Ballistic Missile Defence

Defence written statement – made on 25th July 2007.

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Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, Secretary of State, Scotland Office, The Secretary of State for Defence, The Secretary of State for Scotland

On 5 February 2003 the the Secretary of State for Defence announced the Government's agreement to a request from the US to upgrade the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar at RAF Fylingdales. The UK already makes a contribution to US capability in the area of missile warning, through our operation of the radar at RAF Fylingdales. That upgrade process is now complete and we expect that the radar will switch its operations to the new equipment from August 2007. There is no change to the existing UK-US mission for the radar and the station remains under full UK command. Its primary mission is to warn of ballistic missile attack, with secondary functions of space surveillance and satellite warning. The radar will contribute to the US ballistic missile defence system, alongside a global network of other US-owned sensors based on land, at sea and in space and the data it produces is shared between the UK and US military authorities. The UK will have full insight into the operation of the US missile defence system when missile engagements take place that are wholly or partly influenced by data from the radar at RAF Fylingdales.

Also, at RAF Menwith Hill, equipment will be installed and operated by the US Government to allow receipt of satellite warnings of potentially hostile missile launches, and will pass this warning data to both UK and US authorities. The data will also be fed into the US ballistic missile defence system for use in their response to any missile attack on the US. This will guarantee the UK's continued access to essential missile attack warning data, as well as enhancing the US's ability to deal with any attack aimed at their country.

The Government welcome US plans to place further missile defence assets in Europe to address the emerging threat from rogue states. We welcome assurances from the US that the UK and other European allies will be covered by the system elements they propose to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic and we have been exploring ways in which the UK can continue to contribute to the US system as well as to any future NATO missile defence system.

These developments reflect the Government's continuing commitment to supporting the development of the US missile defence system. We continue to regard this system as a building block to enhance our national and collective security. NATO has made no decisions about acquiring missile defence for the alliance, and we want to examine how the US system can be complemented and built upon to provide wider coverage for Europe. We have no plans to site missile interceptors in the UK but will keep this under review as the threat evolves. We also want to reassure Russia about the defensive nature and intent of the US system as it develops and to take forward alliance cooperation with them in the field of missile defence.