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RAF Machrihanish

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Airfield road sign, 2002
Airfield road sign

RAF Machrihanish was a former Royal Air Force (RAF) station located on the western side of the Kintyre peninsula, approximately three miles west of Campbeltown. Now known as MoD Machrihanish, the United States Navy handed the airfield back to the MoD on June 30, 1995, marking the end of its service as a NATO facility since 1960. While the airfield remains the property and responsibility of the MoD, and is now maintained by the British Army, a section at the eastern end of the runway is reserved for Campbeltown Airport, which has the use of the airfield's runway for its commercial operations.

From its official beginning in 1918, RAF Machrihanish has existed under a variety of names, functioned as both a military and a civil airfield, and performed a number of additional roles, over and above that of a simple aerodrome, airfield, or airport.

World War I

Aviation activity at Machrihanish began during World War I, c. 1916, when a small aerodrome with grass runways was established there to provide facilities for non-rigid airships (blimps) and fixed wing aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Towards the end of the war, in July or August of 1918, RAF Machrihanish opened for the first time operating as a sub-station of the RNAS airship station based at Luce Bay. The airfield was part of 25 Group, North West Area, with 272 Squadron (Marine Operations) stationed there. The station closed in December 1918, when the last squadron to be based there was disbanded.

By 1918, the RNAS had twelve airships stationed along the length of the east coast, around to Cornwall and right up to North Wales: Longside (Angus), East Fortune (East Lothian), Howden (Yorkshire), Cranwell (Lincolnshire), Pulham (Norfolk), Kingsnorth (Kent), Capel (Kent), Polegate (Sussex), Mullion (Cornwall), Pembroke (Pembrokeshire), Anglesey, and Luce Bay (Wigtownshire). A further fifteen sub-stations and mooring-out sites supplemented the main stations.

The RNAS operated a number of airships. The Sea Scout airship met Lord Fisher’s specification for an airship with a speed of 50 mph, carrying two crew and a wireless operator with 160 lb of bombs. The airships were about 112 feet long (much smaller than the German Zeppelins), travelled at about 53 mph and could stay up for ten hours. Their task was to keep German U-Boats away from Allied shipping, forcing them to remain submerged, which meant their speed was limited to about 5 knots. The wireless operator's cockpit was equipped with a machine-gun, used to detonate floating mines.

Between the Wars

With the end of World War I in 1918, the military left the area, and the aerodrome became established as a civilian operation, serving the growing number of private and pleasure flyers, created from the ranks of those who had been trained to fly during the war, and were redundant as it ended. By the early 1930s, Midland & Scottish Air Ferries Ltd began to operate scheduled, commercial flights from the airfield, which had become known under a variety of names, including Campbeltown Aerodrome, which is simply the obsolete language form of Campbeltown Airport.

World War II

The outbreak of World War II saw the Royal Navy return to the area, requisitioning the original airfield and the area to its north. Sunley's (an English construction company) began construction of the new airfield to the north of the existing site, on an area of flat land known as The Laggan. On completion, the new airfield opened as Strabane Naval Air Station, and named HMS Landrail on June 15, 1941, becoming RNAS Machrihanish on Monday, June 23, 1941. The old Strath airfield became HMS Landrail II, and continued to operate as a satellite of the new airfield.

772 Squadron (Fleet Requirement Unit), operating Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers, was the first resident squadron to arrive there. Formed in September 1939, 772 was originally based at the Naval Base in Portland, but the early fall of France meant the base was a prime target for the Luftwaffe, and the anti-submarine school could not remain there, and moved to RNAS Machrihanish in July 1940, together with the squadron. 766 Squadron (Operational Training Unit) arrived in August 1942, becoming resident. 768 Squadron (Deck Landing Training) joined in the middle of 1943. In addition to its resident squadrons, records indicate a further ten front line squadrons were stationed there in spring 1942. Fleet Air Arm (FAA) squadrons would disembark from their carriers in the Atlantic, and proceed to HMS Landrail for training. The RAF would also visit, receiving torpedo training for its Beaufighter anti-shipping Strike Wings, and deck landing training for Spitfire pilots. Almost every aircraft type of the time operated there, and a large number (anything from 60 to 200 dependent on source) of FAA squadrons passed through its gates, making it one of the three busiest front line airfields in Britain.

Operations at HMS Landrail were focussed on training, and the airfield made use of all the various firing and bombing ranges located around the coast of the Kintyre peninsula, such as the Skipness Bombing Range, used for practice runs, and the Balure Range, which was live fire and bombing. The airfield also served as a base for convoy escort squadrons, and anti-submarine squadrons.

Prior to Operation Tungsten, a carrier based attack on the Tirpitz which took place on April 3, 1944, participating Barracuda and Corsair squadrons used the facilities at HMS Landrail to practice their attacks. The battleship had just completed six months of repairs in dock, and suffered damage which resulted in a further two months work. The Germans suffered over 100 dead and 300 injured, with the loss of nine Allied pilots. Although the raid was successful, damage caused was less than expected, and attributed to the armour-piercing bombs having been dropped from a lower altitude than intended.

The end of the war saw the last squadron at HMS Landrail disband, and by early 1945 the site quickly became disused. By April 1946 the airfield had been reduced to Care and Maintenance, which meant it could be re-activated at any time.

HMS Landrail II was also shut down and closed at the same time. With only two grass runways, and bordering land that was to be developed as the larger RAF Machrihanish, there was no potential for development at the smaller site, and the land reverted to farm use.

The name HMS Landrail is derived from the name of a bird, more commonly known as a Corncrake, and follows the Royal Navy's tradition of naming its onshore facilities in the same way as its ships. Aerodromes and airfields are distinguished by being named after birds.

Postwar military operation and the Cold War

The airfield was reactivated during the Korean War (1950 - 1953), and became operational from December 1, 1951 to December 1, 1952. During this period, squadrons used the area's training facilities to practice their operations prior to embarking on HMS Indomitable in May, 1952. By 1953, the airfield had again been abandoned.

During the 1950s, tensions relating to the Cold War steadily grew in intensity, and this led to the next, and largest, development at Machrihanish.

The airfield underwent major reconstruction and development in the period from 1960 to 1962, expanding to its present size, and having its original four runways replaced by a single strip of 10,000 feet. This was constructed with an east-west orientation, extending toward the eastern, Atlantic coast of the peninsula, in keeping with NATO's plan for naval aircraft to use the base. As soon as the work was completed in 1962, Vulcan bombers of the Medium Bomber Force began to make regular use of the new runway.

On May 22, 1963, the RAF took the station over when it became part of No 18 (Maritime) Group.

NATO related development continued, with Machrihanish being designated a Master Diversion Airfield, and in 1968, the US Navy established the Naval Aviation Weapons Facility on the site. Although this was designed and built to hold nuclear weapons, there are no records of such weapons ever being offloaded and stored there.

Over the following years, the airfield and its facilities were used by most of NATO's maritime aircraft during exercises, with many NATO and Joint Military Commission (JMC) exercises being conducted there. Most, if not all, of today's front line military aircraft have probably trained at Machrihanish.

The base was also home to a US Navy SEAL (SEa, Air, Land) Commando Unit, a twenty person team known as a Naval Special Warfare Detachment. The unit was located at the western end of the runway, together with the buildings and silos of the Weapons Facility. Three such units have been identified: Navy Special Warfare Unit One, Subic Bay, Philippines; Navy Special Warfare Unit Two, Machrihanish, United Kingdom; Navy Special Warfare Unit Three, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

During the 1980s, the decommissioned weapons storage facility was used by the RAF Police School, training police recruits in special weapons protection known as SD814 duties. This refers to a book known as SD814 (secret document 814), which contained written procedures for the protection of nuclear warheads.

The need to maintain the base and facilities at Machrihanish gradually diminished during the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Cold War effectively ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

After the Cold War

Operational activity at Machrihanish decreased rapidly in the early 1990s, and on June 30, 1995, the US Navy officially handed control of the base back to the MoD, which is now responsible for the site. Retained on a care and maintenance basis, the airfield could be reverted to military use in times of conflict or national emergency.

Following the handover from the US Navy, the airfield's name changed once more, from RAF Machrihanish to MoD Machrihanish, and is now a British Army facility. The base is now used for periodic exercises, generally involving ground troops rather than aircraft. Flying exercises are rare, and the most likely aircraft to be seen there is the well-known Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport. The Air Training Corps (ATC) also utilises the airfield to host adventure training camps following the closure of the previous ATC facilities.

The airfield's use as a NATO facility during the Cold War, long runway, use for Special Forces training, remoteness and isolation, especially in the days when the public was less mobile than it is today, led to the spawning of many conspiracy theories, many of which still persist today. No doubt these continue to be fuelled by the continued ownership of the site by the MoD and Army, and its use for occasional training exercises. It will probably always makes for good copy in quiet times, and help maintain falling book sales. Such theories are always more interesting (and profitable for some) than the less attractive possibility that the long runway was simply a necessary requirement for the declared purpose of the site, a dispersal airfield for V-bombers and an emergency landing site for P-3 Orions, maritime patrol aircraft of the time, used mainly for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.

One of the favourite legends is the runway, often quoted as being "over 3 miles long" and therefore undoubtedly used for clandestine purposes. In fact, the 10,000 foot strip is not particularly unusual nowadays, Ireland's Shannon Airport has a strip of 10,500 feet. In miles, Machrihanish is short of even 2 miles, at 1.89 miles in length. This can easily be confirmed using any of the online maps (assuming they have not ALL been censored to return incorrect measurements), and suggests that the legend creators may not understand the difference between miles and kilometres, since the runway is indeed a little over 3 kilometres long, but not 3 miles.

Endeavour at Kennedy, from NASA
Endeavour at Kennedy

Another legend involves the Space Shuttle, with claims that the runway is certified to accept the Shuttle should it be obliged to land in Europe, which also requires facilities for the Shuttle/Boeing 747 lifter to recover the craft. Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any documentary references cited to support this claim, although there is evidence that NASA has selected Shannon as an emergency landing airfield for the Shuttle, together with RAF Fairford. As for European landing, NASA has properly manned, secure (Department of Defence - DoD) facilities ready to accept aborted shuttle missions, such as the TAL (Trans-oceanic Abort Landing) sites in Spain, at Moron and Zaratoga. These were referred to in an STS115 mission interview:

Mark McKenna from Hickory Hills: Are there more landing sites besides Kennedy or Edwards if the orbiter requires it at any point?

Leinbach: Well there sure are. In fact, on launch day, we have three of what we call our TAL sites: trans-oceanic abort landing sites. These are necessary. Two of them are in Spain and one is in France. These are necessary if the main engines of the shuttle terminate early during ascent, we can reach one of these landing sites in either Spain or France. But after we go through a certain point in the ascent, then we are going so fast that if we had an engine go out we can't get to the TAL site. We essentially would abort to orbit which would mean that maybe two engines are only burning, but we can still get to a perfectly fine and safe orbit. So, we have the three sites on launch day -- the TAL sites. In addition, if we get some really wild contingency scenario, we have probably 25 or 30 emergency landing sites around the world that the orbiter can land at. We've never been to one of these sites. We've never been to a TAL site with the orbiter. We have folks over there waiting for the orbiter in case we get into that on launch day. But at the emergency landing sites, we don't have anybody pre-positioned there because of the unlikelihood of actually going there. There is a series of airports up the east coast of the United States that the orbiter can land at if we have to. We have those plans and processes in place with all of those airports if we call up an emergency site early in the ascent, we notify them, they clear their air space and the orbiter can land at one of those sites. Again, there is a couple of dozen of those around the globe in case we get into a situation where we just can't wait to land at Kennedy or Edwards, we have to land somewhere, there is some vehicle issue that's going on that says we need to get the astronauts down now, we don't care where the orbiter lands, we just want it on the ground safely with our astronauts.

Postwar civil operation

Campbeltown Airfield

Campeltown Airport Terminal, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/user/Johnny%20Durnan/
Campbeltown Airport Terminal
© Johnny Durnan

Campbeltown Airfield, now generally referred to as Campbeltown Airport (IATA:CAL,ICAO:EGEC), is a commercial venture which operates from the runway of the former NATO base established at RAF Machrihanish station. The base was closed and returned to the MoD in 1995, and the site is now known as MoD Machrihanish, maintained on an Extended Care and Maintenance basis for use by the British Army.

Civilian operations at Campbeltown Airport do not have access to the entire site at MoD Machrihanish, and are restricted to the eastern end of the runway, where they have their own facilities, offices, maintenance and service area. This follows from the location of the nuclear weapons silos and the United States Navy Sea, Air and Land Forces, (SEAL) detachment which was stationed at the western end.

The Strath


Midland & Scottish Air Ferries
Ltd 1934 Brochure
From the collections of
Björn Larsson

The airfield originally come into being c. 1916 as a small aerodrome with grass runways, serving non-rigid airships and fixed wing aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The end of World War I saw the military leave the area, and in the period between the two wars, the airfield was used for civil flying and referred to locally as The Strath. This was the name of nearby farm which contained Mitchell's field, which lay adjacent to the airfield, and had become the preferred site for landing. The airfield was billed as the Strath Aerodrome on timetables and brochures issued by Midland & Scottish Air Ferries Ltd, which, on April 27, 1933, became the first aviation company to operate scheduled, commercial flights from the airfield, flying to Renfrew, Belfast and Speke, using two Airspeed AS.4 Ferry aircraft. The AS.4 was built by Airspeed Ltd of York in 1932, and was a ten seat, three engine, biplane airliner designed by the aviation pioneer Sir Alan Cobham, specifically for pleasure flight - only four of the type were ever built. Midland & Scottish closed in 1934, one AS.4 was sold, and the other was eventually dismantled in 1941. Scottish Airways Ltd picked up the service, and civil flights continued to operate from the Strath, using DeHavilland Fox Moth, and DeHavilland Dragon aircraft.

Definitive naming of the airfield during this period is not really possible, as the brochures and timetables produced by Scottish & Midland used the names Strath Aerodrome, Strath Field Aerodrome and Campbeltown Aerodrome interchangeably.

One large hangar survives from the period, and can be found on Dalivaddy farm (where it is now used to store silage), together with a number of smaller brick buildings from the original airfield.

Although reading the various snippets of history available for the two airfield sites - the older Strath with its grass runways, and the later World War II development - describe the development, it is unclear when civilian operations ceased at the old site, and shared operation using the tarmac runway of the military facility began. If anyone can cite such a date, we would be most grateful, and include the information here.

1934 brochure interior, Björn Larsson
1934 brochure interior
Björn Larsson


Modern Campbeltown Airport


Scottish Airways Ltd
1945-1946 Brochure
Björn Larsson

With the conclusion of World War II, and the departure of the military, scheduled operations and civilian flights returned to the smaller airfield, which had lost its earlier names, and was referred to as Campbeltown Airport. The civilian schedule was soon taken over by British European Airways (BEA), formed in 1946 by an Act of Parliament. BEA compulsorily acquired the aircraft fleets and routes of most UK private airlines then operating scheduled services within the UK and Europe. At that time, flights were being undertaken with a variety of aircraft, including Rapide, DC3, Herald, and Viscount. An Air Ambulance service was also operating from the airfield, using Rapide and Heron aircraft.

Records indicate that the airfield had two grass runways and four hangars each measuring 60 ft x 70 ft, together with a perimeter road and dispersal areas during its World War II operations, however the fact that it overlapped the larger and more developed site of RAF Machrihanish led to its final closure during 1945.

BEA/BA services were flown to Islay and Glasgow, until taken over by Loganair in 1977.

Reports (uncited) indicate that in 1987, the airfield was used by Concorde, for pilot training.

Machrihanish VOR

Machrihanish MAC VOR, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/user/Johnny%20Durnan/
Machrihanish MAC VOR
© Johnny Durnan

The Machrihanish MAC VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) beacon lies to the east of the airport and runway.

UAV tested in 2006

In 2006, BAe Systems tested an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV ) at Campbeltown, with the event being reported as the first fully autonomous UAV mission within UK airspace:

Under the High Endurance Rapid Technology Insertion (HERTI) effort, BAE next put Raven and Corax technologies and lessons into a new set of UAVs built around airframes provided by the Polish firm J&AS Aeronew. Built on the J-5 airframe, the HERTI1-D demonstrator went from conception in June 2004 to first flight in Australia in less than seven months. It has a wingspan of 8 meters, a ceiling of more than 6,000 meters, endurance of more than 25 hours and an operational radius of more than 1,000 kilometers.

A second HERTI UAV, the 1-A, was built on the ultra-light J-6 airframe for greater payload and endurance. It features redesigned landing gear, a longer 12.6-meter wing and a BMW twin-cylinder piston engine. Last August, HERTI-1A launched from a civilian-operated airfield in Campbeltown, Scotland, and flew the first fully autonomous UAV mission in U.K. airspace.

BAE plans to have up to 10 HERTI1-As, depending on how fast J&AS Aeronew can turn them out. They are envisioned as low-cost alternatives to other high-endurance UAVs under development. They likely will be powered by four-cylinder turbo-charged Rotax engines, and at least one likely will be used to test a Selex lightweight synthetic aperture radar.
- Source April 17, 2006.

External links

Map

Golf course development

On February 23, 2005, The Scotsman carried an article regarding a proposed golf resort development under the title Hoon could bunker £30m golf resort set for site next to air base.

Then Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon, (who left the post in May, 2005), would automatically have been referred to in the event that any development was approved in the land surrounding the airfield. An Australian developer had used the media to accuse the MoD of hypocrisy, claiming it had pulled out of the area (as noted elsewhere, it was actually NATO and the US Navy that had handed the base back to MoD ten years earlier), causing a decade of hardship, and the population to drop by 4,000 down to only 6,000. (No source of the figures was cited). He stated the resort would generate 250 jobs, and £18 million for the local economy with a championship course, 32 timeshare homes in the £700,000 price range and a five-star hotel.

Australian millionaire Brian Keating claimed his resort would regenerate the area, bringing American millionaires in private jets which could land next to the resort, and had the support of local MP, George Lyon.

With little apparent publicity, approval for the resort scheme was not opposed by the MoD toward the end of 2006, who appeared to supportive of plans to bring development into the areas surrounding the airfield, although there appears to little mention of this in publicity arising from Brian Keating.

In May 2007, The Boston Globe carried an item that described the approval of the plans to develop a new golf course and resort called Machrihanish Dunes, noting that construction had already started on the site some weeks earlier, in April. There was little detail of the actual development itself, with the article serving more as a publicity opportunity to name drop those involved in the project. Later announcements, and the appearance of a web site for Machrihanish Dunes, indicated that the development would be open for business during 2008.

Machrihanish Dunes opens July 2009

The opening of the Machrihanish Dunes course was carried by The Herald online issue of July 22, 2009, when it proclaimed First New Links Course In A Century Opens.[1]. Unfortunately, its headline is not quite correct, as a course opened in Dundonald in 2003, on the former site of RAF Fullerton/Gailes.[2]

Space Tourism

Reported by the BBC in July 2006.

Space tourism flights from Scotland could be a reality in just four years time, it has been claimed, "from Scots base", as Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic wants to offer private space travel, launching commercial space journeys from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, starting as early as 2010.

President of Virgin Galactic Will Whitehorn told BBC Scotland: "We are designing it so that we will be able to tour it around the world. So we will have a main base in New Mexico and we are looking at three bases outside there to be able to operate from" Mr Whitehorn said. "As far as the UK is concerned the only area that we have found that has all the right conditions is the north of Scotland. It has relatively little overflying by aircraft, there are not people on the ground who could get injured and RAF Lossiemouth is an ideal location." Mr Whitehorn added that commercial operations could begin in 2009, with flights from a Scottish base such as "Lossiemouth or Machrahanish (sic)" the following year.

(Later developments subsequently reported on the Virgin Galactic web site suggest that the Scottish options are no longer under consideration.)

MoD Machrihanish for sale 2008

In late 2008, the MoD announced that their Machrihanish base was to be placed on the market. This created considerable local concern with regard to how the sale would be conducted, and how it might impact the area's economy, as it had recently learned of the intended departure of Vestas wind turbine factory which had been established with financial assistance from the Scottish Government, but was said to be producing the wrong kind of turbine, and in the wrong area, to satisfy the change in market demands.

MOD Machrihanish then employed 20 people, including facilities management staff and security guards.

Jim Mather MSP for Argyll and Bute said he saw it as an chance to safeguard existing jobs and open up the opportunity for renewal for Kintyre.

"It creates the opportunity to have more local assets used to boost the economy and job prospects," he said.

There is one MoD employee at Machrihanish and 19 contractors who provide security, maintenance and management. The site covers a massive 1,028 acres and is home to the longest runway in Europe, at 3km, and has hangers, jet fuel installations, offices, living accommodation, sports facilities and numerous other buildings.

Alan Reid, MP for Argyll and Bute, said: "It must not be sold off to an asset stripper. Kintyre is already threatened with the loss of more than 90 jobs at Vestas. The development potential of the Machrihanish site must be seized to create employment."

The Oban Times. October 9, 2008.[3]

Machrihanish placed on the market May 2009

The Campbeltown Courier of 15 May 15, 2009, carried an article reporting that the Machrihanish base had gone on sale the previous day, with owners Defence Estates placing the first of a number of advertisements in the national press calling for expressions of interest.

Machrihanish sold in May 2012

On May 26, 2012, the BBC carried news of the sale of the site of the former base, for £1.[4]

The land was bought by a local community group, a company owned and controlled by local people. Their intention is to use the site to reinvigorate the local economy near Campbeltown. The Machrihanish Airbase Community Company wants to attract businesses to the areas and create jobs.[5]

The site covers some 1,000 acre, and includes Campbeltown Airport and an often troubled factory involved in wind turbine manufacturing. The report by BBC Scotland suggests that both have signed long leases and are unaffected by this deal.

It is interesting to note that the community group appears to have been happy to buy the former MoD site, despite it being included in various lists of former MoD sites allegedly contaminated by radiation, and subject to cover-ups. The listings would seem to have been triggered by environmental activists in the wake of Dalgety Bay (RNAS Donibristle), where radium from the paint used on instrument dials (to help the World War II pilots see them in the dark). The aircraft were destroyed, burnt, then buried, and the discovery of radioactive material on the beach is attributed to this material resurfacing after developers disturbed the ground. Activist groups have since claimed that similar contamination exists on a number of other MoD sites disposed of after the war

The conspiracies

The large hangar, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/user/Johnny%20Durnan/
The large hangar
© Johnny Durnan

With regard to the conspiracy stories, your Admin worked with an American technician who had been employed as a tech with the US military during the 1980s and 1990s, and had often been assigned to Machrihanish. His opinion of stories such as the City beneath the runway weren't really printable, once he's stopped laughing. Visiting the area would suggest he's right, and the stories probably persist because most won't bother to visit the area due to its relative remoteness. The area may be remote, but it's far from secluded, secret or hidden. A flat expanse near sea level, all in clear view of the surrounding hills, and no security or fencing to prevent anyone overlooking any activities that may take place there.

The airfield's hangar has occasionally featured as proof that something was going at the base, the reason given being the fact that the door has never been seen open. Draw your own conclusion from the logic, but do bear in mind the amount of use, and traffic the base has served, even in the years up to its closure.

The stories can't be ignored, but can be dismissed, so this site won't be linking to any of them, they're easy to find. However, having been there, been involved with non-military personnel who worked there, and someone who was granted access to take photographs, these ideas begin to look rather sad. Reading them from the viewpoint of Prove It begins to show they're fairly dependent the relative remoteness of the area, and smoke and mirrors. By this, I mean that their basis generally comes down to things that were never seen, but were heard, or were claimed to be there through transitional evidence, such as smoke trails in the sky, anomalous radar reports, strange noises, lights in the sky, even strange looking waves on the nearby sea. Many accounts use the word apparently too often, and much is often made of the fact that the MoD or RAF won't comment or explain on them. What response would be expected of the MoD or RAF when asked daft questions?

Related quote

Provided without full details (clearly a forum entry though), but still related to the base, contradiction of accounts that the stores at Machrihanish were prepared, but never actually used to store nuclear weapons.

Re comments of Dark113 - So many confidently voiced opinions..............so few facts.........

For your information:

"In the UK, .....more sophisticated telephone connections [were] available at sites such as the St Mawgan and Machrihanish nuclear weapons stores, and within the hardened 'command operations centers' at all major US Air Force bases."

"US Navy facilities in Britain [held] stocks of nuclear weapons (as [did] the Air Force], in circumstances, apparently, of uncertain security. A US Navy controlled nuclear weapons store at Machrihanish, described as a 'Naval Aviation Weapons Facility' was built in 1967. Like its southern counterpart at St Mawgan (where a nuclear store was built in 1965) a communications centre at Machrihanish [was] directly linked to US Navy Headquarters in London so that orders to release nuclear weapons to NATO maritime aircraft [could] expeditiously be issued."

"Both nuclear stores [were] central repositories for nuclear depth bombs to be used by British, Canadian, Dutch and American anti-submarine aircraft operating in the North Sea and North Atlantic. They [held] B57 nuclear depth bombs, slim 15-inch diameter cylinders probably similar in internal design to the Little Boy weapon that was used on Hiroshima. Designed specially for use against submarines, they [could] be set to explode with a variety of nuclear yields, above, on, or below the surface. About 1,000 of the B57 depth bombs were produced for use by anti-submarine aircraft and helicopters, and from aircraft carriers. B57 bombs were first delivered to the US Navy in 1964.

"Machrihanish and St Mawgan between them [held] most, if not all, of the land-based European reserve of US nuclear depth bombs (other possible NDB sites [were] Sigonella in Italy, and Keflavik).

"By 1970 there were 7,000 [US] tactical nucelar weapons stored in Europe."

In 1984 "there [were] 5 confirmed US nuclear weapons stores in the United Kingdom (Lakenheath, Upper Heyford, Holy Loch (afloat in the submarine tender), Machrihanish and St Mawgan. Two further bases (Woodbridge and Alconbury) had storage facilities which appear[ed] to be suitable for peacetime nuclear weapons storage."

In the 1980s 96 nuclear-use GLCMs were deployed with 501st Tactical Missile Wing at Greenham Common and a further 64 at Molesworth in four mobile flights of 16 from December 1986.

F-111E nuclear bombers on continuous alert were deployed with the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing at Lakenheath and the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing at Upper Heyford throughout the 1980s.

A large USAF nuclear weapons store was completed at Bentwaters in the 1980s.

- Duncan Campbell The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier Michael Joseph Ltd, 1984. ISBN 0-586-08626-9

Venezuela: June, 2006

This little gem, found in Venezuelan News Bulletin, provides a convenient example of the quality of story that arises. Reproduced as presented, other than referring to British TV, no actual source is identified:

British TV said tonight that the US has a secret base in Scotland from whence they can launch a new stealth aircraft to reach any spot on the globe within 30 minutes to deliver a bombload of up to 2 tonnes with an accuracy of 2 meters.
RAF radars have acquired the hypersonic target travelling at speeds ranging from about Mach 6 to Mach 3 over a NATO-RAF base at Machrihanish, Scotland, near the tip of the Kintyre peninsula, last November and again this past January.
The US Air Force is using the remote RAF airbase at Machrihanish, Strathclyde, as a staging point... The mystery aircraft has been dropping in at night before streaking back to America across the North Pole at more than six times the speed of sound...
Source

References

1 First New Links Course In A Century Opens (from The Herald), July 22, 2009.

2 Kyle Phillips Golf Course Design

3 Former Machrihanish RAF base is up for sale. The Oban Times. October 9, 2008.

4 Former RAF Machrihanish bought for £1 Retrieved May 27, 2012.

5 BBC News - Sale of former RAF airbase at Machrihanish confirmed Retrieved May 29, 2012 07:28:15.

External links

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