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Air Force

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 14 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 15 December 2009, Official Report, columns 801-02, on future defence programmes, what assessment has been made of the effects on the Royal Air Force's elements at readiness strategy of the reduction in Tornado and Harrier squadrons. (309282)

An analysis of defence priorities was carried out which concluded it was possible to drawdown the overall size of our Fast Jet Forces earlier than expected. As a result of this analysis, it was decided to make a reduction in the size of the Harrier force by one squadron and therefore close RAF Cottesmore and consolidate the Harrier force at RAF Wittering.

Reducing the size of the Harrier force earlier than planned will not affect current operations, as the Tornado GR4 (the aircraft that replaced Harrier on Op HERRICK earlier this year) is proving to be extremely effective in Afghanistan.

As announced on 15 December, we plan to reduce our Tornado and Harrier force by a further one or two squadrons but decisions on the make-up of our future force will be taken in the defence review.

The MOD does not comment on the state of readiness of its force elements as this would constitute a risk to operational security.