Tuesday, 27 July 2010

S649 (Type 96) Radar

The Marconi S649 search radar was installed to replace the Type 80. Ground work started in 1976 with radome construction beginning the following year. The equipment was commissioned in 1979 and this was soon followed by the removal of the Type 80. The S649 (also known as the Type 96) was to be the primary search radar until the arrival of the Type 93 in Oct 1993. The S649 had a back to back aerial array working in the L and S Bands (D & E/F Bands in more modern nomenclature).

Along with much of the Top Site equipment the S649 suffered extremely in the storm at New Year 91/92. The radome was destroyed and so much damage was done to the radar itself that it was off the air for most of the following year. In view of the planned installation of the Type 93, the radome for the S649 was not replaced and only one side of the aerial array was brought back into operational use. The L Band (D and nowadays) side of the radar was repaired by Marconi and, following calibration flights, was brought back into service in Nov 92 - over 9 months after the storm.

Radome Construction & Installation of the S649

The Completed Radome

Damage to the Radar in the Storm at New Year 91/92

The Repaired S649

S649 Equipment Room

Friday, 23 July 2010

Saxa in 1960 – Article by Mal Smith

The article below was published in the 1998 Spring Issue of ”The Saxa Voice” - the Station Magazine. Mal Smith was posted in as a cook in the early years and later returned to Shetland after leaving the RAF. He spent a number of years in the Shetland community and was very active on the sporting scene, especially rugby. Although he now spends a large amount of time outside Shetland he does return frequently

The photo top right on the first page was wrongly titled at the editing/printing stage and should read "WO Tasker with the Cooks"

I believe tthis excellent article gives a good insight into life on the base for the young serviceman fifty years ago. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Last Function in the Officers’ Mess

During the time that Sqn Ldr Andy Duffus was the CO the first “drawdown” started. In noddy language I think that drawdown must = reduction. In effect it was a time when the station strength was being reduced by about 50%. This was dictated by a change in the role of the Unit and it obviously had consequences on local employment and economics.

One of the results was the fact that a number of parts of the camp ceased to be viable as separate entities. There were insufficient personnel to justify operating separate Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes – with effect from April 2000 they were combined.

In line with service tradition it was decided that the passing would be celebrated with a bang rather than a whimper. I’m sure that there was a suitable celebration in the Sergeants’ Mess. A final function was arranged in the Officers’ Mess and a number of old hands were invited back for the occasion. When I retired to Shetland I was fortunate to have been offered honorary membership and had been able to attend numerous events over the previous ten years and, without doubt this occasion was one of the best.

An excellent meal was followed by speeches including an interesting and humorous address by Gp Capt Dave Todd - CO 1985 to 87 – I can say that now without appearing a “creep” having retired 22 years ago. Two other ex COs were there – Peter Hunter (87-89) and Brian Gregson (89-91). Some other old codgers were in attendance including Peter Guy (ex Education Officer, well known for a series of books he has written entitled “Walking the Coastline of Shetland”) and David Edmonston (retd Wg Cdr and former pilot with Loganair in Shetland). After the meal and speeches the Shetland/Norse connections were acknowledged with the burning of a symbolic Viking long ship and a firework display. After that the evening degenerated into the sort of drunken debauchery which was OK for Officers but not to be tolerated if indulged in by Other Ranks! In Summary, one of the best functions I’ve ever attended and a memorable night.

The advantage of having taken all the photos below is that I don’t feature in any of them! (Left click on Photos to enlarge).


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Catering Section Part 2

A few more photos of the Catering Section (& its produce) are shown below. There was a previous section on the Catering Section here; http://ahistoryofrafsaxavord.blogspot.com/2009/11/catering-section.html

I do not know who took the photographs and, except where titled, I have no further details. (Left click on photos to enlarge).


Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Storm – New Year 1991/92 Part 4 - Some of the Repercussions

In the immediate aftermath, whilst the executives planned, the workers got on with clearing up the Mess. Unsafe structures had to be dismantled in sometimes dangerous conditions – not helped by the winds, cold and short periods of daylight at that time of the year. Debris, radome panels in particular, had been scattered over large areas around the Top Site and on Vallafield. Initially the Unit had to work with its own resources, much of Shetland was without power for a long time, the inter-island ferries were disrupted and the gales continued for 3 more days. Some of the problems with the “clear-up” can be seen in the following pictures. (Left click on photos to enlarge).

With no search radar the station was effectively useless. After a few days a number of operators were detached to Sumburgh Airport where the Air Traffic Radar was used to provide some reporting capability to RAF Buchan. A cutting from the Shetland Times (2 Jun 92) is reproduced below.

The HF200 was made serviceable quite quickly but it wasn’t of much relevance until there was a search radar on site. It was not until Aug 92 that one side of the Type 96 (L or D Band antenna) was brought back into operation and completed calibration trials in Nov 92. In view of the expected imminent installation of the Type 93 3D radar it was decided not to replace the radomes on the HF200 & Type 96.

A higher specification radome was ordered for the Type 93 and this structure was eventually completed by Sep 92. The Type 93 did not actually arrive until the autumn of 93. The TACAN antenna was not replaced on Vallafield but a new one was erected at the Top Site (on a tower and without a radome).

All in all the night of 31 Dec 91/1 Jan 92 was a rather frightening experience, the wind speeds increased very dramatically in a short space of time – I know I went out first-footing in Lerwick when the weather was reasonable - I wish I'd stayed at home!

Linked Sections: