Former Moray-based maritime patrol aircrew will continue to serve with foreign air forces according to a UK Defence Minister.
It was revealed in 2012 that former Nimrod aircrew were considered by the US Navy to be second to none in operations on advanced equipment – even that used on older Nimrod MR2 aircraft.
In an attempt to preserve the “core skills” of Nimrod crews ‘project seedcorn’ was established, with the RAF allocating £3.3million that year to allow some of their airmen to fly maritime operations with aircraft of the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand air forces as well as the US Navy.
Now Mark Francois, a Minister of State at the MoD, has confirmed that the initiative will continue for a further five years, at an estimated cost of around £2.4million each year that includes salary and allowances of the aircrew members concerned.
Currently there are 32 RAF airmen deployed to Maritime Patrol Aircraft roles with overseas forces, while a further 115 remain on duty in other flying roles within the UK.
It is the clearest signal yet that the MoD does intend restoring a Maritime capability to the RAF, with the Defence Secretary already having confirmed that the defence review later this year would need to consider the Maritime Air capability “in detail”.
Moray MP and the SNP spokesman on defence, Angus Robertson, has been a fierce critic of MoD policy since they abandoned the UK Maritime Air capability and closed RAF Kinloss.
He said: “It is welcome news that the Seedcorn programme is being extended in order to maintain the core skills required for using maritime patrol aircraft.
“Of course it would be much easier if the UK had their own MPA aircraft in the first place but of course they don’t after the utterly mad decision to scrap them all.
“Even the MoD wouldn’t train people for something they don’t intend on having so why on earth do they not just get on with it and acquire maritime patrol aircraft off the shelf as quickly as possible?
“Instead we witness the regular farce of them pleading for assistance from allies. They need to crack on and acquire these vital aircraft.”