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Tornado Aircraft

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the expected cost of each Tornado aircraft in each variant; what is the total development cost to be borne by Her Majesty's Government; and how much each aircraft is expected to cost for each year it is in service, in terms of fuel, costs of crew, and spares.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force
(Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

The unit production cost of the GR1 aircraft is £9 million, and that of the F2 £11 million, both at September 1978 economic conditions. It is not the practice to disclose the other costs for which the hon. Member has asked.

I am slightly disappointed but not surprised by that answer. Does the Minister agree that the Tornado has been over-designed to perform far too many roles and, as a result, will be far too costly, so that there are now grave doubts about its safety? Does he accept that it will be far too sophisticated for many of its roles and that it will be rather like trying to put the family milk bottles out using a fork lift truck?

I cannot accept that in the environment in which the Tornado will have to operate it will be oversophisticated—quite the reverse. I reject most strongly the hon. Gentleman's implication that there is any doubt about the Tornado's safety. That is not the case. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should talk in such terms when so many of his constituents depend for their jobs on that programme.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he is aware that all variants of the Tornado are much cheaper than the glossy alternatives being offered from the other side of the Atlantic? Will he give a clear assurance that he will not succumb to the seductive siren's songs from the other side of the Atlantic but will stick with the Tornado all the way?

I am glad to give my hon. Friend that assurance. We have been looking at the so-called fighter gap and at some possible arrangements for leasing or purchasing American equipment. We have now decided that that is no longer a realistic option. We are perfectly content to proceed with both versions of the Tornado aircraft.