The UK Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) have resurfaced the Air Loop at the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Mount Pleasant Complex Airfield, in the Falkland Islands.

Following the 1982 Falklands War between the UK and Argentina, the UK moved to reinforce its ability to defend the Falkland Islands through the creation of a tri-service defence capability. Central to this is RAF Mount Pleasant, an airbase constructed south of the capital city of Stanley on East Falkland.

The Mount Pleasant Air Loop is part of the taxiway system which allows aircraft to move onto and from the runways.

The project – worth £8.9m ($11.2m) – was a major logistical challenge that involved transporting an entire concrete batching plant and vast amounts of heavy plant equipment more than 8,000 miles from the UK to the Falkland Islands, “an extraordinary achievement given the timeframe and challenging weather conditions,” the UK Ministry of Defence noted in a statement.

The team completed the 9,400 square mile resurfacing in less than a month, removing 3,500 tonnes of concrete, initially laid 40 years ago, and replacing it with stone mastic asphalt.

Main contractors Mitie, and subcontractors Dyer & Butler and Associated Asphalt, worked through challenging conditions and used local companies where possible, supporting the Falkland Islands’ economy. The first aircraft used the newly resurfaced Alpha Loop the same day it was finished.

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“Our essential work on this project will allow aircraft to move safely across runways and will support a seamless process for aircraft landing and taking off at the airfield,” said Charlie Antelme, managing director of Mitie, a prime contractor in the project. “We’re incredibly proud of the team for their swift and professional completion of this complex task and their continued support of our Armed Forces overseas.”

This infrastructure development follows another £7m project to resurface the runways at RAF Mount Pleasant in spring 2023.

The DIO’s efforts are proving all the more significant as the Air Loop project comes just after Denmark announced the sale of a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to Argentina, a country in the South Atlantic that continues to lay a claim over the archipelago 300 miles off its coast.

Denmark’s plan to sell 24 of its 43 F-16A/B fighters will provide Argentina with capable fourth generation fighter aircraft, able to conduct a wide range of missions. 

In January 2024, James Heappey, then UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, stated in a written UK parliamentary response that he was “satisfied” that the military presence in the South Atlantic was “at the appropriate level to ensure the defence of the islands”.

Additional reporting from Richard Thomas.