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Upgrading RAF Remote Radar Heads

UK airspace is constantly monitored to ensure nothing enters unnoticed. The RAF use Air Defence Radars positioned at Remote Radar Heads across the UK to track aircraft and enable their rapid interception where necessary.

In 2017, the RAF developed a new concept for UK Air Defence Radar sites: Remote Radar Heads that were fully secure, monitored remotely and which required only limited radar maintenance support. Programme TARTARUS, as it was known, was the first of its kind.

We successfully completed TARTARUS in June 2019, and the RAF commissioned us to deliver three more Remote Radar Heads (RRH) under the banner of Programme HYDRA.

These sites needed new state of the art communications buildings, radar towers and bespoke perimeter security.

We worked on RRH Buchan (Aberdeenshire), RRH Brizlee Wood (Northumbria) and RRH Benbecula (Outer Hebrides). Our roles in this programme were Principal Contractor, Principal Designer and Project Management Specialist.

Working through COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020, we agreed with the RAF to defer our work on Benbecula until 2021.

However, we needed to keep working on Buchan and Brizlee Wood. We spent three weeks planning how to keep everyone involved safe during the pandemic, and then started working again.

During those three weeks we created bespoke, comprehensive Site Operating Procedures and Risk Management Strategies. These included:

  • hiring two hotels solely for our teams
  • weekly testing of everyone involved by a specialist COVID-19 nurse
  • operating in isolated ‘bubbles’ away from local communities to prevent any risk of infection or transmission

While numerous other programmes stalled in 2020 as a consequence of COVID-19, FCDO Services adopted class-leading workarounds to deliver Programme HYDRA both to schedule and exactly in line with user requirements; the results are striking.

Group Captain Iain Lunan, RAF

Design

As Principal Designer, we gathered a highly-skilled core team of specialist designers, including:

  • architects
  • structural engineers
  • mechanical and electrical engineers
  • security engineers

Our team created the concept designs for each site, and led on developing detailed designs. They made sure that cost, quality and security standards were maintained during the design and construction.

Construction

Construction work started in April 2020. With our COVID-19 plans in place, we could focus on completing phase one of programme HYDRA.

We coordinated the construction phase with a Senior Site Manager on-site, to ensure the works ran smoothly and to schedule. We managed every aspect of the projects, including:

  • procurement
  • finances
  • project reporting
  • risks and issues
  • COVID-19 mitigation measures
  • handover documentation
  • Health and Safety support

As the Principal Contractor, we were the lead delivery agent for all secure infrastructure, the radar and radome move, and construction works on site. We tendered and procured all sub-contractors.

Completion

Our team worked diligently and collaboratively to ensure both projects were delivered smoothly and to the satisfaction of the RAF.

Despite having to work through a pandemic, we completed the projects at RRH Buchan and Brizlee Wood on time and to the right standards. We achieved this with zero COVID-19 infections either on-site or within the project team.

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