HC Deb 16 October 2002 vol 390 cc867-8W
Jon Trickett

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what performance criteria and testing procedures relating to possible use in extreme heat and desert conditions were utilised during the procurement processes for(a) the Challenger II Tank and its related AS90 self propelled gun, (b) items of military clothing, (c) C17 transport aircraft and (d) radio communication and information systems. [74649]

Dr. Moonie

Performance criteria and testing procedures during the procurement of any equipment or materiel are those required to ensure that the operational requirements set at that time are met. Amongst the criteria used is the Ministry of Defence series of Defence Standards (DEFStans). The performance of equipments that have been in-service for some time is routinely monitored to ensure that they continue to meet operational requirements.

Both the Challenger II Tank and AS90 were procured against a requirement to operate in Northwest Europe. Following the experience of Exercise SAIF SAREEA II, the ability to operate more effectively in Desert conditions is being enhanced through logistic improvements and for AS90, a Desertisation Upgrade Pack.

Military clothing must meet or exceed the relevant European and British quality standards and performance characteristics. Garments are tested for conformity and, for operational clothes, trials are conducted by the user in the required environmental conditions.

The UK C-17 aircraft is an Off-the-Shelf solution to meet the Short Term Strategic Airlift Requirement. The aircraft has been designed, developed, tested and cleared by Boeing and the United States Air Force to operate in a wide range of environments including extreme heat and desert conditions.

The main tactical radio communications system currently in use in the land environment is the Clansman family of radios and ancillaries. Designed for operations, over a temperature range of - 40 to + 55 degrees centigrade, in combat zones anywhere in the world, Clansman remains just as capable as it always has been to meet the requirement it was delivered against. The Design Authorities provided the temperature operating range when the equipment was procured in the 1970s.

Ptarmigan has been the army's deployable trunk communications system since 1985 and was designed to operate in North West Europe. The three major installations, which provide the backbone of the system, operate primarily within a temperature range of - 32 to + 45 degrees centigrade. The Ptarmigan system was not designed for the desert environment, but the purchase of additional Generators, Air Conditioners, Thermal Screening Panels, when required, has enabled the system to operate adequately in the desert environment.

The Personal Role Radio (PRR) was first deployed in July 2001. It is designed to meet any environment in which individual soldiers could realistically expect to operate and survive. In particular within a temperature range up to + 55C and in dry and desert conditions. The National Audit Office report on Exercise SAIF SAREEA II (paragraph 2.8) states that the PRR performed very well.