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Mr. Ingram: A finalised draft contract for the Meteor missile was sent to our partner nations at the end of April. Once approval is obtained from each nation we will be in a position to award the Meteor contract to MBDA. This is currently planned for early July.
Mr. Ingram: Royal Navy Task Groups will retain a significant air defence capability after the Sea Harrier is withdrawn from service in 2006, including against sea-skimming missiles, against which Sea Harrier has little capability. This air defence capability will include type 42 anti-air warfare destroyers armed with updated Sea Dart anti-aircraft missiles, type 22 and 23 frigates armed with point defence missile systems (including the enhanced Sea Wolf missile system) and close-in weapon systems. From later this year, the first upgraded airborne early warning Sea King flight will go to sea providing an improved detection capability over land and sea. All task group warships and some support shipping are also equipped with decoy systems against air and surface launched anti-ship missiles. Additionally, the Harrier GR aircraft possess a point defence capability through the sidewinder short range air-to-air missile.
Mr. Ingram: The Sea Harrier FA2 is being withdrawn by 2006 as to retain it as a viable weapon system beyond the middle of this decade would require significant investment and would also involve significant technical risk.
As the Sea Harrier FA2 is essentially a modified Harrier GR3, an all-metal aircraft that was withdrawn from RAF service in the late 1980s, investment will instead be concentrated on the more modern Harrier GR7
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that will be upgraded to GR9 standard to provide an enhanced expeditionary capability for land attack operations from both land and aircraft carriers.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment has been made of the benefits of integrating the Sea Harrier's specific capabilities on to the remaining GR Harriers; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of upgrading the Harrier GR7 to include an advanced air defence radar capable of using AMRAAM; what the cost is estimated to be; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: The role of the Harrier GR7 is in support of force projection. Its air-to-air capability is optimised for its own defence. To integrate the Sea Harrier's specific air defence capabilities on to the GR Harrier would entail the fitting of the Blue Vixen radar and Advance Medium Range Air to Air Missiles (AMRAAM) missiles. While it would, in theory, be possible to do this we currently have no requirement to do so. Therefore no detailed work has been undertaken by the Department into the practicality and cost effectiveness of such a modification.
Such a programme would be at least as complex, lengthy and costly as the Sea Harrier Blue Vixen/ AMRAAM update in the mid-90s. Given the considerable cost, time scale and technical risk involved, and the planned entry into service of the Future Joint Combat Aircraft in 2012, the benefits of integrating the Sea Harrier specific capabilities onto the GR Harrier would be of limited duration and utility.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with the (a) French, (b) Spanish, (c) Italian and (d) German defence ministers in respect of his decision to withdraw the Sea Harrier from service. 
Mr. Ingram [holding reply Monday 20 May 2002]: None. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 February 2002, Official Report, column 2452W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer). These countries will be advised of this change as part of the annual submission to the NATO Defence Planning Questionnaire, and also in the annual update to the european Headline Goal Helsinki Catalogue.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he had with the (a) US Defence Secretary and (b) NATO Secretary General in respect of his decision to withdraw the Sea Harrier from service. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 20 May 2002]: None. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 February 2002, Official Report, column 1451W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer). The United States of America and NATO will be advised of this change as part of the annual submission to the NATO Defence Planning Questionnaire.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of continuing the Harrier FA2 in service until 2012 without an engine upgrade; and what estimate he has made of the cost of this. 
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Mr. Ingram [holding answer 20 May 2002]: In determining the future strategy for Joint Force Harrier ahead of the introduction of the Future Joint Combat Aircraft in around 2012 a variety of investment strategies were considered for both Harrier GR7 and Sea Harrier FA2. Our recent operational experience, and consideration of likely future threats, led us to conclude that the priority is for carrier-borne aircraft that can fulfil the ground attack role. The Sea Harrier FA2 has an extremely limited ground attack capability and without a new engine, a high risk technical challenge, has major performance limitations. Further, a number of the FA2's avionic and defensive systems are becoming increasingly obsolescent and by the middle of the decade will have significant operational deficiencies. The cost of recovering this obsolescence would be around £250 million. Such a significant investment was deemed incoherent without a more powerful engine that could deliver world-wide year-round embarked capability and when it would only restore elements of the air defence capability. It would do nothing to equip the aircraft to carry current and near term smart offensive weapons, our key future need. This would have required a full replacement of the avionic system which was judged to be unachievable.
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 20 May 2002]: We currently plan to upgrade all Harrier GR7 aircraft to GR9 standard, up to 68 aircraft in total. The GR7 upgrade programme is due to begin in late 2003 and be completed during 2008.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost is of upgrading the Harrier GR7 to GR9; and what estimate he has made of the cost of upgrading the engine of the Harrier FA2. 
The integration of the Pegasus Mk 107 engine into 11 Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft was the subject of a feasibility study in 2000. The cost of integration was estimated to be approximately £230 million. The study concluded that there would be significant technical difficulties and that overall the programme did not represent good value for money.
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Report, column 1463W, on Army HQ, when the final assessment of the cost of moving the Army's northern headquarters from York to Edinburgh will have been made. 
Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 February 2002, Official Report, column 1463W. I will, of course, write to him when the assessment is complete and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.
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