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Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department has now decided whether to convert the remaining Mark 3 Lynx helicopters to Mark 4 standard; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the consequences for the coming into service of the Merlin helicopter of the recent loss of a Merlin aircraft. 
Mr. Spellar: The Merlin HM Mk1 achieved its defined In-Service Date in March 1999 on delivery of the twelfth aircraft. Production continues and deliveries are scheduled until March 2002 when aircraft number 44 is due.
A combined Ministry of Defence and industry review team has completed a thorough analysis of airworthiness and recommended an early resumption of flying, subject to the successful completion of the current programme of checks and inspections. A phased resumption of flying is expected to commence this week once individual aircraft are cleared for flight through a process of physical and documentary checks.
The temporary suspension of flying activities has delayed the achievement of the required training flying rate and introduced a six week delay to the aircraft clearances issued by the Defence Evaluation Research Agency (Boscombe Down). Both delays are at present manageable.
The Merlin Mk 3 met its In-Service Date in June 2000 on delivery of the sixth aircraft and is currently undergoing a programme of Military Aircraft Release trials. As a result of the accident involving the Merlin
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Mk 1, the official handover ceremony at RAF Benson that was planned for November 2000 has been postponed and will not rescheduled until the resumption of military flying. However, it is currently assessed that the Merlin Mk 3 will enter operational service with a basic military capability in June 2002, as planned.
Mr. Spellar: The Royal Navy's Merlin Mk 1 aircraft is primarily an organic Anti-Submarine Warfare variant of the Anglo-Italian EH101 helicopter. Although it offers some lift capability, it is unlikely to be tasked for amphibious operations. The Mk 3 aircraft, designed to carry troops or a range of vehicles or underslung loads, will provide a major element of the Joint Helicopter Command's support helicopter capability. However, it is designed for use in battlefield, and not amphibious, operations. The UK's current amphibious lift capability is provided by the Sea King Mk 4, with occasional support from the RAF Chinook Mks 2 and 2A, while a small-scale lift capability is provided by the maritime Lynx Mks 3 and 8.
It is currently planned that the Support, Amphibious and Battlefield Rotorcraft (SABR) programme will provide the UK's future medium and heavy amphibious and battlefield lift capability from 2009. A Merlin variant is one of a number of possible solutions to this programme.
Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much the RAF has spent on aircraft fuel in each of the past five years; and what the RAF fuel budget is for (a) this year and (b) next year. 
The RAF fuel budget for (a) this year and the interim fuel budget (b) for next year is:
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The amount spent on fuel varies from year to year depending on the level of flying activity, particularly on out of area (OOA) operations, changes in the numbers of aircraft, the unit price of fuel and variations in the level of stock held on stations and in the Government Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS).
Mr. Spellar [holding answer 15 December 2000]: The cost of the repair work to HMS Fearless, needed as a result of the fire damage to her after machinery space, is under negotiation with Fleet Support Ltd. (FSL), the company that will undertake the work. I am therefore withholding this information in accordance with Exemption 7a(1) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which relates to the competitive position of a Department. HMS Fearless is expected to return to service in the first half of 2001. The exact date will not be known until a more accurate assessment of the work is completed by FSL by the new year.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost is of the contract for his Department's Staff Requirement 1248 programme for a precision-guided munition for the RAF; when the contract is due to be awarded; what time scale has been set for development and production of the precision-guided munition; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: The Staff Target (Air) 1248 Precision Guided Bomb project is currently in the Concept Phase and it is not possible as yet to give reliable estimates of the total programme cost. Contract award is expected to be towards the end of financial year 2002-03, or shortly thereafter. Development and Production is likely to last some three to four years depending upon the complexity of the chosen solution.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidelines his Department have set Raytheon for the integration of satellite-based global positioning system guidance into the RAF's Paveway II laser-guided bomb system; and if he will make a statement. 
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was announced in the House on 24 July as one of the immediate enhancements being made in the light of our analysis of operations in Kosovo. The company has been set accuracy requirements that the systems must achieve in all weathers, as well as a delivery schedule for the supply of equipment. The company has also been asked to demonstrate basic compatibility with the host aircraft in advance of contract signature.
Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research he has (a) undertaken and (b) promoted into the integration of radar, electro-optic and acoustic seismic sensors into an air defence system; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar [holding answer 15 December 2000]: HMS Intrepid is being held at a low readiness state commensurate with force levels endorsed within the Strategic Defence Review (SDR). She could, if necessary, be returned to operational service within the timeframe similarly agreed through the SDR process.
Dr. Moonie [holding answer 15 December 2000]: 100 Tornado F3 aircraft are being modified to carry AMRAAM. So far 60 aircraft have been modified. The modification programme will be completed by May 2002.
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