RAF Buchan

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RAF Buchan
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Boddam, Aberdeenshire in Scotland
Remote Radar Head Nr Longhaven - geograph.org.uk - 184713.jpg
Radar dome at RAF Buchan.
RAF Buchan is located in Aberdeen
RAF Buchan
RAF Buchan
Shown within Aberdeenshire
Coordinates57°27′30″N 001°48′43″W / 57.45833°N 1.81194°W / 57.45833; -1.81194Coordinates: 57°27′30″N 001°48′43″W / 57.45833°N 1.81194°W / 57.45833; -1.81194
TypeRadar Station/Control and Reporting Centre
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 1 Group (Air Combat)
Maximum range470 kilometres (290 mi)
Site history
Built1952 (1952)
In use1952-2004 (2004)
FateDowngraded to Remote Radar Head and domestic site disposed of.

Royal Air Force station Buchan or more simply RAF Buchan is a former Royal Air Force station near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. It has been there since 1952, although the domestic site in Boddam is now closed. Until 2005 it was also home of one of the two Control and Reporting Centres for the United Kingdom in the form of an impressive two storey underground bunker (R3). As such it was responsible for coordinating all aspects of air defence as part of The United Kingdom Air Surveillance and Control System (UK ASACS).

The Type 92 radar, now operated remotely, is housed in a pressurised Radome. Until 1994 the base also operated a Type 80 radar and a Sperry TPS-34 amongst others.

The site is now called RRH Buchan.


In 1979 operations moved into interim facilities above ground whilst the 'R3' underground operations block was refitted, this involved the excavation of one side of the 'R3' and another bunker of similar size was constructed alongside to provide secure facilities for stand by generators, power cleaning and air filtration. The Buchan Interim Fit (BIF) building housed the GL-161 computer system associated with the TPS-34 radar, both acquired from No 1ACC.

Soviet aircraft transiting between Murmansk in northern Russia and Cuba were routinely intercepted and escorted by live armed fighter aircraft whenever they entered United Kingdom airspace.

Control and Reporting Centre[edit]

Following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, Buchan became a Control and Reporting Centre (CRC), part of the UK Air Surveillance and Control System (UKASACS). Buchan was responsible for UK airspace north of Newcastle, working closely with counterparts in Scandnavian countries. The southern CRC was located at RAF Neatishead in Norfolk. Around the same time, Buchan became parent station for RAF Saxa Vord in the Shetlands and RAF Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, both of which were downgraded to reporting posts which feed data into the UKASACS.[1]

Together, the two CRCs processed information which was provided continuously by reporting posts and civilian radars, producing an overview of all aircraft operating within UK airspace, known as the Recognised Air Picture (RAP). Information would also be communicated via digital data-links to neighbouring NATO countries, Airborne Early Warning (AEW) & other aircraft, ground units and ships. Fighter controllers at Buchan also provided tactical control of air-defence aircraft during peacetime Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) interceptions, during training and in the event of war.[1]

Closure and downgrading[edit]

Throughout the remainder of the station's lifetime its role was gradually sidelined in favour of the Control Reporting Centre at RAF Neatishead. In May 2000 the Ministry of Defence announced the downgrading of RAF Buchan from a manned station to a remote radar head and that RAF Boulmer in Northumberland and RAF Neatishead in Norfolk, would continue to operate the surveillance and control system. The measure resulted in the loss of 55 civilian jobs and the transfer of over 200 RAF personnel from Buchan. Around 92 military and civilian personnel were expected to remain to operate the remote radar head.[2]

Buchan ceased to be a RAF station on 1 September 2004 and the operational part of the station was downgraded and renamed Remote Radar Head Buchan.[3] Manned operations formally ceased at RAF Buchan on 26 November 2004 and the domestic site was officially down-sized on 31 March 2005.


Buchan continues to operate as a Remote Radar Head, inputting radar data to the UK Air Surveillance and Control System (UKASACS).

The separate domestic accommodation site, located in nearby Boddam, was sold by the Ministry of Defence to a private developer.[4] In 2009 the Officers' Mess was converted into the four star Buchan Braes Hotel.

A large part of the domestic site is now home to an Army Cadet Force unit (2nd Battalion, The Highlanders, Royal Regiment of Scotland).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The United Kingdom Air Surveillance and Control System". Royal Air Force. 1998. Archived from the original on 29 January 1999.
  2. ^ "Cuts strike at RAF base". BBC News. 16 May 2000. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Radar Flight". RAF Boulmer. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Master plan hope for former RAF Buchan air base near Peterhead". BBC News. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2017.

External links[edit]