The 1980s saw a period of notable modernization of the Argentine Navy fleet and this essentially involved procurement of ship and submarine designs from Europe. The MEKO 140 frigate was developed by German shipbuilder Blohm & Voss and it was this design that was selected to serve as the standard for the Argentine Navy's Espora-class surface fighter - which would be classified as a corvette in the service and be built completely in Argentina. Six of the corvettes were acquired in two distinct batches led first by ARA Espora, ARA Rosales and ARA Spiro and followed by ARA Parker, ARA Robinson and ARA Gomez Roca. Half of the group remain in relatively active service today (2017) due to deteriorating conditions.
ARA Rosales (P-42) saw her keel laid down at the Rio Santiago Shipyard on April 1st, 1981 and the vessel was acquired by the Navy on November 14th, 1986. She was formally commissioned on March 24th, 1987 and was (is) assigned the homeport of Puerto Belgrano. The warship was named after Argentine Navy-man Colonel Leonardo Rosales. The warship was intended to serve in the airspace denial and general patrolling roles.
As built, Rosales was given a displacement of 1,560 tons and held a length of 300 feet, a beam of 36 feet and a draught of 10.9 feet. Power was from 2 x SEMPT Pielstick 16PC2-5 V400 marine diesels developing 22,600 horsepower to 2 x shafts under stern. This provided the vessel with a top speed of 27 knots and a range out to 4,000 nautical miles.
Crew and Systems
Aboard there was provision for a crew of over 90 made up of officers, petty officers and enlisted personnel. The warship was outfitted with various sensors, communications gear and processing systems including the Thales DS-05/2 air-surface search radar fit, the Decca TM 1226 navigation suite and an Atlas AQS-1 hull-mounted sonar system. Jammers and decoys would be used to protect the vessel from rising threats from the air or on the water.
Armament centered on a mix of conventional and missile weaponry. This included 1 x 76mm /62 caliber OTO-Melara Dual-Purpose (DP) turreted deck gun over the forecastle, 4 x MM38 Exocet anti-ship missiles and 2 x 40mm DARDO automatic cannons (for air defense). The vessel was also outfitted with 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns for close-in work and 2 x 324mm triple torpedo tubes.
The ship's profile was conventional with a rising forecastle and stepped aft section. The bridge sat over the frontal superstructure section in the usual way with the primary mast-works featured just aft and above it. The smoke funnels were integrated into the central section of the superstructure and a helipad was added over the rear - though ahead of the stern. One unique, rather modern, quality of the warship was its use of slab-siding which gave it some stealth qualities for a 1980s warship. The low profile smoke funnels also aided in promoting a generally lower profile ship on the horizon.
ARA Rosales has seen little notable action to date for its time afloat. It took part in the blockade of Iraq after Desert Storm (1991) and served as a patroller in Gulf waters in the period thereafter. Like other Argentine Navy vessels, she has been called upon to limit illegal fishing in Argentine waters. More recently, she has been assigned to search for the diesel-electric attack submarine ARA San Juan (detailed elsewhere on this site) which went silent on November 15th, 2017.
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