Defence chiefs have ruled out basing the world’s most advanced stealth aircraft in Moray.
RAF Lossiemouth had been expected to become home to the supersonic F-35 Lightning jet when it enters service in 2018.
They were expected to be piloted by members of the legendary “Dambusters” 617 Squadron.
But the Ministry of Defence picked RAF Marham in Norfolk as the main operating centre for the single-seat strike planes and has now confirmed there are no plans to send ant of them to Lossiemouth.
But local campaigners backed the decision last night – as the Moray base is already home to squadrons of Typhoon fast-jets and had its long-term future secured when it was chosen to host a new fleet of maritime patrol aircraft.
Nine of the Boeing P-8 Poseidons – which will effectively replace the Nimrods which used to fly from Kinloss – will operate from Moray.
The move will bring 200 additional personnel to RAF Lossiemouth by 2020, with the figure rising to 400 over the following years as the Poseidon fleet is brought up to full strength.
Moray Council’s armed forces champion, Chris Tuke, said yesterday: “These can be looked at as more than equivalent replacements for the F-35 squadron.
“The base will be approaching capacity when these new aircraft arrive, and it makes sense for the MoD to place these new combat jets where they can benefit services best.”
Councillor Tuke, who was an RAF serviceman at Kinloss and now represents the Heldon and Laich ward on the local authority, added that the return of maritime patrol aircraft was a greater priority than receiving new combat jets.
Nimrod surveillance jets based at the former RAF Kinloss airbase were scrapped in 2010, and November’s pledge to base a replacement fleet at Lossiemouth was welcomed as a means of plugging defence gaps.
Mr Tuke said: “This is the old stomping ground of these aircraft, and Moray offers them a prime site for north Atlantic operations.”
The F-35 Lightning II jets will be jointly operated by the RAF and the Royal Navy, and the MoD expects them to enter service in 2018.
The vertical take-off strike fighter’s stealth capabilities have been designed to make it extremely difficult for enemy radar.
The F-35’s top speed is 1199mph – or 1.6 times the speed of sound.
The planes are also designed to give the pilot 360-degree vision.
The £70million machines have been described as “the world’s most advanced stealth aircraft”.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “These are the most advanced fast-jets in the world.
“Whether operating from land or from one of our two new aircraft carriers, they will ensure we have a formidable fighting force.”
The UK Government pledged to purchase about 140 of the jets during its Strategic Defence and Security Review November.
It was as part of the same review that officials revealed proposals to base the Poseidons at Lossiemouth.
It is believed that installing the fleet at the Moray airfield will cost billions of pounds.