Dr Julian Lewis: How many Phalanx close-in weapon systems will be fitted to each new aircraft carrier; and will the Secretary of State make a statement?
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mark Lancaster): Three Phalanx close-in weapon systems will be fitted to each new aircraft carrier. Two are being fitted to HMS Queen Elizabeth during her current capability insertion period, with the third to be fitted towards the end of 2020. Three will be fitted to HMS Prince of Wales in 2020.
Dr Lewis: May I add to the tributes to Paul Flynn by noting the remarkable physical courage he showed in battling crippling arthritis over many years?
In relation to the Phalanx systems on the aircraft carriers, I agree that, if nothing goes wrong, the fitting of three will offer 360° coverage and protection, but, given that there is a fourth station on each aircraft carrier that could take a fourth system, and given that there are spare systems in storage following withdrawal from operational theatres, would it not be sensible to give some extra insurance by fitting a fourth system, so that if one is lost, there will still be total coverage and protection for these vital naval assets?
Mark Lancaster: My right hon. Friend is, of course, right in his assessment that three Phalanx systems offer a 360° capability, and that there is scope, potentially, for a fourth. We have the ability to adjust that according to the threat. I should also remind the House that the carrier will be at the centre of a carrier group. Protection for that carrier will consist of different layers of security provided by both the frigates and the destroyers, so it will not rely solely on the Phalanx system.