(2) how many jobs would be (a) created and (b) maintained as a result of ordering the Nimrod MRA4 aircraft;
(3) what estimate he has made of the service life of the (a) Nimrod MRA4 and (b) American Rivet Joint aircraft; and if he will make a statement;
(4) what range of attack weapons the (a) Nimrod MRA4 and (b) American Rivet Joint aircraft can carry.
The Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance and Attack (MRA4) and the US Rivet Joint aircraft perform entirely different functions.
The MRA4 aircraft is being procured to provide maritime patrol, anti-shipping, anti-submarine and search and rescue capability. It will take over from the Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance (MR2) aircraft. The cost of the programme for the nine MRA4 aircraft currently on order is some £3.6 billion. Support costs are currently being examined. When it comes into service, the MRA4 will carry Stingray torpedoes but through life it can be adapted to carry an extensive range of weapons and equipment including anti-ship and anti-submarine weapon systems. Its current estimated service life is 25 years. We estimate that there are around 800 jobs associated with MRA4 production at Woodford working for the contractor, BAE Systems.
The US Rivet Joint system provides an integrated airborne electronic surveillance capability. It is not equipped with attack weapons. The costs of adopting and maintaining the Rivet Joint aircraft to meet the UK's Helix airborne electronic surveillance requirement are being assessed, along with those of using the Nimrod MRA4 and Nimrod R1 platforms, as part of the preparations for a main investment decision expected in 2009. The Helix programme envisages the provision of capability out to the 2025 period.