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Thursday, December 3, 1998 Published at 23:20 GMT


UK base 'is Star Wars station'

The base is one of the UK's most secretive sites

A United States satellite station in northern England is being used for a 'Star Wars' weapons system, a BBC documentary has alleged.

The BBC's Close Up North highlighted the work at controversial RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, claiming facilities at the station, which is leased to the US National Security Agency, now include the Space Based Infra Red System (SBIRS).

The term Star Wars was first applied to defence systems during Ronald Reagan's time as US president.

[ image: 3D image of 'golf balls' interior has been drawn up]
3D image of 'golf balls' interior has been drawn up
Documentary producer Ian Cundall said of RAF Menwith: "The idea is that they will detect missiles even before they are launched, they will be spotted when the engines are lit. It will in turn relay information to laser satellites in space which will destroy the missiles."

The lasers will also be able to destroy other satellites thereby "blinding the enemy", according to Mr Cundall.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The system at Menwith Hill is a defence system used in a passive way. Any thoughts that there are laser-based space systems is pure fantasy."

On the programme Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, of the Washington-based Centre for Defence Information, said the system is illegal under a number of international treaties, not least the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

'Base saved lives'

A team of BBC graphic artists claim they have drawn up the first 3D image of the interior of the site's huge 'golf ball' buildings.

Mr Cundall said: "For the first time we are going to give people an inside view of what is Britain's most secretive building."

The programme also said the base saved thousands of lives during the Gulf War.

Former US Air Force General Charles Horner said the base was able to detect scud missiles, meaning they could be destroyed before they reached their target.

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