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Tsr2 Aircraft

Volume 645: debated on Monday 2 October 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Air what consultations he has had with the Minister of Aviation with a view to expediting the entry of the TSR2 aircraft into squadron service in the Royal Air Force.


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will take steps to expedite delivery of the TSR2 aircraft.

Questions on development are, of course, for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, but I am in close touch with him about the progress of work on the TSR2.

We and the firm are naturally doing all we can to bring this very advanced aircraft into service as soon as possible.

Bearing in mind that the V-bomber force will be obsolete in the next two or three years, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that the bringing into service of the TSR2 is regarded as a matter of urgency?

As I reject the assumption on which the hon. Gentleman bases his supplementary question, I should not like anything that I say to appear to give credence to the views which he seems to hold on this matter. However, we shall do everything we can to introduce the TSR2 as soon as possible, but it is not related to the V-force, and, indeed, is not regarded as either a substitute for a V-bomber or a supplement to the V-force.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is about four years since we first heard about this aircraft in the Air Estimates? Will he either not talk about the aircraft or deliver it to the Royal Air Force? While we recognise that he has only part responsibility in this matter, is it not the case that often the Royal Air Force's change of mind about requirements is a factor in the delay in getting aircraft into service?

With respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. The development of a modern aircraft takes anything from seven to ten years. Unless we can give the House some information on early trends in our thinking—and, as I say, it takes from seven to ten years before we can get the final result into service—we cannot be in a position to give hon. Members the information which they ought to have on which to base their judgments. I do not think that we should be taken to task because we have been talking about this aircraft for four years.

The right hon. Gentleman was not in his present job then, but does he recall that when we began to argue about this aircraft it was said that it was better to go for it than to try to stretch the Blackburn Buccaneer to suit an R.A.F. rôle? It was then said that the TSR2 would be available in service in 1964. Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that there is no chance of that?

I am not saying anything about delivery dates on this subject. All that I have said is that we regard this aircraft as a good aircraft, that we shall press on with plans for its introduction and that we think that it is progressing satisfactorily.

Is it not the case that the French already have in production the Mystere IV, which has a very similar performance to that of the TSR2?

We think that the TSR2 is the only aircraft which will exactly fit our requirement in the time scale that we are considering.