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Eyes and ears for Silent Service moves a big step forward

20 April 2018
The decade-long gap in providing long-range ‘eyes and ears’ for the Silent Service is a step closer being plugged as work starts on the home of new maritime patrol aircraft

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson performed the honours, cutting the first turf on the £132m complex being built to support P-8A Poseidons which will hunt hostile submarines from RAF Lossiemouth – thus protecting the nation’s ultimate weapon, nuclear deterrent submarines.

Nine jets – military versions of Boeing’s workhorse 737 airliner – were ordered as part of a £3bn package laid down in 2015’s defence review, which recognised the UK needed long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

Britain has been without such a capability since the Nimrod was scrapped in 2010 as the programme to replace the veteran aircraft ran horrendously late and over budget.

In Nimrod’s place comes a tried-and-tested submarine hunter – flown by the Americans, Australians and Indians – which will be operational in two years’ time and capable of scouting for hostile submarines – and surface threats – using sonobuoys and radar… and taking those threats out if necessary with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

These submarine hunters will play a vital role in keeping the UK safe from the increasing threats and aggression we face in the skies, on the sea and below the waves

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

In addition, Poseidon will support search-and-rescue missions around the UK and generally gather intelligence.

Flying four-hour missions at a time from its Scottish home, the jets will operate as far north as the Barents Sea, or out into the Atlantic as far as southern tips of Greenland and Portugal.

Each will be crewed by eight personnel – some of them Royal Navy tacticians – who’ll have up to 129 sonobuoys available to drop on each sortie to listen for hostile hunter-killers.

The RAF is forming two squadrons (120 and 201) to operate the Poseidons, supported by around 400 air and ground crew.

“These submarine hunters will play a vital role in keeping the UK safe from the increasing threats and aggression we face in the skies, on the sea and below the waves,” Mr Williamson said as he revealed that Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic had increased tenfold over the past few years.

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