RAF Machrihanish is a former Royal Air Force station located 3 NM (5.6 km; 3.5 mi) west of Campbeltown at the tip of Kintyre. It is now known as MoD Machrihanish and also incorporates Campbeltown Airport which has commercial flights to Glasgow, operated by Loganair. RAF Machrihanish is also known as "Scotlands Area 51".
Its runway is 3,049 m (10,003 ft) long. The United States maintained a Navy SEAL commando unit, a 20 person team known as Naval Special Warfare Detachment 1 (The other overseas Naval Special Warfare Detachments, 2 and 3 were based at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, and Subic Bay, Philippines) at the base and the Royal Marines occasionally use the facility for training exercises. The civilian airport is located at the opposite end of the base from the hangars, bunkers and the SEAL building.
During the Cold War, Machrihanish was a strategically important North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) airfield, with its location giving immediate access to patrol & support naval operation over the North Atlantic. It was also valuable as a stopping point for transatlantic military flights.
An answer to the House of Commons in 2004 reveals that the base was handed over by the United States Navy back to Ministry of Defence control on June 30, 1995.
The base is now on what is termed "care and maintenance" — this allows the airfield to be used by civilian airlines, which may conduct scheduled and charter flights from the aerodrome. The MoD are responsible for the upkeep of the aerodrome, which may sometimes be used by military detachments whilst on exercise. During times of conflict or national emergency, the aerodrome could revert to its intended military use. In 2005 the MoD was still reported to be considering reactivating the base.
On 14 May 2009, it was announced that the base would be made available for sale.
The base was regularly used by Scotland and Northern Ireland Region Air Training Corps Cadets as an adventure training camp, where several hundred Air Cadets would gather for a week of fieldcraft, shooting, first aid or other activities. Several Air Training Corps staff are said to be annoyed at the closure of the base as it was a "perfect training spot for Cadets" Due to the closure of the base, the camp has now been relocated to RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland.