According to the UK Independence Party website UKIP will try to achieve the following if they gain power at the 2010 general election:
The Eurofighter (now designated ‘Typhoon’) – The very large purchase of Eurofighters was conceived for the Cold War, and continued for industrial reasons. However they have been bought and are good aeroplanes, with a largely British engine and radar. It is clear that if these aircraft had been designed and ordered these as an all- British project we would have had them earlier and at less cost.
The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) – This is a US project, and the MOD requirement is for 150 aircraft at £7.5 billion (2003 prices) This is too many for just 2 Aircraft carriers, and presumably half the aircraft are to replace the Harriers. 150 would be sufficient to supply 2 carriers at sea in an emergency however, with 3 carriers ordered, as per UKIP policy. UKIP would order an additional 50 JSFs (‘Lightnings’) for RAF use, but which would be available for naval use from carriers and supports ships if required, as with Harriers.
Transport and Tanker Fleet -The RAF currently has a tanker fleet of 21 aircraft (VC-10 and Lockheed Tristar), to be replaced in 2013 by just 14 Airbus A330s operating under a PFI agreement. The existing 21 seem inadequate for our Iraq/ Afghanistan operations, and a reduction to 14 will be grossly inadequate. UKIP suggests a like for like replacement of 21 A330s. UKIP considers that PFI agreements and part ownership with commercial airlines are not suitable for military purposes and will buy direct.
The current transport fleet is 57 aircraft, 50 of which are the Hercules. The plan is to replace these with the Airbus A400M. This aircraft has not yet flown and its carrying capacity is doubted. UKIP proposes that the UK buys 10 of the very satisfactory Boeing C-17, replacing the 4 leased (up to 6 in 2008), before its production line shuts in 2009.
Helicopters – Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed a desperate shortage of all types of helicopters in all 3 services. UKIP sees a minimum requirement of:
60 Chinook heavy lift helicopters (up from 35 now) .
Medium lift helicopters – more Merlins to replace the RAF Puma and the RN Sea King HC4, and more Merlins to replace RAF and RN Air Sea rescue assets (and which should not be provided through a PFI contract) .
Light helicopters – We should buy as many inexpensive commercial helicopters as we can, for multiple duties across all 3 services. There is always a need. Maritime Patrol Aircraft – The requirement for surveillance aircraft, over land and sea, will extend far into the future. The electronic fits of these aircraft are necessarily sophisticated and expensive, particularly given the tragic and scandalous loss of life from current Nimrod fuel leaks.
The difficulties faced by this presently ageing Nimrod fleet, and the delays in the NMRA 4 replacement programme, are of great concern.
The RAF has been decimated most by defence cuts, with a 49% fall in personnel since 1990, but the role for ground support, heavy lift, surveillance is a growing and under resourced need owing to UK commitments abroad at present. The RAF needs to be built up again.
Summary – UKIP supports:
Bringing the R.A.F. up to strength in personnel, with an extra 6,000 personnel .
Backing the Joint Strike Fighter programme and adding 50 extra planes .
Enlarging the tanker fleet .
Modernising the transport fleet, and buying C-17s outright .
Buying more helicopters, as a matter of priority . Putting the maritime patrol aircraft programme back on track as soon as possible.
I would be interested to hear both positive and negative views on UK Independence Party’s Royal Air Force policies in the comments below?