NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Squadrons for RAF Lossiemouth's new aircraft announced

P-8A Poseidon at RAF Lossiemouth
Image caption An American P-8A Poseidon was on show at RAF Lossiemouth

The names of two squadrons that will operate a total of nine new maritime patrol aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth have been announced.

Number 120 Sqn was originally an anti-submarine unit in World War Two, while the origins of 201 Sqn can be traced back to 1914.

The first of the new US-made P-8A Poseidon aircraft are to arrive at the Moray station in 2020.

The UK's last dedicated maritime patrol planes flew out of RAF Kinloss in 2010.

Image caption An order for another maritime aircraft, the Nimrod MRA4, was cancelled and the planes scrapped

The aircraft, Nimrod MR2s, were retired and a new order for a fleet of Nimrod MRA4s was cancelled, leading to the scrapping of £4bn of partly-constructed planes to save £2bn in operating costs.

There was criticism at the time and since of the UK government's decision to withdraw the Nimrods and not replace it with another maritime aircraft.

Kinloss, which is also in Moray, is now an army base.

An American P-8A Poseidon has been flown to RAF Lossiemouth for Thursday's announcement of the squadron numbers.

Spy in the sky: P-8A Poseidon

  • First of the new aircraft due to arrive in 2020
  • Planes to be used in anti-submarine and also maritime search and rescue roles
  • UK air crews have maintained maritime patrol skills by training with squadrons of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and US
  • More than 400 additional service personnel are to be stationed at Lossiemouth to work in the new squadrons
  • £400m to be invested in support infrastructure for the planes

Image caption The P-8A will be used in anti-submarine and search and rescue roles

The UK government said the key role of the P-8A Poseidon would be to protect submarines and two new aircraft carriers.

Its £3bn investment in maritime patrol aircraft capability over 10 years will include strengthening the runway at Lossiemouth and improving other infrastructure.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: "Our nine new Poseidon aircraft are part of our plan to monitor and deal with increased threats to our country.

"They can operate at long range without refuelling and have the endurance to carry out high and low-level airborne maritime and overland surveillance for extended periods, helping keep us safe.

"The P-8A aircraft will allow us to work more closely with our allies, improve our surveillance coverage and will provide value for taxpayers' money."

During World War Two, 120 Sqn was the RAF's highest-scoring anti-submarine unit.

201 Sqn can trace its origins back to the formation of No 1 Sqn, Royal Naval Air Service in 1914.

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