Pembrokeshire: Army barracks 'preferred' site for deep space defence radar system

Credit: UK Space Agency

An army barracks in Pembrokeshire has been chosen as the "preferred site" for a new deep space radar system that is hoped to protect the UK from "space warfare".

Cawdor Barracks, which is next to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, have been earmarked for the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) programme, which is said to better detect and track objects in deep space up to 22,000 miles away from earth.

The programme, unveiled by the respective Defence Secretaries of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, is part of a AUKUS security and defence partnership.

Cawdor Barracks, owned by the Ministry of Defence, is currently the home to a British Army Signals Regiment

But it is not yet clear how the proposal could impact the surrounding area of Pembrokeshire.

The MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Stephen Crabb, told ITV Wales that although he believes it is "an interesting and positive proposal", the local community are likely to have questions.

"People will be asking, 'Well, how's it going to affect the community visually given it's so close to a national park?' and the MOD will need to be able to show how it is minimising visual impact," he said.

4.2 million people visit Pembrokeshire – the National Park and surrounding areas – each year Credit: PA

He added: "People might well ask, 'Well, are there any health impacts from these powerful radars?' And again, the MOD, through the planning process with Pembrokeshire County Council, will need to be able to answer those questions."

The final decision on the site will be based on the results of an environmental impact assessment and town planning approval, funded by the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Bringing the DARC programme to Pembrokeshire could also boost the local economy through job creation, the MOD said.

Cawdor Barracks is currently home to a British Army Signals Regiment, which is due to relocate from 2028.

The army established the base in 1995 and has been home to the 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) ever since

Mr Crabb said: "That would leave a hole in our economy because we do value the Signals Regiment being there.

"Having some new jobs, perhaps around 100 jobs, coming to replace that, that would be welcome.

"But jobs aren't the be all and end all. So if there's an economic upside, that's great for Pembrokeshire, but also people will want those answers to the questions about visual impacts and environmental impact."

The DARC programme will see a global network of three ground-based radars to be jointly operated that will assist in "critical space traffic management" and contribute to the global surveillance of satellites in deep space.

The tri-lateral AUKUS partnership for the Indo-Pacific region is between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States Credit: PA Images

According to the MOD, the radars could provide global coverage, including detecting "potential threats" to defence or civilian space systems.

It would form part of the recently-launched security and defence partnership between Australia, the UK, and the US, with the aim of supporting "a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening regional global security."

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: "As the world becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases, the UK and our allies must ensure we have the advanced capabilities we need to keep our nation safe."

He added: "Today’s announcement of a global radar network (DARC), based across the UK, US and Australia will do just that.

"Empowering the UK to detect, track and identify objects in deep space."

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said: "The Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces have long had a hugely significant presence in Wales and the likelihood that this presence will continue at Cawdor Barracks is fantastic news."

"The proposed DARC project will provide jobs and bolster the local economy and underline once again the vital role that Wales continues to play in the UK’s defence", he added.

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