A new radar facility to track unidentified military or civilian aircraft will be powered up ready to operate soon, the head of the RAF heard today.
RAF Saxa Vord is a radar station operated by the Royal Air Force. It is situated on the island of Unst, the most northern of the Shetland Islands to the north of Scotland.
The Government say that radar will improve RAF and NATO understanding of the airspace north of Britain and further out across the Norwegian Sea, improving the UK’s sovereign capability ‘at a time of heightened Russian military activity’. It will see the island return to the role it performed during the 1960s and 70s, when the site was used as an early warning radar on NATO’s northern flank.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“We will always protect our skies from Russian aggression. This radar is a vital part of the UK’s defences as we react to intensifying global threats and reinforce our ability to tackle them. Russia’s actions are not limited to Europe’s eastern borders – the threat to British livelihoods is severe and real.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, said:
“The radar system at Saxa Vord is an important part of ensuring that the RAF can fully protect both the UK’s airspace and that of our NATO allies, in the face of increasing pressure from Russia.
Right at the tip of Shetland, Saxa Vord is a very remote site, so I’m extremely grateful to the team who have been working hard through the cold of winter, with snow and 120 mph gales, to ensure that the construction has remained on schedule.”
According to a press release:
“The Saxa Vord Radar head will provide key information on aircraft movements to the north of the UK and feed the nationwide Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) operation which is responsible for policing international and UK airspace from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, as well as supporting civil air traffic control.
Scotland is home to more than 10,000 regular and 4,000 reserve armed forces personnel, whilst Scottish industry benefits from defence spending £1.5bn with it each year. This investment supports 9,750 private sector and highly skilled jobs in Scotland.”