§ 15. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
If he will make a statement on the RAF's heavy lift requirement. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)
The strategic defence review concluded that we needed to improve our strategic transport to deploy joint rapid reaction forces more quickly to meet operational requirements in the changed strategic environment. The SDR further considered a wide range of options for enhancing our strategic airlift capability. It concluded that, in the short term, we should meet our strategic airlift needs with C17 aircraft or their equivalent, and that, in the longer term, we should consider a suitable replacement for our remaining transport aircraft.
We are currently considering solutions in respect of both our short and long-term requirements, and expect to make an announcement in the House in the new year.
§ Mr. Gray
I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he join me in congratulating the airmen and airwomen of RAF Lyneham in my constituency, whose current fleet of C130K Hercules flew 497 sorties in operation Agricola—carrying 4,964 passengers, 277 vehicles, and an astonishing 2,483 tonnes of freight? Does he agree that the Kosovo operation would not have been possible without the Hercules? Rather than doing what may be more politically expedient and moving towards the European Airbus A400M replacement, will he therefore commit himself to replacing the current Hercules fleet with the C130J and the C17?
§ Mr. Kilfoyle
The short answer is no. There are three responses to the longer-term aircraft needs of the transport wing, and we shall evaluate each of those, just as we shall do for bids to meet the short-term requirements—according to criteria that have been clearly stated and against which we have practised assiduously since publication of the strategic defence review. We will ensure that there is value for money and that requirements on qualities such as interoperability are satisfied. We will also certainly ensure that we get delivery on time, and that the aircraft meet operational requirements.