British MPs demand inquiry into whether France lied to UK over Falklands War missiles

French-made Exocet missiles resulted in the deaths of 46 British sailors during the conflict

The 'HMS Sheffield' sank after an attack by Argentinian pilots during the Falklands War. Getty
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British MPs have demanded an inquiry into whether France was dishonest about the existence of a “kill switch” in missiles used by Argentina in an attack that killed 20 British sailors on the HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War.

Forty years on from the sinking of the destroyer, lawmakers have called for answers on how transparent France was with the UK in discussions on the Exocet missile.

The anti-ship weapon was used by Argentina in the 1982 conflict and led to the deaths of 46 British sailors, including 20 servicemen on the HMS Sheffield.

France are understood to have given assurances to Britain that the Exocet did not contain a “kill switch”, technology that can be used to disarm weapons.

On the 40th anniversary of the deadly attack on the ship, British MPs have called for an inquiry into whether France lied to the UK.

Tobias Ellwood, a member of the ruling Conservative Party and chairman of Parliament’s defence select committee, said the lack of answers “warrants further investigation”.

Liam Fox, a fellow Tory MP and former defence secretary, said the French government owed it to Britain to be “open and honest” about the information relayed to London during the war.

Argentinian forces invaded the Falklands, an isolated British overseas territory that was the subject of a long-running sovereignty dispute, on April 2, 1982. The HMS Sheffield was sent to the region as part of a task force.

Helmets abandoned by Argentinian forces who surrendered to British troops in the Falklands War. PA

On May 4, 1982, two Argentinian pilots fired Exocet missiles at the British vessel days. the attack came days after one of their country’s warships was sunk by the Royal Navy, resulting in the deaths of 323 Argentines.

Fired from 48 kilometres away, one of the missiles failed to reach the HMS Sheffield, while the other struck the ship, which was carrying 281 crew. Twenty sailors died in the attack, the first British casualties in the war.

Francois Mitterand, the French president at the time, publicly backed Britain in the conflict.

Margaret Thatcher, UK prime minister at the time, appealed to Mr Mitterand's government to secretly share information about the Exocet missiles, which had been made by the French company Aerospatiale.

British authorities asked Paris whether the missiles was fitted with “kill switches”, The Telegraph reported.

Updated: May 04, 2022, 2:04 PM
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