Saturday, 16 November 2013

A robust Falklands policy is crucial to British interests

Britain’s presence in the South Atlantic, particularly on the Falkland Islands, continues to generate emotion and controversy.

As most Britons celebrated the 30th Anniversary of what is probably our most recent decisive victory and commemorate those who were killed, and the Falkland Islanders celebrated their freedom from fascist rule, Cristina Kirchner seized on the opportunity to unite her Argentine electorate behind her in the midst of economic disaster – not dissimilar to Galtieri’s use of the issue in 1982 (short of invasion).  Despite current patriotism in Britain, such feelings rarely last forever, and it is time for a real discussion on the importance of our place in the South Atlantic.

The Strategic Situation

The centre of gravity on the Falkland Islands is undoubtedly the Mount Pleasant Airbase which has two runways capable of taking all types of aircraft.  It currently has four RAF Typhoons (the main strategic defence) and is defended by an infantry company with Rapier air defence. We are told there is a hunter-killer submarine patrolling the South Atlantic, a Royal Navy frigate or destroyer visits occasionally (other naval assets are within a few days’ sailing), and HMS Protector is active in the region 330 days per year. Militarily Britain spent £75 million in 2010-11. Whoever controls Mount Pleasant controls the Falklands.

The islands are clearly better defended than in April 1982 and with a much greater intelligence effort to discern Argentine intentions.  However Major General Julian Thompson (who commanded 3 Commando Brigade during the war), Captain Michael Clapp (Commodore of the amphibious task group), Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, and historian Andrew Roberts have expressed strong concern. Read more