HC Deb 28 January 1959 vol 598 cc1041-4
7. Mr. Mason

asked the Secretary of State for Air what consideration has been given to the design of the T.S.R.2; and whether it is to be supersonic with a vertical take-off and landing technique.

Mr. Ward

A large variety of suggestions for the type of aircraft which can meet our requirement were put forward by the industry and carefully considered by the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply. The aircraft will be supersonic. It will not be capable of vertical take-off and landing; but it will operate from short runways with semi-prepared surfaces.

Mr. Mason

Why did the right hon. Gentleman's Department cast to one side so easily the N.A.39? Would not the modified version of the N.A.39 have produced an aircraft for the Royal Air Force by 1961 and also have saved us between £30 and £40 million? Secondly, has the Air Ministry in mind the development of the T.S.R.2 as a supersonic manned bomber with short take-off run, as well as the encouragement of the development of the Swallow technique as a separate research aircraft?

Mr. Ward

In both these matters, it is important to have regard to the time scale. We wanted an aircraft which was more advanced and would do a slightly different task from the N.A.39 and we were prepared to wait for it. The Swallow, on the other hand, is an even further advanced design and that would have a much later time scale.

Mr. G. Brown

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, what he was unable to tell us last week, in what respects the T.S.R.2 will have an improved performance over the N.A.39?

Mr. Ward

There is, I believe, a later Question about that. The main features are a much shorter take-off and landing run and much better facilities for blind navigation over land.

Mr. Mason

Could not the modified version of the N.A.39 have precisely those two advantages? It could have been modified to take off in shorter distances, particularly as it is now being developed to take off from aircraft carriers. Secondly, would not it have most of the capabilities of the T.S.R.2?

Mr. Ward

A modified version of the N.A.39 would have had to be radically redesigned. It would have cost a great deal in research and development. We would not have got it any earlier, and it was, therefore, better to start again and have a brand new conception.

8. Mr. Mason

asked the Secretary of State for Air, in view of the decision in paragraph 61 of the 1957 Defence White Paper regarding the future of manned bombers, and particularly the suggested time lapse for one to be produced, when the development stage of the T.S.R.2 will be completed; and when he expects production to start.

Mr. Ward

Our intention is to have the aircraft in service in the mid 1960s. The development and production programme will be planned accordingly.

Mr. Mason

What precisely does the right hon. Gentleman mean by the "mid-1960s"? May I draw his attention to paragraph 61 of the 1957 Defence White Paper, which said: Having regard to the high performance and potentialities of the Vulcan and Victor medium bombers and the likely progress of ballistic rockets and missile defence, the Government have decided not to go on with the development of a supersonic manned bomber, which could not be brought into service in much under ten years. The T.S.R.2 is supersonic. It is manned. We have already wasted two years, from 1957 to 1959, for a decision and it will take at least seven years for this type of aircraft to be produced. We have, therefore, lost ten years. What is the object of this exercise?

Mr. Ward

That paragraph in the Defence White Paper referred to a strategic supersonic bomber under Operational Requirement No. 330. That was the aircraft that was cancelled. Ten years would have been about right for that particular aircraft, but that does not mean that every aircraft takes that time toy build. The hon. Member asked what I meant by "mid-1960". I cannot be specific, but it means about 1964 or 1965.

Mr. Mellish

Do we not have any aeroplanes at all?

12. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Secretary of State for Air what period of time elapsed between the acceptance of the T.S.R.2 and its original introduction as O.R.339.

Mr. Ward

The decision to develop the T.S.R.2 was made just over a year after the general operational requirement was first released for study by industry.

Mr. Chetwynd

Do not this delay, and the fact that we are not likely to have this aircraft until 1965, show that there is a complete muddle between the Ministry of Defence, the Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply in bringing these plans to fruition?

Mr. Ward

It shows nothing of the sort. What it means is that first of all the industry had to be given an opportunity to study the requirements before it could tell us whether the aircraft that we needed was a practical proposition. Then we had to consider the matter in relation to the whole of our defence policy. As the aircraft will remain in service until the 1970s, it is important that we should reach the right decision.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance, so far as he can, that now that the order has been placed, the Ministry of Supply will not interfere with the progress of this aeroplane or bring in modifications which will delay it further?

Mr. Ward

I have always found my right hon. Friend extremely helpful in this matter.

Mr. de Freitas

Will the right hon. Gentleman also ensure that the firm or firms get on with the job so that we do not have the delays that we have had in recent years?

21. Mr. G. Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Air by what means it is intended to give the T.S.R.2 the ability to operate from small fields.

Mr. Ward

By a combination of high engine power, advanced wing design and a special undercarriage.

Mr. Brown

Is the Minister satisfied that this will, in fact, produce the performance which he is talking about by 1964 or 1965, which was the time to which he committed himself in an earlier reply, and which is only five years away? Is he aware that he have had no aeroplane in modern times—with much less advanced technique than this—which has been produced, from the actual specification to flying service, in anything like that time?

Mr. Ward

I have every confidence in the assurances given by the industry.

24. Mr. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent the range of the T.S.R.2 is expected to exceed that of the latest Matador flying bomb.

Mr. Ward

The range of the T.S.R.2 will be substantially greater than the latest Matador derivative known as Mace.