It became a familiar sight for anyone attending T in the Park between 1997 and 2014, and the Balado ‘golf ball’ could be set to become an air and space educational centre.

Aero Space Kinross has received £1.6m in funding from the Tay Cities Region Deal to assist with turning the disused airbase, complete with Cold War missile detection system, into a learning hub that will inspire future generations.

The group is currently in the process of securing the building, and will look to raise funding and submit a full planning application to Perth & Kinross Council.

Aero Space Kinross claim it could create 25 full time jobs and boost the local economy by attracting around 50,000 public visitors per year, as well as taking in 10,000 schoolchildren on educational trips.

The airfield attached to the former RAF Balado Bridge was used to host the T in the Park music festival for more than a decade, with visitors using the ‘golf ball’ as a sign they were almost on site and the weekend fun was about to begin.

Opened in 1941, the site was used as a satellite to ease the pressure on RAF Grangemouth, as well as a training base for Polish pilots to learn to operate Spitfire and Hurricane bombers.

HeraldScotland: Historic Environment ScotlandHistoric Environment Scotland (Image: Historic Environment Scotland)

After World War II it was used to scrap surplus aircraft, with the site closing in 1952. For a period of five years it was used by civilian aviation enthusiasts, including the Scottish Gliding Club, before it was reactivated for military use.

The famous golf ball wouldn’t be put in place until much later when the Balado site became home to NATO operations.

The structure was actually an ICBM early warning radar, installed in 1985 and used to monitor the skies in case of a first strike by the Soviet Union. The golf ball shape hides a broadcast antenna, capable of pointing in any direction, and which was once linked to the military command centre at Pitreavie, near Dunfermline.

Both sides of the Cold War operated huge detection systems which would allow them to strike back instantly should nuclear weapons be deployed, theoretically assuring that they never would be as it would mean mutually assured destruction.

The precise function and location of the systems was naturally top secret, giving rise to some wild conspiracy theories.

The Soviets used an extremely powerful ‘over the horizon’ system called Duga which broadcast shortwave radio bands. When it launched in 1976, amateur radio operators quickly noticed a blipping interference on certain frequencies, dubbing it ‘The Woodpecker’. When the source was triangulated to somewhere in present day Ukraine, conspiracy theorists speculated that the signal was a form of Soviet mind control, or perhaps a weather-altering device.

The remains of the first Duga system still stand in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Just six years after Princess Anne had opened the NATO monitoring station at Balado the USSR collapsed and its functions have since been moved to Faslane, but the building was still manned until 2006.

HeraldScotland: Historic Environment ScotlandHistoric Environment Scotland (Image: Historic Environment Scotland)

When the Ministry of Defence moved out it was sold to entrepreneur Bob Ferguson, who first put it on the market in 2016.

Despite several proposed uses for the site and a number of cuts in the guide price no buyer has yet been found. It was listed again in October 2022 with the Gatehouse building at the site entrance on sale for £221,000 and the building attached to the ‘golf ball’ listed at a guide price of £429,000.

The building which could one day host the educational centre is, as you might expect, shielded from nuclear, biological and chemical attack.

Under Aero Space Kinross’ plans it would be used to teach about flight and space exploration, with the golf ball and the satellite dish to be the centrepiece of a Cold War exhibition.

It would also showcase contemporary developments in the Scottish aerospace sector, with the space sector is aiming to grow in value to £4 billion in the next eight years.