HC Deb 17 July 1968 vol 768 cc1415-6
23. Mr. Robert Howarth

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what bad weather and night flying restrictions will be imposed on the new naval helicopters carrying air-to-surface missiles; and, in this respect, how their performance will compare with missile-carrying patrol boats.

Dr. David Owen

It will seldom be necessary to impose any restrictions because of weather conditions, since the new naval helicopters will be capable of day and night operations in all but the very worst weather. The helicopters will remain operationally effective well beyond the point at which the missile-firing patrol boat is likely to be an effective threat.

Mr. Howarth

This is an extension, I suppose, of the argument about whether these missiles should be carried on surface vessels or in helicopters. Does not my hon. Friend agree that helicopters are more limited by the weather than surface vessels, and does not this affect his argument?

Dr. Owen

No, Sir, I do not agree. The helicopter-borne attack system is in no way inferior to a system of comparable size mounted on a ship. In fact, the reverse is the case. It has a high flexibility and range.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Is the Minister saying that the advantages of helicopters will apply not only to missile-firing patrol boats but to larger missile-firing destroyers?

Dr. Owen

No, Sir. The missile-firing destroyers will be dealing with air defence. The helicopters will be able to deal with surface ships, including patrol boats.