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RAF Surveillance Aircraft

Volume 741: debated on Monday 20 November 2023

19. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of RAF surveillance aircraft on UK strategy and operations overseas. (900169)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the work of the slightly less glamorous part of the Royal Air Force that does long-distance surveillance missions. They are an important part of the UK’s defence strategy and our ability to monitor and observe what our adversaries are doing. Their work over the past year above the north Atlantic and the high north, the Baltic, the Black sea, the eastern Mediterranean and across the middle east has been central to defence operations. The team at RAF Waddington and at Lossiemouth should be congratulated.

We understand that UK surveillance assets such as Rivet Joint are providing surveillance support to Israel. I appreciate that, for reasons of operational security, the Minister cannot comment on the operational specifics of this activity, but will he rule out the possibility that these platforms are being used to support target acquisition?

While I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his initial question, he also gives me an opportunity to make an important clarification. Rivet Joint is not flying in support of Israel; it is flying to observe the risk of escalation in the region, to inform decision making in the UK MOD, and for nothing else.

Is my right hon. Friend concerned about the volcanic activity in Iceland at the moment? The P-8 regularly uses Keflavik airport near Reykjavik. Could that be interrupted by the threatened volcanic activity?

To the relief of people everywhere hoping for a Christmas getaway, I am told that this particular volcanic ash is not the same as that of last time and thus does not pose such a threat to aviation. However, we are, of course, monitoring it carefully and have contingencies.