'The missile-defence debate, dormant since Ronald Reagan’s "Star Wars", was revived in 1998 when North Korea test-fired a rocket over Japan. Gone was the familiar nuclear stalemate between two superpowers; suddenly, unpredictable "rogue states" seemed the main threat. Congress declared that an anti-missile shield should be built as soon as possible, while detractors balked at the project's gigantic cost and its doubtful feasibility. On taking office George Bush vowed to make the missile-shield his defence priority and proceeded to distress foreign allies by withdrawing America from its anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia. Distracted by the attacks of September 11th 2001, but undeterred by enormous technical problems, America deployed the first bits of a missile-defence system in 2004. A plan to extend the system to Europe has sparked a row with Russia which is eerily reminiscent of the cold-war era.'
News of a recent conference organised by CND has reached The Generalist. Entitled 'US Missile Defence - towards a new Cold War?' it was attended by more than 120 people from seven different countries, all concerned about the possible escalation of the arms race that could be triggered by the Bush government's plans to extend its missile defense system into Europe.
Menwith Hill Station was opened by U.S. Army in 1960 on 545 acres of land acquired by the British War Office in 1954 and leased to the United States. Under the U.S. Army, the station monitored High Frequency radio communications. It is now operated by the United States Air Force and has grown to become the world's largest intelligence-gathering ground station outside the US. Nominally a British Royal Air Force facility, only physical security and UK liaison functions are carried out by MoD personnel. The vast majority of staff are British GCHQ personnel, American civil service employees, government contractors, as well as U.S. military personnel. Menwith Hill is highly recognisable by its several dozen radomes ('golf balls'), each containing a satellite dish. Many of these are used for signals interception from communications satellites: they are commonly thought to be part of the ECHELON system. Other parts of the site are thought to be used by the Space Based Infrared System employed by the US National Missile Defence program. The latter use of the base, alongside the joint US/UK radar station at RAF Fylingdales is particularly controversial.
Bob Cryer's Last Speech to the House of Commons:'In May 1994 Peace Campaigners throughout Britain were terribly saddened to hear the news of Bob Cryer's death in a road accident. Among many achievements in an outstanding parliamentary career he was always a totally committed supporter of the peace movement. His support of the campaign against the Menwith Hill Spy station, its activities and implications, was invaluable and is sorely missed. This speech, in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons was a succinct rendering of the questions at the heart of the campaign. It is printed here in full, including the minister's reply on which you may make your own judgement.'
Tuesday July 3, 2001: More than 100 Greenpeace activists have occupied parts of RAF Menwith Hill. Here's the Guardian's guide to the best sites on the subject
RAF Fylingdales is a British Royal Air Force station on Lockton High Moor in the North York Moors, England. It is a radar base and part of the United States-controlled Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). Under the special relationship between the United States and United Kingdom, data collected at RAF Fylingdales is shared between the two countries. Its primary purpose is to give the British and US governments warning of an impending ballistic missile attack.
While the base remains a British asset operated and commanded by the Royal Air Force, it also forms one of three stations in the United States BMEWS network (the United States also funds the cost of the radar units). The other two stations in the network are Thule Air Base, Greenland and Clear Air Force Station, Alaska.
The primary radars of RAF Fylingdales are Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) (phased array) radars, mounted on each face of a truncated tetrahedron, typically referred to as the "pyramid". This makes Fylingdales unique amongst its peers in that it covers a full 360 degrees. Each of the three arrays has a tracking range of 3,000+ miles.
See: Yorkshire CND
17 October 2004
Star Wars deal places US missiles on UK soil
By Francis Elliott and Severin Carrell
The Independent on Sunday
Tony Blair has secretly agreed to allow President Bush to site US missiles on British soil as part of the new US "son of Star Wars" programme, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Downing Street has given an agreement in principle to the Pentagon to station interceptor missiles at RAF Fylingdales, North Yorkshire...
The siting of the interceptors on British soil would represent the most significant new military US presence in this country since the withdrawal of cruise missiles 13 years ago.
Mr Blair and Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, refuse to be drawn on how far Britain is prepared to co-operate in the programme, insisting that the US has made no formal request to site missiles here.
This newspaper has learnt, however, that an offer to site missiles in Yorkshire was made in a meeting in Washington in May this year and that preparations are well under way to overcome public and parliamentary opposition.
The meeting, one of a series held to discuss US-UK collaboration on the programme, was attended by senior officials from the British embassy, a deputy to John Bolton, the Pentagon's secretary for arms control, and staff from the US State Department.
17 October 2004
Blair brings 'son of Star Wars' to UK
STAR Wars missiles designed to shoot down incoming nuclear weapons will 'inevitably' be based on British soil following a far-reaching defence agreement between Tony Blair and George Bush, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it has signed a £30m agreement to help develop and test a new generation of ballistic weapons, dubbed 'son of Star Wars' and designed to intercept attacks from rogue states and terrorist groups.
But in an even more significant move, it is understood the Prime Minister has given his consent 'in principle' to the siting of American missile interceptor batteries in Britain, probably at Fylingdales in North Yorkshire.
18 October 2004
Details of missile deal kept secret
Ministers have bowed to a US request that details of a deal on the deployment in Britain of a US missile defence system should be kept secret. In a little-noticed written statement to the Commons last week, the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, said a copy of a new memorandum of understanding on the "Son of Star Wars" programme was being put in the Commons library but with parts missing after a US request. Britain is allowing the US to upgrade the early-warning radar station in Fylingdales, North Yorkshire, and to extend the US satellite ground station at Menwith Hill, in the same county, to play a part in tracking missiles. US and British officials have been discussing the deployment of US interceptor missiles in Britain. The Ministry of Defence yesterday denied receiving an approach from the US, but it is understood that the countries have agreed not to announce any provocative move until after the British election.
Feb 23rd, 2007
Britain is bidding to host the new phase of America's missile-defence shield in Europe. Expect fireworks
Tony Blair has been discreetly waging a campaign since last autumn to secure the missile-interceptor site for Britain, The Economist has learned. The prime minister has led the lobbying in person, apparently convinced that missile-defence technology—long derided in polite European circles as an expensive “Star Wars” fantasy—now works. Mr Blair believes that hosting the interceptors will make Britain as well as America more secure.
Indications are that the interceptors would not be housed at Fylingdales, in Yorkshire, but in new silos at another existing American base in Britain. America would pay for their installation and for the missiles, which cost $40m (£20.5m) each. The two governments have yet to negotiate who would have final control over whether to fire the interceptors.
See full text: 'Bombs bursting in air' [The Economist. Feb 23rd 2007]
4 July 2007 BBC News
Writer backs US spy base protest
Writer Alan Bennett returned to his Yorkshire roots on Wednesday to support protests against the Menwith Hill US surveillance base near Harrogate. The protesters, who also included comedian Mark Steel, are opposed to US military bases on British soil.
There has been a demonstration outside the base every 4 July - America's Independence Day - for 20 years.
The Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) said: "We will not be silenced." Veteran campaigner Lindis Percy said: "Menwith Hill epitomises all that is wrong in the unhealthy, dependent and moribund relationship between the US and UK governments... Change is well overdue."
There was one arrest for a public order offence, said the police.
July 25th 2007 BBC News
Britain has agreed to a US request for the RAF Menwith Hill monitoring station in North Yorkshire to be used as part of its missile defence system.
Mr Browne also said a radar upgrade at RAF Fylingdales near Whitby, started in 2003 by the US, was complete. The Fylingdales radar is expected to switch operations to the new equipment next month.
Mr Browne said the work at RAF Menwith Hill would support the existing UK-US missile warning mission and enable satellite data to be passed into the new US missile defence system.
The receiving antenna equipment already exists at RAF Menwith Hill and installing communications hardware is the only extra work required. [Full Text here]
July 31, 2007
Des Browne MP
Brown's contempt for democracy has dragged Britain into a new cold war
The prime minister has broken his word and put us all at risk by allowing a US missile defence base on the North York Moors
'In one short statement to parliament last week the defence secretary, Des Browne, broke the promises of two prime ministers, potentially misled the house, helped bury an international treaty and dragged Britain into a new cold war. Pretty good going for three stodgy paragraphs.
'You probably missed it, but it's not your fault. In the 48 hours before parliament broke up for the summer, the government made 46 policy announcements. It's a long-standing British tradition: as the MPs and lobby correspondents are packing their bags for the long summer break (they don't return until October), the government rattles out a series of important decisions that cannot be debated. Gordon Brown's promise to respect parliamentary democracy didn't last very long.
'Thus, without consultation or discussion, the defence secretary announced that Menwith Hill, the listening station west of Harrogate, will be used by the United States for its missile defence system. Having been dragged by the Bush administration into two incipient military defeats, the British government has now embraced another of its global delusions.'
'....members of parliament... have long been demanding a debate. In February, Tony Blair agreed that they would have one. "I am sure that we will have the discussion in the house and, indeed, outside the house ... When we have a proposition to put, we will come back and put it."
In April, Des Browne told MPs that "the UK has received no request from the US to use RAF Menwith Hill for missile-defence-related activities". That, until last week, was all that parliament knew. Now we discover that the proposition had been made and accepted before MPs had a chance to discuss it. Browne was in the house on Wednesday, when he made some announcements about aircraft carriers and the military budget. These - because they were delivered in person - could be discussed, though (shamefully) neither of them provoked any opposition. But knowing that the Menwith Hill decision would be furiously opposed, Browne released it in the form of a written statement, which cannot be debated.'