According to a piece published by the Daily Express and credited to their Defense Editor, Marco Giannangeli, British specialists managed to secure a vital pipeline for the South Atlantic, following an intelligence tip-off that it was being targeted by Russian saboteurs.
The target allegedly is a mile-long floating pipeline is crucial for delivering fuel to RAF, US Space agency and navy bases on the remote British Overseas Territory of Ascension Island located 1,047 nautical miles from Guinea, Africa to the east, and 2,030 nautical miles from Brazil to the West.
Used as a vital staging post for British troops retaking the Falkland Islands 40 years ago, the 35 square mile island now also hosts a UK-US signals intelligence facility, one of the four ground antennas used for the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational system, a European Space Agency rocket tracking station and a NASA-operated Autonomous Telescope (MCAT) used for tracking orbital debris which could endanger spacecraft and astronauts.
The fuel depots are also essential to both Royal Navy and US vessels which operate in the area. The island’s rocky coastline means that fuel delivered by tanker to its vast oil storage depot must be carried through the pipeline, which “floats” on the water’s surface on Clarence Bay and is easily visible.
Concerns were raised last month when British security services gained access to satellite images which indicated that Russia had become markedly interested in the stretch of pipe. The images, which surfaced shortly after attacks on two Nord Stream pipelines, have been examined by technical specialists, sources say.
A Whitehall decision was then taken to fly a security team to the small island to guarantee the flow of fuel day and night.
Though sources would not reveal what measures were put in place, they are thought to have focused on the possibility of underwater sabotage by Russian divers or small, remotely operated sea drones launched from a submarine.
The operation took place during scheduled maintenance by marine specialists employed by the MoD's Defence, Equipment and Support agency.
Ascension Island is subject to a constant South Atlantic swell and is surrounded by rough volcanic seabed, which causes the pipeline’s chains and mooring components to wear out quickly. Technicians replaced more than 170 meters of mooring chain, as well as a damaged mooring buoy and two one-ton clump weights, which secure the buoys to the seabed.
While undertaken annually, the maintenance operation was pushed forward by three months to accommodate the other “special security measures'', sources say.
A Whitehall source said: “The security measures taken, which are actually long overdue, were prompted by information received which indicated that a certain foreign power had developed an interest in the pipeline.
”We are now satisfied that these new measures will ensure the safety of this floating pipeline so that full operations continue unhindered.”
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