Falkland war and the loss of British ships sparks a renewed interest in insensitive ordnance

Previous • Next

In April 1982 Argentina invaded the British Falkland Islands and war followed. The ensuing battle again provided examples of warship vulnerability. On 4 May 1982, an AM-39 EXOCET missile hit the HMS SHEFFIELD. Although the missile warhead failed to explode, the resulting fire destroyed the ship and killed 20 of its crew.

On 23 May 1982, the frigate HMS ANTELOPE sank after an unexploded bomb within the ship detonated while a disposal team was trying to defuze it. Photos of the incident showed that there were two distinct explosions. The disposal team defuzing the warhead presumably caused the first explosion. The second explosion that followed was a secondary mass detonation reaction that destroyed the ship. Because of this and other ship incidents in the Falkland war there was a renewed interest in the U.S. Navy program to provide the Fleet with insensitive ordnance.

In a letter dated 28 March 1983 Mr. Gerald Cann, the Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Engineering and Systems wrote the following:50

“Guided by the operational requirements as expressed in OR # SO 363-SL, and within the constraints imposed by performance needs, explosives used in Fleet munitions should be the least sensitive to accidental initiation or to initiation by enemy action. In the Navy, particular emphasis must be placed on proper storage under severe environmental conditions. This general policy should apply whether the munitions are designed and built by the U.S. Navy or by other services/countries as common munitions.”

Previous • Next

50OASN(R,E,&S) Memorandum for the Chairman, Armament/Munitions Requirements and Development (AMRAD) Committee, dated 28 March 1983.