§ Lord Gainford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was the outcome of negotiations for the leasing of Tornado F3 aircraft to Italy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)
I am pleased to inform the House that the Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Italy providing for the lease of 24 RAF Tornado F3 air defence aircraft to the Italian air force for a period of up to 10 years. These aircraft will enable the Italian air force to supplement their existing air defence assets with two squadrons of this highly capable air defence aircraft in the period pending the planned introduction into service of Eurofighter 2000. At the same time it will enhance the collective security of the Atlantic alliance by ensuring that these aircraft, for which there is currently no United Kingdom requirement, continue to be used operationally. The MoU also represents a vivid demonstration of the extent of our bilateral defence relationships with Italy.