The contract to repair the 3,000 metre 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. 

It is understood that the runway is “critical” to existing plans to reinforce the Falkland Islands if a threat was identified. In May 2018 Defence 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 Defence Journal, the Ministry of Defence 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.”

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Levi Goldsteinberg

Spent a miserable six months there sat on the tarmac with bloody penguins and Americans all over the shop. Poor blighters that get sent out to that rock to repair the strip get my sympathy


OK, not quite six months, but I spent four days there, mostly in a self induced fog after taking part in the soap box races – good times.


I did six months there also. loved it. As for the Americans all over the shop. The US base is where we went to watch films (Outside cinema) have a burger, use their postal sysytem in which to order cheap stuff and get our cheap booze. And it was the only place we saw them on the island.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Likewise fond memories, you’ll have to forgive my penchant for whinging.

Max Booth

It’s not a US base, it’s a RAF base that is jointly used by the US.


You saw Penguins on Ascension, how unique……

Asi girl

Penguins on Ascension.. Are you sure? Or are you thinking of the Falklands? ?


Never seen penguins on Ascension, you must be confusing it with the Falklands, now they have a lot of penguins.


Penguins in Ascension..?? Really..? Do tell..!!

Nicola Crowie

No penguins on Ascension! lol

Mark Wallis

Penguins on Ascension? Wow! Not when I was there.


You must be a tad confused buddy. There are No penguins on Ascension Island.


Argentina is now odds-on to swing back to the left with a populist government in the up-coming elections….whilst we know they’re very weak, perhaps tensions could rise again in comparison to the last 4 years of relative peace and quiet.


Every govt in Argentina is a populist govt when it gets in power. In fact every govt after an election is popular isn’t it… By definition? Except Russia of course where the elections are rigged. But given that Argentina is incapable of threatening the Falklands let’s ignore the ballyhoo.


The incumbent rather less so in comparison to Fernandez de Kirchner and some previous governments. If the left wingers get in (with CFK as running mate), let’s expect some rhetoric, even if as you say, they are incapable of mounting any real threat. For me a populist government is characterized by a lack of values but a desire to sweep up voters by fixing immediate “injustices.” I don’t think all reigning governments meet this definition though there’s certainly a swing in that direction.


Argentina does not have a navy to invade Falklands which is just as well as UK does not have a Navy to defend the Islands


I didn’t realise the yanks owned the runway! They should
Bloody get it fixed ASAP then with their budget and resources. Does ascension have that man made rain Forrest on it? The one that was planted hundreds of years ago for sail ships masts?


I think there’s a few more higher priority things on the US DoD list than this runway repair like the numerous airbases heavily damaged early this year in the south and midwest. If the Brits want it fixed faster they can always fix it themselves. lol


Yeah I would imagine the yanks list is endless considering the number of bases they have. But they also have massive resources.


Dan wrote: I think there’s a few more higher priority things on the US DoD list than this runway They actually test Trident missiles just off the Island. When they do, The Yanks deploy loads of staff (and aircraft) and declare the area OOBs. (We would head up to the BBC bar at Two boats and watch the show (Outside bar) we used to joke that the next time we saw such a sight, we would require a really good sunblock.) So in that respect the Island is very important to the Yanks. Also they would use the Island as… Read more »


Yeah that would be a perfect example of Trump foreign policy make others pay to repair your property. Could always give it back I guess if it’s that big a problem I’m sure Boris will find some more money from his magic money tree again.


What have these long standing arrangements got to do with Trump. Your so called example is spurious.


need to build a wall


Cam wrote:
I didn’t realise the yanks owned the runway!
They built it and then during the 70s and 80s extended it as an alternative runway for the shuttle.
Does ascension have that man made rain Forrest on it?
Yes, on top of Green mountain and just below Travellers (Main camp)


Actually built it in the 1940s


Thanks m8


The article seems to contridict itself.

On one hand it states the air bridge is now via Cape Verde and the other it states because the air bridge ascensions can be used for transport planes.


I understood it as with works in progress, voyagers (the air bridge) cannot currently use it. in an emergency, the heavy lift aircraft could use it since they are able to use more austere airfields


luckily the heavy lift aircraft can still use the runway otherwise would be a nightmare for personnel, doubt they would take the ship though.


The air bridge is flown by the A330 Voyagers.


I thought the C17 could not use such austere airfields


So in othet words the article is a waste of space. The runway is due to be relaid, but in the meantime it’s still effectively in use, Ascension is not cut off and the Falklands is still being visited as needed by all and sundry.


The Airbridge to the Falklands currently goes RAF Brize Norton – Cape Verde – Falklands. That’s fine unless there’s a conflict when Cape Verde might decide not to allow us to use its territory to lift military hardware. Ascension can still take smaller aircraft and their is a monthly airlink to St Helena which links to flights from St Helena to Johannesburg.

I didn’t know that large American aircraft can still use the runway. Is that true?


A400s still use the runway, due to their STOL caperbilities


Ultimately a mute point as Argentina is in no place to invade, even if their government was replaced with a extremists, it would take a few years to rebuild their military.

Daniele Mandelli

Apart from the obvious runway, the other aspects rarely mentioned are the communications links for the MoD, the DHFCS, on the Island. And the US GPS and NASA stuff.

And of course GCHQ.

Ascensions location is ideal for monitoring west Africa and South America.


I spent 6 months in Ascension fm Sep 88 to Mar 89. Penguins? do not know where you were Levi Goldsteinberg but there a no Penguins in Ascension, Plenty of Land crabs and the fishing is great. As for a C17 not being able to get in on Wideawake, well if a C141 of the USAF can get in I’m fairly sure a C17 can get in.


Hello Trevor.. For clarification, all the misery guts comments above are from me and not you, your own helpful info is welcome.


I thought that, I was wondering they must be the most northern penguins on earth.


One of the issues with the runway is cracking due to subsidence. as the island is still quite young, geologically speaking the land (compressed lava) is still moving. This is one of the reasons the repair to the runway is quoted as being so expensive. Due to the cracking and moving there is an imposed weight limit, hence no A330s.

Bruce sellers

Thanks Davey- I wondered what the nature of the runway repairs was, good to have the detail in here.


As explained to us in the Falklands. The problem is the low slung engines on the A330, which have significantly damaged the runway surface. Its not an issue will the likes of prop aircraft, or high engined jets (C17, C141) they can still go in and out, as does the monthly flight from St Helena. As it still ‘Works’ for the US needs, they are in no hurry to do repairs. US interests have diminished greatly over the recent past, no more NASA, no more ETR (missile tracking), GCHQ (CSO locally) are no more even the BBC have reduced their… Read more »


Thanks for your informative comments.

Guest 48

It’s not due to subsidence. Load related failure, with a sprinkling of age fatigue. The whole runway needs to be constructed strong enough to handle the loads that had been imposed upon it. The new runway should be thicker, i.e. stronger, in the location of failure. They could have kept it open, had they had the on site capability to keep patching it.. shame really.

Concerned Local

There are no penguins on Ascension lol As for the runway, coming from someone who is a local and has been for all their life I don’t think the powers that be realise the huge negative impact this is having on the island. OK, the RAF, USAF and contractors can get annoying at times to the locals as they appear to never have seen sun, sand, sea and booze before but we’ve learnt to deal with it and most are friendly enough and get involved in the island which is the most important thing. But they also bring extra money… Read more »

Nick S

Thank you Concerned Local for a coherent and detailed analysis of the current situation. Many contributions to this thread don’t make much sense (penguins being the most idiotic). Having, on and off, for some time pondered on the current situation in Ascension you have answered my “mental queries” and for that I am grateful. Without the Cape Town to Bristol regular sea link and Brize airbridge I did wonder how civilians now get on an off yet alone being resupplied with the day to day necessities like fuel, spares, clothes etc not always possible by air. I was a late… Read more »


2 things ARE certain.

1. The Argies WILL try their luck again with the Falklands Islands.
2. Ascension WILL spew lava again.

The dates for both events are unknown, as yet.
Unless someone in Buenos Aries and Heaven know something we don’t.


Argie 601 commando company could take RAF Mount Pleasant and then there would be a problem. No way of flying in reinforcements then.


Surely they could lay another runway alongside the current one. I always remember there was plenty of space