NATO Ships Conduct War Games Including Live Firing of Missiles Off the Coast of Scotland in Defence of the Northern Shield Nuclear-Death-Zone – But Is the Cost To Scotland Justifiable

 

 

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16th Oct 2017: NATO Ships Hold Missile Defence Drills Off the Coast of Scotland

Warships from eight NATO countries participated in live-fire self-defence exercises of ship and missile systems near Scotland on Sunday.

Ships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States conducted a live fire defence of the Northern shield of NATO against medium-range and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The USS Donald Cook successfully intercepted a medium-range missile with a Standard Missile-3 Block IB guided missile during the exercise, the Pentagon said.

Three anti-ship cruise missiles were fired upon by Spanish and Dutch ships participating in the ‘Formidable Shield’ exercises in the U.K. Ministry of Defence Hebrides Range located on the Western Isles of Scotland.

The U.S. Department of Defence said this was the first time NATO’s ‘smart defence’ concept was demonstrated with some ships providing protection to other vessels targeting ballistic missiles. (Novinite)

 

 

 

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Scotland – Beautiful above – but deadly below and at sea

The Westminster government handed the USA large areas of Scotland’s mainland, islands and maritime areas forming part of a long term lease lend scheme ensuring the UK would be provided with nuclear weapons at an advantageous price.

Weapons currently include the Trident and around 200 nuclear warheads.

Successive Westminster governments routinely claim the weapons systems provide the UK with an independent nuclear deterrent but this is not the case since all systems fall under the control of the USA at all times and as such their use could never be authorised by a UK Prime minister.

The fore-going begs the question, why the hell do we have them?

 

 

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It is  fact that the US navy has been forbidden  for a number of years from using high intensity sonar in  US maritime areas because such use brings death and destruction to many of the oceans mammals who totally rely on their own form of sonar to communicate and organise their pods of youngsters and older members.

The Westminster government tolerates no such interference in Royal Navy operations or training.

So it’s a case of “come on over twice a year  boy’s to the Yanks and many other NATO naval forces”.

Joint operations involve the use of high frequency sonar, 1000 kilo bombs.

Carpet depth charging and bombing  of  large areas of the sea-floor and use of missiles.

The sea floor around the West coast of Scotland is a very large midden chock -a-block full of nasty debris, left overs from over 100 years of continuous abuse by the navies of the world at the invitation of Westminster.

 

 

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18 April 2008: Stranded Whales – Navy denies Use of Sonar Cause of Problem

The Royal Navy has denied sonar noise from warships caused whales to strand themselves on beaches.

The service was responding to concerns from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) ahead of the start of a major military exercise.

Society officials said 43 marine mammals have died since February.

Joint Warrior, to be staged off the west coast of Scotland, involved 36 warships and about 70 aircraft from the UK and 16 NATO countries.

The Royal Navy assault ship, HMS Bulwark, Type 23 frigates, mine-hunters, two submarines and Royal Marines took part.

Live firings at ranges and simulated bombing runs against island airports were amongst the activities.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said there have been stranding of Cuvier’s, pilot and Sowerby’s beaked whales.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to find out whether the first stranding of Cuvier’s off the islands of Islay, Tiree and Harris coincided with the use of military sonar.

A spokesman of WDCS, said: “So far, we have received a less than satisfactory response from the MoD, which indicates that sonar-related whale deaths are not being taken seriously and does not ease our suspicions that these events were indeed associated with naval activities.”

The Royal Navy told BBC Scotland that no whale stranding had been attributed to its use of sonar.

No vessels were in the area using sonar at time of the February stranding, a spokesman added.

The navy said it could not dispute sonar noise had an impact, but the service regarded itself as a world leader in using it responsibly.

Low frequency active sonar – the loudest used by the Royal Navy – will not be used outside of war-time when marine mammals were close by, the spokesman said.

He said specialists on board submarines can detect whales and dolphins using highly sensitive hydrophones.

Held twice a year, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force-run exercise involve the US, France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, Latvia, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Portugal and Norway.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/mobile/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7354852.stm

 

 

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28 October 2010: Experts monitor South Uist whales

Animal welfare experts visited South Uist to monitor the activities of a pod of pilot whales which had swum into Loch Carnan, a sea loch on the island. There were fears that the whales were about to beach themselves.

The area coastguard said the group of about 25 whales was still swimming in relatively deep water and had shown no signs of distress. They were last spotted near a small pier in Loch Carnan.

Officers from the Scottish SPCA and experts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group are on South Uist to monitor the animals.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-11643819

 

 

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29 October 2010: In pictures: Whales off course in Uist loch. 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11654151

 

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29 October 2010: Threat of mass whale stranding in South Uist remains

A group of whales in danger of becoming stranded off the coast of South Uist continue to be monitored.

The Scottish SPCA said the 24-strong pod of pilot whales are currently swimming freely in the bay at Loch Carnan, but the threat of stranding remains present.

The Scottish SPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) launched a rescue operation after members of the public had seen the animals close to shore.

Two teams of volunteers, including 10 medics and three inspectors from the Scottish SPCA, travelled from the mainland to the site, taking three vehicles, two rescue trailers and four sets of rescue pontoons.

The rescuers have also enlisted the help of Project Jonah, the New Zealand-based marine mammal rescue organisation which has experience in mass whale stranding and will be providing advice over the phone should a stranding occur.

A Scottish SPCA senior inspector said “After treacherous weather conditions overnight, we are relieved to report that although the pod of whales are still in the bay, they are swimming freely and have not yet stranded.

There are several juveniles in this group and they all seem to be quite happy at the moment.

We are privileged to see these animals up close, but we are also very aware that the threat of stranding remains, which would, of course, be disastrous.

We will continue to monitor the whales throughout the day, ready to act should the danger of stranding become a reality.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-11652688

 

 

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30 October 2010: South Uist whales ‘now safe’ at sea

Animal rescuers believe a pod of whales which were in danger of becoming stranded in a sea loch off the coast of South Uist are now safely at sea.

The Scottish SPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) had been monitoring the whales since they were spotted at Loch Carnan on Wednesday.

The coastguard reported no sign of the 24-strong pod on Saturday morning.

There were concerns the whales were in distress but experts said the behaviour was typical of adults protecting young.

A Scottish SPCA senior inspector said: “The coastguard has been out this morning and there was no sign of the whales, which is very good news.

There was a real fear of mass stranding and, while there is no guarantee they won’t return, we are hopeful the whales are now safe at sea and will stay there.

It may be that the juveniles in the pod were sick or too young for the rough seas and the adults kept them close to the shore for safety.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-11659010

 

 

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7 November 2010: Whales found dead on Donegal beach

Scientists have taken skin and tissue samples from 33 pilot whales which died off the coast of County Donegal.

Environmentalists are trying to establish how the whales beached on Rutland Island near Burton-port.

It’s thought they were the same group spotted in the Outer Hebrides at the end of October.

An expert from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said it was one of the biggest mass deaths of whales in Irish history.

He expressed concern that Royal Navy sonar equipment could have played a role adding that the Royal Navy had been exercising in the area off South Uist at the time but had moved away.

He said “Thirty or 40 pilot whales were spotted off the Outer Hebrides at South Uist last week.

It looked like they were going to strand. It was bad weather. They were not seen again. They’re a very strong and social group… so the sick and the healthy died here together.”

Campaigners are concerned that the latest very high frequency sonar equipment used routinely by the Royal Navy could have disturbed the navigational skills of this deep diving species of whales.

But a spokeswoman from the Royal Navy said that when the whales were spotted near South Uist, the closest navy ship was 50 miles away.

At that distance, she said, there was no way that the sonar equipment could have affected them.

But the pod had been spotted near Uist, between 24-36 hours following exposure to very high frequency sonar and at that time the Royal Navy and the Whales were very closely located.

Previously, the Royal Navy has denied that sonar noise from their warships could cause whales to beach.

However, in America, the US Navy was ordered not to use mid-frequency sonar during training exercises from 2007 and 2009, after a judge found in favour of campaigners who argued the devices harmed marine mammals in the area.

A team from Galway,  Mayo, Institute of Technology travelled to the scene off Donegal to take samples from the mammals.

Skin samples were also be sent to the Irish Cetacean Genetic Tissue Bank at the Natural History Museum in Dublin.

Sixty whales died in the 1960s off the west coast of Kerry and 35 to 40 animals died in north Kerry in 2001.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11705622

 

 

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20 May 2011: Fear for mass stranding of whales on South Uist

Marine animal experts are preparing for a potential mass stranding of more than 60 pilot whales in South Uist in the Western Isles.

The whales were spotted in Loch Carnan on Thursday afternoon and about 20 were said to have cuts to their heads.

It is thought the injuries may have been caused by the whales’ attempts to strand themselves on the rocky foreshore of the sea loch.

However, animal welfare experts think they may not be in imminent danger.

A spokesman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), at the scene, said “low tide has come and gone and the whales have remained out at sea.

They are not in imminent danger of stranding. We are just keeping an eye on them and see what they do next.

We are trying to make sure they don’t become distressed. Rather than try to stop them coming ashore, we would let them come ashore and then try to deal with that situation when it arose.

We have got several sets of pontoons with us, which is our whale re floatation equipment, and we have got more on the way.

We have currently got 12 sets congregating on the Uists, which is basically every set in the UK. We are going to let them play out whatever role they want to do and take it as it comes.”

The pod had been moving back and forth from the shore and rescuers said the animals were “very vocal”, which may be a sign of distress.

The whales, a deep water species, have moved from the loch back to a nearby bay, where they were first spotted.

In October 2010 a pod of pilot whales were in danger in the same sea loch. Days later, 33 whales, thought to be the same group, were discovered dead on a beach in County Donegal.

The Scottish SPCA, said: “It is incredible that a second pod, this time probably more than twice the size of the one previous, has arrived in the same area.

There is no reason we know of why they would have come to the same location.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13466462

 

 

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20 May 2011: In pictures: At risk South Uist pilot whales.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-13469173

 

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21 May 2011: Whales at risk of beaching on South Uist leave loch Carnan

A pod of more than 60 whales at risk of beaching in the Western Isles are leaving the area and attempting to swim south.

Marine experts said the whales had moved from Loch Carnan, South Uist, but were “hugging” the coastline.

The pod was first spotted on Thursday afternoon and it was feared they could die in a mass stranding.

The Scottish government has sent marine protection vessel Hirta to shadow the pod’s movements.

A spokesman said the use of acoustic devices would be avoided.

Weather conditions were poor with high winds, rough seas and moderate visibility due to low cloud and rain.

A spokesman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), said: “Medics on the scene at Loch Carnan, South Uist, are reporting that the pod of pilot whales has now moved from the location they were in earlier and appear to be endeavouring to leave and head south, but hugging the coastline.

The remainder of the coastline is predominantly rocky with numerous inlets and bays which give a separate set of dangers to the creatures.”

Volunteers are keeping watch for the whales around these dangerous areas.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-13483100

 

 

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23 May 2011: Two whales found dead in Loch Carnan

A second pilot whale has been found dead in a Hebridean loch after experts feared more than 60 of the animals had been at risk of becoming beached.

The pod had left the shallow waters of Loch Carnan in South Uist on Saturday, but returned later that night.

They have now headed out of the area – but an animal welfare charity confirmed another whale’s body had been found.

Tests on a body found earlier suggested the female died from disease, not because it was stranded on rocks.

Marine experts said the rest of the pod had now  had left the area but those involved would continue to monitor the Pod’s progress south.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-13496653

 

 

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22 July 2011: Fifteen pilot whales in trouble in Kyle of Durness

Two whales have come ashore and up to 15 others were in difficulty in shallow water at Kyle of Durness, on the north Highland coast.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the whales were believed to be from a pod of as many as 60.

A Royal Navy bomb disposal team training in the area has offered its help in any rescue effort.

Highland Council countryside rangers and coastguard volunteers have been monitoring the situation.

A (WDCS) field officer, said the area was remote and it would take rescuers sometime to reach the scene. He said: “It is going to be tricky.It is a remote and difficult place to get to.

The latest report is that two of the whales were stranded on the shore, 15 were in shallow water and at significant risk of becoming stranded and at least another 20 whales appeared to be heading towards the shallows. Whales failing to make it back out to sea do not survive.

Post mortem examinations will then be completed with the aim of identifying what caused them to come ashore. This enables the Stranding Scheme to monitor trends in causes of marine stranding which in turn allows identification of any new or developing hazards to marine mammals in Scottish waters.”

 

 

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23 July 2011: Volunteers monitor coast for fresh whale beaching

Rescuers who guided 44 pilot whales out of shallow waters are monitoring a remote Highlands coastline to make sure they do not become stranded again.

Medics from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, the coastguard and the Navy were called to the Kyle of Durness after the pod of more than 60 was spotted.

Forty-four were encouraged back to sea but 25 did not survive.

Rescuers said that three whales still alive would be euthanased as their condition was not good for refloating.

Post mortems examinations will be carried out out on bodies on the shore to find out the cause of the stranding and the deaths of the whales.

The team of helpers managed to rotate whales that were upside down to prevent them from drowning when the tide came in.

Medics from as far as Newcastle responded to the incident and nine sets of pontoons were delivered to the site overnight.

Although they were not used because the estuary flooded too quickly, they will remain on the site in case they are needed.

A number of volunteers are currently searching the coast, lochs and headlands for evidence of the whales which had returned to open water.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-14260666

 

 

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25 July 2011: Whales stranded in Sutherland ‘seemed healthy’

Experts examining the carcasses of 25 dead pilot whales say they were apparently healthy animals before getting stranded on a Sutherland beach.

They were part of a pod of 60 whales which got into difficulty in Balnakiel Bay and the Kyle of Durness. Rescuers managed to help most to deeper water.

Scientists have now taken samples from the dead whales to try to establish why they beached. One of the team told the BBC that the animals showed no obvious injuries.

However, she added that more detailed analysis was needed before they could speculate on why they came ashore.

About 25 of the 60 whales which got into trouble did not survive, and post-mortem examinations are being carried out out to establish the cause of the stranding and the deaths of the whales.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-14276042

 

 

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April 2015: UK Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme (2011-2014)

Mission: To provide a coordinated approach to the surveillance of cetacean stranding and to investigate major causes of death of stranded cetaceans in the UK.

The project will also collect data on UK stranded seals, marine turtles and basking sharks.

The outputs form this project include the ability to determine the causes of death in cetaceans and using stranding events to monitor the incidence of disease to identify any substantial new threats to conservation status, will ensure that the UK complies with a number of national and international agreements, obligations, including the habitats directive and the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic and North Sea (ASCOBANS). Objective parameters:

* Collate, analyse and report data for all cetacean stranding around the coast of the UK.

* Determine the major causes of death in stranded cetaceans, including by-catch and physical trauma, in order to identify any substantial new threats to their conservation.

* Undertake surveillance on the incidence of disease in stranded cetaceans in order to identify any substantial new threats to their conservation status.

* Investigate any interaction between feeding behaviour, fisheries and stranded cetaceans through examination of the contents of the stomach, recording any evidence of ‘litter’.

* Maintain a database bringing together accurate and geo-reference data on both stranding and post mortem data, allowing end users to interrogate such data using the Internet.

* Make information on stranding and post-mortems results available departmental quarterly and publicly available by annual reports.

 

 

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April 2015: Today it was revealed that the deaths of a large number (at least 19) of long finned Pilot Whales near the range in 2011 was caused by military activity (the disposal of ordnance on the sea bed) at the military range.

The reference contained the assessment of the sequence of events that led to a significant loss of marine life.

With characteristic understatement the marine scientists employed by DEFRA to draw up the report suggested how such events could be avoided henceforth by adopting the following measures in ‘mitigation’:

1). Consider deployment of acoustic monitoring equipment in the waters around Garvie Island to properly characterise the extent and magnitude of the detonation blast profile.

Systems for real time monitoring are available and this is probably more effective in the long term and more reliable in poor weather.

2). Consider deployment of passive acoustic monitoring equipment as a tool to assess the presence of ecolocating odontocetes in the critical area.

3). Train and use marine mammal observers to be stationed on appropriate vantage points to scan for cetaceans along a section of coastline either side of Garvie Island and develop systems for relaying this information to central control.

4). Improve communication systems between members of the disposal team and shore based observers.

5). Avoid serial detonations in a small time window.

6). Whenever possible, the type of charge used to deactivate devices should be one which burns out rather than explodes the target (a technique routinely used in some parts of the world.)

Burn out systems enjoy a good success rate with no significant extra cost in terms of time, resources or diver safety.

Given the potential damage to marine life from the ‘high order’ explosions of conventional disposal techniques, it is questionable why this method has not been used routinely in the past.

 

 

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20 June 2015: SNP criticise undersea detonations after whale deaths

The SNP has called for an end to explosives being detonated in the sea around Scotland following a report into the deaths of 19 whales in 2011.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) study suggested military activity may have harmed the long finned pilot whales.

The 19 were among 39 that stranded at Kyle of Durness a day after three explosions at nearby Cape Wrath.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it accepted the report’s findings.

Seventy distressed whales were spotted in the shallow waters of the Kyle of Durness on 22 July 2011.

Despite attempts by rescuers to coax them back out to sea, 39 were left stranded by the tide.

Defra’s report into the incident said that three 1,000lb (454kg) explosives were exploded underwater at the nearby Cape Wrath military firing range the day before the stranding, while there was another blast shortly after the animals got into difficulty.

The report said it would be reasonable to conclude that these underwater detonations may have had a significant effect on the behaviour hearing and navigational abilities of the animals.

 

 

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Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “This report confirms what we already suspected but the Ministry of Defence tried to cover up – the detonating of bombs led to the whales being deafened, forced off course and dying on the beach at Kyle of Durness.

The efforts of the local people in the Kyle of Durness to save the beached whales were incredible – but sadly the animals could not be saved and many died.

Scotland’s seas are blessed with many marine mammals, including more than 20 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

It is our responsibility, where possible, to do all we can to protect these wonderful and popular species.”

He also criticised the length of time it had taken for the report to be published.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “The MoD accepts the findings of the Durness Mass Stranding report which identified a number of possible factors that may have influenced events, one of which was the detonation of underwater explosives. ”

The recommendations will be considered by the MoD and implemented where appropriate.

Additional mitigation has already been put in place during munitions disposal activities conducted since 2011.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-33268200

 

 

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11 April 2015: NATO ships arrive in Scotland for massive joint exercises

The exercises entail deployment of substantial NATO maritime resources, although the UK itself lacks maritime patrol vessels for North Sea security.

A recent report by the European Leadership Foundation also found that many NATO members were cutting overall military spending.

The Royal United Services Institute estimated that the UK is set for even deeper cuts to military budgets, and will reallocate ‘war pensions’ into military spending to meet NATO targets.

Not withstanding financial difficulties NATO’s Standing Naval Forces arrived in Scotland for the largest-ever Joint Warrior Drill, which included 50 ships, 70 aircraft and 13,000 personnel from 14 countries.

Joint Warrior is held twice a year – in April and October. Naval and aerial activities are concentrated off the coast of Scotland, including amphibious landings. The exercises have been going on for a long time.

In total nearly 12,000 military personnel are involved giving it a powerful level of robustness.

Many nations participate, including: The US, The Netherlands, Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Germany and others.

 

 

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Captain Gennaro Carola, Standing NATO Maritime Group Two’s (SNMG2) Chief of Staff said: ” This exercise provides opportunity for us to work with our Allied shipmates.

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Hamm, USS Vicksburg’s operations officer said: “for most US Sailors, our training and qualifications are done with other US Navy.

Ships; multinational exercises like this help our sailors learn how to cooperate and excel with other navies in a challenging and multidimensional environment.

The aim of the exercises is to provide complex and coordinated training between military forces from various countries and to integrate land and maritime forces.

They will also have an anti-terrorist dimension. Joint Warrior is a very good opportunity to showcase the interoperability skills we as an Alliance maritime force are always perfecting.

With this exercise we have a chance to work together on a large scale and to implement all of the lessons learned from our previous exercises. It will be an exciting and busy time at sea,”

 

 

Royal Marines from J Company, 42 CDO preparing for an amphibious assault whilst onboard HMS Bulwark. The Marines used Landing Craft Utilities to transport them, their vehicles and equipment to shore from HMS Bulwark's landing dock. HMS Bulwark is currently carrying out Exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

 

 

Many of the aircraft involved will fly from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray and Prestwick airport, a pseudo civilian airport with an extra long runway to the South of Glasgow in Ayrshire

Plane spotters are apparently already flocking to Prestwick, according to local media, while local residents in the Northwest of Scotland have been warned that they might be disturbed by low flying helicopters.

A government spokesman said: “Prestwick stands ready to play its part in Joint Warrior and our involvement shows we have the expertise, capability and resources to routinely host Europe’s largest military exercise.

We look forward to hosting numerous aircraft including various fast jets, helicopters and transport aircraft such as Hawks, Falcon 20s, A340s and C130s, from the RAF and the Royal Navy as well as those from many other NATO countries including France, Belgium and Holland.”

 

Prestwick’s Chief Executive Iain Cochrane said.

“Many of the ships involved have already started arriving at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde to the west of Glasgow.

The Royal Navy has said that jamming will be limited to an area in the Northwest of Scotland and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland has warned hikers that there may be disruption to GPS devises and to take a map and compass as well.

The last time Joint Warrior took place in Scotland in 2011 jamming was suspended after complaints by fishermen in the Western Isles.

The war games come just weeks after a Scottish fishermen, Angus Macleod, said the nets of his trawler were snagged by a submarine resulting in his nets being dragged continually in front of his boat.

Such encounters can be dangerous for fishermen and he said he and his four crew were “extremely lucky”.

http://rt.com/uk/248921-nato-scotland-joint-excercises/

 

 

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The West Coast of Scotland – A Land and Sea Nuclear Death Zone -The Real Reason the Unionists Are Desperate to Hang On to Scotland (part1)

 

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The West Coast of Scotland – An Island Fortress – A Sea and land Nuclear Death Zone

The west coast of Scotland is one of the most intricate and beautiful landscapes in the world.

Children, when asked to draw maps of Britain, usually depict it as a muddle of spikes and blobs reaching into the Atlantic.

From the Solway Firth in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, estuaries and sea lochs bite far into the high and uneven ground of the mainland.

Offshore lie 589 islands, as well as numerous rock islets and reefs.

The largest and most westerly chain, the Outer Hebrides, provides a 150-mile-long barrier to the wind and seas which blow and swell, uninterrupted by land, all the way from North America.

The barrier means that coastal waters are relatively sheltered. Glaciation has also made them remarkably deep.

In the few miles between the island of Raasay and the mountains of Torridon the sea reaches down in places for more than 1,500 feet—the greatest sea depth off the British coast.

North of the Firth of Clyde there are very few towns or large villages, and none other than Oban and Stornoway of a scale that might support a medium-sized supermarket.

The population of the Hebrides peaked in the census of 1841, but then came clearances and potato blight and the vanishing of the herring shoals.

Large tracts of the west coast are empty, visible life confined to sea birds, seals, rabbits, deer, and the descendants of the sheep that Highland landlords exchanged for people (deported to Glasgow and Canada) in the nineteenth century.

 

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These conditions—deep water, few people on the land, plus easy access to Soviet navy routes—made the west coast of Scotland an ideal place to maintain, test and store all kinds of weaponry during the Cold War.

And to continue a technical, military history that began a hundred years ago with torpedo ranges in the Clyde sea lochs and anthrax trials which poisoned the island of Gruinard (the plan, ‘Operation Vegetarian’, was to wipe out Germany’s cow population by bombing them with anthrax-infected cattle feed).

Today, the Scottish west coast continues to be the most heavily armed region of Britain and quite possibly Europe, offering mountains and glens for low-flying fighter and bomber exercises, sea and moorland for uranium-depleted artillery fire, underground storage for nuclear weapons and naval fuel, emergency moorings for nuclear submarines.

The loveliness of the changing light on sea and mountain makes it hard to imagine the ominous technology buried beneath.

 

 

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The missile testing range on South Uist, now run by the Anglo-American defence company QinetiQ, was set up in the 1950s to test the Corporal nuclear missile system bought from the USA.

It is one of the busiest such ranges in the world, and one of the longest, stretching far into the Atlantic. In a secret report from 1981, declassified in 2002, the Naval Radiation Protection Services (NRPS) discovered that between 1967 and 1980 the launching site and surrounding area had been contaminated by large amounts of Cobalt-60, a radioisotope sprayed from the back of moving missiles to help radar track them.

The report concluded that ‘both the ammunition technicians at RA Range Hebrides and possibly the general public were being placed at unnecessary radiological risk’.

An earlier investigation in 2002 found that 352 drums of waste from the decontamination process were buried at the range.

Most submarine exercises in Europe take place off the west coast of Scotland.

Following the sinking of the trawler Antares by the submarine Trenchant in 1990, a system called ‘Subfacts’ was introduced.

This divides the seas off the west of Scotland into ‘Submarine Exercise Areas’ (SEAs) and a daily broadcast tells fishermen which to avoid.

In November 2002, the nuclear-powered submarine Trafalgar crashed into the Isle of Skye at fifteen knots and a depth of fifty metres while practising torpedo evasion tactics.

 

 

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The most north-westerly point on the British mainland is an 8,400-acre weapons range and army exercise area.

Cape Wrath (a Norse word for ‘turning point’) has the highest sea cliffs on mainland Britain.

The Naval Gunfire Support Range is used by Royal Navy and other NATO vessels as a practise area for 4.5-inch and 5-inch guns.

The cliffs, an important nesting ground for birds, rise to almost 1,000 feet and are used as ranging marks for the guns.

Nearby Garvie Island is the only place in Europe where aircraft can drop live 1,000lb bombs.

Cape Wrath assumed greater importance when US ships lost access to ranges in Puerto Rico in 1999 after a civilian was accidentally killed.

 

 

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In November 1990, the nuclear-powered attack submarine Trenchant caught the Kintyre-based trawler Antares’ nets and dragged her to the bottom of the Arran Trench, between the Isle of Arran and the mainland.All four crew of the Antares drowned.

Among the submarine crew were officers reaching the end of the six-week ‘Perisher’ submarine commanders’ course.

The subsequent inquiry blamed ‘partial breakdown in the watch-keeping structure and standards’ on board Trenchant.

Every summer, aircraft, surface ships and submarines in the west of Scotland are brought together for the ‘Neptune Warrior’ war game.

Elaborate scenarios written by military planners test the preparedness of officers and men.

These might be exercises in ‘conventional warfare’, a terrorist attack by patrol boats, ‘Bosnian enclave’-type situations, or even how to deal with troublesome members of the press.

 

 

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Luce Bay is a QinetiQ-owned testing range for weapons launched from jets and helicopters.

Damage to the marine environment from bombing exercises is such that the sea bed has been fitted with special mattresses to absorb the explosions.

The bay is also used for NATO training exercises. In September 2003, a NATO exercise named ‘Northern Light’ practised a large-scale amphibious landing employing around fifty ships and submarines and thirty-four aircraft.

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency’s Noise Range at Loch Goil can provide sound analysis of all the systems on a ship or submarine.

The loch, which is deep and quiet, is lined with hydrophones which map the unique sound signature of a vessel.

 

 

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There are many fuel stores holding hundreds of thousands of tons of petroleum under Scotland’s glens.

In addition to the nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed Trident fleet at Faslane also houses five conventionally armed Swiftsure-class nuclear submarines, ships of the Third Mine Countermeasures Squadron and the Northern Ireland Squadron.

In 2001, Commachio Company of the Royal Marines was transferred to Faslane to protect the submarine fleet.

Faslane will also house the new Astute-class submarines and Trident’s replacement.

The armament testing range at Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright covers 4,500 acres and its danger zone extends over 120 square miles of the Solway Firth.

Since 1982, more than 6,000 depleted uranium shells, usually in the form of anti-tank munitions, have been fired from the range into the Solway Firth.

Most of the twenty tons of shells remain on the sea bed. Depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

Dundrennan is also the planned site for controversial electro-magnetic ‘super-gun’ trials on behalf of the US military.

The gun is able to hurl a projectile at 7,500 mph, more than five times the top speed of Concorde.

Each shell will be about a foot long and as narrow as a broom handle.

The kinetic force with which it hits its target will be so great that it is unlikely to require any explosive warhead.

 

 

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Faslane, the base for the Trident submarine fleet, employs 7,000 people (primarily military) and stretches along the banks of the Gare Loch behind razor wire, guarded by armed police and infrared cameras.

At the mouth of the loch is the ‘degaussing range’ at Rosneath, where submarines are demagnetized to ensure they do not trigger floating mines.

 

 

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A ‘Z’ Berth is a jetty or mooring buoy for nuclear submarines in case of emergencies. Scotland has five.

When plans for the ‘Z’ Berth in Loch Ewe were discovered, all 500 residents around the loch were issued with potassium iodate tablets as a precautionary measure.

The 200-odd warheads that comprise Britain’s nuclear deterrent are stored in air-locked vaults behind concrete and steel blast doors buried in the hillside at Coulport, twenty-seven miles from Glasgow.

 

 

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The Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap was a key battleground in the Cold War.

Soviet submarines based at the pens on the Kola peninsula had to pass through the gap before going on patrols around the world and could be detected and tailed.

The US took responsibility for the Greenland to Iceland sector, the UK for the rest.

The primary defence from the 1970s on was SOSUS, a system of underwater hydrophones strung out at depth across the ocean, which was said to be able to hear a submarine 1,100 miles away and pinpoint its location to an area of ten square miles.

Portpatrick, on the Scottish mainland, overlooks the narrow channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At its deepest point is a long trench, Beaufort Dyke, which was used for dumping munitions and radioactive waste after the Second World War.

An estimated 1.7 million tonnes of weapons including artillery shells, phosphorous flares, mortars, incendiaries and cluster bombs have been jettisoned off boats, supposedly into the dyke.

Two tonnes of low – and medium-level radioactive waste have been added to the Irish Sea by private companies, including the defence contractor Ferranti.

Around 14,000 tonnes of phosgene-charged rockets were also dumped into Beaufort Dyke.

Phosgene was used by both the Germans and the Allies. It is a colourless poison gas, designed to incapacitate rather than to kill, which acts as an acute respiratory irritant, causing severe lung damage.

 

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In 1995, 4,000 phosphorous incendiary bombs were washed up on Mull, Oban, Arran and other parts of Scotland’s west coast.

A British Gas pipeline had been laid through the heart of the dump and its trenching machine dispersed thousands of shells.

Subsequent enquiries found that bombs had been dumped well short of the intended site, some only three miles offshore in as little as fifty metres of water.

http://granta.com/Military-Landscapes/

 

 

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Cape Wrath – Killing Ground of the Whales

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) owns a 59 square kilometres (23 sq mi) area of the cape, known as the Cape Wrath Training Centre.

The cape has been used for training exercises from the early years of the 20th century, with the first bye-laws established in 1933 to allow use of the area as a firing range.

The area was used originally as a naval gunnery range and was bought by the MoD in 1999.

Since 2005 the area has been used as a multi-nation services training area and is one of the sites used in the Joint Warrior exercises, Europe’s largest military exercise, and by other NATO operations.

Training is allowed on up to 120 days a year, usually taking place in the spring and autumn, although times can be unpredictable.

The range is usually open for public access during the summer period and there is rarely firing on Sundays.

The MoD owns a number of the surviving buildings in the area and operates observation posts and sentry posts during training.

It is used for naval gunfire practice and for army artillery and mortar range firing.

Disused military vehicles are often used as targets.

The RAF uses An Garbh-eilean (Garvie Island) as a target for a range of training operations.

It is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere where NATO forces combine land, air and sea capabilities in assault mode for training manoeuvres, deploying ordnance up to 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs.

Firing on the range is controlled from Faraid Head close to Balnakeil.

 

 

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In 2008 a heath fire was caused on the range during a period of live firing using Tracer (phosphourus) ammunition. An area of around 137 hectares (340 acres) was affected.

Scottish Natural Heritage estimated that the area would take 10 years to return to its normal environmental conditions.

Concern has also been raised of the effects of military exercises on nesting birds, on sheep during lambing season and the effects of noise on local residents.

A shell fired during exercises caused concern in 2002 when it landed 8 miles (13 km) off target near the mouth of Loch Eriboll and around 1 mile (1.6 km) from houses.

The MoD expressed an interest in extending its land holdings on the Cape in 2012 after being given the opportunity to purchase 24 hectares (59 acres) surrounding Cape Wrath Lighthouse by the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The plans were opposed by the Durness Development Group which cited concerns that historic buildings might be destroyed and that visitors may be unable to access cliff top paths.

The group registered an interest in the land using community right to buy legislation and a petition opposing the sale attracted thousands of signatures.

In May 2013 the MoD announced that it would not be continuing with the purchase.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Wrath

 

 

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4 August 2002: Why sonar harms whales and dolphins

Environmental campaigners in America are concerned about a new danger to the world’s whale population.

It’s sonar – powerful sound waves used by submarines and ships to track activity underwater.

Research has shown that the sonar waves can be heard by whales and dolphins – and campaigners believe it may be causing the whales to beach.

The American navy starts using a controversial new low-frequency system next month, even though some types of sonar have already been blamed for causing stranding.

It was a stranding of rare beak nosed whales in the Caribbean which gave scientists their first proof of the harm sonar can inflict. In spite of the efforts of local people, six whales died.

Post mortem examinations found that their inner ears had been severely damaged.

Whale experts believe mid-frequency sonar caused the stranding.

This new sonar system is lower and louder and travels a great deal further.

The noise can be likened to a jumbo jet taking off.

The American Navy says it needs the more powerful device to keep track of potentially threatening submarines.

But it’s continuing to research into the effects of sonar on marine life.

A consultant to the United States Navy said:  “There is no finite correlation between low frequency sonar and negative effects on marine wildlife. Can marine life hear it?  Yes. Does it have a major effect? We don’t know.”

This uncertainty alarms wildlife groups. They’re now threatening legal action to protect sea-life from the sonar.

Whale campaigners views are unequivocal “Very intense sound can have severe consequences, even death.

It causes us great concern that the navy proposes to deploy one the loudest sound systems devised by man over 80 per cent of the world’s oceans without really understanding what the implications are.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/2168168.stm

 

 

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7 August 2007: Whale fears silence US Navy sonar

In a legal action brought by a coalition of animal welfare groups against the US Navy the Navy has been ordered not to use mid-frequency sonar equipment during training exercises off the coast of California.

A federal judge ruled in favour of the campaigners who argued that the devices harmed marine mammals in the area.

They said noise pollution from sonar disorientated whales, causing them to become stranded on beaches.

A navy spokesman said they would appeal because the injunction jeopardised the nation’s safety and security.

The campaigners, in a statement following the ruling, said “The court’s order confirms that during sonar testing and training, the navy can and must protect whales and other marine life in the extraordinarily rich waters off our southern Californian coast.

The federal judge recognised that the Navy’s own assessment concluded that the sonar exercises would “cause widespread harm to nearly 30 species of marine mammals, including five species of endangered whales”.

The US Navy’s Third Fleet commander said “This court decision prevents us from using active sonar. It potentially puts American lives and our national security at risk.”

 

 

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In 2006, a UK government-commissioned report called for more research into the effects of noise pollution on marine animals.

It concluded that there were many noise sources in the seas, including seismic surveys for oil and gas, shipping, offshore wind farms, military sonar and scientific research.

The study by the Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (ICMST) identified 13 cases of stranding by whales and dolphins that appeared to be linked to noise adding that most of the cases did involve naval vessels.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/mobile/sci/tech/6934715.stm

 

 

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