HC Deb 20 April 1972 vol 835 cc739-40
24. Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

asked the Minister of State for Defence when he expects to complete his study of the relative effectiveness of designing a new V/STOL aircraft for use at sea, as compared with development of the capability of the existing Harrier.

28. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the development of a super-Harrier for naval service.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

I have nothing to add to what my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy said on 10th April.—[Vol. 834, c. 866–7.]

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Does my hon. Friend really appreciate the urgency that attaches to solving this question? Does he also appreciate that without aircraft of this type and ships from which to fly them the Royal Navy will be quite unable to carry out its traditional and foremost task of protecting our overseas trade routes?

Mr. Gilmour

We are well aware of the urgency of this matter but, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, there are a number of conflicting matters which have to be taken into account, and conflicting projects, and there is no point in rushing this matter. It is very important to get it right.

Mr. Wall

Will my hon. Friend explain why the makers of this aircraft maintain that it is suitable for maritime purposes and the Government maintain the opposite? What modifications need to be made to the existing Harrier, and how long would they take to make it suitable for naval operation?

Mr. Gilmour

What we have said all along is that the operational capability of the Harrier—that is, its weapons and other systems—must be developed if it is to perform effectively as a fighting aircraft in a maritime rôle. As my hon. Friend knows, we are considering whether the present Harrier should be given a better performance, whether another aircraft should be designed or whether either aircraft is needed for the cruiser.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

In view of the continually unsatisfactory nature of replies on this subject, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity of raising the matter on the Adjournment.