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Hebrides Missile Range

The Hebrides Missile Range lies for the most part on the northwestern tip of South Uist, but with its control centre and tracking station on Rueval, a support centre at Balivanich (Benbecula) and other associated facilities in the surrounding area, including a further tracking station on St. Kilda. The range head, which provides missile launching, preparation and maintenance facilities, is located to the west of Loch Bee on South Uist. The support centre is closely associated with Benbecula Airport at Balivanich, a village swollen by the need to accommodate range personnel.

With its beginnings as an army range, known as the Royal Artillery Range Hebrides, the rocket range was built in 1957 by the Royal Air Force. The proposal to build the facility met with community hostility, led by the influential local priest Father John Morrison, not least because a number of crofters were evicted. The events inspired the book Rockets Galore (1957) by Compton Mackenzie (1883 - 1972), as a sequel to his successful comedy Whisky Galore, both of which became successful films. The range is now operated by QinetiQ, a defence contractor formed through the privatisation of much of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

The first-ever unmanned aircraft to cross the Atlantic landed here in 1998, having taken off from St Johns, Newfoundland. Part of the test programme for the $32 billion Eurofighter project will make use of the range and has brought a major upgrade to Benbecula airport.


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