Household Division Onion Ranges Falklands 170217 CREDIT MOD

Everything you need to know about British forces in the Falklands

Household Division Onion Ranges Falklands 170217 CREDIT MOD

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

Thirty-nine years after the Falklands War ended, British troops continue to have a military presence in the region, centred around RAF Mount Pleasant.

Being 8,000 miles away from the UK, troops stationed in the Falklands are almost completely self-sufficient.

Getting people and equipment there is difficult, with all deliveries either flown or shipped in.

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 more than 1,000 personnel from all three services. BFSAI also protects South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

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 their surrounding territories.

There is also one A400M and one Voyager aircraft, which are used for heavy lifting, transport and air-to-air refuelling. 

1435 Flight Typhoon FGR4 Pair Training Flight West Falkland Island 180618 CREDIT MOD
No 1435 Flight Typhoon FGR4 pair flying over West Falkland island during a routine training flight (Picture: MOD).

The Mount Pleasant Centre is a tri-service base and, as such, is staffed by personnel from all three services.

The Army's main commitments are the Roulemont Infantry Company (Infantry) and the Resident Rapier Battery (Royal Artillery).

There are also detachments from all the other Army corps and the Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) has a detachment at Mount Pleasant.

The Royal Navy contribution is a Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel in the South Atlantic, a patrol ship permanently close to the islands – a role currently being performed by HMS Forth.

HSM Forth COVID Vaccine Delivery Tristan da Cunha South Atlantic 290421 CREDIT MOD
HMS Forth delivers Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccines to the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha (Picture: MOD).

An Ice Patrol Ship, HMS Protector, is also on station close to Antarctica for half of the year, although it does not fall under BFSAI command. 

Ships can dock at RAF Mount Pleasant's port facility, Mare Harbour.

It is speculated that the Royal Navy also has Trafalgar and Astute-class nuclear submarines, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which could potentially be deployed to the area – although the details of these deployments are classified. 

The submarines can hit targets up to 1,500 miles (2,400km) 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.


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

The FIDF does not come under BFSAI command as it is a national defence force, but the BFSAI supports its training when requested.

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

The UK's improving relationship with Argentina was demonstrated in 2017, when the Argentine submarine San Juan went missing during a routine patrol in the Atlantic, and British Forces in the Falklands supported the rescue operation.

Cover image: The Household Division training on the infamous Onion Ranges, located on a remote part of East Falkland island (Picture: MOD).