§ 22. Mr. Robert Howarth
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the design and development of a supersonic vertical take-off and landing strike aircraft; and to what extent these plans run parallel with a known North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requirement.
§ Mr. Healey
We are discussing with some of our N.A.T.O. allies requirements for a future combat aircraft. But it is unlikely that this would combine supersonic and vertical, as distinct from short, take-off and landing characteristics.
§ Mr. Howarth
Cannot my right hon. Friend say at this stage whether the Harrier has already proved of value, having a vertical take-off and landing capability? Would it not be wise to incorporate this in a future advanced combat aircraft?
§ Mr. Healey
The view of all our N.A.T.O. allies and potential partners is that there is a great need for a short take-off and landing capability for a future combat aircraft, but the price, in terms of cost and performance, for a vertical take-off aircraft other than the Harrier is likely to be too high. However, we are considering certain modifications to the Harrier to improve its performance, and this could be relevant to a future combat aircraft.