§ 7. Mr. Cronin
asked the Minister of State for Defence what further consideration he has given to providing ships of the Royal Navy with anti-ship guided weapons other than Exocet.
§ Mr. Cronin
Is it not the case that all nations with modern navies either have in service or are developing better guided weapons than Exocet? Would it not be much better if we were to devote more resources to this problem?
§ Mr. George Thomson
As it is now 15 months since the Government publicly committed themselves to Exocet, some 873 preliminary work having been done by the Labour Government, what is the timetable for the production of this weapons system?
§ 24. Mr. Cronin
asked the Minister of State for Defence what progress has been made in providing ships of the Royal Navy with protection against anti-ship guided weapons when air cover is not available.
§ Mr. Kirk
Seadart and Seawolf have been expressly designed to counter anti-ship missiles and will supersede Seaslug and Seacat now in service. We are strengthening our capability against missile-firing ships by fitting Exocet to our surface forces whose helicopters are currently equipped with AS. 12.
§ Mr. Cronin
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that sufficient resources are being allocated to this problem? Is it not the case that almost any ship of the Royal Navy, if it has no air cover, can be sunk with comparative ease by a small patrol boat equipped with a guided weapon?
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that in future Royal Navy vessels and capital ships of the Fleet will be operating within the range of shore-based aircraft? If he cannot, will he expedite all efforts to make integral air available to the Fleet, because without it the Fleet is not able to defend itself, let alone to strike?