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MoD tries to torpedo windfarm over fears for radar

Military chiefs are trying to block plans to build a huge offshore windfarm close to the area where two Tornado jets crashed.

The Ministry of Defence drew up its objection to the Moray Firth green energy scheme before last week’s mid-air collision between two RAF Lossiemouth-based bombers claimed the lives of three aircrew.

The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

The MoD says the windfarm would cause “unacceptable interference” to radar systems at RAF Lossiemouth.

It says the Beatrice development would have a detrimental impact on operations at the Moray base, which is home to three Tornado squadrons.

The MoD fears turbines could cause aircraft to be invisible to radar – or throw up false images of planes.

They have now formally objected to the £3billion proposal that could see up to 277 turbines being built off the Caithness coast.

Defence chiefs warned that “desensitisation” of radar can occur in areas where wind turbines are sited, creating “false aircraft returns which air traffic controllers must treat as real”.

Last night, the developer, Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl), said it was working with the MoD to try to resolve concerns about the issues thathad been raised.

Earlier this week, local MSPRob Gibson accused the MoD of “sabotaging” the Scottish Government’s renewables targets by objecting to “everything”.

He called for defence chiefs to engage positively with the developers.

Mr Gibson, who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, claimed that new technology could mitigate the impact of turbines on radar.

The MoD based its assessment on the assumption that there will be 184 turbines, standing as tall as 534ft to the blade tip.

It says that turbines will be 35-45 miles from RAF Lossiemouth Air Traffic Control (ATC) and “in the line of sight” of the radar, causing “unacceptable interference”.

An MoD spokeswoman said: “The desensitisation of radar could result in aircraft not being detected by the radar and therefore not presented to air traffic controllers.

“Controllers use radar to separate and sequence both military and civilian aircraft, and in busy, uncontrolled airspace radar is the only sure way to do this safely.”

She added that false aircraft displayed on the radar created extra work for controllers and aircrew and could have “a significant operational impact”.

If the radar issues can be overcome, the MoD wants perimeter turbines to have flashing red lights.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) is also concerned that the turbines will have a similar effect on its radar at Nerl Alanshill.

A spokeswoman for Bowl said: “This is clearly an important subject and we are working with the Ministry of Defence to try to overcome any concerns they have in terms of the radar.”

The Beatrice oil rig complex is less than 15 miles offshore. It was the first to be developed in the Moray Firth, initially by BP.

The area already has two huge test wind turbines, which could be joined to the Bowl proposals.

The Moray Firth Sea Trout Project, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society have also objected to the development over fears that it could have an impact on marine life.

[also published as “MoD tries to block windfarm plan for area jets crashed in“]