Feb 1 2015
Three hundred extra troops are to be sent to the Falklands as the islands reach their highest state of alert in almost 20 years.
They are part of a force of more than 1,000 soldiers being prepared for duty in the south Atlantic and will be sent out in five tranches of 150 to 300.
They will include members of the Royal Artillery and 3 Commando, Royal Marines, with each group staying on the islands for three to six weeks.
Military chiefs are mounting a series of “high readiness reinforcement” exercises to plug a strategic gap until the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is operational in 2020.
Senior military sources say the war games will be “low profile” as part of a commitment to ensure the UK can secure its overseas garrisons.
Currently the islands have a core military presence of 1,200 troops, four Typhoon fighter jets and a missile battery.
A senior source said: “The aim is to put more than 1,000 troops from five different cap badges into the islands by November but they will deploy in small groups from 150 to 300, for short tours.”
Last night the Ministry of Defence said there were “currently no plans to increase the number of troops deployed to the Falklands”.
However, the military source said the plan did not represent a “permanent increase in garrison numbers but a series of high-readiness exercises”.
Last night Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, of the UK National Defence Association, said: “I was deputy commander and air commander in 1997, when we had 2,000 troops stationed on the islands. At that time we said we were not prepared to reduce them because we could not know what Argentina had in mind: 2,000 troops was, in our opinion, the absolute minimum required to secure a proper defence. Yet this has been reduced to 1,200 and that includes cooks and medics.”
Two weeks ago it was revealed that one of the Navy’s newest warships, the Type-45 destroyer HMS Dragon, had been ordered to the Falklands.
The MoD is to replace the islands’ ageing Rapier anti-air missile batteries with a £228million “super missile” system but it will be five years before it is installed.
In Whitehall, strategists are preparing for the annual Falklands Forum at RAF Mount Pleasant in which more than 100 staff officers face a simulated Argentine attack.
Tensions have increased now Argentina is negotiating to lease 12 Russian Sukhoi Su-24 supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft from Russia with which it could patrol over Port Stanley again.
An MoD spokesman said: “Throughout the year UK personnel routinely travel to the Falklands to take advantage of the excellent training opportunities the islands offer.
“Our military posture in the south Atlantic is appropriate and we regularly assess potential threats to ensure we retain an appropriate level of defensive capability.”