks after sailing, more aircraft were flown or transported via other ships to replace some losses and augment the task force. Hermes’s airgroup grew to 16 Sea Harriers, 10 Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR3s of the Royal Air Force, and 10 Sea Kings as well as a troop of Special Air Service and Royal Marines.

Falklands war sea harrier
Falklands war sea harrier

To protect the carrier, her Harriers operated at the limit of their endurance radius but were very successful in keeping the enemy aircraft at bay.

On board the Invincible, along with eight Sea Harriers, the airgroup included twelve Sea King helicopters that were slightly larger than the ship had originally been designed to accommodate. Small machine guns were added around the flight deck and island for close-in defence. Invincible managed to survive the war against Argentina unscathed – despite Argentine reports to the contrary.

Active air operations during the Falkland War continued for 45 days. During this time, according to British sources, Sea Harriers completed 1435 sorties, and GR.3 Harriers completed 12, which was less than 35 sorties per day. A simple calculation should, in theory, tell us that this was 17,5 sorties per day from each aircraft carrier. The hottest for the Harriers was the day May 20, 1982, when all planes from both aircraft carriers completed 31 sorties.

The Sea Harrier subsonic jets, armed with the most advanced versions of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, have proven capable as an air superiority fighter.

The battle had a profound impact on later naval practice. During the 1980s many naval warships around the world were retrofitted with short-range weapon systems and guns for self-defense.

Thanks to the advantage of naval air force, after 72 days of fighting, finally on June 14, 1982, the victory belonged to the British. The British side had 225 soldiers killed, 3 residents dead, 777 wounded and 59 prisoners. The Argentine side had 649 dead soldiers, 1,068 wounded and 11,313 taken prisoner.

Since January 1, 1983, the British government expelled the Argentine army from the archipelago and did not allow the Argentines to return, the remaining population was forced to become British citizenship.


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