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Curilovic boarding his Super Etendard
|Birth name||Roberto Curilovic|
Corvette Captain Roberto Curilovic is a former Argentinian Navy pilot of Croatian descent. His attack on 25 May 1982 in the Falklands War sank the Atlantic Conveyor with an Exocet AM.39 anti-ship missile.
In September 1980 he went with eight pilots and around forty technicians of the 2da Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque (2nd Air Naval Fighter and Strike Squadron) to the naval base at Rochefort, Charente-Maritime in south-west France (Poitou-Charentes). They were intensively taught French for three months. The commander was Frigate Captain Jorge Colombo of the Argentine Naval Aviation (CANA). The deputy commander was Corvette Captain Augusto Bedacarratz, who with Frigate Lieutenant Armando Mayora would also jointly use the Exocet.
They were sent to the air naval base at Landivisiau in Finistère, north-west France where they then learnt how to fly the AMD-BA Super Étendard, being given up to 50 hours of flight training each. They were also taught about the Aérospatiale AM.39 Exocet missile. The missile was named after the biological family Exocoetidae.
In July 1981 the unit returned to the Comandante Espora air naval base (Base Aeronaval Comandante Espora) in Argentina. The Argentine Navy had ordered 14 Super Étendard aircraft, and the first five arrived in December 1981. The navy had also ordered 14 Exocet missiles, with the planes, in 1979.
On 2 April 1982 the Argentines invaded the Falkland Islands. The Argentine Navy had not yet received a visit by a French technical team to put the Exocet missiles into operational status, and there was little hope of that happening when the French immediately put a weapons embargo on Argentina. However two weeks later the 2nd Squadron's technicians had worked out how to connect the missiles to the aircraft. The Argentine Navy (Armada de la República Argentina) had bought two Type 42 destroyers - the ARA Hércules and the ARA Santísima Trinidad, to practise against, which both also carried the MM-38 version of the Exocet. In late April the squadron moved from Espora to Rio Grande.
Attack on the Atlantic Conveyor
The Argentines had problems with spare parts for their airborne radar aircraft, which were effectively grounded on 15 May 1982. In their place the AN/TPS-43 three-dimensional radar and an AN/TPS-44 radar were used from the Falklands (named Las Malvinas by the Argentines). On the 25 May 1982 the Atlantic Conveyor was spotted by the radar 110 miles north-east of the Falklands. At 7.30am this information was passed to the naval air base at Rio Grande (now Hermes Quijada International Airport) on the Tierra del Fuego.
His plane, the Super Étendard 0753/3-A-203, was readied for a 9.00am mission, but a KC-130H tanker was not available in time. Along with Super Étendard 0754/3-A-204, he took off at 14.28 and rendezvoused with a KC-130H 160 miles east of Puerto Deseado. After leaving the KC-130H, the two pilots headed 300 miles to the south-east. At 150 miles from the target both planes dropped to 10 metres above the sea surface. At 55 miles away the pilots detected the target, as expected, on their onboard radar; three targets had appeared. They launched Exocets at 16.32 when 31 miles away, which hit the ship at 16.35. The ship caught fire and sank three days later while under tow. Both planes travelled 1,620 miles in the operation in 3 hours and 50 minutes. Without refuelling, the aircraft had a range of 380 miles, and at low level used 70 litres of fuel per minute. Argentina had two tanker aircraft available. Both planes returned to Puerto Deseado. Only HMS Ambuscade had picked up the planes on its radar.
After the operation against the Atlantic Conveyor, the Argentines had one operational Exocet left.
He was awarded the Medal of Valour in Combat (La Nación Argentina al Valor en Combate) in 1984. He received the Naval Merit Order (Al Mérito Naval) in 1987 from the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil).
On 16 August 2011 he gave a talk at the Centro de Graduados del Liceo Naval Militar (Naval Military Lyceum Graduate Centre) entitled SuperEtendard Squadron, a nightmare for the British fleet (Spanish: Escuadrilla de SuperEtendard, una pesadilla para la flota británica).
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He married in 1970.