Attrition: Ignominious Loss


February 5, 2013: Argentinian foreign policy suffered a major loss on January 21st, when the Argentinian Navy destroyer Santisima Trinidad sank at pier side. It had earlier sprung a leak that was not dealt with and eventually rolled over on its side with most of the vessel still above water because the pier was in a shallow part of the bay. What made this loss so embarrassing, recent Argentinian demands that Britain hand over the Falkland Islands, which Britain has controlled for centuries but which Argentina has long claimed. Argentina invaded and seized the Falklands in 1982, an operation that the newly built (1980) destroyer Trinidad participated in. But the British Royal Navy showed up shortly thereafter and defeated the Argentinians, killed or captured the invasion force, and sent the Argentinian Navy rushing back to its bases. Before that the Trinidad had already returned to its base and suffered damage from some accidents before the war ended.

The Trinidad stayed in service until 2000, and was retired in 2005. It was not scrapped because it served as a source of spare parts for its sister ship Hercules. Although the Hercules was older (entering service in 1977), it was also built in Britain. This was a two ship deal with the Trinidad to be built in Argentina. The Hercules turned out to be a sturdier vessel and has been kept in service. As a spare parts hulk the Trinidad did not have a crew and apparently no one noticed it had sprung a leak and was beginning to list (lean over) until it was too late. 

Although Argentina has made threatening noises about again taking the Falklands by force, that is very unlikely. The Argentine Navy has been in decline since the 1980s, while the British Royal Navy, although smaller now, has been continually upgraded and well maintained. The British have also stationed a larger garrison on the Falklands since 1982, making Argentinian threats even more futile. The ignominious loss of the Trinidad simply makes tangible that futility.