The RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is reportedly under threat as the Ministry of Defence seeks to claw back a £6billion hole in its finances, reports the Daily Mail.
2010 is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, so any attempts to axe the flight of historic aircraft is bound to come up against serious public opposition. Every year hundreds of thousands of people watch the historic aircraft performing at over 600 airshows and public events up and down the country. It costs the RAF £3million a year to run. By contrast, 232 Eurofighters are estimated to end up costing the UK £20billion.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight operates one of only two airworthy Lancaster Bombers in the world, a number of the famous Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, and a Douglas Dakota, the aircraft that dropped Paratroopers on D-Day and at Arnhem.
An RAF Wing Commander said: ‘Under the defence review now being conducted, the display teams could be cut. This is part of a cost benefit analysis going on in all MoD departments. If the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was to continue to operate as it currently does, it is feared it would need to attract private finance.’
Last night Douglas Radcliffe, the secretary of the Bomber Command Association and a former Lancaster Bomber pilot, said: ‘It would be disastrous if funding was cut from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. It is something special which captures the imagination of the British public. They also do fantastic fund-raising work.’
I has been suggested that there will be no ‘sacred cows’ in the upcoming Defence Review, meaning that many world-famous and prestigious units such as the Red Arrows could also face the axe.
An MOD spokesman said: ‘We routinely review all spending to balance our resources and focus on the highest priority – operations in Afghanistan.’
To use Afghanistan as cover for making cuts is insulting to the British public. Of course Afghanistan is crucial, but to imply that units such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight prevent operations being funded properly is ludicrous. The reason that the Defence Budget is under such strain is because the Government has continually committed the Armed Forces to operations while cutting their funding. And despite the MOD spokesman’s denials, it is clear that nothing can be ruled out where cuts are concerned.
Historic and Nationally important units such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and HMS Victory should be protected and receive funding that is ringfenced away from operational budgets. It is disgusting to consider how relatively cheap such important assets are to run, especially when compared to the amounts of money that are lavished on bailing out the Banks, the expenses and salaries that MP’s are trousering and the Billions being poured into the black hole of the Social Security Budget. Why should there be no sacred cows, but plenty in the Banks, the Commons and in the benefits offices?
Lets hope that public opinion mobilises against these ridiculous cost-cutting ideas.