RAF Wittering Harriers sold to the US for £110m

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THE fleet of Harrier aircraft has been sold to support the US Marine Corps in a deal worth £110m.

The Harrier fleet, which were based at RAF Wittering and RAF Cottesmore before they were axed at the end of December 2010, have been sold to support the US Marine Corps Harrier fleet.

The Ministry of Defence said the airframes and associated parts from the 72 Harriers it has sold would be used as a major source of spares to support the US aircraft.

The fleet were being stored in a hangar at RAF Cottesmore, which is currently a satellite of RAF Wittering but will close at the end of March.

RAF Wittering spokesman Sqn Ldr (ret’d) Tony Walsh said much of the fleet had already been moved.

He said: “The remainder is going between now and March 31 and there are still staff working there packaging it all together.

“The move is being staggered because it is difficult logistically to move such large aircraft and the parts.”

The Government axed the Harrier as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review and said it would save about £1bn overall.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Peter Luff said: “Harrier served this country with great distinction but retiring it eight years earlier than planned was the right decision.

“Had we taken the decision to decommission Tornado instead we would not have been able to carry out the missions that were required simultaneously in Libya and Afghanistan. It was essential to retire older, less capable aircraft to allow us to invest in more modern, cutting-edge fast jets.

“The sale of Harrier is evidence of our commitment to working closely with our allies and represents a good deal for both countries.”

Troops from the 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Poachers, will move into RAF Cottesmore when they return from Cyprus in the summer.

The 7 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, from Bielefeld in Germany, will join them in summer 2013, taking the number of families at the base to more than 1,000.

The future of RAF Wittering has also been secured because the headquarters elements of 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group currently based at Waterbeach Barracks in Cambridgeshire, will move to the base by summer next year.