Updated: 13-Dec-2001 NATO Speeches

Palais de
23 April 1953

NATO announces $550,000,000 aircraft programme

Announcement by Lord Ismay

Today, at the Minister's first meeting, I was able to report that, after 10 months study and hard work, contracts have been signed for the manufacture in Europe of more than $550 millions' worth of combat aircraft for the allied air forces. Practically all these aircraft will be delivered between now and June 1956. Let me explain how this has come about.

At the Lisbon Conference, it was decided, as you all know, to create an International Staff, one of whose duties was to assist in the co-ordinated planning of defense production in Europe.

In June last year, a bare two months after the International Staff had been assembled in Paris, the US Government gave them their first Opening. They said that, if a sound plan could be devised for the production of additional military aircraft in Europe they, for their part, would be prepared to place offshore procurement contracts in Europe on condition that European Government, for their part, would find sufficient additional finance to make the programme worthwhile.

In July, the International Staff presented the result of their studies to the Council, who commended it to governments.

This plan provided for the production of military aircraft in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Prolonged bilateral negotiations followed, in which numerous financial, technical and productions problems arose. All these have happily been overcome and the United States Government have now signed offshore procurement contracts for military aircraft to the value of $281,540,000 with Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. An additional contract with Italy is now in the final stage of negotiation.

These United States offshore procurement contracts make provision for the delivery of substantial numbers of the British Hawker "Hunter" and the French "Mystère". The largest single order placed by the United States is for Hawker "Hunter" interceptor planes costing $140 millions, to be built in the United Kingdom. A contract signed with France valued at $86,540,000 is for the Dassault "Mystère" Mark IV, a jet interceptor fighter.

The Hawker "Hunter" will also be produced on the Continent for the first time, under US offshore contracts with Belgium and the Netherlands totalling $42 millions. The United Kingdom has agreed to grant licences for this purpose. The US contract with the Netherlands, subject to final confirmation by the latter Government, is for $18 millions, and with Belgium for $24 millions.

The Italian contract, when details have been completed, will call for the assembling in Italy of the American F86D all-weather fighter plans.

In addition to these agreements, the United States Navy has signed a contract with the United Kingdom Government to buy a quantity of the Hawker "Sea Hawk" aircraft costing $13 millions under the off-shore procurement programme. It was designed and developed for use by the Royal Navy and will help replace obsolete carrier-based interceptor aircraft now in service.

The Belgian and Netherlands Governments for their part have decided to purchase the equivalent of $117 millions' worth of Hawker "Hunter" interceptor aircraft, to be built in those two countries under a co-operative agreement. The Netherlands participation is subject to Cabinet approval.

The French Government have placed orders equivalent to $91 millions for the Dassault "Mystère" Mark II and IV ground support and interceptor aircraft.

The United Kingdom have let contracts for the production of $70 millions' worth of Vickers Supermarine "Swift" interceptor aircraft.

In addition to the above contracts, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway have agreed to buy a large number of all-weather fighters.

It must be emphasised that the funds subscribed for this programme for the manufacture of certain types of military aircraft are only a proportion of the money being spent by European members of NATO on aircraft production. In certain of these countries extensive aircraft production programmes had already been adopter before this joint programme was proposed.

The equipment of the airforces of some member states has hitherto been dependent to a certain extent upon US aircraft. This dependence is not only strategically unsound and logistically unwise, but the maintenance and replacement of United States-built aircraft imposes a considerable additional burden upon the limited dollar ressources of European Governments. Now that six Allied Governments have decided to pool their ressources, production facilities, technical skill, manpower and money in a joint enterprise, not only will the European aircraft industry be greatly strengthened, but the North Atlantic airforces will be equipped with the most modern aircraft and NATO will have taken a long step forward in furtherance of its planned force build-up.

This is the first example of a major coordinated arms production programme based on an international plan devised by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It has now been put into effect and its existence is fresh evidence of the continuing determination of member governments to work together for their common defence. It is the intention that it should be the forerunner of many others.

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