AN RAF officer has revealed that the Boeing P-8 Poseidon is the top of RAF’s wishlist to replace Nimrod and fill the UK’s maritime patrol capability gap.
Squadron Leader Lloyd Barrett said the Boeing P-8 Poseidon “is the most capable” option but also “the most expensive” and revealed that the Airbus Military C295 and Bombardier Dash are the other off the shelf options being considered to replace the Nimrod which was cancelled in 2010 by the coalition government because of safety concerns.
The revelation came in an interview with local radio in Moray where Nato allies currently operating from RAF Lossiemouth also publicly criticised the UK’s decision to ditch Nimrod in 2010 without a replacement and said it has put more pressure on them to cover the Arctic North.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bjørn Gohn-Hellum told us: “After the UK’s decision to phase out the Nimrod, we in Norway feel we have put more pressure on the Norwegian aircraft to deliver.
“We are now the only NATO airborne intelligence and surveillance asset operating in the region and in the Barents Sea.” Major Ray Towsend, from the Royal Canadian Air Force, added: “We loved working with the nimrods previously. We in Canada have a unique relationship with the RAF.
“We have some RAF personnel imbedded on our aeroplane. So we’re getting the experience of those Nimrod aviators with our crew which is invaluable to us.
“They’re actually in training roles in our squadron in Canada.
“We miss flying with them, but we sure are benefiting from flying with them in our crews.”
Their criticisms reflects those made by the Defence select Committee in the Commons and has led the Ministry of defence to make maritime aircraft replacement a priority in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Squadron Leader Barrett said: “For the exercise it’s not such a problem because the allies step in, in great numbers.
“Outside of Exercise Joint Warrior the Royal Navy does notice not having maritime patrol aircraft on a daily basis to train with.
“We’ve kept a small cadre of individuals with a Nimrod background.
“We have 23 in the United States of America, nine in Canada, five in New Zealand, and four in Australia.
“We’re keeping the experience of how to operate a future maritime or multi-mission patrol aircraft, and then, if which ever government decides to go back into that game and buy a future aircraft, we’ll have a core of people who know how to use them.”
Westminster SNP leader and Defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said:
“These comments underline the massive MOD mistake of having no maritime patrol aircraft.
“Scotland is a maritime nation and we should have this capability.
“After a ‘Yes’ vote we will fill this gap, which will be good for Scotland, the rest of the UK and allies like Norway.”