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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 16:20 GMT
Assurances given about RAF base
Joint Strike Fighter
US defence firm Lockheed Martin is leading the project
The Ministry of Defence has sought to give reassurance over its commitment to bringing a new fighter jet to the Lossiemouth RAF base.

Ministers had warned that the deal to buy the Joint Strike Fighter from the US may fall through.

The Scottish National Party had written to the MoD seeking clarification about the government's plans for the jet.

A defence spokeswoman said the MoD was working 'tirelessly' to resolve issues surrounding its purchase.

The UK has threatened to scrap the planned 10bn purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter if the US refuses access to secret technology for the jet.

This has sparked fears over the future of RAF Lossiemouth.

Without the technology transfer to give us aircraft that are fit to fight on our terms, we will not be able to buy this aircraft
Lord Drayson
Defence Procurement Minister

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson has been in Washington to discuss ongoing disputes over the aircraft with the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

He said: "Without the technology transfer to give us aircraft that are fit to fight on our terms, we will not be able to buy this aircraft."

The minister also complained that the awarding of a 1.3bn deal to Rolls Royce to develop engines for the plane had been cut without consultation.

Base plans

He said the UK had a "Plan B" if forced to withdraw from the deal but declined to say what that involved.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said he wanted to know what the UK Government's plans were and how this might affect the RAF base in his Moray constituency.

On Wednesday, the MoD played down the threat of a split with the US.

Angus Robertson  MP
Angus Robertson MP has asked for reassurances

A spokeswoman said: "Major procurement contracts like this in defence are very complicated.

"They are always very political and there are always many issues that we have to thrash out before all the parties are ready to go ahead and actually sign on the dotted line.

"The issue we have here is one of technology. We need to ensure we have the technology with the aircraft in order to maintain and upgrade it throughout its life.

"There is no point in us buying the aircraft if we cannot use it and we cannot maintain it."

Referring to local concerns, the spokeswoman said: "The people of Moray should be reassured that the MoD remains totally committed to the project and that we are working tirelessly to resolve all these issues and really there is nothing to worry about.

"We are still planning to base both the Joint Strike Fighter and the new Nimrod at Lossiemouth and Kinloss respectively and this will secure their future for many years to come."

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