The UK’s new fleet of E-7 Wedgetail spy planes will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, the government has announced in a fresh boost for the base and community.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed last year that it was buying the surveillance aircraft to replace ageing equipment.
Now it has been announced the entire Wedgetail fleet will operate from RAF Lossie with the first to arrive in 2023.
It is the latest in a string of good news stories for the Moray base, which was threatened with closure less than a decade ago.
Multi-million pound upgrade projects have already been run at the station in recent years amid a boom in the number of personnel.
Their roles include responding to Russian incursions into UK waters and airspace.
Baroness Annabel Goldie, minister of state for defence, said: “Scotland’s proximity to the waters and sky of the North Atlantic is of crucial important to the UK’s and Nato’s security – this is why important bases such as RAF Lossiemouth and HMNB Clyde are located here.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: “The UK Government has invested £470 million in RAF Lossiemouth over the last two years, including a new £100 million strategic facility for the new fleet of Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
“The arrival of the Wedgetail capability in Scotland will provide clear additional security and economic benefits to Scotland.”
Last year it was announced the UK would be buying five of the Wedgetail aircraft, which use the same Boeing 737 fuselage as the Poseidons.
This is exciting news and firmly cements our position as the UK’s first line of Defence, delivering early detection together with the air power to secure both the seas and the skies.
— RAF Lossiemouth (@RAFLossiemouth) December 18, 2020
However, the MoD yesterday explained the final number is still to be confirmed as part of a forthcoming review – but stressed the whole fleet would be based at RAF Lossiemouth.
The Wedgetail aircraft has been used by the Australian Air Force in operations in Iraq and Syria against Isis and is a replacement for the UK’s existing E-3D Sentry fleet, which operate from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Equipment onboard the spy planes allows personnel to simultaneously track multiple airborne and maritime targets before directing other crews including fighter jets or warships.
The new fleet of Wedgetail aircraft is the latest boost to RAF Lossiemouth and adds to a massive upgrade of the Moray base.
Expansion work has already led to an expansion of capacity at the town’s under-construction replacement secondary school as well as local housing development and in nearby Elgin.
The MoD says yesterday’s announcement is expected to support “hundreds” of jobs.
The move is also a return to Moray for 8 Squadron, which departed the area in 1991 after operating Shackletons from Lossiemouth and nearby RAF Kinloss for nearly 20 years.
Moray MP Douglas Ross said the addition of the Wedgetail fleet “not only improves the UK’s security and defence capability but it will also mean hundreds more service personnel stationed here – which in turn means a significant boost to the local economy”.
Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter added: “This decision is a further display of confidence in the area and as we see opportunities flourish, alongside the Moray Growth Deal for example, we have a positive period of development ahead of us.”