In May 2006, my predecessor announced the future garrison structure for Northern Ireland.
As part of our longer-term planning, we have decided to relocate 230 Squadron RAF, currently based at RAF Aldergrove and equipped with Puma helicopters, to RAF Benson. This will establish a coherent Puma force on a single site, enabling the improvement of Puma force capability. It will also entail the relocation of RAF support personnel and a reduction in the civilian personnel required at Aldergrove. We expect the relocation to be completed by the end of 2010.
The relocation of 230 Squadron will free up significant facilities at Aldergrove. It is therefore our intention to relocate 38 Engineer Regiment, who will move into Massereene Barracks, Antrim later this year, to Aldergrove as soon as practicable following the departure of 230 Squadron and to dispose of Masserene Barracks thereafter. A number of civilians will be offered the opportunity to relocate with the unit, but there will be a reduction in civilian personnel associated with site-specific activities.
These changes will not impact on our commitments in support of the civil authorities in Northern Ireland. Aldergrove will remain a military flying station for the Army Air Corps for the foreseeable future. The RAF will continue to utilise Northern Ireland airspace for training and a limited number of RAF personnel will remain in joint or specialist appointments in units within Northern Ireland. The relocation of 38 Engineer Regiment demonstrates our longer-term commitment to retain a base at Aldergrove. The ongoing relocation of 19 Light Brigade to Northern Ireland, announced in January 2006, demonstrates our longer-term commitment to basing in Northern Ireland.