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18 September 2014
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Recent History - The Falklands Conflictbbc.co.uk/history

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Falklands Conflict Gallery

By Major General Julian Thompson
A Royal Navy Wessex 5 helicopter delivers mortar ammunition to the front line during mountain battles above Port Stanley
A Royal Navy Wessex 5 helicopter delivers mortar ammunition to the front line during mountain battles above Port Stanley ©
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The British task force faced daunting logistical challenges. It was operating at the end of a massively-extended, 8,000-mile long supply chain, with Ascension Island as a staging-post halfway, such that every bullet, baked bean, and litre of fuel consumed by the task force had be carried at least one third of the way round the Earth.

There was no port at Ascension, but fortunately a runway had already been built at Wideawake airfield during World War Two as a staging post for flights between Brazil and Africa. It was then lengthened when Britain subsequently leased the island to the US, sufficient to land the RAF’s C-130 'Hercules' transporters, VC10 tankers and Vulcan bombers in 1982. It was still, nonetheless, 4,000 miles from the Falklands.

Once the task force ships left Britain, personnel and air-portable stores were flown to Ascension and transferred to ships offshore by helicopter. At one stage, Wideawake became the busiest airport in the world for the number of aircraft movements.

Light, high-priority spares and stores could be flown south of Ascension by Hercules and parachuted into the sea alongside task force ships. Until the British captured Stanley airport, there was no airfield in the Falklands capable of taking a Hercules. Long flights south required the C-130s to refuel in the air from Victor tankers based at Ascension. Heavy stores and fuel were transferred to task force ships at sea.

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