§ 17. Mr. Hamling
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what further plans he will make to equip surface vessels of the Royal Navy with ship-to-ship missiles; and whether he will make a statement.
§ 20. Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to speed up the provision of surface-to-surface guided missiles for British warships.
§ 61. Mr. Cronin
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy with regard to the provision of ship-to-ship missiles.
§ Mr. Mason
As I explained to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on 25th October, the Royal Navy's surface-to-surface capability in the 1970s will be based on helicopter-launched guided missiles which will be provided in every ship from frigate upwards. We are introducing the AS.12 air-to-surface missile next year, and before the aircraft carriers phase out this will have been replaced by an even more effective helicopter-launched missile. These weapons will be 1015 fully effective against lightly defended surface targets such as the missile-firing patrol boats which sank the "Eilat"; by using helicopters to deliver them, we can both outrange the enemy missiles and achieve a flexibility of operation which would be impossible with a ship-launched system.—[Vol. 751, c. 1729–31.]
§ Mr. Hamling
Would my hon. Friend not agree that helicopters are very vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire? Are there no other weapons systems which he could devise?
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
Did not the decision to phase out aircraft carriers make the case very much stronger for these missiles? Is it not highly questionable whether the helicopter will do the job properly?
§ Mr. Cronin
To allay public anxiety partly over this matter, will my hon. Friend confirm that there are also effective electronic counter-measures for ship-to-ship missiles?