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Joint Force Harrier Programme

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact of the merging of the Royal Air Force's and Royal Navy's trade structures resulting from the Joint Force Harrier programme; and if he will make a statement. [134255]

Mr. Spellar: The Joint Force Harrier (JFH) initiative does not require the aircraft engineering trade structures of the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to be merged. For the present, Royal Air Force Harrier squadrons and Royal Navy Sea Harrier squadrons will employ engineering personnel of their own services, organised within their existing trade groups and specialisations. It would not be practicable, nor is it desired, to introduce new trade structures for JFH that do not align with wider RAF and RN arrangements.

However, the desirability of converging aircraft engineering trade structures has been recognised, and the training and employment of aircraft engineering personnel is under review at many levels within MOD departments on a tri-service basis. The potential for JFH to act as a sounding board and catalyst for this is clear, especially

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after collocation in 2003 when RAF and RN engineers will be working alongside each other at RAF Cottesmore and RAF Wittering.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost is to (a) the Royal Air Force and (b) the Royal Navy of the Joint Force Harrier programme; when the programme is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement. [134249]

Mr. Spellar: The Joint Force Harrier programme is being managed by Royal Air Force Strike Command (STC), under the auspices of Air Officer Commanding No. 3 Group. Under current plans (as agreed by the Joint COS), the programme is due to be completed in the summer of 2003, when the FA2 Sea Harrier squadrons based at RNAS Yeovilton will have relocated to RAF Stations Cottesmore and Wittering. Work is already under way to prepare the two sites for the arrival and collocation of the Royal Naval elements. The present budget for the additional capital works (and other relocation-related costs) is approximately £11 million, the costs of which are being borne by RAF Strike Command.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact of the joint force Harrier programme on the operational capability and engineering efficiency of the RAF's GR7 and the Royal Navy's FA2 Harriers; and if he will make a statement. [134251]

Mr. Spellar: The advances made in Joint Force Harrier (JFH) operational capability have already been demonstrated on the world stage. In the first six months of its existence, No. 3 Group of RAF Strike Command which own JFH and, in particular, its embarked RAF Harrier GR7 and Navy Sea Harrier FA2 squadrons, have made major contributions to Operation Palliser (Sierra Leone) as well as the recent Mediterranean deployment by the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. As an international means of power projection, an aircraft carrier with fully integrated JFH units embarked is a considerable national asset and one which has already proved its potent deterrent value. The benefits have also been significant in the supporting areas where a slim, but truly joint staff organisation allows for rapid planning and execution of integrated operations. This arrangement also benefits exercise planning and will lead to more integrated--and therefore considerably improved--use of training opportunities.

At station and squadron level, the engineering efficiency of JFH units will not be affected in the short term, as the units remain at their current air stations. In the longer term, direct engineering efficiencies are limited by the significant differences between the Harrier GR7 and the Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft and their systems. However, maximum use is being made of collocation in 2003 to develop integrated support facilities for RAF and RN aircraft, an example being a combined facility for the repair and test of Pegasus engines. In the longer term, convergence of trade structures is expected to deliver a more flexible and deplorable workforce. Within RAF Strike Command, the Joint Force Harrier Role Office now discharges a number of engineering functions that were previously split between a number of departments and commands. This Role Office is built as a lean, joint organisation and provides key support to joint force Harrier staffs and other departments.

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For the future, JFH will take part in the development of new support concepts and technologies associated with the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA). These are intended to deliver significant through-life savings compared to current Harrier and Sea Harrier aircraft by large reductions in the engineering effort required in service.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how the single service identities of the RAF's Harrier GR7 and the Royal Navy's Harrier FA2 are maintained within the joint force Harrier programme; and if he will make a statement. [134250]

Mr. Spellar: In the Joint Force Harrier (JFH), single service ethos and identity will continue to be fostered within the individual communities. In tandem, a joint force ethos is developing. Both RN and RAF JFH squadrons will wear the uniform and ranks of their parent service and will be commanded by officers from the relevant service. Each service element of the JFH remains under full single-service command, including terms and conditions of service, disciplinary matters, and individual career development. These arrangements are planned to continue up to, and beyond, the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft/ the future aircraft carrier (CVF) era. Higher Command initiatives, such as the Armed Forces Overarching Personnel Strategy underpin the implementation of JFH. The integration of RAF and RN personnel as 'one company' is a clearly stated objective, and HQ 3Gp of RAF Strike Command sponsors a number of Working Groups that address various subject-related topics. In particular, the CVS/JFH Integration Working Group receives comprehensive debriefings after JFH operational and exercise detachments; from these reports 'best practice' is identified and adopted (after full consultation has taken place with the relevant single-service authorities).


Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel are connected by the ARMYMAIL electronic mail system supplied by Bull Information Systems Ltd.; at what cost; and if he will make a statement. [133729]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 23 October 2000]: The ARMYMAIL electronic mail system was renamed the Electronic Messaging Service (EMS) in response to the wider tri-Service Defence community it now serves. The purpose of EMS is to provide a managed electronic mail interconnection service between separate information system communities in the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Subscription to EMS is on a communities-by- communities basis, and hence the number of potential users of the Service is the total number of users within each of the connected communities. There is currently a total of almost 82,000 members of the subscribing communities with the Army, RAF and MOD civilian organisations, including Defence agencies. The total cost of the service, paid to Bull Information Systems Ltd., is approximately £2.1 million per annum, based on the current usage.

Budget Allocations

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of (a) the Royal Air Force's

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annual budget is allocated to its Harrier GR7 and (b) the Royal Navy's budget is allocated to its Harrier FA2; and if he will make a statement. [134248]

Mr. Spellar: On 1 April, following the re-organisation of Royal Air Force Strike Command (STC), budgetary responsibility for both the RAF Harrier GR7 and the Navy Sea Harrier FA2 transferred to Joint Force Harrier (JFH) under the command of No. 3 Group at STC. The Group's resource budget for the operation of the Joint Harrier fleet for financial year 2000-01 is approximately £330 million, which equates to 8.2 per cent. of the RAF Strike Command budget. While this includes the majority of costs relating to the Harrier FA2, some minor support costs are continuing to be borne by the Royal Navy pending the collocation of the Joint Force Harrier fleet in the summer of 2003.

In addition, further costs relating to the Harrier fleet are accounted for elsewhere in the Department--for example, RAF Personnel and Training Command and the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO), who are, respectively, responsible for the production of trained manpower and equipment support.

HMS Prince of Wales

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what action he plans to take concerning the removal of two propellors from the wreck of HMS 'Prince of Wales'; and if he will make a statement. [134469]

Dr. Moonie: We are aware of reports that HMS Repulse has lost two of her port side propellers. The first reported missing in the 1970s. The second was reported missing in October 1999.

My Department would act on any clear evidence that criminal activities are taking place.

We are not aware of any reports that HMS Prince of Wales has lost propellers.

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