Royal Air Force aircraft support Border Force operations over English Channel

An RAF A400M Atlas crewman Channel for small boats carrying migrants.

On Monday 10 August 2020, the UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, approved the use of an Royal Air Force A400M Atlas to support the Home Office and UK Border Force in their operations in the English Channel.

The aircraft will provide surveillance and intelligence, feeding information directly to the UK Coastguard and Border Force, which will facilitate the quicker interception of boats. The Border Force will then be able to take the appropriate action that best fits the situation, whilst also complying with maritime law.

The deployment of the A400M Atlas, permits surveillance to be carried out with a greater field of vision over a wider area. It therefore represents the most effective use of available resources. This constitutes the Ministry of Defence’s initial offer of support to the Home Office, and further work is being carried out to determine who the MoD can further assist in the Channel.

This is the first time that a military aircraft has flown in support of the Border Force, but the Royal Navy has previously offered support, most notably in January 2019.

P-8 Poseidon aircraft to support Border Force operations in the Channel
Rear crew of an RAF P-8 Poseidon patrolling the Channel.

On 13 August a Royal Air Force Boeing P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft flew from its base at Kinloss Barracks to support Border Force Operations in the Channel. This is part of a package of assistance from the MoD to the Home Office as they tackle small boats crossing in the Channel.

The Defence Secretary has also authorised the use of the shadow R1 aircraft. Both the Poseidon and the Shadow will provide further essential support to the UK Border Force over the coming weeks subject to weather conditions and the Border Force’s requirements.

The aircraft will track vessels and pass information to the Border Force who will then take any appropriate further action.

The P-8 Poseidon is a multi-role maritime patrol aircraft. It is equipped with a maritime search radar and delivers a highly-sophisticated search and tracking capability. The Shadow R1 is an intelligence gathering aircraft and is equipped with Electro Optical and Infra-Red sensors.

In September, a British Army Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be used to monitor shipping in the Channel.

by David Oliver