HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1477-8
7. Mr. Nelson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what was the number of air defence variants of the Tornado and the contracted delivery date when the order was first placed by the Royal Air Force; what is the number now on order; and when delivery will be completed.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Dr. John Gilbert)

Three ADV development aircraft are under construction, but no production orders have yet been placed. We still intend to order 165 ADV aircraft, the delivery of which should be completed towards the end of the 1980s.

Mr. Nelson

Does the Minister accept the importance of the early delivery of these aircraft in order to back up the capability of the Royal Air Force? In particular, does he accept that until these aircraft are delivered in their full complement, effectively there will be an air defence gap in our northern approaches? Does he accept that the production and full delivery of the aircraft should receive the Minister's earliest attention, in view of the statement during last year's defence debate that difficulties were being encountered in the production and delivery of the Tornado?

Dr. Gilbert

I do not accept that there will be a gap of the kind indicated by the hon. Member. We are confident that the Lightnings and the Phantoms will be fully operational until the ADVs arrive. But I accept the tenor of the remainder of the hon. Member's remarks. It is important to ensure that delivery takes place as soon as possible. Despite the difficulties that have been encountered, the in-service dates are acceptable to the RAF.