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82. RAF Machrihanish. (NR 666 221)

Currently under care and maintenance status, RAF Machrihanish is likely to close in the near future. The site was originally declared surplus to military requirements and transferred to Defence Estates for disposal on 1 April 2000, but a final decision has not been made. As of April 2004, it is listed as a forward operating base for operations in the Highlands and Western Isles for the Army Training Estate.

RAF Machrihanish has the third longest runway in Europe at 3,049 metres, and operated as a wartime and exercise forward operating base for NATO long range maritime patrol aircraft. Being 3 miles from Campbeltown, a section of the airfield remains open and operates as Campbeltown Airport. Tens of millions of pounds were spent upgrading RAF Machrihanish in the 1980s when it operated as a base of the US Air Force. A team of US Navy Seals, US Naval Special Warfare Unit 2, was based there from 1981 under the command of NATO. They regularly took part in training exercises in the surrounding area including parachute drops. The detachment of Navy Seals highlighted the importance of Machrihanish to NATO, and the base was seen as the most likely place for military expansion in Scotland in the late 1980s. In June 1995, the base was transferred to the Ministry of Defence. The base was also a nuclear weapons store, as nuclear depth bombs that could be launched from a helicopter were kept there. The depth bombs were kept in "igloo" storage bunkers at the end of the runway.

The base has been earmarked as a possible storage site for redundant nuclear submarine reactors under the ISOLUS programme.

Activities at the base were shrouded in secrecy and a legacy of this is that Machrihanish has become a focal point of conspiracy theories. Amongst the most popular is that the USAF uses the base as a refuelling station for a top-secret aircraft codenamed Aurora.


 

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