On 25 May 1982 (the same day as the loss of HMS Coventry) Atlantic Conveyor was hit by two AM39 Air Launched Exocet missiles fired by two Argentine Navy Super Étendard jet fighters. The mission was led by Corvette Captain Roberto Curilovic (call sign ‘Tito’), flying Super Etendard 0753/3-A-203, and his wingman, Warship Lieutenant Julio Barraza, (call sign ‘Leo’) flying in 0754/3-A-204.
Both Exocets struck Atlantic Conveyor on the port quarter of the ship. There are conflicting accounts on whether the warheads exploded after penetrating the ship’s hull, or on impact. Due to the presence of both fuel and ammunition that were stored belowdecks, the incendiary effect of the unburnt propellant from the missiles caused an uncontrollable fire. When the fire had burnt out, the ship was boarded but nothing was recovered. While under tow by the requisitioned tug Irishman, Atlantic Conveyor sank in the early morning of 28 May 1982. All the helicopters but one Chinook, squadron identification code Bravo November, were destroyed in the fire. The loss of these helicopters meant that British troops had to march across the Falklands to recapture Stanley.
Twelve men died in Atlantic Conveyor, including the ship’s master, Captain Ian North, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). The ship was the first British merchant vessel lost at sea to enemy fire since World War II.