27 Jan 2011

Nimrod loss leaves ‘massive gap’ in UK security

Scrapping the RAF Nimrod surveillance planes will leave a “massive gap” in British security, former defence chiefs warn in a last ditch attempt to save the aircrafts.

Nimrod loss leaves 'massive gap' in UK security

The government decided to scrap the £4bn fleet of surveillance planes on cost grounds as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review published last year.

With the process of dismantling the Nimrod underway, a number of former defence chiefs signed an open letter warning of the dangers of the move.

“Machine tools have been destroyed; several millions of pounds have been saved but a massive gap in British security has opened,” the letter published in The Daily Telegraph said.

“Vulnerability of sea lanes, unpredictable overseas crises and traditional surface and submarine opposition will continue to demand versatile responsive aircraft.

“Nimrod would have continued to provide long-range maritime and overland reconnaissance – including over the UK – anti-submarine surveillance, air-sea rescue coordination, and perhaps most importantly, reconnaissance support to the Navy’s Trident submarines.”

Letter signed

The letter was signed by Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig, the former Chief of the Defence Staff and Chief of Air Staff; Major General Julian Thompson, the commander of land forces in the Falklands conflict; Air Vice-Marshal Tony Mason, the former Air Secretary for the RAF; Major General Patrick Cordingley, the commander of the Desert Rats in the Gulf War; Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, the director of the UK National Defence Association; and Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward.

A massive gap in British security has opened. Defence letter

The planes were seen yesterday on a site owned by BAE Systems at Woodford in Stockport, with their cockpit windows taped up, close to an area sectioned off by tarpaulin sheets, where it is believed they will be broken up.

Union leaders also attacked the Government’s controversial decision to scrap the Nimrod spy planes as contractors prepared to strip the aircraft before they are dismantled for scrap metal.

Unite national officer Bernie Hamilton said: “The lunatics have taken over the asylum when the Government orders the Ministry of Defence to break up £4bn worth of world-class defence equipment.

“The decision to scrap the Nimrod leaves a huge gap in the UK’s defence capability and is a betrayal of the workers that played a part in its manufacture.”

Scrapping ‘necessary’

The Ministry of Defence said scrapping the Nimrod was necessary with the current financial pressures.

“The severe financial pressures and the urgent need to bring the defence programme into balance meant we could not retain all existing programmes,” a spokesperson said.

“We will continue joint maritime patrol activities with our allies and will ensure the integrity of UK waters by utilising a range of other military assets, including Type 23 frigates, Merlin anti-submarine warfare helicopters and Hercules C-130 aircraft.”