To ask Her Majesty's Government how many Harrier aircraft are (a) in service with HM Armed Forces, and (b) in operational condition. [HL2944]
To ask Her Majesty's Government where the Harrier aircraft which are (a) in service with HM Armed Forces, and (b) in operational condition, are based. [HL2945]
“In service” has been taken to mean the effective fleet, which includes all aircraft barring those that are redundant, declared as surplus or awaiting disposal.
For the month of February 2010, there were a total of 72 Harriers in service, of which 46 aircraft were available to Joint Force Harrier (JFH) for tasking. The number of aircraft in the available fleet will fluctuate from day to day depending on planned maintenance or unforeseen rectification work, so the figure provided is an average rounded to the nearest aircraft. The remaining aircraft were either undergoing depth maintenance or rectification work, awaiting disposal or being used as trial aircraft.
All Harriers in the in-service fleet are based at RAF Cottesmore, Wittering and Coningsby. After a very successful five years deployed in Afghanistan providing close air support to troops on the ground and tactical surveillance/reconnaissance, JFH is now undergoing a period of regeneration to rebuild the wider skill sets not utilised in Afghanistan.
The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are jointly developing a transition plan to ensure that the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) Force is manned by transferring personnel from the Joint Force Harrier (JFH), from other aircraft types and directly from initial training. This plan will ensure that both JFH and JCA are appropriately manned through this transition period.
As at 20 March 2010, 84 per cent of officers and soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Parachute Regiment have passed the basic parachute course and are therefore qualified to conduct a static-line jump from any aircraft, including Hercules.
There will always be a number of personnel awaiting qualification given the constant output of newly trained soldiers and other factors, including the recent bad weather, which disrupted the training programme. We are confident that the trained percentage will increase over the next few months.
I am withholding the information for 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.