3rd Naval Fighter and Attack Squadron - 3.ª Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque

3rd Naval Fighter and Attack Squadron
Active 1971
country Argentina
Rama/s Argentina Army
Type Hunting squad
Part of Naval Air Squad No. 3
Quartering Naval Air Base Commander Espora
Dissolution 1986
Wars and battles
War of the Falklands
Battle of San Carlos

The 3rd Naval Hunting and Attack Squadron ( EA33 ) was a fighter aviation military unit of the Argentine Navy . It operated with AT-6 Texan and A-4Q Skyhawk aircraft from the aircraft carriers ARA Independencia and ARA Veinticinco de Mayo . He fought in the Falklands War , operating from aerodromes in Argentine Patagonia . She is recognized for her participation in the sinking of the British frigate HMS Ardent . [ 1 ] [ 2 ]


In 1970, the Argentine Navy purchased a batch of 16 A-4B Skyhawk attack aircraft from the United States Navy . The Tulsa Rework Facilities , a McDonnell Douglas subsidiary , carried out a retrofit. The resulting aircraft was designated "A-4Q". [ 3 ] The pilots of the squadron trained with the A-4Bs of the Argentine Air Force and the United States. In 1971, the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de MayoHe traveled to the North American country to board the new planes with his equipment and personnel. He returned to Argentina on March 3, 1972. Appointment training began in July of the same year and the first catapult was on August 16 of the same year. [ 4 ]

During the preliminaries of Operation Sovereignty in 1978, the A-4Qs were deployed at the Almirante Zar Naval Air Base , Trelew . Then they embarked on the Veinticinco de Mayo. By December 1978, the planes of the 3rd Squadron had twice intercepted Chilean planes that were monitoring the movements of the Argentine fleet. [ 4 ]

Malvinas War

Status of the 3rd Squadron when the conflict

A-4Q Skyhawk of the 3rd Squadron.

At the beginning of the war, the 3rd Squadron had eight A-4Q Skyhawk aircraft and its commander was Lieutenant Commander Rodolfo Castro Fox . On March 29, they had embarked three aircraft on the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo , joining the Grupo Aeronaval Embarcado. They did not participate in Operation Rosario because it was not necessary and they returned to the Comandante Espora Naval Air Base on April 6 . [ 5 ]

The United Kingdom sent a Task Force to evict the Argentines from the Falkland Islands. Within the framework of Task Force 80, the 3rd Naval Fighter and Attack Squadron with its eight A-4Qs was deployed in Task Force 80.3. The GT 80.3 mission was to neutralize British surface units, to contribute to the development of naval air operations in the South Atlantic Theater of Operations . The priorities to attack were the aircraft carriers , logistics ships , transport and missile. The 3rd Squadron constituted Task Unit 80.3.2, under the command of Castro Fox. The tasks of the unit were: anti-surface warfare , armed reconnaissance andair interdiction of ground targets. [ 6 ]

The KC-130H Hercules of the Argentine Air Force gave air refueling to the Super Étendard and A-4Q. [ 7 ]

Because the British ships to beat were too far from the bases and the planes had to fly 100 nautical miles low before hitting the target, the pilots were required to practice the refueling maneuver. For this reason, on April 10 and 17, a KC-130 went to the Espora Commander Base so that all the pilots could practice air refueling maneuvers until they reached an acceptable level. [ 8 ]

By the end of April 1982 the unit was ready to board the aircraft carrier. Between April 6 and 17, the unit incorporated five unaffected A-4Q pilots, enlisted five aircraft reaching the maximum operational level: eight aircraft, trained to perform operations in daytime conditions, in the Isla Verde polygon , exercised in low-level launching of delayed weapons in a trail, all pilots were trained in practice on the ground for landing on aircraft carriers and in aerial combat maneuvers. [ 9 ]

The armament of the A-4Q consisted of two Colt Mk 12 20 mm guns with 100 projectiles each and up to 2724 kg of weapons in three supports, two wings and one ventral. In those supports they could carry bombs Mk 70, Mk 76, Mk 77, Mk 81 , Mk 82 , Mk 83 , Mk 86, rocket launchers LACO 7, LACO 9, LAU-10A , LAU-68/131 , LAU-69A , air missiles -Air AIM-9 Sidewinder , refueling pod Sargent-Fletcher 31-300 and / or photographic cameras VICON pod 18. [ 3 ]

Operations from the aircraft carrier

Aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo

On April 18 the eight and eleven airplanes and eleven pilots boarded aircraft carriers. They carried out exercises to attack Type 42 destroyers and guided aircraft with S-2E Tracker . They simulated joint attacks with FAA aircraft and interceptions of FAA "attackers" from airfields on the ground. [ 10 ]

The unit landed on April 26, to incorporate VLF Omega navigation equipment in two of its aircraft, and sonobuoy receivers in another two, to improve aircraft guidance and navigation. On April 28 again he boards the Twenty May that joined Task Force 79. [ 11 ]

During the navigation, an Interceptor Ready Deck Guard (ILC) was mounted with two aircraft ready to take off in five minutes, for an antisurface attack with four aircraft with six Mark 82 bombs each, a chaff launcher aircraft at 30 minutes alert, and the latter configured to give air refueling . The 12 pilots organized into two groups of six to cover guard. [ 12 ]

On May 1 at 15:30 pm, having unknown contacts in air radar, they decolaron ILCs and intercept bombers Canberra of the Group 2 Bombardment FAA returning from the Falklands. [ 11 ]

Given the contacts of the Air Naval Anti-Submarine Squadron on May 1, the commander of Task Force 79 ordered an attack to be prepared for May 2. Six A-4Qs with four MK-82 bombs of 250 kg each were enlisted, one was left in reserve and the last as a tanker . However, the wind in the ocean became almost zero, and given the distance from the targets, the weight of the planes had to be lightened by removing bombs from them to be able to take off, returning to the minimum chances of success, so the operation. [ 13 ]

Operations from the ground

On May 2, the cruiser ARA General Belgrano sank . The following day, Task Force 79 began to withdraw, so the Squadron decreased the number of aircraft enlisted. Between May 4 and 8, they maintained a single ILC section [ note 1 ] in condition to leave. Then, on May 9, all eight Skyhawks landed at Commander Espora Naval Air Base. On May 14, the unit was at the Almirante Quijada Naval Air Base in Río Grande by order of the COAN. [ 14 ] [ 15 ]

As of May 14, four aircraft were enlisted for attack operations with four Mk-82 Snakeye bombs and two 1140- liter external fuel tanks . As of May 15, a division of six aircraft was organized to carry out missions, a reserve aircraft and the other for in-flight refueling, as it was going to operate at the limit of the radius of action . Two divisions were formed: [ 16 ]

  • 1st Division
  • 2nd Division
    • Lieutenant Commander Alberto Philippi
    • Frigate Lieutenant Marcelo Márquez
    • Lieutenant José Arca
    • Lieutenant Benito Rotolo
    • Lieutenant Carlos Lecour
    • Lieutenant of the ship Roberto Sylvester

On May 18, in an incident during commissioning, the in-flight refueling tank of the A-4 broke down, for which the Squadron was forced to operate without this valuable system. [ 17 ]

Attack on the frigate Ardent

Profile of the Type 21 frigate

On May 21, the British landing, called Operation Sutton, began in San Carlos Bay . At 10:00 am, the 1st Division took off to attack the ships positioned in the San Carlos Strait . [ 17 ]

The leader, Castro Fox, and deputy leader, Zubizarreta, had the aircraft equipped with the unit's only two VLF navigation equipment. Both teams malfunctioned and took the airmen to the wrong spots on the islands. They searched for targets for 15 minutes and returned to Base at 12:10. [ 18 ]

During the afternoon, the COAN ordered another operation. As the VLFs were being repaired, the Squadron commander decided that two sections of three aircraft each would come out, armed with four MK-82s each. The 2nd division was constituted by the 1st section, composed of Philippi, Márquez and Arca, who took off at 14:10. The 2nd Division, already with VLF repaired, and made up of Rotolo, Lecour and Sylvester, decolonized at 14:25. [ 18 ]

During the morning the attacks by the Argentine Air Force on the ships located in the San Carlos Strait had begun . The Amazon-class frigate HMS Ardent , commanded by the frigate captain Alan West , was in the bay of Ruiz Puente . The Sea Cat missile launcher , Sea Lynx helicopter and hangar had been out of commission. The 114mm gun had no ammunition capability. Even so, he could navigate at full speed without problems. All this information was supplied to the first section that entered through the south of the strait. [ 19 ]

The Ardent commander was ordered to head northwest, to be protected by other ships that were in San Carlos Bay . [ 20 ]

The 1st section flew low over the west coast of Soledad Island in the north direction. When they reached the bay of Ruiz Puente, they found the Ardent. They dropped their MK-82 Snakeye bombs in a spray. Philippi and Arca hit a bomb each on the stern. This attack severely damaged the Ardent frigate, it heeled, caught fire and lost the rudder . 22 crew members died. Finally, after a few hours, it sank. [ 21 ]

Lieutenant Commander Nigel Ward , who was doing a combat air patrol over the east coast of Gran Malvina Island, saw the Argentine Skyhawks approaching the frigate. He then alerted his control ship, the frigate HMS Brilliant, and the other PACs that were in the area. Subsequently, Lieutenant Morell and 1st Lieutenant Leeming, piloting their Sea Harriers , shot down the A-4Qs of Philippi (ejected and unharmed) and Márquez (deceased). Arca was ejected from his seriously damaged plane over the vicinity of Puerto Argentino , then was rescued. [ 22 ]

Second attack in San Carlos

The 2nd section was composed by Rotolo, Lecour and Sylvester. It attacked an Amazon-class frigate in San Carlos Bay , dodging the antiaircraft defense of three other ships. It was confirmed that it was the frigate HMS Ardent. [ 23 ]

Attack on San Carlos port

The 2nd Division carried out an attack on Puerto San Carlos on May 23. It was carried out by Lieutenant Commander Castro Fox, Lieutenant Benítez, Lieutenant Zubizarreta and Lieutenant Oliveira. They performed in-flight refueling . Oliveira was unable to transfer fuel to the tanks hanging from the wings, so he returned to the mainland. [ 24 ]

The lieutenant of the ship Marco A. Benítez described the day: "the weather in the place was very good and the sun was shining, the water looked very dark and calm." He distinguished four British ships, two were a County-class destroyer and an Amazon-class frigate . [ 25 ]

They flew over the west coast of the Greater Malvina from the south of the island, heading north. When they reached the 9 de Julio bay, they turned to their right, that is, to the east, in the direction of the area where the whites were. They drop their bombs while firing missiles and anti-aircraft artillery at them. They return by the same path described above but in the opposite direction, towards the Rio Grande Base. [ 26 ]

Lieutenant Commander Zubizarreta died when he was ejected off the runway caused by the weight of the weapons he was unable to launch. [ 27 ]

After the Falklands war

At the end of the war, the airplanes were very worn and only three were fit to fly, the 3rd Naval Fighter and Attack Air Squadron ceased its activity in 1986 and the Skyhawks were transferred to the 2nd Naval Air Fighter Squadron and attack . The A-4 was finally ordered to be decommissioned on February 25, 1988, after 15 years of service, 2,500 landings and 21,034 flight hours. [ 4 ]

See also


  1. A section is made up of two planes.


  1. "The glorious Third Air Naval Fighter and Attack Squadron" . The order of Pringles . June 7, 2018 . Retrieved December 15, 2018 .
  2. «Naval Attack and Combat Squadrons» . Maritime History and Archeology . Retrieved September 30, 2018 .
  3. a b "A Skyhawk aircraft was upgraded" . Marinera Gazette . Buenos Aires, Argentina: Argentine Navy. January 5, 2017 . Retrieved November 20, 2018 .
  4. a b c Coup, Alejandro. "Douglas A-4Q Skyhawk" . Amilarg . Archived from the original on July 7, 2018 . Retrieved September 30, 2018 .
  5. Martini, 1992, p. 65.
  6. Martini, 1992, pp. 71-74-327-367-369.
  7. Martini, 1992, p. 79.
  8. Martini, 1992, pp. 107-369.
  9. Martini, 1992, pp. 145-369.
  10. Martini, 1992, pp. 369-370.
  11. a b Martini, 1992, p. 370.
  12. Martini, 1992, pp. 370-371.
  13. Martini, 1992, p. 371.
  14. Martini, 1992, p. 375.
  15. Castro Fox, 2007.
  16. Martini, 1992, pp. 375-376.
  17. a b Martini, 1992, p. 376.
  18. a b Martini, 1992, p. 377.
  19. Martini, 1992, pp. 388-389.
  20. Martini, 1992, pp. 390-391.
  21. Martini, 1992, pp. 390-391-392.
  22. Martini, 1992, pp. 390-392.
  23. Castro Fox, 2007, p. 231.
  24. Martini, 1992, p. 411.
  25. Martini, 1992, p. 412.
  26. Martini, 1992, pp. 412-413.
  27. Martini, 1992, p. 414.


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