Examination of Witnesses (Questions 50
MONDAY 15 JANUARY 2001
WALMSLEY, KCB AND
60. What you are saying is that you needed the
upgraded weapon for the Balkans crisis because the original weapon
was no good but in actual fact you did not actually get the upgraded
weapon to fight in the Balkans because it did not arrive in time.
The conflict was over by the time the weapon came.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) That is one way
of characterising what I am saying. What I actually said was that
we found in the Kosovo operation that we operated under a different
doctrine from that for which the weapon had been designed. So
the need to upgrade the weapon was a lesson learned from the Kosovo
campaign. As I am sure you would expect, we go to great trouble
to analyse the lessons and try to learn from them. This is a lesson
which was learned.
61. How much did this cost us?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) There are two components to
it. There is the main procurement and the operational requirement.
The main procurement was £11 million and I think the urgent
operational requirement, designed to replace stocks which we would
have used in the Kosovo conflict, was about £8.5 million
making £19.5 million in all. We are now beginning to think
that these weapons may not be phased out when Brimstone comes
into service because of their usefulness against soft skinned
targets. There is a long term prospect for it.
62. The solution now is to buy Maverick missiles
as a stop gap measure until the new system is found.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Until Brimstone comes in. Maverick
will have a continuing utility. We did talk earlier on about the
importance of rules of engagement and the need for pilots positively
to identify targets. Maverick, although it has a long range, of
up to 25 kilometres, can be used by the pilot of course down to
a one kilometre range and he can positively identify the target,
he can designate the target and can then launch the Maverick.
That is extremely suitable in some very restrictive rules of engagement
63. I am glad you have said that because the
Maverick has been around as long as the BL755, has it not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Yes, but we are now onto Maverick
64. The Maverick was not good enough originally,
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Because it was a completely
65. We use it 20 years later because we have
not developed it.
(Sir Robert Walmsley We are now on version G2 and
it works like the alphabet. I think it goes A, B, C, D, E, F,
G. The Maverick is not the Maverick it was 20 years ago.
66. The point I am trying to make is that here
we are 20 years on from commissioning a weapon which is now out
of date and we are having to use another weapon which was originally
thought not to be good enough because we have been so slow in
developing a weapon to replace the Brimstone.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) We never thought Maverick was
not good enough.
67. You would not buy it.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) We thought it was not necessary
to buy it because the Brimstone was going to be coming along so
relatively soon after we had recognised the possible need to purchase
a missile system for delivering anti-tank guided weapons.
68. One thing in the report which annoyed me
was the excuse that because something has not been developedI
am not saying through incompetencethat has saved the British
taxpayer money. All the way through the report we get the feeling
that an excuse is being made that you are 20 years late but it
has saved the taxpayer £28 million. On that premise we should
never have moved away from the bow and arrow. Think of the amount
of money it would have saved. Presumably you cannot have a defence
system which comes so late that it is actually at the end of the
day no good because that is what we have here basically in three
of these things and I have not had time to go onto the next one.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) You have heard nothing from
me which would suggest that I am pleased that we deliver weapons
systems late. Quite a lot of this report is about the cost consequences
of the things being delivered late and it is right that one tries
to work out the totality of those cost consequences, not just
some of them. I very much regret if you feel that is giving a
suggestion that we think it is a good thing that things should
be late. Nothing could be further from the truth.
69. When you said that the TRIGAT was ten years
or so out of date you were being rather economical with the calendar,
were you not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Not intentionally.
70. The NAO seem to know. You ought to have
a word with them before you come here. They were able to tell
us that in 1979 the United Kingdom committed to the collaborative
medium range TRIGAT programme. That was 1979. We are now at the
stage where there is uncertainty about whether the programme will
ever go ahead and even if it did, there would be likely to be
significant and unacceptable further delays in the service date
of 2005. That is a bit different from ten years, in fact I make
it 26 years. Can I just put it to you that if at the end of the
First World War your department had started to design this weapon,
it would have come into use in the last year of the Second World
War if it came into operation at all. That is a bit different
from what you told Mr Steinberg, is it not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Two points. First of all, I
was asked when this weapon was first conceived and I said it was
very hard to know. Certainly you will recognise that it is conceived
a long time before we sign up to an international programme. I
do not know when it was conceived. The second point is that I
was talking about out of date in the sense of its ability to discharge
its operational function. What I am saying is that the weapon
would be about ten years out of date. I am not saying that it
did not start 26 years ago. I am saying: what would the technology
have looked like? I think ten years ago the TRIGAT technology
would have looked pretty stunning; it would have looked pretty
71. It is the same when we look at the destroyer.
We find there that you have now announced to us today that the
information we have . . . In fact the Vice Admiral actually said
that he would never send a ship to sea without a sonar. With respect,
Vice Admiral, I suspect that is not actually 100 per cent true
because up until 20 November, which was when this report was published,
that would seem to be precisely what you intended to do.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It was certainly
not what I intended to do.
72. Then why is it in the report?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It was the case
that when the report was written we had not yet solved the question
as to how we were going to be able to find and afford a sonar
within the timescale of the first three ships. We now believe
we have solved that problem.
73. Is that not remarkable? We must bring you
here more often. It could be that your arms programme could take
enormous leaps forward if we had you here once a month. Here we
have a report which envisages that you are sending these three
ships to sea without a sonar and then seven weeks later, lo and
behold, you are going to send it to sea with a sonar and you have
the lads around the scrapyards looking to see which sonar you
are going to fit on it.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I do not think
the last sentence was exactly what I said. If I could indeed go
from scratch to producing a plan to fit a sonar in seven weeks,
then I think I would deserve a very large bonus.
74. Yes; so do I. So that comes back to why
in that case this report was agreed in this form. That is something
you can write to us to explain, but it needs explaining.
There are other things about it. Paragraph 3.14 tells us that
these destroyers will not only go without sonar, they will go
without improved command and control. I do not know what that
means, but I assume it means that they are less effective than
you would like them to be. They go without situational awareness.
Does that mean they actually do not know where they are? What
does that mean? They will go without interoperability functions.
In times of coordinated warfare, it seems to me that these are
not insignificant absences in the capability of this new ship.
What do you have to say about it?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It
is not in the least bit unusual, even if it is regrettable, that
when the first ship of class enters service we do not have, and
proved, the full range of its systems. This ship has been resurrected
from the ashes of the CNGF in an extraordinarily short space of
time and a great deal of work has gone on in the 12 months or
so and is continuing to go on whilst we try to refine what is
available, what we can do with the money we are prepared to make
available for this vessel and the timing we have. I would not
be at all surprised to discover that we can solve some of these
problems in between now and the entry into service of both the
first of class and a later member of the class. It is not in the
least bit unusual.
75. Even when it does have its guns, it says
here in paragraph 3.15, "the . . . main gun armament meets
some, but not all, of the Navy's requirements". This really
does sound as though you created a platform but what you do not
have are the appropriate things to put on that platform.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) We do have a gun
to put on the platform. One of the things my organisation has
been established to do is to take a view across the whole of the
defence activity and to conduct balance of investments across
that. It may be that the naval gun is a principal contributor
to naval gun fire support for the Army. Therefore in my organisation
it lies within an Army area, what we call battlefield engagement,
to decide how this is best conducted. Balance of investment exercises
have been conducted to look at the range of weapons, shipborne,
airborne and landborne which can contribute to fire support for
the troops. The reason why we have not started that balance of
investment earlier is because we only stood up as an organisation
in October 1999. When we have the answer to that balance of investment
we shall know what the best mix of weapons, airborne, seaborne
and landborne, is to provide the appropriate fire support for
76. That is very different from what the report
says about going without resources. It is the same, is it not
Sir Robert, with BOWMAN. A communications system should not, for
pity's sake, be beyond the capability of our arms support industry.
I think most other countries have secure communications systems.
Yet here we are where we are going to order, with BOWMAN already
12 years late, something for the next couple of years which will
make us not insecure. If I remember correctly, during the Kosovo
it was said that the communications of the Tornado aircraft were
not secure. It is ludicrous, is it not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I cannot justify
the position, beyond saying that there is no country in the world
which can offer us an off-the-shelf military communications system
which fully meets the BOWMAN requirement. Every country which
is a serious defence player is trying to introduce a system which
confers what is called digitisation. It is back to the situational
77. May I put it to you that you can answer
these individual cases with explanations which are in some cases
credible, in some cases barely credible, as you can appreciate,
from a layman's point of view with the knowledge of ship architecture
which I share with my colleague. I look over a series of hearings
which we have had. You sent aircraft to fight Milosevic's tanks
with cluster bombs which were no good against tanks, indeed you
having told us that they had the cluster bombs to attack the tanks,
there was an exchange of correspondence to explain the difference
of viewpoint and the Permanent Secretary said that you would not
use cluster bombs against tanks because they are no good against
them, they are only good against soft sided vehicles. Where are
we? The cluster bomb was brought in in 1972. Here we are nearly
30 years later, our troops have just had to fight in a war situation
using weapons which are no good against the enemy's main armaments.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I cannot explain too many times
how much I regret that Brimstone is late.
78. It is not regrets I am asking for. Let me
tell you where I am going because I am getting rather angry about
the situation. It seems to me that the success of the Ministry
of Defence in bringing defence systems on stream is somewhat lacking.
You told us today about something which could not operate when
the sun came out or when the sun came out from behind a cloud.
The last but one time you were here, you told us about the naval
air defence radar 996. Do you remember that? We all remember 996.
It was okay as long as the Russians only fought us when it was
dry because the 996 air defence radar was susceptible to damp
and you had been warned of that. There is another. We had our
cluster bombs to go to fight Milosevic's tanks, you have your
air defence radar which is okay as long as the Russians agreed
only to fight us on dry days, you had the Sterling rifle; for
over ten years our troops were being given Sterling rifles when
you knew that they were of doubtful capability in extremes of
temperature, be it very hot or very cold. I have a whole series
here where we are told of all these wonderful systems, but they
just do not seem to work or they do not work yet.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Yet at the same time Tomahawk
was used in the Kosovo war. We started the procurement of that
in 1994. It demonstrated its operational capability in December
1998 and was used a few months later. There are successes. It
happened to the day as planned. I think you meant the SA80, not
the Sterling. We did realise there were problems with it and that
is why we set about a process of modifications. We did not realise
until too late, that is probably true, but on the other hand the
problems were not experienced for many years, but they were experienced.
79. It would have been too late if the Russians
had come, would it not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) As far as Russians coming and
wet days are concerned, it was the ship's internal air conditioning
system with the 996 which had moisture in it. It was nothing to
do with the weather.
3 Note: See also Q152 and footnote. Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 36 (PAC 00-01/170). Back