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Royal Scottish Air Force [RScAF]

Increasing the fast jet fleet of Typhoons potentially up to 16 aircraft which would enable Scotland to contribute to alliance operations overseas. Increasing the Scottish contribution to capabilities for air defense, as part of an integrated system within NATO.

At present, the UK has no maritime patrol aircraft. The UK had a capability gap in maritime surveillance in the absence of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) following the decision in the 2010 SDSR to cancel the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft program. The SDSR deemed the maritime surveillance Nimrod MRA4 too expensive to bring into service and scrapped the program, thereby making RAF Kinloss redundant for air-force purposes. The airfield closed in 2011. During the first years after independence. options for procurement will be taken forward and airborne maritime patrol capability delivered. A detailed specification of requirement will be developed as a priority and final numbers of aircraft required will depend on this. However, the numbers maintained by comparable nations suggests a potential fleet of four.

A newly independent Scotland would have a need for an aircraft with a good maritime strike capability that could be used in the air policing role if necessary. Some observers suggest the L-239 has wing tanks, a Litening III targeting pod, Paveway IIs, Mavericks, and AMRAAMs. It could be fitted with more dedicated anti-ship missiles, if necessary.

Some expected that Scotland would have the lineage of at least No. 602, 603, and 612 squadrons transferred with its independence. Though 602, 603, and 612 were in a non-flying role, their flying heritage had some figure that a new RScAF would use their unit lineages in its "new" squadrons. In this scenario, Scotland could givee 612 Sqn. an active military role again, equipping it with the L-239 in the anti-shipping/strike role.

Many nations use the roundel, each different. With Scotland becoming an independent nation, a different roundel would be required. Something that is not easily confused with the RAF or other roundel. The roundel used by the Royal Air Force (RFC at the time) was based on an idea the French had. They used the colours of their flag, but as a roundel. The roundel is a lot easier to see than flags which may be confused. The RFC reversed the colors used by the French and that has become the British standard.

The concentric blue-white-blue in dark blue fails this test, as it is the Greek roundel, while a light blue version is flown by Argentina. A concentric white-blue-white also fails this test, as this scheme is already taken by Finland. It has the further problem of depending on contrast with the overall aircraft paint scheme to avoid the outer white ring vanishing into the background - Finland is the only country that does not have a dark outer ring. So a a roundel with two rings - the outer one blue and the inner one white - might be the best candidate for a Scot Air Force.

Early Discussions

John MacDonald and Andrew Parrott, authors of "Securing The Nation: Defending an Independent Scotland", a Report by the Scottish Global Forum 12 November 2013, proposed a rather more robuts posture, and provide rather greater granularity. They wrote: "The force structure we propose for a Scottish Defence Force is, we acknowledge, just one of several models which might be deemed ‘appropriate’ for the defence needs of an independent Scotland. It is a force structure that is proportionate to the scale difference between the UK and Scotland... "

Air Combat Wing

15Air Defence Fighter Aircraft
15Air Policing / Advanced Jet Trainer Aircraft

Air Support Wing

4Tactical Air Transport Aircraft
4Maritime Patrol Aircraft
4Passenger Air Transport /
Multi-Engined Trainer Aircraft

Helicopter Wing

8Naval Helicopters
8Army Utility Helicopters
8Army Armed Helicopters
2Special Forces Helicopters

Civilian Agencies Support Wing

4Helicopters - Police Support Flight
4Helicopters - Search and Rescue Flight
2Aircraft - Environmental Surveillance Flight
2Aircraft - Air Ambulance Flight
4Helicopters - Air Ambulance Flight

Flying Training Wing

12Basic Flying Training Aircraft
8Advanced Flying Training Aircraft
8Rotary Wing Training Helicopters
The UK Commons Defence Committee report "The Defence Implications of Possible Scottish Independence" printed 11 September 2013 considerd the Air Force of and independent Scotland.

In his proposal for a Scottish air force, Stuart Crawford suggested that the RAF's Hawk advanced trainer aircraft might prove sufficient for the purpose. He told us: "It is an option for a small nation with a limited budget to equip its air force with. The attraction is that it is, of course, dual-role as an advanced trainer, so it covers that as well. It does have a limited operational capability. It is a significant part of the RAF's current inventory, which also makes it attractive, in that a share could be negotiated. I only offered it up as an alternative to going for something much more sophisticated and much more expensive."

Air Marshal McNicoll gave an assessment of the suitability of the Hawk: "On the air defence side and the suggestion that Hawk might be able to fulfil the need, my personal view is that it could not possibly. The Hawk is a great training aircraft—a fantastic aircraft in many ways—but the idea that it could cope with the defence of what would be the Scottish air defence region is, I think, completely unrealistic. It does not have the radar capability to do so, nor would it have the speed to catch up with something that was travelling quickly. So I do not see that as a starter."

Asked whether Typhoons were the preferred option of the Scottish Government, Keith Brown MSP replied: "I do not want to prejudice what the White Paper says, but I think the Typhoons would be beyond the requirements of an independent Scotland. Obviously, we have contributed substantially to their cost, but there may be more suitable ways for us to provide air cover."

In relation to the Hawk aircraft, Mr Brown told us that there "could very well be a role for them", for example, for training, but he accepted that they would not be suitable for air intercepts. He concluded that while Typhoons may be one possibility, "there are many others internationally for us to try and see whether we can use".

Air Marshal McNicoll considered how many fast jets a Scottish air force would need in order to function effectively: "You could discuss at great length whether one squadron or two squadrons might be sufficient, but you would be heading towards 15 to 30 aircraft perhaps; that sort of nature. That is total fleet size, of course. Some of them would have to be held in reserve—as attrition reserve—and some would be undergoing depth maintenance, so the total number of aircraft you have is not necessarily the total number that you have available on the front line to fly day to day. If you were to keep people current but also maintain a quick reaction alert, a squadron would be pushed to cope with that."

Air Marshal McNicoll noted that a proportion of the RAF Typhoon force might be available to a Scottish air force, but he also gave us an assessment of other options which could fulfil the air defence function. He ruled out the F-35 joint strike fighter, suggesting instead the SAAB Gripen and F-18 Super Hornet. However, he cautioned that the purchase of these aircraft would not be possible with an annual budget of under £400m per annum.

In 2009, the British MoD announced that it would procure 40 Typhoon aircraft as part of the €9 billion production contract for a further 112 aircraft for the four partner nations: Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.[55] This represented approximately €80m (£70m/$112m) per aircraft. By comparison, a Saab Gripen costs $40-60m depending on the variant and the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet has an estimated unit cost of approximately $81m.[56] On the basis of these estimates, a fleet of 30 fast jets for a Scottish air force, as suggested by Air Marshal McNicoll, could cost between $1.2bn (£780m) and $2.6bn (£1.7bn) to procure.

As an alternative, Professor Chalmers, RUSI, proposed a co-operative model for Scottish air defence, on the basis that Scotland became a member of NATO: "I find it hard to imagine a situation in which an independent Scotland took sole responsibility for patrolling its own air space. Given its economic resources and the difficulty—the expense—of maintaining a high-level capability, some co-operative arrangement with NATO allies seems much more likely." He pointed to the example of the Baltic Air Patrol, in which other NATO Member States, and non-NATO states, help with air patrolling the air space of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In respect of Scottish Government plans for air bases, Keith Brown MSP testified that one air base would be sufficient for Scotland's needs. This was a significant departure from previously agreed SNP policy which envisaged a Scottish air force operating from both Lossiemouth and Leuchars. Asked whether there was a preference between the two bases, he replied: "Once again, there are different options available to us. I think you have to wait and see. For example, if you have an air base or an army base that has been used for a number of years, and then is no longer used, bringing it back into use presents different logistical challenges. [...] It makes an awful lot of sense to take decisions on some of the detail as close to the decision as possible, because then you understand what the actual position is in the UK."

In view of the costs associated with acquiring different air defence aircraft from those the UK currently operates, ti was not clear how the Scottish Government expects, within the available budget, to mount a credible air defence - let alone provide the additional transport, rotary wing and other support aircraft an air force would need.

"Scotland's Future" Scottish Government, November 2013

Key elements of air forces in place at independence, equipped initially from a negotiated share of current UK assets, will secure core tasks, principally the ability to police Scotland’s airspace, within NATO.

  • an Air Force HQ function (with staff embedded within NATO structures)
  • Scotland will remain part of NATO’s integrated Air Command and Control (AC2) system, initially through agreement with allies to maintain the current arrangements while Scotland establishes and develops our own AC2 personnel and facility within Scotland within five years of independence
  • a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) squadron incorporating a minimum of 12 Typhoon jets based at Lossiemouth
  • a tactical air transport squadron, including around six Hercules C130J aircraft, and a helicopter squadron
  • flight training through joint arrangements with allies

In total this would require around 2,000 regular personnel and around 300 reserve personnel.

Further development of Scotland’s defense and security capabilities will be decided following the strategic review of security undertaken by the first elected Parliament and government of an independent Scotland. However the Scottish Government believed that the following elements should be prioritised for delivery as early as possible in the first five years following independence, building on the forces in place at independence.

Scotland Air Force

2015 2016 2020 2025 2030
Personnel ,000 - - - - -
Active - - 2,000 2,000 2,000
Reserve - - 300 300 300
Aircraft Source Inventory
Fighter - - - - -
4th Generation .. .. .. .. ..
Typhoon F2 / FGR4 EUR - - 12 12 16
maritime patrol .. .. .. .. ..
TBD TBD TBD - - - 4 4
Transport .. .. .. .. ..
Medium.. .. .. .. ..
C-130J/30 Hercules C4/5 US - - 6 6 6


GTOW .. .. .. .. ..
Transport - Intermediate 10-ton .. .. .. .. ..
Sea King Sea King HAR3 US/UK - - 12 12 12

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Page last modified: 27-06-2016 19:22:07 ZULU