asked the Secretary of State for Air what interim arrangements he is making to improve the carrying capacity of Transport Command, pending the entry into service of the Belfast transport aircraft in 1964.
We expect to take delivery of the 56 Argosies and 5 Comet 4s now on order.
Is it not the case that none of these aircraft to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred is capable of carrying heavy equipment long distances? In view of this very serious gap in our transport capacity between now and 1964, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman could indicate what consideration the Government have given to purchasing Lockheed C.130s, which are the only aircraft to have a cargo cross-section, a payload, and a range so as to be capable of carrying heavy equipment long distances, until the Belfasts are available?
We have considered all these things. The hon. Member must realise that the Belfast is due to fulfil the strategic rôle of carrying not only heavy payloads but particularly the bulky equipment required by both the Army and the Air Force. The Hercules, or Lockheed C.130, would not be able to carry the equipment which we have in mind, not so much because of the weight as because of the bulk. Therefore, it would not fulfil the rôle for which the Belfast is required.
asked the Secretary of State for Air when he expects to have strategic air freighters in service; and whether he will now arrange for the placing of orders for the Lockheed Hercules as soon as satisfactory arrangements are made for its manufacture in this country.
The Britannia already gives us some strategic freighting capability and the Belfast is due in service in 1964. We have no plans to order the Hercules for this task.
Can the right hon. Gentleman really assure the House that he is satisfied with the strategic freight capability of the Royal Air Force and is prepared to wait until 1964 for the substantial addition of the Belfast with these very small additions in the meantime? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that we can wait three years after what was disclosed in the Kuwait operation?
As I tried to make plain when we discussed Kuwait a week ago, we are certainly not complacent or satisfied with the situation. But there is no aircraft that we know of, apart from the Belfast, which, between now and 1964, would carry the heavy and bulky items of equipment that the Army and Air Force wish to be transported. We there- fore have to wait for the Belfast for that purpose.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the American Air Force has equipment which could do this work and that by not acquiring suitable aircraft this country runs itself into a dangerous position in the present state of international affairs? Does he not think that for all we do for the Americans it is about time that they did something for us?
We are well aware of the importance of carrying this equipment around. Some of it exists and some of it is still in development in this country, but heavy equipment—not Skybolt—as far as we can make out, could be effectively carried only in the Belfast, and we shall have the Belfast in 1964.