Military chiefs are poised to spend up to £7million on a “hush house” to test RAF Lossiemouth’s new supersonic Typhoon jets without disturbing locals.
The soundproof building would be able to silence the fighter’s twin engines – which are 16 times louder than a motorbike or the same as 32 double-decker buses.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has put the contract out as part of an £85million upgrade of the base to prepare it for the phased arrival of three Typhoon squadrons from next month.
A contract for up to £5million is also being offered for the construction of a new Typhoon Propulsion Support Facility at Lossiemouth, where Rolls Royce staff and contractors will maintain the aircraft’s EJ200 engines.
Documents seen by the Press and Journal show the refurbishment includes £5.89million being spent replacing vital high voltage cables which have reached the “end of their designed life”.
And it has emerged that a £1.3million five-year deal was also signed last year for “bird control services”, after Lossiemouth-based jets were damaged during 55 bird strikes in just five years.
The contract for the “hush house” is understood to be the largest offered so far, estimated at between £4million-£7million, with an award to be made in January and the facility completed by October next year.
It will be able to fully enclose a single aircraft and run its engines for tests – cutting the number of flying hours required to monitor performance.
It costs £3,875 to fly a Typhoon for just one hour, and the noise from the £65million jets hit the headlines recently after they caused sonic booms by breaking the sound barrier, reportedly making homes on the ground below shake.
Lossiemouth councillor Chris Tuke said: “I am not aware of the detail of the ‘hush house’ but it’s nice to see the base is being revamped and investment is going in, and if it’s quieter as a result then that can only be a good thing.
“Noise will always be a problem if you are living next to an airfield, but I think people here understand that it’s a job that needs to be done. I don’t think it will be any more or less noisy than it is at the moment.”
Two of RAF Lossiemouth’s Tornado squadrons – including the famous “Dambusters” – were disbanded in April to prepare for the arrival of the Typhoons from Leuchars in Fife.
It is understood the first squadron will arrive within weeks, enabling the base to begin its role as the northern “quick reaction alert” facility, intercepting threats to UK airspace.
The second unit is thought to be arriving in September, followed by another in March next year.
Various upgrade work costing a total of almost £10million was announced last year and is already being carried out, including a refurbishment of Hangar 1, Hangar 3, the accommodation blocks, and a new ground support IT and communication systems for the Typhoons.
A spokeswoman for the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation said: “There are a variety of construction works planned for RAF Lossiemouth which are currently being advertised to industry.
“These works will enable the support of three operational Typhoon squadrons and represent significant investment by the Ministry of Defence in RAF Lossiemouth’s future.
“One of the projects will be the construction of an Installed Engine Test Facility (IETF).
“The IETF, or ‘hush house’ is designed to protect military and civilian personnel from the high level noise produced by the engine testing activities.”
Moray MP Angus Robertson, the SNP’s defence spokesman, said: “This investment is welcome news for Lossiemouth – it is necessary for the transition from Tornado to Typhoons.
“Hopefully sound mitigation measures will be effective as this is really important for people living close to the base.”
He added: “However, the MoD’s announcement contrasts with the bitter experience over recent years.
“The UK Government has been massively underspending in Scotland and has depleted defence to an alarming degree, cutting personnel numbers and slashing vital capability like maritime patrol aircraft.”