Air Defence radar restoration

Air Defence radar restoration

Project: Delivery of a new radome
Customer: MOD
Location: Saxa Vord, Shetland

RAF Air Command and the Air Defence and Electronic Warfare Systems Delivery Team (ADEWS DT) needed better radar coverage of the airspace north of Britain and out across the Norwegian Sea. FCO Services was commissioned in July 2017 to project manage delivery of a radar dome (radome) to protect a radar installation 935m above sea level, at the summit of a hill at Saxa Vord on Unst, the most northerly British island.

FCO Services were given seven months to complete the project, originally expected to take two years. A major part of our role was advance planning, logistics and then co-ordination and management of all on-site activities.

As well as being strategically important, the Saxa Vord installation proved to be one of FCO Services’ most highly challenging projects. It required flexible working in demanding conditions, innovative thinking, extended planning capabilities, and co-ordination among a wide range of partners, suppliers and contractors.

It has been a resounding success, and recognised as such by all up to the Chief of the Air Staff. The Programme, and how it was managed, are now cited as an exemplar model for the future

RAF Air Command Programme Director

Our logistics teams hired an Antonov AN-124 airplane to fly four 40-foot containers from the US radome manufacturer to Scotland, which then travelled to Unst by road and ferry, saving significant time over sea freight.

The timescale also meant much of the on-site work took place in autumn and winter, when the weather was at its worst. Winds were regularly more than 100mph and there were five ‘named’ storms during the work. Specific forecasting by the Mobile Meteorological Unit on site meant every window of good weather, day or night, could be exploited. This led to what is believed to be the first radome installation in the dark.

The radome was designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 183mph and just 36 hours after installation the wind strength was measured at 134mph, the highest since the project began.

Staff worked extended hours over a day and night shift pattern. Welfare facilities on site supported rest periods in the bitterly cold and physically demanding conditions. The site was operational in February 2018, just five days after the ambitious target date and 17 months ahead of the original plan.

FCO Services’ programme team were recognised with an MOD, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Chief Executive Officer Commendation Award – not usually given outside of DE&S – for their role.