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RAF back down over Llanbedr Airfield after outrage over training of Saudis

Saudi air force jets

RAF back down over Llanbedr Airfield after outrage over training of Saudis

The Royal Air Force have abandoned their attempt to develop a new military training site in north-west Wales in the face of widespread opposition.

There had been particular outrage over the likelihood of Llanbedr Airfield being used to train Saudi pilots engaged inbombing Yemen. Saudi pilots have already been trained at nearly RAF Valley on Ynys Môn (Anglesey).

But Snowdonia Aerospace, the company who introduced the plans, have now said that their application has been "formally paused". They explained, “This has resulted from the RAF currently suspending their review into looking to operate at Llanbedr”.

The news was welcomed by the Peace Pledge Union and Cymdeithas y Cymod (the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales), who have been leading campaigns against the plans.

Both groups said they will keep alert to any future end to the “pause”.

The RAF had attributed their interest in Llanbedr to a lack of space at RAF Valley, giving the impression that it was very likely that Saudi pilots would be trained at Llanber as well. Many local people and beyond in Gwynedd and Anglesey had also objected strongly to the rises in noise levels and environmental damage that would follow an increase in training flights.

The news comes only days after a British soldier based in Wales, Ahmed Al-Babati, was arrested in London for peacefully protesting against British military support for the Saudi war in Yemen. The PPU have applauded his actions and said they will support him if he faces a court-martial.

Pryderi Llwyd Jones, Chair of the local branch of Cymdeithas y Cymod said:This is a pause and it is not a time to relax in our campaigning but to be vigilant in a world where the arms industry is growing and war victims increasing."

Cymdeithas y Cymod and the PPU emaphsised that the campaign is very much ongoing against the training of Saudi pilots at RAF Valley, and against miltary training sites generally.

"We are delighted that the RAF have backed down in the face of local people taking a stand against militarism," said the PPU's Campaigns Manager, Symon Hill. "This isn't a one-off. If the RAF try something similar elsewhere, they will meet with the same resistance."

He added, "Meanwhile the campaign against the training of Saudi pilots at RAF Valley is growing: the RAF back-down over Llanbedr comes less than week after a soldier based in Wales was arrested for having the courage to speak out against British support for the Saudi war in Yemen."

Another ongoing campaign is against the development by Snowdonia Aerospace of the airfield at Llanbedr for drone testing. Drones are now used extensively in warfare and are known in Welsh as the “birds of death”. But this process has also been delayed by the Civil Aviation Authority because Snowdonia Aerospace have failed to reach the requirments needed to proceed.

Cymdeithas y Cymod asked, “Is it not time, after its long history, that Llanbedr should be developed for peaceful purposes only?”