§ Mr. Viggers
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the Arapaho project.
§ Mr. Ian Stewart
The Government have concluded an agreement with the United States Government for the lease to the Royal Navy of the Arapaho system, which the United States navy has developed as a means of converting a container ship into a seagoing helicopter operating and maintenance facility. A container ship — the MV Astronomer—has been chartered to carry the Arapaho equipment, which will shortly be transported to this476W country for modification and fitted to the ship at Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd., Birkenhead. In preparing the United States equipment for operational use substantial additional equipment for accommodation and support modules will be procured from United Kingdom suppliers. The ship will be manned and operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service.
The Government have taken this step to provide an additional stores support and helicopter operating ship capable of deploying to the south Atlantic to supplement the existing RFAs. Lease of the United States equipment was necessary since there is no equivalent system currently available in the United Kingdom.