ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (V-2) was an aircraft carrier in the Argentine Navy from 1969 to 1997. The English translation of the name is Twenty-fifth of May, which is the date of Argentina's May Revolution in 1810.
The ship previously served in the Royal Navy as HMS Venerable and the Royal Netherlands Navy as HNLMS Karel Doorman. She was deployed south during the Beagle Crisis in 1978 and in the first weeks of the Falklands War, where her aircraft were deployed against the Royal Navy task force, but spent the bulk of the war in port.
The ship was built by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, England during the Second World War for the Royal Navy. As a Colossus-class aircraft carrier, she was named HMS Venerable and saw service in the British Pacific Fleet. Venerable only served three years in the Royal Navy before being sold to the Netherlands as HNLMS Karel Doorman.
After a boiler room fire, the carrier was rebuilt, and sold to Argentina. The Argentines already operated a carrier, ARA Independencia, also a former Royal Navy Colossus-class. After Independencia was decommissioned in 1970, Veinticinco de Mayo was the sole remaining carrier in the Argentine fleet. She could carry up to 24 aircraft.
The air group started with F9F Panthers and F9F Cougars jets and later these were replaced with A-4Q Skyhawks supported by S-2 Tracker anti-submarine warfare aircraft and Sikorsky Sea King helicopters.
In September 1969, during the voyage of the recently bought Veinticinco de Mayo from the Netherlands, Hawker Siddeley demonstrated their Harrier GR.1 on board the carrier for a possible sale to the Argentine Navy.
During the 1970s the ship was refitted and updated several times, though in each case the duration of each repair period was never more than 3–5 months, allowing her to be available to deploy. Her last pre-Falklands refit occurred during 1981, when she received an update to her radar, arresting gear, steam catapult and (most noticeably) the forward edge of the port side angled deck was filled out via an enlarged sponson. These improvements would theoretically enable her to operate the Super Etendard strike aircraft purchased from France, but it was discovered during testing that the catapult had difficulties launching the aircraft type. Therefore, her strike airwing was limited to the A-4Q Skyhawks.
See Operation Soberania
During the Operation Soberania Veinticinco de Mayo was planned to support the invasion of the Picton, Nueva and Lennox islands.
During the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atlántico Sur), Veinticinco de Mayo was used in support of the initial Argentine landings on the Falklands On the day of the invasion she waited with 1500 army soldiers outside Stanley harbor as first submarine and boat landed commandos secured landing areas and then Argentine marines made the main amphibious landing, her aircraft were not used during the invasion. Later in defence of the occupation she was deployed in a task force north of the Falkland Islands, with ARA General Belgrano to the south. The British had assigned HMS Splendid (S106), a nuclear-powered submarine, to track down Veinticinco de Mayo and sink her if necessary. Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward, commanding the British Task Force from HMS Hermes stated in his book "One Hundred Days", that had Splendid located the carrier, he would have "Recommended in the strongest possible terms to the Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse that we take them both out this night".
After hostilities broke out on 1 May 1982, the Argentine carrier attempted to launch a wave of A-4Q Skyhawk jets against the Royal Navy Task Force after her S-2 Trackers detected the British fleet. What would have been the first battle between aircraft carriers since World War II did not take place, as light winds prevented the heavily loaded jets from being launched. After the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank General Belgrano, Veinticinco de Mayo returned to port for safety. Splendid never tracked down the carrier. The naval A-4Q Skyhawks flew the rest of the war from the airbase in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, and had some success against the Royal Navy, sinking HMS Ardent. Three Skyhawks were shot down by Sea Harriers.
In 1983, Veinticinco de Mayo was modified to carry the new Dassault Super Étendard jetsVideo but soon after problems in her engines largely confined her to port; she was deemed more or less unseaworthy.
The Argentine Navy could not procure the funds for a modernization and new engines, leading to decommissioning by 1997. By this time she had already been stripped of various major pieces of equipment that were used as spares for the Brazilian carrier NAeL Minas Gerais, another Colossus-class ship which had been heavily modified in the Netherlands. Finally in 2000, she was towed to Alang, India for scrapping.
Although Minas Gerais was offered to the Argentine Navy as a replacement in 2000 she was rejected due to her poor condition and high restoration and maintenance costs. Argentine cooperation with Brazil has meant that the naval air wing has continued to operate from the deck of carrier NAe São Paulo during ARAEX exercises and/or touch-and-go landings on US Navy carriers when they are in transit within Argentine coastal waters during Gringo-Gaucho manoeuvres.