|Northrop Grumman personnel
ready a visiting unmanned Global Hawk aircraft for takeoff at
Brunswick Naval Air Station on Friday. A pilot from Patrol and
Reconnaissance Wing 5, which is based out of Brunswick until next
spring, navigates the craft remotely from Patuxent River (Md.) Naval
Air Station. The Global Hawk’s approximately week-long stay in Maine
represented the first time one of the military’s vaunted drones had
ever landed or taken off from a New England location, according to a
Wing 5 spokesman.
Troy R. Bennett / The Times Record
BRUNSWICK — The recent presence of an unmanned military aircraft at Brunswick
Naval Air Station generated disapproval among local peace advocates, who decry
any future testing of the “drones” here after the base closes in 2011.
However, a top state official said Monday that while civilian redevelopment
leaders haven’t taken a formal stance on unmanned aircraft, development of
drone technology in Brunswick could be used for peaceful causes as well.
Local conversation about the remote-controlled aircraft — which now play a key
role in the U.S. military strategy to combat the Taliban and al-Qaida in
Afghanistan — erupted anew last week when a Navy Global Hawk reconnaissance
plane touched down at the Navy base. The craft is piloted by a member of the
Brunswick-based Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 5 from a location in Maryland,
and was in town briefly as part of a training exercise and for display during
a farewell ceremony Thursday for Wing 5.
The final P-3 Orions associated with Wing 5 will take off, never to return, in
early December as the Navy works to incrementally vacate the base by mid-2011.
The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA) is the civilian
organization charged with planning for the reuse of the 3,200-acre base
property after the Navy leaves.
Some in the local community of peace advocates hope those reuse plans don’t
include more of the unmanned military aircrafts, which the base airfield is
equipped to accommodate as a testing or development facility.
Rosalie Paul of Georgetown is a member of Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks. She
said Monday that U.S. military drones have been responsible for civilian
“People are dying right and left, and we want nothing to do with technology
that encourages that,” Paul said. “We may need jobs, but our economy needs to
focus on sustainability and energy and light rail. We can be doing that kind
of thing at BNAS and (Bath Iron Works). This war mentality is not sustainable.
We need jobs that are not poisoning the planet and jobs that are not killing
Bruce Gagnon of Bath is the coordinator for the Global Network Against Weapons
and Nuclear Power in Space. He told The Times Record on Monday that drones are
the focus of the group’s “International Keep Space for Peace Week,” which will
run Oct. 3 through 10.
“Locally, we’ve been concerned about the things we’ve been hearing about the
possibility of using the base property as UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) flight
space after the base closes,” Gagnon said. “Among the peace community all over
the state, there’s been a lot of talk and concern about this Brunswick
connection, the implications for our community and how we’d be right smack in
the middle of aggressive warmaking. When we start introducing robotics and
drones, it makes it easier for us to go around killing people. It’s the real
ethical question of our time.”
Gagnon said his organization has turned to a November 2007 study by the
University of Massachusetts economic department, which argues that, in the
pursuit of job creation, the government would be better served spending money
on the production of transportation infrastructure and “green” industries.
For every $1 billion spent on military production, Gagnon said, 8,500 jobs are
created. However, every $1 billion spent on projects to produce and expand
light rail, for instance, would generate 19,000 jobs.
John Richardson, Maine’s commissioner of economic and community development,
is also a member of the MRRA board of directors and a Brunswick resident. He
said the authority has yet to take a stance on UAVs, but pointed out that
unmanned aircraft can be used for non-military purposes.
Richardson noted that the Global Hawk that visited Brunswick last week is a
surveillance craft, “which is different than the drones that drop bombs.”
“I think it’s fair to say that MRRA hasn’t taken any position on the kind of
drones that are the subject of some debate, but we would have to have that
discussion in the future if that type of opportunity were to present itself,”
he said. “There have been some people who have contacted the authority, but
there hasn’t been any serious discussion around UAVs. A lot of people talk to
us, but does somebody have a plan that’s ready for serious review and
implementation? A lot of people talk to us, but nobody has any plan that’s
ready for implementation.”
“There are many adaptive uses of UAVs that could be very helpful to the nation
and then to the world,” Richardson continued. “I wouldn’t cast out of hand UAV
research or testing, because of the potential benefits to the nation in the
areas of search and rescue, air and water quality, homeland security and even
forest fire prevention.”