Glasgow Prestwick Airport, once a busy regional airport filled with thousands of holidaymakers heading to the Mediterranean, is effectively a bustling NATO air base.

Of course, it isn’t officially any sort of air base at all but the last few months have seen almost daily flights from all over the NATO alliance giving it a bit of a nickname in defence circles.

The airport itself lies 29 miles southwest of Glasgow and has one of the best weather records in Europe. In fact, the airport often remains open when other airports around the country are closed.

According to a Secret Scotland article on the facility, the airport originally served as the transatlantic gateway to Scotland after World War II, but its popularity declined as passenger services transferred to Glasgow International Airport. However, Prestwick has grown in popularity and developed as a centre for freight, holiday charter, and budget flights.

Since November 2013, when the Scottish government took control of the facility, service contracts have been established with the USAF, USN, USMC, U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. National Guard. The airport remains an important stopover site for American and Canadian aircraft en route to other destinations in Europe and the Middle East.

To this end, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 436 Transport Squadron recently set up a temporary base at Prestwick Airport with other NATO members co-ordinating flights in and out of the airport as part of the efforts to supply NATO forces on the continent as well as ship arms to Ukraine.

Ukraine is even using the airport.

Since November 2013, when the Scottish government took control of the facility, service contracts have been established with the USAF, USN, USMC, U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. National Guard. In fact, nearly 400 US Air Force flights landed at the airport between January 2021 and January 2022 alone.

Below is a tweet containing a video I put together showing just one day worth of military activity at the airport.

Further to military flights, American charity ‘Samaritan’s Purse’ also flies a DC-8 cargo aircraft in and out of the airport every few days. Local media report that the group have also set up an emergency field hospital and three medical clinics in Lviv and southern Ukraine.

In between all of this, people have been jetting off to Tenerife and other sunny destinations, in fact as I type this, the Ryanair flight to Lanzarote is boarding… that’s all from me!

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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John N
John N
2 months ago

Small bone to pick, Australia and the UAE are not part of NATO.

The heading would be more accurate if it said “… NATO and Coalition Partner jets”.

Anyway, the RAAF C-17A fleet have certainly been clocking up a fair few long distance air miles in recent times flying from here in Oz to Europe.

John N
John N
2 months ago
Reply to  George Allison

No problem George.

Just making the point that support for Ukraine is not just from within NATO countries, it’s very much a broader global effort too.

Cheers,

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
2 months ago
Reply to  George Allison

And you’re on holiday.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
2 months ago

Great article.
I bet allied forces are glad the Scottish government stepped in and saved the airport from closing. As the article says it’s a great airport for being open when others are closed for weather issues. Maybe the contracts will help show a buyer the airport can work financially. I wonder if the airport is turning a profit yet. If it does I wonder where that profit goes? All reinvested into the airport hopefully.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
2 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Credit where it’s due, indeed.

Crabfat
Crabfat
2 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Agree, MS. Nice little earner for PIK. Before the above article I’ve been noticing how much military traffic they get but didn’t realise the extent of it before George’s piece.

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
2 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

And once the emergency is over the tumbleweed will roll over the runways again. I’ve picked up family from there and there were no further flights due in for 12 hours.

It loses money every year.

I’m pretty sure both the UK and US would have been involved behind the scenes to get Nippy to spend some of her Indy War Chest keeping it open. The airport is an important strategic asset for us, the US and Europe and NATO.

Allan Wilson
Allan Wilson
2 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Newell

Pretty sure it turned a profit last year, maybe the last two. Heaven forbid you give any credit to scotgov though, no, speculate it’s all down to UK or US gov instead.

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
2 months ago
Reply to  Allan Wilson

I could never give any credit to the parcel of nationalist rogues that make up the current Scottish Government.

Sean
Sean
2 months ago

Hmm… is this article really about George going on holiday to Lanzarote? Can’t blame him, everyone needs an escape after the last couple of years.

But flying RyanAir, really?!?

Expat Alien
Expat Alien
2 months ago

There used to be RNAS Prestwick, is it still operational?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Expat Alien

Not really, the RNAS “HMS Gannet” was downgraded in 2001 as part of the endless Labour cuts, then later the remaining SAR flight was transferred to Bristow on behalf HM Coastguard as the MoD stopped doing the UK SAR role.

The site is used as an FOB for exercises and such, so as in the article sees lots of military traffic. Macrihanish is another example of a “closed” facility still used.

Expat Alien
Expat Alien
2 months ago

Thanks Daniele.

Chris Pearson
Chris Pearson
2 months ago

I would point out the Tories have closed as many if not more bases, just announced another round of cuts, including our local army barracks.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris Pearson

Of course. Both are as bad as the other. I mention Labour because if you read long term here it’s endless Tory this and Tory that, people forget just what happened to the military between 97 and 2010. Much of the chaos today stems from the drum beat stopped and lack of orders then, causing industrial capability to fail, never mind the cuts.

Just announced? When? There was a major announcement of closures a few years ago. And which local barracks do you mean Chris?

Chris Pearson
Chris Pearson
2 months ago

If you look at the latest defence review the MOD are trying to flog off as much land as possible, I’ve got family members working as civilians at Robertson Barracks (formally RAF Swanton Morley) that’s closing by 2027, there was talk of the RAF going back in there but I think that’s knocked on the head now. The Trimmingham Radar is going to it’s parent base at Neatishead instead, although there good technical reasons for that, and the Marham F35 project I don’t think need the space now. Barnham Camp is as good as gone, not to mention Scampton. This… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris Pearson

Thank you. Yes, that tranche was the 49 or so announced earlier which I suggested you meant, not new ones. Trimmingham is interesting as it is a RRH and not really a “base” the radar can be moved, and should be. Hopefully the site remains in case the location is needed again. Most of Neatishead had already closed, including the R3 CRC, though part was retained for ASCS comms stuff, and there is another similar comms site still at Weyborne. The other CRCs Buchan and that Neatishead one were all closed by Labour, in 2004 I think? Barnham Camp, little… Read more »

Douglas Newell
Douglas Newell
2 months ago
Reply to  Expat Alien

SAR is private now. I miss seeing the old Sea Kings fly over my house. The new one – an AW189 I think – flies much higher and is much noisier – but is an impressive looking beast.

Trevor
Trevor
2 months ago

I worked at Scottish aviation next to Prestwick in the early 70s every airport in Britain was fog bound except for Prestwick 15 jumbo jets landed and were held on tarmac waiting for fog to clear down south