The spy planes heading for RAF Lossiemouth will boost Moray’s economy by tens of millions of pounds every year.
While military bosses have celebrated the enhanced defence capabilities the maritime patrol aircraft will bring the armed forces, business chiefs are busy counting up the enormous financial windfall they will bring the region.
The UK Government has purchased a fleet of nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft, each worth about £150million, which will be based at Lossiemouth.
And the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has entered a partnership with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing to create a £100million training centre at the Moray base.
More than 400 new personnel will be stationed at Lossiemouth to operate the aircraft, and 100 more will be recruited to serve in the support centre.
The estimated cost of developing the planes could reach £3billion over the next decade.
The chairman of Moray Council’s economic development and infrastructure services committee, John Cowe, said the local authority now faced the “welcome challenge” of ensuring the area was ready for the influx of new personnel.
He said: “The impact on Moray’s economy will be massive, we are definitely talking in terms of tens of millions of pounds every year.
“Now the council will have to keep up with the housing and infrastructure demands that an added 500 personnel will bring.
“This will affect the whole of Moray, not just Lossiemouth, and it’s something of a welcome challenge for the council.”
Councillor Cowe, who also chairs the Moray Economic Partnership group, added that the MoD’s decision made up for Moray’s failure to secure the UK’s first spaceport last year.
Both RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks were on a shortlist of sites in the running to host the groundbreaking project.
But, the Civil Aviation Authority ruled both out, citing “overriding military operational factors”.
Heldon and Laich councillor Mr Cow said: “This has to be viewed as equal to, or better than, that as far as the economy of Moray is concerned.”
When RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss were both threatened with the axe in 2010, economic experts from Highland and Islands Enterprise calculated the loss of both bases would cost the region a combined £158million.
The Lossiemouth base, which then supported 3,370 jobs, was worth £90.3million to the local economy alone.
Campaigners launched protests against the plans, and were successful in forcing the Ministry of Defence into a U-turn on the proposal to close Lossiemouth.
However, the end of the line for RAF Kinloss as an air base came in the summer of 2011, although it was later transformed into an Army barracks.
The executive director of Moray Chamber of Commerce, Marjorie McLennan, said the Poeseidons announcement put paid to any lingering fears over the strategic value of the Lossiemouth base.
She said: “Even though we managed to campaign and save RAF Lossiemouth, there was always a niggling doubt that something like that could crop up again during any defence review.
“But now it looks like we can be more confident about there being a long-term airbase in the town than perhaps we ever have been before.”
As part of a historic agreement with the UK Government, Boeing has decided to create a £100million complex at RAF Lossiemouth, which it will use as its main training base for pilots across Europe.
The building is expected to open in 2019, in preparation for the first of the Poseidon craft arriving in 2020.
Yesterday, RAF Lossiemouth confirmed that high-ranking officers would spend the summer months mapping out how the huge facility will be sited in its grounds.