This film is part of Free

The Unsleeping Eye

The Unsleeping Eye

With the Greenham Women’s Camp doggedly holding out, and Reagan’s “Star Wars” plan in full swing, a behind-the-scenes look at Fylingdales.

Documentary 1985 25 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


Around about the time that the US were testing the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser in 1985 as part of their Star Wars programme, we are offered a rare chance to see inside the operations of the ultra-secretive Fylingdales early warning station perched up on the North Yorkshire Moors. The Commanding Officer gives a guided tour for our presenter, and while peace activists camped outside have their say, those favouring nuclear deterrence have centre stage.

It is claimed that Fylingdales is purely an early warning station (“early” being a rather moot choice of word), and not involved in retaliatory action. Nevertheless, the facility, as part of a system of similar stations, does help to give the US the capability to Launch-on-Warning: order a retaliatory launch of nuclear-armed missiles before the arrival of the perceived attack – a policy current at the time (some maintain it still is). The year following this programme a new £160m radar system was announced that some saw as aiding the so-called “Star Wars” project, enabling the US to fire weapons from space. This led to the iconic “golf balls” being replaced by the “pyramid”, which became operational in 1992.