The UK will borrow a P-3 Orion maritime patrol spy plane from the US to protect Royal Navy warships that taking part in the Libyan mission.

“Because we no longer have the Nimrod capability we have had to borrow a plane from the Americans to act as the airborne observation post”, said a source reported by the Daily Mail.

“The defence review did not consider something like Libya ever happening. Now it has, we’ve been caught short,” the source added.

The £4.1bn Nimrod MRA4 surveillance aircraft fleet was scrapped as part of the UK Government’s strategic defence review announced last year to save £2bn over ten years.

The chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, also admitted that the availability of Nimrod spy planes would have been useful in securing the northern coastal waters of Libya.