A contract for continued repairs to the RAF’s ageing Tornado jets has been slashed by over 40% – but is still being billed by the defence secretary as good news for Moray.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that it has reached a deal with BAE Systems to ensure that the remaining Tornado GR4 fleet remain ‘battle ready’ until they are taken out of service.
Two squadrons flying the aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth – 617(Dambuster) and 12(Bomber) squadrons – were disbanded last month, but at least one squadron flying GR4’s will remain at the Moray base for at least another year. All Tornado jets are due to be withdrawn from service in five years.
MoD officials say that around 600 engineering jobs at the RAF bases in Lossiemouth, Marham and Leeming have been made secure by the £125million BAE Systems contract, despite its value having been slashed by £90million.
Announcing the contract defence secretary Philip Hammond said: “This investment will ensure our Tornado aircraft continue to be battle ready for the next five years as a key part of the RAF’s fast jet fleet.
“They currently play a vital role in supporting troops on the ground in Afghanistan and they will continue to form the backbone of our ground attack capability until the Joint Strike Fighter arrives and the Typhoon’s ground attack capability is fully mature in a few years’ time.”
Two squadrons of Typhoon fighters are scheduled to arrive at RAF Lossiemouth this summer.
The contract awarded to BAE Systems is an extension to a ten-year ‘Availability Transformation: Tornado Aircraft Contract (AATAC)’ deal that would have expired in 2016. The original contract was valued at £510million with BAE saying that the extension had “identified £90million in savings”.
A spokesman for BAE Systems said: “The ATTAC contract provides the RAF’s front-line with a guarantee that the Tornado aircraft’s availability, capability and effectiveness will be maintained throughout its service.”