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Selling off Red Arrows base will save taxpayers’ cash, No 10 says

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire is being axed as part of a plan to modernise military bases, according to Downing Street.

Downing Street has defended plans to sell off the home of the Red Arrows, insisting the move will save taxpayers £140 million.

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, which is home to the much-admired aerobatics display team, will close in 2022 as part of wider move to provide more “modern and efficient” military bases, according to No 10.

Officials are now carrying out work to find a new home for the Red Arrows.

The air force will also pull out of RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire in 2020.

It has been the base of the Tucano training aircraft, which is being retired.

The Ministry of Defence said it will “concentrate basic and advanced fast jet training” at RAF Valley in north Wales from 2019.

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said he was saddened the base, 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.”

Opened in 1916, the base is famous for being the headquarters of 617 Squadron as they prepared for the Dambusters mission.

It now employs 600 people and has been home to the Red Arrows display team for over 20 years.

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The Red Arrows flying over Buckingham Palace (MoD/PA)

The Lincolnshire Echo reported on Tuesday that this year’s Scampton airshow was cancelled although organisers said it was because its inaugural event last year had made a loss.

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Leader of the Dambusters Raid, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, with his crew as they board their Avro Lancaster III ED932/AJ-G for the Dams’ Raid of May 16/17 1943 (MoD/Crown copyright/PA)

The MoD is expected to make £1.7 billion in savings in the next 10 years, prompting concerns that the defence budget is under too much strain.

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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RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire (Rui Vieira/PA)

Committee chairman Julian Lewis said the hike was necessary “to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’”.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “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.”

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said: “In the centenary year of the RAF, it’s extremely disappointing that both RAF Linton-on-Ouse and RAF Scampton, with its long heritage, will be closed.

“It is particularly important that the Heritage Centre at RAF Scampton is either moved elsewhere or maintained in some way.

“There will be a number of civilians working at both RAF Scampton and Linton-on-Ouse who will be extremely concerned about their future and we will be pressing the Government on their plans for these employees.”

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