Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence
concerning relocation of the RAFAT (9 May 2000)
Thank you for your letter of 13 April concerning
the relocation of the RAFAT from RAF Cranwell to RAF Scampton.
This move is connected to a wider reorganisation
of units in the region, the main reason for which is the disposal
of the RAF Newton site in Nottinghamshire. RAF Newton closed in
1996, but the airfield and much of the technical site have been
retained as an enclave and continue to support some Defence activity,
principally flying training. Nevertheless the site remains under-utilised
and is relatively costly to maintain. It also remains a strong
candidate to meet some of Nottinghamshire's future housing needs;
an estimated 3,000 houses could be built there, subject to the
securing of appropriate development terms and allowing for Green
Space requirements. Disposal on this basis would generate a substantial
receipt for the Ministry of Defence (estimated at between £15
million and £20 million). The annual running cost savings
arising from disposal are estimated at £1 million.
All Newton based units could be accommodated
satisfactorily and cost effectively elsewhere. In the case of
the East Midlands Universities Air Squadron and No 7 Air Experience
Flight, their move is dependent on space being created for them
at RAF Cranwell by the relocation of the RAFAT.
RAFAT basing has been an outstanding question
for some years. The Team was based at RAF Scampton until the Defence
Costs Study recommended the closure of the site as part of a rationalisation
of flying training and the associated estate. The RAFAT was to
relocate to RAF Marham, but for operational reasons this was deferred
until 1999. Following the closure of RAF Scampton in 1995, the
RAFAT was based at RAF Cranwell as a temporary measure, while
continuing to use restricted and dedicated airspace above RAF
Scampton for practice, and making limited use of the runway. This
delayed the disposal of the RAF Scampton estate.
The RAF Marham option for the RAFAT was subsequently
foreclosed after it was earmarked for Tornado squadrons withdrawing
from Germany. A consequent review of available airfields revealed
that the best remaining options for future RAFAT basing were RAF
Scampton or a continuation of the Cranwell/Scampton combination.
On 19 August 1998, Minister (AF) announced that the RAF Scampton
airfield would be retained for use by RAFAT either for practice
only or as a more permanent base for the Team. More recently the
use of RAF Scampton was extended to enable it to operate as a
Relief Landing Ground to ease congestion problems at RAF Cranwell.
The facilities at RAF Scampton are well suited
to the support of the Team and could be regenerated relatively
easily. Both the one-off cost of regeneration and the additional
annual running costs incurred in maintaining the regenerated facilities
(estimated at £1.5 million and £0.6 million respectively)
will be more than compensated for by the savings arising from
the disposal of RAF Newton.
The move of the RAFAT will also improve flight
operations at RAF Cranwell, where RAFAT fast jet activities currently
coexist uneasily with student pilot basic training. This coexistence
greatly increases the complexity of the flight management task
both at the RAF Cranwell and, to a lesser extent, its satellite
airfield at RAF Barkston Heath. There have been no incidents related
to airspace congestion involving the RAFAT in the four years it
has been based at RAF Cranwell, but there are nevertheless risks
associated with the Team's presence there which will not be present
at RAF Scampton.
In summary, in order to put the disposal of
RAF Newton into effect, space is required at RAF Cranwell to accommodate
flying units currently based there. Relocating the RAFAT to RAF
Scampton would not only release sufficient spare capacity but
would also resolve the outstanding issue of a long term base for
the Team. A decision was taken in 1998 that RAF Scampton would
have to be retained in some capacity to support RAFAT practice
and it is recognised that RAF Cranwell has never been ideally
suited to the needs of the Team. The cost of regenerating the
Team's facilities at RAF Scampton would be modest compared to
the savings and revenue generated by the closure of RAF Newton.
As requested, I enclose a copy of the consultation
I hope this is helpful.
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