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12. Benbecula, Western Isles. (NF 786 564)

The Isle of Benbecula is home to the RAF and the QinetiQ group, both at the village of Balivanich. The village has expanded to accommodate the military, QinetiQ, and Benbecula airport which is nearby.

RAF Benbecula, like Saxa Vord[6] , is a Reporting Post of the United Kingdom Air Surveillance and Control System (UKASACS). The station's radar provides long-range observation of the northwest Atlantic and the data received is processed through the UK's Integrated Command and Control system. The station was established in 1972 to protect Scotland and the rest of Britain from 'back door' attacks from Soviet bombers. Information gathered at Benbecula is fed back via the Control and Reporting Centre at RAF Buchan[44] and RAF Neatishead in Norfolk to the United Kingdom Air Operations Centre (UKCAOC) situated at RAF High Wycombe. Benbecula became a remote operated radar in 1999.

The QinetiQ facility, known as QinetiQ Hebrides is the control centre for the Hebrides missile range that lies on the neighbouring island of South Uist. The airport on Benbecula was upgraded during 2001 and early 2002 in preparation for the Eurofighter Typhoon test programme. During the tests in April 2002, the £16 billion aircraft fired an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) on the Hebrides test range, the first of this type of missile to be fired from a Eurofighter. In 2002 the Highlands Council received an application for the establishment of an explosives factory at the QinetiQ Hebrides Range, Isle of South Uist.

Recently, Defence Estates, who oversee MoD owned land, decided to sell off part of the RAF base at Balivanich. The East Camp section of the base that is for sale includes a modern complex of offices, operations rooms, a social club and a squash court on 7.5 acres of land adjacent to Benbecula airport. QinetiQ has advertised the property as an ideal location for companies wishing to protect data from terrorist attack. It is believed that there has been interest from over 50 international companies about the base, including Visa international.

For more on QinetiQ, see Appendix B.

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