NO66NW 75.08 6310 6881 and 6344 6910
The operations area occupies the bulk of the airfield and takes the form of individually-fenced facilities set between (not on, as stated by Smith) the runways. The most significant of these are as follows:
This Operations Building (Buildings 300, 301, 319, 430 and 475: NO 6310 6881) is signposted as 'Operations' and is a large, windowless and utilitarian harled block. This is probably of two or three storeys internally and is dominated externally by the pipework, outlets and fittings of an extensive cooling and air conditioning system which has probably served to remove the heat generated by extensive use of valve electronics to amplify weak signals. There are a fuel tank and probable (standby) generator house by the entrance (on the NW) and on the roof there is a probable aircraft navigation beacon of TACAN type, while the square lattice mast to the NE of the building has probably supported microwave dish aerials. This building formerly stood within a Wullenwerber array, a high circular wire-lattice aerial antenna-system intended specifically to detect weak signals from clearly-defined directions; this was known locally as the 'elephant's cage'. The lattice and its associated masts have been demolished but its former area is gravelled and strewn with fragments of wire lattice. The access route leading outwards from the NW corner of the building passes through two security fences (the inner with leaf-type gates and a guardhouse and the outer with rolling gate, intruder detection system and lighting), three lines of antenna array a vehicle control point with rising ramp and a circular ditch (about 5m broad and 2m deep). The three lines of the antenna array have been formed as follows: the innermost has iron and concrete bases (about 30cm square) set at intervals of about 6.8m and linked by a probable cable duct; the remains of that in the middle comprise concrete bases (about 30cm square) with projecting screw threads and the remains of heavy-duty cables set at intervals of about 15m, and the remains of the outermost comprise paired square and round fittings with projecting screw threads set at intervals of about 5m; in this case, both the bases are set on the same concrete pad case and there are probable concrete ducts between, while some of the round fittings retain massive lead earthing straps
This building and antenna probably served for the interception and processing of naval communications in the High Frequency (HF) and lower frequency bands, the apparent original function of the USN facility.
About 200m E of this building, to the SE of the runway intersection and within its own security fence, there is a further operations building (Buildings 340, 341 and 342: NO 6344 6910) which is signposted 'Advanced Projects'. It is of similar character to that noted above, but smaller and of more modern construction, being of single-storey type with a large roof-mounted air conditioning plant and an adjacent (standby) generator house and fuel tank. To the NW, N and NE of this building there are the concrete base-housings of four satellite communications radomes (the function being confirmed by external notices); these measure about 7m in diameter internally, stand about 1m high above the low sandy mounds on which they are set, and have prominent cable ducts by the entrance-doors. The proximity of these relatively new buildings with the radomes suggest a use for the interception of satellite communications.
On the W side of the airfield and alongside the public road there is a small separately-fenced area which has apparently housed a semi-mobile communications facility (Buildings 370, 371, 374, 416, 417 and 418: NO 6261 6850). Concrete-capped earth mounds would have served to support dish aerials on trailers while the associated vehicles stood on the hardstandings to the E and the complex of single-storey harled utility buildings (which are probably of concrete construction) served for general support; part of the main building is now roofless. The plan (DC35998) also indicates the former presence of four radomes.
To the S of the 'Advanced Projects' building and alongside or on the S portion of the 150/330 runway (NO 6365 6855), there are a further three operations-type building (two of them individually-fenced) which are of nondescript and non-specialist semi-permanent construction; none of them has cooling facilities or an emergency generator. That situated furthest S (Building 440) appears to be of relatively new construction while the compound situated further N and to the E of the runway contains five buildings (Buildings 402-4 and 450) of aluminium skin construction, most of them set on breeze-block foundations.
The circular feature (of diameter 110m) that is depicted on the 1977 edition of the OS 1:10,000 map (around NO 6380 6855) cannot be identified but appears to correspond with the Antenna Field that is noted on the plan.
Vertical air photography of 1988-9 (JASAIR 51788065-6, flown 24 June 1988 and 22/89/002-3, flown 15 June 1989, respectively) has recorded both the changes to the station in USN use (including the construction of the married quarters and the rebuilding of the administration and accommodation area) and the various elements of the communications intercept station (providing locations for those buildings that are omitted from successive editions of the OS 1:10,000 map. These may be described and located as follows:
A. (NO 6261 6850). Four rectangular buildings and three probable radomes stand on an irregular elevated mound within a rectangular fenced enclosure which has been entered from the perimeter track on the W.
B. (NO 6308 6851). A probable rectangular building and a radome stand within a rectangular fenced enclosure.
C. (NO 6325 6839). A probable radome stands within a rectangular fenced enclosure which presents the impression of disuse.
(The possibility that some or all of the features noted in (A) - (C) are temporary and/or trailer-mounted cannot be discounted.)
D. (NO 6310 6881). Irregular building within a circular Wullenwerber array and security fence, the main lattice aerial being that noted just inside the berm in the field visit report (above).
E. (NO 6344 6910). Rectangular building within a rectangular fenced enclosure, with radomes to the N (as noted in field visit report) and additional radome-stances to the S.
F. (NO 6365 6855). This rectangular building that is depicted standing on the runway on the 1977 edition of the OS 1:10,000 map is clearly visible. There is a fenced enclosure containing three buildings (not those now to be seen) to the N, but there are no buildings to the S. The circular feature that is depicted on the 1977 edition of the OS 1:10,000 map can be identified with a slightly raised area of rough ground.
Visited by RCAHMS (RJCM), 13 August 1997.