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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr HOWSON (Fawkner) (Minister for Air) . - by leave - Honorable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced in this House in November of last year that in the course of this current three-year programme new navigation trainers would be purchased to replace the Dakota aircraft in the Navigation Training School. These Dakota aircraft have been in service for at least 20 years. They are now inadequate for aircrew training purposes, having regard to developments in training techniques and equipment and the modern operational aircraft being obtained for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Having surveyed the types of aircraft that might be suitable to replace the Dakota, the field was eventually narrowed down to four aircraft. A detailed comparison was made of the advantages of each type and eventually I recommended to the Government that it select the HS748 aircraft for this purpose.

Mr Whitlam - A British aircraft?

Mr HOWSON - This aircraft, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) will see, is made by the Hawker Siddeley company in Great Britain.

Mr Whitlam - When did we last order a British aircraft?

Mr HOWSON - I am glad that the honorable gentleman supports the proposal. The Government has now approved my recommendations and eight HS748 aircraft are to be purchased as navigation and air electronics trainers for the Royal Australian Air Force. The HS748 has been designed as a Dakota replacement and incorporates all the features of a simple, rugged and easily maintained aircraft. It is powered by two Rolls Royce turbo-propel I or Dart engines.

This aircraft is already in service in many parts of the world. Six of the V.I.P. version are in service with the Royal Air Force, including two in the Queen's Flight, the remainder being used for other official purposes. The military version, the Andover, is being introduced at present into the R.A.F. The R.A.A.F. plans to introduce these aircraft into navigation training service in the latter half of 1968. Total cost of this project, including navigation training and supporting equipment will be about £9 million.

At the same time the Government has reviewed the requirements for V.I.P. aircraft operated by the R.A.A.F. in 34 Squadron. The Chief of the Air Staff has made a recommendation to me that the Dakota aircraft, which have been in R.A.A.F. service since the early days of World War II, should be retired from V.I.P. service. As a decision has been made to buy HS748s as navigation trainers, the opportunity is being taken to purchase two further HS748s for the V.I.P. service. The V.I.P. version is considerably cheaper than the navigation trainer and can be purchased at a cost of approximately £600,000.

Mr Whitlam - Is it just as simple and rugged?

Mr HOWSON - It is just as simple and rugged. As the honorable gentleman will see, these aircraft are especially suitable for operations in areas where airfields aTe relatively undeveloped.

The House will be aware, however, that there is a total of five Dakota aircraft in 34 Squadron. Consequently, as they all must now be replaced as soon as possible, the Government examined other types of aircraft in addition to the HS748. It has selected a smaller type of aircraft, the Mystere 20, and will purchase three of these aircraft, costing about £500,000 each, to replace the remaining Dakotas. The Mystere 20 is a product of Generate Aeronautique Marcel Dassault, designers of the Mirage fighter aircraft now in squadron service with the R.A.A.F. It is a fast, twin jet aircraft, seating eight passengers and is becoming increasingly used overseas for this class of work.

The Government has also given consideration to the replacement, at a later date, of the two Convair Metropolitan aircraft which have been in operation in 34 Squadron for about ten years. Having regard to the increasing number of visits to Australia by distinguished citizens from overseas, and also taking note of the general increasing demand for aircraft for official purposes within Australia, the Government has decided that it is essential to make provision for more efficient air transport aircraft. It has decided, therefore, to replace the two Convair aircraft with two BAC1 1 1 aircraft. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will notice that these aircraft are made by the British Aircraft Corporation. They have a considerably larger capacity, speed and range than the Convairs. They will be able to fly non-stop to any part of the Australian mainland and at the same time their range is sufficient to facilitate contact with countries adjoining Australia, as, for instance, New Zealand and countries of South East Asia. It is expected that the first BACIII aircraft will be delivered in 1968 and the second in 1969. They will cost about £1.5 million each.

All the aircraft to which I have referred in this statement will be under the control and operation of the Royal Australian Air Force and will be fully maintained by Air Force personnel. They will be available therefore for service transport duties in the event of an emergency. The delivery dates for the HS748, the Mystere 20, and the BACIII will be spread over a lengthy period. The first is likely to be delivered late in 1966 and the last one in 1969. This will mean that the Dakotas and Convairs, the oldest aircraft now in service in 34 Squadron, will gradually be replaced over the next four years. I present the following paper -

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