The UK Ministry of Defence has outlined its future basing options for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, while increasing speculation that it is to rationalise operations of its BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol and R1 electronic intelligence aircraft at a single site.
Two bases are likely to be selected to house the UK's up to 150 F-35 joint combat aircraft, with these to come from a shortlist of current Royal Air Force facilities at Cottesmore, Kinloss, Lossiemouth, Marham, St Mawgan and Wittering, plus the Royal Navy's RNAS Yeovilton site.
The JSF basing study is part of an ongoing defence airfield review that is also investigating the benefits of consolidating all Nimrod operations at Kinloss or Waddington. The majority of the RAF's intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance aircraft fleet is now based at the latter site, increasing the likelihood of its selection to receive the MRA4 from 2009.
The UK has announced its intention to reduce the number of RAF airfields from a total of 50, and has previously decided to close its Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules base at Lyneham and locate all its transport and inflight refuelling aircraft at RAF Brize Norton. Operations of the service's 232 Eurofighter Typhoons will take place from Coningsby and Leuchars.
CRAIG HOYLE / LONDON
Source: Flight International