RAF patrol aircraft used to help tackle migrant crossings

Royal Air Force maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft have been drafted in to help tackle a surge in migrants crossing the English Channel.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said a P-8 Poseidon patrol plane flew from its base at Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland, on Wednesday morning to support Border Force operations in southern England.

The aircraft, which can carry torpedoes, is used for various roles including anti-submarine and “anti-surface” warfare, as well as search and rescue operations.

RAF Poseidon monitoring English Channel
RAF Poseidon monitoring English Channel

While operating over the Channel, it will be used to track vessels and pass information to Border Force who will then take any “appropriate further action”, the MoD said.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has also authorised for a Shadow R1 surveillance aircraft, which is equipped with infrared sensors, to provide further support over the coming weeks.

An MoD spokeswoman said details about the cost of the operation were not yet available.

The announcement came as more migrants arrived in the UK on Wednesday – the ninth day in a row.

An Atlas A400M military transport aircraft was used to monitor the Channel on Monday after taking off from RAF Brize Norton in west Oxfordshire, the MoD said.

RAF Poseidon monitoring English Channel
RAF Poseidon monitoring English Channel

Group Captain Chris Layden, station commander at RAF Lossiemouth in north Scotland, said: “The Home Office has requested support and the RAF has responded quickly again with the deployment of a Poseidon MRA1 aircraft, flown by a team of personnel from RAF Lossiemouth.

“The aircraft has significant range and endurance, as well as the ability to support command and control and search and rescue operations, should the Border Force or UK Coastguard require it.”

The P-8 Poseidon, which is equipped with a maritime search radar, made its operational debut last week by helping the Royal Navy track a Russian vessel close to UK waters.

It can fly at 41,000ft, making it “more effective” at searching large open areas compared with a ship, the MoD said.

More than 4,000 migrants have made it into the UK so far this year after completing the dangerous voyage across the world’s busiest shipping lane, with at least 597 arriving between Thursday and Sunday.