asked the Secretary of State for Defence what advance notice was made by his Department to advise local authorities, hon. Members of Parliament and other interested parties of the low-flying exercise to take place in the Highlands and Islands in April.
My Department took steps to see that the public were given advance notice of the present low flying work up training for Exercise Maple Flag by issuing a press release, the contents of which formed the basis of articles in a number of newspapers in the areas of Scotland affected. Letters informing them of the activity were also sent to the Members of Parliament concerned, to the National Farmers' Union headquarters in Scotland and the Landowners' Federation. The area where this training has been taking place does not include the Scottish Islands.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence why low-flying exercises are being held in the Highlands and Islands area.
As I have previously explained to the House—Vol. 973, c. 804—flying at low level is the most effective means of penetrating the air and ground defences our aircrews would be likely to encounter in war. Such tactics are very demanding on aircrew skills and require regular and realistic training over land to maintain the necessary professional standards. Most of this training is done in conditions which represent a compromise between operational needs and the wish to minimise any disturbance to the public. However, it is important that the RAF should avail itself of the opportunity afforded by the Red Flag and Maple Flag exercises held in North America to practise flying from time to time under the conditions which aircrews would encounter in war. Preparation for these requires work-up training at heights lower than those at which pilots normally fly in the United Kingdom (though not to the full limits of the actual exercise), to perfect the skills of flying safely at ultra low level, which is essential for them to participate successfully in the exercise.The low flying which is taking place in parts of Scotland in March and April is work up training for Maple Flag 5, the next in the series of Canadian exercises. It is being carried out in particularly remote and sparsely populated parts of
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North-West Scotland where very few people are likely to be affected by the associated noise. The flying is on a much smaller scale than the work-up training which was carried out in the same areas last year.