Wednesday, May 25

Spy planes at the mercy of Donald Trump over US deal with Boeing



Britain is relying on Donald Trump for new RAF spy planes to hunt Russian submarines lurking off the UK coast, we can reveal.

Fresh fears were raised over the country’s defences after the Mirror discovered jets to protect Royal Navy ships and subs have not even been ordered.

The Ministry of Defence claimed in July it had confirmed the deal to purchase nine P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

But the planes are being bought through the US government – and it will not sign a contract with manufacturer Boeing until the new year.

That leaves the deal at the mercy of the incoming President, who has already clashed with the aviation giant building the jets.

UK defence sources admitted the contract “for the 8th US Production Lot, which will include the UK’s initial aircraft, will be placed early next year”.

The planes will hunt Russian subs around Britain’s shores and be an early-warning alert for the Trident nuclear submarines and the Navy’s new aircraft carriers.

The Mirror told in 2015 how the planes cannot be refuelled mid-air by the RAF’s air-to-air tankers.

The Poseidons are based on Boeing’s best-selling 737 short-haul aircraft.

But rather than buy them directly, the MoD is using a foreign military sale relying on the Americans.

Lib Dem defence spokeswoman Baroness Judith Jolly said: Why are we not buying these planes directly from Boeing and instead using a foreign military sale?

This puts us at the mercy of the Americans and soon-to-be President Trump.

The only place worse than that is relying on Vladimir Putin for your gas supply.

This incompetent government need to order the aircraft directly and stop leaving us at risk.

But Baroness Jolly said: As the world gets more dangerous with nations like Russia becoming more aggressive, Trump becoming President and talking about scaling back from things like Nato, the Tories seem happy to look the other way and run down our armed forces.

The UK has been left without its own maritime patrol planes since the coalition government axed the Nimrod jets in 2010.

Nato allies have been forced to step in, including scouring the seas for a Russian sub thought to be lurking off the coast last year.

The Poseidons are not expected to enter service until 2020 at the earliest.

Incoming President Mr Trump has already raised fears over two defence deals, and sent Boeing’s share price plunging when he hit out at costs for two new Presidential Air Force One jets.

He branded costs “ridiculous and totally out of control”.

The stand-off sparked concerns he may try to renegotiate other military contracts with Boeing – potentially affecting Britain’s Poseidon deal.

Last week the controversial Republican triggered fears for the UK’s new F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, which are built by US firm Lockheed Martin, after tweeting about the tremendous cost and cost overruns.

Defending the Poseidon deal, an MoD spokeswoman said: A foreign military sale with the US allows us to get the capability we need, in the timeline we want, while securing best value for the UK taxpayer.

Backed by our £178billion equipment plan, we will receive the first UK P-8A Poseidon before the end of the decade.

A source said the MoD did not “anticipate that the new US administration will make any changes to the rolling P-8 contract with Boeing”.

It remained confident that we will achieve initial operating capability by the end of 2020, they added.