At least there’s some good news for Campbeltown after the Vestas decampment. The RAF airbase at Machrihanish on Argyll’s Mull of Kintyre, mothballed since 1996, has been judged surplus to requirements and will be sold. While the future of Campbeltown Airport will have to be secured (it uses the runway built for the RAF), freeing up this considerable resource carries new opportunities for the economy of Kintyre. The announcement was made on Monday (6th October) by Defence Minister Kevan Jones, newly appointed to the defence department in Gordon Brown’s recent reshuffle.
From the 1960s onwards the Machrihanish base was a key element in cold war negotiations. For three decades it was host to an intelligence unit providing the USA with information to maintain its bargaining position during that time. It was a nuclear depth-charge storage facility requiring an extensive underground infrastructure which may have played a part in some of the theories about the nature pf the base. It was a training base for US special forces – a detachment of SEALs (Sea and Land forces), the nature of whose training has never been specified. This also fuelled the speculations outlined below.
With the end of the Cold War came a gradual run-down of the base until 1996 when it was closed, with only twenty staff remaining on a maintenance and repair basis.
That covers the ‘mothballed’ bit. Now for the mysterious. A series of not-quite-explained oddities about RAF Machrihanish, its resources and personnel, has long sustained suspicion that it was a test base for top secret American-generated flying machines of one kind or another. It is referred to on a range of Internet sites as ‘the UK’s (or Scotland’s) Area 51′.
Inside the huge US AirForce Test and Training Range in Nevada in the western USA. on the south shore of Groom Lake, is a large military airfield. This is described as the most secret place on earth. It does not appear on US Government maps (USGS), the equivalent of our Ordnance Survey maps. It is nicknamed Area 51. Other nicknames the base attracts include: Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Home Base and Groom Lake. It exists to support the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. Miitary pilots call the forbidden airspace around it as ‘the box’. The American government barely acknowledges its existence, only admitting to it in 2003.
Area 51 is also known as Roswell, the site of the alleged postmortems carried out on aliens said to have been recovered from the wreck of a UFO supposedly found in the area.
What has all of this got to do with RAF Machrihanish? If you have fun clicking through the links at the foot of this article, you’ll find out. Basically a range of conspiracy theories of varying degrees of plausibiity have arisen from a mixture of some acknowledged facts of highly secret testing of development aircraft at the base alongside some oddities never really accounted for.
What were those ‘oddities’?
- There was a small and quite secret group of American SEALs (Sea, Air and Land Forces) based there – doing what? They weren’t seen much in the area outside the base.
- The runway at RAF Machrihanish is unusually long at 10,000 ft. The need for this length remains inadequately explained.
- The base contains a mysterious hangar whose function is imperfectly explained: the Gaydon Hangar.
Over the years there have been a number of unexplained sightings of UFOs in the Kintyre area which, added to the truth that the base was indeed used for top secret testing of American aircraft in development and the other facts above, has led to the base being known as ‘Scotland’s Area 51′. The secret American airbase is itself the focus of a lot of UFO sightings.
The wilder theories are that the Americans took secret information on flight evolution from the crashed UFO from which the Roswell aliens were recovered and that this information was used to breed revolutionary military aircraft which, if seen in testing, were thought to be UFOs. And as in Area 51, so in Scotland’s Area 51.
The two links embedded in the text above are Wikipedia entries on Area 51 and on The Roswell Incident and are pretty factual. The sites linked to below – for your interest and delight – cover the spectrum.
- Aerospace Web: Machrihanish Airport
- UFO Casebook – RAF Machrihanish
- The Register: Top Secret US plane caused Chinook crash (Don’t believe this one. Of course it was the the Fadec.)
- Nato base at Machrihanish. Argyll, Scotland’s Area 51?
- RAF Machrihanish
- Machrihanish Air Force Base, Scotland’s Area 51 (you have to scroll down to read this story)
- RAF Machrihanish Aurora Spyplane (you have to scroll down to read this story)
- I remembered a black triangle (you have to scroll down to read this story)
- The Dreamland Resort – the world’s largest Area 51 research site
Well? Argyll? You never know.