I wrote the following article for Heddwch, the newsletter for CND Cymru, in 2008. I republish it here for those who may have missed it first time around. Parc Aberporth is still largely unoccupied and Selex have pulled out. It is an economic development fiasco but the issues raised vis a vis drone technology are more relevant than ever.
UAVs over West Wales
‘Skynet’ is a fictional, computer-based military defence system that acts as the
primary antagonist in the ‘Terminator’ series of films and computer games. This
is a fictional example of an artificial intelligence that becomes sentient, and turns
against its creators. Of course this is Science Fiction and not happening in the
real world. Or is it?
An ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) Centre is being established at Parc Aberporth on the Ceredigion coast, with the backing of £3 million of public money on top of the cost of building the Parc itself. ASTRAEA is a British programme with Welsh Assembly and Westminster Governments support and funding, which involves a number of arms companies including the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), QinetiQ, Flight Refuelling Ltd (FRL), Thales and BAE Systems.
At Aberporth, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) are being developed for a variety of purposes, some benign and some most certainly not. QinetiQ is currently carrying out experiments marrying up ‘artificial intelligence’ with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). While these could have peaceful applications, it quickly becomes worrying when the same technology is applied to Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs). The future of warfare is computer controlled and where the human element is removed from the theatre of operations. Civilian populations could be kept in check by a variety of robotic drones. Some drones are designed to be spy planes for collecting information and intelligence; others carry weapons for combat and bomb delivery. All this is talked up with glee by various politicians and civil servants as a perfect way to solve the problems of economic regeneration in West Wales.
There are dark things going on at Parc Aberporth. Why is the Welsh Assembly Government so keen to get into bed with these major armaments developers? QinetiQ’s website makes no bones about the fact that the company is linked in with the UCAV programme for the Ministry of Defence and will be connecting in with BAE, joint partners in the ASTRAEA project with offices in the Parc Aberporth complex.
Those in favour of the civil aviation authority airport planned for Aberporth might think twice about arms dealers and international weaponry experts flying in and out of a West Wales Airport. It is time that New Labour ’s Andrew Davies AM, Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery, began to understand that Wales is a fledgling democracy and that the people of Wales do not want to be blinded with spin in the usual smoke and mirrors approach of the Westminster style of government.
Despite this huge ‘investment’ it was reported last May that the Parc Aberporth remained largely unoccupied more than 18 months after it was first opened. The Assembly Government had originally announced over 230 jobs would be created by 2008 with a further capacity for up to 1,000 employees. Selex (Sensors and Airborne Systems), Europe’s second largest defence electronics business occupies one unit on the site. The ‘expertise’ of EADS, QinetiQ, Flight Refuelling Ltd, Thales and BAE Systems was to have been combined with that of university departments at Aberystwyth and Cardiff ’ to create even more jobs. The Parc is now frequented by practicing learner drivers and the grounds are unkempt. As we know, the ideal situation for profit in the military industrial complex is ‘endless war ’.
People in Wales demand better and want to know that industry in Wales is being used for purposes other than being part of the US led world domination inspired military transformation strategy which George W Bush, Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan, and now, Gordon Brown have bought in to.