HC Deb 05 May 1958 vol 587 cc824-5
14. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply if he will give a progress report on the Blackburn aircraft, N.A.39; and indicate what is to be its future operational rôle.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

Development of the N.A.39 is proceeding well, and the first of the development batch aircraft made a satisfactory first flight on Wednesday last. It will be used by the Fleet Air Arm as a long range strike aircraft.

Mr. Mason

In view of the fact that there now appears to be doubt whether this aircraft will be a successor to the Canberra or not, and, secondly, some doubt whether it will have any future at all, could the Minister say that he will guarantee sufficient orders for the N.A.39 to warrant the complete development of the aircraft?

Mr. Jones

I am not at all sure what the hon. Gentleman means by uncertainty. There is a naval requirement for the aircraft, but what I imagine the hon. Gentleman is wanting to know is whether there is a Royal Air Force requirement. As he has been told by my colleagues from the Air Ministry, the question of a replacement for the Canberra bomber is now under consideration.

Mr. de Freitas

Can the Minister tell us whether this aircraft is subsonic or supersonic, because there is a conflict in the technical Press and the Sunday Press and it is important to Blackburn's and to everyone else that this should be known?

Mr. Jones

I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I say that I should require notice of that question, because I would not wish to go beyond security considerations.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If the aircraft is likely to replace specification 339, it is important that the industry should know, because on that specification it has been waiting for a decision for eight months. What is being done by the Government to further overseas orders for the N.A.39?

Mr. Jones

If my hon. Friend means a successor requirement for the Canberra bomber, that, as I have already indicated, is under consideration. As for export orders for the N.A.39, attempts are being made to enlist the interest of other countries within the Western Alliance.

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