The British Military has had to ask for US assistance to help track a suspected Russian submarine off the coast of Scotland after the Coalition government scrapped the RAF’s Nimrod surveillance aircraft in 2010.
Two US Navy aircraft were drafted in to conduct anti-submarine patrols alongside a Royal Navy Frigate in the coastal waters around Faslane where Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent is based, the Telegraph reports.
It comes less than two weeks after MPs on the Commons Defence Committee said scrapping the country’s Airborne Early Warning and Control System left the UK vulnerable.
The RAF’s £4bn fleet of Nimrod surveillance aircraft were scrapped in 2010 which critics say has left the country dependent on its allies for basic surveillance work in its own territory.
Peter Roberts, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies said it “has left a gaping chasm in UK’s capabilities and left us highly dependent on cooperation from our allies.”
The US aircraft coordinated with the anti-submarine frigate HMS Somerset which has been operating off the Scottish coast for a month. But sources at RAF Lossiemouth have reportedly disclosed that the frigate has been joined by the US aircraft which have been flying up to two missions a day since New Year’s Eve.
It is thought the appearance of the submarine is related to the departure of one of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class nuclear submarines from the base on the River Clyde which carry Trident missiles.
The country has four of these nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, each one armed with up to 16 Trident II missiles and the class includes four boats: Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance.
“HMS Somerset is a capable platform and I have no doubt that her deployment alongside these US Navy aircraft is related to the reported departure of a Royal Navy Vanguard ballistic missile submarine from Faslane, and the countering of any Russian deployment from over the horizon,” Mr Roberts said.
SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP, whose constituency contains RAF Lossiemouth, said the deployment of the two craft usually based in Hawaii showed the UK was now resorting to going to its allies with a “begging bowl”.
There has been an increase in visits by Russian submarines over the last month, including a suspected sub spotted off the coast of Sweden and crew of a fishing trawler spotting an “unknown submarine periscope” close to Faslane which officials say was likely to have been tracking one of Britain’s trident-carrying boats.
An MoD spokesman said: “We can confirm that the UK recently requested assistance from allied forces for basing of maritime patrol aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth for a limited period. The aircraft have been conducting maritime patrol activity with the Royal Navy; we do not discuss the detail of maritime operations.”