These units provide fast jets and crews on high alert to scramble and intercept unidentified aircraft approaching UK airspace.
He was able to speak to the RAF personnel who man Typhoon FGR4 aircraft from the site about the role they play and the importance of the QRA force’s role to the UK’s and Scotland’s air defence.
Paying tribute to them, Mr Francois said:
The Quick Reaction Alert Force provides crew and aircraft at high states of readiness, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year to police UK airspace.
They are an impressive bunch – and it’s their supreme service, selflessness and loyalty that has won them a place in the hearts of the people of Fife. And the feeling is mutual.
During his visit, the minister also found out more about the progress of plans for transition at Leuchars, as the RAF prepares to move many of its operations to RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, making the way for an influx of army personnel at the Fife base.
Mark Francois said:
It is a new chapter in the history of this community’s highly valued and highly valuable association with the British armed forces.
I know they are all greatly looking forward to moving into their new home. Like their predecessors they will continue to add to the vitality and vibrancy of local life.
And I am sure that the community here will extend a warm welcome to them when they arrive.
The minister went on to speak more broadly about the armed forces footprint north of the border, hailing a ‘new era’ for defence in Scotland as part of the Union.
Through its rebasing plans announced last year, this Government has reconfirmed its unstinting commitment to Scotland, and its unshakable conviction that Scotland’s contribution to the collective security of the United Kingdom is absolutely vital.
That is why, at a time when we have had to make reductions in the overall size of our forces to bring the defence budget back into balance, military numbers in Scotland are set to increase from 11,000 regular personnel to 12,500 by 2020.
Against the doubt and uncertainty of the separatist proposition, the case for remaining part of the family of nations of the UK is clear.
And one fundamental truth remains – a truth that the people of Leuchars can pay testament to – that we are safer and stronger together.