Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
MONDAY 15 JANUARY 2001
WALMSLEY, KCB AND
20. Has this led to certain problems? Let us
just look at one problem which the Chairman has already alluded
to, which I should like you to go into more detail about. According
to paragraph 3.14, "The first three Type 45 Destroyers will
enter service with some capability shortfalls because some capabilities,
such as a sonar, have been traded-off to make ships affordable".
It was not quite clear from the answer which the Vice Admiral
gave the Chairman what sort of sonar these ships will have when
they enter service. He did seem to make some reference to sonar,
but reading this paragraph, it looks as though they will not have
a sonar at all.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Things move on.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I did not think
I was being imprecise. I said that the ship will have a sonar
and that is the intention. I am not the author of this paragraph
and things do move on. The position as far as I am concerned is
that since we first started working on this ship I have always
been quite clear that a vessel which did not have a sonar was
a non-deployable vessel in any but the most benign circumstances.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) That is not the
way in which the Royal Navy can operate its ships. I have been
absolutely clear that they must have a sonar. We have been giving
some thought to what the possibilities are. There are various
off-the-shelf sonars and there are sonars in our own ships which
are becoming redundant as the ships are paid off. We have a range
of choices. We intend to issue an invitation to tender next month
for the sonar fit for the ship and it is the plan that the first
ship will enter service with a sonar fitted.
22. I am very glad you said that because when
one read this paragraph it was, I am sure you would agree, and
I accept you are not responsible for this paragraph, rather a
shocking paragraph, particularly the statement, ". . . without
sonar it is unlikely that the Type 45 Destroyers would be deployed
alone to theatres where a significant submarine threat is perceived".
From what you have said, the sort of sonar which you envisage
being fitted has all been rather done on the hoof. You talked
in terms of buying second class ones and all the rest of it. Are
they going to be effective in every theatre against every perceived
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I do not think
I used quite the words you are suggesting.
23. You did not say second class. I am sorry
and apologise for that. I think you said in certain circumstances
second hand, perhaps ripped out of a previous ship.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I said there was
a range of sonars available including off-the-shelf sonars which
are widely fitted in the ships of a large number of nations and
sonars from ships which are being paid off. Those sonars are not
necessarily redundant merely because a ship is being paid off,
indeed they are widely fitted in ships which will continue in
service. Whichever sonar we choose will be the one which is effective
and value for money. As the customer I am not interested in having
a sonar set which is unable to cope with the sorts of submarine
threats we might face.
24. These off-the-shelf sonars which are available
to a number of navies around the world, is this the sort of solution
which the Royal Navy has resorted to in the past?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Yes; we have done
it with a whole wide range of weapons, indeed the ships we have
at sea today have purchased various systems from other nations.
25. Was it ever envisaged by somebody in the
MoD that a Royal Navy destroyer would go into active service unequipped
with an item of kit which was in our ships, the little corvettes
playing around the North Atlantic, 60 years ago? Did anybody in
the MoD actually think that ships should go into service without
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I have to take responsibility
for the report and to make it quite clear that at the time it
was written this was correct. So there is no question about us
resiling from this text as it was written.
26. You actually were prepared to send a Royal
Navy ship into service without a sonar which Royal Navy ships
have been equipped with for 60 years? That was your aim at one
time was it?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It certainly was not our aim.
I am simply making the point that the report was correct at the
time it was written. As you see the words there, they have hit
home inside the MoD. It is that which has caused us to have a
rethink and it is not that long ago since we had frigates at sea
without a gun. These things do happen.
27. They may happen, but it is almost laughable
(Sir Robert Walmsley) But it is not going to happen
28. It is almost laughable that it was ever
envisaged. What about Sea Dart, paragraph 3.14? "Designed
in the 1960s", as paragraph 3.13 says, "Sea Dart provides
limited effectiveness against emerging stressing 21st century
threats". That is rather an understatement is it not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It is an exact statement. It
still remains a very effective weapon, as long range weapon against
aircraft, but it is absolutely true that it was not designed as
an anti-missile missile, in particular it was not designed to
engage sea-skimming missiles. The modifications which have been
undertaken on Sea Dart throughout its life and particularly this
new infrared fuse are precisely designed to enhance its capability
against sea-skimming missiles.
29. When you say a system is effective that
can mean anything or nothing. Will it actually protect these ships,
these very valuable ships, from the perceived threat in the early
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It will protect
it against some elements of that threat, most notably aircraft
and missiles which are not sea skimmers. It is not the only missile
system we have in service. Sea Wolf, which is in service widely,
has been designed specifically as an anti-missile missile. This
is part of a mixed force. The Sea Dart is a medium range missile
against larger targets: the Sea Wolf is a shorter range missile
and is designed to take on incoming missiles. Nonetheless the
point you make is absolutely true and the Sea Dart is a missile
whose effectiveness against the most modern of targets is declining,
which one would expect with the passage of time.
30. Is it declining or is it just non-existent?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is fine against
those targets for which it has been designed, that is aircraft.
31. But if your enemy is using sea-skimming
missiles, what on earth is the point of having a defence system
which is only useful against aircraft? You cannot determine who
your enemies are going to be. You were prepared to send in a ship
without sonar which would make it completely defenceless against
submarines. You are now prepared to send a ship perhaps into service
with a clapped out system designed in the 1960s which is incapable
of meeting the threat which we all know is there from sea-skimming
missiles. What is going on?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I have never been
prepared to send any ship to sea without a sonar and the Ministry
of Defence was not the customer. We happen to have a large number
of Type 42s whose worth has been proved, but the reason why it
is urgent to bring in the Type 45s and the PAAMS missiles is precisely
because the Sea Dart is an ageing missile which is of limited
value against the most modern of threats. That is not true of
the Sea Wolf which is part of the fleet package and indeed is
more widely fitted than the Sea Dart.
32. What would happen if before 2007 the United
Kingdom were involved in an operational scenario similar to the
Falklands conflict? Would our ships be able to defend themselves?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I would expect
so. As I have explained, a range of missiles is available, a range
of aircraft is available. It would be surprising if we found ourselves
in an operation against that kind of threat without other forces
around as well. I should be very surprised.
33. So we have to rely on other people now.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No, we do not have
to rely on other people.
34. You said other forces would be around. What
other forces? Our other forces?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) If we were involved
in an operation at the highest level, I should be very surprised
if we were the only players.
35. So that is it. You have admitted it. We
are incapable now of defending ourselves if we go it alone, as
we did in the Falklands.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) That is actually
the opposite of what I said. I said we would be able to defend
ourselves against the sort of threats which we might expect. We
have a range of missiles to do it. Sea Dart will take on the targets
for which it is designed. Sea Wolf will take on the targets for
which it is designed. Other close-in systems will play their role,
as will fighter aircraft.
36. Why did you mention that it was your expectation
and hope that there would be other forces from other nations around?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Volume of threat.
37. Carrying on with paragraph 3.13, a programme
to update Sea Dart is in progressfair enoughit is
now running eight years late. Can you just give us some idea of
what has gone wrong and why this delay has been allowed to happen?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I shall first of all start by
saying that the contract was placed in 1990 and we had a competition
to decide what sort of fuse to put on this Sea Dart which was
going to be effective against sea-skimming missiles. We chose
an infrared fuse, a new technology coming in and we have talked
before about the importance of infrared seekers as on Maverick
as compared to radar seekers as on Brimstone. We chose infrared
here. It proved to be extremely difficult to get this infrared
fuse to work and also, as a result of an engagement during the
Gulf War when Sea Dart successfully engaged a Silkworm missilestill
in service incidentally in a number of potential threat areasthat
was a receding target which means that the missiles had to overtake
the jet engine. It is therefore quite important for an infrared
fuse that it recognises a jet engine quite a long way away as
opposed to the immediate presence of the target missile. A major
modification had to be put into the programme following the Gulf
War. We then had a number of test firings which showed false triggers
of the fuse, that is premature detonation of the missile. It was
extremely difficult to establish that this was caused by the natural
raising in temperature of the front end of the missile as it flies
supersonically towards its target, which caused flecks of paint
to come off and wash backwards along the missile and these were
detected by the infrared seeker. It took us a very long time indeed
to understand, first of all that we had flecks of paint and then
to find the right sort of paint which would not come off at these
enormous temperatures and vibrations induced in a missile flying
at that speed. The next problem was the sun.
38. The sun has been around a long time.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It has. Like many things which
have been around a long time, the best people did not understand
the effect of the sun on the upward looking component of an infrared
fuse. We now have to prove the software arrangements which will
successfully discriminate against the sun if it suddenly emerges
from behind a cloud just at the moment critique in the
engagement. We will prove that next spring.
39. That is all very interesting but a layman
like myself finds it hard to understand why such clever boffins
take eight years to realise that the sun is around and comes out
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I did not try to explain it.
You asked me to tell you what happened.