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12 Feb 2003 : Column 744W—continued

Naval Complement

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the (a) Royal Navy and (b) Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels available for sale to foreign navies. [95889]

Mr. Ingram: The only Royal Navy vessel available for sale at present to foreign Governments is HMS Sheffield. There are no Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels available for sale to foreign navies at present.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to order (a) a primary casualty receiving ship for the Royal Navy and (b) additional tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary services. [95892]

Mr. Ingram: Initial Gate approval for procurement of a Primary Casualty Receiving Capability (PCRC) was granted on 20 December 2001. A contract was awarded to BMT Defence Services on 21 December 2001 for support in determining the size and shape of an afloat medical facility that would meet our needs and to establish which ship types could potentially become host platforms. In parallel, the PCRC Integrated Project Team (IPT) is considering which procurement options are likely to prove most cost effective. It is anticipated that tendering for the demonstration and manufacture phase of the project should take place during 2003–04. The In Service Date will depend upon the final technical specification and procurement route selected but should be towards the end of the decade.

Following the expected entry into service of the Auxiliary Oilers RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler, which should occur in early spring this year, we plan to acquire future afloat support capability, including that currently provided by Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, as part of our larger afloat support strategy.

Currently, the Defence Procurement Agency's Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) project is investigating these future afloat support needs and the most flexible and cost-effective means of meeting them. Although the programme is at an early stage, initial reactions have been received following an industry day, which was held in October 2002, and we will be seeking innovative and cost effective proposals from industry as it progresses.

Nuclear-Powered Submarines

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the eventual disposal of the hulks of paid-off SSNs and former Polaris submarines. [95884]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 12 December 2002, Official Report, column 423W by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr Moonie). Since then approval has been given for the Isolus project to enter an assessment phase, and we are now seeking outline proposals from industry for the interim storage of radioactive material from the decommissioned submarines. Over 30 companies have expressed an interest in the work and an industry briefing day is to be held in late February.

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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the locations of each paid-off SSN and former Polaris submarine. [95886]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Moonie) on 12 December 2002, Official Report, column 423W. In addition, HMS Dreadnought, the former Polaris submarine that was decommissioned in 1983 is stored safely afloat at the Rosyth Dockyard.

Ptarmigan

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the completion of the Ptarmigan upgrades. [95189]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence is committed to sustaining the Ptarmigan trunk communication system for land forces and continues to keep the system available at high readiness for any potential operations. To enable Ptarmigan to cope with increasing demands placed on it, two planned enhancements were completed in 2002. One will enable Ptarmigan to connect to future systems such as Bowman. The other allows more rapid and flexible deployment of some of the more mobile components of Ptarmigan. We are currently making minor modifications to the Ptarmigan system to enable it to be used more effectively in the context of potential operations. I am withholding specific details under Exemption 1 (Defence, security and international relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Royal Air Force

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when 5 Squadron will be disbanded; and to which squadrons 5 Squadron personnel will be re-assigned. [96929]

Mr. Ingram: 5 Squadron disbanded on 30 September 2002. Personnel were assigned to the following Squadrons:


In addition, some personnel were not assigned to a new Squadron but were posted to other branches and headquarters in the Ministry of Defence.

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SA80/L86A2 Weapons

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many SA80 L86A2 weapons will be withdrawn from operational service following the introduction into service of the new light machine gun; and if he will make a statement. [97190]

Mr. Ingram: No SA80 L86A2 weapons will be withdrawn from operational service following the introduction into service of the new light machine gun.

Satellite Communications Systems

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on satellite communications systems; and what increases he plans to these capabilities. [95412]

Mr. Ingram: Military satellite communications are currently provided by the SKYNET 4 system, supplemented as necessary by commercial satellite systems and the use of satellite communications systems operated by Allies. SKYNET 4 will reach the end of its operationally useful life later this decade and we are seeking to continue and update our capability through the SKYNET 5 service provision contract currently being negotiated with Paradigm Secure Communications. The SKYNET 5 contract will include modernisation of satellite ground terminals.

We expect SKYNET 5 to introduce, from the middle of the decade, enhanced voice and data services with better resilience together with improved flexibility to support remote, mobile operations. It will make an important contribution to our aim of developing network enabled capability. The improvements will be introduced progressively and support to existing systems will be maintained as required during transition to SKYNET 5.

Sea King Helicopters

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the planned disposal of seven Sea King MK6 helicopters. [94575]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member on 5 December 2002, Official Report, column 933W. One Sea King Mk 6 helicopter has been designated as scrap. No final decision has yet been made concerning plans for six other Sea King Mk 6 helicopters.

Target Locator Systems

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he expects the laser target locator systems to enter service (a) with the Royal Artillery forward observers and (b) as part of the enhancements to the Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicle and the CVR(T) reconnaissance fleets; [95186]

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Mr. Ingram: The laser target locator systems for Royal Artillery (RA) forward observers are expected to enter service by the end of March 2003. This system is intended to be operated whilst the observer is dismounted. The equipment will be issued to RA forward observers operating from Warrior OPV, Saxon or in the dismounted role. The project is within the estimated budget.

The separate programme providing laser target locator systems as part of the enhancement of the Warrior Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle and CVR(T) reconnaissance fleets, will be rolled out between 2004 and 2006. The RA variant of Warrior and

12 Feb 2003 : Column 748W

some Scimitar CVR(T) vehicles already have this capability. This project is also within the estimated budget.

Territorial Army

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which Territorial Army centres in Lancashire are providing reservists to UK forces; and how many reservists from the Territorial Army Centre in Chorley have been called to join UK forces. [96741]

Dr. Moonie: The following Territorial Army Centres in Lancashire are providing reservists as a result of recent mobilisation orders:

Territorial army centreLocation
B Company, Lancastrian and Cumbrian VolunteersMoss street, Blackburn
B Squadron, 207 Field Hospital (Volunteers)Canterbury street, Blackburn
Detachment C Squadron, 208 Field Hospital (Volunteers)Caton road, Lancaster
Detachment E (14) Evacuation Squadron, 5 GS Medical RegimentDevonshire road, Chorley, Preston
Detachment 29 Company, 3 (Volunteer) Military Intelligence BattalionDevonshire road, Chorley, Preston

As at Friday 7 February, the following numbers of reservists from the Territorial Army Centre at Chorley have been called up for mobilisation:

Territorial army centreNumber of reservists
Detachment E (14) Evacuation Squadron, 5 GS Medical Regiment14
Detachment 29 Company, 3 (Volunteer) Military Intelligence Battalion6


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