September 08, 2018

Argentine Navy research vessel operates near Falklands; catches the Royal Navy's eye

https://surenio.com.ar/2016/05/buque-ara-puerto-deseado-finalizo-participacion-la-campana-oceanografica
Following ship movements is greatly more entertaining when you can spot an interaction between vessels that have otherwise not been identified as being related. I think this makes a great example of that. The interaction was nothing out of the ordinary, I'm sure this sort of thing happens every day, but it's neat to catch it all the same.

Weeks ago Argentinian sources reported that the ARA Puerto Deseado would be conducting operations near the Falklands from 2018-08-22 onward. On 2018-08-30 the Argentinian Navy oceanographic survey ship ARA Puerto Deseado had been performing operations for over a week in the same area, then seemed to depart, and head toward the Falkland Islands. After not reporting their position via Satellite-based AIS for an hour, the HMS Clyde departed from where she was, and headed toward the Argentine Ship at full speed. Shortly after that, ARA Puerto Deseado reappeared on AIS-S, it seems their transponder was beaconing again to the satellite above. They had already turned around, and were no longer heading toward the British territorial limit. Minutes after returning to AIS visibility, with their heading reversed, HMS Clyde turned around as well.

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This piqued author HI Sutton's curiosity, and he wrote up his assessment in his blog, here (with credit to me too, which was appreciated!)

The Telegraph UK contacted the Royal Navy for a quote, so they did some legwork, but failed to mention the OSINT origin of the story. Poor show.

Then The Sunday Express got a hold of this story (here - wow...)

Finally, the Argentine Navy had to put out a statement (here)



Conclusion:


The short version? It is absolutely remarkable that a ship, any ship, changed its behaviour and headed straight at the Falklands as they did.

...but was it nefarious? There is no reason to believe there was anything malicious afoot.

I still think it's odd that ARA Puerto Deseado's AIS transponder beacons feverishly (as Juanma Baiutti pointed out), then drops silent for two hours, but evidently that's the way they have it configured, or that's the way it's working The Argentinian Navy say they didn't disable their AIS. None the less, they were close enough to provoke the HMS Clyde to start to head in their direction briefly, until it became evident they'd turned around already. There was nothing nefarious about anyone's; activities, but its the Royal Navy's job to be prepared for anything.

Another misconception that was circulating was their speed; that they were headed toward the Falklands at "full speed"... I'm not sure what their maximum speed really is, but they were only doing 7-8kn, so I would hope not.

Lastly, I must thank the Telegraph for this gem from the Royal Navy:

"This was unusual activity (..) it was the course and speed [of the Argentinian ship] towards the islands which was unusual"
said the UK Ministry of Defence Spokesperson (per The Telegraph)

Much thanks to @feibianAjax who tipped me off to the presence of the ARA Puerto Deseado near the Falklands!



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