§ 57. Mr. Sayeed
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Arapho project.
§ Mr. Lee
Further to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Stewart) on 12 May 1983—[Vol. 42, c.472] I can now report that equipping and converting MV Astronomer to carry the Arapho helicopter operating and maintenance system is now virtually complete. The ship, which was renamed RFA Reliant on 16 November 1983, is expected to be accepted from the contractors in early December. After a 89W period of sea trials and working up which will involve helicopter operations, the Reliant is planned to deploy in its operational role as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship in February 1984.
The operational experience which will be gained with Reliant and the Arapaho system will be invaluable in the development of future plans for the use of merchant vessels in the emergency support of naval operations.