Lossiemouth aircraft tasked with defending UK’s nuclear weapons

Wing Commander James Hanson who will lead the RAF Squadron . Picture; Peter Jolly
Wing Commander James Hanson who will lead the RAF Squadron . Picture; Peter Jolly
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The two squadrons which will operate nine new aircraft defending the UK’s nuclear deterrent have been announced, including the highest-scoring unit from the Second World War.

Numbers 120 Squadron and 201 Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray will run the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, with the first plane due to arrive in 2020.

In the Second World War, 120 Squadron was the air force’s highest-scoring anti-submarine unit with 14 kills.

Their main role will be to help protect the nation’s submarine-deployed nuclear weapons and its two new aircraft carriers.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “Our nine new Poseidon aircraft are part of our plan to monitor and deal with increased threats to our country. They can operate at long range without refuelling and have the endurance to carry out high and low-level airborne maritime and overland surveillance for extended periods, helping keep us safe.

“The P-8A aircraft will allow us to work more closely with our allies, improve our surveillance coverage and will provide value for taxpayers’ money.”

The planes can carry torpedoes and anti-shipping missiles, and are designed to conduct anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

The aircraft will also play a role in intelligence gathering, and in search and rescue operations.

Wing Commander James Hanson will oversee the formation of 120 Squadron from April 2018, while 201 Squadron will form in 2021.

The 201 Squadron can trace its origins back to the formation of No 1 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service in 1914.

Mr Hanson said: “It’s a huge honour. It’s very, very exciting but it’s also a really big task up ahead of me.

“Between now and April 2018, when the squadron stands up, we will be building the squadron.”

Agreements have already been made with the US and Norwegian militaries to co-operate closely on operating the P-8A aircraft across the North Atlantic.

With the first plane due to arrive in 2020, the RAF has maintained its skills by embedding air crew within squadrons in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

The UK government is investing £3 billion in maritime aircraft capabilities over the next decade.

Poseidon will bring more than 400 additional service personnel to RAF Lossiemouth, where £400 million is being invested in new support infrastructure for the aircraft.