Remote operation at Saxa Vord

In early 2018, the RAF started work on making Remote Radar Head (RRH) Saxa Vord an unmanned site which could be monitored remotely. This is a new concept for UK Air Defence Radar sites, and the first of its kind for the RAF and Ministry of Defence (MoD).

RRH Saxa Vord is an integral part of the UK’s Air Defence system, helping to provide complete radar coverage of UK airspace. FCO Services have worked on the site since 2017, managing the installation of a large radar tower and radar dome (radome), which we achieved in just seven months.

Following from this success, in February 2018 the RAF engaged us to provide consultancy, project and contract management services to make Saxa Vord a remotely monitored Air Defence Radar site by January 2019.

Challenging location

Saxa Vord is located on the island of Unst in Shetland at the northern tip of the British Isles, in one of the most remote, cold and windy places in the UK, making logistics difficult. Challenges included unknown underground legacy works and unpredictable weather, and alongside this both timelines and budgets were tight.

The location affected several parts of the operation, including transporting the Large Vertical Aperture (LVA) Antenna. This vital piece of air defence equipment will significantly enhance the RAF’s air defence network around the UK. It was decided to transport the LVA Antenna from the manufacturer in Spain to the Shetlands by road and ferry. Our Logistics Team successfully delivered the LVA Antenna, weighing nearly half a tonne, to its remote location in five days.

Successful delivery

RRH Saxa Vord demonstrates the ‘art of the possible’ for future projects. The two phases of works ultimately delivered a high quality, secure, remotely monitored site, without detriment to MoD operational capability at any stage of the journey. As a result of the success of this project, the RAF have commissioned us to deliver projects to secure the next three air defence radar sites for remote operation and unmanning over the next 18 months, with others expected to follow.

It has been fantastic continuing to collaborate with the RAF, DIO, ADEWS (DE&S) and the MoD following on from the successful early completion of the Saxa Vord radome installation in 2018. A highly ambitious and challenging project from start to finish and one that we are incredibly proud of. This extraordinary piece of work has enabled us to use our expertise, and we have risen to meet the challenge without any interruption to MoD operational capability. We look forward to delivering the next remote operation, in what we hope will be another highly successful project.

Danny Payne, CEO, FCO Services

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