It has been known for some time that, during the Cold War, the RAF Airbase at Machrihanish in Kintyre was used as a store for American nuclear weapons.
The unusually long runway at the base – part of which is now the civil airport at Campbeltown, the vague rumours about the area fuelled by high level security and, later, a markedly high volume of UFO reports from the Kintyre peninsula led to Machrihanish being christened, worldwide, as ‘the UK’s Area 51′.
The original Area 51, in America, in the Nevada Desert at Groom Lake, has only had its existence even admitted by the CIA in August this year, 2013. They say that it was used for testing Cold War U2 spy planes – which will certainly have been the case. Whether it was used for even more secret purposes, as the conspiracy theorists hold, may never be known.
Area 51 was the location for the famous ‘Roswell’ story – that a downed alien spacecraft was/is held and studied in the facility; and that post mortems were carried out on its crew.
At Campbeltown in Kintyre, here in Argyll, the former RAF airbase which was the subject of yesterday’s Mail on Sunday ‘revelation’ is now owned by the community’s Machrihanish Airbase Community Company [MACC]. They lease the runway and the terminal facilities to Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, operator of the civil airport; and are developing plans for the rest of the base they own, to support community sustainability.
In 2014 the area will host the inaugural Scottish Tarmack Rally, organised by Dunfermline Car Club – with the identified circuit’s potential already causing a lot of excitement in the petrol-head fraternity – and others, including For Argyll.
Back in the Cold War, there was a mysterious unit of US Navy Seals based at Machrihanish. Their presence was known but their purpose has never been explained.
The ‘UK’s Area 51′ stories included all sorts of speculation abut the ‘Gaydon Hangar’ at the airfield, alongside reports of ‘an underground city’.
Some years ago – during MACC’S prolonged effort to purchase the site from the Ministry of Defence when they decided to dispose of it, we were told by a defence insider – and published – that American nuclear depth charges had been stored in silos at RAF Machrihanish during the Cold War.
This might well explain the source of the secret ‘underground city’ tales.
Yesterday’s [15th December 2013] Mail on Sunday story does reveal the specifics of the agreement that permitted these weapons to be secretly stored at Machrihanish.
It was a top secret deal between then UK Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan and America’s now legendary President, John F Kennedy, during his brief term of office before assassination fifty years ago on 22nd November 1963.
NATO was the Stage Manager, with its Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic putting continual pressure on the UK to agree. Not that MacMilllan was unwilling. His concern was with the political consequences of public discovery of the agreement – and of the presence of the nuclear weapons.
To subvert this possibility, the successful plan was to recognise that there would be local and possibly wider queries, suspicions and rumours but to admit nothing and to say nothing.
But this story is not new.
For Argyll remains the only source to have been able to date to assert publicly that nuclear weapons were indeed held at Machrihanish, and to have been able to identify nuclear depth charges as, at least, amongst the weapons held there in silos.
We noted at the time that the MoD had not bothered even to sweep the Machrihanish site for radioactivity before putting it on the market; nor had it bothered to consult the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency [SEPA], which knew nothing at all of this particular activity at the former RAF base .
Radio active safety in the Cold War days was pretty casual. Some residents in South Kintyre talk of realising now that what they saw being tossed around in a fairly cavalier manner at the naval jetty at Kildalloig on Campbeltown Loch during the Cold War period in question, carried the yellow toxic symbol.
In those more innocent days and in a remote part of Argyll, nobody was that interested and of the few that were mildly curious, few asked any questions.
Postscript: The Campbeltown airbase, with its ultra long runway was a facility for secret testing new USA military aircraft in development – and the remote west of Scotland airspace – and saw the testing of America’s B-2 Spirit bomber, pictured top – the so-called Stealth bomber. Its unique shape is seen in many of the sketches drawn by those claiming UFO sightings at the time in the Kintyre and west coast area – and dismissed as nutters.
Note: The image of the Stealth bomber above is in the public domain.