The Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom and as such rely on the UK for 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.
The maintainence of only a token military force before the Falklands War allowed Argentina to start that conflict by easily capturing the islands. Following the reclamation of the territory in 1982 the UK invested heavily in the defence of the islands, the centre-piece of which is the new airfield at RAF Mount Pleasant, 25 miles west of the previous base at Port Stanley. The base was opened in 1985.
Military branches: British Forces Falkland Islands or Falklands Garrison (includes British Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, and Royal Marines), Police Force
Military expenditures – dollar figure: Widely quoted figure $1.8m (£1m) per day, i.e. $657m per annum $NA
Military expenditures – per cent of GDP: Not applicable. UK 02/03 defence budget £24.54Bn of which Falklands commitment is approximately 1%
Royal Air Force
RAF Mount Pleasant, built following the surrender of Argentine invasion forces, is capable 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 leased 747s and 767s performed air transport.
The RAF's Tornado F3s provide air defence for the islands and surrounding territories. The four aircraft, and the crews that fly them, are rotated with UK based assets. The aircraft are housed in non-hardened shelters, sixteen of which were built for surge operations in time of tension or hostility.
The VC10 provides air transport and aerial refueling for the fighters. When a fighter is launched it almost immediately followed by the VC10 as changeable weather conditions might make diversion to another airfield necessary. The C-130K provides resupply missions through the use of air-drops and also carries out maritime patrol. The latter is an important mission to the Falkland Islands government as the Hercules verifies that all fishing vessels are licensed; at £1,000 per licence per season this is an extremely lucrative source of income.
The helicopters of 78 Sqn provide air transport missions. The Sea Kings and the Chinook also carry out short and medium range search and rescue missions respectively.
The Royal Navy maintain a presence in the area with a frigate or destroyer and a patrol ship. The warship, currently the Type 42 destroyer HMS Cardiff, carries out the Atlantic Patrol Task (South) mission.
Currently, HMS Leeds Castle, a Castle class patrol ship, is on a 3 year deployment to the Falkland Islands and the rest of the South Atlantic Overseas Territories.