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US Airforce admits that they did not have sufficient Firefighters at Fairford

Andy Newman | 16.02.2004 14:56 | Anti-militarism | Oxford

US Airforce admits that they did not have sufficient Firefighters at RAF Fairford during the war last year. Air refuelling tankers + 700 troops will be in Fairford March to Sept this year.

US forces newspaper, the Stars and Stripes recently reported that the 100th Air Refuelling Wing normally based at RAF Mildenhall will be transferred to RAF Fairford just outside Swindon along with 700 USAF personnel, while runway construction is completed at Mildenhall. The visitors will be in Fairford between March and September 2004. It will cost between £4-6 million to move the aircraft, their crew and support staff for the 25- week closure.

At the same time the US Airforce admits that they did not have sufficient Firefighters at RAF Fairford during the war last year, an issue they are now addressing through the creation of a new air base group that will include Fairford, under the command of U.S. Air Force Col. J.R. Smith. During the war, the B-52s flying from RAF Fairford flew 122 missions, a total of 1,600 flying hours in 33 days. They dropped 3.2 million pounds of munitions. (source Stars and Stripes) This is 1600 million tons of high explosives that were transported though Swindon roads by lorry from the arms base at RAF Wellsford on the M4 near Newbury.

The following is our press release to the local paper - which is why it elevates the safety of Swindon to being the main issure - but it is a relevant point. Given that the war was widely advertised in advance, the Iraqi army could have landed a commando group in the UK prior to hostilities. Given the way peace protestors were able to get in fairford, ot tail the arms convoys, imagine what the republican guard could have done!

Secretary of Swindon Stop the War Coalition, Andy Newman, comments. “I think many people will be alarmed to learn that the US Air force did not have enough firefighters while they were flying 1600 million tons of high explosives out of Fairford! The safety of Swindon was never considered during the war, all of these high explosives were transported though our streets by lorry during the war. What would have happened if Iraqi soldiers had attacked these convoys, something they were legally entitled to do during a war? Was Tony Blair prepared for Swindon to be “collateral damage”!

Swindon Stop the War Coalition also opposes the refuelling tankers being moved to Fairford The US air force is spending £15 million pounds expanding Mildenhall – they would only be doing that if they are planning more and bigger wars in the future. That money should be spent on reconstruction for the shattered countries of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

By the way – The swindon evening advertiser poll showing 88% opposition to war in Feb 2003 was read in the Whitehouse, because it was reported in Stars and Stripes, distributed to all serving US forces personnel, all congressmen, and the Commander in Chief!
Stars and Stripes - 5 March 2003. From that article: More B-52 bombers arrive at British air base. “Their arrival suggests there is an imminence of war,” said Andy Newman, a resident of nearby Swindon and a war opponent. … The arrival of the planes — as symbolic as it is significant — has brought out hundreds of protesters, according to British media. … "We’re quite upset about it,” said Newman, a member of the Stop the War Coalition. “Support for the war is very low here.” Newman said a local newspaper polled readers last month to gauge residents’ support for the war. The poll found that 88 percent of respondents are opposed to war with Iraq at this time.

check my sources:

How much stuff got dropped from Fairford

Stars and tripes admits there were insufficient firefighters at Fairford!

Original story about relocation of Midenhall in 2002, Cambridge News (courtesy CAAB)

Andy Newman
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Hide the following 7 comments

correction on numbers- cut and paste error

16.02.2004 15:06

original posting said 1600 million tons.

That was a cut and paste error,

should be 32 million pounds or 1600 tons

It is still a lot!

Andy again

Iraqi commando raids ?

16.02.2004 17:51

Iraqi commando raids ?? Yes I think we all saw that as a realistic possibility !!

I agree it's shameful that the US Air Force did not have suffcicient fire protection (although I'm not sure what would be "sufficient" for that much explosive) but that idea that a Republican Guard unit could have been a threat is laughable. They were far more likely to apply for asylum !


Don't be complacent

16.02.2004 22:41


President Hussein probably would have been reluctant to send troops overeseas for the very reason you mention. However, armed action against Fairford would nevertheless have been a genuine possibility, from militant groups opposed to the war. Nor was it impossible for Hussein to have used troops perosnally loyal, perhaps from his own tribe and family.

Furthermore, there is a discrepancy between your argument and the argument being put forward by the Americans in Iraq today that foreign fighters comprise the backbone of the resistance. Although the Americans are undoubtedly exaggerating the numbers of non-Iraqis fighting today in Iraq, there ceryainly were Fedayeen travelling to Iraq to fight the Americans before the war - many of whom were killed during fighting in Baghdad. You seem to rule out the possibility that militantly anti-US groups would have been prepared to take military action. This does not seem a realistic poistion since 11/09/01.

We know that in the lead up to war MI5 advised Tony Blair that participation in an attck on Iraq would increase the chances of a terrorist attack on the UK. This intelleigence advice was not shared with MPs voting for war, and only came out afterwards.


Your Joking

17.02.2004 17:29

The risk of militant attacks is quite small. How many armed militant attacks, have you heard of on military targets Here? None, because they prefer to go for easy, soft civilian targets.

I don't see why you have a say on Fairford anyway unless your a US citizen or a figure in the UK military.


USAF did not admit insufficient fire fighters

17.02.2004 21:47

You say "Stars and tripes admits there were insufficient firefighters at Fairford!"

Where do they say anything of the sort? It says nothing at all about firefighters.


ooops wrong article

18.02.2004 00:16

Yes – I put the wrong link by mistake, so you were understandably looking at the wrong article, it should have been:

and I quote:

“The first staff meeting of the new group was held Wednesday. Smith said one of the issues was the number of firefighters on hand at RAF Fairford,”

andy again

British Sovereignty

22.02.2004 20:22

We should all have a say about what goes on within British borders. We are a sovereign nation, and only let the American's use the bases to help fight the Nazis in the 2nd World War. OK, they lent us money - to keep out economy afloat, but they also profiteered from the war (Bush's grandfather lent the Nazis money on the other hand). Its now more than 60 years since they arrived here, and its time for them to go home. The presence of US military forces in Britain only serves to reduce our security, and makes us a target for terrorism. It also encouraged our feckless prime ministers to go to war on a lie. North Americans can come here as tourists, but I seriously object to having any area on the mainland not being considered sovereign. If they want some British soil, give 'em the Falklands, its too bloody cold down there to be much use to anyone!

Peter Jones