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Newsgroups: sci.military.naval
Subject: Belgrano's captain book (long)
From: dorfman@netcom.com (Merlin Dorfman)
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 18:49:27 GMT

[ Article crossposted from sci.military.naval,rec.games.miniatures.historical ]
[ Author was Jose  Iribarne ]
[ Posted on 27 Mar 1997 18:32:39 GMT ]

     This Article was found on one of the wargaming newsgroups.  I
thought it might be of interest to sci.military.naval.
                                   Merlin Dorfman
Here is my partial translation of the book by Hector E. Bonzo, "1093 crew
members of the cruiser ARA 'General Belgrano'" (In Spanish), Editorial
Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, 1992. I tried to be as literal as possible,
even at the expense of proper English.  Bonzo's style is ambiguous at
times! These selected paragraphs deal mostly with Argentinean naval

Jose Iribarne

pp. 35 "There were equipment or systems that could not anymore work at
full capacity. Among the most important were the saturated steam boilers,
that had been limited to 70% of their maximum combustion rate, even though
that value could be exceeded in case of emergency. A problem in the
pinion gear of the speed reduction box No. 4 limited the revolutions of
the corresponding shaft. In concrete, the proud design speed of 32 knots
was reduced to an acceptable maximum of 18.5 knots." 

pp. 60-73 "Operation Plan of Task Force 79 (FUERTAR 79) 

"... The Commander of Naval Operations, Vice Admiral Juan Jose Lombardo,
had been designated Commander of the Theater of Operations South Atlantic
(TOAS) and thereafter a schematic plan was issued as a basis for the
formulation of contributing plans by his subordinate commands. Among
these, the FUERTAR 79 made of the units of the sea fleet. 

"... One of the possible modes of action considered in the evaluation of
options was the placement of the cruiser ARA 'General Belgrano' in the bay
of Puerto Argentino [Port Stanley]. It would be used as a floating
fortress. But that would imply loosing the degree of freedom that
characterizes a moving ship. It would also create a static target for
enemy weapons with higher range than the ship's artillery. 

"While this and other strategic possibilities were being evaluated,
England declared a naval blockade of the Malvinas [Falklands] to begin on
April 12. The Military Command canceled all maritime transport to the
Island when the cruiser was not yet ready to get underway. 

"The British exclusion zone comprised a 200 mile circle centered in
latitude 51 deg. 40 min. South and longitude 59 deg. 30 min. West (the
geographic center of the Islas Malvinas). The interdiction was not in
itself a reason to stop programmed actions in the zone, if they
contributed to an important tactical movement. But from then on it was a
risk factor in the planning, to be accepted or not according to the
importance and transcendence of the objectives. 

"The defense of the islands was the principal part of the strategic
concept. But it could not be complete without due consideration of a
possible English attack to vital points of the continent. And this was
reflected in the planning. 

"... From the strategic analysis done at the Headquarters of the Naval
Command came the organization of the dependent units. Some of the
variables and hypothesis considered to that end were:
a) the English ships were in definite movement to the South;
b) they could be re-supplied in Ascension Island, by gracious concession
of the United States;
c) the capacity of our units to operate by themselves and in groups;
d) offensive and defensive capacities of each ship for the different
missions deemed possible;
e) requirements of mutual support; 
f) tactical and decoy combinations;
g) other tactical and strategic conditions, although not being directly
related to the English expeditionary force, that could influence in the
course of operations. Case of Chile for example. 

"The following organization was thus defined for the FUERTAR 79, under
Rear Admiral Gualter O. Allara: 

"Task Group 79.1. Capitan de Navio [Commander] Jose J. Sarcona
- Carrier '25 de Mayo'
- Embarked naval air group
- Corvettes 'Guerrico', 'Drummond', 'Granville'
- Destroyer 'Santisima Trinidad'
- Tanker YPF 'Campo Duran'

"Task Group 79.2. Capitan de Navio Juan C. Calmon
- Destroyer 'Hercules'
- Destroyers 'Piedra Buena', 'Bouchard', 'Segui', 'Py'
- Tanker ARA 'Punta Medanos'

"Task Group 79.3. Capitan de Navio Hector E. Bonzo
- Cruiser 'General Belgrano'

"Attached Units:
- Icebreaker 'Almirante Irizar'
- Polar ship 'Bahia Paraiso' (hospital ship)
- LST 'Cabo San Antonio'
- Aviso [patrol boat] 'Alferez Sobral'
- Aviso 'Comodoro Somellera'
- Tanker YPF 'Puerto Rosales'

"The plan had a first phase appropriate for the situation on hand, but
also established a second phase, to begin on command, to conduct
deliberate actions. 

"Mission of the cruiser

"For each Task Group and independent ships, there were instructions in the
Operation Orders of the FUERTAR 79. The original instructions for the Task
Group 79.3 were:
a) get underway to the TOAS and position at the Isla de los Estados;
maintain coastal route and hide your intentions;
b) perform duties related to:
- the guard of the southern access to the TOAS,
- interception of enemy units, according to orders,
- deterrence in the regional context;
c) avoid tactical contact with enemy units equipped with surface to
surface missiles;
d) if necessary and according to the situation, proceed to re-supply at
the Ushuaia Naval Base.

"We were all conscious that the planned organization and assigned duties
would soon be modified as the situation evolved. This contest of wills had
two sides and the acts of one could change the attitude of the other. It
was just April 12 and the original mission had to be established adopting
a series of assumptions, as allowed by the planning doctrine. 

"A clear example is the task of the Belgrano regarding the guard of the
southern access. This was related to the information that HMS 'Exeter' had
crossed the Panama Canal from East to West, escorting a tanker. We assumed
that they intended to help in the re-supply the British naval forces going
around the Cape Horn. This assumption also mobilized the Naval Aviation
into exploring the Sea of Drake, as obligatory zone of approach. 

"... When returning from Puerto Argentino to Puerto Belgrano on April 10,
the corvette 'Granville' detected enemy radar emissions. That was the
beginning of a situation of presence and menace with great transcendence
to the fight in the sea. 

"The operation plan of FUERTAR 79 issued on April 12 gave as enemy
capacity the arrival of submarines to the area of conflict. This was very
likely and the emissions could well have that origin. The arrival of
surface ships to the theater was not expected before April 23, given their
position and advance.

"Getting close to leave port came evidences that could control de
evolution of the situation. Among them were: 
a) the English naval forces demonstrated high capacity for maneuver;
b) the Argentinean forces were showing an adequate rate of preparation;
c) diplomatic actions proceeded with the slowness characteristic to this
type of negotiations; they showed little effective progress to revert the
continuation of the 'politics by other means;'
d) the military balance was favorable to the British, as far as intrinsic
capacity; it could be counteracted by other factors inherent to the
theater of operations; 
e) NATO would hardly leave the U.K. alone if the conflict intensified; the
attitude of the U.S.A. would determine the decision; 
f) the presence of nuclear submarines in the zone, from the beginning of
the operations, implied an evident unbalance against the Argentinean
fleet; it was not ignored, but rather considered a calculated risk. 

"Since this last consideration pertains directly to the campaign of the
'Belgrano', we will give it a more detailed treatment. 

"Not only the Argentinean Navy was in disadvantage against a nuclear
attack submarine. Only a few navies in the world would not have serious
difficulties facing this type of unit, either in defense or attack. In the
particular case of the Argentinean fleet, some elements can be cited to
recognize this superiority: 
a) the submarine equaled and exceeded, submerged, the speed of the surface
b) its permanence under water was only limited by human endurance, since
the battery discharge so typical of conventional submarines was not a
c) the fleet's sensors, as well as of antisubmarine naval aircraft, would
hardly be able to detect a nuclear submarine before a torpedo launch; 
d) antisubmarine weapons were adequate for attacks against conventional
units, but almost null against the mobility of the nuclear submarine; 
e) on the other hand the sensors of the English submarines had high
detection and tracking capabilities, which added to its permanent
concealment gave unlimited advantage to take the initiative; for the same
reasons a combat between a conventional Argentinean submarine and a
nuclear submarine was tactically unconceivable; 
f) weapon launch by the submarine could be the only way to reveal its
presence, assuming that the submarine command did not make gross mistakes
in its operation; 
g) we had knowledge of some satellite activity that could be used to
locate the British submarines in favorable positions for future actions,
notwithstanding any other information source used for that purpose; the
conjunction satellite-nuclear submarine, if existent, was obviously of
maximum danger and impossible to counteract with our opposing means. 

"This and much else did not impossibilitate our action, but made it more
difficult. The degree of uncertainty was high and originated in the same
analysis of aptitude and feasibility. 

"... The force distribution in the theater of operations considered
finally a greater combat power to the North of the Islas Malvinas. It
allowed a higher flexibility to the fleet in the approaching unbalance.
The distribution reconciled the intrinsic capabilities of the cruiser as
a first-line ship with a lower speed relative to the rest of the fleet.
Therefore the decision to position the ship to the South and more
precisely near the Isla de los Estados was the best use of each unit's
possibilities and was tactically appropriate to the given hypothesis. 

"At the time that all of this taked place at Puerto Belgrano, the Area
Naval Austral [Southern] lived a situation in which the conflict with
Great Britain was just another ingredient. The border dispute with Chile
was an operational constant that influenced the spirit and preparation of
the forces organic to the South, more precisely to the big island of
Tierra del Fuego. Thus, the presence of the cruiser in the zone would
reinforce the regional deterrence, mission of the Command of the Area
Naval Austral." 

pp. 92-103 "Adjustment in the plans of Task Group 79.3

"While fulfilling the mission of the TG 79.3 in the original plan, we knew
it coresponded to a general concept of the operation and that it would be
modified as soon as the Command obtained more information and intelligence
on the enemy. This was also valid for other task groups and thus
extensive to the collective Task Force 79. 

"The changes did not take long. On the afternoon of Saturday, April 24 as
we navigate to the strait of Le Maire, we received a message from
COFUERTAR 79 directed to all its subordinated units. The high priority
given to the message already indicated its importance. That was confirmed
after decipher. There were new tactical orders that imposed changes to the
original plans of the Task Force, such as: 
- Change the organization of the task groups, transferring two destroyers
from TG 79.2 to TG 79.3. Assign the fleet tanker YPF 'Puerto Rosales' to
the latter. Thus, the TG 79.3 now comprised one cruiser, two destroyers
and a tanker. 
- In the 'Situation' paragraph, the planning parameters included the
confirmed approximation of the English expeditionary force to the theater
of operations, the maintained aerial activity in the area Malvinas and the
last results of diplomatic action in the international arena. 
- The deployment of units still considered achieving favorable relative
positions. This concept would allow a timely projection and/or induce the
enemy to split its forces. 
- Future operations were separated in two phases, the actual being the
first; the second could lead to the effective use of the arms. Later on we
learnt that the British had a similar scheme to define the times in the
projection of actions. 
- The TG 79.1 (the '25 de Mayo' group) would take position to the North of
the Islas Malvinas, along with TG 79.2 (the 'Hercules' group), with well
defined missions. The Commander of the FUERTAR and his headquarter would
embark in the carrier. 
- The TG 79.3 (the 'General Belgrano' group) would remain in the Southern
zone, outside of the exclusion zone, between the Isla de los Estados and
the Burdwood Bank. For the first phase, the previously assigned duties
were still valid. For the second phase there was a new concept of
interception and/or neutralization of enemy units, in coordination with
other task groups. 

"... Reviewing the destroyers, we recalled that the 'Piedra Buena' had
been reconditioned in 1976 and 1977 to recover capabilities after more
than 30 years of life. It was not a make-up, but major surgery... In those
years we saw the ship, brought originally from the U.S.A. to be
dismantled, growing into a good fleet destroyer. Its artilliery was
downgraded by the low performance of its fire control radar, but finally
its surface to surface capacity had improved with the installation of an
Exocet missile system. Its maximum speed was 24 knots and its
anti-submarine capacity could be qualified as poor for conventional
submarines and almost null for nuclear. 

"The destroyer ARA 'Bouchard' had similar characteristics, with a maximum
speed of 22 knots. 

"... At 15:00 of Saturday, April 24, the destroyers 'Piedra Buena' and
'Bouchard' left the TG 79.2 operating to the North of the Islas Malvinas
and took course to the South to join TG 79.3 according to the orders. 

"While the 'Bouchard' made a technical stop at Puerto Deseado, the 'Piedra
Buena' arrived to the cruiser area on Wednesday, April 28 at 08:00. 

"... at 22:00 of that night [April 29] the destroyer 'Bouchard' was at 15
miles to the NW of our position and requested authorization to join TG
79.3, completing the organization of the group." 

pp. 105-106 "Order for Action

" On the afternoon of Thursday, April 29, a message from the Commander of
the TF 79 was received, giving specific tasks for each of the units of the
Force. The direct action began to take shape.

"For our TG the order was to leave the Miguel area [N of Isla de los
Estados] to the Julian area [SW of Burdwood bank] on Saturday, May 1, at
12:00. A series of tactical manoevers had to be performed, that could
induce the English forces to move some units in anticipation of future
encounters. We would pass near the Burdwood Bank, a zone of much shallow
depth than the surrounding sea, which favors surface transit since it
limits the detection and maneuver capacity of a likely killer nuclear

"... We did not believe that the phase 2 had started when receiving that
message, but it would not be far. The assigned task would be a part of a
more ambitious task... For now, we only foresaw a fast and abrupt
development starting at 12:00 of May 1. 

"Our idea was corroborated by a complement, which helped interpret the
strategic concept of our superiors. A message of the same afternoon of
April 29 eliminated all restrictions in the use of the weapons, after
identification of a target as enemy." 

[Note of the T.: I had this date wrong in a previous posting]

pp. 147-151 "Change in Tasks

"While on the afternoon of May 1 we had accomplished the movements
according to the orders for TF 79, the English fleet seemed to be
preparing or beginning a landing action on the Islas Malvinas. This was
suggested by intelligence data available to our superior command, which
showed the movement of naval and aeronaval enemy assets. They were
carrying out a persistent and deep aerial bombardment, using aircraft
apparently based in carriers located East of Puerto Argentino. 

"A general situation view showed a task group at 80 miles SE of the
Malvinas, comprising a carrier and several frigates accompanied by large
and medium auxiliary ships, which may include troop transports. Another
group to the NE of the Island comprised one carrier, six destroyers or
frigates and several large ships, distributed in a radius of 30 miles.
Other units farther were converging to the zone of operations. 

"These naval dispositions, added to the aerial movement and the naval
support fire, indicated a possible attachment of the English groups to a
specific task and a defined area. The situation suggested a good
opportunity for an offensive raid on them. These should have been the
thoughts of the Command, since a few minutes after 20:30 of Saturday, the
officer in charge of the cipher brought me an urgent message from the
Commander of FUERTAR 79 with new orders for its subordinate groups. 

"The text of the message, and the operation concept that it reflected,
leave no doubts about the offensive character of the action, which could
well be defined as a pincer movement. The Northern groups would make an
approach in the night, to get into favorable relative positions for joint
or successive actions of the ships and naval aircraft. Our TG should move
more to the East, headed towards the enemy meridian, to wear with missiles
the enemy units operating to the South of the Malvinas. If they were not
really tied to an amphibious operation over Puerto Argentino or other zone
nearby, the menace of the enemy naval power would become a real obstacle
to the mission, given their numerical and technical superiority. 

"For our TG, the movement that we would perform from the South could
evolve in several different alternatives such as: the direct entry into
the exclusion zone, tactical contact with English ships, the defense
against an air attack and/or the action of a nuclear submarine. Anyway,
the offensive work of the cruiser and the two destroyers would be a
consequence of the pressure exerted by the rest of the TF, since we did
not have an assigned material objective, but rather the attack to targets
of opportunity , as stated previously. 

"... After no few and clarifying discussions regarding the best mode of
action, I sent the destroyers a message to complement the change in our
task. The text indicated an anticipated movement starting at 05:30 of May
2, including a course 335 deg. that would take us closer to the English
TF. Obviously the transit would be through the exclusion zone. 

"... At the same time the Northern task groups continued approaching their
objective, which would be the execution of an aerial attack on the English
force, apparently tied to the landing. However, the meteorological
conditions near the carrier began to look outright unfavorable for the
operation of the embarked air group. The wind speed had dropped below the
minimum required to launch the aircraft. 

"The Skyhawk (A-4Q) with the required load of bombs and a full load of
fuel would have a range a little over 200 miles. That would be the
distance to the enemy at launch time. This would happen at the early dawn
of May 2. 

"As the distances got closer and the minutes passed, the wind speed
continued to drop (unlikely that time of the year)... 

"This was not the only obstacle, since passed midnight an enemy aircraft
was detected, possibly a Sea Harrier in exploration orbit about 100 miles
to the SE. Its maneuvers and approximations to 60/70 miles of the
Argentinean ships left no doubts about being detected. Thus an important
element of our force was lost, since the surprise was vital to compensate
in part for other weaknesses. 

"... at 01:30 the Commander of the Theater of Operations informed the
Commander of the FUERTAR 79 that the aerial action of the enemy over
Puerto Argentino had stopped and their carriers were moving away from the
Island. It was not hard to conclude that the British TF was free from the
possible attachment and thus recovered its freedom of action. 

"... It was not a surprise then when we received a message at 05:00
cancelling the continuation of the operation and issuing new dispositions
for all the Force. In particular for our group, the order indicated a
waiting station between the areas Ignacio and Julian [S of Burdwood

[Note of the T.: the 'Belgrano' was torpedoed at 16:01 that day, while
underway to its new patrol area]

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Newsgroups: sci.military.naval
Subject: Rocket pods (was: Re: Argentine Falklands Strategies)
From: John.Salt@brunel.ac.uk (John D Salt)
Date: 31 Mar 1997 14:10:09 +0100

In article <5h6a8m$o51@post.gsfc.nasa.gov>,
>In <1997Mar19.183740@wcsub.ctstateu.edu>, tealdijr001@wcsub.ctstateu.edu writes:
>> [snips]
>>Also, how about placing a couple of rocket pods on the aircraft. Firing
>>semi-armor piercing HE/Fragmention warheads, a salvo of these rockets should
>>have caused some pretty serious damage (and that's only from one aircraft!).
>That's exactly what happened to one of the ships in the San Carlos area. The 
>T21 on point duty near Fanning Head? got the shit shot out of her by rocket
>pods after she had been knocked about by iron bombs and her weaponry put out
>of action. AFAIR she only had a few GPMG left to pop off at the Pucara that
>ripped open her port? side with rockets.

I can't find any reference to this in Middlebrook's "Task Force" (the only
source I have to hand right now).  The Type 21 you are thinking of was
presumably HMS Ardent, but she was believed to be hit by nine bombs, seven
of which exploded.  Commander Alan West, her Captain, provides this account
in "Task Force":

"Up forward it felt as though a giant hand was holding the ship by the
stern and whacking it down on the sea.  There was a great deal of smoke
going up about a hundred feet in the air.  I saw our Sea Cat launcher,
on top of the hangar, go straight up in the air and fall back on to the
top of the flight deck and, sadly, on to the top of my supply officer,
Richard Banfield.  Also killed were John Sephton and Brian Murphy, the
Lynx helicopter pilot and observer who were both seen firing at the
attacking aircraft -- John with a Sterling sub-machine-gun, real cowboy
stuff, and Brian had a Bren gun; he was last seen firing straight up into
the air at the plane whose bomb killed him."

In total, twenty-two Ardents were killed in this action.

The only other Type 21 loss was HMS Antelope, sunk when an unexploded bomb
being worked on detonated, killing Steward Stephens and Sgt. Prescott, RE.   

I can find no reference to rocket damage in the order of battle in 
appendix 1 of the book, but I seem to remember that newspaper coverage
at the time mentioned Aermacchis with rocket pods attacking, I believe,
HMS Coventry.  Does anyone have any better references on this?

>>Both these scenarios would have given them a limited "stand-off" attack
>>capability and would have probably been more effective than the bombs.

Weight for weight, I would think iron bombs a more effective payload for
anti-shipping work, always assuming you have the nous to fuze them correctly.
If you are attacking at 300-400 knots, I would think that you are going to
pass directly over your target whether you use bombs, rockets, or cannon.

All the best,

John D Salt  Dept of Comp Sci & IS,
Brunel Univ, Uxbridge, Middx UB8 3PH
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Newsgroups: sci.military.naval
Subject: Re: Argentine SS in the Falklands (LONG)
From: John.Salt@brunel.ac.uk (John D Salt)
Date: 19 Mar 1997 18:48:00 -0000

In article <01bc33e1$a91030c0$LocalHost@raptor>,
Christoph Schlegel  wrote:
>John D Salt  wrote
>> In article <01bc33c8$5799bc20$LocalHost@raptor>,
>> >Still, you couldn't take any of the Argentinian Diesels out in the
>> >Falklands War, could you?
>> Eh?  Are you saying "Santa Fe" wasn't a diesel boat?
>Ouups, that's exactly what happens when you reply to something without
>doing proper research before.
>Maybe you could enlighten me a bit about Santa Fe?

OK, you asked for it...      :-)

The following is composed from a precis from Martin Middlebrook's "Task
Force: The Falklands War", revised edn, Penguin, 1982, and from memory
of a book called "Operation Paraquat", and personal communication from
a close friend who was there.

Santa Fe was spotted on the surface by "Humphrey", the Wessex 3 belonging
to HMS Antrim, operating as flag of the task group to re-take South Georgia
in company with HM Ships Plymouth and Brilliant,the RFAs Brambleleaf and
Tidespring, and the ice patrol ship Endurance, which had been in the area
since the initial Argentine invasion.  "Humphrey", flown by Lt-Cdr Ian
Stanley, attacked with two Mk. XI depth-charges, obtaining a near-miss
and a direct hit which bounced off the casing before exploding.  The
Argentine turned backed towards Grytviken, from which she had just come,
still sailing on the surface and trailing oil.  Other helos now joined the
fray, and, as the saying goes, "attacked with all available weapons".  
Brilliant's Lynx dropped a homing torpedo, which missed, but convinced
Captain Bicain of the Santa Fe not to submerge.  A Wasp from Endurance,
flown by Lt-Cdr J A Ellerbeck, made the first Royal Navy missile attack
in time of war.  AS-12 missiles hit the Santa Fe's fibreglass fin, doing
little material damage, but blowing the legs off an Argentine PO who was
gallantly returning fire with a machine-gun.  At one point a helo crew
engaged the Santa fe with sub-machine gun fire, having exhausted their
other munitions: a Browning pistol remained holstered, as that was 
considered unlikely to be effective against a submarine target.

Santa Fe was run into Grytviken harbour, listing badly, and was captured
there without further bloodshed a few hours later when troops of "M"
company, formed from SBS, RM M&AW cadre and SAS mountain troop, landed
under the guns of Antrim and Plymouth and re-took Grytviken.  It was at
this point that the task group commander made the memorable signal
"Be pleased to inform her Majesty that the Union Flag now flies above 
the White Ensign over Grytviken, and that South Georgia is now once
again under the governance desired by its inhabitanta.  God save the Queen!"
These stirring words were in all the newspapers in Britain the next morning,
whose editors possibly did not realise that the formula had been kept on
a file card for some time beforehand, and were originally the work of a
signals yeoman.

After the local Argentine surrender, the only fatality of the action
occured when CPO Artuso, aboard the Santa Fe, was shot by his Royal
Marine guard, who wrongly believed him to be attempting to open a 
scuttling valve.

Captain Bicain of the Santa Fe and Captain Lagos, a marine Officer and
commander of the Grytviken garrison, were both court-martialled for
their part in the battle.  Ian Stanley was awarded a well-deserved
George Medal for this and other actions, including the rescue of SAS
troops stranded on Fortuna Glacier in white-out conditions that had
already downed two other helos.  "Humphrey" can still be seen at
the Fleet Air Arm museum at Yeovilton, complete with the tail-light
pilfered from an Argentine Pucara when Antrim's stock of spares gave
out -- NATO standardization is a wonderful thing.  Also on display
are nameplates from the Santa Fe, donated to the museum by my friend
Richard Hurley, who, as Lt. Hurley RN, was in the Antrim at the
time.  He also has a certificate from the Santa Fe, completed with 
the official ship's stamp, declaring him to be an honorary submariner
in the Argentine Navy -- presumably she had been doing duty at a Navy
Day some time shortly before the war.

Lt-Cdr Richard Hurley (retd) will be getting married on May 17th.
Should I pass on the best wishes of the group?   :-)

All the best,

John D Salt  Dept of Comp Sci & IS,
Brunel Univ, Uxbridge, Middx UB8 3PH
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