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24. Kyle of Lochalsh, Wester Ross. (ND 765 270)

The British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre (BUTEC) is operated on behalf of the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence by QinetiQ, the defence contractor created through privatisation of parts of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in 2001.

The centre at the Kyle of Lochalsh is the main jetty and storage facility for the testing ranges around Skye such as in the Inner Sound with facilities at Applecross[9] and the Sounds of Raasay[29]. BUTEC is used for torpedo and sonar trials. (See Appendix D on submarine exercise areas.)

In November 2002, QinetiQ was criticised for testing a high-powered, low frequency sonar that can cause internal bleeding and disorientation to whales, from the Kyle of Lochalsh. US courts had banned the low frequency sonar following the deaths of a number of whales after American and NATO exercises using the equipment. Scottish Natural Heritage was also unaware that the tests were being carried out. An application to build an explosives factory at the site was granted planning permission in October 2002.

The QinetiQ organisation is involved in many areas of marine technology, some of which may be tested at BUTEC. The sonar ranges operated by BUTEC may be the testing sites for new developments and technology in sonar operations. To meet legislation that comes into force in July 2004 regarding port and harbour security, QinetiQ has developed a sonar system called Cerberus that monitors ship approaches to harbours. Cerberus was developed to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism against shipping, like the attack in 2002 on a French oil tanker, the Limburg, in Yemen.

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