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Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the procurement of the (a) aircraft carriers, (b) type 45 destroyer, (c) amphibious assault vessels and (d) heavy sealift ships; whether they are on schedule; and whether changes have been made to their capabilities. [110023]

Future Aircraft Carrier CVF

Design activity on the Future Aircraft Carrier programme is continuing in parallel with our discussions with BAE Systems and Thales to determine the structure of the alliance for the programme. We expect to be in a position to formally commence the next phase of the assessment work shortly. Subject to the normal internal approvals we remain on course to award the main design and build contract for the carriers in spring 2004.

The capability required for the carriers will not be formally approved until the award of the design and build contract. Up to that point the CVF user requirements are performance targets to focus the assessment phase work of the contractors.

Type 45

The Type 45 Destroyer programme remains on track to meet the approved in service date of November 2007.

The baseline capability of the Type 45 has not changed since the main investment decision was made in July 2000. However, work continues on an Incremental Acquisition Plan (IAP) which will increase class capability as funding becomes available, technology develops and the requirement emerges. The first example of the successful implementation of the IAP is the inclusion of the Ultra MFS 7000 Sonar in the First of Class onward. At the time of the original approval it was envisaged that sonar would be fitted at build to Batch 2 (Hull 04 onwards) and that this capability would be retrofitted in the earlier vessels.

Amphibious assault vessels

Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary)—construction of the first of the Bay Class Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary), RFA Largs Bay is progressing satisfactorily, with the vessel programmed to complete in March 2004 although the shipyard have expectations to deliver earlier. She will then undergo a series of sea trials prior to acceptance into service in autumn 2004. Construction of the remaining three vessels is planned to complete during 2004 and 2005, followed by sea trials and acceptance into service. All four vessels are expected to meet their planned in service dates and there have been no changes to their planned capabilities.

Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) programme—the Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) programme will provide two vessels for the Royal Navy, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. HMS Albion is nearing completion and is expected to achieve her currently planned in service date (ISD) of My 2003. Discussions continue with the prime contractor, BAE Systems, on agreeing a revised programme for HMS Bulwark. The ISDs originally planned were March 2002 for HMS Albion and March 2003 for HMS Bulwark. There have been no changes to their capability.

Heavy Sealift ships

With the delivery of the sixth ship to AWSR Shipping Ltd. on 17 April 2003, the full Roll-On Roll-Off Strategic Sealift Service, being provided under Private Finance Initiative arrangements, became available. This is 20 months earlier than the target date set by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Moonie) at the start of the competition and meets the date given by my on 6 March 2002, Official Report, column 326W. There has been no change to the capability.