The partner nations have undertaken, through international memorandums of understanding, to buy 620 aircraft in three tranches. That undertaking remains extant. The success of overseas sales campaigns undertaken by the partner nations will clearly have an impact on the final production numbers of Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Minister of State will understand that recent press reports commenting on the state of discussions between the United Kingdom Government and Saudi Arabia have caused concern among aerospace workers on the Eurofighter project, especially in the light of the comment by the chief executive of BAE Systems that discussions had “stalled”. Now that Ramadan has concluded, what specific steps will be taken by the Department, as the representative of the UK Government, to restart those talks so they that achieve a successful conclusion on a vital order?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is well aware of Lord Drayson’s active work, not just in the country that he mentioned but in wider markets. My noble Friend is in the United States looking at the joint strike fighter, and emphasising the importance of ensuring that we gain the proper understanding from the US, to take that project forward. The right hon. Gentleman cannot criticise what the Government have done to continue to market that plane and to extol its virtues wherever we find interest in it.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that he would be wise to keep his options open on final production numbers for the Eurofighter Typhoon? If the Americans do not deliver the required technology transfer for the joint strike fighter, we should urgently consider flying the Typhoon off our new aircraft carriers.
We are back to the old conundrum of plan A and plan B. We have made it very clear to the United States that we want to be part of the JSF programme, that that technology transfer is needed, and that we must have sovereignty on that aircraft. If that does not happen, we have plan B.
But if the United States forced us to take the route of putting the Eurofighter Typhoon on our aircraft carriers, how many more of those aircraft would we have to build, and would that be affected by the Government’s recent decision on unmanned aerial vehicles? Should we not suggest to the Americans that they ought to listen very carefully indeed?
I do not know the answer to that, because we are not at that stage of examination. That is something that will happen when we reach that point, then we must decide the number that we require. Of course, that will be based on defence planning assumptions. Once that matter is addressed, it will help to determine the final decision. We are not yet at that stage, but clearly we will require a particular type of aircraft to fly off those aircraft carriers. That is what we have told the United States, and that is why we want the JSF. It is also why we are saying that if we do not get it, we have plan B.