The Falklands War between Argentina and Britain began on April 2nd, 1982 when elements of the former invaded British-protected territories in the South Pacific. Days later, the Royal Navy was sent into action to intervene and the conflict would span over a period of two-plus months resulting in a resounding defeat of the Argentina military. Beyond the British victory, fallout of the war included a democratic government installed to succeed military-rule in Argentina in 1983 as well as a complete severing of political ties between the two powers that lasted into 1989 - not to mention the loss of life experienced on both sides.
Type 21 Frigates of the Royal Navy
HMS Antelope (F170) was a surface fighting frigate of the British Royal Navy (RN) during this period as part of the latter Cold War years. The vessel belonged to the eight-strong "Type 21" group - the "A Frigates" - made up of HMS Amazon, HMS Antelope, HMS Ambuscade, HMS Arrow, HMS Active, HMS Alacrity, HMS Ardent, and HMS Avenger. The group was ordered from 1969 into 1971 and constructed from 1969 until 1974. Commissioning took place from 1974 into 1978.
HMS Antelope Origins
Antelope herself was ordered on May 11th, 1970 and saw her keel laid down on March 23rd, 1971 by Vosper Thornycroft. She was launched to sea on March 16th, 1972, accepted into the ranks of the RN on June 30th, 1975, and formally commissioned on July 16th, 1975. By definition she was a "patrol frigate", capable of close-to-shore operation as well as "blue water" service.
In service, she fought under the motto of "Audax et Vigilans" ("Daring and Watchful").
Her lines included a raised bow section with a sole turreted deck gun present. The bridge section was set atop the forward portion of the hull superstructure which also held the main mast. A secondary mast was positioned just aft near the smoke funnel at midships. The profile gradually stepped down towards a leveled flight deck set over the stern. Dimensions included a running length of 384 feet with a beam reaching 41.8 feet and a draught down to 19.5 feet. Displacement was 3,250 tons under full loads.
The stern-based flight deck was home to a single medium-lift navy helicopter - this originally being a Westland Wasp but later upgraded to the Westland Lynx.
Installed Power and Performance
Internally, power was from a COmbined Gas Or Gas (COGOG) arrangement seeing 2 x Rolls-Royce Olympus and 2 x Rolls-Royce Tyne RM1A gas turbines. The latter pair was used for cruising actions while the former was reserved for high-speed dashing. Top speed in ideal conditions reached 32 knots and range was out to a healthy 4,000 nautical miles. Aboard was a crew of about 177 personnel.
Installed armament was led by 1 x 4.5" (114mm) Mark 8 series turreted deck gun over the forecastle. 2 x 20mm Oerlikon autocannons were used for Anti-Aircraft (AA) defense as was a single "Sea Cat" quadruple Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher. The vessel also carried 2 x Triple torpedo tubes to engage enemy submarines at range. Unlike her sisters, Antelope was never fitted with the all-important "Exocet" anti-ship missile system. All told, the warship could be called upon to undertake a variety of ocean-going roles: denying airspace, securing strategic points, tracking enemy surface ships or submarines, or protecting the main fleet.
Falklands War Commitment
With the war having begun in early April of 1982, HMS Antelope did not make it to the theater until May 21st of that year. Her career in the war came to a rather abrupt end when, on May 23rd, she was targeted by Argentine Air Force Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bombers (detailed elsewhere on this site) numbering four (in two flights). The first wave of Skyhawks largely avoided the AA defense network and managed to score a single hit from a 1,000lb bomb along Antelope's starboard side - however this munition did not detonate. The second flight saw one Skyhawk clipping the secondary mastworks, causing damage, while the other attacker was downed by British fire. A second bomb pierced Antelope's deck but, again, did not detonate.
HMS Antelope Meets Her End
Despite multiple attempts by Royal Engineers to disarm at least one of the bombs, the vessel was lost when the final (fourth) attempt involved use of a small controlled explosive. This detonated the munition which created a ripple effect of issues for the doomed ship. One engineer was killed outright while another suffered injuries including the loss of an arm. With electrical power gone and fires spreading, the order was given to abandon the vessel.
Antelope detonated throughout the night time hours to present rather dramatic pictures for the time. The explosions were such that her hull was completely fractured by morning - though she remained afloat. In time, she broke in two and sunk to the bottom of the sea ending her service career in the RN. Today her remains are protected.