Site Records

SiteName: 'RAF Aird Uig' ('WIU') CEW R10 ROTOR Radar Station

Aird Uig
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
OS Grid Ref: NB047390

Sub Brit site visit 30th July 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

The final stage of the ROTOR Programme (Rotor 3) was to provide radar cover for the north and west of the British Isles which were still exposed to attack and to give low and surface level cover over the Atlantic, the absence of which prevented effective action against low flying enemy aircraft. Three new Centimetric Early Warning (CEW) stations were to be built at Aird Uig, Faraid Head and Saxa Vord equipped with Type 80 Mk 2 and Type 13 radars . The new CEW operations buildings were to be above ground, heavily built and designated R10, similar in internal layout to the underground R1 bunker.

Photo:The R10 Operations Block
Photo by Nick Catford

ROTOR 3 included five new Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) stations equipped with Stage 1 radar equipment to enable detection and tracking of low flying aircraft. (Stage 1 comprised Type 7 Early Warning [E/W] GCI, Type 14 E/W search radar E/W or FC [CEW station], Type 13 H/F and a Type 15 [mobile Type 7]) The proposed stations were at Kilchiaran, Murlough Bay (demolished), Prestatyn, Snaefell and West Myne (not built). These were to be heavily built operations blocks, designated R11; the above ground version of an R2 bunker.

Two new GCI stations were also proposed as part of the ROTOR 3 programme, each equipped with a Type 80 radar and R8 prefabricated operations block. One at Ballywooden (Killard Point) in Northern Ireland and the other at Wick on the Scottish east coast. It is unclear if Wick was ever built.

Photo:The Type 80 radar at Aird Uig
Photo by Jeff Chambers

It was hoped that The ROTOR 3 programme would be complete by 1957 and all technical aspects were classified as 'Super Priority'.

By the target completion date of August 1955 some ROTOR stations had already closed down and the introduction of the 'Comprehensive Radar Station' as part of the '1958' plan had no place for Aird Uig and the station closed in 1964.

Photo:Plan of the technical and domestic sites. The numbered arrows relate to the pictures of buildings on the domestic site
Photo by Nick Catford

RAF Aird Uig was fitted with one Marconi Type 13 height finder, one Type 14 and a Decca Type 80 early warning radar with a US IFF aerial mounted on it. The Type 80 was the four motored variant that was only installed across the top of Scotland where weather conditions were very harsh. Four 40HP motors were fitted instead of the usual two.

At Aird Uig the weather was so bad that occasionally the aerial was stopped by the wind despite this extra power. In these conditions it was considered too dangerous to take a vehicle to the operations site after two vehicles had been blown off the road with the new watch having to make their way on foot from the domestic camp at Aird Uig village.

By 1959 the Type 14 had been taken out of use although it was stll operable. Both the Type 13 and Type 14 radars were mounted on plinths, the Type 80 was mounted in a steel gantry straddling the modulator building.

Type 13 Radar at Aird Uig - Photo by Jeff Chambers

Altghough the operations block had been designed to take a Kelvin Hughes projector, this was never fitted. Instead the pit was covered over with floor boarding with brass pull up handles. In the large well beneath, accessed by a staircase, the station stored some of its bulk emergency rations.

The station however remained in RAF hands as a communications centre and through the 1990's it was home to 81 Signals Unit, the RAF's high frequency communications specialists. At the same time, the station also housed a low frequency transmitter providing RAF maritime low frequency communications. Following the transfer of this service to the Defence Communications Services Agency (DCSA) facility at Crimmond, near Fraserburgh in 2000, the 81 Signals Unit detachment became redundant and the personnel returned to their base in Kinloss. Following their departure the 618 foot low frequency radio mast was dismantled.

The base on Gallan Head had been expected to close and there were plans to build a wind farm on the site but in 2003 these plans were put on hold following a decision by NATO to reactivate a radar monitoring operation at Aird Uig.

Work has been going on through 2003 to build a series of masts which will form part of NATO's radar monitoring of the Atlantic. There are 14 masts in all - two groups of six each with complex cabling and two larger structures.

For further information and pictures of this site click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

home.gif Home Page
Last updated 24th October 2003

© 2003 Subterranea Britannica