Menzies Campbell: Money and Politics Came Before Defence Priorities in RAF Leuchars Decision

North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell has called on the Ministry of Defence to reconsider last year’s decision to transfer the Typhoon Force from RAF Leuchars to RAF Lossiemouth.

Sir Menzies issued the call during a debate in the House of Commons on defence issues. Speaking in the debate he said:

“I have a profound belief that the original decision to move the Typhoon aircraft from Leuchars to Lossiemouth was based on financial and political considerations, which were put ahead of strategic obligations and of the clear operational advantages provided by Leuchars.

“In my view there is no question but that the deployment of the Typhoon force should be revisited as part of the ongoing review. The original decision was flawed. It will be even more flawed if it is executed in the way that is proposed.”

Sir Menzies was speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday 26th June. The full transcript of his speech is below:

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): For the past 40 years, RAF Leuchars in my constituency has been responsible for providing air defence for the northern half of the United Kingdom. It is ideally situated for the purpose, close to centres of population and training areas, and easily able to deal with intrusion by aircraft-formerly Soviet and now Russian-into British airspace. Even as this debate takes place, there are aircraft at Leuchars on standby to provide the quick reaction alert, which is an essential part of our air defence. Even as this debate is taking place, No. 6 Typhoon squadron has been stood up and is fully operational, and No. 1 Typhoon squadron is in the course of being stood up. Even now, preparations are taking place for one of the Royal Air Force’s few remaining air shows, which provides a valuable shop window, and it is able to do that, in particular, because of the accessibility of RAF Leuchars to Scotland’s central belt.

I have no doubt that a seamless and uninterrupted build-up of the Typhoon force is essential to the security of the United Kingdom. Is it true that Leuchars now has a dedicated Typhoon engine bay? Is it true that there is now a dedicated Typhoon ejection-seat facility at Leuchars? Is it true that there is Typhoon-specific survival equipment at Leuchars? Is it true that there are Typhoon-modified power supplies and Typhoon-specific IT systems already in place? It is suggested that the Army might be sent in some form or another to Leuchars, but it has not been possible to identify any capital investment in advance of such a decision.

We know that the proposal is to transfer to Lossiemouth, but no preparations have been made there for the arrival of Typhoon squadrons, which allows me, I hope, the colloquialism, “Leuchars ain’t broke, why is it necessary to fix it?” The truth is that Leuchars is in the right place at the right time and doing the right job.

Typhoon aircraft from Leuchars can be over London 12 minutes sooner than Typhoon aircraft flying from Lossiemouth. The Olympics, as the head of MI5 identified only yesterday, will be a severe test of our security, but that test is unlikely to end with the Olympic games, and the capacity to provide air defence throughout the United Kingdom will be an essential feature of our future security.

I have a profound belief that the original decision to move the Typhoon aircraft from Leuchars to Lossiemouth was based on financial and political considerations, which were put ahead of strategic obligations and of the clear operational advantages provided by Leuchars. The financial case has been substantially undermined by the Army reductions that we have heard about, by the rejection of the building of a super-base at Kirknewton near Edinburgh, by the inability of the Ministry of Defence to obtain the sums originally estimated for the sale of properties such as Redford barracks, also in Edinburgh, and by the additional costs of transferring Typhoons to Lossiemouth and of operating from Lossiemouth once they have been transferred there.

In my view, there is no question but that the deployment of the Typhoon force should be revisited as part of the ongoing review to which my hon.
Friend the Minister referred but a moment or two ago. The original decision was flawed. It will be even more flawed if it is executed in the way that is proposed.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120626/debtext/120626-0003.htm#120626125000001

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