HL Deb 27 February 1985 vol 460 cc934-5

2.51 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made on an agreed definition of the European fighter aircraft project and on future work-sharing in its production.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the significant events since my noble friend last raised this matter include the signing by the Chiefs of the Air Staffs of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom of a European staff target defining their needs for a future combat aircraft, and the receipt within the last two weeks of the industrial study, which began last September. I am afraid that it is too early to say what work-sharing arrangements might be agreed, but we anticipate, if past precedent is adopted, that work-sharing would relate to the number of aircraft each air force would need.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that, despite what he has just said, there is serious concern at the slow progress on this important project? Can my noble friend remind us of the time-scale within which the RAF and NATO air forces require this aircraft to be brought into service? Secondly, can my noble friend remind us of the global number of aircraft and the number required for the RAF?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords. I am sorry if my noble friend thinks that progress has been slow, but this is a very complicated subject. The aircraft are required for service in about the mid-1990s, or shortly thereafter. The total number of aircraft anticipated is of the order of 1,100, of which the United Kingdom's share might be in the region of 250.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether this project involves the agile combat aircraft, and, if so, whether it is the British agile combat aircraft or the French one?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, this is a collaborative project. The British and French aeroplanes which I believe my noble friend has in mind are simply technology demonstrators and are not meant to be prototypes for this project.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, can my noble friend give us a small clue as to the likely future progress of Ministers in considering and improving the development stage of this project?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Defence Ministers concerned will be considering the feasibility study some time later this year. After that we shall move to what I think is called the project definition phase. Further decisions will need to be taken after that.

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