'Dismay' over 201 Guernsey's Own Squadron defence cuts

Image caption,
The order for nine Nimrod MR4, which were originally due to be ready in 2000, has been cancelled

Guernsey's bailiff has said he is saddened by the possible loss of the 201 (Guernsey's Own) Squadron.

The squadron is based at RAF Kinloss, which is due to close, and was due to fly the cancelled new Nimrod MRA4.

Sir Geoffrey Rowland said: "Our dismay simply cannot compare with the consequences which will ensue over the coming months in Kinloss."

The link between the island and squadron is one of the oldest of its kind dating back to 1939.

It means the squadron members wear a Guernsey flag on their flight suits and regularly attend events in the island, as well as supporting local charities and organisations.

The link has also seen a number of flypasts by Nimrods including one of a MRA4, which were due to enter service in 2012, in the Guernsey Battle of Britain Air Display in September.

Mike Seward, a Guernsey resident, former 201 Squadron Nimrod pilot and member of the squadron's association, said scrapping the base would leave a gap in the nation's long-term defence capability and he feared it was the end for the squadron.

He said: "I don't see a way forward in the short term, you've taken away their primary role, some of the roles the Nimrod MRA4 was due to do have been taken by other squadrons, I see no option but for the squadron to actually close."

Image caption,
Mr Seward said he could see no option but for the squadron to close

Sir Geoffrey said: "Islanders will be devastated by the decision to terminate production of the new Nimrod and thus leave Guernsey's Own without any aircraft.

"Our thoughts are very much with the members of the squadron and their families.

"The strength of the relationship between Guernsey and the squadron can be gauged from the fact that the Commanding Officer of 201 Squadron spoke personally with me to convey the sad news within an hour of being advised of the outcome of the long-awaited defence review."

He said: "It is fitting to express gratitude for all the work that 201 has done for our community over the years."

"If there is any room for optimism than we must hope that Guernsey's Own will survive in some form. However, that will be of little comfort in and around Kinloss."

The cancellation of the Nimrod MRA 4 and the removal of RAF personnel from Kinloss were part of a raft of measures as the UK Government announced 8% would be cut from the £46.1bn defence budget over a four year period.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said the future of individual RAF units, such as 201 squadron, was "yet to be decided and a decision would be made in the coming weeks".

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