RAF Northolt may be sold by MoD to raise funds

An aircraft lands at RAF Northolt
Image caption RAF Northolt was established in 1915 and is still used by dignitaries and the Queen

One of the armed forces' oldest airfields could be sold to private investors under plans being considered to help the MoD cope with budget cuts.

RAF Northolt occupies hundreds of acres in the London borough of Hillingdon, close to the M25.

The MoD said no decision had been taken but the site was being scrutinised, along with all defence expenditure, to secure "the best value for money".

It has been reported it could be used as a satellite airfield for Heathrow.

RAF Northolt, which was established in 1915, is still used by visiting dignitaries and is the home of the 32 (Royal) Squadron.

The Queen takes most of her flights from the site, and it has been used by visiting US presidents.

Air Commodore Andrew Lambert told the Guardian newspaper the RAF had already lost bases of historic importance because of defence cuts, and questioned whether it was necessary to add Northolt to the list.

'Prime real estate'

"It would be a great shame to lose RAF Northolt. I am sure that the site would make lots of money because it is just off the M25 and is a prime bit of real estate, and it is the nearest airport to London. But I'd want to know if the MoD has done its sums properly," he told the paper.

The Ministry of Defence said "all the options were on the table" but said a sale of the base, once Britain's busiest civilian airport, was not part of a specific programme.

An MoD spokesman said: "We continue to scrutinise all defence expenditure to secure the best value for money. RAF Northolt is no exception.

"It already generates revenue through landing fees from private flights and sources of income generation are of course kept under review."

It added that it was unlikely that the airfield would be used as a satellite for Heathrow airport.

The government announced plans to cut defence spending by 8% over four years in October 2010.

The strategic defence review included plans to scrap Harrier jump jets, the Navy's flagship HMS Ark Royal and Nimrod spy planes, as well as 42,000 Ministry of Defence and armed forces jobs.

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