MORAY LEADERS HAVE been commenting on the announcement yesterday of the two squadrons to be established at RAF Lossiemouth operating the new P8 maritime patrol aircraft force.
The re-establishment of CXX and 201 Squadrons in Moray, both having seen their last service flying Nimrods from RAF Kinloss, has caused great excitement not only locally but with aviation enthusiasts from around the country.
It is the local importance that was top of the agenda for our political and civic leaders who attended the announcement and had a close look themselves inside a US Navy P8, guided by the RAF crews who will train colleagues to man the new aircraft.
Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead said: “This is a really good news story for Moray – it continues a long tradition and opens a new chapter in the role that Moray has played in the nations defences.
“It was a very sore episode a few years ago when the Nimrod fleet was lost, that affected livelihoods, our local community and the local economy. It also left a gap in the nations defences – there was a lack of maritime patrol aircraft and that was very controversial.
“So it is superb that a few years on we are now deploying a new fleet of MPAs and importantly of course it is a fleet that is going to be based right here in Lossiemouth.”
Although he was unable to attend the announcement yesterday, local MP Douglas Ross said he was delighted that two squadrons that had a proud local history would be reformed at Lossiemouth.
He said: : “This is another key milestone in the programme of massive investment by the UK Government and the Ministry of Defence into Moray. It’s an important day for the RAF and the new squadron commanders, the instructors and those service personnel who have been in training ahead of the fleet arriving at Lossiemouth.
“The new units will be a welcome addition to the military presence in Moray and the new personnel and their families will be warmly welcomed to the area. This is a fantastic boost to the area and I look forward to seeing the aircraft flying in the skies above Moray and welcome the boost to the local economy that their presence will bring.”
Catching his first look at the P8 was the Moray Council’s leader, Councillor George Alexander: “It is excellent news of course – this is another step in a huge project which is a fantastic event for Moray.
“This was my first close-up look of the P8 – it is based I believe on the 737 and I’ve seen them often enough. I’m looking forward to seeing it inside – but I’m told all the technology that was in the Nimrod has been reduced in size so there is much more room to get around inside the plane.
“It is also a massive boost for our economy – and a real fillip for the people who worked so hard to keep this base open. We should not forget that this base was just a fingertip away from closing and it was the reaction of the local people wanting the RAF to remain here that really won the Ministry of Defence over.”
Local councillor and leader of the economic development and infrastructure committee at Moray Council, John Cowe, also recalled how very close the Moray base came to closing just six years ago.
He said: “It is a great day for Moray and a great day for Lossiemouth. We were just speaking about what it was like six years ago – and to see where we are now with RAF Lossiemouth, how busy it is and the future it has, it is absolutely amazing.
“I was told back then it was 99% sure to close – but look at it now, this is down to the people of Lossiemouth and others listening to what we had to say. I believe that one of the aircraft we are getting will be named ‘The Pride of Moray’, so in keeping with the Moray traditions of both 120 and 201 Squadrons.”