UK defence spending boost to safeguard Chinook and F-35 investments

London
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The UK government has announced a £3 billion ($4.8 billion) increase in defence spending for the five-year period starting in 2015-16, enabling the Ministry of Defence to proceed with several planned military aircraft procurements over the coming decade.

Outlined on 18 July, the new commitment will enable the UK to advance with its planned purchase of 14 more Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters to enter use from 2014, and to acquire a fleet of three RC-135-based Air Seeker intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The first of these should also be available in 2014, with modification work already under way in the USA on an ex-US Air Force Boeing KC-135 tanker airframe.

Other activities facilitated by the extra funds will include initial spending on the Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter and on converting both of the Royal Navy's future Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers with catapults and arrestor gear. This will restore the UK's lapsed carrier strike capability from 2020.

"The government has committed to deliver a package of new money, further efficiencies, and adjustment to the future defence equipment programme, turning the unfunded aspirations of the last government into real contracts and real equipment," said defence secretary Dr Liam Fox. "For the first time in a generation, the MoD will have brought its plans and budget broadly into balance, allowing it to plan with confidence for the delivery of the future equipment programme."

Fox also announced plans to move the RAF's Scottish-based Eurofighter Typhoons from Leuchars to Lossiemouth, with the latter joining RAF Coningsby as a base providing quick reaction alert cover for the UK.

"We will start preparing the infrastructure at Lossiemouth to receive the Typhoon force straight away, and would aim to start to redeploy aircraft there in 2013," said Fox. "We will continue to redeploy aircraft over the following years as space becomes available."

The RAF bases at Kinloss and Leuchars in Scotland will be handed over for use by the British Army, while Lyneham in Wiltshire has been named as preferred location for the MoD's future defence technical training activities.

Allocated to support the UK's Future Force 2020 strategy, the additional defence funds equate to a real-term increase of 1% a year in the UK's equipment procurement and support programme, the MoD said.

"I am determined to maintain Britain's position in the international premier league and to ensure that our Royal Navy, Army and RAF are given the tools they need to do their vital work," said Fox.

The defence secretary also said the MoD would publish a new, fully funded, 10-year equipment plan by September and ask the UK National Audit Office to conduct an "affordability audit" of its plans.