RAF Mount Pleasant

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RAF Mount Pleasant
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Part of British Forces South Atlantic Islands
East Falkland
Near Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands
Mount Pleasant Airport - Donald Morrison.jpg
Aerial view of RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant.jpg
Defend the Right
RAF Mount Pleasant is located in Falkland Islands
RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant
Shown within Falkland Islands
Coordinates 51°49′22″S 058°26′50″W / 51.82278°S 58.44722°W / -51.82278; -58.44722Coordinates: 51°49′22″S 058°26′50″W / 51.82278°S 58.44722°W / -51.82278; -58.44722
Type Permanent Joint Operating Base
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Controlled by Joint Forces Command
Site history
Built 1985 (1985)
In use 1985 – present
Garrison information
Occupants
Airfield information
Identifiers IATA: MPN, ICAO: EGYP, WMO: 88889
Elevation 71.1 metres (233 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
10/28 2,590 metres (8,497 ft) Asphalt
05/23 1,525 metres (5,003 ft) Asphalt
Source: Mount Pleasant Aerodrome Manual[1]

RAF Mount Pleasant (IATA: MPNICAO: EGYP) (also known as Mount Pleasant Airport, Mount Pleasant Complex or MPA)[2] is a Royal Air Force station in the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands. The airfield goes by the motto of "Defend the right"[3] (while the motto of the islands is "Desire the right") and is part of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI). Home to between 1,000 and 2,000 British military personnel, it is located about 33 miles (53 km) southwest of Stanley,[4] the capital of the Falklands—on the island of East Falkland. The world's longest corridor, half a mile (800 m) long, links the barracks, messes and recreational and welfare areas of the station, and was nicknamed the "Death Star Corridor" by personnel.[5]

Mount Pleasant was opened by Prince Andrew on 12 May 1985, becoming fully operational the following year. The station was constructed as part of British efforts to strengthen the defence of the Falkland Islands following the 1982 war with Argentine forces. It remains the newest purpose-built RAF station and replaced previous RAF facilities at Port Stanley Airport.

History[edit]

RAF Mount Pleasant is the newest permanent airfield in the Royal Air Force.[6] The RAF previously had a small airfield at Stanley airfield after the end of the hostilities in 1982. During the Falklands War when the islands were occupied by Argentine military forces, British aircraft were sent to disable the runway with RAF Strike Command Vulcan bombers (Operation Black Buck) and Royal Navy Sea Harriers. The raids were moderately successful, and on the first Black Buck mission one 1,000-pound (450 kg) bomb hit the runway in the middle, disabling it. However, temporary repairs by the Argentines did allow C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to bring in supplies and take out casualties until the end of the conflict. At the end of hostilities the runway was fully repaired by British military engineers.

Aerial view of RAF Mount Pleasant and its East-West orientated runway 10/28, visible in the distance is the shorter North-South orientated runway 05/23.

After the surrender of the Argentine ground forces on the islands, the British still faced the problem of potential Argentine air attacks from Argentina, so an aircraft carrier had to remain on station to guard the islands with its squadron of Sea Harriers until the local airfield was prepared for jet aircraft. HMS Hermes was the first to take guard duty, whilst HMS Invincible went north to change (at sea) a main engine.[7] Invincible then returned to relieve Hermes which urgently needed to return to the UK for boiler cleaning. Invincible returned until she was relieved by the newly built HMS Illustrious, which was quickly rushed south and commissioned during the journey. Once the Port Stanley runway was available for jets, Illustrious was relieved by four RAF F-4 Phantom FGR.2 (named 'Faith', 'Hope', Charity' and 'Desperation' by the crews – the first three named after the three Gloster Gladiators that according to legend were the names of the three RAF fighters defending Malta in the Second World War).

Location of RAF Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands

The British government felt that Stanley airfield was not the best option for a large, permanent station and decided to construct a new RAF station and make it the centrepiece of considerably strengthened air defences for the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. This was intended to deter any future Argentine attempts to take the islands by force. Mount Pleasant, to the west of Stanley, was chosen as the site for the new station. The construction, which had extraordinary challenges to get materials on site, was undertaken by a Laing-Mowlem-ARC consortium.[8] The airfield was opened by Prince Andrew (who served in the Falklands War) on 12 May 1985,[9] and became fully operational in 1986.[10]

Flights of Phantoms were rotated through the airfield until 1992 when they were replaced with Tornado F3s. The Tornado was replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon in September 2009. These have been supported throughout by C-130s and, since 1996, VC10s, equipped for aerial refuelling, transport, search and rescue and maritime patrol.

A flight of Westland Sea King helicopters for support and search and rescue was located at Mount Pleasant from November 2007 until April 2016.

As of April 1, 2016, with the worldwide retirement of Westland Sea King the Islands search and rescue function has been replaced by a commercial organisation, AAR, subcontracting the services to British International Helicopters for 10 years using two new AgustaWestland AW189s

Operations and facilities[edit]

RAF Mount Pleasant has a wide range of social and sporting facilities including a gym, swimming pool, golf course, diving centre, kart racing, Laser Quest, library, cinema, bowling, climbing wall and indoor and outdoor sports pitches. As of August 2010 it has the only cricket ground in the Falklands. There are two NAAFI shops, hairdressers, a medical centre, and an education centre on the station. BFBS Radio also maintains a live local station on the site. There is also a complex that includes a Costa Coffee café and a small shop, which are both owned and run by the Falkland Islands Company.[11]

Currently[when?] located at Mount Pleasant are No. 905 Expeditionary Air Wing, No. 1435 Flight with four Eurofighter Typhoons,No. 1310 Flight with two Chinooks, No. 1312 Flight, with a single Voyager tanker/transport and one Hercules. There are also two Sikorsky S-61 civilian Helicopters run by British International Helicopters Limited (Brintel). Ground units include No 7, 303, and 751 Signals Units and a Rapier detachment from the Royal Artillery. This was previously handled by the RAF Regiment but the RA now have sole responsibility for operating the Rapier.

33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) provides constant support and is part of the Joint Service Falkland Islands Detachment which consists of RAF and RLC EOD teams. It is mainly located in Stanley but there is also a detachment at Mount Pleasant. The group's role is to destroy unexploded munitions from the Falklands War; to brief troops, tourists and citizens on which areas are safe; and to mark uncleared minefields.[12]

There is also a Joint Communications Unit (JCU) providing the electronic warfare and command and control systems for the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.[13]

Prince William served as a Sea King pilot on the station for six weeks during February and March 2012.[14]

The two Sea Kings HAR3 of No. 1564 Flight were replaced by two civilian operated AW189 Helicopters in April 2016.[15][16]

Units[edit]

Flying units based at RAF Mount Pleasant.[17][18]

Royal Air Force[edit]

Civilian[edit]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

RAF Mount Pleasant entrance, taken just outside the Air Terminal

Using the IATA airport code MPN, RAF Mount Pleasant also acts as the Falkland Islands' only international airport, along with its military role. Flights open to civilian passengers are operated twice each week. The Hercules C-130 Transport Force operating out of RAF Lyneham supplied a direct non-stop service from RAF Lyneham via Ascension, Wideawake Airfield. From Ascension the flight was direct involving in-flight refuelling from a C-130 tanker. The flight duration was usually about 12 hours down and 13 hours back. The last scheduled flight in the world involving in-flight refuelling to the Falklands was carried out by a crew of 24 sqn in C-130 XV291 during the period 18–23 March 1989. This was the 650th and last of its type carried out by RAF Lyneham C-130s. Flights were then operated directly by the RAF using the Lockheed TriStars of 216 Squadron. Starting in autumn 2008,[19] these flights were operated on behalf of the Royal Air Force by a civilian airline, Flyglobespan. Since the airline's bankruptcy in 2009, the flights have been operated by Air Tahiti Nui, Titan Airways, Air Seychelles and Hi Fly.[20] The service is now operated by AirTanker using Airbus Voyager aircraft.[21] They fly to and from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, with a refuelling stop at Dakar due to the runway at RAF Ascension Island being closed until at least 2019.[22] These flights previously used a Boeing 767 aircraft but the current aircraft is an Airbus A330. Occasionally a RAF Boeing C-17 freight aircraft or the Antonov An-225 are employed to bring in large items of freight.

Additionally, every Saturday LATAM Chile operates a scheduled commercial flight to Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport of the Punta Arenas city in southern Chile, stopping at Río Gallegos, Argentina once a month.

On 2 March 2012, the Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called for Aerolineas Argentinas flights to Buenos Aires to replace LATAM Airlines flights to Chile. The idea of flights to Argentina was not supported in the islands, because this might result in Argentina having a monopoly on commercial flights and controlling all commercial air access.[23][24]

On 2 April 2012, a Uruguayan air company, Air Class Líneas Aéreas, gained permission from the Uruguayan Ministry of Defence to start a commercial flight to the Falkland Islands.[25]

Flights were planned to Saint Helena when the new airport was scheduled to open in 2016.[26] However, due to concerns regarding wind shear, that airport remains unopened.

Scheduled[edit]

Airlines Destinations
LATAM Chile Punta Arenas, Rio Gallegos, Santiago
Royal Air Force
operated by AirTanker
RAF Brize Norton

Unscheduled[edit]

Airlines Destinations
FIGAS Stanley, other settlements on the Falklands
Hi Fly London-Gatwick, Sal

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mount Pleasant Aerodrome Manual(DAM)" (PDF). GOV.UK. Military Aviation Authority. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  2. ^ Falkland Islands Information Portal
  3. ^ Photo of an RAF Mount Pleasant plaque
  4. ^ "Mount Pleasant Aerodrome Manual" (PDF). www.gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. June 2015. p. 19. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  5. ^ "Brigadier David Nicholls". Telegraph.co.uk. 22 July 2006. 
  6. ^ "RAF Mount Pleasant". Royal Air Force. 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "British Bases - Falklands War 1982". naval-history.net. 
  8. ^ "About the Falklands". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "RAF Timeline 1980–1989". Royal Air Force. 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  10. ^ Falkland Islands Government
  11. ^ Falkland Islands HIVE
  12. ^ Royal Engineers
  13. ^ Royal Corps of Signals
  14. ^ Bates, Stephen (10 November 2011). "Prince William to go to Falklands next year". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  15. ^ https://twitter.com/Chf_Eng_Air/status/715406532859441152
  16. ^ http://forces.tv/33996444
  17. ^ http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/2014-03-26/raf-retires-tristar-tankers-voyager-fleet-grows
  18. ^ "FOIA 2017/1418" (PDF). gov.uk. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  19. ^ "Falkland Wool Growers Report for Week Ending 16 July 2004 - Falkland Islands News". sartma.com. 
  20. ^ [1] Archived 4 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "AIR-BRIDGE MAINTENANCE". Press release. Falkland Islands Government. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  22. ^ https://www.ch-aviation.com/portal/news/55978-ascension-island-closed-to-heavy-aircraft-until-20192020
  23. ^ Goni, Uki (2 March 2012). "Argentine president calls for direct flights from Falklands to Buenos Aires". The Guardian. London. 
  24. ^ "Argentina wants its airline to fly to Falklands". Reuters. 2 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "Green light for Uruguayan flight to Falklands; Argentine ambassador says it’s not commercially viable". MercoPress. 
  26. ^ "Planning for when the 2016 airport, St Helena after closer links with Faklands". MercoPress. 

External links[edit]

Media related to RAF Mount Pleasant at Wikimedia Commons