HC Deb 22 July 1953 vol 518 cc376-7
50. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what progress has been made in equipping the Royal Air Force with helicopters; how many of this type of aircraft are now in service; and what will be the major delivery for future machines.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

We have started forming helicopter squadrons for search and rescue duties in Fighter and Coastal Commands. A squadron of Royal Air Force helicopters is already employed on casualty evacuation duties in the Far East. We also intend to begin forming a flight of search and rescue helicopters in the Middle East Air Force later this year. Other Royal Air Force helicopters are employed on air observation posts duties in co-operation with the Army. In all about 20 helicopters are at present in service with squadrons and they are coming forward in increasing numbers.

Air Commodore Harvey

Can my hon. Friend say how many helicopters go to one squadron? Will he bear in mind that the Fleet Air Arm almost cornered the helicopter market and see that the Air Force get their fair share?

Mr. Ward

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is eight. On the second part, I am well aware of the points made by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Mr. Beswick

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Royal Air Force have yet decided to buy any of the bigger machines?

Mr. Ward

No, Sir. No decision has yet been taken on that and we must bear in mind that the amount of money available to the Air Force as a whole is limited. Any helicopters we buy must be bought at the expense of something else.

Captain Ryder

Before my hon. Friend starts depriving the Royal Navy of its helicopters, will he make sure that the Royal Navy get something decent in exchange?

Mr. de Freitas

Will the hon. Gentleman say how it is possible to corner a helicopter?