No real defence

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The prime, fundamental responsibility of any government is the defence of the realm.

In this context, it appears to me that the continued refusal by government ministers to answer simple, legitimate questions regarding the strategic reasons for moving Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North, (QRA)(I)(N), and the northern half of the Typhoon fleet from RAF Leuchars in Fife to RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire is quite frankly an affront to democracy and the proposed relocation will degrade and dilute the air ­defence of the UK.

“Strategic” is defined as “tactical”, “calculated” and “considered”. “Security” is defined as “protection”, and “safekeeping”. It is strange, therefore, to see an outcome of the government’s strategic defence and security review (SDSR) which contradicts those definitions with regards to the air defence of the UK.

The campaign to keep the RAF and more importantly QRA(I)(N) at RAF Leuchars was not one based on fear for the local economy or because the locals did not want the army to come – it made no difference if it was the regular army, the Territorial Army or the Salvation Army – none of those three organisations provides the air defence of the UK.

QRA(I)(N) has been successfully defending UK airspace from RAF Leuchars since 1960 – in the same time period, QRA South has been operated from RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire (jointly with RAF Wattisham in Suffolk), RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and, at present, RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

There is no surprise that RAF Leuchars has maintained the QRA(N) role for more than five decades, due to its “strategic” geographical location – the only surprise is that the Westminster government apparently thinks it no longer can.

The fact that the government has failed to answer the “strategic” question and that at the beginning of the SDSR process Leuchars was never in the “frame” (with the contest being between Lossiemouth and Marham, in Norfolk), raises ­serious questions about ministers’ ­understanding of the words “strategic” and “security”.

Mark Sharp

Leuchars Community Council

Leuchars, Fife