Major investment in bid to secure missile base jobs
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.’