RAF Mount Pleasant

RAF Mount Pleasant (IATA: MPN, ICAO: 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 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, 2,600 feet (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]

RAF Mount Pleasant
Near Stanley, East Falkland in the Falkland Islands
Aerial view of RAF Mount Pleasant
Defend the Right
RAF Mount Pleasant
Location in Falkland Islands
Coordinates51°49′22″S 058°26′50″W
TypePermanent Joint Operating Base
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byBritish Forces South Atlantic Islands
WebsiteOfficial website
Site history
Built1985 (1985)
In use1985 – present
Garrison information
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: MPN, ICAO: EGYP, WMO: 88889
Elevation71.1 metres (233 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
10/28 2,589 metres (8,494 ft) Asphalt concrete
05/23 1,525 metres (5,003 ft) Asphalt concrete
Source: UK Military Aeronautical Information Publication – Mount Pleasant (EGYP)[1]

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 Falklands War. It remains the newest purpose-built RAF station and replaced previous RAF facilities at Port Stanley Airport.


Falklands War

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 Argentines engineers 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.[7]

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 a main engine at sea.[8] 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 23 Squadron operating the F-4 Phantom FGR.2. Initially stationed at RAF Stanley, the unit moved to Mount Pleasant upon its opening.[9]


In order to deter further Argentine aggression or invasion attempts, the British Government considered it necessary to enhance the military presence in the Falklands. However, the temporary military airfield at RAF Stanley was restricted by the length and strength of its runway.[10] Therefore, in June 1983, the British Government announced that a new military airfield would be constructed at Mount Pleasant, the option being considered to be more cost effective and straightforward than upgrading RAF Stanley. It would also allow RAF Stanley to remain operational whilst the new airfield was constructed.[11]

The Ministry of Defence reached a voluntary agreement to purchase 8,300 acres (3,400 ha) of farmland for £55,000, with severance compensation assessed at £100,000. To allow existing agricultural operations to continue, Mount Pleasant House and other farm facilities were relocated at a cost of £83,877.[12]

The airfield at Mount Pleasant was constructed by Mowlem-Laing Amey Roadstone Construction, a consortium of British civil engineering and construction firms Mowlem, John Laing Group and Amey plc. At the construction stage the airfield was called the Falkland Island Strategic Airfield or FISA[11] and was designed to accommodate military as well as civil wide-body aircraft, enabling efficiencies in the running costs and time taken to support the Falklands garrison. The construction and shipping of materials to the Falklands was expected to cost approximately £190 million. Additional costs included the provision of a road between Stanley and Mount Pleasant and the installation of communication and navigation aids, bringing the overall cost to approximately £215m. Construction began in Autumn 1983 and the new runway was expected to be available for use by April 1985, with the wider airfield complete by February 1986.[11]

RAF Mount Pleasant was opened by Prince Andrew (who saw active duty during the Falklands War while serving in the Fleet Air Arm) on 12 May 1985 and became fully operational on 1 May 1986.[13]

Protecting the Falklands

Mount Pleasant's first flying unit, No. 23 Squadron, equipped with four McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2, arrived from RAF Stanley on 21 April 1986. The Phantoms were joined by No. 78 Squadron on 22 May 1986, which was reformed from the former No. 1310 Flight, operating the Boeing Chinook HC1 and No. 1564 Flight, operating the Westland Sea King HAR3.[14] Later in 1986, two Lockheed C-130 Hercules C1K of No. 1312 Flight, operating in the air-to-air refuelling role, moved to Mount Pleasant to support the Phantoms.[15]

Two Panavia Tornado F3 of No. 1435 Flight patrolling the skies over the Falkland Islands.

Responsibility for the air-defence and of the Falklands and the Phantoms of No. 23 Squadron were transferred to No. 1435 Flight on 1 November 1988. Subsequently, the flight's Phantoms were replaced when four Panavia Tornado F3 arrived in the Falklands in July 1992.[16]

No. 1312 Flight's Hercules C1K were withdrawn in April 1996, with the flight gaining a Vickers VC10 K4 for air-to-air refuelling and C-130 Hercules C3 in the transport role.[15]

Typhoon FGR4 of 1435 Flight

In September 2009, the Falklands' air-defence capability was enhanced when No. 1435 Flight's Tornado F3s were replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 in the quick reaction alert (QRA) role, at a cost of £1.56 million. To accommodate the Typhoon, a further £416,000 was spent on infrastructure improvements to the airfield.[17]

As part of the RAF's wider upgrade of their Hercules, the C3 variant of No. 1312 Flight was replaced with a C-130J C5 in April 2010. A Lockheed TriStar K1 took over the air-to-air refuelling role from the VC10 K4 in October 2013, when the latter was withdrawn from RAF service. The TriStar itself was soon replaced, in February 2014, by an Airbus A330 Voyager KC3.[15]

Chinook helicopters provided heavy-lift support until they were withdrawn in 2006. In 2015, the Chinooks were redeployed to Mount Pleasant. A flight of Westland Sea King helicopters for support and search and rescue was located at Mount Pleasant from November 2007 until April 2016.[18]

Prince William served as a Sea King pilot on the station for six weeks during February and March 2012.[19]

As of 1 April 2016, with the 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.[20]

1312 Flight's Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, used for transport, search and rescue, and maritime patrol, was replaced with an Airbus A400M Atlas C1 in April 2018.[21]


Mount Pleasant Complex 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, a NAFFI Bar, a Costa Coffee café, hairdressers, a medical centre, and an education centre on the base. BFBS Radio also maintains a live local station on the site. There is also a complex that includes a small shop which is owned and run by the Falkland Islands Company.[22]

Role and operations

A Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 landing at RAF Mount Pleasant in 2009.

The station provides a base for air-defence and transport operations in the south Atlantic and is home to No. 905 Expeditionary Air Wing, part of British Forces South Atlantic Islands. The wing comprises three RAF flights, which operate a range of aircraft:

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.[25]

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.[26]

Based units

Units based at Mount Pleasant Complex.[27][28]

Royal Air Force

British Army

Royal Navy (Operating from Mare Harbour facilities five miles from the Mount Pleasant complex)

Joint service units

  • Engineering and Logistics Wing
  • Base Support Wing
  • Joint Communications Unit Falkland Islands
  • Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit
  • Joint Services Police and Security Unit
  • Joint Services Signals Unit


Airlines and destinations

Mount Pleasant Complex entrance, taken just outside the Air Terminal

Using the IATA airport code MPN, Mount Pleasant Complex 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 was carried out by a crew of 24 Squadron 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,[32] 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.[33] The service is now operated by AirTanker using Airbus Voyager aircraft.[34] They fly to and from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, with a refuelling stop at Cape Verde because the runway at RAF Ascension Island is closed until at least 2022.[35][36]

On 2 March 2012, the Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called for Aerolíneas Argentinas flights to Buenos Aires to replace LATAM Airlines flights to Chile. The idea of flights to Argentina was not supported on the islands, because this might result in Argentina having a monopoly on commercial flights and controlling all commercial air access.[37][38]

On 2 April 2012, Uruguayan company Air Class Líneas Aéreas gained permission from the Uruguayan Ministry of Defence to start a commercial flight to the Falkland Islands.[39]


AirTankerCharter: RAF Brize Norton
LATAM BrasilSeasonal: Córdoba (AR), São Paulo–Guarulhos
LATAM ChilePunta Arenas, Rio Gallegos


FIGAS[40][41] Stanley, other settlements on the Falklands

See also


  1. "UK Military Aeronautical Information Publication – Mount Pleasant (EGYP)" (PDF). No.1 Aeronautical Information Documents Unit. Royal Air Force. 7 October 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  2. "Falkland Islands Information Portal". Archived from the original on 19 June 2006.
  3. "Photo of an RAF Mount Pleasant plaque".
  4. "Mount Pleasant Aerodrome Manual" (PDF). www.gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. June 2015. p. 19. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. "Brigadier David Nicholls". Telegraph.co.uk. 22 July 2006. Archived from the original on 25 December 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  6. "RAF Mount Pleasant". Royal Air Force. 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  7. "British Military Aviation in 1982". RAF Museum. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  8. "British Bases - Falklands War 1982". naval-history.net. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  9. "Wattisham Mk2 Bloodhound Missile Site – Subterranea Britannica". www.subbrit.org.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  10. Horseman, Martin, ed. (October 1983). "New Falklands airfield". Armed Forces. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 368. ISSN 0142-4696.
  11. Heseltine, Michael (27 June 1983). "Falkland Islands (Strategic Airfield) – Hansard". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  12. Lord Orr-Ewing (10 April 1984). "Falkland Islands: Airfield Land – Hansard". UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  13. "RAF Timeline 1980–1989". Royal Air Force. 2008. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  14. "# 1400, Chinook HC4, 1310 Flt". Squadron Prints. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  15. "# 1332, Voyager KC3, 1312 Flt". Squadron Prints. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  16. March, Peter R. (1998). Brace by Wire to Fly-By-Wire – 80 Years of the Royal Air Force 1918–1998. RAF Fairford: Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund Enterprises. p. 158. ISBN 1-899808-06-X.
  17. "Written Answers - European Fighter Aircraft: Falkland Islands". parliament.uk. House of Commons - Hansard. 25 January 2010. Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  18. "Forward Available Fleets by type of aircraft for the Royal Air Force Air Command including Operational Conversion Units and Training Aircraft, at 1 April each year Note 13" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. p. 16. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  19. Bates, Stephen (10 November 2011). "Prince William to go to Falklands next year". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 1 January 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  20. Jennings, Gareth (19 January 2015). "UK awards Falklands SAR contract to AAR Airlift". Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  21. "Atlas A400M replaces Hercules at Falklands' Mount Pleasant Complex". MercoPress. 4 April 2018. Archived from the original on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  22. "Falkland Islands HIVE". Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2006.
  23. "Typhoons Depart for the Falklands". Fast Air Photography. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  24. "Military Contracts". British International Helicopters. Archived from the original on 9 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  25. "Corps of Royal Engineers". www.army.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 20 June 2006.
  26. "Royal Corps of Signals". Archived from the original on 29 March 2005.
  27. "FOIA 2017/1418" (PDF). gov.uk. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  28. Brooke-Holland, Louise (8 February 2012). "Research Briefing – The Defence of the Falkland Islands" (PDF). UK Parliament. House of Commons Library. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  29. "7th Air Defence Group". www.army.mod.uk.
  30. "Sky Sabre weapons system - a Freedom of Information request to Ministry of Defence". WhatDoTheyKnow. 4 October 2020.
  31. "HMS Forth". Royal Navy. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  32. "Falkland Wool Growers Report for Week Ending 16 July 2004 - Falkland Islands News". sartma.com. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  33. "Airbridge - Flights". Archived from the original on 4 February 2010.
  34. "AIR-BRIDGE MAINTENANCE". Press release. Falkland Islands Government. 24 April 2014. Archived from the original on 20 September 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  35. "Ascension Island closed to heavy aircraft until 2019/2020". ch-aviation.com. Archived from the original on 18 May 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  36. "Ascension Island runway may not be repaired until 2022". UK Defence Journal. 13 August 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  37. Goni, Uki (2 March 2012). "Argentine president calls for direct flights from Falklands to Buenos Aires". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  38. "Argentina wants its airline to fly to Falklands". Reuters. 2 March 2012. Archived from the original on 18 September 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  39. "Green light for Uruguayan flight to Falklands; Argentine ambassador says it's not commercially viable". MercoPress. Archived from the original on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  40. "Figas - Figas". Archived from the original on 18 May 2019. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  41. Falkland Islands Tourist Board. "FIGAS (Falkland Islands Government Air Service)". Archived from the original on 18 May 2019. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
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