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.

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Mr Bell

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… Read more »

David E Flandry

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?

David E Flandry

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.


So what historical ties do we have?


” 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… Read more »

Glass Half Full

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Glass half Full

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Harry Nelson

Spent a year in DG as part of the NP… Tough job but someone has to do it!


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


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

Daniele Mandelli

NSA Sigint Site, USN Naval Surveillance Downlink and a GPS location too I believe.

David E Flandry

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.