Report: We must bring back air survey capability

Britain’s airborne maritime surveillance capability must be reinstated “without delay”, according to a report co-written by a former deputy head of the military.

Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, an ex-deputy chief of defence staff, urged ministers to take action in light of the increasing threats to UK and international security.

In a paper for the UK National Defence Association, co-authored by Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Roberts, they argue there has been “no reduction” in the risks to UK maritime interests since the Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Indeed, they (the risks) have demonstrably increased,” the report says. “International crises are rarely predicted and the need to be able to deploy strategic assets capable of surveying wide areas of land and sea, at very short notice, is self-evident.”

Under the 2010 review, Britain effectively gave up its Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) capability by scrapping the planned Nimrod MRA4 fleet, the association argues. But it claims there are still tasks for a restored MPA fleet, including protection of the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent and against threats to commercial and other shipping.

The paper says: “For an island nation like Great Britain, with its worldwide interests and dependence on the sea, no longer to have an MPA capability is quite extraordinary and has resulted in undue risk to our maritime interests. “Action to acquire an effective long-range MPA capability ... should be set in hand without delay.”

In his foreword to the commentary, the association’s chief executive, Commander John Muxworthy adds: “We are the only major nation which does not possess a modern, or indeed any, maritime patrol aircraft force.”