Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


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 document.[1]

  I hope this is helpful.

1   Not printed. Back

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Prepared 5 February 2001