16 photos that reveal the history of RAF Fylingdales

For the last five decades the radar at RAF Fylingdales has been at the heart of national security.

RAF Fylingdales.
RAF Fylingdales.

These photos from our archive show how the base has changed over the years. Find out about how the radar keeping watch on the moors has adapted to the ever-changing threats to the UK in our report here.

The location for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) in between Pickering and Whitby was chosen for it's proximity to Russia in line with two other radars in Canada and Greenland.

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The first radars at the base were the famous three golf balls. They were 84ft tall and were built in 1961.
Archive photographs show the original construction in the early 60s.
The base became operational in 1963 with the primary focus of ballistic missile detection to protect the UK and the US.
Fylingdales, along with the other two sites in North America, was constructed to prevent the devastation from missile that the UK had seen in WW2 from happening again.
As well as looking out for ballistic missiles, the site monitors objects in space including man-made space debris. In 1965 there were 555 pieces of space debris, today there are over 13,000.
Two RAF Officers examining the interior of one of the original radars.
The golf balls were operational between 1963 and 1992.
The three golf balls seen from above, showing their position in the middle of the North York Moors.
The US built the radars and continue to fund them, whilst the RAF staff and maintain the site. There is one US official currently stationed at the base.
As the threat against national security becomes ever more complex, the work done by the RAF at Fylingdales is increasingly important.
The information gathered by the staff at Fylingdales is sent to the Space Operations Centre at High Wickham where staff then relay it to operations in the US, and the UK Government.
An aerial shot shows the three original radars, which were replace in the early 90s by the current three-sided structure.
The current radar is the only one of its kind in the world as it gives 360 coverage up to 3,000 miles into space.
The radar uses so much power the site has its own power station to avoid surges on the National Grid and also has its own fire and rescue service.
With satellites now vital for daily life to function, and an increasingly volatile world, the work done inside the three-sided radar that keeps watch on the moors, has never been more important.