Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Further evidence has been uncovered that the US Airforce is planning to leave RAF Molesworth and RAF Alconbury.
Plans have been drawn up to consolidate its intelligence activity at a new centre at RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire, and the US Congress has been asked to agree more than $92million for the project.
The proposals are set out in a document obtained by the Independent on Sunday and seen by The Hunts Post, which says the investment in RAF Croughton will allow the “divestiture”, or closure, of Molesworth and Alconbury.
One of the justifications for the spend is the distance between the two bases – 13 miles – which results in “wasting thousands of personnel-hours” travelling between them on the A14 which, it says, is “one of the UK’s most hazardous and heavily trafficked roads”.
The Molesworth facilities, which include a Second World War aircraft hangar, are described as being too small and widely-dispersed for intelligence missions, and having “aging and inefficient” power systems, with regular failures also wasting hours of “analytic effort”.
“None of these facilities were purpose-built for their current use,” it concludes.
Since 2005, more than $90m has been spent on maintaining Molesworth to a “minimally sustainable state” and the maintenance backlog would take £191m to resolve. Failure to proceed with the project, says the document, would affect the ability to support NATO and coalition intelligence missions.
It estimates building work at RAF Croughton could start in April and be complete by January 2019.
As previously reported by The Hunts Post, that would pave the way for a move from Huntingdonshire.
The leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, Councillor Jason Ablewhite, said he was aware the US Airforce had been reviewing its sites across Europe, including Molesworth and Alconbury, and that the Americans could decide to leave.
“With rationalisation, it’s likely in the longer term that we could see them disappear, which does have a negative impact on the economy,” he said.
“About £40m is generated a year by Alconbury, so it’s a huge concern.
“But on the flip side you have Wyton, which is going to double in personnel over the next few years.”
Cllr Ablewhite said he thought it unlikely that the Americans would leave Alconbury in the near future, given how much had been spent on the base.
USAF Captain Sybil Taunton said: “The US Department of Defence is in the process of conducting a European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) review, with the results expected to be released later on in the year after Congressional approval.
“Until the EIC is complete, it would be premature to discuss any changes to US Air Force basing in Europe.”