'Like scrapping Spitfires before Battle of Britain': Fury as RAF axes 30 Typhoon jets that could protect UK from Putin

1 March 2024, 13:26

A Typhoon T1 of the Royal Air Force
A Typhoon T1 of the Royal Air Force. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The RAF's refusal to reverse from a decision to scrap 30 "quick reaction alert" jets that could protect the UK in the case of a surprise attack by Russia has sparked anger.

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The move, compared to "scrapping Spitfires before the Battle of Britain", is part of a bid to cut costs.

The Tranche T1 Typhoon jets have flown 40% of their predicted flying hours, and in theory could continue to fly for several more years. But the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that they will be axed in 2025 - five years later.

MPs wanted the RAF to reconsider scrapping the jets in the face of the growing threat from Vladimir Putin.

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An RAF Typhoon jet
An RAF Typhoon jet. Picture: Alamy

It comes amid reports that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is refusing to give the armed forces a significant funding boost in the Budget next week.

Mark Francois, the Conservative MP and former defence minister, said: "Can you imagine if we had sold off squadrons of Spitfires prior to the Battle of Britain? There would have been uproar.

"The Tranche 1 Typhoons should be mothballed to enable them to be brought back at a time of conflict.

"For the purpose of defending Britain's skies from Russian jets, they will do splendidly."

Read more: Ben Wallace admitted politics is an addiction but it’s also toxic and destroys marriages, lives, families

Read more: Military spending needs to increase if Britain is to step up to growing foreign threats, warns Tory MP Tobias Ellwood

RAF Typhoon T1
RAF Typhoon T1. Picture: Alamy

Tranche T1 Typhoons can only be used in air to air situations, whereas T2s and T3s can also do air to ground operations.

An RAF spokesman said that upgrading the T1s would cost more than £300 million.

The spokesman added: "Retaining Tranche 1 Typhoons would not offer operational benefit or value for money and would lead to significant reductions in available spares and investment for Tranches 2 and 3."

It comes after Tobias Ellwood, the former chairman of the defence select committee, warned LBC that military spending needs to increase if Britain is to step up to growing foreign threats.

"I don't mean to be melodramatic, but it's all just going a tad 1938" says Andrew Marr

Mr Ellwood warned that troop numbers are "falling fast", adding that Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has an important debate to win in convincing the Treasury to increase funds.

"We can get so involved in the domestic political discussions but look up and you’re seeing a new alliance form," Mr Ellwood said.

"A new Axis between China, Russia, Iran… the West is shrinking, authoritarianism is on the rise, and that is the world that is now in front of us.

"We have big decisions as to what role we’re going to play to defend what’s important to us. That’s why it’s so important to then start to invest now before it’s too late. This really is 1939 all over again."

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