|British Forces South Atlantic Islands|
|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||Commodore Jonathan Lett|
|Transport||Airbus A400M Atlas C1, Voyager KC2 & Chinook HC.4.|
The Falkland Islands are a British overseas territory and, as such, rely on the United Kingdom 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 British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI), formerly known as British Forces Falkland Islands (BFFI), 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).
Argentina invaded and took control of the Falklands on 2 April 1982. After recapturing the territory in June 1982, the UK invested heavily in the defence of the islands, the centrepiece of which was a 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.
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, operated by Naval Party 2010 (NP2010). The Royal Navy has a formal commitment, through Atlantic Patrol Tasking (South), to maintain a potential presence in the area with a frigate or guided missile destroyer accompanied by an RFA vessel in the South Atlantic. However, as of 2019, HMS Lancaster was the last frigate to deploy on this tasking in 2015 and, in practice, an offshore patrol vessel, currently HMS Forth, is the principal presence 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.
When deployed, the major 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 and HMS Lancaster deployed in 2015.
The Falkland Islands Patrol ship is an updated River-class patrol vessel, which arrived in the Islands in January, 2020, and is expected to be on station for a decade or more. The previous Patrol ship, HMS Clyde, a River-class patrol vessel, had returned to Britain in late 2019 for decommissioning, after having relieved the Castle-class patrol vessels HMS Dumbarton Castle and HMS Leeds Castle in 2007.
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. 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.
Ground-based air defence of RAF Mount Pleasant is provided by a detachment from the British Army's 7th air defence group. Up until 2021, the detachment was equipped with the Rapier FSC surface-to-air missile system. Rapier is being replaced with the new Sky Sabre surface-to-air missile system incorporating an expanded capability. Sky Sabre was planned for deployment at RAF Mount Pleasant in the summer or fall of 2021.
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.
RAF Mount Pleasant was built in 1985-86, able to accept large 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 C.1K were used for air-to-air refuelling missions, but these were later replaced by a VC10. On 31 August 2013 the VC10 was replaced by a TriStar K.1 which was itself replaced by a Voyager KC.2 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.
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) provided air transport missions. The Sea Kings carried out short and medium range search and rescue missions, until their retirement. AAR Corp was awarded a contract for helicopter search and rescue services in the Falkland Islands to replace 1564 Flight, using AgustaWestland AW189 helicopters in the role from 2016. In March 2015, the UK announced that a pair of Chinooks would be stationed in the Falklands again, the first of which started flying in June 2016. 1564 Flight disbanded in March 2016.
A C-130 Hercules was used for transport, search and rescue and maritime patrol until replaced with an A400M Atlas C1 in April 2018.
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. The RAF signal element is provided by 303 Signals Unit,.
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 Centre. 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 following have served as Commander British Forces Falkland Islands/South Atlantic Islands:
|Mount Pleasant Complex||East Falkland||1985||HQ for British Force South Atlantic Islands with approximately 1000 Joint Service personnel permanently deployed.|
|Falklands Defence Force HQ, Stanley||East Falkland|
|Mare Harbour||East Falkland|
|RAF Mount Alice||West Falkland||One of two early-warning and airspace control radar sites on West Falkland.|
|RAF Byron Heights||West Falkland||One of two early-warning and airspace control radar sites on West Falkland.|
|RAF Mount Kent||East Falkland||An early-warning and airspace control radar site on East Falkland.|
|url=value (help). Royal Navy. 20 December 2019. Retrieved 21 December 2019.