Britain’s defence minister said a new radar facility off Scotland’s Shetland Islands would help tackle what he described as a “severe and real” threat from Russia
Gavin Williamson said that the £10 million ($14.1 million) radar, which is being built at Saxa Vord on the island of Unst off Shetland, would be able to track unidentified military or civilian aircraft.
“We will always protect our skies from Russian aggression….Russia’s actions are not limited to Europe’s eastern borders… the threat to British livelihoods is severe and real” Williamson said on Friday, describing the radar as vital to British defences.
Williamson, who has been the UK defence secretary since November, is also pressuring the finance minister for more money.
Press TV Once launched, the new Royal Air Force (RAF) facility will provide key information on aircraft movements across the North Sea and feed into the country’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) system, which in the past has been used to scramble RAF jets to intercept Russian aircraft.
In an interview published by The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, Williamson accused Russia of spying on Britain’s crucial infrastructure, as part of possible plans to create “total chaos” in the country. He also said that Russia could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths” by crippling UK infrastructure.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, however, dismissed the allegations in a written response on Friday, saying Williamson “has lost his grasp on reason.”
“If these statements are an attempt by Wilson to attract attention to himself, he will be far from the first defense minister to try to score political points by playing up the Russian threat to the British,” Konashenkov wrote.
Williamson made the remarks after the head of the British army General Nick Carter said the country needed to “keep up” with Russia’s growing military strength or see its ability to take action “massively constrained.”
Carter warned on Monday that Britain struggled to match Russia’s military capabilities, saying the ability to respond to threats would be eroded “if we don’t match up to them now”.
The new radar facility, according to the defense ministry would improve NATO understanding of the airspace north of Britain and further out across the Norwegian Sea. The facility will be operated remotely by Royal Air Force personnel, and contractors will only attend the site for maintenance.