asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the availability for operational flights of Nimrods at RAF Waddington.
The first Nimrod AEW at RAF Waddington is not in RAF service but is undergoing trials. Our best judgment at the moment is that an operational AEW capability for the Nimrod could be achieved in 1987. The trials aircraft has a limited AEW capability which could be used in the event of emergency and which will be progressively improved as other aircraft are delivered.
Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that, pending the somewhat tardy introduction of operational Nimrods, our AEW capability will be adequately maintained?
I can give that assurance. That capability will be maintained in three ways. One way is by means of the Shackletons, whose capability should in no way be belittled. The capacity of Nimrods will be progressively improved. NATO's E3A aircraft are available to provide cover if necessary.