ARA Alférez Sobral (A-9) is an 800-ton ocean-going tug in service with the Argentine Navy since 1972, where she is classified as an aviso. She had previously served in the US Navy as the fleet tug USS Salish (ATA-187). In Argentine service an aviso is a small naval vessel used for a number of auxiliary tasks, including tugging, laying buoys, and replenishing other ships, lighthouses and naval bases.
US Navy service
Built by Levingston Shipbuilding Co., at Orange, Texas as a Sotoyomo-class rescue tug, she served as USS Salish (ATA-187) from 1944 to 1972.
Argentine Navy service
The ship was named after Antarctic explorer Alférez José María Sobral (1880–1961). She was acquired on 10 February 1972 along with her sister-ship ARA Comodoro Somellera from Mayport, Florida on 6 March 1972 and arriving to Puerto Belgrano on 18 April.
In the early hours of 3 May 1982, the ship was hit by at least two Sea Skua anti-ship missiles fired by British Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2/3 helicopters.
At the time the ship was approximately 60 nautical miles (110 km) north of the Falkland Islands searching for the crew of a downed Canberra (B-110) bomber that had been shot down two days earlier by an AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM (air-to-air missile) fired from a British BAe Sea Harrier FRS.Mk.1 (XZ451). The Sobral was initially spotted by a Westland Sea King helicopter. When the helicopter approached to investigate, it was shot at by the vessel's 20 mm fore cannon. The helicopter immediately retreated and called for assistance.
In response HMS Coventry and HMS Glasgow launched their Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2/3 helicopters. Coventry's Lynx (XZ242) attacked first, firing two Sea Skua (air-to-surface) anti-ship missiles. One of the missiles narrowly missed the bridge, the second hit Sobral's fiberglass motorboat, injuring the crew of a 20 mm cannon and knocking out the radio aerials.
Twenty minutes later Glasgow's Lynx (XZ247) launched two more missiles, at least one of which struck the bridge, causing extensive damage. The attack killed eight of the crew—including the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Sergio Gómez Roca—and injured eight. The Sobral lost all her electrical power, radio, radar and compass; she had no working navigational aids.
She was found and helped by a Sikorsky S-61N LV-OCL (a civilian helicopter requisitioned by the Argentine Air Force as part of Escuadron Fenix and piloted by 1st Lt Lucero) which evacuated the injured. Sobral was then assisted by the civilian trawler María Alejandra and finally reached Puerto Deseado on 5 May. The attack had occurred at the approximated position 49°50′00″S 58°37′00″W.
Since 1993 Sobral had been based at Ushuaia; in February 2010 she moved to Mar del Plata switching places with ARA Gurruchaga (A-3).
In 2001 she assisted the expedition ship Caledonian Star which had been struck by a rogue wave during transit of the Drake Passage.
She was still in service 28 years after the war.
The ship survived the conflict and remains in naval service more than 30 years after the war. The ship's badly damaged bridge is currently on display at the Naval Museum in Tigre, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.
Argentina's final Espora class corvette was renamed ARA Gómez Roca (P-46) to honour Sobral's captain, Goméz Roca, the first commander of an Argentine ship to be killed in action since the war with Brazil in the 19th century. The aviso ARA Teniente Olivieri (A-2) is named after the Guardamarina (midshipman) Olivieri, also killed in the action.
ARA (A-9) Alférez Sobral Feb 10/72, Sotoyomo-class aviso
Displacement 835 tonnes
Length 43.6 m
Beam 10.3 m
Draught 2.2 m
Propulsion 2 GM 12-278 A diesel-electric 2200 HP engines, 2 1500 HP generators, 1 propeller
Cruising speed 8 kn
Maximum speed 13 kn
Range 16,500 nm
Armament 1 Bofors 40/60 Mocelo C cannon, 2 20mm Mk 4 Mod 6 machine gun mounts