Unit History: RAF Bishops Court
RAF Bishops Court was a Royal Air Force radar control and reporting station located on the south east coast of Northern Ireland, approximately 5 miles (8 km) from Downpatrick, County Down and 23 miles (37 km) from Belfast. A Marconi Type 84 radar was located on the airfield and a Type 80 radar was located at Killard Point, Ballyhornan (remote from the base itself.). A Type 93 mobile radar was also located on the airfield from 1989 until the station closed.
RAF Bishops Court formed part of the UK Military Air Traffic Service, as one of four reporting stations it was to control its sector (North Atlantic) and was commanded by HQ Military Air Traffic Operations (MATO) at RAF Uxbridge and RAF Strike Command at High Wycombe. The base was known as Ulster Radar and had both a military and civil role. In its civil role the civilian personnel (using the military radar) controlled air traffic, primarily over the Atlantic to ensure correct height and separation.
Terrorists fired five mortar bombs at the base on 1989-09-11.
The responsibilities of the base were assumed by the air traffic control centre at Prestwick, Scotland, in October 1978. The radar equipment was soon removed from the base, however the RAF remained. In the early 1980s new bunkers were constructed and a mobile radar was installed. The decision to close the 577 acre (2.3 km?) site was taken in the late 1980s and it was put up for sale in the period 1991-1995. Since the sale the land surrounding the runway has been used for agriculture, while the land at one end of the site (including some of the airfield runways) has been used for motor sport. Today at least one runway remains intact and is used by gliders, the base accommodation is now civilian housing.
In 2003 it was reported that Bishops Court was a contender for a Ryanair base in the south of Northern Ireland. While the site would require significant infrastructure works if this was to happen, the former RAF station would fit into the Ryanair business model (selecting airports some distance from a capital/major city with low landing fees etc. and providing transport to that city.)
Alexander Galt the famous Scottish artist was stationed here during the war. While there he painted murals on the wall of the officers mess. The paintings are still visible.
Added on 04/03/2010
In 1963/4 the C&R Radars were as follows:
Type 7 - on the airfield
Type 80 - Killard point
An-FPS-6 (x2)-Killard point
Type 13 - Killard
Type 14 - Killard
The type 7 was an early (c. early 50s) long range metric frequency radar - really supeceded by the millimetric Type 80.
The An-FPS6s were American height-finding radars a.k.a. Nodding Horrors! (AN stood for American Navy)
Changing tech. watches on the Type 7 was fun - we had to duck ourselves beneath the rotating aerial and gain access to the hatch in the ground - all equipement was underground.
Getting access to the rotating cabin on the Type 80 was just as hazardous - we had to jump onto a moving step and open a large steel sliding door - often whilst carrying heavy test equipment. Guess our our operational availabilty would have been much reduced of we had applied todays H&S regs!
(J.T. Ian Clewes at the time)
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