On May 21st 1982, the Type 21 frigate HMS Ardent was supporting the British landings on the Falklands at San Carlos when it was hit by two bombs from an Argentine combat aircraft both of which landed on the warship’s flight deck. The vessel remained afloat as firefighting efforts, including support from HMS Yarmouth, tried to save the vessel but later in the day the ship was hit yet again in another air attack by Argentine pilots who saw it as a target of opportunity.
From a tactical perspective this was a mistake by the Argentine pilots since Ardent was already out of the fight due to the damage sustained in the first attack and was certainly out of the war. Therefore by attacking Ardent they were risking their lives for a tactically insignificant target, throwing away their bombs that would have better served being used against one of the other RN ships that hadn’t been hit yet. The damage was so severe that the next day the vessel sank.
One of the cold realities of war regarding the loss of Ardent is that it was better that it got hit by the Argentine bombs rather than the troopships and landing craft it was protecting during the landings. The troopships were crammed full of soldiers and several of them were requisitioned ocean liners that had no armoured protection or adequate countermeasures to tackle combat damage. In this respect, Ardent’s sacrifice meant the Royal Navy achieved its mission which in the Nelsonian tradition is an honourable death for any ship. Unfortunately, Ardent would not be the only casualty sustained during the week long landings at San Carlos.