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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 13:25 GMT
'Target star wars system on asteroids'
An asteroid
Could asteroids be a target for the Star Wars shield?
The UK missile station earmarked for the "Son of Star Wars" defence shield should also be used to protect against asteroids, a peer has suggested.

The idea could bring new work for RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire, which is to be used for America's controversial missile defence plans.

Crossbencher Lord Tanlaw wants to know whether the base, as well as the Menwith Hill station, could be used to warn against "nature's missiles of mass destruction".

He pointed to the threat posed by "hazardous near-Earth objects or asteroids that endanger the population".

Spending difference

Lord Tanlaw continued: "It seems to me that vast sums of money are being spent on proper defence of the country."

But very little money appeared to be spent on guarding against an asteroid impact, something which would need exactly the same system, he argued.

Junior Defence Minister Lord Bach said the question was important and promised to find out the answer.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon this month agree to the US request for Fylingdales to be upgraded for use in its National Missile Defence scheme.

The decision has already been attacked by some Labour backbenchers, who fear the scheme could spark a new arms race and prove expensive.

Lord Bach said America would pay for the upgrade.

But the UK would foot the bill for the predicted "minimal" rise in the station's 18m annual running costs, he added.

See also:

17 Dec 02 | Americas
20 Feb 02 | Politics
20 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
15 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
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