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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
UK island to house stealth bombers
B2 stealth bomber
The stealth bombers require special hangars

The US Defence Department says Britain has given permission for the construction of special hangars on the British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia to house B-2 "stealth" bombers.

There have been reports that the United States has been seeking to base these radar-evading planes at the base on the island.

That would place the aircraft much closer to Iraq than their normal operating base in the United States.

But the Pentagon says the move is not directly related to Iraq.

'Long-term project'

A senior Pentagon official said Britain had agreed two to three months ago to the construction of the special hangars needed to protect the special skin on the radar-evading stealth bombers.

The B-2s, which can carry 16 satellite-guided bombs, have never launched operations from bases abroad before.

Diego Garcia base
Diego Garcia was used in the Afghanistan campaign
Previously they have flown very long missions over Afghanistan and before Kosovo from their base in Missouri, although they did stop off in Diego Garcia on their way back from bombing-runs over Afghanistan.

There have been reports suggesting that the Pentagon is looking to house up to six of the bat-wing planes on Diego Garcia.

But the senior Pentagon source would not be drawn on timings of any deployment, and as with all the other reports of an American build-up in and around the Gulf, he said that this move was not directly related to Iraq.

It was a long-term project, he said, and the talks with Britain began two years ago.

Still, it is clear that Pentagon officials are happy that all the speculation about preparations for war is keeping up the military pressure on Baghdad.


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03 Nov 00 | Politics
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
16 Sep 02 | Politics
06 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Politics
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