Angry clash over HMS Iron Duke’s Falklands gunnery drills

HMS Iron Duke brought 136 shells crashing down on target during training in the Falklands
HMS Iron Duke brought 136 shells crashing down on target during training in the Falklands
The new commanding officer of HMS Collingwood, Captain Rob Vitali. Picture: Keith Woodland/MoD

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ARGENTINA is accusing Britain of provocation over the Falkland Islands after a Royal Navy warship carried out a routine gunnery exercise in the South Atlantic.

Portsmouth-based HMS Iron Duke fired her guns off the Falkland Islands as part of a military exercise in early October.

Argentina has since summoned a senior British diplomat in Buenos Aires to complain about the firing exercise and protested the ‘attempt to demonstrate the British warship’s firepower’.

It is the latest diplomatic salvo in the long-running dispute over the sovereignty of the British overseas territory, which Argentina calls Las Malvinas, which has re-erupted in recent years under the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

HMS Iron Duke last month fired 136 shells during a day of high-explosive training in San Carlos Water and Falkland Sound – the scene 32 years ago of the landings to retake the islands from the Argentinians.

A statement issued through the Argentine embassy said the live firing exercise ‘constitutes a further provocation on the part of the United Kingdom government in an attempt to demonstrate the British warship’s firepower.’

It added: ‘The exercises also involved a British infantry company which is part of the permanent illegal military occupation of the Malvinas Islands.

‘The Argentine Republic rejects in the strongest possible terms the execution of naval and military exercises in an Argentine territory that is illegally occupied by the UK.

‘This act constitutes an unjustified show of force. It also demonstrates a wilful disregard for numerous resolutions made by the United Nations and other international bodies that call on both Argentina and the UK to resume negotiations to find a peaceful and definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands.’

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said Royal Navy warships undertake regular training in the use of their weapon systems.

He added: ‘The gunfire exercise conducted by HMS Iron Duke in the Falkland Islands took place some weeks ago in October and was part of a routine training schedule planned long in advance.

‘There is no change to the UK’s defence posture in the South Atlantic.’