THE new Eurofighter Typhoon was scrambled from RAF Leuchars for the first time at the weekend in response to a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA).
The multi-role aircraft from 6 Squadron took over responsibility for QRA over the festive period from the outgoing Tornados of 111 (Fighter) Squadron.
Now 6 Squadron, who made a successful response, will assume those duties on a permanent basis from March.
RAF Leuchars’ primary mission is to provide the northern element of QRA. Jet fighters are available 24 hours a day, all year round, in order to protect UK airspace by investigating any aircraft which does not conform precisely with accepted flight control procedures.
Wing Commander Roddy Dennis, officer commanding No 6 Squadron, told the Citizen: “Since the squadron reformed at Leuchars in September, our air and ground crew personnel have been on an intensive training programme preparing for our Typhoons to assume the Quick Reaction Alert role.
‘‘Our aim was to assume responsibility for QRA over the festive period and I am delighted to say that we did so successfully.
“I am proud of the way my personnel have met mission challenges so far and we look forward to taking on the air defence role of the Northern UK on a full-time basis.”
As well as familiarising themselves with the engineering, aviation and flying rules at Leuchars, 6 Squadron’s training has encompassed a number of proving operations for both air and ground crews.
With safety a primary concern, engineers, armourers and pilots alike have been put through their paces – day and night - successfully completing a number of assurance exercises prior to taking on their first QRA shifts on December 28 as the squadron ramps up towards the full mission handover in March.
The Typhoon first arrived at RAF Leuchars last September when 6 Squadron officially stood up at the base.
Some £40 million had already been spent on resurfacing the runway and other upgrades to accommodate the new fighter.
When the UK Government’s strategic defence review was published last October, it looked as if the Fife base was safe.
The much-anticipated report confirmed that Harrier jump jets and the Nimrod fleet were to be scrapped, with the Typhoon chosen to form the basis of RAF fire power along with the Joint Strike Fighter.
However, doubts over the future of RAF Leuchars began to emerge in November when it was claimed the MOD may close the base - one of three being considered for the chop following the decision to close RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. The other two in the frame are at Lossiemouth, near to Kinloss, and Marham in Norfolk.
It has been claimed that the local economy of north east Fife is better placed than Lossiemouth to withstand such a closure.
Since then, however, politicians and community groups have launched a campaign to save the Fife base with thousands of people signing up on line to show their support.