Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
HAWTIN CB, COMMODORE
OBE RN, MR PAUL
80. What makes the United Kingdom attractive?
Is it purely economic or is it geographic or is it just political?
(Mr Hawtin) I think it is the fact in particular that
there are already longstanding facilities at Fylingdales and Menwith
81. It is surely not just a question of the
cash, because of the amount of money that the Americans are willing
to throw at this. Surely it is not just a question: "well,
it would be cheaper to put it at Menwith Hill". The billions
of dollars that they are willing to invest in this would surely
put that down the line. Is it because we are politically acceptable
or is it the best geography? Is it part of bringing us into this
(Mr Hawtin) Can I be clear what you mean by "it"?
82. The use of Fylingdales and Menwith Hill
and the delivery of missile defence by way of that. One could
argue that the cheapest way to do that would be at Fylingdales
or Menwith Hill but is not the major motivation with Fylingdales
and Menwith Hill that there would be the political involvement
of the United Kingdom?
(Mr Hawtin) I cannot comment on the precise American
calculations but the fact that one has existing facilities at
Fylingdales and Menwith Hill no doubt features very large in their
calculations. In terms of what Clinton was considering doing,
if one is looking in the first instance at a possible upgrade
of the existing early warning radar at Fylingdales, the attractions
of upgrading an existing early warning radar are self-evident.
If you have something which is already there which in terms of
upgrading would involve software, internal changes, why go to
the trouble of building an entirely different radar somewhere
else to replicate that? The issue of an X-band radar, if that
is what you meant by "it", is an entirely different
proposition, as I hope we have sought to explain. On that, there
is no reason why it has to be in the United Kingdom. As Mr Roper
said, it could be anywhere in north west Europe or indeed, as
I said, they are also looking at sea based options.
83. If Fylingdales were to be used, from what
you talked about earlier in terms of the importance of tracking
in any architecture of a defence system, it would be quite a crucial
element. Could you comment on your perception of the increased
threat to the United Kingdom and the area around Fylingdales in
performing quite a pivotal part of the architecture because clearly
that is quite an important part of the political debate that we
are trying to inform.
(Mr Hawtin) As far as that is concerned, we should
start by putting on the table the fact that we do benefit from
the facilities at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill in the United Kingdom.
As far as the risk is concerned, I do not think it is axiomatic
that there will be any increased risk to the United Kingdom. The
principal driver in terms of threats to the United Kingdom is
not missile defence but again, as we discussed right at the outset
of this discussion, the risk of proliferation of missiles, the
states of concern, and the possibility that the United Kingdom
might at some point be at risk.
84. If you were wishing to launch an attack
on, say, the United States from the Middle East and you saw the
missile defence system that the United States had constructed
as being a significant obstacle to your successful launch, would
it not be logical to take out Fylingdales first along the way?
You would have a 20 minute or half hour time lag between the two
which may be a risk to your own security. I can see how the logic
of that works but there has to be some increased risk to that
part of the United Kingdom that they would want to take out that
(Mr Hawtin) We are getting into the realms of hypothesis.
85. I prefaced it with an "if".
(Mr Hawtin) I will also preface my answer with the
"if". We are talking, in terms of capabilities, as I
think we have demonstrated, of a limited capability. That capability
is not something that any potential aggressor would necessarily
want to use on, in your terms, taking out the warning facilities.
Were they to do so, that sends a pretty clear warning signal in
its own right. They have a limited capability; they wish to pose
a threat to the United States for whatever reason. Taking out
the intermediate links in that is not necessarily an attractive
option and we do not see that as a risk in the context of deterrence,
which is the root of your question. Whilst we are talking about
a position of US missile defence, the United Kingdom continues
to have its own deterrent capability and has its own very clear,
declaratory policy which in sum makes plain to any potential aggressor
that they would not be allowed to gain political or military advantage
from attack on the United Kingdom and that any such attack would
be met with an appropriately serious response.
86. I accept that. In your thinking of how you
might, at some point in the future, respond to a request to use
Fylingdales, would you not also be saying, "If you are going
to use it, you are going to have to cover us with your system
(Mr Hawtin) Were the government to get a request,
that is something they would need to consider at the time as part
of their consideration and response but again I am in some difficulty
since I cannot prophesy what that is.
87. You must be thinking about how you would
respond to the request.
(Mr Hawtin) We are thinking through the implications
of a possible request, the kind of request that might come forward,
as we have indicated. The implications for the United Kingdom
would be very much, I am sure, in the mind of the government of
the day, whatever that government was, and they would wish to
take a decision based on their assessment of the United Kingdom's
national interests, which would no doubt range from a number of
things, including the nature of the request, the implications
for the United Kingdom's defence through to, for example, the
need and the desirability, as ministers have made clear, of not
having a situation in which our major, closest ally were to feel
88. Carrying on the theme of what options there
might be for Europe and the United Kingdom, as we are all aware,
in Europe the focus has tended to be much more on defences against
shorter range missiles and using systems which certainly do not
look to cover anything like the land mass that the United States
is now looking at. As you are aware, as part of the 1998 Strategic
Defence Review, the MoD launched TRRAP, the Technology Readiness
and Risk Assessment Programme. That, I understand, concluded at
the time that it was premature to decide on acquiring a ballistic
missile defence for the United Kingdom. Clearly, a decision could
be left to a later date. It was felt at that time it was premature.
Has that conclusion been changed at all by 11 September, as far
as options for the United Kingdom and Europe are concerned? Picking
up on the points you made earlier about timing and development
and readiness, if a decision was made to acquire missile defence,
what kind of timescale do you think would be involved, as and
when it would be ready, between making the decision to acquire
it and being able to introduce it into operation?
(Mr Hawtin) That is an excellent set of questions,
to which I wish I could only give a precise answer. Let me start
and I am sure Mr Roper will want to come in.
89. Are you going to ask Mr Helliwell? He has
been eager to come in.
(Mr Hawtin) I shall. The first question on the SDR
programme and TRRAP: we have given you the unclassified version
of the TRRAP programme but your statement that it was premature
to seek to acquire missile defences remains the case as the TRRAP
report makes clear. You do raise an important point which is that
we are not concerned simply and primarily about the protection
of the United Kingdom homeland but also about the protection of
deployed forces to, for example, areas in the Gulf where they
might be exposed to attacks from ballistic missiles and that remains
a very real concern for us. Secondly, has 11 September changed
the situation for the United Kingdom and Europe? The answer to
that is not directly in the sense that you had there use of civil
technology for terrorist purposes which would not have been countered
by missile defence. What it did show was very clearly the motivation
of certain organisations and people to pose a very real, considerable
threat to the west and to global civilisation and the preparedness
to do that without consequence for human life. That is something
we are looking at very seriously as part of the SDR New Chapter
work, but it does not alter the fact that missile defence as a
possible component of the over-arching strategy in the way we
described it earlier still remains. I do not think for the United
Kingdom and Europe that has changed the equation. The United States
had a debate about this issue following 11 September, whether
missile defence was more or less important and whether they should
spend the resources on other counter terrorist activities. I think
it is fair to say you will have your own perceptions from visiting
the United States but the judgment, when the debate came out,
concluded that the importance of missile defence, if anything,
was greater rather than less than before 11 September. Finally,
on defence for Europe, including the United Kingdom, I cannot
give you a precise answer to your question because this is a very
clear example of the difficulties of deciding on the way ahead,
the problems of emerging technology and the difficulty of dealing
with threats. The United States are concerned primarily with long
range threats to the United States homeland. If you look at the
geography of Europe, the threat comes from not just long range
missiles from the states of concern but also from shorter range
systems and indeed some areas of southern Europe are already at
risk, for example, from Shahab missiles,
including Cyprus. How one counters that is anything but straightforward
in terms of technology and missile defence. You need a mix of
systems to counter short and longer range missiles. Those are
different systems. You need over-arching architecture for bringing
those systems together. You would no doubt need a whole complex
of radar, missile interceptor bases, and other facilities. It
is something on which in the 1 May speech last year and repeated
in the recent State of the Union address, President Bush talked
about, the protection of friends and allies, but what that means
in precise terms has yet to be made clear. It is not something
on which I can tell you what the timescale is. It is an immensely
complex task for which the TRRAP studies and the work that NATO
is doing and no doubt also the American research, development,
testing and evaluation programme will all contribute. What it
would look like if it ever happened and in what timescale, I cannot
(Mr Helliwell) You mentioned the position
set out in the Strategic Defence Review, that we believed it was
premature to decide on acquiring a missile defence capability.
You will have noticed that the judgment after the TRRAP report,
the unclassified version of which you have received, was the same.
It still remains premature because the technology to counter the
threat is evolving. We need to look at a broad range of measures
to tackle the threat and there are areas of technical risk that
we need to understand more. While the overall position is the
same as it was in 1998, we still believe it is premature. It is
important to note the whole process of going through the TRRAP
programme; also, our involvement in NATO feasibility studies which
are now underway and our technical dialogue with the US are getting
us further down the road to being able to make informed decisions
at some point in the future and increasing our understanding of
the kind of technological and other factors that can factor into
making such decisions.
90. It is very complex and there is no quick,
easy or immediate answer. Yet, in terms of what we have all recognised
as starting to identify that you may need some new system, new
technology, and the time that then elapses between beginning to
think that and being able to operate it, we have all agreed and
certainly this government has made it very clear that that gap
needs to be reduced and Smart Acquisition has been very much one
of the themes of the day. What you were saying that the TRRAP
conclusion that it would be premature remains the same. Is it
helpful to leave the decisions to later, that if we should ever
decide it was an appropriate system, that that can be left and
we wait for 20 years before it happens?
(Mr Helliwell) It first of all depends on how you
seek to acquire the system, whether you are developing one from
scratch or whether you acquire a system which is already available
or at a reasonably advanced stage of development in the US that
would meet our requirements. If the latter, the timescale from
making the decision to acquisition is nowhere near as long as
if you were developing something from scratch. What things like
TRRAP and NATO feasibility studies are doing is looking at the
characteristics of the systems that might be required to meet
a particular requirement and assessing how that could be met with
systems that either already exist, of which there are very few,
or those that are under development. What we want to do is put
ourselves in a position where, when we do take the decision, if
we decide to acquire a capability, the length of time it takes
to do so is reduced by our ability to understand the technical
issues involved. That is what TRRAP and so on is all about.
(Mr Hawtin) And that we make the right choices, given
the financial implications, which will be very considerable.
91. With the benefit of hindsight, TRRAP, the
assessment programme, has now led to two further studies which
seem to be fairly basic areas of missile research. Do you think
those studies should have been conducted earlier? Do they differ
from earlier work and how long will it be before we know their
(Mr Helliwell) I do not think the follow on studies
from TRRAP are basic studies. Indeed, on the technical side, the
further technical work that we are doing is more complex than
TRRAP because it is looking at the particularly difficult areas
that are involved in missile defence. It is also beginning to
look at longer range, more complex threats, so we would not have
been able to do this more complex, technical work if we had not
done TRRAP in the first place. The other work that is going on
now relates to the need to look at the role active defences can
play as part of a balanced spectrum of defensive capabilities,
including passive defences, counter force and deterrence, which
we touched on earlier. The equations involved in that are quite
complex and it is important to understand, when making balance
of investment decisions, whether active defence is something we
want to acquire.
92. You have told us some work is underway.
I have to confess I find what you say very generalised. I do not
get a handle on it. What I do know, having been to the United
States, is that the United States administration is absolutely
determined to take action against a real threat. They are investing
$7.8 billion in the coming financial year. We are closer to some
of the rogue states than they are. I feel at times there is an
element of complacency about the Ministry of Defence's position,
saying that it would be premature for us to make a decision on
ballistic missile defence when the United States has clearly taken
a very different view. Have you done any studies as to how much
it would cost to develop a system to protect the United Kingdom
mainland or a theatre system to protect our own troops who are
currently deployed elsewhere who could be at risk?
(Mr Hawtin) May I say that the United States intends
very clearly to acquire missile defences. What it has not yet
done is decide what those kind of missile defences should be or
how they would fit together. The delivery of it they are looking
at and that indicates very clearly the complexities of the problem
and the issues. Are we complacent? No, we do not believe so. We
have done these studies which we have described. We are continuing
to do our own national studies; we are participating in the NATO
studies and we are keeping very closely alongside the United States
on their work. If we reach the point, as Mr Helliwell very clearly
said, that the balance of investment appraisal were to support
a decision by the government to acquire missile defences we would
then acquire the right defences, but it is not a simple issue
of purchasing something off the shelf for the protection of Europe
given the different ranges of incoming missile.
93. We clearly understand the position of the
United States. They have not identified the technology that they
want to deploy. We recognise that the United Kingdom does not
have the resources that the United States has but do you have
specific contracts with specific United Kingdom companies or specific
United Kingdom research agencies which themselves are working
alongside the Americans to try and assist? Are we participants
with the US in assessing these different technologies? Do we have
something to contribute? I just do not get a handle on where we
are with this.
(Mr Roper) Our programmes are very modest in comparison
with the United States. You mentioned the US sum of money being
spent. The amount of money we are spending is three orders of
magnitude smaller than that. We do have some ongoing work beyond
TRRAP, both looking at the follow on to TRRAP in terms of defence
of deployed forces and now the studies looking at defence of the
homeland, that longer range threat which was not addressed in
TRRAP. We do place small sums of money with British industry,
the same types of people that were involved in TRRAP.
94. When you say "small sums of money",
we know the figure in the United States because it is imprinted
on my mind, $7.8 billion. What are we doing?
(Mr Roper) We are spending roughly the same amount
of money now as we were during the TRRAP programme, which is roughly
£4 million a year.
95. Spread about?
(Mr Roper) Yes.
96. Is it spread about companies or is it with
Qinetiq or DSTL?
(Mr Roper) It does involve DSTL; it involves MBDA,
Qinetiq and BAE Systems.
97. Is this work also being conducted alongside
the Americans? As the Americans are assessing the technology and
the different technologies available, are we alongside them and
are we contributing?
(Mr Roper) In terms of the latter point, I would love
to think we could technically influence the United States but
when you are spending three orders of magnitude less than they
are we would have to be very smart to seriously influence their
technical thinking. The studies that we are paying for in the
United Kingdom are not alongside the US. We have the channel of
talking generically to the US government to government, which
we do, and there is dialogue which sometimes involves subcontractors.
Primarily, the two programmes are separate, but share a common
98. Do you think there are specific technologies
that we could be offering to the United States so that we could
demonstrate our own commitment to the protection of our own people
by participating in the US ballistic missile defence programme?
(Mr Roper) There are niche areas where
99. We are quite good at that, are we not, in
our research base?
(Mr Roper) We are quite good on some aspects of sensors,
not big radar but infra red sensors. We have a lot of experience
in counter measures in the Chevaline programme but we are not
in the big missile business and we have not been for many years,
so we do not have much to offer there.
20 Note from Witness: Also from Scud Missiles Back