ARA Espora (P-41)
Anti-Ship / Anti-Submarine Corvette / Frigate Warship
While classified by some sources as frigates, the Argentine Navy sees the ARA Espora P-41, and her sisters, as corvettes.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The modern Argentine Navy is a shell of its former self, having suffered for decades from a lack of proper funding and its situation only worsened with growing Argentine economic woes. Despite this, the service treads water with what is available to its men and women. Among the active inventory is the Espora-class which was originally purchased in a six-strong batch encompassing Espora, Rosale, Spiro, Parker, Robinson, and Gomez Roca. The series entered service from 1985 to 2002 but, today (2018), less than half of the class is known to be actively available.
The group was part of a larger Argentine Navy modernization plan heading into the 1980s to help replace ex-American Navy World War 2-era fighting surface combatants. However, the subsequent defeat of the Argentines, at the hands of the British Navy, during the Falklands War of 1982 severely derailed the initiative. The six corvettes, identified by some sources as frigates, were based in an original Portuguese warship design known as "Joao Coutinho" and this evolved to become the "MEKO 140A16" design standard, essentially a scaled-down version of the larger "MEKO 360" series destroyer. The purpose of the ships was to fulfill the anti-ship / anti-submarine coastal defense role (but to also include maritime enforcement and fishery-industry-related tasks) so they carried compact dimensions including a rather shallow draught of just 10.9 feet. Overall length reached 299 feet and their beam was 36 feet.
Displacing 1,560 tons under load, the class was led by its lead ship, ARA Espora. Espora was named after Tomas Espora and built by the local Argentine shipyard of Rio Santiango. Her keel was laid down on March 10th, 1980 and she was launched to sea on January 23rd, 1982. However, the aforementioned Argentina involvement in the Falklands delayed commissioning of the vessel until September 4th, 1985 - well after the war had concluded.
Powered by 2 x SEMT-Pielstick 16PC 2-5 V400 marine diesels driving twin shafts under stern, the vessel could make headway at 27 knots and range out to 4,000 nautical miles. Aboard was a crew of about 93 specialists. Armament included a single 76mm OTO-Melara turreted deck gun in the "A" position, a 40mm Bofors autocannon in the "B" position and another 40mm gun mounted well aft. Beyond this 2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns could be installed for close-in air/ship defense. 2 x 324mm ILAS-3 triple torpedo tubes were installed to deal with at-sea threats but the main armament of this little ship became the four MM.38 "Exocet" anti-ship missile launchers which gave the vessel a dangerous ranged, sea-skimming capability.
The warship's profile was largely conventional: the forecastle was relatively short and fitted the 76mm turreted main gun. On a stepped portion of the hull superstructure was found the first 40mm autocannon (the second fitting was over the stern). The bridge took its usual place over the forward superstructure and a dual mast approach was featured. The smoke funnels were enclosed and of a low profile design. A helipad was installed to support a single light-class utility-minded helicopter.
Beyond general patrolling duties for the Argentine Navy, ARA Espora has undertaken joint allied exercises. Machinery problems were noted in October of 2012 which delayed her participation in one such event. During May of 2016, she collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Puerto Belgrano - her homeport - and suffered extensive damage to her frame.