HC Deb 11 April 1989 vol 150 c729
11. Mr. Illsley

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to visit Royal Air Force Bruggen.

Mr. Younger

I last visited RAF Bruggen in 1986 and I have no plans to visit the station again in the near future.

Mr. Illsley

Is the Minister seeking to replace the free-fall nuclear WE177 bomb, which is used on Tornado aircraft from RAF Bruggen, and will the replacement be capable of use in areas of central Europe, where the use of nuclear weapons is now restricted by the INF agreement?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman is slightly misconceiving the INF agreement, which outlaws a certain type of missile—a land-based missile with a range of over 500 km— anywhere in the world. It does not, unfortunately, control where such missiles, should they exist, would land. The replacement of the free-fall bombs will be necessary by the mid-1990s, because the present weapons systems will have become out of date and unsuitable for use.

Mr. Mans

Will my right hon. Friend agree with me that it is necessary to replace these free-fall weapons not only because the present generation will have become out of date, but because the Russians have a similar weapon and we need one to maintain our deterrent effect into the next century with the Tornado aircraft?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The Soviet Union is equipping itself with air-launched air-to-ground missiles. It is also worth reminding the House that over the past five years the Russians have modernised 95 per cent. of their shorter-range missiles, including SS21s, Scud launchers and Frog 7 launchers. They have all been modernised in the Warsaw pact, and that is something we must therefore take account of.