Cold War Shetland radar base to re-open over Russia threat

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    • Saxa Vord on the island of Unst will reopen with around 30 staff next month
    • It was one of many UK Soviet targets during the Cold War but closed in 2006
    • News comes as Russia launch joint military operation with Belarus

    Lara Keay For Mailonline

    A Cold War radar base on the Shetland Islands is being re-opened by the RAF as the UK faces new threats from Putin’s Russia.

    Saxa Vord on the island of Unst used to house a radar station capable of scanning Atlantic waters from Iceland to Norway, but the Ministry of Defence shut it down in 2006 as Russian relations eased.

    The MoD has now confirmed the site will re-open in October with a team of about 30 specialists soon set to arrive on the UK’s most northerly island.

    The news came in a letter from defence minister Harriett Baldwin to local MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Saxa Vord (pictured)'s radar station on the Shetland isle of Unst was closed by the Ministry of Defence in 2006. But the RAF has now confirmed it will soon reopen

    Saxa Vord (pictured)’s radar station on the Shetland isle of Unst was closed by the Ministry of Defence in 2006. But the RAF has now confirmed it will soon reopen

    She wrote: ‘I am pleased to confirm that work is due to begin next month to restore the radar capability there.’

    The remote island, where the nearest station is in Norway, featured on a secret list of UK Soviet targets during the Cold War period.

    The island has marketed Saxa Vord as a tourist resort since the closure of the radar station, which saw the island’s population halve to just 600.

    Ryan Thomson, a North Isles councillor, branded the announcement ‘excellent news’ for Unst.

    Pam Mouat, who used to work at Saxa Vord told The Sunday Times: ‘Everyone here was devastated when the RAF left.

    ‘They had been here for half a century. At one time there were 250 RAF personnel here, many with their families. We had a power station, a fully manned fire station and a medical centre with a dentist.’

    Mr Carmichael told the newspaper: ‘They claim to be able to operate it remotely, but knowing the poor level of connectivity in the Northern Isles, I am sceptical.’ 

    The news follows Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and this week’s joint military operation with Belarus.  

    The population of Unst (pictured) halved to just 600 people after the closure. Local politicians have hailed the re-opening as 'excellent news'

    The population of Unst (pictured) halved to just 600 people after the closure. Local politicians have hailed the re-opening as 'excellent news'

    The population of Unst (pictured) halved to just 600 people after the closure. Local politicians have hailed the re-opening as ‘excellent news’

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