(AFP) – Apr 4, 2012
LONDON — One of Britain's most powerful warships left port on Wednesday bound for the South Atlantic, a deployment which has agitated Buenos Aires 30 years on from the Falklands War.
HMS Dauntless, a new Type 45 destroyer, left its home port of Portsmouth for its six-month maiden mission amid heightened Argentine political agitation over the Falklands surrounding the anniversary.
Britain has held the barren South Atlantic archipelago since 1833, but Buenos Aires claims the islands are occupied Argentine territory.
Monday marked the 30th anniversary of the then-ruling Argentine junta's invasion of the Falklands, sparking a 74-day war with Britain which cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.
The deployment of HMS Dauntless comes a day short of 30 years since the first ships of the British task force left Portsmouth.
Buenos Aires has blasted the pre-planned deployment, claiming it was a British effort to "militarise" the Falklands dispute.
The Navy, which has consistently had a warship in the South Atlantic since the 1982 war, maintains it is a routine deployment and the destroyer is simply replacing the frigate HMS Montrose on patrol in the region.
Commanding officer Captain Will Warrender said: "HMS Dauntless' ship's company has been working extremely hard over the last year or so to prepare for our first operational deployment.
"We are now ready to provide a reassuring presence in the region and protect British interests."
Type 45 destroyers "are the most advanced warships the nation has ever built," according to the Royal Navy.
"Their mission is to shield the fleet from air attack using the Sea Viper missile which can knock targets out of the sky up to 70 miles (115 kilometres) away if necessary."
The Ministry of Defence would not say when Dauntless, which entered service in 2010, would arrive in the South Atlantic, as it does not give details on the position of its ships, though it will be calling at ports in western and southern Africa.
Though Argentine President Cristina Kirchner delivered an impassioned speech on the invasion anniversary, it was marked in Britain by a simple candle-lighting ceremony.
"We are trying to keep the level of rhetoric and excitement around this issue low, emphasising to the region that we are not trying to escalate this," a British diplomatic source said.
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