Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia (NKW/FJDG)

Flight Planner at
Diego Garcia is the largest and only inhabited island in the British Indian Ocean Territory, usually abbreviated as BIOT, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom.

The tropical footprint-shaped coral atoll, located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean, is 3,535 km east of Tanzania's coast, 1,796 km south-southwest of the southern tip of India and 4,723 km west-northwest of the west coast of Australia. Diego Garcia lies in the Chagos Archipelago at the southernmost tip of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge—a vast submarine range in the Indian Ocean, topped by a long chain of coral reefs, atolls, and islands comprising Lakshadweep, Maldives, and the Chagos Archipelago.

The United States Navy operates Naval Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, a large naval ship and submarine support base, military air base, communications and space-tracking facility, and an anchorage for pre-positioned military supplies for regional operations.


Originally colonized by the French, Diego Garcia was ceded, along with the rest of the Chagos Archipelago, to the United Kingdom in the Treaty of Paris (1814) at the conclusion of a portion of the Napoleonic Wars. Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago were administered by the colonial government on the island of Mauritius until 1965, when the United Kingdom purchased them from the self-governing government of Mauritius for £3 million, and declared them to be a separate British Overseas Territory.

In 1942 the British established RAF Station Diego Garcia as an advanced flying boat unit. Both Catalina and Sunderland aircraft were flown during the course of World War II in search of Japanese and German submarines and surface raiders. In February 1942 the mission was to protect the small Royal Navy and Royal Air Force base stationed on the island from Japanese attack. The station was closed in 1946.

In the early 1960s, the UK was withdrawing its military presence from the Indian Ocean and agreed to permit the United States to establish a Naval Communication Station on one of its island territories there. The United States requested an unpopulated island belonging to the UK to avoid political difficulties with newly independent countries, and ultimately the UK and United States agreed that Diego Garcia was a suitable location.

Purchase by the United Kingdom

In 1966, the United States and the UK executed an agreement which permits the United States to use the BIOT for defense purposes for 50 years (through December 2016), followed by a 20-year optional extension (to 2036) to which both parties must agree by December 2014.

Arrival of the U.S. Navy

In March 1971, United States Naval construction battalions (Seabees) arrived on Diego Garcia to begin the construction of the Communications Station and an airfield. By 1973, construction of the NAVCOMMSTA was completed.

In the early 1970s, setbacks to United States military capabilities in the region including the fall of Saigon, victory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the closure of the Peshawar Air Station listening post in Pakistan and Kagnew Station in Eritrea, the Mayaguez incident, and the build-up of Soviet Naval presence in Aden and a Soviet airbase at Berbera, Somalia, caused the United States to request, and the UK to approve, permission to build a fleet anchorage and enlarged airfield on Diego Garcia.

Following the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979–1980, the West became concerned with ensuring the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, and the United States received permission for a $400 million expansion of the military facilities on Diego Garcia consisting of two parallel 12,000-foot-long (3,700 m) runways, expansive parking aprons for heavy bombers, 20 new anchorages in the lagoon, a deepwater pier, port facilities for the largest naval vessels in the American or British fleet, aircraft hangars, maintenance buildings and an air terminal, a 213,000 m3 fuel storage area, and billeting and messing facilities for thousands of sailors and support personnel.

In 1977 Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia was established as the senior United States Navy command on the island. At the time the NAVCOMMSTA was the primary tenant, but as new major facilities were completed, most notably the expanded anchorage and mooring area and the extended airfield, other tenants were commissioned.

In 1985 the new port facilities were completed and the USS Saratoga (CV-60) was the first aircraft carrier to tie up.

B52s parking on the apron
The Strategic Air Command began deploying Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers and aerial refueling aircraft to the newly completed airfield facilities in 1987.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, B-52G bombers, deployed to the airfield, flew more than 200 17-hour bombing missions over 44 days and dropped more than 730,000,000 kg of bombs on Iraqi forces in Iraq and Kuwait.

Beginning on 7 October 2001, the United States again commenced military operations from Diego Garcia using B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers to attack enemy targets in Afghanistan following the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Combat operations resumed in the spring of 2003 and bombing operations began again, this time against Iraq. Bomber operations ceased from Diego Garcia on 15 August 2006.

Rendition flight refuelling admission

Diego Garcia is rumoured to have been one of the locations of the CIA's black sites. Several groups claim that the military base on Diego Garcia has been used by the United States government for transport of prisoners involved in the controversial extraordinary rendition program, an allegation formally reported to the Council of Europe in 2007. In 2008, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that two United States extraordinary rendition flights refuelled on Diego Garcia in 2002. No reference was made to whether prisoners were on board the aircraft at the time. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of the "high-value detainees" suspected to have been held in Diego Garcia.

ETOPS emergency landing site

Diego Garcia may be identified as an ETOPS (Extended Range Twin Engine Operations) emergency landing site (en-route alternate) for flight planning purposes of commercial airliners. This allows twin-engine commercial aircraft (such as the Airbus A330, Boeing 767 or Boeing 777) to make theoretical non-stop flights between city pairs such as Perth and Dubai (9,013.61 km), Hong Kong and Johannesburg (10,658 km) or Singapore and São Paulo (15,985.41 km), all while maintaining a suitable diversion airport within 180 minutes' flying time with one engine inoperable.

Space Shuttle

The island was one of 33 emergency landing sites worldwide for the NASA Space Shuttle. None of these facilities were ever used throughout the life of the shuttle program.


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