HL Deb 22 June 1993 vol 547 cc231-2

2.55 p.m.

Baroness Strange asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they still intend to replace the 30 millimetre Aden Cannon with the 25 millimetre Aden Cannon on the Harrier GR-7.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, we intend to fit the 25 millimetre Aden Cannon on the Harrier GR-7. The 30 millimetre gun used on the earlier Sea Harrier and the Harrier GR-3 has proved not to be an acceptable option for the GR-7 since it does not meet the performance requirements for this aircraft.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that blindingly technological Answer. But is he aware that the ammunition for the 30 millimetre Aden Cannon is available everywhere and consequently not only easier but cheaper to obtain; and that although the ammunition for the 25 millimetre cannon may be the ammunition for the future it is not yet easily obtainable? Is he further aware that the present 30 millimetre Aden Cannon has worked perfectly satisfactorily for the past five years and that the 25 millimetre Aden Cannon is currently subject to malfunction?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, very substantial modifications would be needed if the GR-7 were to be fitted with the 30 millimetre cannon. Equally, the capabilities of the 30 millimetre cannon are inadequate for the requirement and the 25 millimetre cannon would be satisfactory for the GR-7 bearing. I confirm that there have been reliability difficulties with the introduction of the 25 millimetre gun.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, will the Minister comment on his noble friend's allegation that the 25 millimetre cannon has been subject to malfunction? Has the cannon been properly tested? Will there be any undesirable effects on the pilot of the aircraft if the cannon backfires? Will he also enlighten me and the House as to the origin of the Aden Cannon? Is it made in Aden? Why is it called "Aden"? Is it purchased from abroad or is it of British manufacture? Perhaps the noble Viscount will help the House.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I always try to help your Lordships in these matters, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I can confirm that there have been reliability problems over the introduction of the cannon. I can also confirm that the cannon is of British manufacture and was let to a British manufacturer for development and assembly. When the cannon has been fully tried and introduced we expect that it will meet the requirements specified for it.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Harrier GR-7s which are operating out of Turkey over Northern Iraq in support of the United Nations no-fly zone are fully able to meet that commitment?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for asking that question. As he would expect, so far all reports have been that the aircraft and the men of his service have performed up to the highest standards expected of the Royal Air Force.