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Defence: Military Aircraft

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent improvements have been made to the fleet of frontline UK aircraft. (250027)

In the past year, we have introduced a number of significant improvements to our frontline aircraft capabilities.

We have enhanced our strategic air lift capability by taking delivery of two more C-17s, taking our total C-17 fleet to six aircraft.

We continue to improve our fast jet capabilities with significant enhancements to our Harrier and Tornado fleets to increase their effectiveness in the Close Air Support roles they fulfil in Iraq and Afghanistan. These improvements include our new Paveway IV Precision Guided Bomb, which entered service with the Harriers in December 2008, and which provides the RAF with a state of the art all-weather, day and night, precision bombing capability. The Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone also entered service in December 2008 providing increased target accuracy and reduced risk of collateral damage. On 1 July 2008 Typhoon was declared operational in the air to ground role, while on 21 October the first two Tranche 2 Typhoon aircraft were delivered to RAF Coningsby.

We have also increased our surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities with the introduction of the Airborne Stand off Radar, which achieved its In Service Date in November 2008.

We have increased the number of helicopter airframes and hours available to our commanders in the last two years, delivering a 60 per cent. increase in available flying hours, and will be making a further significant increase in helicopter capacity in Afghanistan over the next two years. By the end of 2009 the first of the eight Chinooks under the Mark 3 reversion programme will be delivered, providing a significant uplift to our heavy lift helicopter fleet. The first of the 12 upgraded Lynx Mark 9 helicopters will also be available by the end of 2009. Taken with additional Apache capability and the Merlins that we plan to move to Afghanistan once they have completed their mission in Iraq, these improvements will deliver a significant increase in our front line helicopter capability.