In the course of the past year there has been an ever increasing frequency of Russian spy planes overflying the North Sea and Atlantic ocean not that far off the coast of Scotland. Response from the UK has been patchy, often interception and close monitoring has been, “just in time” by the RAF. This makes nonsense of recent changes to UK defences which included removal of many planes from Scotland and closure of a number of bases.
At sea there were reports of Russian submarines in the Atlantic, near to the Clyde and not that far away from routes taken by UK nuclear equipped submarines. The UK had no immediate resources available capable of identifying and monitoring the movement of submarines and had to call upon the USA to complete the mission.
In recent months Russian bombers equipped to carry nuclear weapons have been identified on a number of occasions, in the English Channel and in the Atlantic off the coast of Devon having flown from the North past the coast of Scotland and Ireland.
The increased Russian presence is of concern since it appears the first the UK is able to positively identify and warn them off is at the time they are close to entering UK waters.
The on-going testing of the UK defences is clearly driven by events in the Ukraine. It is evident the UK is lacking surveillance aircraft capable of overflying and monitoring the Arctic area to the North and East of the UK, a situation created by the Con/Dem government forming part of their defence review which slashed conventional equipment replacement programmes in favour of retaining and indeed replacing the Trident Nuclear weapons defence system.
I first wrote this blog note many months ago warning of the folly of moving defence dependence of the country away from conventional forces to nuclear. I do hope the chickens do not come home to roost. There is still time to do as the Americans wish. That is to give up Trident at the time it becomes obsolete in 2017 and transfer UK dependence on nuclear cover to the USA. It is preferable to be protected by a 2000+ warhead umbrella s opposed to the 60+ the UK might be able to gather for use, if when needed. Which would be a once only option since it would be taking the country down the road of mutual destruction. Unthinkable but!!!
The money saved could be diverted back to the replacement of conventional weapons systems , getting the UK’s conventional land and sea forces back to optimum levels allowing their rapid and effective deployment protecting the country.
What I wrote many months ago:
Scrapping the Nimrod MRA4 planes Leaves a, “big hole” in the UK’s defences.
The all British, “Spy in the Sky” Nimrod MRA4 surveillance and reconnaissance plane was a unique, world class, multi-role platform aircraft. In addition to completing traditional maritime roles, it also had intelligence gathering capabilities, crucial in today’s troubled world.
The MoD and BAE signed a contract with BAE, in 1996 to build 21 Nimrod spy planes. This was later reduced to 12 and later still to nine. Then the multi-million pound Nimrod MRA4 surveillance and reconnaissance planes project was scrapped, in the defence review by the Con-Dem government. Nine of the planes, which were nearing completion were then dismantled for scrap metal. Protesters described the decision as the, “greatest blunder in the history of the UK aircraft industry”
The Nimrod MRA4 development programme had been in place for many years. To date, in excess of £5bn had been spent and this was written off. Approximately 2000 workers were laid off in consequence of the cancellation.
Later. In an open letter to the Times signed by; (Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig, Major General Julian Thompson, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Mason, Major General Patrick Cordingley, Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward and Air Commodore Andrew Lambert) they warned that scrapping the RAF’s Nimrod surveillance aircraft has left a “massive gap” in UK security;
“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.”
Union leaders also attacked the Government’s controversial decision to scrap the Nimrod spy planes. Unite national officer Bernie Hamilton said: “The lunatics have taken over the asylum when the Government orders the Ministry of Defence to break-up £5bn worth of world-class defence equipment.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman statement said: “Ministers and service chiefs have made clear that the decision not to bring the Nimrod MRA4 into service was difficult, but it would not be reversed.
An Audit Report later reported there were many other reasons, behind the decision to cancel the project. See attached;
The levels of incompetence and deceit are breathtaking and I expect the adverse effects will be with the UK for some years ahead.