§ 9. Mr. Robert Howarth
asked the Secretary of State for Defence when the Royal Navy will have in service a surface-to-surface guided missile capable of matching those known to be possessed by other navies.
§ The Minister of Defence for Equipment (Mr. Roy Mason)
As was made clear in the Adjournment debate on 13th November last year and in the debates about the Royal Navy last week, we are not planning to provide the Fleet with any surface-to-surface guided weapon in the sense of a missile fired directly from ships. Instead we shall arm the helicopters—which will be carried by all ships of frigate size and above—with an air-to-surface missile. This will have a sufficient stand-off capability to give the helicopter substantial immunity from the sort of anti-aircraft weapons carried in patrol boats, and the helicopter will be able to deliver it over a much greater range than that of the patrol boats' anti-ship missiles. Defence against missile-firing destroyers will be provided by shore-based aircraft and Fleet submarines.
As regards submarine-to-surface missiles, the Statement on the 1968 Defence Estimates (Cmnd. 3540, Chapter VI, paragraph 11) indicates that studies are in hand to improve the effectiveness of submarine-launched anti-ship missiles.
§ Mr. Howarth
Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the phasing in of these new weapons systems will coincide with or precede the phasing out of the aircraft carriers?
§ Mr. Mason
In the time scale envisaged, we should by that time have some modern shore-based aircraft. We 393 should have the light strike capability of the helicopters with their light missiles, and we should have the nuclear submarines with an increased strike capability, especially with the new torpedoes likely to come into production.
§ Mr. Powell
Does not that reply disclose that there will be great difficulty in dealing with missile-firing destroyers and larger capital ships out of range of shore-based aircraft?