HC Deb 27 July 1960 vol 627 cc1637-8
28. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has been authorised to go ahead with the production of the TSR2 aircraft, or if he proposes to accept the NA39 aircraft in stead.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

As the hon. Member was told on 13th July, there has been no change in the status of this aircraft. Development is proceeding as planned, but the stage has not yet been reached at which a production order is needed. On the second part of the Question, my right hon. Friend explained on 28th January, 1959, in answer to supplementary questions, the reasons why we were developing a new aircraft rather than adapting the NA39.

Mr. Rankin

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this matter has been going on for a very long time and speculation is rife about the Government's real intentions? Can the hon. Gentleman say when some clear decision will be taken? If a decision is taken that the TSR2 will go into production for the R.A.F., can he say what may happen to the NA39?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member and the House know that the NA39 is a fully developed aircraft now and is in production. When the matter of the TSR2 was being examined we looked at the possibility of having a stretched version of the NA39 instead of ordering an entirely new aircraft to meet the new operational requirements. The question of time-scale also arose. There has been no significant change in any of the operational factors which led the Government to the decision to proceed with the TSR2.

Mr. Wall

Is it not a fact that the Canberra is already obsolete for low-level flying and that the NA39 adapted to ground take-off could be in service in at least half the time that it would take to produce a new aircraft?

Mr. Taylor

The Canberra will remain effective for a number of years. To replace it we need an aircraft with a greatly improved performance capable of penetrating strong defences during a long operational life. Developing it should not take much longer than adapting the NA39 to overland operations in all weathers. To develop a new aircraft will be more economical, because the aircraft will last longer.