Hebrides Range missile range secure until 2028

The future of the UK's largest missile range, based in the Western Isles, will be secure until 2028 following an announcement by the range's operators that it has been awarded a £1bn contract amendment from the Ministry of Defence. (MoD)

QunetiQ Range West Camp, Benbecula PICTURE: Eileen Bell
QunetiQ Range West Camp, Benbecula PICTURE: Eileen Bell

QinetiQ, a leading science and engineering company, the contractors operating the Hebrides Range on behalf of its owners the MoD, will invest approximately £60 million in modern tracking equipment, instrumentation and range infrastructure at the range which has facilities spread across three locations - Benbecula, South Uist and St Kilda.

In addition, a further £10-15 million is to be spent on accommodation on St Kilda.

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Graeme Morrison, the company’s operations director who is responsible for the complete range, said that the “vast bulk” of the 154 jobs, employing mainly local people, would be secure.

In July fears were raised that around 20 jobs could be axed at the Hebrides Range as part of UK-wide review QinetiQ which had sought to cut 200 jobs from its UK workforce of 6,210. In 2009 proposed job cuts for the range were abandoned.

The announcement follows last month’s announcement by UK defence secretary,that eight military sites in Scotland were to be closed over the next 16 years, cutting the defence estate by 20 per cent.

Steve Wadey, QinetiQ chief executive officer, said: “This contract amendment represents a huge step forward in the modernisation of UK Defence test and evaluation to enable the safety and operational advantage of our Armed Forces in the 21st century.

“Our investment demonstrates that we are committed to transforming our ways of working with both UK MOD and wider industry, to deliver air ranges and test aircrew training that are relevant and competitive for the UK Armed Forces as well as government and industry customers around the world.

“I am particularly excited that this programme also enables us to plan and begin implementation of further enhancements to the UK’s T&E capabilities to address current and emerging threats through the next decade and beyond.”

Harriett Baldwin, MP, minister for procurement, said: “This new deal will ensure our Armed Forces get world-class training and testing facilities and services while making substantial efficiencies, ensuring excellent value for money for the taxpayer.

“Backed by a rising defence budget and our £178 billion equipment plan, all three sites will continue to have a major role in supporting our defence capability. This investment will help secure their futures for the longer term.”

The announcement was welcomed by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, and Angus MacNeil, MP.

Mr Allan said: “The investment in Hebrides range announced today is a testament to the skilled workforce in Uist and I hope this now means a long period of secure work for them.

“The community in Uist has built up a reputation over many years for its commitment to Hebrides Range and has spoken up clearly in the past when those jobs have been under threat.

“I was privileged to be part of those efforts in 2009, and since then the Uist Economic Task Force has been active in pressing the case for the development of Uist, one of Scotland’s most economically fragile rural communities.

“I congratulate the workforce on this positive news.”

Mr MacNeil said: “The Hebrides Range is an important employer and today’s announcement from QinetiQ is very good news for the economy in Uist.

“I am delighted for the workforce and I do hope that this announcement will bring stability for many years to the Hebrides Range.”