Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 13:46 UK

Job cuts planned at rocket range

West Camp is used by soldiers training with the Rapier missile system

About 125 jobs are set to be lost at a missile test firing ranges on the Western Isles, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.

Twenty jobs linked to an underwater range near Raasay, off Skye, are also expected to go, along with two at a site on the Clyde.

West Freugh, a military range and test facility near Stranraer, will not be affected.

Cuts are being made as part of an effort by the MoD to make £50m savings.

The savings and staff reductions are to be achieved by 2028, the MoD said.

The largest share of the cuts are being made on the Western Isles, where there are four ranges and facilities on Benbecula, South Uist and St Kilda. They are operated by private defence technology company QinetiQ.

The job losses account for more than half the workforce.

The SNP group on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Western Isles council, has joined forces with local Nationalist MSP Alasdair Allan and MP Angus MacNeil in condemning the proposed losses.

How the announcement affects UK air and sea weapons ranges:
Western Isles - command centre to close, radar station controlled remotely with about 125 job losses
Raasay - changes planned to the underwater range. About 20 posts to be cut
Clyde - two jobs to go with changes to control of underwater sonar and magnetic ranges
Aberporth - the Welsh site take over the control of the Hebrides range
West Freugh - no change in near future at the Wigtonshire site
Larkhill - no change in near future at the Wiltshire site

Planned job losses in QinetiQ and contractors follow changes to how the ranges will be controlled.

The ranges' radar tracking station on Hirta - the main island of the St Kilda archipelago - is to be unmanned.

It will be operated remotely with staff only visiting for maintenance and servicing.

The ranges' command and control centre on South Uist is to close by 2014 and the rocket trials on the Hebrides run instead from Aberporth in Wales using new technology.

West Camp - an Army base at Balivanich, Benbecula - will remain open but one accommodation block will close meaning fewer domestic staff will be needed.

The camp is linked to training with the Rapier air defence missile system which is used by the Royal Artillery and RAF.

A 30 working days consultation period inviting views on the proposals has started.

Defence Minister Quentin Davies said: "I know that this will be very disappointing news for the staff at our ranges, and I do not underestimate the impact these proposals and job losses will have on the Hebrides community, especially in the recession."

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