France Hid Falklands War 'Kill Switch' for Argentinian Missiles From Brits, Ex-Military Says
Argentinian missiles manufactured in France sank two British warships during the 1982 Falklands War, as well as severely damaging another and killing dozens of sailors. They did little to change the course of the conflict, however.
Former civil servant in the French Defence Ministry Pierre Razoux has claimed that the French government could have provided the UK with a "kill switch" for the missiles used by Argentina against the British Navy during the Falklands War in 1982, but decided against doing so.
He alleges that France possessed a device that could be installed on London’s ships which would neutralise incoming Exocet missiles.
"To my knowledge, this kill process […] was only activated when the missile received a message from the target itself. It is an object – a type of box – that emits a signal on a particular frequency with particular data. […] Each one has a different sound and frequency", Razoux explained.
The former military official reports that in 1982, Paris supplied the UK with some of the technical details of the missiles along with intelligence about Argentina's stockpiles, but drew a line under offering the "kill switch". The device, which tricks any incoming Exocet missile into thinking that its target was underwater, was allegedly built to protect French vessels in case the missiles were ever used against them.
According to Razoux, then-French President Francois Mitterrand decided against giving London the box-like devise because it would harm France's stance on the global arms market and the country armaments' prestige at a time when it was in a fierce competition with the UK.
"[The inaction was] because we were and still are competitors in the arms industry and Francois Mitterrand knew that if he had handed over the plans in full then the British would have let it be known the world over", Razoux said.
UK Ships and Sailors Downed in Falklands War
In the absence of the "kill switch", British forces used air-deployed decoys and ship-based bursts to counter Argentinian missiles in the war. On one occasion, this defence actually caused an Exocet missile to misplace its original target and hit another, sinking the SS Atlantic Conveyor – a container ship repurposed as an aircraft carrier for helicopters.
The Royal Navy also lost the HMS Sheffield to an Exocet missile, while the HMS Glamorgan destroyer sustained significant damage. In addition, the UK lost 46 sailors in missile blasts and resulting fires on board.
Following The Telegraph’s leak about the existence of a “kill switch”, British First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said that the Navy would support holding an inquiry into the matter. MPs, in turn, called on France to reveal the truth about whether British sailors' lives could have been saved if it weren’t for Paris' alleged inaction.
"It now seems clear that the French could have done more to help, and that is pretty disappointing if true because we would undoubtedly have saved British lives. All the more reason why the French should now be transparent about what happened", Conservative MP Bob Seely stated.
The Falklands War (although it has never been officially declared as such) lasted for a little over two months in 1982 and started after Argentinian forces retook control of the disputed Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, which had been under UK rule. These islands, which Buenos Aires calls the Islas Malvinas, are located just 500 kilometres away from Argentinian shores and have been a matter of territorial dispute with the UK for several centuries.
By 14 June, 1982 the Royal Navy and other British forces managed to oust the Argentinians from the Islands. Over a thousand Argentinians and 500 Brits died in the war, which also saw six Argentinian ships and 47 aircraft downed by British missiles. The two states later normalised their relations in 1989, several years after the election of a new Argentinian government, although the matter of the disputed islands remains unresolved to this day.
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