While Nimrod aircraft provided ‘top cover’ and greater scope for search and rescue operations around the UK coastline, their demise has seen a dramatic fall in such flights with as yet no replacement aircraft tasked with such operations by the MoD.
Figures revealed to Moray’s MP Angus Robertson show that while in 2008, when Nimrod was still in service at Kinloss, the Coastguard Agency made 28 requests for fixed-wing assistance in search and rescue operations.
In subsequent years that fell to 13 in 2009, three in 2010 – and none at all in 2011.
The figures were revealed in an answer to a Parliamentary Question posed by Mr Robertson, who said: “The answer is nothing less than shocking – and it is obvious that there are no fewer emergencies requiring top level search and rescue cover.
“What is absolutely clear is that with the demise of Nimrod the RAF no longer has any suitable replacement aircraft – Nimrod was flying over 20 of these missions each year. Now we find that the MoD is doing one per annum and this is undoubtedly putting lives at risk.”
The current UK Government decided to scrap the Nimrod MRA4 project in 2010 after costs to the taxpayer had reached £3.4billion with only one aircraft produced.
Since, however, no moves have been made by MoD to find a suitable replacement, a situation that the Scottish Government insists is unacceptable. They say that an independent Scotland would include a new maritime air cover based at RAF Lossiemouth.
A statement from the MoD said: “On coming into office this government had to take tough decisions to balance the MoD budget, including cancelling the Nimrod programme which had run out of control.
“It was hundreds of millions over budget, years behind schedule and had delivered just one aircraft.”