1982 British Army Gazelle friendly fire incident

HMS Cardiff fired a Sea Dart missile at a British Army Gazelle helicopter, killing all four occupants. Cardiff was on the lookout for aircraft flying supplies to the Argentine forces occupying the Falkland Islands. The helicopter’s loss was initially blamed on enemy action, but a subsequent inquiry found Cardiff’s missile to be the cause. The board of inquiry’s findings prompted criticism of the MoD’s initial response to the incident.

About 1982 British Army Gazelle friendly fire incident in brief

Summary 1982 British Army Gazelle friendly fire incidentHMS Cardiff fired a Sea Dart missile at a British Army Gazelle helicopter, killing all four occupants. Cardiff was on the lookout for aircraft flying supplies to the Argentine forces occupying the Falkland Islands. The helicopter’s loss was initially blamed on enemy action, but a subsequent inquiry found Cardiff’s missile to be the cause. A lack of communication between the army and the navy meant that 5th Infantry Brigade had not notified anyone of the helicopter’s flight. The navy had not informed the land forces that Cardiff had changed position to set up an ambush for Argentine aircraft travelling over the area. The Gazelle’s identification friend or foe transmitter was turned off, because it caused interference with the army’s Rapier anti-aircraft missile system. The board of inquiry’s findings prompted criticism of the MoD’s initial response to the incident. The Falklands War ended in June 1982 with the surrender of Argentine forces. The battles fought on land, at sea, and in the air had cost some 900 British and Argentine servicemen. British troops landed at San Carlos on the western side of East Falkland, and from there moved overland towards the islands’ capital of Stanley. To support the advance, logistical supplies were ferried to the troops by helicopter from San Carlos.

On the night of 5 June, the British Type 42 destroyer HMS Cardiff took up station on the Bluff Cove Gunline to the east of the islands. It was to provide fire support to the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade, and to interdict any Argentine aircraft attempting to fly into Stanley. The destroyer had performed a similar role four nights previously, when she unsuccessfully attempted to shoot down a re-supply aircraft as it landed, and again as it took off. The day after the incident, a British Air Corps helicopter was shot down over the Falklands by an Argentinian Air Force C-130 Hercules, killing the pilot and two crew members. The British Army Air Corps Gazelle, serial number XX377, was making a routine delivery of personnel and equipment to a radio rebroadcast station on East Falklands. At around 02: 00 a radar contact was detected; the helicopter was made to a malfunctioning radio re-broadcast station of Pleasant Peak, on the east coast of the island. The next morning, the wreckage and crew were discovered the next day, and the loss was attributed to enemy fire. Although Cardiff was suspected, later scientific tests on the wreckage proved inconclusive.