By Workers’ Weekly
For some 75 years and since World War II, the U.S. continues to maintain five major U.S. Air Force Bases in Britain: at Fairfield, Molesworth, Alconbury, Lakenheath and Mildenhall in spite of the massive opposition of the anti-war movement for decades, which saw many U.S. bases closed, including Greenham Common, which was returned to public parkland in 1997.
In 2015, the United States European Command (EUCOM) had announced plans to close RAF Mildenhall as part of a military review that will see it shut 14 other European bases, including RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth, with thousands of U.S. personnel transferred to other bases in Britain and Germany. However, in 2017, RAF Mildenhall Squadron Leader Rick Fryer said: “The [Ministry of Defence] has been advised that the full divestitures of RAF Mildenhall and RAF Alconbury/Molesworth will now occur no earlier than 2024.”
A report by Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, pointed out that the April 17, 2017 edition of Stars and Stripes (a U.S. Department of Defense newspaper) said that the political and military climate has changed since the decision was taken two years ago under the administration of President Obama; under President Trump, it suggests, the Pentagon is looking at the plans again.
Also in recent years, alongside its air bases, the U.S. has expanded and constructed its openly-known “intelligence” bases at: RAF Croughton; Morwentsow (Bude), a joint base with GCHQ; RAF Digby; RAF Fylingdales; and RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, which is a key link in the U.S. missile “defence” and drone programmes involved in extra-territorial killing worldwide. Britain’s own drone command is RAF Waddington in Lincoln. This year, Menwith Hill and the other U.S. “intelligence” bases have become even more significant with the missile defence review, which Trump unveiled in January at the Pentagon, and which announced a major upgrade in land- and sea-based missile interceptor systems, as well as the development of a layer of satellite sensors in low orbit that would help track new types of cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles.
In June 2017, Trump made headlines by withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. At the same time, it was also reported that the U.S. had deployed its full range of strategic bombers to Britain for the first time in history at RAF Fairford. Two B-2 stealth bombers, three B-52H Stratofortress aircraft and three B-1B Lancers were exhibited at the Fairford Air Show that year.
As the largest U.S. Air Force base in Britain, RAF Lakenheath, where in 2003 it was reported it stored some 30 nuclear weapons, today hosts the 48th Fighter Wing and supports three combat-ready squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagle and F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft. Two squadrons of U.S. F-35 jets (48 of them) will be arriving there by 2020 – the first in Europe. It has played a role since 2001 flying combat missions and providing combat support in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and across the Middle East.
It should also be noted that Britain helps the U.S. maintain some of its 800 military bases abroad – some jointly such as at Ascension Island – and it continues to lease to the U.S. strategic military bases that it had previously seized for itself abroad, such as Diego Garcia in the Chagos Islands.
The British government carried out this international crime in 1965 when it was forced to decolonize Mauritius but kept the Chagos Islands for itself, expelled the population and handed Diego Garcia over to the U.S. for a military base occupied by them to this day. Now the British government is ignoring the 2019 instruction by the United Nations’ highest court to properly finish the process of decolonization, and return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius and to the people who were expelled. It has also been reported that Gibraltar, presently a British Navy base, is to be made a “strategic military base” for the U.S. with the vital role for the U.S. Navy’s operations underlined.
Today, the fight of the anti-war movement against the U.S. bases is inspired by the heroic fight against the U.S. Cruise Missiles at Greenham Common in the 1980s, and those who fight now against nuclear weapons, against U.S. spy bases at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill and the whole anti-war movement that stands up to say that this is not in their name. The working class and people alongside the peoples of the world will continue this fight to realize their aspiration for peace. The people have always opposed turning Britain into a launchpad for U.S. interventions and wars abroad, just as they have opposed the warmongering and military interventions of successive British governments abroad. Making Britain a zone for peace means the dismantling of all U.S. Air Force and spy bases at home and also those under Britain’s control abroad. This is central to the fight to bring about an anti-war government in Britain.
- “U.S. Military Bases in the UK,” Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, October 24, 2018; militarybases.com; “UK RAF Stations Map,” Royal Air Force Website, 2019; A Guide to Military Airshows in the UK; http://www.aeroresource.co.uk.
- Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
- “U.S./UK Spy and Communications Bases in the UK,” Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, October 26, 2018.
- “Trump announces huge expansion of U.S. missile defense system,” Julian Borger, Guardian, January 17, 2019.
- Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
- “Why Gibraltar Matters To The British Military,” Forces Network, October 31, 2018; “Gibraltar wins with Brexit: London to make the Rock a strategic military base,” Simon Osborne, Express, February 18, 2018; “Gibraltar’s vital role for the U.S. Navy’s operations is underlined,” MercoPress, February 26, 2015.
For Your Reference
In 2014 on the 70th anniversary since U.S. bases were established in Britain, Seumas Milne wrote in the Guardian an article, reproduced by the Stop the War Coalition when Jeremy Corbyn was its President, entitled “After 70 years of U.S. troops in Britain, time to send them home and close the bases.” He pointed out that “Successive governments have mortgaged Britain’s security and independence to a foreign power – and placed its armed forces, territory and weaponry at the disposal of a system of global domination.”
(Photos: Workers’ Weekly)