The Argentine Navy benefitted from the apartheid-related embargo placed upon South Africa when the French concern of Arsenal de Lorient completed construction of two of the three corvette warships intended for South Africa. ARA Drummond (P-31) was formed from what was to be SAS Good Hope and entered service with the Argentine Navy in 1978. The French design was based in the D-Estienne d'Orves-class standard.
Corvette warships remain the smallest class of rated warships in naval service today and operate in the ultra-critical role of near-coastal patrol while also given good blue water capabilities. Definitions of the warship type may vary from navy to navy but the general role of this warship under the various national flags is similar nonetheless.
The South African government ordered the ship in February of 1976 and she then saw her keel laid down on March 12th of that year. Launched on March 5th, 1977, the aforementioned embargo meant that the vessel would not make it to its intended destination. Instead she was sold off to the nation of Argentina who promptly took her on as ARA Drummond, originally operating under pennant number "P-1".
As built, this compact warship displaced 1,170 tons under standard load and 1,320 tons under full load. Overall length was 260 feet with a beam of 34 feet and a draught down to 11.5 feet. Installed power included 2 x SEMT Pielstick 12 PC 2.2 V400 marine diesels developing 12,000 horsepower and driving 2 x Propellers under the stern section. Operating speeds, in ideal conditions, could reach over 23 knots and range was out to 4,500 nautical miles. The ship, when fully outfitted with stores and food and water for its crew of eighty-five, could survive at-sea for up to fifteen days. The warship was also completed with a small receiving deck at the stern for at-sea replenishment (but does not hold full-hangar and flight deck services for launching and retrieving a helicopter in the traditional sense).
Aboard was placed a collection of sensors and processing systems that included the Thales DRBV 51A series air-surface-search radar, the Thales DRBC-32E Fire Control directing radar and the Thales "Diodon" hull-mounted sonar. A Thales DR2000 S3 series suite and Thales "Alligator 51" jammer formed the important electronic warfare and decoy fit.
Armament was centered on 4 x MM38 "Exocet" anti-ship missile launchers, these being French designed and developed surface-attack weapons. This was backed by the more conventional, projectile-minded 1 x 100mm /55 caliber Mod 1968 Dual-Purpose (DP) turreted deck gun installed over the forecastle (in the "A" position). Anti-aircraft protection was modest through 1 x 40mm Bofors autocannon in a twin-gunned mounting, 2 x 20mm Oerlikon autocannons in single-gunned mountings and 2 x 12.7mm Colt M2 (Browning) Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) in single-gunned mountings. 2 x 324mm ILAS-3 triple torpedo tubes were also carried to round out the armament suite.
ARA Drummond was commissioned into the Argentine Navy on November 9th, 1978 and was assigned the homeport of Mar del Plata in Eastern Argentina. She became a veteran of the Falklands War against Great Britain in 1982 when, along with ARA Granville, she took up a position northeast of Port Stanley to protect the amphibious assault approaches there on April 2nd. Drummond and her two sisters then formed part of Task Group 79.4 with the goal of tracking and engaging the British task force as located. The corvettes outran the British submarine HMS Splendid during its search for the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo on April 29th and, beyond these relatively notable actions, ARA Drummond managed to survive the war relatively unscathed despite the decisive British victory.
In 1983, an Exocet anti-ship missile was fired from her launchers to help sink the decommissioned Fletcher-class destroyer "Almirante Doemcq Garcia" off the coast of Mar del Plata. The submarine ARA San Luis also contributed a torpedo in this non-combat action. In 1985, her pennant number changed to become "P-31" as a result of the arriving German-built Espora-class corvette warships (six in all were received, operating from 1985 onwards). During 1994, she was used (along with USN and Polish assets) in a blockading action against Haiti during "Operation uphold Democracy". The operation led to a peaceful occupation of Haiti and the reinstatement of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Like other ships in the depleted Argentine Navy ranks, ARA Drummond rarely sails today (2018) due to a lack of funds and the resources needed to get the ship underway and maintain an active presence in Argentina waters. The services has also found it hard to maintain its naval training programs which have only worsened the condition of the Navy as a whole.