HC Deb 29 July 1953 vol 518 cc1293-4
52. Mr. Shackleton

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will now initiate the placing of a development contract for a light fighter of the Gnat type.

Mr. Ward

The Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply have for some time been giving careful consideration to the potentialities of a light weight type of fighter. But from information available from the designers of the Gnat, the performance and fighting qualities of this aircraft, as at present envisaged, would seem unlikely to meet essential R.A.F. specifications.

Mr. Shackleton

In view of the fact that the designers claim a similar performance and that, in fact, we are not getting supplies of the new type of fighter and there is little prospect of supplying European N.A.T.O. countries with the new type of fighters, will the Under-Secretary not again consider the desirability of developing a contract for a N.A.T.O. prototype?

Mr. Ward

As the hon. Member will realise, only limited resources are available for research and development, and to produce a satisfactory engine for the Gnat would involve considerable expenditure and take some years. He himself has pointed out that the performance is similar to this aircraft which we have already ordered. Finally, the question of supplies to N.A.T.O. is primarily a question for the Ministry of Supply.

Air Commodore Harvey

Is my hon. Friend satisfied whether there may be a requirement for this aeroplane by N.A.T.O.? If this particular firm could make the air frame, could not perhaps the jet engine be made by a French company? Will he look into this and give encouragement to the company which showed such initiative?

Mr. Ward

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will address a question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply.

Mr. A. Henderson

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House the difference between the performances of the Hunter and the Gnat in altitude and speed?

Mr. Ward

Not without notice, but I understand that the difference might not be very great.