Menwith Hill eavesdropping base undergoes massive expansion
America’s largest eavesdropping centre in Britain, Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, is being expanded in a multimillion-pound programme as it becomes increasingly vital to US intelligence and military operations, according to a study of the controversial base released on Thursday.
The base, which plays a key role in the global network of the National Security Agency (NSA), GCHQ’s American partner, now includes 33 radomes – commonly called “golf balls” after the white sheeting protecting the satellite receiving and transmission stations – and is undergoing a big construction programme.
The study describes the programme, called Project Phoenix, as “one of the largest and most sophisticated high technology programmes carried out anywhere in the UK over the last 10 years”. Work on it has been reserved for US-based arms corporations including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and their personnel with high-level security clearance, it notes.
Menwith Hill, the largest intelligence gathering and surveillance center outside the US, in the heart of the UK’s Yorkshire Dales, is surrounded by protesters demonstrating against America’s planned missile defense system. The local residents, often camping outside, have been joined by members of the global Occupy movement, supporting ongoing local efforts. To keep up with new types of warfare, billions of dollars has been invested in Menwith Hill over the last decade. It has enabled the base to remain a vital component of the global US surveillance network.