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RAF Buchan

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RAF Buchan Remote Head © http://www.subbrit.org.uk/
RAF Buchan Remote Head
© Subterranea Britannica

RAF Buchan is an RAF station located at Boddam, three miles south of Peterhead.

The following station overview is provided by the RAF:

Originally opened in 1952 as an Air Defence Radar Unit, the site is home to a Control and Reporting Centre. CRC Buchan, a remote radar site, is capable of coordinating all aspects of air defence in its Area of Responsibility within the United Kingdom's Air Policing Area. Can routinely work closely with similar units in Scandanavia (sic), NATO navies and Airborne Warning and Control aircraft, the CRC provides an accurate Recognised Air Picture and Weapons Control Capability. RAF Buchan also parents Remote Radar Heads Saxa Vord and Benbecula.

- RAF station reference listing [1]


The RAF station occupied the site of the former Boddam railway terminus station which closed in 1945.

Until 2005 it had been one of two CRCs for the United Kingdom, and operated from a large, two story underground R3 type bunker. As such it was responsible for coordinating all aspects of air defence as part of The United Kingdom Air Surveillance and Control System (UKASACS).

Soviet aircraft transiting between Murmansk in northern Russia and Cuba were routinely intercepted and escorted by live armed fighter aircraft whenever they entered UK airspace. Following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, RAF Buchan took on the executive control of air defence in the UK's northern airspace. As time passed, the station's role was gradually sidelined in favour of the UK's other CRC at RAF Neatishead.

In 2003, it was announced that permanently manned operations at RAF Buchan would end in 2005, when the RAF's now obsolete Integrated Command and Control System would also be switched off. Air defence functions would be taken over by the Universal Command and Control System at RAF Boulmer and RAF Scampton. As a result of intervening spending reviews, Neatishead actually closed before Buchan.

In 2004, manned operations were formally ended, and the the site was officially downsized in 2005, and the main base at Boddam closed, although the remote hilltop radar site was retained as Remote Radar Head Buchan. Part of the site was taken over by the Highland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, and the larger part of the site was later acquired by a developer. The area is planned to be developed and integrated into the village of Boddam, and has been named Buchan Braes.

Post closure development

After being mothballed for almost eight years, the former RAF base was purchased by by Aberdeen-based Carden Buchan Braes Ltd, with the intention of creating a small village. The developer hoped to be able to apply for planning permission within two months of the purchase, having already spent some six months planning the final deal, with a master-plan to provide new housing and business opportunities in the area, including a new medical centre and church. This base was originally designed to be a self-contained community for the military.[2]

Additional system details

Prior to its use for postwar radar, the site is believed to have been selected as the location of a World War II radar station, however there is no record of any further progress having taken place.

Records reported by RCAHMS identify a number of points around the area, relating to various operational features. From aerial photographs taken in 1973, the rotating antenna was noted at c. NK11404109, with an operations building about 140 metres to the south at c. NK11324097, and helipad nearby. To the southeast at NK11504100, a Bloodhound surface-to-air (SAM) missile site is described, having a launch control radar and control building set in a depression, with some five launchers, one having a missile raised.

When it first opened, the station was part of the ROTOR system, operating as a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station. The radar installation would have been referred to as R7, with the personnel and equipment housed in an underground bunker, with the aerial array attached to its roof.

In 1979, operations moved into interim facilities above ground to allow the R3 whilst the R3 underground bunker to be refitted. This involved the excavation of one side of the existing R3 bunker to provide space for another bunker of similar size to be constructed alongside, and provide secure facilities for stand by generators, power cleaning and air filtration equipment.

The station operated a Type 92 radar, operated remotely on the nearby hillside, and housed in a pressurized radome. Until 1994 the based also operated a Type 80 radar and a Westinghouse TPS-43 amongst others. The TPS-43 was an Argentinian radar captured during the Falklands campaign in 1982.

In terms of staffing levels, the options review meant that only 14 military jobs were left by March 2005, from a pre-downsizing level of 357 service personnel, 74 civilian workers, and about 80 contract staff.

From The Scotsman: classified Commercial Property section. March 8, 2005:

The base had been heavily rebuilt during 1992 and comprises 8.7 hectares. The site includes a two storey office block, medical centre, 46 bed Officers mess, 31 bed Sergeants mess, chapel, children's nursery, motor transport buildings, warehousing, gymnasium hall and ancillary buildings.

RAF Neatishead

Situated in Norfolk, Neatishead is the Control and Reporting Centre responsible for the Southern UK Air Defence Region. CRC Neatishead works closely with the Dutch, German and French CRCs, and like CRC Buchan, is involved in several NATO training exercises each year.

Remote Radar Head Saxa Vord

The Saxa Vord site in the Shetland Islands has had a radar since 1957, when it would have been RAF Saxa Vord, which gives early warning of any aircraft approaching from the North. This data is fed into the Integrated Command and Control System within the UK.

Remote Radar Head Benbecula

Situated in the Outer Hebrides on the island of Benbecula, the unit's radar provides long-range coverage of the North Atlantic approaches to Scotland. This data is fed into the Integrated Command and Control System within the UK.


RAF Buchan R7 roof and hatches 2004 © http://www.subbrit.org.uk/
RAF Buchan R7 roof
and hatches 2004
© Subterranea Britannica
RAF Buchan R7 interior, 2004, © http://www.subbrit.org.uk/
RAF Buchan
R7 interior 2004
© Subterranea Britannica

Type 7 aerial array

A Type 7 aerial array over an R7 Mk III bunker, © http://www.subbrit.org.uk/
Type 7 aerial array over
R7 Mk III bunker
© Subterranea Britannica


1 RAF station reference listing

2 Former RAF air base bought to pave way for major housing development | Aberdeen and North | STV News Retrieved March 08, 2012.

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