§ 18. Mr. Tebbit
asked the Minister of State for Defence what plans he has for a new air superiority fighter for the Royal Air Force within the next five years.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
The Phantom FGR2 will start transferring to the air defence rôle next year. An air defence version of the MRCA is planned for the longer term.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware of the concern which is being expressed about the ability, both in types of aircraft and in numbers, of the NATO air forces to maintain air superiority over potential battle zones?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I am well aware of my hon. Friend's point. We would all like more aeroplanes, of course, but we are confident that those we have will give a very good account of themselves.
§ Mr. John Morris
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the disquiet that exists in Germany about the lack of full financial provision in the German defence budget for the MRCA'? Will he confirm that there is a strong possibility that the German order will be no more than 200? In view of the fact that the original work-sharing and general allocation of contracts was based upon the shares likely to be taken up by Germany, Italy and ourselves, may I ask whether there has been any alteration since we entered into the original arrangement?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I cannot confirm what the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his question. I have no knowledge of that matter. As he knows, the work-sharing arrangements are related to the number of aeroplanes ordered. If there were a decline in the German order, the work-sharing arrangements would have to be adjusted.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in view of the shortage of aircraft, no Lightning interceptors will be withdrawn from squadron service as the Phantoms are phased into the air defence rôle?