Mystery as US Sub-Hunters are first footers at Moray airbase

US P-3C stands ready at Lossiemouth on New Year’s Day (pic: Jim Simpson)

RAF Lossiemouth is once again playing host to anti-submarine warfare aircraft engaged in submarine search operations – for the second time in six weeks.

A US Navy P-3C Orion sub hunter arrived late on December 31 – and has flown missions every day since, insideMoray can exclusively reveal. A second US Orion arrived during the early evening of January 5.

As readers will recall, there was a flurry of similar activity in late November into early December following what was reported as an ‘unknown submarine periscope’ being sighted by a fishing trawler not far from the Royal Navy’s submarine base at Faslane.

At the time we reported, along with a number of media outlets, how once again the UK was forced into calling for help from fellow NATO member countries having no long range maritime patrol aircaft – a capability lost with the retirement of the Nimrod fleet from their former Moray base at Kinloss in 2010.

We at insideMoray respect the boundaries of operational security whilst this activity is ongoing, however, it is true to say that with only two maritime patrollers currently at Lossiemouth it doesn’t appear as frantic as the alert sparked back in November.

This has led one insideMoray source to comment that it could be possible the Orions are engaged in so-called ‘de-lousing’ operations, which sanitise the initial portions of the route to be taken by a Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarine, which carry the UK’s nuclear-tipped Trident missiles.

Nimrods regularly performed such a task before their demise and the UK government was prepared to accept this as part of the capability gap until a proper Nimrod replacement was funded.

If the mystery (okay, we’ll call it Russian) submarine seen at the end of last year is still lurking off the west coast, the chance for it to acquire and follow a Trident sub to its top secret operating area would be a risk deemed not worth taking – and a massive security breach allowed by the cost-cutting UK government.

Moray’s MP and the SNP spokesman on defence issues at Westminister, Angus Robertson, said that he was aware visiting maritime aircraft were once again at RAF Lossiemouth.  He said: “Moray residents have been able to see the American P3 maritime patrol aircraft in our skies over recent days.

“Assistance from the US and other allies is welcome in filling the gap created by the MoD scrapping the entire Nimrod fleet – however, it is unsustainable not having domestic maritime patrol aircraft capability.

“The UK government have their priorities all wrong.  As a maritime nation Scotland needs maritime patrol aircraft, all neighbouring nations with armed forces have them – including the Irish, Danes and Norwegians.

“It is embarrassing and dangerous that we don’t.”

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