HC Deb 09 December 1986 vol 107 cc170-1
11. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his assessment of the effectiveness of helicopters as tank-killers in the 1990s.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

We believe that the attack helicopter will continue to constitute an essential component of a balanced anti-armour capability in the 1990s.

Mr. Marlow

Given the speed of concentration of helicopters, their ability to operate over their own territory, modern techniques of surveillance and the power and accuracy of modern missiles, is not the concept of the use of the tank in the offensive role really a romantic reject that should go out with the concept of using horses?

Mr. Hamilton

There are many different weapons systems that can be used in an anti-tank capability and the helicopter is merely one of them.

Mr. Ashdown

Has the Minister seen the study that states that British forces on the central front in Europe are about 100 helicopters light of their requirements in terms of attack tank killing and the deployment of reserves? Is he aware of the special role that the helicopter has to play in terms of a force multiplier, given the disposal of forces on the central front? Does he realise that further delay or fudging of the decision on helicopter procurement will not only cause terrible damage to Westland but will weaken our forces?

Mr. Hamilton

The Ministry is giving serious consideration to our future requirements for helicopters and will be making an announcement on that in the new year.

Mr. Wiggin

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Army—and it is the Army that is mainly at issue here—has revised its view about helicopters within the past 18 months? As helicopters have been in service since the last world war, will Ministers oversee any advice that they receive with good common sense?

Mr. Hamilton

The Army very properly wanted to be sure that the requirements stated would satisfy its needs in the light of an emerging threat. It would have been improper to proceed with the old requirements when new information had come to light.

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