Machrihanish Air Base

Although this base has often been associated with mysterious top-secret aircraft and UFO sightings, there is little solid evidence to suggest that this base is or ever was the "Area 51 of Britain." The history of the Machrihanish base goes back to the early 1900s when the Royal Navy established a facility there to operate maritime patrol aircraft and airships. Following World War II, Machrihanish became a Royal Air Force base being jointly operated with British European Airways and later Loganair, a commuter operator. The local Air Ambulance Service was also operated from the base.

With the growing Soviet threat of the 1950s, the facility was expanded and the main runway extended to a massive 3.2 miles in length both to serve British Vulcan bombers and for use as an emergency landing strip for NATO P-3 Orion and other patrol aircraft. While such a long runway is somewhat unusual and has often been cited as a reason top-secret aircraft like the Aurora would be operating from Machrihanish, the layout and location of the base argue against this. First, the base is surrounded by the community of Cambeltown making it difficult to conceal the activities of noisy jet aircraft. In addition, the base is located next to the Machrihanish golf course, one of the most popular golf courses in Scotland. Finally, the base never had the infrastructure of hangars, fueling facilities, and control facilities to operate any significant number of aircraft.

However, this is not to say that no secret or mysterious activities were known to occur at Machrihanish. In fact, the United States maintained a Navy SEAL commando unit at the base and their equipment was stored in some of the hangars. In addition, British SAS commandos occassionally used the facility for training exercises. With the end of the Cold War and cuts in defense spending throughout NATO, the base at Machrihanish was closed in 1995.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 18 February 2001

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