Plans announced at the weekend to call forward the formation of a third Typhoon squadron may be part of a rethink over the use of aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth.
That is according to reports in the P&J newspaper today which claims that initial plans to move the XV(Reserve) Tornado squadron from the Moray base have been scrapped as a result of action against IS activities in Iraq.
Tornado jets are playing a key role in operations against IS and that, according to the report, has meant a proposed move to Marham for the last Tornado squadron at Lossie is now on hold.
In addition plans to upgrade Lossie’s Typhoon aircraft so that they can be used to bomb IS targets in the future are also set to be accelerated.
The newspaper says that it has been told that it is “only a matter of time” before Typhoons are involved in operations against the terrorist group. However, the Ministry of Defence last night insisted that there had never been any formal plans to move XV(R) Squadron from Moray to RAF Marham.
Defence author Tim Ripley insisted however that XV(R) squadron was also planned to become smaller but that had also been reversed. He told the newspaper: “The Tornado training squadron was going to go to Marham some time in the next two years – but they are now going to keep it at Lossiemouth.
“When it was going to Marham it was going to be smaller because there was less requirement for pilots to be trained. But now they’ve decided to keep three Tornado squadron’s there is an issue of space and they’ve got to train more pilots.”
On the use of Typhoons in operations against IS Mr Ripley added: “The answer to that is yes – it just depends on when.”
Typhoons from the Moray base was successful recently in releasing live Paveway IV bombs, the same weapons being used by Tornado GR4’s in operations against IS.
The missiles were successfully launched two weeks ago by aircraft from 1 Squadron at the Cape Wrath training area. Squadron OC Wing Commander Mike Sutton said: “This is another landmark moment for the Typhoon Force, and highlights the aircraft’s potent swing role capability.
“The successful weapon drops are a superb reflection on the dedication and achievement of everyone who has been involved in this capability enhancement.
“The swing role capability of the Typhoon ensures that we are well equipped to respond to the challenges of contingent operations across the globe, while also maintaining the security of UK skies through the delivery of Quick Reaction Alert, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
1(Fighter) Squadron will release a further 20 Paveway IV weapons when they deploy to the USA for Exercise Red Flag in January 2015.
An MoD spokesman said: “While we constantly review our options there are no plans to deploy Typhoons to Iraq as the GR4 provides the optimum capability for the operation.
“Although work is under way to evaluate the integration of Brimstone missiles with the Typhoon aircraft no firm decisions have been made.”