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Volume 407: debated on Friday 20 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on 21 January 2003, Official Report, column 209W, and his answer of 3 June 2003, Official Report, column 299W, on pilots, what factors have brought about the change in numbers in that period; and if he will make a statement. [120322]

The increase in the strength of pilots for the Sea Harrier fleet was due to the graduation of three pilots from the Sea Harrier Operational Flying Training (SHAR OFT) course and one pilot, previously listed as very seriously injured, now being included in the trained strength.The decrease in the strength of pilots for the frontline Harrier GR7 fleet was due to Officers being posted to Qualified Weapons Instructor Courses (QWIC); or to be Qualified Flying Instructors, training students for the frontline. Postings, promotions and retirement from Service are also factors. Three RAF officers will be returning from the QWIC on 20 June 2003, and a further three RAF officers will graduate from training in July 2003.Balanced against the influx of RN Harrier pilots to join the Joint Force Harrier and routine postings out, it is expected that the strength will match the requirement in July 2003.

Such fluctuations should be expected as part of the dynamic personnel management process.