Argyll, Scotland -
The UK's Area 51?
By Robert McNeil
PICTURE the scene in a remote Highland glen. Sheep are munching grass, a hawk flies overhead, a fish in the stream comes up for a fly, and men in white masks are dismantling a space ship.
Is it a film, is it a scene from a sci-fi novel? No, it's a very real possibility, according to the author of a recently published book on UFO sightings in Scotland.
Ron Halliday, the chairman of Scottish Earth Mysteries Research, claimed yesterday that remote areas of rural Scotland could be the equivalent of the notorious Area 51 in the United States, where secret aircraft are supposedly tested and where the alleged alien victims of the Roswell Incident were taken for dissection.
According to Mr Halliday, one prime candidate for Scotland's Area 51 could be the former NATO base at Machrihanish in Argyll, which has long been the subject of rumour and often bizarre speculation. The idea was shot out of the skies by the Ministry of Defence yesterday, but believers, or the self-deluding, are unlikely to be deterred.
Expounding on his book, Mr Halliday, who works as an assistant registrar at Stirling University, said the MoD owned huge areas of land in Scotland where no-one knew what they were up to.
He said: "I often wonder why the MoD needs to hold on to such enormous acreage, as most of it rarely seems to be used, though it may be that I've been too short-sighted and some of these sites have been put to mysterious use.
"These are parts of Scotland where people just never visit because access is so difficult. Extra-terrestrial flying discs could be stored here as, geographically, we're in a good situation for communication with London, the US and western Europe."
Mr Halliday, who has been investigating paranormal activity for 20 years, said the runway at Machrihanish was huge, and the base so well protected it would have been ideal for testing secret technology.
In his book, he writes: "For several years rumours have circulated regarding the nature of the secret activities that were carried out at this site and the experimental craft that may have landed here.
"Machrihanish would be an ideal spot from which to operate aircraft technology that the Government wanted to keep secret - including devices allegedly developed from captured alien discs."
He said yesterday anecdotal evidence was plentiful about alien technology having fallen on Britain, but there was a frustrating lack of documentary evidence caused by the establishment's habitual clandestine approach.
"There is just a general climate of secrecy in this country. The Government and the military in particular don't believe anyone should know what is going on apart from themselves," he said.
However, local people living in the village of Machrihanish were sceptical about there being anything worth knowing. Visitors from the Outer Hebrides were one thing, but callers from Outer Space quite another.
One woman at the golf club, who perhaps unsurprisingly did not wish to be named, said: "I doubt this is happening. The airport may explain flying objects in the night. There are no aliens here and we're all pretty human."
MoD officials were even more dismissive, denying the UK had any involvement in storing or testing UFOs.
A spokesman said: "We do not have any such bases. And if we are talking about UFOs, the only interest we have is in how their presence would allegedly impact our defence of the UK if they were to exist."
Area 51 is located in the middle of the Nevada desert and has long attracted wide attention, from cults to the plain curious. Officially, it is an air force base and nuclear testing site, but it was said to be the base where bodies and technology from an alleged UFO crash near Roswell, a remote New Mexico town, were taken in 1947.
UFO Scotland by Ron Halliday is published by B&W at £7.99
Or...Is This The Truth?
Posted by Paul Ross < 2-8-99
In response to Stig's post, I dug this out of a copy of "The Unopened Files" (Autumn 1998) -- a monthly magazine available in the UK. Hope you find it interesting. There is extra information in that article, which I will post later. (Took a while to type it up!) :-)
RAF Machrihanish -- The Truth at Last?
With his cropped dark hair and large build he's a formidable figure. He bends forward in his chair in the restaurant, picks up a cup and drinks his coffee. As he meets my gaze, he leans back and starts: "I am a retired RAF police corporal," he says in a sedate Tynside accent. "During my military career I lived a life of order. I often carried out security patrols, manned security and entry points and checked personnel and vehicles at sites like RAF Leuchars, RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss."
He explains that, after working within RAF Wittering's Armament Support Unit, under the terms of a restricted UK Eyes document, 'SD814' (this relates to the stock-piling and transportation of special weapons and sensitive material within the UK and its territories) he was posted to RAF Machrihanish, on the Isle of Kintyre in Scotland.
"While I know my speaking with you will not stop the speculation, I must set the record straight," explains the former military policeman, who asked to be called simply 'Alan'. "My interest in the rumors began in 1988, when my attention was drawn to an article in the New York Times, claiming that the American air force was working on a new hypersonic spy plane code named Aurora," he said.
Before long, it was suggested that RAF Machrihanish, an air base which had no RAF squadron of its own, was assisting in transatlantic testing of Aurora, thought by some to have been built with the aid of alien technology. But while stationed at the base, Alan said he learned that the rumor had been made up, as a means to draw in more tourists: "Back in 1991, another newspaper article declared 'Project Aurora seen over Machrihanish - Campbeltown locals report'. Three or four farmers and two or three security guards and the occasional drunken builder all had their names in this article and we were in hysterics because it was simply make-believe - Paul McCartney hadn't brought in enough tourism so they needed something new."
Alan turned the somewhat controversial spotlight on Campbeltown because it had struggled to come to terms with the impact of the military defense cuts. At the turn of the decade, the RAF had decided to scale down personnel at the base from 250 to 70. The move cost the hard pressed local economy £2 Million year.
"The point is, we are using the process that the military still uses today, which is basically a non-confirm or deny policy. So, although we had nearly every major news organisation and Fleet Street calling us, all we could do when answering the phone was refer them back to the press office at Whitehall with the 'I am sorry, I can neither confirm or deny that'.
"If something special like a secret spy-plane was at RAF Machrihanish, it would be simply impossible to keep it hidden from the civilians who run the on-base Air Ambulance Service," Alan says. "Secondly, if you take any flight path or training area where aircraft fly low, Machrihanish is no exception. Every single farmer in the area shouts, screams and cries, simply for their livestock being frightened or abused by the aircraft. Far too many locals live within blatant eye-sight of the base as well."
But despite rejecting rumors about Aurora using the base, Alan assured me that the American Navy SEALS, the amphibious special forces team which played a key role in removing Iraqi troops from oil platforms they were occupying off Kuwait during the Gulf War, did maintain a small presence at the base though virtually unseen from the public: "During the 1980s, NATO started to invest a lot of money into the base and decided to post an American Navy Special Warfare unit there, which was part of the SEAl (SEa Air Land) detachment.
"Machrihanish was actually the European staging point for this unit, known as Spec. War 2. In these days of Middle Eastern political turbulence, I'm sure there will be no run down of this unit and I'm sure they're still there," he continued. I can confirm this; while speaking on the telephone with Keith Abendroth of Burns Security, the latest contractors who looked after the base, I distinctly heard American voices in the background.
Alan emphasised that throughout his time there, British civilian guards manned the security gates around the airfield boundary and not Navy SEAL personnel as has been suggested in the past. He said this group force never carried weapons for the means of patrolling or defending the base. My source said that he did carry a Browning 9 mm pistol and during a lot of his security patrols he was the only person, apart from the dog handlers, authorised to carry live ammunition. (That permission was given to him under terms of the Joint Service Publication (JSP 385) 'Rules of engagement or servicemen authorised to carry arms and ammunition on duty in the United Kingdom' document).
The length of the runway at RAF Machrihanish has also led to considerable deliberation. It was recently reported in the book 'UFOs: The Scottish Dimension', by the chairman of the Scottish Earth Mysteries Research group and Assistant Registrar at the University of Stirling, Ron Halliday, as being over a mile in length. This suggests it had been extended to provide enough distance "to operate aircraft technology the government wanted to keep secret and that would include devices allegedly developed from captured alien discs."
Indeed, the base does boast a longer than average runway, so in effort to test claims such as these, one of Alan's colleagues set him a challenge. "During one night shift, we sat down and debated these claims, because the person I was working with was a very keen plane spotter and according to Jane's Defence Weekly, our runway was reportedly 1.8 miles long.
"We knew that not to be true, but this person needed some convincing. So we measured it twice, from one end to another, and it turned out to be 3.2 miles long, which classifies it as one of the largest in NATO and certainly the largest in this sprat of Europe," he said.
Not withstanding advances in vertical take-off technology, the military still needs to rely on immense runway systems.
Apparently, the runway was designed this way so that it could be used as an 'Emergency Airfield Over-flow' (EAOF) site. It is one of the few runways in Britain that can usher in any aircraft landing with technical problems, including the Russian Bear aircraft and the P3 Orions, of the Royal Norwegian Air force, who regularly used the air base as part of the NATO 'staging point' exercises.
"An idea of the security you'd need to conceal something like highly classified aircraft from the general public; the highest security level in the UK at the moment is for our nuclear deterrent. Quite simply, in the RAF you have a minimum of 120 armed officers available - at least 30 on duty at least 30 on stand-by and then another in what's called Augmentation Force. This is made up of station personnel - live armed and ready to go.
"On top of that, you need a triple airlock system of MIDAS sensors, which stands for Microwave Infrared Detection Alert System. Basically, if two sections of that system are triggered, you have an immediate armed response. On top of that, you would have internal, trembler and fence detection systems. You may also have three or four high guard towers with armed personnel in them. You'd also have mobile patrols as well.
To do all this takes a lot of resources and staff and it can't be kept secret. You then need a locked air space - an area which doesn't allow anyone to overfly because if somebody can overfly, they can photograph.
"I believe there might be secure installations somewhere but I've got to stress the only way to get the best security is to have complete privacy. This means having nobody there, or having nobody wanting to be there and it's something we didn't really have at RAF Machrihanish," says Alan.
Be that as it may, I could sense he considered the interview to be over. I risked one more question: "Do you think the American military has used alien technology, gained either from crashed spaceships or in some sort of trade, in the manufacture of their stealth aircraft?"
"I'm certainly open to the possibility. Recent quantum leaps in stealth technology have been staggering. The classic example has to be the classic SR-71 Blackbird. Years before anything was announced, the Americans were flying at Mach 3+, but I've met the flight crew of an SR-71 and they laughed at it! So yes, I do believe somewhere that there are recovered alien craft being back tracked, or else such technological advances just wouldn't be so quick," he said.
As we left the restaurant, I closed the door and turned around slowly only to see an RAF Police Land Rover in the car park. Were we being watched, I thought? Alan saw it too, although wasn't overly suspicious. Raising his voice he pondered, "If such an aircraft exists, would it still be called Aurora?" I shook my head, cautiously. The Pentagon had released the name by mistake, so it probably would have been changed after it came to the public's attention.
My attention was still held by the mysterious RAF van, parked a matter of feet away. With that, Alan disappeared back to his civilian way of life. As I made my way home, I reflected that even whistle blowers believe we should make up our own minds on what went on at RAF Machrihanish.