RAF plans huge cuts in aircraft and stations

Publié le 16 novembre 2009 par Theatrum Belli @TheatrumBelli

Air Force chiefs are preparing to cut 10.000 staff - a quarter of their manpower - and close up to five large air stations.

The plans will reduce the RAF's strength to 31.000 personnel over the next five years, little more than half the level during the recent Iraq conflict and seriously diminishing its capability of fighting another conventional war.

It also intends to retire the majority of its Harrier and Tornado jets early, leaving it with about 80 fewer aircraft by 2025. The cuts are part of a package prepared for the 2010 annual spending round.

They are designed to pre-empt the savage cuts expected as part of the strategic defence review promised by whichever party wins power in next year's general election.

A senior RAF officer said the plans were designed to save "significant amounts of money, measured in billions of pounds a year" rather than having them forced on the service by the review.

The RAF has 19 flying stations in the UK, but the reduction in aircraft means up to five are expected to be closed and sold over the next decade.

The stations most at risk include RAF Cottesmore in Rutland and RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, both of which will close when the Harrier fleet is retired.

One of either RAF Marham in Norfolk or RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire is under threat because of planned cuts to joint strike fighter numbers. So, too, is RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, with the new Nimrod MRA4 expected to move to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

One plan under consideration would see all RAF fast jet training moving to RAF Valley in Anglesey, leading to the possible closure of RAF Linton-on-Ouse and RAF Leeming, both in North Yorkshire.

Other proposals would see all the RAF's Merlin helicopters move from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire to a joint RAFRoyal Navy station at what is currently Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall.

The proposals were ordered by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, the new chief of the air staff, and the air force board ahead of the 2010 spending round. It comes with the RAF ordered to find £200m in cuts tand ensure all possible available resources are diverted to Afghanistan.

Short-term cuts will see reductions in the RAF's flying schedule, the grounding of Nimrod MR2 aircraft and Puma helicopters until April, and the mothballing of four of its seven Boeing E-3D Sentry Awacs airborne warning aircraft.

Senior RAF officers believe that whichever party wins the general election it will have to make cuts to defence because of the economic situation.

The Ministry of Defence said : "These are challenging times and, like all government departments, we routinely review spending to ensure that best use is made of the defence budget."

Source du texte : TIMES ON LINE

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