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51. RAF Kinloss. (NJ 066 633)

Nimrods returning from the Gulf.

RAF Kinloss, in Moray, is the UK base for the entire fleet of Nimrod MR2 aircraft, 21 in total. This figure is composed of 18 aircraft split equally between three active squadrons, 120, 201 and 206, and 3 aircraft of the 42 (Reserve) squadron. Like Crimond in Aberdeenshire, the communications facilities at Kinloss are currently in the process of being upgraded to provide the RAF with advanced strategic communications. In the financial year 2001-2002 RAF Kinloss had an operating cost of £112.4 million, the third largest operating costs of all RAF bases in the UK.

Whilst in Scotland, the Nimrods primary role is as a maritime patrol aircraft, engaging in Anti-Submarine Warfare and maritime surface surveillance. Their long range enables them to monitor maritime areas far to the north of Iceland and up to 4,000 km out into the Western Atlantic. The Nimrods protect Britain's Trident submarine fleet and were prominently used in the Cold War for surveillance purposes in spotting Soviet submarines that could threaten Trident.
Armed with Sidewinder AIM-9 air-to-air missile, Harpoon anti-ship missile and nine Mark 46 or Stingray torpedoes, Nimrods from Kinloss have been based in the Gulf region since September 2001, and have been used in a variety of roles and operations, including Afghanistan.

Under a £2.2 billion contract awarded in July 1996 to BAE Systems, all Nimrods were to be replaced in 2004 by the Nimrod MRA4 but there has been a substantial programme cost escalation (estimated programme cost £2.8bn by 2002) and a five year delivery slippage. The first inaugural flight of the prototype Nimrod MRA4 did not take place until August 2004.

There has been speculation that Kinloss has been earmarked for closure. It is believed that the MoD has decided to base the next generation MRA4 Nimrods at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and that as part of the review of bases in 2004 they are currently costing RAF Kinloss' closure.

2 Nimrods from each squadron from RAF Kinloss saw active service in Iraq, initially to provide air support and surveillance for the coalition maritime forces in the region. As the conflict expanded, the Nimrods from RAF Kinloss flew reconnaissance missions over the Iraqi border and then the battlefield to provide information for the troops on the ground.

Although a number of Nimrods returned to RAF Kinloss in April 2003, aircraft from all three squadrons are still based in the Gulf region, and continue to provide air support for the operational activities that are ongoing in Iraq.

In addition to the airfield at Kinloss, the base operates as a link of the British Armed Forces' high frequency strategic communications system. The high frequency network, operated by the Northern detachment of the RAF's 81 Signals Unit based at Kinloss, provides voice communication up to 1,500 nautical miles from the UK's coastline for the Strike Command Integrated Communications System (STCICS) and the Maritime Air Telecommunications Organization (MATELO). The network is made up of the receiver at Kinloss and two transmitters at Defence Communication Services Agency (DCSA) Crimond[47] and RAF Milltown[54]. Work is currently being done to update the communications system The rationalisation and upgrading of the High Frequency communications system is being carried out by VT Merlin Communications under a 15 year, £220 million, Public Private Partnership programme. VT Merlin will operate the HF Communications Services initially with current military personnel and management but then replace them with VT Merlin employees.

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