Ma­jor in­vest­ment in bid to se­cure mis­sile base jobs

The Oban Times - - News -

TWO NEW weapon-track­ing radars worth al­most £17 mil­lion are to be in­stalled on St Kilda as part of a mod­erni­sa­tion of mis­sile test­ing bases.

At MOD He­brides, two ex­ist­ing radars are also to be up­graded in a £95 mil­lion pro­gramme. They will be used as a part of a track­ing sta­tion and will be fully func­tional by spring 2020.

It comes as part of a joint in­vest­ment by MOD UK and QinetiQ which will help re­duce the over­all op­er­at­ing costs of the range.

QinetiQ-run He­brides Range is a large pri­vate em­ployer on Ben­bec­ula with more than 100 staff. The UK’s largest mis­sile range, it lies on the north-west part of the is­land of South Uist and con­sists of a ‘deep range’ for com­plex weapons tri­als and in- ser­vice fir­ings and an ‘in­ner range’ for ground-based air de­fence cam­paigns.

At the end of last year it was thought up to 19 of the 148 posts at the range would be cut as QinetiQ sought to re­duce its work­force. But a multi-mil­lion-pound con­tract be­tween MOD and QinetiQ was agreed at the range for the next 11 years.

Cathy O’Car­roll, QinetiQ group di­rec­tor test and eval­u­a­tion, said the mod­erni­sa­tion of UK test and eval­u­a­tion is a key part of fu­ture growth.

‘Work­ing with the UK MOD, we want to en­sure we are able to de­liver air ranges that are rel­e­vant and com­pet­i­tive for the UK Armed Forces as well as gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try cus­tomers around the world, she said.

‘Th­ese new radars will pro­vide a step change in what we are able to de­liver for our cus­tomers and en­sure the UK MOD is get­ting value for money. MOD He­brides is a key range for the UK which has helped to de­liver sig­nif­i­cant and ground-break­ing demonstrations, such as Un­manned War­rior. Th­ese new radars will help en­sure more com­plex work can be car­ried out at the range.’

MOD He­brides oc­cu­pies 115,000km² of seg­re­gated airspace al­low­ing UK MOD, in­dus­try and in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers to con­duct tri­als, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and re­hearsal.

Coun­cil­lor Don­ald Crichton, chair­man of the West­ern Isles sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee, said: ‘ This is ex­cel­lent news for Uist and the Outer He­brides. This in­vest­ment demon­strates a com­mit­ment to the base, the em­ploy­ment it pro­vides and to a se­cure fu­ture.

‘I would hope this up­grad­ing of equip­ment will make the He­brides range even more com­pet­i­tive and will pave the way for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment in this im­por­tant sec­tor for the is­lands.’

Mr Crichton said he hopes the in­vest­ment will pro­vide sta­bil­ity for the work­force.

‘I hope this in­vest­ment opens the route to new and in­no­va­tive busi­ness at the range, that it pro­vides sta­bil­ity for the work­force and opens new op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple.

‘The comhairle re­mains sup­port­ive of He­brides range and I would be keen that we con­tinue to work with the range to max­imise lo­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties from this in­vest­ment.’

Richard Smart, di­rec­tor weapons at the MOD’s de­fence equip­ment and sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion, said: ‘ We are pleased to con­tinue our col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­dus­try in de­liv­er­ing mod­ern air track­ing radars in sup­port of test and eval­u­a­tion con­ducted for the UK Armed Forces.’

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