Defence mandarins warn of Nimrod scrapping folly

Six ex-defence chiefs have written to a newspaper warning that abandoning the new RAF Nimrods will create a "massive” security gap.

The military bosses said in an open letter to The Daily Telegraph that interim measures to operate a reconnaissance capability in place of the new Nimrod MRA4 will “fall far short”.

Saying that scrapping the programme at this stage was “perverse”, the letter, as reported by the BBC, plainly conveys their strong feelings that the Government’s decision was wrong.

Many defence sector commentators have said that the few alternative platforms to the Nimrod MRA4, a long rage reconnaissance and submarine protection aircraft, are suboptimal and also costly.

The Telegraph letter is signed by Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig, the former chief of the defence staff and chief of air staff; Maj Gen Patrick Cordingley, the commander of the Desert Rats in the Gulf War; Air Vice-Marshal Tony Mason, the former air secretary for the RAF; Major General Julian Thompson, the commander of land forces in the Falklands conflict; and Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward, commander of the naval task force in the Falklands.

A statement by Gen Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, said that cancelling the Nimrod MRA4 was not taken lightly. He added that “severe financial pressures” had led to the “tough decision”, and that the project was both delayed and overspent.
None of the MRA4 aircraft are operational, or had passed flight tests.

A report on the letter by the BBC says that the Ministry of Defence has also been accused of failing to advise ministers of the full cost and impact of the loss of the planes. The project has cost nearly £4bn to date and it will cost a further £200m to scrap the aircraft and pay compensation to the manufacturers, BAE Systems.

The government says cancelling the aircraft will save £2bn over 10 years.