HL Deb 23 February 1999 vol 597 cc110-1WA
Lord Merlyn-Rees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What further progress they have made on the development of the Joint Force 2000 initiative. [HL1225]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert)

In October we announced that we would he forming the joint Royal Navy/Royal Air Force Harrier force to be known as Joint Force 2000. Since last October, work has continued on the organisational changes necessary to take forward the Joint Force 2000 initiative. We can confirm that the new Headquarters will form in RAF Strike Command on I April next year under the command of a Rear Admiral. This Headquarters will be located at RAF High Wycombe. He will have two subordinate force commanders, both of whom will be RAF Air Commodores, one of whom will command the combined Harrier force, Joint Force 2000, and the other the RAF's existing forces of Nimrod Maritime Patrol aircraft and Search and Rescue helicopters. As importantly, we have also decided, subject to a period of consultation with Trades Unions and other interested parties which begins today, that the RN's Sea Harrier force, currently based at RNAS Yeovilton, will join the RAF's Harrier force at RAF Cottesmore and RAF Wittering in 2003. We see the collocation of the existing Harrier fleets as realising significant operational benefits and as a practical and symbolic step toward the creation of a truly joint force. For the longer term, and when the Joint Force is re-equipped with the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft, we have identified RAF Cottesmore as its most suitable home. We are making real progress on the development and creation of Joint Force 2000 and we are doing it significantly earlier than originally anticipated. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the two Services concerned for their far-sighted and constructive attitude, which has made this possible.