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RNAD Coulport

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Coulport entrance, 2006, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/1257
Coulport entrance, 2006
© william craig

RNAD Coulport (Royal Naval Armament Depot Coulport) lies on the eastern shore of Loch Long at the end of the B833 road on the Rosneath peninsula, and opposite Ardentinny on the western shore. The depot also lies at the end of an unclassified MoD road which begins near Garelochhead. This wide, high quality, and substantially straight and level road was designed and constructed by the MoD to provide easy access for road convoys transporting nuclear warheads.

The depot operates as a weapons storage and loading facility for Royal Navy vessels visiting the maintenance base at HMNB Clyde, and handles conventional torpedoes and armaments, but media publicity means it is better known for its role in the Polaris and Trident missile systems. Before vessels carrying weapons can proceed to the maintenance base to be serviced, they must first visit the depot to have their weapons removed and stored. As a result of their operations, RNAD Coulport and HMNB Clyde rank amongst the most protected sites in the country.

Construction of the depot began in 1963, when Faslane was selected as the location for the UK's new Polaris base, and was completed in 1968, when the Polaris submarines began their patrols. Safety considerations required the armament maintenance and storage facility to have its own berth, and had to be sited least 4,400 feet away from the main servicing facility, while operational requirements demanded a sailing time of no more than one hour between the two facilities. Coulport and Faslane, separated by the Rosneath peninsula and the Gare Loch, satisfied both requirements. According to Scottish CND, the depot can hold up to 36 Trident missiles in 16 nuclear bomb storage bunkers built into excavations in a ridge overlooking Loch Long.

During the 1980s, the depot was further developed in order to proved support for the Trident missile programme.

Unlike the former Polaris system, which was fully serviced at the depot, Trident missiles loaded in UK submarines are randomly selected from a stockpile held at the Trident Refit Facility at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. While the warheads themselves are British owned and built, the delivery system is not owned by the UK, which has ownership rights to 58 missiles from a pool shared with the US Navy. The Trident missiles serviced at the depot are fitted with warheads designed and manufactured in the UK at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Aldermaston.[1]

Coulport village

Since the 1960s, the original village has gradually been lost to expansion of the depot, and the village of Coulport effectively ceased to exist in 2005, when a report noted that the last remaining building from the original village had finally been demolished.

Photographs

Depot perimeter, 2008
Depot perimeter
© Lynn M Reid
Unclassified road, 2006
Unclassified road
© william craig
Dock area and crane, 2010
Dock area and crane
© Gordon Brown
Dock area south, 2010
Dock area south
© Gordon Brown
Floating dock, 2012
Floating dock
© James T M Towill


References

1 The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent, MoD Fact sheet 4: Current system. Defence White Paper 2006.

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Aerial views


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