Hi-res aerial photo of RAF Machrihanish, looking straight down the runway. The Gaydon Hangar is just out of the frame to the right.
On a global scale, there are many military installations, which conduct covert testing but at the same time, remain pretty much unknown to the general public. One of these bases is located on the West Coast of Scotland, RAF Machrihanish. Many rumors have came out of the area for over 10 years from the secret hypersonic spy plane "Aurora" being operated from the base, to the other extreme of crashed UFO's being dismantled and reversed engineered at the base. As with most things of this nature, the only people who really know the truth, are the people who conduct these operations, everyone else can only look at what evidence there is regarding the activities of these installations and then make their own assessment based on what they have learned.
From that point on, the activities at Machrihanish are currently unknown until we come to the late 1980's when the US Administration decided to spend tens of Millions of dollars to upgrade the base. The exact details of the money spent remains unknown. These figures however show some of the money that was spent on the upgrade:
Close-up of the Gaydon Hangar
It should also be noted at this point, that Machrihanish was the European staging area for No.2 Detachment of the US Navy SEALS. Spec War 2. They were actively engaged at the base since the early 80's, with a unit being stationed there for 6 months at a time. There were three units who would be stationed at the base, switching every 6 months. From what I can gather, the SEAL teams were relocated sometime in 1997/1998 to a base in Germany so that they were more centrally stationed in Europe.
What involvement they have with this base is anyone's guess. After speaking to a retired Navy Seal Operator, I was told that if the SEALS are at the base, then it will only be for a few weeks on some form of training mission. This is consistent with Operation Springbank 2001. This involved four MH-53Ms from the 21st Special Operations Squadron (SOS) based at RAF Mildenhall being deployed to Machrihanish between July 16th-27th. Two MC-130 (SOS) also flew up from Mildenhall every day to take part in the exercise.
The British Army's Special Air Service (SAS) also uses the base from time to time to conduct various training exercises. Many people have reported seeing these exercises taking place, including military personnel practicing water insertions from low flying helicopters. A private aircraft was also diverted away from the area one day since the US Navy SEALS were practicing their HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) parachute jumps, and using the base as a landing site. Various other units have been known to use the base as a stop over while on long range exercises.
The base has allegedly been used as a refueling station for Aurora, the American's secret hypersonic spy plane. It is believed to operate from Groom Lake, Nevada and fly to Machrihanish taking a route over the North Pole. Many civilian air traffic controllers have reported fast moving, unidentified targets in and around the area of Machrihanish and the North Sea.
Several stories of American testing secret aircraft over the North Sea have been going around for years. American military would contact Air Traffic Control and request restricted airspace over the North Sea for testing. A short time later, an unidentified target would speed through the restricted zone. The Americans would then inform Air Traffic Control that testing was complete, and thank them for the airspace.
Mid 80's - The Machrihanish airbase has long been believed to have had a strong connection with the testing and development of the F-117 Stealth Fighter which remained "unacknowledged" for over seven years.
1989: Chris Gibson, a former member of the Royal Observer Corps, while working on the Gavelston Key oil rig in the North Sea reported seeing what could possibly be the USAF's new spy plane. He observed a loud black triangle in the process of refueling with a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker, being escorted by two F-111 Fighter-Bombers. He said that if he could not identify the craft, then it is not in any book.
January 1992: More fast-moving targets were tracked by both RAF and civilian radar controllers operating around the Machrihanish area. The target was travelling at speeds between Mach 3 and Mach 6.
May 1992: A photographer in Amarillo, Texas got several pictures of a strange looking contrail stretched out across the sky. A few days later, the same contrails were spotted over the Machrihanish area. They are described as "doughnuts on a rope."
1993 (Sometime during the winter months): Windows shattered and houses "shook" in the Machrihanish area as what appears to be some form of sonic boom happened over the area. Local residents initially thought it was a plane crash due to the loud noise of an explosion, but this was not the case. At the same time, a radar controller at Prestwick Airport (Ayrshire) reported tracking an unknown target close to the base.
1994: A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter crashed on the Mull of Kintyre killing all 29 people on board, 25 of which were military and police intelligence officers. The military initially blamed pilot error and only recently have their names been cleared. Many people believe that there was a large cover up involving the United States Military.
Time Unknown: A local resident of the area was playing golf on the famous Machrihanish Golf Course (which borders the base). He had played a bad shot and sliced the ball, so he set off to try and retrieve it. He thought that he had heard movement just a few feet from him, coming from some hedgerow, but dismissed it as his mind playing tricks on him. Once he found his ball, he played it back onto the main course. As he walked away from the area he had a glance back and to his surprise, saw an armed guard, complete with beret and machine gun staring back at him. This sighting has raised a lot of suspicion and speculation.
Time Unknown: A person driving to Campbeltown spotted a man walking in the same direction and stopped to offer him a lift. The man he picked up was an American heading to the Machrihanish base. What he did at the base remains unknown. Conversation was minimal, as it seems the man didn't want to answer any questions. As they approached the main gate, the driver was instructed to carry on and take a smaller road, which leads to an over look of the base. As they turned down a narrow dirt track, the car was suddenly surrounded by armed men in camouflaged clothing with no insignia and wearing blue berets. The weapons were aimed at the car as they surrounded the vehicle. The American passenger reassured the driver, got out of the car and walked over to the soldiers, showing some form of I.D. The weapons were then lowered. The American then came back over and thanked the driver for the lift to the base, he also said "best not say anything about what you have seen."
Building used by the SEAL teams; contains dormitories and an indoor shooting range. The tower portion of the building was used for drying parachutes
September/October 2001: There are several reports of B-2 Stealth Bombers using the base after the September 11th terrorist attacks. This was also published in the British Intelligence Magazine "Eye Spy".
November 2002: USAF Special Forces radio traffic intercepted, operating in and around Machrihanish. Aircraft involved included MC-130 Combat Talons and Mh-53 Pave Low Helicopters. Crews belonged to the 352nd Special Operations Group based at RAF Mildenhall, England.
August 2004: Reports of unusual flying objects reported from around Kintyre. Received reports of US Military personnel present at RAF Machrihanish by a Loganair Captain, who flew into Machrihanish on a routine civilian transport flight. No NOTAMS posted stating that there would be any sort of military activity at the base.
Update 3/2005: Visit to RAF Machrihanish (March 22, 2005)
For further information please visit the RAF Machrihanish Research Centre.
Another aerial photo of RAF Machrihanish from a different angle.
This aerial photo taken in May 2005 shows the lenght of the main runway. Photo: Paul McAllister, with friendly permission.