Military of the Falkland Islands
|British Forces South Atlantic Islands|
The British Joint Forces flag flown in the Falklands
|Branch||Joint Service (Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force)|
|Size||1,350 in 2012|
|Part of||Ministry of Defence|
|Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands||Air Commodore Russell La Forte CBE|
|Transport||Hercules C3, Voyager KC2, Sea King|
The Falkland Islands are a British overseas territory and, as such, rely on the UK for the guarantee of their security. The other UK territories in the South Atlantic, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, fall under the protection of the British forces on the Falklands (also known as British Forces Falkland Islands or British Forces South Atlantic Islands), which includes commitments from the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. They are headed by the Commander of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (CBFSAI).
The maintenance of only a token military force before the Falklands War, and the suggestion that HMS Endurance was to be withdrawn, persuaded Argentina to start that conflict, assuming that Britain would not respond or be easily able to recapture the islands. Following the reclamation of the territory in 1982, the UK invested heavily in the defence of the islands, the centrepiece of which is the new airfield at RAF Mount Pleasant, 27 miles (43 km) west of Stanley. The base was opened in 1985, and became fully operational in 1986.
Falkland Islands Defence Force
The Falkland Islands maintains its own part-time volunteer force, the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF), previously known as the Falkland Islands Volunteer Corps. Although this unit existed in 1982 as a reinforcement for the Governor's detachment of Royal Marines, it did not play any part in the main conflict during the war of 1982, its members having spent the duration of the hostilities under house arrest by the Argentines after their surrender on the Argentine capture of the islands. The FIDF is now a company-strength light infantry force with a permanent training Warrant Officer seconded from the Royal Marines. The FIDF operates in a number of roles and is fully integrated into the defence scheme for the islands. The FIDF has been trained by the Royal Navy to operate Oerlikon 20 mm cannon and to board vessels suspected of fishery poaching.
RAF Mount Pleasant has its own port facility called Mare Harbour, and the Royal Navy maintains a presence in the area with a frigate or guided missile destroyer accompanied by an RFA vessel in the South Atlantic and a patrol ship, currently HMS Clyde, permanently close to the islands. In addition, an Ice Patrol Ship, HMS Protector, is on station close to Antarctica for six months of the year.
The warship and RFA vessel carry out the Atlantic Patrol Task (South) mission, which "provides a maritime presence to protect the UK's interests in the region". The Type 42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh took over the South Atlantic Patrol Task in October 2006, replacing HMS Southampton. Prior to Southampton's deployment in August 2005, the role was filled by HMS Cardiff, which was decommissioned on return to the UK. As of February 2010, the on-station warship was the Type 42 destroyer HMS York. In late April 2010, HMS York was relieved by the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland. In August 2010, HMS Portland was relieved by the Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester. On 21 April 2011, HMS York arrived at the East Cove Military Port in the Falkland Islands, beginning patrol duties for the islands. October 2011 saw the arrival of the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose, generating a statement from UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). The Type 45 Guided Missile Destroyer HMS Dauntless replaced HMS Montrose as of April 2012. In early August 2013, HMS Richmond was deployed to be the ship for the Royal Navy's Atlantic Patrol. HMS Portland was again deployed in January 2014.
The Falkland Islands Patrol ship is a River class patrol vessel, which replaced the previous Castle class patrol vessel. In 2007, HMS Clyde relieved HMS Dumbarton Castle and HMS Leeds Castle. It is planned that she will stay permanently in the South Atlantic until 2018.
The Royal Navy also has Trafalgar and Astute class nuclear submarines that it can deploy to the area, though such deployments are classified. The threat from submarines to hostile ships was demonstrated during the Falklands War when HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano. The Royal Navy's submarines also carry BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which have a range of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) and can strike at targets within an enemy country. The Sun newspaper has speculated that a Swiftsure class attack submarine, HMS Sceptre, was sent to the islands in March 2010. In February 2012, a Trafalgar -class nuclear submarine may have been deployed to the Falkland Islands.
The British Army maintains a garrison on the Falkland Islands based at Mount Pleasant. The total deployment is about 1,200 personnel made up of a roulement infantry company, an engineer squadron, a signals unit (part of the Joint Communications Unit – see below), a logistics group and supporting services.
The British Army contributes to the Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal group (see below) in the Falkland Islands, providing 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) and RLC EOD teams. This has been reduced to a team of 11 personnel.
There is also a Rapier Missile battery deployed.
Royal Air Force
RAF Mount Pleasant was built in 1985 with the capability of accepting trans-Atlantic aircraft such as the Lockheed TriStar. The TriStar was purchased mainly for the UK-Falklands route; until their entry into service, the UK used leased 747s and 767s.
Originally Lockheed Hercules C1K were used on air-to-air refueling missions, but these were later replaced by a VC10. On 31 August 2013 the VC10 was replaced by a TriStar K1 which was itself replaced by a Voyager KC2 in February 2014. When a fighter is launched, it is almost immediately followed by the tanker as changeable weather conditions might make diversion to another airfield necessary. The Voyager however will be unable to fit within a hangar at RAF Mount Pleasant.
A Hercules provides resupply missions through the use of air-drops and also carries out maritime patrol.
Four Typhoon aircraft provide air defence for the islands and surrounding territories and have a secondary ground attack role.
The helicopters of No. 1564 Flight (formerly No. 78 Squadron) provide air transport missions. The Sea Kings carry out short and medium range search and rescue missions. Given the retirement of the Sea King, AAR Corp was awarded a contract for helicopter search and rescue services in the Falkland Islands to replace 1564 Flight, they will use AgustaWestland AW189 helicopters in the role. The sole remaining Chinook was returned to the UK in October 2006 to be redeployed to Afghanistan.
- No. 1435 Flight – 4 Eurofighter Typhoons
- No. 1312 Flight – 1 Voyager KC2, 1 Hercules C3
- No. 1564 Flight – 2 Sea King HAR3s.
The Joint Communications Unit Falkland Islands (JCUFI) provides the electronic warfare and command and control systems for the Royal Navy, Army and RAF stationed there. It incorporates the Army's signals unit and RAF personnel.
Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal in the Falkland Islands consists of 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), RAF and RLC EOD teams. It is mainly based in Stanley, but there is also a detachment at Mount Pleasant. The groups operates the Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operations Center. The group destroys munitions from the Falklands War that did not explode at the time and briefs troops, tourists and citizens on the areas that are safe and the minefield markings that have been put in place.
The UK maintains a Joint Rapid Reaction Force, which contains elements of all three services, that could be deployed to the islands in the event of receiving intelligence of a specific threat to the islands.
The estimated Sterling figure (FY04/05) was £365 million, which came from the UK defence budget. This equates to a US$ figure (FY04/05) of $657 million and as a percent of British GDP (2004) amounts to approximately 0.03%.
The following have served as Commander British Forces Falkland Islands/South Atlantic Islands:
- General Sir Peter de la Billière (1984–85)
- Air Marshal Sir John Kemball (1986)
- Rear Admiral Christopher Layman
- Major General A. Neil Carlier
- Air Vice Marshal David Crwys-Williams (1988–89)
- Major General Malcolm Hunt RM
- Air Commodore Ray Dixon (1998–99)
- Brigadier David Nicholls (1999)
- Brigadier Geoff Sheldon (2000)
- Air Vice Marshal John Cliffe (2001)
- Vice Admiral Sir Richard Ibbotson (February 2002)
- Brigadier James Gordon (December 2002)
- Brigadier Anthony Wilson (2003)
- Air Vice Marshal Richard Lacey (2004)
- Rear Admiral Ian Moncrieff (2005)
- Brigadier Nick Davies (2007)
- Air Commodore Gordon Moulds (2008)
- Commodore Philip Thicknesse (2009)
- Brigadier William Aldridge (2011)
- Air Commodore Russell La Forte (2013)
- Commodore Darren Bone RN (2015)
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A Royal Navy attack submarine has been sent to boost security around the Falkland Islands – as speculation mounts that drillers have found oil there, The Sun can reveal.
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- New Falklands’ British Forces commander played key role in UK 2009 floods’ rescue operations — MercoPress