Delivery of first P8’s to Moray will be known this summer

P8 - RAF will receive the very latest versions
P8 – RAF will receive the very latest versions (pic: Trevor Hannant)

HOPES ARE BEING raised that the delivery of the UK’s first dedicated maritime patrol aircraft since the scrapping of the Nimrod could arrive in Moray sooner than expected.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that the UK Government order for nine P8-A aircraft had been accepted by the United States government.

When the Ministry of Defence announced that RAF Lossiemouth was to become the base for the new MPA force, it was revealed that the first three aircraft would be delivered “by the end of the decade”.

However, there has been growing speculation that may happen sooner.

The man who this summer will take control of delivery and establishment of the force at Lossiemouth, Air Commodore Ian Gale, has already revealed that the aircraft being delivered to Moray will be the very latest of their type.

A former station commander at RAF Lossiemouth, Air Commodore Gale has been at the forefront of negotiations for the establishment of the new MPA force and has been named as the ‘Senior Responsible Owner’ for the delivery of the aircraft.

Answering questions on his own online blog, Air Commodore Gale recently confirmed the commitment to have three of the aircraft delivered by the end of the decade – but added: “Joint Forces Command is working on the exact profile now before I take over the delivery after the main investment point in the summer. As soon as I have that exact profile, I’ll aim to publish it.”

In the same blog, he noted comments on the cost of the new aircraft to the UK Government appearing to be higher than that paid by Australian government for the P8.

He said: “We aim to stay very close to the US ‘programme of record’ so that we stay completely integrated.

“We are joining the US training and maintenance programme too, at least for the early years and the biggie – our buy will feature the first ‘Increment 3’ aircraft.

“These have substantial advantages over the previous ones and don’t require hardware modifications.”

RAF crews, many of whom were formerly employed on the Nimrod programme, have already been operating closely with other Nato allies who already operated the P8.