When satellites from the USSR helped Argentina sink British ships in the Malvinas

The information helped Argentine pilots to send vessels to the bottom of the sea.

Leopoldo Galtieri

Leopoldo Galtieri

Soviet leaders might have had little sympathy for Leopoldo Galtieri’s Argentine Military Junta, but in the South Atlantic Conflict, the Kremlin authorities opted for pragmatism: my enemy’s enemy is my friend. It was then that Moscow decided to pass on information about the British Task Force to the Argentine military. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that only two countries did not participate in the food embargo imposed against the USSR after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979: Argentina and Uruguay.

Russian satellite in service in Argentina

Although most of the Soviet archives on the Falkland War are still secret, the presenter and political analyst Serguei Briliov published information extracted from interviews with military personnel of the USSR at the time in his book “Fidel, Futebol e Malvinas”.

In comments to the newspaper “La Nación”, Briliov commented on some of the statements of military leaders of the early 1980s:

“The first one I met was General Nikolai Leonov, the first deputy in the KGB analytical service during the war. And he confirmed to me that, since the beginning of the conflict, there have been several sending of satellite information to the Argentine military. General Valentin Varénnikov, then the first deputy head of the Soviet Army Headquarters, said the same thing. ”

Satellite information? On May 15, 1982, a month and a half after Argentina regained the South American archipelago, the Soviets put the Kosmos-1365 satellite into orbit with a clear objective: to position it in an orbit from which it was possible to supply strategic information for Argentine forces in the South Atlantic.

Photographic information for Argentine pilots

HMS Coventry

According to the Russian journalist, the data provided helped the Argentine A-4 Skyhawks to sink the destroyer, HMS Coventry, with their bombs on May 25, 1982, along with 19 crew members and 37 million pounds of British taxpayers.

AM39 Exocet

Briliov, who in his book chronologically crosses data between the most relevant events in the Malvinas conflict and the intelligence activities of the USSR, believes that the Atlantic Conveyor, a merchant ship used as an aircraft carrier and freighter, was another victim of cooperation Soviet-Argentine. According to him, the photographic data provided by Kosmos-1365 contributed to two AM39 Exocet missiles fired by a Super Étendard (from the Argentine Navy aeronautical squadron) sending it to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Super Étendard

The Atlantic Conveyor also lost twelve men, six Westland Wessex helicopters, three Boeing Chinooks, and one Westland Lynx. Without such devices, British invading troops were forced to cross the Malvinas on foot to retake Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley, as the British called it).

Other satellites involved

According to the information posted on the blog of lawyer and writer Mario Pablo Sciaroni, the Kosmos-1368 photographic reconnaissance satellite flew over the Malvinas at 11:00 am every day in May and June, at an altitude of 240 km. Meanwhile, Kosmos-1455, for electronic intelligence, and Kosmos 1372, for radar reconnaissance, provided important data about what was happening on and around the islands.

Waiting for more news

The USSR also provided logistical support to the Armed Forces of Argentina, by organizing an air bridge via Brazil through which weapons and spare parts were delivered to the South American country. Soviet long-distance planes carried out flight reconnaissance missions from bases in Angola, while spy ships participated in the control of the English Fleet. One even helped rescue Belgrano survivors.

There is still much to be clarified, but in order to discover the intricacies of the shadow war unleashed between the USSR and Western allies during the conflict in the Malvinas, it would take a few years to declassify the secret information that continues to accumulate dust in the official archives. 

Source: Russia Beyond/ JAIME NOGUERA

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