Future of Hebrides Range secured

The Ministry of Defence has today confirmed the future of its largest missile range in the UK for at least the next five years, along with investment for modernisation.

The Hebrides Range has the largest area for the live firing of rockets and missiles of any UK range. It provides a safe and secure environment for test, evaluation and training for air, sea and ground launched weapons.

The range, which was established in the 1950s, is located in the Outer Hebrides (Benbecula, North and South Uist) and includes a radar station on St Kilda. It is operated on the MOD’s behalf by QinetiQ under the Long Term Partnering Agreement and directly employs around 200 people.

Peter Luff MP, the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said: “The Hebrides Range is the largest facility of its kind in the UK and provides a vital testing capability for the UK’s air defence weapons systems, which are currently being used on operations in Libya. This further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the MOD in Scotland and ensures the UK maintains this important capability within our shores.”

The range had previously been the subject of rationalisation proposals in 2009 which included modernisation of the site but these were rejected. However, following the Strategic Defence and Security Review last year, a feasibility study has been conducted which has confirmed the need to sustain the site’s vital long-term capability. The MOD and QinetiQ will now be working together to identify the most cost-effective methods for modernising this important facility.

Mr Luff has written to a number of local parties, including local MP Angus MacNeil and MSP Dr Alasdair Allan, as well Angus Campbell, chairman of the Hebrides Range Task Force (HRTF), to inform them of the decision. The MOD and QinetiQ are happy to work with the HRTF on diversification measures, subject to the need to protect the Range’s primary function, and maintaining financial and commercial propriety.

MOD has asked QinetiQ to identify the investment necessary for the range to continue delivering services which meet the Department’s requirements. The joint project team will look at equipment such as radars, telemetry, data links and the trials control system, and estates to determine what needs to be modernised or replaced. It will also seek input from QinetiQ’s employees, who have the expertise and experience of operating the range in order to understand fully the technical nature and priority of the investments needed to sustain its capability.

Ian Taylor, QinetiQ’s Head of Site at the Hebrides Range, said “This is good news for the range and its users. Some of the facilities and equipment at the range are old or difficult to maintain, and we knew that they would be in need of replacement, either now or in the next few years. The decision to invest in the range means that QinetiQ and the MOD can now address obsolescence issues as a matter of priority to keep the range operational.”