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British base prepares for arrival of B-52s

Special report: terrorism in the US

Steven Morris Tuesday September 18, 2001 The Guardian

The plane spotters clearly believed the rumours that the B-52s were on their way. Kitted out with reference books, notepads and cameras they had arrived early to grab the best vantage points at the perimeter fence of RAF Fairford, the Gloucestershire air base from which US bombing raids could be launched in retaliation for last week's terrorist attacks. Immediately after the attacks, RAF Fairford was put on alert state Delta, one stage down from a full war footing, and US personnel and their families were told to consider themselves potential targets.

Work was halted on a 55m refurbishment and upgrading at the base and 250 civilian workers were sent home. Fortunately for the military planners, work on the 10,000ft runway, one of the largest in Europe, was done and the airstrip is ready for use again.

Yesterday the workers were back and understood to be putting the finishing touches to the "bomber loop", a holding area for bombers.

In the town yesterday the stars and stripes flew alongside union flags. Local people seemed resigned to the idea of American action being launched so close to home.

Shopper June Northwell, 45, said: "I don't doubt for a second that the bombers will be flying soon. But I must say I dread the moment when I hear them coming in."

Back at the base the spotters went on waiting for a glimpse of the B-52s. One of them, John, said: "All the signs are that they will be coming. There's a lot more activity than normal on the base and they are working flat out on the bomber loop. They'll be here.",3604,553644,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, September 17, 2001

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