HMS Coventry (D118) was a Type 42 (Sheffield Class) destroyer of the Royal Navy. Laid down by Cammell Laird and Company, Limited, at Birkenhead on 29 January 1973, she was launched on 21 June 1974 and accepted into service on 20 October 1978 at a cost of Â£37,900,000.
The principle role of these Ships is to provide the fleet with mid range anti-air warfare capability with secondary roles of anti-surface and anti-submarine. A total of sixteen "42's" were built between 1972 and 1985, in three batches, HMS Coventry was the last of the first batch to be commissioned. To cut costs, the first two batches had 47 feet removed from the bow and the beam-to-length ratio reduced. These early Type 42s performed poorly during trials and are notoriously poor sea-keepers.
Type 42 Destroyers were fitted with the Sea Dart SAM (Surface-to-Air Missiles) designed in the 1960s to counter threats from manned aircraft. Sea Dart is constrained by limitations on its firing capacity and reaction time, but did prove its self during the Falklands War with seven kills, three of these attributed to Coventry.
HMS Coventry was taking part in the Exercise Springtrain 82 near the British base of Gibraltar, during March 1982. Along with other vessels involved in the exercise she was detailed for service in the Falklands Campaign. She had a Union Flag painted on the roof of her bridge and a black line pained through her funnel to her waterline to aid recognition, as the Argentines also operated two Type 42 Destroyers.
On 27 April Coventry, in the company of HMS Glamorgan, HMS Glasgow, HMS Arrow and HMS Sheffield, entered the Total Exclusion Zone, a 200 mile cordon around the Falkland Islands. Within 6 weeks, Sheffield and Coventry would be at the bottom of the South Atlantic, Glasgow would have a bomb pass straight through her and Glamorgan would be hit by a land-based Exocet Missile. In all, over fifty crew would be dead.
Coventry's contribution to the Falklands War was considerable. Her helicopter was the first to fire Sea Skua (Air-to-Surface) anti-ship missiles in action. Her Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2 fired two Sea Skua missiles on 3 May at ARA Alferez Sobral, the former USS Salish. One missile missed and the other hit a small boat slightly injuring a crewman manning a 20 mm gun and knocking out the radio aerials. HMS Glasgow's Lynx fired two more Sea Skua, and the vessel retreated, with 8 crew killed, 8 wounded and heavy damage. Her damaged bridge is now on display at the Naval Museum in Tigre Partido, Argentina. This vessel remains in service in the Argentine Navy.
Published in El ClarÃn. The circle with the "1" is where the ARA Belgrano was sunk. The "2" shows the last contact with Alferez Sobral.
Coventry was the first warship to fire Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles in anger when the ship fired three on the 9th May at two Learjets of EscuadrÃ³n FÃ©nix, just missing the aircraft. HMS Broadsword reported that her radar tracked the missiles merging with the pair of contacts but they missed the Aircraft,(call signs Litro and Pepe).
The A-4 C of Lt Casco on May 9th
Coventry's Captain Hart-Dyke in his book "Four Weeks in May: The Loss of HMS Coventry," claims that two Skyhawks of Grupo 4 were shot down by the Sea Darts, but Aircraft (C-303 and C-313) were lost in bad weather, with both wrecks found on South Jason Island. One on the Northwest side of the cliffs, the other in shallow waters on the SouthWest. Lt Casco and Lt Farias were both killed.
The first confirmed Kill made by "Coventry" was a AÃ©rospatiale Puma helicopter of 601 Assault Helicopter Battalion with its three man crew was shot down by a Sea Dart over Choiseul Sound.
Coventry had been one of three Type 42 destroyers providing anti aircraft cover for the fleet. With the loss of HMS Sheffield and damage to Glasgow on 12 May, forcing her to return to the UK, Coventry was left to carry out the role alone, until other ships could arrive from the UK.