The British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre (BUTEC) is a range used to evaluate the sensors and aural emissions of British submarines. It is operated on behalf of the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence by QinetiQ. During the 1970s the range was used to test torpedoes and other equipment designed for submarine operational use.
BUTEC is located in Inner Sound between the northern east coast of the island of Raasay and the Applecross peninsula on the west coast of the Scottish mainland. The range consists of a noise range to the east of the isle of South Rona, and a torpedo testing range located in the centre of the Inner Sound between the isle of Raasay and Applecross on the mainland. The noise range is about a mile long and divided into blocks 50 yards wide (labelled A to Z) within which is a large array of sensors. A submarine is expected to move through the middle of the range (blocks M or N) repeatedly as the shore-based scientific team on Rona analyse the sound of the submarine. If the boat does not achieve its expected aural signature, it is not permitted to start active patrols.
The Range Terminal Control Building (including jetty and heliport) are situated at the eastern edge of the range, adjacent to the Sand archaeological site, about 4 miles north of Applecross. Outlying installations for the noise range are located on the island of Rona. The main logistics and administrative centre is the Shore Support Base, at Kyle of Lochalsh.
The torpedo testing range is covered by bylaws which ban any underwater activity by fishermen within the range area and trawling activities are also banned within the whole of the Inner Sound area.
Upcoming range activities are published in the local newspaper West Highland Free Press. When firings are taking place, safety vessels are placed around the range area. Firings are done by submarines, helicopters, aircraft and boats. The torpedoes are equipped with acoustic tracking and measuring equipment in place of warheads. Other trials are carried out here including the use of sonars and exercises by Minehunters.
There was controversy when a high-powered sonar device was tested on the range in 2002, which had been blamed for the deaths of whales and dolphins and that had been banned in the USA.