NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

First of RAF's new UK submarine hunters lands in Scotland

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Media captionWatch as the first P-8A Poseidon touches down at Kinloss Barracks

The first of nine new maritime patrol aircraft for the RAF has arrived at a military base in Scotland after being flown from the United States.

The £3bn fleet of P-8A Poseidons are to be stationed at RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray coast.

The first of the completed planes will operate from nearby Kinloss Barracks, a former RAF station, while new facilities are built at Lossiemouth.

It is almost 10 years since the RAF's last patrol aircraft were scrapped.

The last of those jet aircraft, called Nimrods, flew out of RAF Kinloss in 2010. New Nimrods were dismantled for scrap as part of defence cuts, but not replaced by another type of plane.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The plane was escorted by RAF Typhoons

A review in 2015 led to the Ministry of Defence ordering the P-8A Poseidons from US aircraft manufacturer Boeing. The first of these aircraft landed at Kinloss at about 13:30.

The RAF crews will operate alongside the Royal Navy in a submarine hunter role, and in work identifying and tracking surface vessels.

About 470 jobs, a mix of military and civilian posts, will be created at RAF Lossiemouth to fly and service the fleet.

Image copyright Cpl Lee Matthews/RAF
Image caption RAF crews have been training on the new aircraft in the US
Image copyright Boeing
Image caption A new facility is being built at RAF Lossiemouth for the Poseidons

The first of the completed Poseidons has been named the Pride of Moray. It is expected to move from Kinloss to Lossiemouth by the end of this year.

Sqn Ldr Dave Higgins was among the crew board Tuesday's flight to Kinloss following training in the US.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "It is a huge honour to be on that historic flight.

"For some of us there is much excitement because myself and my colleagues know how capable this aircraft is going to be.

"They are multi-mission aircraft with a variety of sensors that can fuse together so the crew can see lots of different types of information."

Spy in the sky: RAF's P-8A Poseidon

Image copyright Boeing
  • Equipped with "state-of-the-art sensors" enabling it to detect, identify and track vessels both above and below water
  • Carries sonobuoys, devices which are dropped from the aircraft into the sea to search for submarines
  • Armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes capable of attacking both surface and sub-surface targets
  • Will be flown from RAF Lossiemouth by two squadrons: CXX Sqn and the still to be fully operational 201 Sqn
  • Crews have been training on the aircraft at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in the US
  • £132m of improvements being made at Lossiemouth to accommodate the fleet and its crews, including a new "strategic facility" to house and maintain the aircraft and personnel. The investment includes £75m in resurfacing runways

Joe Kennedy, who flew on Nimrods for more than 30 years, said the decision to scrap the planes and not immediately replace them with new maritime patrol aircraft still felt shocking almost 10 years later.

He said: "We all felt incredibly sad this fantastic aeroplane was coming to an end of its life.

"In my personal opinion I think it was a great loss and I think a lot of us thought it inconceivable that we lose the maritime patrol capability with nothing to replace it."

Image caption Joe Kennedy said it seemed 'inconceivable' not to have replaced Nimrods after scrapping the aircraft

Mr Kennedy, who co-authored a book about Nimrods, said he was "delighted" the RAF would soon have a fleet of Poseidons.

Moray councillor James Allan said the arrival of the new personnel would bring benefits to the local community.

He said: "It's great for Lossiemouth, which is a small place.

"We have a new school being built just now and a new community centre and swimming pool. It will also be great for our economy."

Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said RAF Lossiemouth's strategic northerly location made it "one of the most important air stations in the UK".

Richard Lochhead SNP MSP for Moray said the fleet would bring new employment opportunities to the local area.

He said: "The arrival of the very first P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is a big day for RAF Lossiemouth and Moray and also plugs a gap in the UK's defence capability by restoring marine surveillance."

Douglas Ross, Conservative MP for Moray and UK government minister for Scotland, said the Poseidon's new facilities formed part of £470m of investment in RAF Lossiemouth.

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