The Royal Navy’s Antarctic patrol vessel has arrived in the more temperate climates of the British Indian Ocean Territories as she prepares to undertake survey work in support of the UK Hydrographic Office. 

Marked by her distinctive red hull HMS Protector previously visited the islands for a routine port call in November 2015 when she became the first Royal Navy surface ship in eight years to visit the territory. Though the Royal Navy does maintain a continuous presence on the islands in the form of Naval Party 1002 that provide the civil administration to the islands.

The British Indian Ocean Territory contains over a thousand individual islands set around seven atolls, although only the most southerly island Diego Garcia is actually inhabited. Since the removal of the original Chagossian islanders in the 1970s the islands have primarily been used as an American military installation.

HMS Protector is one of the Royal Navy’s forward deployed vessels and maintains a constant presence in the Southern Hemisphere to represent British interests. Enabling this is a rotational crew structure and the use of allied shipyards for maintenance – such as recent routine repairs undertaken in South Africa. Her five-year deployment is expected to end in 2020.

Her primary survey tasking will involve mapping the seabed around the archipelago. With a large American military presence on the islands, including a flotilla of prepositioned ships, safe access to the islands’ valuable natural harbours is essential.

The Royal Navy’s survey vessels have proven to be real workhorses of the fleet in recent years as defence cuts increasingly leave them to take on bigger roles. Both Echo class vessels have seen a busy few months deployed in the Mediterranean which has seen survey work interspersed with serving as flagship NATO task groups, dealing with the ongoing migrant crisis and representing Britain at numerous port calls. HMS Protector herself spent many weeks late last year searching for the missing Argentine submarine ARA San Juan.

23 COMMENTS

  1. How does Diego Garcia actually work.
    British territory strategically located. Huge US airbase.
    Do we charge them for access or use of the facility?

    • They gave us a discount on Polaris and secret undisclosed payments for the initial 50 year lease.

      Just gave them a second 20 year lease, my guess is the £40m we are giving as compensation to the Chagos islanders who we forcibly evicted from their homes will come from the US as payment for the lease.

      The base is totally run and built by the US, they’ve put billions into it.

      I also think that in 2036 when this lease ends the islands will be given back to Mauritius, we have already said that once the islands ceases to be important for defence reasons Mauritius can have them back.

      We partitioned them from Mauritius a few years before they got independence, which is against international law on decolonisation, we have virtually no support in the UN general assembly and only US support on the sec council.

      • The Chagos Islands were only attached to Mauritius for a while for administrative reasons. There were no historical ties between the two areas. If the US and UK leave, be sure China will move in.

        • Thats not true David, the Chagos islands have been administered from the island of Mauritius as far back as French rule in the mid 18th century.

          China would not go anywhere near it that’s a crazy assumption.

          • Why would the Chinese or Indians come to that, pass up a ready made, state of the art Naval and Air base in the middle of the Indian ocean?

          • Administered yes, but no historical ties before colonial times. Be that as it may, China would jump at the chance to get a base there. They have one now in Sri Lanka, a partial base in Djibouti, and trying to get one in the Seychilles, and/or Maldives. They want to be able to outflank India.

      • ” once the islands ceases to be important for defence reasons Mauritius can have them back.”
        So no chance of Mauritius getting them back then.
        A huge Airbase, preposition ships, a deep water berth that can take subs (The RN rearmed with Tomahawks there in the Gulf Wars), SIGINT etc pretty much guarantees that the lease will continue to be extended as required.

        Add to that the CPO mess has direct access to the beach which has some killer waves breaking on it. Thats reason enough to keep it in my book.

        • No mate, we have already promised them back to Mauritius, think about why a multi billion dollar airbase only got a 20 year lease as opposed to another 50 year lease.

          It will ultimately affect our soft power the longer this goes on, we got a grand total of 15 votes at the UN in support of us last year, even France abstained. This has only really gained traction since 2010 when its been heard in the courts, and its not going well for us.

          We can’t say anything about Russian or Chinese expansionism when we illegally annexed territory ourselves so recently in history, and a country has a rightful claim on it that’s supported by most of the international community.

          Add to that we ethnically cleansed the islands by making all the native inhabitants unemployed and taking away any form of work, then shipped them to the UK or elsewhere so they could eat. Hid all this from the international community and the British parliament, that’s enough reason to give them back in my mine, and most people in the world who know the difference between right and wrongs book.

          • The 20 year extension to the original 50 years was written into the original 1966 lease agreement so it doesn’t seem like any assumptions about long term intentions can be made from the 20 year extension.

            I haven’t found a source that indicates a promise of return, whether that promise is legally binding or not, but what seems fairly certain to me regardless is that DG will be many times more important for defence purposes in the future than it has in its past unless the world and China in particular change in actions and ambitions from today.

          • “The UK has promised to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defence purposes, but has refused to give a date.”

            That’s in the independent, express and guardian and a few blogs.

            I’m not sure where the argument is coming from here, it’s not even our base, it’s America’s base, who have hundreds of overseas bases.

            Look any base overseas is strategically important, anywhere in the world, realistically you couldn’t have enough overseas bases, but that doesn’t change the fact that we broke international law in creating that territory and commited a human rights violation in the removal of the people, I’m struggling to understand why people can’t just accept that.

            It isn’t even ours, the US could pay for a carbon copy of that base in scores of locations if they wanted to and we would have access to it if we wanted.

            Do you realise how silly you sound talking about China having to change actions while defending us doing something that’s twice as bad, last time I checked China haven’t ethnically cleansed a native people to build an airbase have they, what they are doing is wrong but we have done the exact same as they have, except we have done a bit worse.

            People for some strange reason here, below and above just can’t accept that we only have US support on the sec council and more or less no support at the gen assembly, the votes have only been in the last few years so maybe that’s why I’m gettting this response, throw in Brexit and general election so maybe people are oblivious but we have lost every single vote.

            And people wonder why British defence has more or less no public support, imagine if your average joe came on here and just read the comments, especially the one from “gunbuster” below about killer waves, these people who were evicted have nationwide, political, and celebrity support and their story is a tough one to read if you hear their accounts and lives since it happened.

            How embarrassing.

          • You seem to be under the misapprehension the US would give a single solitary damn as to who actually owns the island. Whether it is Mauritius or the UK who the US offers to pay rent does NOT make a difference to America. If the offer is refused, the America’s response would probably be along the lines of. “Fine evict us but good luck kicking us out.” For a good example last I checked Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is still open for business. Even though the communist Castro brothers hated the US with a burning passion.
            As far as the feelings of a few island natives and their “celebrity” supporters go. Along with the feelings of their ilk at the degenerate and slovenly UN (which only has the lights on because of the US share of the budget). Americans do not care about Imminent Domain it is a legal tool to secure land in the interest of the State with compensation. Americans do not care when we do it to ourselves, they most certainly will not care when it happens to Islanders in the middle of nowhere. While you are correct that the US can afford bases wherever it wants it is not in the habit of paying for the same base twice.

          • Elliot you keep getting more and more delusional on here, I’m starting to think you either post when you are drunk, have a slight mental health issue, or are just plain dumb as f**k.

            So today in Elliot’s magical wonderland we have the US treating the U.K. like Cuba, and not leave British territory if asked, basically in a round about way you’re saying the US would annex British territory 😂

            Ok Elliot 👍

            I wonder what’s in tommorows Elliot wonderland..

            The US would invade Madigascar because it wants the worlds largest Zoo.

          • By your own words you don’t believe it to be your rightful territory. Which was it? Legal action in the interest of National Security or against “international law” and according to you and other bleeding hearts ethnic cleansing and therefore illegal.
            The Government and Military of the United States does NOT exist to assuage your guilt and soothe your feelings. They certainly do not cut multi billion dollar checks for your feelings. Because in the US they know it isn’t their money it is the money of the American taxpayer. To be expended in the interest United States. No one else ever.
            The understanding of for so long “as the base has important strategic concerns”, essentially was meant to be taken as renewal perpetuity. The US has not missed a payment. Therefore it would be the UK that broke it’s word again. Under your rather insane logic the UK would be saying “please spend billions on another base and let us use it even though we are the reason you had to build another one.” I would definitely not want to be the British ambassador bringing that request to the Congress or President after pulling that sh**.
            You say that would be the US treating the UK exactly like Cuba. Well if the UK acts like a unreliable banana republic trying to pick the American taxpayers pocket it it will be treated as such.

          • What in God’s name are you talking about.

            Mauritius has a claim on it, a pretty valid claim to be fair.

            It’s currently British territory, that means ultimately its Britain that decides its future, the only thing the US can ever do about it is lobby. That’s a fact and if you think different you’re a moron.

            It was us who said as long as the base is important for defence not you, there is no perpetuity here.

            There is no words being broken, it would not happen during the lease agreement.

            British and US officials have already probably talked about how it can’t last forever and there needs to be an end point in the near future.

            Whether you like it or not it will be Britain’s decision, will the US lobby us to try keep it open, definitely, will the US understand that it’s currently a British possession from the colonial era that was never decolonised properly? Yes because they have no choice.

            I’m not sure what’s wrong with you Elliot, you clearly know a lot of stuff but you just let yourself down badly by your superiorty complex, it doesn’t come across well at all it makes me you sound pathetic.

            Do you ever think why are you constantly in battles on this page, and now no one even replies to your normal posts.

            You could of replied with some genuine concerns and reasons why you think it’s best to leave the base open etc.

            But you reply with your usual America taxpayers, Americans don’t take to kindly, America would do this, Americans don’t care for, Elliot you do not speak for your country, you’re not intelligent enough and you’re a nobody, you’re a bottom feeding US taxpayer with a big opinion who has an internet connection. If any US officials saw your comments you would be laughed at, most Americans would laugh at them. Nobody in government is going to listen to you and they don’t even know you exist.

          • Sole, I won’t speak for anyone else but from my perspective you are stating at least some of your opinions to be facts when there doesn’t seem to be evidence of that. My previous comment pointed out one inaccurate assumption you made based on the 20 year duration of the extension.

            You quote the source of the promised return as “… the independent, express and guardian and a few blogs” which are clearly not definitive sources versus a government source, e.g. a ministers formal answer to a question in parliament or other statement. The papers may be reputable media but that doesn’t automatically make them correct, they may all be using the same source that may be incorrect or inaccurate.

            You state we broke international law, the UK Govt doesn’t believe so, it hasn’t been determined one way or the other in a legal court yet. Certainly entitled to your opinion though.

            You go on to state the UK guilty of a human rights violation and ethnic cleansing and to be worse than China. You have perhaps overlooked the fate of Tibet and also overlooked the current oppression of the Uyghurs in China? While there are no ethnic populations on the SCS islands, China has used force to take control of the Paracel Islands from Vietnam and has been using military force to deter possession of other SCS islands by other countries with far better claims.

            While the resettlement of Chagosians is still under litigation, they did receive some compensation (meager as it may seem today) and UK citizenship; the islands were purchased for $3M. All these factors may be used in legal proceedings to establish legitimacy of action by the UK but I suspect neither of us are lawyers skilled in international law so it probably serves no purpose trying to debate a legal position further. In any event the legal status of the islands and displaced people does not change the strategic nature of the location.

            To revert back to my main point. It would be naive to underestimate China’s ambitions and how much more strategically significant the Indian Ocean region will be in future than has been the case in the past and hence the defence value of DG (regardless of whether that is for the US, the UK or both). One can look at China’s Belt and Road Initiative altruistically as “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future” as China states or if you’re India especially you might look at it in conjunction with China’s other regional actions as a means to constrain India, the only other country in the world with the population necessary to be a long term economic threat to China. It does not seem to be in the UK’s long term interests to have China dominate world trade and the paths of distribution of trade.

          • Sole
            1. Never assume what others interpret from an agreement.
            2. “As long as circumstances require”, or “As long as strategically necessary,” and “In the interests of National Security” are euphemisms in America for “when hell freezes over.
            3. Bottom feeding? Unintelligent nobody? I do so love when someone who purports to be a leftist indulges in class shaming. If confirms so much about them.
            4. The US would have no choice and would have to accept a demand to close a base in a critical position? There is always a choice and the one of the things you should have learned early in life is telling someone “you have no choice but to do what I say.” Will always get you a decidedly negative reaction.
            5. Never have I pretended to have been the Speaker for Americans political thoughts. I stated the duties of government in regards to public money. You were the one who claimed to speak on behalf of quote “nationwide political support.” Good luck with that. I highly doubt you could find me 5 out of 10 members of the UK electorate who can find Diego Garcia on the map. So I highly doubt nationwide support.

          • Hi mate, thanks for the fair and balanced response.

            Yeah I suppose it was an assumption, I didn’t know about the 20 year extension written into the initial lease, I do still believe what I said has a bit of merit because would it not make sense for the US to propose a new longer lease? Especially for something they have put $3b into. The most logical thing to happen if both parties wanted it would be to negotiate a brand new lease for 50 plus years if the aim was to keep the chagos islands, my opinion based on that logic is that because of what’s happened at the UN and the little international support we have, a new lease was not offered and the US excersised the extension that was written into it.

            Yes the source could be wrong that the papers used, I couldn’t find anything official either but it could of been said in the 70’s and it’s followed through, I didn’t plough through loads of media so something could be there, but I accept it could be wrong as well.

            About breaking international law, I think it’s pretty clear cut, UN resolution 1540 set in 1960 banned the break up of any colonies before independence, in 1965 we split the chagos islands from the Indian Ocean colony three years before we gave it independence as Mauritius. Also important is that the U.K. have never denied this, after the defeat at the UN last year we said this

            “This is a disappointing outcome,” a Foreign Office spokesman said: “Sovereignty of the British Indian Ocean Territory is clearly a matter for the UK and Mauritius to resolve ourselves.

            Now that tells us everything, if it was clear cut, Britain would have came out and said they were British etc, same thing we do with the Falklands and Gib ect.

            The telling thing for me as well is when France abstain on a colonial issue against us then maybe we’re wrong.

            Yes I did overlook Tibet ect and that was a mistake, Britain has a human rights record second to none and I’m proud of that, certainly miles better than China.

            The way I see it, would we get away with removing the population of the Falkland Islands by taking away all the jobs on the islands, then offering them a way out by moving to either Argentina or Britain, then letting the US build an airbase on it? Would that be a normal thing to do, because that is exactly what happened with the chagos islanders and it’s a black mark on our history, certainly a human rights violation that no amount of compensation can forgive.

            Your last point is quite valid but Mauritius have actually offered the US a lease to keep the base open if they get the islands back so it would probably stay a US base. Also we do wield a lot of soft power and Mauritius are in the commonwealth so it would be up to us to pressure them not to fall under Chinese influence. I know I read Australia have asked for assistance from us in one of our former colonies near Australia because China have offered to clear their debt if they can build a base there.

            Anyway it’s 11pm and we could talk for hours about what to do about China so I’m going to leave it there 👍

          • Yep its awful…I was only visiting on Ocean Wave but we where alongside at least.

  2. I think they pretty much pay for the whole base. The uk certainly didn’t fund its development as a strategic air base.

  3. The entire Chagos Archipelago has no indigenous population. The fact that it was ruled administratively from Mauritius really is irrelevant. There are no significant surface water supplies. The historical ties to the UK are the same as with Ascension or St Helena.
    The people removed have been paid, twice, but pay them some more from an annuity. If they went back to DG, they would have a tough time making a living, and would end up as UK aid recipients. That’s my opinion anyway. Last post on this.

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