MORAY AND FIFE could once again be going head to head over the basing of RAF aircraft with speculation rife that the Ministry of Defence is set to move on a new Maritime Patrol Aircraft force.
According to reports on Tuesday, the bases at Leuchars and Kinloss – both of which were turned over to the Army after previous defence reviews – are once again leading the field as possible hosts for new squadrons.
The two communities were left to battle it out when there was a threat to the future of RAF Lossiemouth – many were surprised when the Moray base was spared, with Leuchars losing out in favour of Lossiemouth following an intense campaign by the local community.
It was only in March this year that the Fife base was formally handed over to the Army – now it is understood that ministers are considering an about turn with either Leuchars or Kinloss being strongly pitched as a base for up to nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
Speculation has been rife for months that defence chiefs were ready to accept that the dismantling of the Nimrod MPA force formerly based at Kinloss was an error that required addressing, in particular with increased Russian air and maritime patrols being detected around UK waters.
MPA now A Priority
Moray’s MP Angus Robertson has been a long-time campaigner for the return of a UK Maritime patrol force. Last night the Moray MP said: “We require Maritime Patrol Aircraft as a priority, which should be stationed in Scotland, given the geographic proximity to their tasks.
“Kinloss had been home to MPA for decades and could easily operate the joint air force and army facility. The decision to end the Nimrod replacement project and close Kinloss as an RAF Base was met with widespread criticism from both the public in Moray and by defence experts.
“The UK is the only northern European nation with armed forces without Maritime Patrol Aircraft. This is totally ludicrous, not least because of the ongoing security situation in the world and concerns over submarine incursions into our waters.
“In Moray there was great sadness when Kinloss closed, as a strong bond had been built between the RAF and the local community over many years. It will be entirely unsurprising if the MoD is having to look at re-opening Kinloss or, indeed, Leuchars as an airbase to deal with this issue.
“We have welcomed the Royal Engineers to Kinloss since the end of RAF activities there but there is, frankly, loads of space and a long runway, which could easily accommodate both 39 Engineers and a new MPA fleet as well.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence refused to dismiss speculation over the possible purchase of nine P-8’s from the United States, saying: “The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 is considering the current and likely future national security risks and in turn the capabilities the armed services will need to address these risks in the future.
“No further capability decisions have been made.”