The first of a fleet of new submarine-hunting spy planes destined for the north has been officially handed over to the RAF.
Nine of the P-8 Poseidon aircraft, worth a combined £3 billion, are due to start arriving at RAF Lossiemouth from early next year to maintain a vigil over the North Atlantic.
Today the first of the planes, christened the Pride of Moray, was handed over to the Ministry of Defence after completing a series of test flights.
The new planes sparked a £460 million investment in the infrastructure at RAF Lossiemouth to prepare the base for about 700 additional personnel.
And military top brass believe the jets will cement the station’s importance on the country’s front line of defence.
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, chief of the air staff, said: “Poseidon is a game-changing maritime patrol aircraft able to detect, track and, if necessary, destroy the most advanced submarines in the world today.”
First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin said: “This will give the UK the ability to conduct long-range patrols and integrate seamlessly with our Nato allies to provide a world-leading capability.
The first submarine-hunting Poseidon MRA Mk.1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) has been delivered to the Royal Air Force.The MOD is investing £3 billion in nine state-of-the-art jets which will enhance the UK’s tracking of hostile maritime targets, protect the British continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent, and play a central role in NATO missions across the North Atlantic.
Posted by Royal Air Force on Thursday, 31 October 2019
“This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes.”
Pride of Moray was unveiled at a ceremony in Seattle before being flown to the US Navy base in Jacksonville, where RAF staff are being trained to operate the aircraft by American crews.
The personnel, many of whom operated the UK’s Nimrod fleet at the former RAF Kinloss before they were scrapped in 2010, have been embedded within maritime patrol squadrons across the world to maintain their skills since that time.
Poseidon aircraft will carry 129 detection devices on board to drop into the sea and listen to noises from enemy submarines lurking beneath the surface.
The first of the new fleet will arrive at RAF Lossiemouth early next year, with all nine due to touch down by November 2021.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Poseidon planes would play a central role in forthcoming Nato missions across the North Atlantic – describing their arrival as a “step-change” in the UK’s defences.
He said: “Using the world’s most advanced sensors and operating for long periods, these aircraft will transform the quality of intelligence available to our armed forces and protect our vital nuclear deterrent.”
The huge influx of personnel arriving at RAF Lossiemouth as part of the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon fleet will nearly double the base’s compliment – bringing it up to about 2,500.
Preparing the Moray station for their deployment has created economic boosts for firms working on upgrading infrastructure.
Elgin-based construction firm Robertson has been hired to build the massive £132million hangar that will also double as the headquarters for the squadrons tasked with flying the planes.
However, the economic benefits are expected to continue for local firms in the coming years.
The announcement of the planes’ deployment to RAF Lossiemouth forced planners to expand the capacity of the town’s new secondary school to cope with the extra demand.
Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “The fleet of P-8s, the construction of the impressive strategic facility and upgrades of the runway will make RAF Lossiemouth the most strategically important airbase for the defence of the United Kingdom and this will also create hundreds of additional jobs and boost the economy and skills sector in Moray.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead added: “This will bring highly skilled and high value work to the area nearly a decade after the Nimrod was scrapped by David Cameron and I am sure the local community will join me in welcoming this development.”