View Full Version : Fylingdales

David Thompson
05-09-2013, 23:43
I'm surprised there isn't already a thread on this radar station but a short report on tonights BBC Look North from Newcastle , including a nice Pathe News clip of it's construction , reported on the stations up-and-coming 50th birthday . It's hard to believe but the station notches up it's half century of operational service on the
17 September ; 1963 - 2013 .

From the book ' A History - Royal Air Force Fylingdales' by S/L BCF Wilson , published in 1983 by RAF Fylingdales , ISBN 0 9508521 0 4 ,
a plaque in the Tactical Operations Room records ;

"This plaque commemorates the commissioing of Royal Air
Force Fylingdales as Site III of the Balistic Missile Early Warning
System on the 17 September 1963 . This site is a joint enterprise of
the United States of America and Great Britain for the protection
of both the North American Continent and the United Kingdom"

Added to the plaque is ;

"Royal Air Force Fighter Command assumed command of this
site on 15 January 1964"

No doubt there will be more in the press about this anniversary in the coming weeks ? Hopefully !

06-09-2013, 14:10
Pity the poor RAF Bomb Disposal Flight who had to sezrch the entire moor for any metal objects and remove them prior to the radars going into operation!

Peter Kirk
07-09-2013, 16:03
When I was looking into the history of the Manhood range it seemed that clearance of the area by the BD flight was suspended as Fylingdales was a high priority and a lot of manpower was diverted there. I assume it was War Office land before and if so why were RAF BD flights assigned, surely the RE would clear their own mess up? As a possible answer I wonder if it was transferred to the Air Ministry before clearance if so that was a bad move!

Is anyone else having trouble trying not to write Flyingdales?

07-09-2013, 16:18
An RAF BD Flight may have been used as the REs were busy. It must be an odd place to serve at as you wont ever want to actually do the job your there for.

10-09-2013, 15:01
BBC item on "Inside RAF Fylingdales on its 50th anniversary"


9 September 2013 Last updated at 06:21 BST

For 50 years RAF Fylingdales' mission has been to provide an early warning system of a ballistic missile attack for the Western world.

It was built as an early warning station during the Cold War to detect a potential nuclear attack.

Today it has been upgraded to cater for modern needs and its powerful radar beam tracks missiles in every direction as well as tracking space debris.

Presenter Nicola Rees goes inside RAF Fylingdales to see how the base would respond to a potential missile attack.

The item includes a video


10-09-2013, 15:38
Extracted from a 2009 article on the BBC website a section on the then prioposed Missile Defence Shield

The History of RAF Fylingdales

The base began operation in 1963 at the height of the Cold War and less than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was designed to provide early warning of ballistic missile launches against the UK, Western Europe and the US. The base was known as 'The Golf Balls', because of the three large spherical radar housings that stood on the horizon.

The RAF Fylingdales radar is part of a network of bases that form the Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment for the UK and the US. Others include Clear in Alaska, Thule in Greenland, Beale in California and Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The Fylingdales 'Golf Balls' were removed during the late 1980s and replaced by the current phased array radar.

On December 17 2002, the Secretary of State for Defence informed the House of Commons that a request had been received from the US Government to upgrade the existing Early Warning Radar as part of its missile defence programme. The request was granted early the next year.

In August 2007, the upgrade was completed, but is awaiting certification and the capability is only theoretical. The capability to shoot down ballistic missiles would only become possible if plans for radar and missile bases in Eastern Europe become a reality.


David Thompson
16-09-2013, 10:25
There is to be a 50th anniversary reception on Tuesday , 17th , for 800 guests with a flypast and display by The Red Arrows at 11:20 .

David Thompson
17-09-2013, 21:42
Nice photo here of the 'Reds over Fylingdales ;

Can't find much else about the event . I know it's a bit out of the way but not too far away !

Matt W
20-09-2013, 20:04
The moors round Fylingdales were taken over as a Firing Range in 1940. Part of the range was also used as a decoy site (Sneaton Moor - there is a picture in Colin Dobinson's book). After the war the area was retained a Practical Training Area. The ranges were closed following one of the Defence Reviews in the early sixties, the land around Snod Hill being retained for the BMEWS site. RAF BD cleared the site as the RE BD teams were fully committed to clearing other area of range to allow the Forestry Commission to start planting trees.

I was lucky enough to attend the open day on Tuesday as my Father had worked there and my Brother still does. A fantastic display by the Red Arrows, also displays by Tucano, BBMF Spitfire and Sea King SAR. The Typhoon display was unfortunately cancelled due a bird strike, he landed safely at Linton.

21-09-2013, 13:52
As a young lad, my parents & I were on holiday in nearby Fylingthorpe in 1963 and we would occasionally stop on the road passing Fylingdales and watch the progress of the 'golfballs' being built. As we would often use binoculars, my father would occasionally comment 'I wonder if there is anyone watching us watching them - ?'. Now there's a thought - !
On a more nostalgic note, it make you feel old when you see something wondrous being built; and then it is later dismantled because it's obsolete - in your own lifetime - !:D

07-02-2014, 22:51
been inside on an open day.highly recommended place to visit if you're interested in radar

Richard Flagg
19-09-2014, 19:25
A recent photo taken by Fred Pearce


Peter Kirk
19-09-2014, 21:04
Does anyone else see the resemblance to the old sound mirrors?

Matt W
22-09-2014, 00:45
I do! I seem to remember the similarity is mention in the book on sound mirrors (Echoes from the Sky?)

Richard Flagg
06-11-2014, 13:14
Two photos of Fylingdales taken by David Thompson that he has asked me to put on the forum



David Thompson
06-11-2014, 13:32
Thanks Richard .
I took those from the second security gate whilst on a base visit in July . It is from this point that cameras and mobile 'phones are not allowed , by visitors at least , inside the base .

Peter Kirk
09-11-2014, 23:23
It seems Fylingdales may have had a bombing range when it was in WO hands. In 1952 after Heligoland was no longer used as a tactical bombing range other locations were sought. Larkhill helped but was not enough so two sites in the north were selected, both on existing artillery ranges. One was at Redesdale (Otterburn ranges) and the other at Fylingdales. Redesdale did go ahead but I don't know, yet, if Fylingdales did. The 1952 requirement was for a practice bombing range for use day and night, mostly the latter lit by ground initiated TI's. The danger radius was to be 1,500yds and probably use was to be made of existing Army OP's. As the Army bit was being cleared during 1959 by both RE and RAF BD teams it now makes sense why the RAF was involved. Normally protocol dictates that the previous user is responsible for the clearance so I would take this to imply the RAF was a previous user. All I need now is some proof. I will try to sketch out the rough RAF location and post it later.

Matt W
10-11-2014, 21:46
I've studied Fylingdales and have never seen any evidence of a bombing range. All natures on the clearance certificates were army, not RAF. The RAF BD sections cleared the Snod Hill area as the land had been transferred to the Air Ministry in preparation for the building of BMEWS. At the time all the RE Sections were fully committed to clearing the rest of range as there was a deadline for the land to be handed over to the Forestry Commission.

Having said that I'd be interested to see the location as there are some odd markings on the ground I've never been able to work out.

Matt W
10-11-2014, 21:50

Rectangular markings on the ground to the east of the BMEWS site.

Peter Kirk
10-11-2014, 23:25
You are probably correct on the Snod Hill and RAF BD operation. Wishful thinking on my part :)

The evidence, such as it is, was in the Otterburn file - AIR 2/12236 and in a memo dated 12/07/1952. The Fylingdales bit is shown below. I can match the named locations but not the grid refs.

Still not proof it actually happened. It also had a plan numbered 4397/52 but as with most of the really interesting stuff mentioned in TNA files they are strangely absent!! The other source of information is the Services Lands Requirement Committee meeting papers (SLRC) but without knowing which meeting it was discussed and where that meetings minutes are held it is a very hit and miss search. Having been through a few of these with nothing range related it can take many trips to come up trumps. Sometimes an SLRC Serial number is assigned to a range and if it is between 1000 and 1999 it is Air ministry but again there is no mention of this.

I found another mention in Wing Commander Bill Malin's memoirs, "Coming into Land". This was dated August 1940 and is related to 4 Sqn (AC) just after it's move to Clifton (York). He says "We dropped live bombs on the bombing range at Fylingdales...". I suspect this was a tactical demo by the Lysanders for the benefit of the troops, maybe to see what real bombs were like for those that were not in France. Having just bought the 4 Sqn ORB records for August (Record and Summary) plus the Appendices I was disappointed that there was not one mention of where the dive bombing practices were carried out. I suspect most WO ranges had some element of air bombing during the war for the benfit of ground forces.

Hope this helps.

Peter Kirk
10-11-2014, 23:36
Just realised the 1952 grid must be the same as now and not the wartime version! Hopefully prefixing the 6 number reference with SE will work. (As this post is on a new page - see the previous post)

11-11-2014, 13:25
The later RAF BD searches were intended to locate any metallic objects which could cause interference 'returns' on the radars once operational.

Matt W
11-11-2014, 22:42
Nothing showing on the 1957 map of the Training Area.


The site is outside the boundaries of the Impact Area shown by the hatched lines.

Peter Kirk
11-11-2014, 23:29
I'm beginning to think that the two WD ranges were selected in the knowledge that one would be refused and that was Fylindales. Not sure why they picked an area outside the WD area as the whole point of using a WD range was to bypass the issue of yet another piece of land lost. I wonder if the original range was larger as by the mid fifties the armed forces wouldn't have needed so much land.

I have attached a picture of the area in 1945 from a two larger maps - why is the bit you want on the join? Not sure how diagrammatic it is.

Matt W
12-11-2014, 08:27
The map I posted is a bit misleading! The area was WD land, but it's in between two parts of the Training Area - the Fylingdales Impact Area and the Blakey Topping Mortar ranges. The Training Area boundary pretty much followed the Pickering to Whitby road in the west and the Whitby to Scarborough road in the east.

Wheeldale was mainly an artillery range and closed straight after the war ended.

Peter Kirk
12-11-2014, 13:24
Thanks for the clarifiaction. I will see if any files at TNA can shed any light on the RAF use of Fylingdales, hopefully the reason why it was rejected.

03-02-2015, 20:44
Came across this painting

BBC - Your Paintings - The Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station at Fylingdales, Yorkshire http://bbc.in/ox0pJp


The Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station at Fylingdales, Yorkshire
by Gilbert Lewis Creighton

Scarborough Museums and Gallery
Date painted: before 1963
Oil on canvas, 45 x 59 cm
Collection: Scarborough Museums and Gallery


03-02-2015, 23:49
It amused me when we visited the site that someone asked what frequency they used and was told that it was secret (or something like that). I think that I commented that it was not difficult to check on any cheap scanner receiver!

04-02-2015, 00:36
It amused me when we visited the site that someone asked what frequency they used and was told that it was secret (or something like that). I think that I commented that it was not difficult to check on any cheap scanner receiver!

In those days it was all on a "need to know" basis and you did not need to know !


06-05-2015, 22:40
I remember being there in early 1963 (during that ghastly winter) commissioning the microwave relay system for the USAF which took the BMEWS radar information to the southern stations. Two things worthy of noting:

1. The three golf balls when originally switched on caused a number of birds to fly clockwise around each ball. No one knew why so the UK bird expert at the time (Peter Scott?) was called in - I don't think he had a solution either but correct me if I am wrong.
2. The Fylingdales power system was run from 6 English Electric Napier Deltics for reliability - the CEGB grid was used in an emergency only!

06-05-2015, 23:01
The three golf balls when originally switched on caused a number of birds to fly clockwise around each ball. No one knew why..
I guess they were trying to keep up with the radiation from the rotating dishes. Microwaves = warmth :roll:. Please don't tell me the radar rotated anti-clockwise.

Now, talking of warmth, I'll get my coat.

Matt W
09-05-2015, 21:13
The power is now supplied by Waukeshuka (?) engines running on gas.22463

Standby engines are these beauties - 22464