|RAF Ascension Island|
Ascension Island Auxiliary Field
|Part of British Forces South Atlantic Islands|
|Near Georgetown in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha|
RAF Ascension Island
Shown within Ascension Island
|Type||Permanent Joint Operating Base|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force and United States Space Force|
|Controlled by||Joint Forces Command|
|In use||1939 – present|
|Identifiers||IATA: ASI, ICAO: FHAW, WMO: 61902|
|Elevation||78.6 metres (258 ft) AMSL|
|No Instrument landing system (ILS)|
RAF Ascension Island (IATA: ASI, ICAO: FHAW), also known as Wideawake Airfield or Ascension Island Auxiliary Field, is a military airfield and facility located on Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean. The airfield is jointly operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Space Force (USSF).
The facility is home to a U.S. Space Force ground tracking station in support of the Eastern Range and rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
In 1939 Ascension became important as a high-frequency direction finding radio station covering trade routes. Wideawake Airfield (named after a noisy colony of sooty terns nearby) was built by the US military in 1942 by arrangement with the British government. The airfield was built using a US task force. The first aircraft to land on Ascension Island was a Fairey Swordfish from HMS Archer in June, 1942 and it went on to be used by more than 25,000 aircraft as a staging point during the Second World War.
A U.S. Space Force tracking station was officially activated as a satellite of Patrick Space Force Base in Florida on 25 June 1956.
The airfield's runway was extended in the Autumn of 1980. It was re-garrisoned by the RAF in 1982 and used extensively as a staging airfield during the Falklands War. A series of long-range bombing raids was carried out from there under the name Operation Black Buck.
The Target Tracking Radar Station was a Nike Zeus test facility for tracking reentry vehicles from Cape Canaveral missile launches. Built from 1960-1961 for anti-ballistic missile measurement, the "Golf Ball" radar antenna was on Cat Hill, and a collimation tower for radar calibration was towards English Bay. The facility is home to the Detachment 2 of the 45th Mission Support Group, part of the U.S. Space Force's 45th Space Wing. It operates a ground tracking station in support of the Eastern Range and rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The NASA Tracking Station at Devil's Ashpit and the Cable & Wireless Earth Station at Donkey Plain were built in the mid-1960s for space operations and communications, including the latter's use for transmitting "microwave borne data via the Early Bird Satellite back to the NASA facility at Andover, Maine".
The station comes under the overall jurisdiction of the Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands, an officer of one-star rank. As of December 2018[update], the incumbent is Brigadier Nick Sawyer.
The RAF airfield on Ascension Island is run on a day-to-day basis by around 19 RAF personnel, headed by a wing commander.
RAF Ascension Island is normally the refuelling point for the Ministry of Defence's South Atlantic air bridge flights to RAF Mount Pleasant, on the Falkland Islands, from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, in the UK.
Beginning in November 2017, the Ascension Island Government has contracted South African Carrier Airlink to conduct regularly scheduled charter flights between Saint Helena Airport and Ascension Island on a monthly basis. Flights are currently scheduled on the second week of every month, arriving at Ascension on Saturday afternoon and returning to Saint Helena on Sunday morning. The first of these flights are scheduled for 18 and 19 November 2017. Additionally civilian passengers had been permitted on flights to and from RAF Brize Norton with reservations handled by AW Ship Management, with some customers doing package deals combined with the RMS Saint Helena, which travelled between Saint Helena and Cape Town, South Africa until the opening of St Helena Airport to passenger flights.
Ascension serves as a diversion airport for ETOPS aircraft crossing the Atlantic. In January 2013, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200LR en route from Johannesburg to Atlanta diverted to Ascension as a result of engine problems.
The site is home to a high frequency radio station forming part of the Defence High Frequency Communications Service. The station is operated by Babcock International Group on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.
Potholes on the runway led to the suspension in April 2017 of all Ministry of Defence South Atlantic Air Bridge Flights between RAF Mount Pleasant and RAF Brize Norton until at least 2019/2020. An Airbus A330 aircraft operated by AirTanker Services on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) carried out those flights although a limited number of commercial passenger tickets were available. Those flights now travel via Cape Verde. Planes for emergency medical evacuation flights and the newly established monthly charter flight to Saint Helena Airport are not impacted given the size of aircraft used. Essential personnel and equipment are also exempt from the suspension.
While A330s are for now unable to land at the airport, the United States military continues to maintain a weekly flight between the island and Patrick Space Force Base in Florida, only for the use of its personnel, while the MV Ascension supply ship regularly services US facilities.
A C-17 for the UK's MoD lands there at Ascension once a month for its own personnel.
|Airlink||Charter: Johannesburg-O.R. Tambo, Saint Helena|
On 18 November 2017, SA Airlink started a scheduled weekly charter from Longwood, Saint Helena to the island.
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By the end of 1956, 181 St Helenian men were employed in a temporary capacity on Ascension Island constructing the US Base. … The Base operations were eventually expanded by the addition of a Target Tracking Radar Station, which was built from 1960 - 1961. This facility, known as the Golf Ball, was built on a site overlooking the Archer Cemetery at Comfortless Cove. It meant the construction of a separate road, the Nike Zeus Road, to the area, replacing the old dirt road from the back of Long Beach. A collimation tower, complete with its own access track cutting across the old Victorian path to the sand blowhole was constructed part of the way towards English Bay, to calibrate the radar. … mid-sixties of the NASA Tracking Station at Devil's Ashpit, and the Cable & Wireless Earth Station at Donkey Plain. This station was built by Cable & Wireless and Marconi at the request of NASA