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Red Arrows base to be sold off in bid to cut costs

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire is facing the axe as the Ministry of Defence seeks to shrink its estate.

The home of the Red Arrows is to be sold (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
The home of the Red Arrows is to be sold (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The home of the Royal Air Force’s world-famous display team, the Red Arrows, will be sold to cut costs as the RAF celebrates its 100th year.

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire is facing the axe as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) seeks to shrink its estate by around one third and save £3 billion by 2040.

PA Graphics

Opened in 1916, the base is famously known as the headquarters of 617 Squadron as they prepared for the Dambusters mission in the Second World War.

Red Arrows making a flypast over RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire (Rui Vieira/PA)

Scampton is also the headquarters of 1 Air Control Centre, which protects UK airspace from hostile aircraft.

Downing Street defended the plans, insisting the move will save taxpayers £140 million and help provide more “modern and efficient” military bases.

The site, where British bombers took off to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley in 1943, now employs 600 people and has been home to the Red Arrow Hawk T1 jets for more than 20 years.

The sale is expected to be completed by 2022 and work is ongoing to find a new site for the much-admired aerobatics team, authorities said.

Leader of the Dambusters raid, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, with his crew (MoD/Crown copyright/PA)

Another base, RAF Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire, where fast-jet pilots are taught, and where Prince William underwent training, will be closed in 2020.

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, tweeted he was “very sad” at the news and his thoughts were with the families of around 300 staff at the base.

Fast-jet training will now take place at RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales, from 2019.

In a written statement on Tuesday, Tobias Ellwood, Under Secretary of State at the MoD, said: “The MoD will close RAF Scampton (Lincolnshire) in 2022, relocating the RAF Aerobatics Team (RAFAT) and others to locations more fit for purpose.

“The disposal of the site would offer better value for money and, crucially, better military capability by relocating the units based there.

“The MoD can also confirm the intention to cease RAF use of RAF Linton-on-Ouse (North Yorkshire) in 2020… the site will no longer be needed.”

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said he was “saddened” that Scampton, which is in his constituency, was to be sold.

He tweeted: “Saddened that the Ministry of Defence want to sell RAF Scampton as part of cost-saving measures. Not the best way to mark the #RAF100: closing the home of the RAF Red Arrows and Dambuster squadron.

“I will work with Lincolnshire County Council & West Lindsey District Council to ensure the base has a bright future.”

Scampton and Linton-on-Ouse come on top of 91 military sites the MoD has previously said it planned to dispose of by 2040 in a bid to save £3 billion in running costs and provide land for tens of thousands of homes.

In a 2016 report titled A Better Defence Estate it said the estate, which costs around £2.5 billion per year to maintain, will be reduced by 30% by 2040.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said of Scampton: “That closure is part of a plan to deliver modern and efficient military bases, which will save the taxpayer about £140 million by the end of the decade.

“Work is under way to find the Red Arrows a new home that is fit for purpose.”

Last month, the Commons Defence Committee called on the Government to increase defence spending from 2% to 3% of GDP, a boost of around £20 billion a year.

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