Seaslug in the Falklands.

Seaslug did not see much use in the Falklands conflict (probably because of the vast amount of smoke caused by the boost motors) but there were some firings. As the Argentine Navy operated a (derated) Seadart on their Type 42 destroyers there was a possibility that they might be able to exploit some unseen weakness. Because of the potential risk of air attack to the carriers, a Seawolf-armed Type 22 frigate was kept close-in as a 'goalkeeper' (Seawolf is a point-defence system) and HMS Glamorgan provided a back-up area defence facility.

At one stage the task-force was being shadowed by an Argentinian civil-registered reconnaissance Boeing 707. This had to be chased off by the Sea Harriers at first light, but every morning HMS Glamorgan submitted a request to MODUK to engage this aircraft and every time it was denied -apparently because it was a civil aircraft. After HMS Glamorgan had returned from the UK the Seaslug Weapons Engineering Officer (WEO) admitted to me that each time the request was submitted he had a pair of Seaslugs on the launcher ready to go, just in case someone made a mistake and approved the request.

During the final days of the fighting around Port Stanley the Argentine Air Force were still operating Hercules C-130 transports from the airport, despite all the RAF's attmpt to knock-out the control radar. Shrike and Martel anti-radar missiles had been tried but had failed, so someone decided that the Royal Navy should have a go. HMS Glamorgan had been working inshore providing Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) for the troops around Port Stanley for some time, and bearings were taken of this radar using the ship's ECM suite, and combined with bearings taken by other ships to produce a target location which was fed into the Seaslug fire control system [POISEDON]. A missile was fired in CASWTD mode; it scored a direct hit on the transmitter and the control cabin was also destroyed.

Seaslug firings have always been dramatic as there is a vast amount of flame, noise and white smoke. Even so, HMS Glamorgan was surprised to receive a signal from the ground forces asking if the ship had suffered some form of explosion, and was any assistance required? Glamorgan made a reply to the effect that this was all quite normal, and no help was needed at all! The commanding officer of one of the army units then pointed out that all the fighting stopped as the Seaslug passed overhead but his troops recovered first -could the performance be repeated? Over the next few nights HMS Glamorgan fired three more Seaslugs at the runway in order to prevent aircraft from taking off -a dramatic if expensive way to deliver scrap metal to a runway!

Since writing the above article I have obtained further information on Seaslug firings from HMS Glamorgan's log. Note: all times are 'Zulu', ie GMT; subtract 3 hours for local time.

26th May: 02:30 to 04:05, engaged shore targets with 4.5" guns.
26th May: 03:50 Seaslug launched.
28th May: 02:30 Seaslug launched.
28th May: 02:45 to 03:50, engaged shore targets with 4.5" guns.
28th May: 03:10 Seaslug launched.
30th May: 02:00 to 03:45, engaged shore targets and on Port Stanley airfield with 4.5" guns.
30th May: 02:30 Seaslug launched.
12th June: 01:47 to 03:00, engaged shore targets with 4.5" guns,
12th June: 06:37 Hit by Exocet missile.

The MM38 Exocet missile was fired from an extemporised launcher mounted on a trailer with a laptop computer feeding the expected radar data; the launch was seen by Glamorgan's crew but not recognised for what it was. Shortly afterwards, however, the missile's trail was seen and at about the same time it was detected electronically; it is not clear whether this done by the 992Q radar or by the detection of transmissions by the Exocet's homing head. The helm was put hard over to put the ship stern-on to the approaching missile so as to present the smallest target; the County Class were very manoeuvrable ships and during tight turns exhibited a large degree of heel . [See this image of Glamorgan turning hard taken a few years later]. This turn undoubtedly helped the ship survive, the Exocet struck before the turn had been completed and instead of striking Glamorgan's hull side it slid along the deck alongside the hangar before the warhead detonated. [This picture shows the hole in Glamorgan's deck and the missile's 'skid mark']. The downward curve of the edges show that the explosion occurred above the deck. The port Seacat launcher (previously damaged in an air attack) was blown off its mount, the hangar and the Wessex helicopter within it were burnt out. Tragically the ten-strong damage control party had formed up in their station, the Junior Rates' mess; this was directly below the exploding warhead and they were all killed. It is a tribute to Glamorgan's crew that not only did the ship survive the Exocet attack but the damage was confined to the hangar area (including the Seaslug Type 901 radar) and the Mess Deck.
Sources: TNA ADM531/90359 & 90360.

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Last updated: 30th December 2022.

Copyright SR Jenkins, November 1998.