UK Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed a series of cuts to the Royal Air Force.
October 19: In a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, UK Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed much recent press speculation and announced a series of cuts to the Royal Air Force as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Key amongst the announcements was an immediate cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 and early retirement of the Harrier fleet. Despite billions being spent on the Nimrod and the aircraft being ready for service introduction, it has become perhaps the highest profile victim of the cuts deemed necessary by the Treasury and will affect many aircrew and families at RAF Kinloss in Moray, who now face an uncertain future.
Early retirement of the Harrier is less of a surprise as the Prime Minister also announced that the conventional carrier variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, is to be procured for the two new aircraft carriers instead of the Short Take-Off and Landing (STOVL) variant F-35B, although no numbers were confirmed. Navy pilots are expected to be transferred to the US Navy to continue training on F/A-18 Hornets to build up expertise in catapult and arrester wire operations. Harrier operations will cease by April 2011.
In an answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Chinook order announced in December last year has been reduced from 22 aircraft to 12 but that the planned upgrade to the Puma fleet will go ahead.