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1 Nov 2004 : Column 102W—continued

Future Offensive Air System

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Future Offensive Air System project; what the project's objectives are; which countries are participating in it; which UK and European aerospace companies are involved; what funding his Department has contributed to its work to date for each of the last five years; and when he expects to make public the outcome of this work. [193496]

Mr. Ingram: The Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) work is assessing our future strike capability requirement from around 2020 onwards.

FOAS is a MOD programme. Work on FOAS is supported in part by the European Technology Acquisition Programme (ETAP), which is designed to develop European technologies for future combat air systems. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden participate in ETAP along with the UK. FOAS also has links with Australia.

The principal companies involved in FOAS are BAE Systems, MBDA, Thales UK, LogicaCMG, and QinetiQ.

MOD expenditure on FOAS in the last five years has been:
£ million

As the project consists of a number of studies, and outcomes are study-dependant, there is no planned schedule of announcements related to FOAS at this time.

Harpoon Missile

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has (a) to remove Harpoon from Type 22 and Type 23 frigates and (b) to develop a successor to Harpoon; and if he will make a statement. [189753]

Mr. Ingram: Harpoon, in its current or future variants, is expected to remain in service on Type 22 and Type 23 frigates until their planned out of service dates. There is an ongoing surface warfare study considering future weapons solutions.
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Helicopters (Sheppey)

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many military helicopters have flown over the Isle of Sheppey at a height of (a) less than 1,000 metres, (b) 1,000 metres, (c) 2,000 metres and (d) over 2,000 metres since May; [195141]

(2) what permission military helicopters require when flying over the Isle of Sheppey below 2,000 metres. [195140]

Mr. Caplin: The western tip of the Isle of Sheppey lies within the Thames Valley Avoidance Area (TVAA). To operate within the TVAA below 2,000 feet military aircraft require permission from MoD Head Office, must make a booking with the low flying booking cell and will also be under air traffic control.

The Isle of Sheppey lies predominantly within Low Flying Area 18, which includes most of Kent and parts of Sussex. If Military helicopters are flying below 500ft they are operating in the Low Flying System, in which case flights need to be pre-planned, and suitably authorised. Otherwise no specific permission is required for flying over the Isle of Sheppey below 2,000 metres. There is an avoidance for all helicopters over the Swaleside Prison.

The information in respect of overflights is not available in the form requested. Details of the number of helicopter flights above 500ft are not held. Data for flights below that height is recorded according to the Low Flying Area (LFA) within which aircraft are operating. Since May 2004, 247 helicopter sorties, totalling 157 hours have been recorded for LFA 18.


Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many depleted uranium tipped shells have been used in Iraq since March 2003; and what the total weight is of depleted uranium so used. [192722]

Mr. Ingram: There are no depleted uranium (DU) tipped shells in UK service.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 19 April 2004, Official Report, column 339W, in respect of the use of DU by United Kingdom armed forces since March 2003.

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for maintaining a reserve battalion in south east Iraq following the redeployment of (a) the Black Watch and (b) other troops in Iraq. [193303]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 5 October 2004]: I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in the House on 21 October 2004, Official Report, columns 1035–37.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what weapons are available to (a) US, (b) British and (c) Iraqi troops serving in Iraq. [193647]

Mr. Ingram: British forces in Iraq deploy with the appropriate weapons and other capabilities for the situation they face, which varies over time and different geographical areas. These range from Challenger II tanks and Warrior Armoured Vehicles, through to small
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arms. For reasons of operational security, I am not able to go into further details. I am therefore withholding that information under Exemption la of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The equipment provided to US forces in Iraq is a matter for the US Government.

The equipment and weapon systems used by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are matters for the Iraqi Interim Government, and it would not be appropriate for me to release details. A procurement programme is in place to ensure that the ISF have the right capabilities for the security tasks they face now and in the coming months.

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the Order of Battle in the Iraq theatre of operation will be from 1 November; and if he will make a statement. [193967]

Mr. Hoon: As I announced in the House on 17 June 2004, Official Report, columns 48–49WS, land forces in Iraq are currently undergoing a roulement between the component units of 1 Mechanised Brigade and 4 Armoured Brigade. By 15 November, the roulement will be complete and the anticipated Order of Battle for UK forces in Iraq will be as follows:

Land contribution

At 1 November, the roulement will still be under way, and elements of 1 Mech Brigade will still be in theatre. Troop levels in Iraq are kept under constant review.

Maritime Contribution

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Joint Strike Fighter

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations the Government has had with the US Administration about technology transfer and access with regard to the Joint Strike Fighter. [193109]

Mr. Ingram: Ministers and officials regularly discuss Joint Strike Fighter technology access and data release issues with the US Administration.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what effect the changes to the internal weapons bays of the Joint Strike Fighter will have on the UK's future weapons requirement for that aircraft. [193110]

Mr. Ingram: The longer term trend is toward smaller, more accurate weapons, and therefore the changes to the internal weapons bay of the Short Take Off Vertical Landing Variant of the Joint Strike Fighter are not seen as a major impediment to future weapons capability. If the need arose, the variant could still carry large weapons externally. The changes do not impact on the weapons requirements at the In Service Date.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to sign a contract for the STOVL variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. [193122]

Mr. Ingram: Contracts will be let by the US on behalf of all Joint Strike Fighter partner nations, and will cover all variants of the aircraft, as required nationally. In common with all the nations, the United Kingdom's first contribution to the production phase is likely to be in 2007, when a commitment to non recurring production costs for the overall production run will be required. Actual orders for UK aircraft are not planned before 2009.

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