Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I was myself in Los Angeles recently and I had the opportunity to go over the Douglas works and discuss with American experts the preparation of Skybolt. I am no expert, but I had with me experts from the Ministry of Aviation, the Ministry of Defence and the Air Ministry. I can tell the Committee that we came away convinced that Skybolt will be in service on time.
The Royal Air Force is associated with the Skybolt programme at every stage. We have already established its compatibility with the Vulcan Mark II. Several dummy rounds have been successfully dropped. A captive missile has been successfully fired and the first guided round is to be fired this year. Meanwhile, the programme for manufacturing the British warhead to fit the missile goes forward according to plan.
There was a great deal of discussion during the recent defence debate about the possibility of anti-missile defences. This concerns us directly, since we are embarking on the Skybolt programme. There is a great difference between the theoretical capability of knocking down a missile and the capability of doing it in practice. It would be necessary to intercept a batch of missiles arriving at supersonic speed and to distinguish between those which were decoys and those which were genuine warheads; and they would be coming in from all sides.
The cost and effort of such a task is immense. The deployment would inevitably be very slow and it might not be immune to counter-measures. This is not just my view. In support of it I can cite the view expressed by the American Defence Minister, Mr. McNamara, in which he said:
At the present time it appears to us"—
that is, to the United States—
that no amount of money can make possible an absolute defence of this country against the intercontinental ballistic missile.