pounds 4bn RAF order as Clarke backs off dwon 54/54 over 3 deckys hy

Defence victory: The Air Force is to get its new weapons as a model reminder of Nelson's Victory returns home from US
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Three orders for the RAF worth nearly pounds 4bn were announced yesterday by Michael Portillo, Secretary of State for Defence, after a close-fought battle with the Treasury. The orders, for a new air-launched cruise missile, an air-launched anti-tank missile and new maritime patrol aircraft, will safeguard 5,000 jobs, he said.

The announcement had been expected before the parliamentary recess began on Wednesday but was delayed at the last minute because of Treasury doubts.

It marked a victory for Mr Portillo over Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, after Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, had intervened to end the squabble over spending between the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Heseltine, who as Secretary of State for Defence resigned from the Thatcher Cabinet over defence orders for helicopters, insisted on boosting British industry and forced the Treasury to back off.

His intervention came after Tory MPs tabled a Commons motion protesting at the delay, and at a threat by the Chancellor to cancel at least one of the orders. The MPs, led by Keith Mans, chairman of the Tory backbench defence committee, were furious about the refusal of the Treasury to allow the orders to go through.

Mr Clarke, having been heavily criticised by Thatcherites who want him to cut spending to provide tax cuts, had been determined to put the Thatcherite Mr Portillo on the spot by putting pressure on him to find savings in his budget.

Both the new missiles, due to enter service in 2001, will be carried by the RAF's new Eurofighter as well as by existing aircraft.

The Conventionally Armed Stand-Off Missile - Casom - is designed to hit targets with great accuracy without the launching aircraft having to fly close to them. As expected the MoD chose the Storm Shadow, to be made by British Aerospace and Matra of France.

For the tank-destroying air-launched anti-armour weapon, the MoD chose Brimstone, based on the American Hellfire missile but built by GEC-Marconi.

As expected, the biggest order, for 21 new maritime patrol aircraft, at a cost of pounds 2bn, went to British Aerospace for the Nimrod 2000, a new version of the existing Nimrod which is based on the Comet and is 25 years old. Mr Portillo said that such aircraft were particularly important for protecting Brit-ain's Trident missile-carrying submarines, but had also played important roles in the Gulf War and in enforcing the arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia. The Nimrod 2000 retains the 1950s design but has many new components, including new wings and new Rolls-Royce engines. The anti-submarine systems will be provided by GEC and Boeing.

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