HC Deb 20 November 1985 vol 87 c200W
Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Ptarmigan project.

Mr. Norman Lamont

Ptarmigan will provide a secure, digital, tactical communications system for the Army and RAF in North West Europe, covering the forward, rear and communications zones. It will also become the bearer system for future command, control and information systems such as WAVELL and BATES.

The system is based on a lattice of communications centres, independent of the chain of command, and interconnected by secure multi-channel radio links. Groups of users, such as Headquarters, are connected by similar secure links and the communications centers provide automatic switching facilities between users.

Development of the main programme was completed in 1984 and Ptarmigan is now well into production, although development work on additional items will continue for several more years. The system is already in operation with the first divisional user in BAOR. It is planned that a second division will be equipped by the end of this year and the whole of 1(BR) Corps by mid-1986, with the system extended to the rear areas by the end of the decade.

Current programme costs are estimated at some £1.1 billion.

As regards the recently announced decision by the US Government to purchase a mobile subscriber equipment from GTE working with the French, rather than from Rockwell, which was working with Plessey, we are naturally disappointed that the decision went the way it did. We are investigating the background to the result of the US competition and hope that we can draw useful lessons from it.