Britain's tough task: resupply Navy 8,000 miles away
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With the recapture of South Georgia, some 800 miles east of the Falklands, Britain now has a safe haven in the midst of an inhospitable ocean, though the 90-mile long island lacks an airstrip and any real port facilities.Skip to next paragraph
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Essentially most of what the British fleet needs - from aviation fuel and spare parts to cocoa and frozen peas - has to be shipped some 8,000 miles from Britain. Some items, however, can be flown to Ascension Island and loaded aboard transports there.
''You must look at things in perspective,'' says a British source. ''The Royal Navy has for a long time operated a long way from home. Distances of 8,000 miles are not in themselves exceptional.'' But he concedes that it has rarely conducted operations so far from a forward operating base.
Appreciating this, the Admiralty in London has reportedly dispatched its war fleet with a train of support ships. In all, the Royal Navy can muster 14 tankers, 4 fleet replenishment ships, and 3 stores-carrying vessels.
''I think you can forget the supply lines,'' asserts Brookings Institution fellow Michael MccGwire. In his view, supply poses no inordinate problem as no shipment of ''massive equipment'' is involved. MccGwire, a Briton and an expert on the Royal Navy, believes there will not be any great expenditure of munitions onshore. And transporting fuel ''is just something we've always been good at,'' he says.
But the Admiralty may well be regretting that it transferred an air stores support ship to the US Navy in 1980. It may also regret that it scrapped the heavy repair ship Triumph earlier this year.