RAF Kinloss: Scrapped replacement for Nimrod 'largely completed'

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FURTHER questions have been raised about the government's decision to drop the new Nimrod planes after a minister admitted that all nine of them were largely completed.

In a written answer to Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson, defence minister Peter Luff said that one of the MR4A maritime reconnaissance aircraft was ready, three were more than 90 per cent complete and the other five were at least 40 per cent complete.

The cancellation of the project, which has already cost the UK 3 billion, sealed the fate of RAF Kinloss, which now can only survive as a potential army base for troops being withdrawn from Germany.

The revelation came as Jobcentre Plus made it clear that no additional support has been made available in Moray since the base closure was announced.

And concerns have been raised privately by the Norwegian government that areas are now not being properly monitored.

In recent weeks there were suggestions that the UK was unable to track two Russian submarines which came into international waters. An American spy plane - the P3 Orion - was launched from Kinloss to try to fill the gap but the trace on the submarines were lost.

There have also been questions about how the new Trident submarines can operate secretly without the help of Nimrods.

Defence analyst Paul Beaver said: "There is no way that Nimrod can be replaced, and the decision will have serious implications for Trident."

Another expert, Tim Ripley, said: "We were all told that it was to save money, but it is clear from Mr Luff's answer that there was little (money] to be saved from the manufacturing, which means there were hardly any short-term savings to help tackle the deficit.

"Given the strategic importance of Nimrod, you then have to ask why it was cancelled."

Mr Robertson added: "When so much has been invested, and when they so close to completion, it is perverse to scrap these aircraft. Not only does this decision make no financial sense, but it makes no strategic sense either."

However, the Ministry of Defence said that the 30 billion project was cancelled for "cost reasons". It added that Nimrod's capabilities can be filled through other forms of detection and closer co-operation with key allies such as the American and French.

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