Everything You Need To Know About British Forces In The Falklands

Forces Network takes a look at the Falkland Islands - one of the UK's most isolated overseas territories and the home to one of the most...

Article by John-Paul Tooth

The Falkland Islands are one of the UK's most isolated overseas territories and home to one of the most remote military garrisons. 

Getting people and equipment there is difficult, with all deliveries having to be flown or shipped in (click above to find out more about how it's done). 

And as a British Overseas Territory, the people of the islands rely on Britain to guarantee their security.

Tasked with this crucial job is the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI), staffed by over 1,000 personnel from all three services, which also protects South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

BFSAI flag
The flag of the BFSAI

After the end of the Falklands War in 1982, Britain invested heavily in the islands' defences, including constructing a new airfield at RAF Mount Pleasant, 27 miles (43 km) west of the capital, Stanley.

The base became fully operational in 1986 after being opened the previous year. Stationed there are the four Typhoon jets that provide air defence for the islands and surrounding territories.

There are also two Chinooks, one C-130 Hercules and one Voyager aircraft, which are used for heavy lifting, transport and air-to-air refuelling. 

RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant. Picture: Donald Morrison

Until April last year, two Sea King helicopters were used to undertake air transport and search and rescue missions.

These duties were handed over to AW189 helicopters flown by AAR Corp, however, after the MoD awarded the company a 10-year, £180 million contract to provide this capability.

More: Britain Boosts Falklands Defence With New Radar System

The British Army, meanwhile, has a garrison at Mount Pleasant staffed by around 1,200 personnel, including 11 bomb disposal experts.

The Royal Navy contribution is made up of a frigate or guided missile destroyer alongside an RFA vessel in the South Atlantic.

A patrol ship is permanently close to the islands - a role currently being performed by HMS Clyde.

HMS Clyde exercising off the Falklands
HMS Clyde exercising off the Falklands

An Ice Patrol Ship, HMS Protector, is also on station close to Antarctica for half of the year. Ships can dock at RAF Mount Pleasant's port facility, Mare Harbour.

The Royal Navy also has Trafalgar and Astute-class nuclear submarines, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can be deployed to the area - although the details of these deployments are classified. 

The submarines can hit targets up to 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away, including those within an enemy country. Their capability was demonstrated during the Falklands War when HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano. 

More: What Will Argentina's New President Mean For The Falkland Islands?

Also integrated into the defence system for the islands is their part-time volunteer force, the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF), a company-strength light infantry force. 

The FIDF receives constant training from a Warrant Officer seconded from the Royal Marines and has been trained by the Royal Navy to operate the Oerlikon 20 mm cannon and to board vessels suspected of fishery poaching.

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