Jeffrey LewisVandenberg, Greely … Fylingdales?

The Independent reports that Washington and London have secretly agreed to place a US missile defense interceptor site at RAF Fylingdales in the UK. London insists Washington made no formal request to site the missiles, but The Independent reports a deal “in principle” that includes Washington’s agreement to withold any formal request until after the next UK general election.

After merely saying that no decisions had been made, an MOD spokesman flatly denied that account, saying “No approach has been made to us at all to base interceptor missiles in the United Kingdom.”

The meeting was reportedly held in May 2004 in Washington. Perhaps coincidentally, this period corresponded with a pair of reports that identified Britain and Poland as finalists to host a third interceptor site in Europe (the other two sites are in Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg AFB, California). The Evening Standard (May 7, 2004) paraphrased US sources as saying the deployment would comprise “antimissile missiles, 10 launch pads, a runway and a service base, on UK soil.” Jane’s Defence Weekly (April 30, 2004) also cited a “knowledgeable source” who focused on Poland, but added “Don’t count the Brits out.” Jane’s source raised the possibility of multiple interceptor sites in Europe.

A third site in Britain was initially floated in a December 2002 discussion paper issued by the UK MOD, which suggested “North West Europe” might host US interceptors (p.22). At the time, Geoff Hoon didn’t exactly pour cold water on the idea of a UK site.

Since May, attention has focused on Poland and other countries in Central Europe. After MDA requested approximately $35 million for “long lead activity for [ground-based interceptors] at a potential third site” in early 2004, Arms Control Today revealed that the United States was discussing the issue with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

Its not clear if The Independent has the story straight or not, if MDA is considering one foreign interceptor site or two, etc. So many questions

“Don’t count the Brits out.”

Update: Global Security Newswire has two skeptical quotes. A US official e-mailed GSN to say he has “never heard anything regarding basing interceptors in U.K. MDA’s only role is upgrading the Fylingdales early warning radar for integration into the [Ground-based Midcourse Defense] system next year.” Nigel Chamberlain, at the British American Security Information Council in London, said “My understanding is that the issue of basing an interceptor battery in the United Kingdom has been raised but that any potential site is more likely to be an existing military base, other than on Fylingdales Moor in Yorkshire.”