STANLEY, Falkland Islands, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- British forces mounted a warfare exercise involving navy and air force personnel in the Falkland Islands, scene of a 1982 conflict between Argentina and Britain and more recently of intense oil and gas exploration activities.
The two-day operation, code-named Cape Bayonet, simulated an enemy invasion in which the British air force's Typhoon multi-role fighter and navy ships took part, MercoPress reported.
The Falklands are a British Overseas Territory and recently attracted attention because of stepped-up activities centered on major offshore oil and gas deposits that scientists suspect may rival those of Britain's North Sea oil reserves.
Some estimates have put the Falkland Islands' undersea oil deposits at 60 billion barrels, drawing speculative investment from London's financial district. More cautious analysts say that, although potentially huge, the Falklands' hydrocarbon deposits may be expensive to extract and commercialize due to lack of key infrastructure connecting the islands with world markets.
In recent weeks, Falklands government officials have approached Chilean oil industry executives and reports this month cited Argentine interest in developing the fields, through a subsidiary of Spanish oil giant Repsol.
The military exercises took place during a tour of the Falklands by British forces ahead of the start of drilling in the basin in February 2010. The Ocean Guardian drilling rig from Scotland is on its way, after investors flocked to the project on the basis of scientific reports of major deposits of oil and gas -- and an imminent oil boom.
Military-ruled Argentina invaded the Falklands in April 1982 and Britain, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, challenged the occupation attempt. The resulting war lasted 74 days and led to the deaths of 255 British officers and troops, three civilian Falklanders and 649 Argentine servicemen.
The war also triggered political change in Argentina and signaled the military's exit from power. However, successive Argentine governments, including incumbent President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, have reaffirmed Argentina's claim of sovereignty over the islands.
Officials said the exercise was held as part of Britain's permanent joint protection force in the South Atlantic and was preparatory to the regiment's training for deployment in Afghanistan.
Britain has strengthened its military presence in the Falklands since the war and has a major operational base at Mount Pleasant, 35 miles from the capital Stanley.
The protection force regularly conducts patrols throughout the island both as a show of force and as a reassurance to Falklanders. The prospect of the islands transforming into a major source of oil revenue for Britain has raised the military's argument for more funding to beef up the forces in South Atlantic.