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Air Defence

Volume 974: debated on Monday 26 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the present air defence of the United Kingdom.

I am far from complacent about our present air defence. As my hon. Friend will recall from the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) on 5 November, however, an extensive range of enhancements is now under way or planned: taken together, these will result in a significant increase in our air defence capability in the course of the next decade.Regrettably, the combination of RAF manpower shortages particularly among aircrew, and the length of time required to introduce aircraft into service places severe constraints in what can be done in the short term.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements he is making to improve the defence against air attacks of United States and Royal Air Force air bases in the United Kingdom.

On 27 July, I announced the formation of an additional Lightning squadron, the arming of a substantial number of Hawk training aircraft with air-to-air missiles (Sidewinder AIM 9L), and improvements to the Phantom's weapon control system. These measures will directly enhance our ability to withstand air attacks, including those upon USAF and RAF bases in the United Kingdom, and the scope for further improvements is now being considered.In addition, a considerable range of measures is already under way or planned. Over the next few years these will include extension of the coverage of the Bloodhound system in the United Kingdom through the redeployment of the squadron currently in Germany, the formation of a new squadron of VC10 tankers to increase the RAF's air-to-air refuelling capacity, and the equipment of the Phantom with more advanced air-to-air missiles.During the mid-1980s more sophisticated airborne radars will be introduced; and the modernisation of the ground radar chain, the programme of hardened aircraft shelter construction and other passive defence measures now under way and in which the USAF fully participates will be brought to completion. Also, the USAF is now most earnestly considering the case for deploying units of Rapier surface-to-air missile units at its airfields in the United Kingdom.In the longer term the powerful Tornado F2 will replace the present force of Lightning and Phantom fighters. Taken together, these measures and the ones announced in the summer will bring about a very significant increase in our air defence capability in the course of the next decade.