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Location of Faslane and RNAD Coulport
Location of Faslane and RNAD Coulport
Faslane Naval Base, HMNB Clyde
Faslane Naval Base, HMNB Clyde

Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde, is one of three operating bases for the Royal Navy (the others being HMNB Devonport and HMNB Portsmouth).

HMNB Clyde is on the eastern shore of Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is to the north of the Firth of Clyde and 25 miles west of the city of Glasgow. The headquarters of the Royal Navy in Scotland, it is best known as the home of the United Kingdom's Trident submarine force. The submarine base encompasses a number of separate sites, the primary two being:

Faslane is also a Defence Equipment and Support site, operated in dual site organisation with Great Harbour, Greenock, by Serco Denholm.[1]

In 2006, the Ministry of Defence announced that a review would be undertaken to examine the future of the three naval bases. The Naval Base Review sought to examine the long-term future needs of the Royal Navy: the most likely outcomes were either to retain the three current naval bases, but with reduced capacity in each, or to close one of the two bases on the south coast of England. The review, released in 2007, stipulated no base closures.

HMNB Clyde is home to the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear deterrent.


[edit] Faslane Naval Base

See also: Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom

Faslane Naval Base, situated on the Gare Loch, and the RN Armaments Depot Coulport on Loch Long, are the primary components of HM Naval Base Clyde. The Naval shore establishment at Faslane is HMS Neptune, Naval personnel appointed to the base who do not belong to a sea-going vessel make up Ship's Company. Both the Gareloch and Loch Long are sea lochs extending northwards from the Firth of Clyde. The base serves as home base to the United Kingdom's fleet of Vanguard class nuclear powered and nuclear armed submarines, as well as conventionally-armed nuclear powered submarines, supported by the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines. In charge of HMNB Clyde is the Naval Base Commander (Clyde), which has just been handed over from Commodore Carolyn J Stait OBE ADC Royal Navy to a new incumbent, Commodore C J Hockley. The base is home to a number of lodger units including Flag Officer Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland (FOSNNI) (who is also Flag Officer Reserves (FORes)), the Northern Diving Group and the Scottish Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency. It is base to 3,000 service personnel, 800 of their families and 4,000 civilian workers, forming a major part of the economy of Argyll and Bute and West Dunbartonshire.

Faslane was first constructed and used as a base in World War II. During the 1960s, the United Kingdom began negotiating the Polaris Sales Agreement with the United States regarding the purchase of a Polaris missile system to fire UK-built Nuclear weapons from five specially constructed submarines. In the end, only four were constructed; Resolution, Repulse, Renown and Revenge. These four submarines were permanently based at Faslane. Faslane itself was chosen as the base at the height of the Cold War, due to its geographic position, which formed a Bastion, on the relatively secluded but deep and easily navigable Gare Loch and Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland, which provided for rapid and stealthy access through the North Channel to the submarine patrolling areas in the North Atlantic, through the GIUK gap to the Norwegian Sea. One boat was always on patrol at any given time. In times of political instability, sometimes two boats would be deployed at sea.

[edit] Vanguard class SSBNs

In the 1980s, the British Government announced plans to replace the Polaris submarines with the newly developed Trident missile system, also to be based at Faslane. These submarines were named:

[edit] Swiftsure class SSNs

Faslane is also home to the Swiftsure class of fleet submarines (S). The Swiftsure class is the older of the two fleet submarines of the Royal Navy and is due to be replaced by the Astute class submarines.

[edit] Other vessels

The Royal Navy has announced that the Astute-class SSN will also be based at Faslane. Also based there are the Mine countermeasure vessels of the 1st MCM Squadron. The patrol vessels of the Northern Ireland Squadron were based at Faslane from 1993 until the squadron was decommissioned in July 2005.

[edit] Anti-nuclear demonstrations

Given the presence of these nuclear capable missiles, Faslane has attracted demonstrations by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and other Scottish pressure groups, including Trident Ploughshares. A permanent peace camp is outside the base gates, and there are frequent demonstrations at the base gates. The presence of Faslane is also an issue in Scottish politics. The Scottish National Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, Saor Alba and the Scottish Green Party all oppose the deployment of nuclear weapons, although the Scottish National Party have made assurances that they would retain the base for the servicing of conventionally-armed and -powered naval units. It is not unusual for members of these parties, and indeed some from the Labour Party to be present. Also, some independents, such as George Galloway attend rallies outside Faslane. Such events aim to keep the base closed for as long as possible by preventing its staff from arriving for work, and usually involve large numbers of protesters being arrested for non-violent civil disobedience.

[edit] Faslane Peace Camp

Faslane Peace Camp is a permanent camp outside the base. It has been occupied continuously since 1982.

[edit] Big Blockades

The Big Blockade at Faslane Naval Base is an annual event held since 1999 usually in the 2nd week of February, aiming to close the base for 24 hours (although never successfully). The event attracts thousands of peace activists and has on occasion resulted in more than 350 arrests

Police dismantling a blockade of protestors from York at the South gate of the Faslane base.
Police dismantling a blockade of protestors from York at the South gate of the Faslane base.

[edit] Faslane 365

The Faslane 365 campaign was a one-year protest at the base for a 365 day period. It was an audacious civil resistance initiative to apply critical public pressure for the disarmament of Britain's nuclear weapons.[2]

The campaign was launched in September 2006 with the first protest action commencing on 1 October 2006 carried out by a campaigning group of women associated with protests at Greenham Common It formally ended with a Big Blockade on 1 October 2007. However, groups are continuing to take direct action at both Faslane and Coulport.

131 blockading groups took part in Faslane 365 and 1150 arrests were made.[citation needed][3]

[edit] RNAD Coulport

The Royal Naval Armament Depot (RNAD) at Coulport, Loch Long is the other major part of HMNB Clyde. RNAD Coulport stores conventional armaments for Royal Navy vessels but is best known for its role in the Trident missile system.

Nuclear weapon storage bunkers have been excavated from a ridge. From here British-designed and built nuclear warheads can be fitted to the Trident missiles (built by Lockheed Martin). Whilst the warheads themselves are British-owned and built, the delivery system is not actually owned by the United Kingdom and instead it has ownership rights to some 58 missiles from a "pool" shared with the U.S. Navy, this is a necessary capability. Whole missiles can be lifted out of or into a submarine, however the missiles are normally serviced at the U.S. Navy facility at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.

Initial construction took place between 1963, when Faslane was chosen as the new Polaris base, and 1968, when the first Polaris boat began its patrol. Safety considerations required that the armament maintenance and storage facility have its own berth and be at least 4,400 feet from the main facility, whilst operational considerations dictated that the two facilities should be within an hour's sailing time. Coulport, on the opposite peninsula, met both of these requirements.[4] Additional construction took place during the 80s to support the Trident missile programme.

[edit] Notes and references

  1. , Marine Services Planning Agreement
  2. , Faslane365 accessed 1 October 2007
  3. , Faslane365 accessed 3 October 2007
  4. , The United Kingdom, Nuclear Weapons, and the Scottish Question, Malcom Chalmers, William Walker

Coordinates: 56.066° N 4.817° W

(Source: Wikipedia)
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