RAF A400m Aircraft Conducts Reconnaissance On A68a Iceberg


An RAF A400M from British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI) has conducted reconnaissance of the A68a iceberg, currently travelling through the Southern Antarctic Front, remaining on its course towards the island of South Georgia.

Utilising A400M capabilities, the aircraft was able to observe with unprecedented detail cracks and fissures within the main body of the iceberg. A400M crew members and an officer from the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) were also able to visually identify ice debris in the surrounding waters.

“905 EAW proudly dispatched our Airbus A400M to collate data in support of the on-going efforts to understand the behaviour and potential effects of A68a. Guided by the satellite tracking, the A400M can get under the weather and closer to the iceberg, enabling more detailed observations. I know I speak on behalf of all of the crew involved when I say this is certainly a unique and unforgettable task to be involved in.’’ – Squadron Leader Michael Wilkinson, Officer Commanding 1312 Flt.

This iceberg would have usually attracted the attention of the numerous cruise ships in the Southern Ocean during the summer. However, with the global pandemic on-going, cruise ship traffic is negligible this year.

The sheer size of A68a meant it was impossible to capture its entirety in one single shot from the A400M, however, this reconnaissance has provided ‘close up’ imagery of the iceberg and surrounding waters for observers and scientists to enjoy and study. The data collected by A400M reconnaissance has been shared with both GSGSSI and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who are following the progress of the A68a. The imagery stills, video footage and visual observations will all assist in predicting the iceberg’s future behaviour and ascertaining the scale of the threat to the local area.


Image 1 (1121): The A400M was able to get below the weather and cloud coverage, capturing the outline of the iceberg in unprecedented detail.


Image 2 (1525): Flying along the iceberg reveals the steep vertical sides, approximately 30m high.


Image 3 (1188): Closer imagery of the vertical sides uncovers tunnels under the iceberg, as well as deep fissures extending downwards. These highlight possible instabilities which, with further analysis, could indicate the iceberg’s subsequent behaviour.


Image 4 (1790): Large tabular icebergs can be visibly seen breaking off A68a. It is these tabular icebergs and debris that could pose a threat to patrol vessels including Royal Navy’s own HMS Forth and GSGSSI MV Pharos SG.


Image 5 (0767): Imagery of the waters surrounding show the large amount of A68a is disintegrating into growlers and brash ice.



For further information, contact Fg Off Hannah Jones at BFSAI Falklands Media Operations on +500 74204 or +500 751266.