Walking the Falklands Beat
Once the whole 1982 dustup settled between the UK and Argentina over Falklands, the Brits knew that they had to garrison the disputed islands with more than the barely armed guard ship and a platoon of Royal Marines that tempted the Argentine junta into the initial invasion.
By 1985, RAF Mount Pleasant was opened to establish a regular fighter and transport presence in the Islands as well as serve as the home base for the much-expanded British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI).
Built some 20 miles inland of Stanley, the islands’ largest city (pop 2400) and capital with a co-located Naval base at Mare Harbor, the complex’s garrison included a regular detachment of RAF fighters (four FGR.2 Phantoms bolstered by refuelers and Sea Kings at first, then Tornados, now Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s assisted by a tanker and A400), a rotating infantry battalion (now a Roulement Infantry Company (RIC)) reinforced by air-defense and engineer assets, and a Navy Atlantic Patrol Tasking that used to be a destroyer or frigate (and is now a 2,000-ton OPV, HMS Medway).
The MOD maintains a regular twice-a-week airbridge from RAF Brize Norton to Mount Pleasant Complex, a big change from 1982 when flights had to come commercial via Uraguay or Argentina– no bueno. Other than that, a resupply ship arrives about eight times per year, filled with containers shipped 8,000 miles from the UK.
Still, all in all, the force numbers around 1,200 or so active forces, which is probably large enough that the Argies couldn’t mount an expedition capable of a successful campaign to unseat them, much less defeat a follow-on liberation task force.
Even just four Typhoon FGR4s, seen below over the Falklands last month, are more air power than the Argentines are capable of these days. In times of crisis, another four could be deployed within 96 hours, or at least that is the plan.
As the Fuerza Aérea Argentina is believed to only have six (6) A-4AR Fightinghawk aircraft somewhat operational, and another six elderly C-130s (recently augmented by a 34-year-old H model formerly of the Tennessee Air Guard), and with the current president eschewing something more dynamic, it is unlikely this will change even though some rumor is afoot that the country will buy a half-dozen or so unproven Tejas strike aircraft from India.
1312 Flight’s sole Airbus Atlas A400M, escorted by the flight’s resident Voyager tanker, recently undertook the regular Operation Austral Endurance, the resupplying of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Team at Sky Blu Field Station with 300 fuel drums. The week-long operation saw the Atlas A400M travel 1,500 miles south to deliver the supplies which were air-dropped into Antarctica by parachute– showing even the small six-aircraft expeditionary force has some reach if needed.
Besides the active forces in the Falklands, the islands has some local muscle as well, including the 40-strong Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) of territorials and the 50-meter fisheries patrol vessel MV Lilibet.