Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
HAWTIN CB, COMMODORE
OBE RN, MR PAUL
60. But you must be talking to them?
(Mr Hawtin) Yes. In terms of the Clinton administration,
what we were expecting the United States might ask for at some
point was an upgrading of the early warning radar at Fylingdales
and use of Menwith Hill for missile defence purposes. That is
what the Clinton administration were working towards. They did
not pursue those plans before they left office and they did not
make any request. We have no firm indication of what the Bush
administration might want to do but it is certainly possible that
they might ask for the upgrading of the early warning radar at
Fylingdales at some point.
61. If they were to do that, what would it mean?
They would not just update the software package. If they wanted
to move to X-band radar, what would it mean? A huge increase in
(Mr Hawtin) Two distinct issues there: the upgrade
of the existing early warning radar is
of a software, internal kind. Let me ask Mr Roper to elaborate
(Mr Roper) Let me try and explain the
difference between the UEWR upgrade at Fylingdales, were it to
be asked for, and any suggestion of X-band radar. The plans Clinton
had and a significant element of the Bush plan is for this large,
ground based interceptor, able to intercept thousands of kilometres
out but you do need to be able to see the threat early. If the
US wants to defend itself against the Middle East, it would require
a sensor somewhere in the north west European theatre. It does
not have to be in Yorkshire; it does not have to be in the United
Kingdom. Indeed, an upgrade to the Fylingdales radar, which is
a UHF radarthe wave length is this long so it is firing
slugs of radiation about this long.
62. The average readers of our reports, which
include the whole country, are desperately waiting to find this
out. Could you say what "that" is?
(Mr Roper) The Fylingdales radar operates in a frequency
range we call UHF which is roughly the same frequency range that
your television transmitter is sending. The wave length is a significant
fraction of a metre, 0.7 of a metre. It can fire 30 of those slugs
every second. Against a small number of simple threats, that is
all you might need. An upgraded early warning radar could do the
job against a small number of threats and a small number of intercepting
missiles. Where you begin to think you need something better than
Fylingdales is if you face larger or more sophisticated threats.
First of all, if there are more bodies coming in, it is fairly
inefficient to let the Fylingdales type radar do lots of searching,
lots of classification of new threats and tracking the number
of bodies in the sky to enable interception to take place. Again,
the PC analogy. You can be typing in a Word programme whilst doing
an extensive Excel calculation in the background and downloading
a big file from the internet but try and do all those things together
and you find your PC slows down. That will be the problem if you
are facing a lot of things to do. A more efficient way of working
under those circumstances is you have a dedicated fire control
radar which can track lots of bodies very quickly and very accurately.
X-band means a particular frequency band which is a number of
gigahertz and the slugs of electromagnetic radiation it fires
are five centimetres, a couple of inches. The sort of X-band that
the US are thinking about not only fires five centimetre slugs
but it can fire more than 10,000 of those a second rather than
30 a second. X-band comes into its own if the US begin to feel
they are facing a much larger threat or if they are facing a more
sophisticated threat and this is where counter measures come in.
If we believe there is a threat where the missiles coming in are
also deploying these light counter measures, UHF radar, depending
on how sophisticated the counter measures are, might begin to
struggle to spot the difference between a light body like a balloon
or something and the real reentry body; whereas an X-band radar,
which is much more accurate, can spot minute differences which
enable the US to decide that it is not a real body and it will
only engage that one. The X-band radar comes in much more downstream
if the threat develops.
(Mr Hawtin) As far as the Clinton administration was
concerned, the X-band radar did not form part of their first phase
of activities which involved the upgrading of the existing early
warning radar. Any question of an X-band radar was way off. Likewise,
under the Bush administration, it is way downstream.
63. There is no question of X-band radar being
requested for an upgrade, if it is way downstream? I am under
the impression, having been to America, that they think this is
a real threat. I think they convinced some of us that there is
more of a threat than we thought before and they realise it is
going to be a sophisticated, multi attack possibly, so they would
need the best possible protection systems going and you are saying
that we are quite happy to make do with what we have, rather than
have the best that is available.
(Mr Hawtin) You cannot have the best available at
the outset. You need to go through a development programme. If
we can look at this in terms of what we know of the Bush administration's
activities at the moment and the possibility that in due course
they may wish to acquire capabilities a more complex threat, what
they are looking at, at the moment, in terms of emergency systems
as they described it for the first term of the Bush administration,
are the three activities that we have described: the use of the
testing facilities in Alaska, the test of the airborne laser in
2003 and the possible use of seaborne systems. That is what they
are focusing on as emergency measures in the short term, by which
I mean, as we understand it, the first term of the administration.
They are also looking at a wide range of activities going on into
further stages, further activities possibly, but the short, factual
answer is that they do not yet know what they are going to do
or the precise sequence in which they are going to do it. At some
point therefore, they might want to get into the issue of X-band
radar if they wish to pursue defences against a more complex threat,
but that is not, we believe, an early focus of their work.
64. You have had discussions with them about
the architecture required, if required, and we are involved to
some extent. It is not just a matter of the Americans on a one
way system saying, "We think we need this. Would you give
it to us"? There is some interchange of what we would want
as a country as well?
(Mr Hawtin) Yes. We are pursuing with the Americans
in the interests of understanding the potential requests that
the United States might make. It is incumbent upon us to prepare
for that, to understand what might happen and be prepared to provide
the requisite advice should it happen. That applies in particular
to the upgrading of the early warning radar at Fylingdales which,
in terms of probability were it to happen, is nearer rather than
further away. Equally, we are concerned to understand the technology
that goes with an X-band radar, but on that as I think Mr Roper
said in his remarks they have not decided they wish to proceed
with that and, were they to do so, the locations of any X-band
radars are again far from clear.
65. If the Americans are going for the most
sophisticated of technology, hitting the missile rather than exploding
the missile near a missile, which I thought was the logical thing
to do and probably cheaper, if you think you are going to be shot
at with a sophisticated missile, if it is possible to have a multiheaded
missile which on reentry disperses its warhead in various locations,
surely the next step is that you separate in that in space stage
the missile itself so you fire one but you bring back into entry
phase three or four missiles, each carrying a warhead, which poses
a real menace then to your technology because you then have an
even shorter space in space to shoot it down. Where is the thinking
on that, because if you are trying to make your defensive weapons
so sophisticated the logical conclusion is that the people who
want to hit you will make their missile equally as sophisticated
and they will not want just to deter it; they will want to disperse
it in space.
(Mr Roper) I can answer the first question. I am not
sure I understand the second one so we will park that for the
moment. You commented that hit to kill looked to be a technological
challenge. It is, but you did not think it was the right way to
go. It is the right way to go. You are right. To hit an incoming
reentry body perhaps a metre in diameter with a heavy weight requires
great accuracy in terms of steering your missile and the guidance
and sensing and tracking of the body coming in. On the other hand,
if you try and use a warhead and explode it nearbyif you
are talking about a conventional, explosive warhead, you might
be able to triple or quadruple the inaccuracy in the steering
of your missileyou are placing all the burden now on to
fusing. You still have to sense when you are close enough to the
body and then detonate. We are talking about a missile coming
in at several kilometres a second, your missile flying out at
several kilometres a second, less than a thousandth of a second
difference in time and you have missed it; whereas when you hit
it there is no fusing problem. That is why the Americans are going
for hit to kill. The Russians, in the early days of the American
programme, had nuclear warheads on and that is easy. That does
work but there are separate problems about using nuclear weapons
on defensive missiles. In the second part of your question, were
you talking about developing multiple, independently targeted
(Mr Roper) That is extremely difficult to do technologically.
67. The Russians are trying to do it.
(Mr Roper) The Russians have done it but for emergent
threats to develop a MIRV capability is a real challenge.
68. There is no suggestion that North Korea
has a MIRV capability or are developing it?
(Mr Roper) There is no evidence that I am aware of.
69. When we were in the United States we were
being told the concentration of effort was looking at the threat
from North Korea and I think the key emphasis there was Alaska,
Greenland or possibly even putting things on floating platforms
in the Pacific somewhere. What would be the purpose therefore
in terms of wanting Fylingdales if the key threat they see is
from North Korea?
(Mr Hawtin) The immediate threat that they are seeking
to protect against is indeed from North Korea. The role of Fylingdales
is in respect to a threat from the Middle East.
70. I appreciate that. In terms of the emphasis
General Kadish put on, the key priority seems to be North Korea
rather than the Middle East. Therefore, is it not a bit preemptive
to suggest that necessarily top of their priorities is to want
to upgrade or use Fylingdales?
(Mr Hawtin) I am not suggesting that is top of their
priorities. You have put your finger on a key point. If their
concern is primarily at the moment North Korea then that does
put Fylingdales into a slightly different context. I would caveat
that by saying they are concerned about the emerging threat from
states of concern as a whole and that includes the Middle East,
so it is not a question of either/or; it is a question of an emerging
threat and in that sense a spectrum of threats.
71. The concentration is on interception and
hit to kill in terms of mid-course. The station of any type of
ground based system I presume would be on the west coast of America
in terms of dealing with the North Korean threat. If that is the
key priority, we are quite a way off getting a capability which
will not only deal with its borders in terms of the west but also
deal with the borders in terms of the Middle East as well.
(Mr Hawtin) Yes.
72. You are talking possibly how long?
(Mr Hawtin) Potentially a very long time. This goes
back to the basic point that the Americans under Bush are pursuing
research and development, testing and evaluation across a wide
range of activities. They are seeking to pick the winners and
bin the losers. Exactly where that will end up, exactly what it
will look like and in what timescale it is impossible for us to
73. Therefore the actual arguments or emphasis
being put on, for example, the political issues around Fylingdales
are a bit academic, are they not? They are a long way off. Obviously,
it is concentrating the minds of people focusing in terms of being
against missile defence but in practical terms it is not a top
political priority, is it?
(Mr Hawtin) It is not for me to comment on the political
74. It is not a technical priority for them.
(Mr Hawtin) I would not see it as the top priority
for them for the reasons we have outlined. What I must make clearsorry
if it sounds like a record stuck in a grooveis that we
do not have foresight and advance knowledge of what the Americans
Mr Jones: It is the impartiality of the
Civil Service that we have come to respect.
75. You have been relatively forthcoming, as
the circumstances permit, on Fylingdales but rather cautious,
unless I have misheard you, on Menwith Hill which is for missile
defence purposes. Can you say rather more in public or in private,
preferably the former rather than the latter?
(Mr Hawtin) The possible use of Menwith Hill relates
to its role as what is called the European Relay Ground Station,
which will be part of the US space based infra red system. I am
sure Mr Roper can explain exactly what that means but basically
there are existing satellites under the existing Defence Support
Programme which are getting rather old but which in the past for
example have given advance warning of Scud missile launches during
the Gulf War. The Americans are in the process of upgrading that
constellation of satellites with something called a space based
infra red system and a new set of satellites, in layman's terms,
the information from which in due course, when they are operationaland
they are not yetwould be downloaded into Menwith Hill.
That programme, SBIRS for short, is important in its own right
in terms of the upgraded information of early warning. It is being
handled by the Americans as entirely separate from missile defence,
but if we go back to Clinton and the administration ideas there,
there was certainly a suggestion that they might wish to integrate
SBIRS with missile defence in some way and that, as a consequence,
they might have requested the use of Menwith Hill as part of the
missile defence arrangements in that context. I hope that is clear.
If not, I can ask Mr Roper to expand.
76. That might be helpful.
(Mr Roper) The Defence Support Programme satellites
currently detect ballistic missile launches by looking at their
infra red signature. That cues the BMEWS radars
to look for them, pick them up and give the early warning. That
is an early warning function. It is unrelated to missile defence
at the moment. They are old; they are being replaced by something
called SBIRS-High. That is a series of geostationary satellites
that will look in the infra red; a bit more sophisticated than
just spotting the launch on the ground, the signature of the infra
red emissions will be used to classify the launches and again
cue the BMRS systems.
That is all quite separate from missile defence. That will be
of immense value if the US were developing a missile defence system
just like the defence support programme satellites now could be
used for missile defence.
77. The Americans are obviously working on the
architecture for both of these establishments which I presume,
from what you said, we have some idea of. Do we have any influence
on the architecture? Will they say at some stage, "Fine.
Activate plan A and plan B that you have pretty well been told
about" and will we be able to say that we have helped in
some way to shape the concept or the architecture which will be
added to in the north of England?
(Mr Hawtin) On the SBIRS facilities at Menwith HillI
emphasise again that SBIRS is distinct from missile defence being
handled separatelythe government have already given permission
to install the relay ground station at Menwith Hill and the necessarily
facilities have been constructed. They are not yet operational.
Were at any point the Americans to wish to use those SBIRS facilities
for missile defence purposes, they would need to request approval
for that from Her Majesty's Government.
Chairman: It is clear before we produce
our final report we will have to visit both sites and this will
not be, as far as our Committee is concerned, the end of the day.
We have some more questions from Mr Crausby. Perhaps we can bring
you back in at some stage to elicit further information.
78. The Americans have certainly given me the
impression that they are absolutely determined to press ahead
with missile defence with or without cooperation and support from
outside so I wondered in what way they might develop the programme
that would require them not to use Fylingdales or Menwith Hill.
Is it possible without Fylingdales or Menwith Hill?
(Mr Roper) Having explained how the ground based interception
system works, there is no doubt that for it to work defending
the US against threats from the Middle East the Americans do require
the UHF type radar in north west Europe. Since Fylingdales is
there and because it is fully capable of doing the job and has
all the power to do it, that would be a very attractive option
in terms of cost and everything. Clearly they could look elsewhere
in north west Europe to put certain sites. Menwith Hill has already,
as I understand it, been earmarked as the European ground station
of SBIRS-High and SBIRS-High is nothing to do with missile defence.
If they are going to go ahead with missile defence they will want
to use SBIRS-High. The thought that at this late stage they would
look to place the European ground station elsewhere, given that
that investment is already made, looks a bit remote.
79. They must have considered that it is a possibility
that we would not just automatically agree to anything that they
wanted. What alternative sites are there in north west Europe
and how feasible is it for them to deliver that facility from
a ship or a drilling platform? Have they discussed that with you?
(Mr Hawtin) We have difficulty answering these questions
definitivelywhat other options are there for the Americansbecause
essentially they are doing the research, developing, testing and
evaluation. It is for them to say where that has got to and where
it might lead. In terms of ships, you raise an interesting question.
One of the areas the Americans are indeed looking at is whether
it is feasible to put an X-band radar on a ship rather than on
land. I do not know where that research is going to end up but
it is another possible avenue of approach. In many ways, putting
it at sea has attractions compared with sites, wherever they are,
in north west Europe or elsewhere.
17 Note from Witness: The upgrade would be
of a software, internal kind not is. Back
Note from Witness: It would be more accurate to say alerts
the BMEWS radar operators. Back
Note from Winess: It would be more accurate to say alerts
the BMEWS radar operators. Back