RAF disbands squadron closest to capital

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The Independent Online

The Ministry of Defence said today it is to axe the Tornado fighter squadron closest to London amid fears the move could reduce the capital's defences against a September 11­style terrorist attack.

No 5 Squadron, based at RAF Coningsby in Lincs, will be permanently disbanded next summer when the airfield closes for runway resurfacing work, an MoD spokeswoman said.

The closure of the squadron will leave four remaining air defence squadrons – in North Yorkshire and Scotland.

Shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin voiced fears over the cut.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "No 5 Squadron has been on standby to protect London from a twin towers–type attack since September 11.

"There can be no rational strategic or military reason for this."

However, the MoD said all fighter planes and pilots from No 5 Squadron would be reallocated to the remaining four squadrons.

The quick­response aircraft which would be scrambled in the event of an alert around London and the south of England have always been, and will remain, stationed at bases around the country, the spokeswoman said.

"The alert aircraft are always moved around bases for operational reasons," she said.

"Just because their home bases will be further north does not mean they will be there all the time.

"We will use somewhere suitable to provide cover for the south of England and there will be no diminishing of the effectiveness of our air defences."