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Airfield Review (Tertiary Airfield Support)

Volume 464: debated on Friday 19 October 2007

On 18 July 2002, Official Report, columns 460-464, my right hon. Friend, the Member for Ashfield (Mr Hoon) the then Secretary of State for Defence, announced the publication of a new chapter to the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) that was designed to ensure that our defence policies, capabilities and force structures matched the challenges that the new terrorist threats posed.

Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) comprises: armed Tornado F3 and Typhoon aircraft held at ground readiness for immediate take-off; the Air Surveillance and Control System to provide warning and command and control of the fighter aircraft; and tanker aircraft also held at high ground readiness. QRA fulfils two concurrent functions. Firstly, it meets the United Kingdom's responsibility within NATO to provide air policing of agreed member airspace. Secondly, under UK national control, QRA provides an airborne contribution to countering threats against the UK by terrorist organisations or individuals. The SDR New Chapter confirmed that airfields across the UK—RAF Marham, RAF St Mawgan and RNAS Yeovilton—would be able to support QRA aircraft when needed, in addition to the bases from which the QRA aircraft usually operate.

Following the decision to dispose of the airfield at RAF St Mawgan, we have reviewed the short term tertiary airfields that support quick reaction alert aircraft and decided that MOD Boscombe Down and RNAS Culdrose will now be enabled by Spring 2008 to cover any potential threats to the south and south-western airspaces. In the interim, RAF St Mawgan will continue to be utilised as necessary to support short term QRA aircraft. RAF Marham will continue to be maintained as a tertiary QRA airfield. This support is in addition to the bases that are already able to operate such aircraft and will give us enhanced flexibility in our air defence arrangements.