The contract to repair the 3,000-meter runway at RAF Ascension Island has yet to be awarded, and work may not be complete until 2022. It has been partially closed since April 2017. This means the Falkland Islands/Brize Norton airbridge will continue to operate through Cape Verde.
It is understood that the runway is “critical” to existing plans to reinforce the Falkland Islands if a threat was identified. In May 2018 Defense Minister Mark Lancaster said “The Ascension Island airfield is critical to our ability to support the Falkland Islands.”
In a Parliamentary answer last week, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster confirmed: “The US Air Force Civil Engineering Centre are expecting tender returns in August 2019 from which the contract will be awarded in the final quarter of 2019”
It is anticipated that the repair work could take up to 24 months. The runway itself is owned by the US Department of Defense, although the Royal Air Force maintain a base on the airfield.
The repair work was originally scheduled to be complete by 2020.
Voyager aircraft currently serve the twice a week airbridge flight from RAF Brize Norton to the Falklands via Cape Verde. While it is likely they’d be part of a reinforcement plan, heavier equipment would be carried by either C17 or A400M Atlas.
Any suggestion that plans to reinforce the Falkland Islands would be hindered by the runway closure have been dismissed. Transport aircraft can still operate from Ascension Island, including C-130, A400M, and C-17.
Whilst the runway closure is an issue for the passenger airbridge and the Ascension Island Government, it appears not to be an issue for the security of the Falkland Islands.
In a statement to the UK Defense Journal, the Ministry of Defense confirmed: “The Airbridge will continue to route through Cape Verde until the runway is refurbished. We are working collaboratively with the US to deliver this. The airbridge and regular resupply ship are successfully maintaining freight to both Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands.”
(By Henry Jones, UK Defense Journal)