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Royal Air Force Station Menwith Hill

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Air Force ISR Agency.png

Part of USAF Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AFISR)
Located near Harrogate, Yorkshire, England
Menwith Hill from the air
Type Royal Air Force Station
Built 1954
In use 1954-Present
Royal Air Force
Controlled by USAF Air Intelligence Agency
Garrison 451st Intelligence Squadron

RAF Menwith Hill is a Royal Air Force station near Harrogate, North Yorkshire which provides communications and intelligence support services to the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The site contains an extensive satellite ground station and is a communications intercept and missile warning site[1] and has been described as the largest electronic monitoring station in the world.[2]

RAF Menwith Hill is commanded by a Royal Air Force Officer, supported by an RAF element, whilst the majority of support services are provided by the United States Air Force, 421st Air Base Group.

The site acts as a ground station for a number of satellites operated by the US National Reconnaissance Office,[3] on behalf of the US National Security Agency, with antennae contained in a large number of highly distinctive white radomes, and is alleged to be an element of the ECHELON system.[4]



Panoramic view of Menwith Hill base
A Menwith Hill radome.

Menwith Hill Station was opened on 545 acres (2.21 km2) of land acquired by the British War Office in 1954 and leased to the United States. The U.S. Army Security Agency established a High Frequency radio monitoring capability, monitoring communications emanating from the Soviet Union, operating from 1958.

In 1966 the National Security Agency took on responsibility for the U.S. operation of the site, expanding the capabilities to monitor international leased line communications transiting through Britain. The site was then one of the earliest to receive sophisticated early IBM computers, with which NSA automated the labour-intensive watch-list scrutiny of intercepted but unenciphered telex messages.

The site is alleged to be part of the ECHELON system, monitoring civilian communications satellites. During the early 1970s Menwith Hill appears to have been made capable of intercepting the downlink of civilian communication satellites, landed over northern Europe, when the first of more than eight large satellite communications dishes were installed.


Between 1984 and 1995 a number of peace camps were established in close proximity to the station. A number of other individual protests have also taken place, predominantly related to nuclear proliferation and strategic missile defense.[5] and related to protests at other US military locations in the UK such as Greenham Common.[6]

Objections to the Strategic Defense Initiative have led to demonstrators storming the perimeter fence.[7][8] and to demands from Labour MPs for a full debate about missile defence and Menwith Hill.[9] Actions continue on a routine basis.[10]

One particular local activist, Lindis Percy, has been prosecuted, over a protracted period, under a number of different laws.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

See also


  1. ^ RAF Menwith Hill
  2. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | UK agrees missile defence request
  3. ^
  4. ^ Bamford, James; Body of Secrets, Anchor, ISBN 0-385-49908-6; 2002
  5. ^ "Menwith Hill - The Campaign of Opposition". Retrieved 14 January 2009.  
  6. ^ "From Greenham to Menwith: The women's peace campaign at Menwith Hill". The f Word Contemporary UK Feminism. Retrieved 14 January, 2009.  
  7. ^ "The Battle of Menwith". BBC News. 4 July, 2001.  
  8. ^ "Menwith Hill protests continue for second day". The Guardian Newspaper. 4 July, 2001.  
  9. ^ "Why has the US base at Menwith Hill created such a political storm?". Belfast Telegraph. 3 August 2007.  
  10. ^ "Keighley grandmothers arrested over spy base protest". Yorkshire Dales Country News. 6 April 2006.  
  11. ^ "Who are you calling anti-social?". The Independent. 17 May 2005.  
  12. ^ Laura Smith-Spark (17 May 2005). "Can Asbos curb the right to protest?". BBC News.  
  13. ^ Michael Dickinson (May 19, 2005). "The Trouble with Menwith". CounterPunch.  
  14. ^ Courtnews, cndyorks
  15. ^ "Peace protest at Menwith Hill". Harrogate Advertiser. 20 January 2009.  
  16. ^ Ian Herbert (29 January 2007). "Veteran peace protester sent to jail despite prisons crisis". The Independent.  


  • Bird, Kenneth L., Menwith Hill Station-A Case Study in Signal Intelligence Gathering During the Cold War-Monitoring Times- February 1997

External links

Coordinates: 54°00′29″N 1°41′24″W / 54.00806°N 1.69°W / 54.00806; -1.69



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