St Helena Online

Tag: Wideawake Airfield

Ascension gets busy as President Obama tours Africa

President Obama's luggage carriers: aircraft on the tarmac at Ascension. US Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Sean Baber
President Obama’s luggage carriers: aircraft at Ascension. US Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Sean Baber

It was as if Wideawake Airfield had suddenly decided to live up to its name.

In a normal week, Ascension Island sees just three flights touch down; but in June and July 2013, no fewer than 103 aircraft passed through in the space of 24 days, according to the Air Mobility Command website.

And all because the President of the United States was spending just six days touring Africa, promoting democracy and trade.

Ascension was used as a staging post for moving American personnel and equipment to and from Africa to support the President’s tour.

Loading cargo onto a C-17 at Ascension. US Air Force picture by Staff Sergeant Sean Baber
Loading cargo onto a C-17 at Ascension. US Air Force picture by Staff Sergeant Sean Baber

“The normally tranquil island transformed into a major military aircraft hub,” writes Captain David Bredesen on the website.

He salutes the island’s civilian population – mostly St Helenians – who turned on traditional Saint hospitality. In return, children from Two Boats School and the scout troop enjoyed a tour of the giant C-17 and KC-10 aircraft, and off-duty airmen helped Ascension Island Conservation maintain hiking trails on Green Mountain.

The operation began on 14 June 2013 with the arrival of more than 170 mobility airmen aboard four C-17 Globemasters.

Another 92 aircraft followed in the second wave of an “aggressive 24/7 operation”. The airfield had not been as busy as this since it became a jumping off point for the Falklands War, 31 years earlier.

And more loading...
And more loading…

The operation was supported by a small team from the 45th Operations Group, and a detachment from the Royal Air Force, as well as contractors.

Another 33 airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Travis, in California, gave a boost to Ascension’s existing airfield infrastructure, providing command and control, communications and aerial port services for the massive operation.

In all, 4.4 million pounds of cargo, 1,600 passengers and 103 aircraft transiting the island during the mission. On average, one military aircraft arrived or departed Ascension’s airfield every 3.5 hours for 24 straight days.

Major Michael Campbell, Detachment 2 commander on the island, said: “It took the combined efforts of every agency on Ascension, as well as the deployed airmen, to support the heightened operations tempo and make this mission a success.”

SEE ALSO: Ascension ‘off-limits’ as US prepares for Iran nuclear crisis

LINK: Airmen transform sleepy Atlantic outpost into critical air transport hub for Presidential visit

Ascension ‘off-limits’ as US prepares for Iran nuclear crisis

America is reported to have been told it cannot use Wideawake Airfield on Ascension to prepare for military action against Iran.

News media around the world have picked up on the story, though The Independent in London reports that Downing Street has refused to be drawn on the affair.

The Guardian says US diplomats lobbied to be allowed to use its bases on Ascension and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean – both UK territories – as well as British bases in Cyprus.

It says America has been building up contingency plans for military action, in case diplomats fail to resolve a stand-off with Iran over nuclear weapons.

Ministers are reported to have told US officials that it would be illegal for Britain to help with what might lead to a pre-emptive attack.

The Guardian reports advice that it would breach international law because Iran has consistently denied it plans to develop a nuclear weapon, and so does not represent “a clear and present threat”.

Citing Whitehall sources, it says the US had not made a formal request, but discussions had been taking place “to scope out the British position”.

The paper quotes one source as saying America had been surprised to that Britain was reluctant to pledge support: “They’d expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it’s Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise.”

Even so, the Royal Navy has a large presence in the Gulf.


After ten years of lies, mismanagement and never-ending wars, my suspicion is that most Americans would not support a war with Iran. Oh sure, there are some who would, but they are a minority. The trouble is, they are a rather loud (and/or unenlightened) minority. Trust me…..most of us in the US are very, very tired of war at this point. As such, the refusal to allow Ascension as a stop-over point, or base, doesn’t matter all that much, as it’s a war that likely will never happen.
Stephen Meyers, via Facebook

Iran military action not ‘right course at this time’, Downing Street says – Guardian
Action against Iran: US and UK hold talks over military bases – Independent