HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc628-30
14. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will announce the findings of the project definition study on a possible naval variant of the Harrier aircraft.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

A full statement about the naval variant of the Harrier aircraft will be made when the project definition study has been completed.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend speed up this study and announce a decision in principle in the forthcoming White Paper to embark the Harrier aircraft in the forthcoming through-deck cruisers? Export orders for the naval variants of this unique and exciting aeroplane may hang on a British naval service requirement.

Mr. Gilmour

I am afraid that I cannot speed up the project definition study any more than it has been speeded up already, nor can I tell my hon. Friend what will or will not appear in the Defence White Paper.

Sir R. Thompson

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that we have for years been awaiting a satisfactory outcome from all the trials and experiments? Will he try to prevent the admirals from having too much to do with designing naval aircraft? Does he realise that many of us suffered from this during the war, and will he insist on getting an aircraft not necessarily perfect but capable of taking off from the deck?

Mr. Gilmour

I agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. I should not like to enter into any further inter-Service rivalry.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

On the last occasion when the Minister of State replied to Questions on this subject he blandly said that 90 of these aircraft were being sold to the United States Marine Corps and nil to the Royal Navy. Is he still content to slum along in that way while the Russians build their first new aircraft carrier?

Mr. Gilmour

On that same occasion I pointed out to my hon. and gallant Friend that the United States Marines were using this aircraft in a ground support rôle, which is a quite different rôle from that in which the Navy would employ such aircraft.