Our recent and admittedly parochial look at the Scottish National Party’s vision of what an independent Scottish air force might look like (I’m not sure that we’d do the same if Quebec launched a breakaway campaign) drew some interesting reader feedback in the latest issue of Flight International.
“Extreme political bias”, and “vitriolic and rather insulting editorial” aren’t phrases that we see that often in our mail, so this is clearly an emotive topic for some. Those refer to our comment article ‘Braveheart defence plan will never fly’, rather than my more neutral news report, mind you.
Describing the SNP’s military ambitions as “Little more than Ruritarian fantasy” was not my choice of words, but I strongly agree that they are “ambitious, to say the least”.
Our unhappy correspondent notes that Denmark and Norway have similar population sizes to Scotland, and yet are able to be NATO members and fly Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters and C-130(J) transports – and in the latter case P-3 maritime patrol aircraft too. I’m pretty certain that they both spend more than £2.5 billion ($4 billion) on defence per year, though.
In outlining their ambition to eventually operate 16 Eurofighter Typhoons (BAE Systems image, above), Scotland’s defence planners are taking the logical course of seeing what an independent government could request, from its share of previous equipment spending. What they haven’t considered in the process is that the type is massively over-specification for the national quick reaction alert duty they need it to perform – and just ask Austria how much its 15 Eurofighters cost to operate. But if that’s not an issue, then I’m sure the Royal Air Force will be able to spare some Tranche 1 jets if the time comes.
Perhaps a single-engined type like the Saab Gripen would be a better fit for an independent Scottish air force, both in capability and cost terms? It seems to be doing the task just fine for small NATO nations the Czech Republic and Hungary, after all. On name grounds, of course, Alex Salmond’s government might also possibly be able to see the appeal of the Northrop F-5 “Freedom Fighter” (US Navy file image, above).