HC Deb 19 October 1972 vol 843 cc436-7
17. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on the operation of the short take-off and landing or vertical short take-off and landing aircraft by ships of the Royal Navy.

Lord Balniel

We are examining as quickly as possible the implications of operating V/STOL aircraft from ships. The project definition study has now been authorised work is being carried on and the study should be completed in a few months.

Mr. Wall

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the study will mean adapting the existing Harrier for naval operations or a new and modified aircraft, and whether the study is investigating the operation of the aircraft from "Blake" and county class cruisers as well as the new through-deck command cruisers?

Lord Balniel

The project definition study is to take account of the fact that the present Harrier is designed for a ground support role and that it needs modifying for the maritime role by adding appropriate weapons systems, avionics and other equipment. The implications of these modifications are being studied, but certainly the through-deck cruiser is designed to carry the aircraft should it be decided to use them.

Mr. Warren

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether the project definition study includes an improved engine for the aircraft, the Pegasus 15, which is essential, first, if the aircraft is to perform successfully for the Navy, and, secondly, as a sales potential for the United States Navy, which is very interested in several hundred of the aircraft if it has that engine in it?

Lord Balniel

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Pegasus 15 would be too large to be fitted to the existing Harrier without a substantial framework modification, because the Pegasus 15 proposal is significantly different from merely uprating the existing engine.