Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
HAWTIN CB, COMMODORE
OBE RN, MR PAUL
100. We were told by Mark Grossman at the US
State Department that he had toured ten European countries in
five and a half days to make it clear to all the European countries
that the American programme is not confined to the United States;
it is on offer to allies and friends and it seems the Americans
do not like others complaining about the Americans forging ahead
with this whilst they themselves are not prepared to commit the
funds. Do you not think we should be much more proactive with
the Americans in terms of committing funds to this programme?
There is no reference to this in this new discussion document.
(Mr Hawtin) I do not think we are complaining
about the Americans forging ahead.
101. We are not; other countries are.
(Mr Hawtin) I would not want to get into the position
of articulating differences of view between one country and another.
There is very clear understanding and recognition throughout NATO
and throughout NATO European countries of the growing threat and
the importance of the contribution that missile defence can make
to it. That is a common position, not one of complaint. In terms
of what we do, we are doing a number of things. We are contributing
in those niche areas where we have the particular capability to
do it, but we await with interestand, to be quite clear
and frank, the bulk of the money, as we have discussed, the expertise,
the technology and research, is being done by the United Statesfurther
clarification and no doubt very considerable debate and consultation
over a very long period of time about how what the Americans are
doing in terms of missile defence can be extended to friends and
allies collectively. As we sought to indicate earlier, this is
not simply a question, if one is going to have a comprehensive
defence, of picking a system here and picking a system there and
fooling oneself that it provides a comprehensive defence. It does
(Mr Helliwell) Starting 1 May last year when President
Bush made his speech saying he wanted to see friends and allies
protected, the US has explained this on many occasions. Clearly,
their most immediate focus is how to defend themselves from the
threat that they perceive coming from North Korea. They have not
yet got to the stage of setting out in detail how they see the
protection of friends and allies working. We are keen to get into
dialogue with them on that. So far as the programmes and the money
they are spending, they have made clear that where there is outside
assistance that other countries can contribute they want those
countries to do so and we, for our part, are very keen to promote
that. As Mr Roper said, there are a number of niche areas where
we might be able to contribute and our aim is to do so.
102. If we were to seek to defend the United
Kingdom mainland on our own, have you done any studies as to how
much that might cost?
(Mr Hawtin) I do not think we could give you a realistic
figure because we are still at the stage of looking at the technical
feasibility, rather than costing specific options but it would
be very expensive.
103. Could you give it to us within the nearest
£5 billion? It may be above your area but somebody must have
given some indication of what a possible contribution might mean
technically and in terms of cost. It would be quite helpful to
have ever such a broad figure which we are not going to tie you
down to. I have not the slightest idea if this is a major investment
or a mega investment.
(Mr Hawtin) It is certainly a mega investment. It
is not a question of pay grade; it is a question of giving you
(Mr Roper) The fidelity of this assessment is very
low but providing a homeland defence of the United Kingdom, assuming
we had access to information that Fylingdales provides and an
upgrade had taken place and that we procured US ground based interceptors,
five to ten billion might be the sort of regime.
104. Compatible with the American system?
(Mr Roper) Yes.
105. Could that be done separately from Europe
or would it have to be part of a European link into the American
(Mr Hawtin) Your supplementary question, which is
a perfectly fair one, indicates the difficulties of this. Mr Roper
gave you a very broad order of magnitude, not based on specific
systems or specific architecture. We need to be very careful about
using that kind of indicative, broad order of cost to say can
we link it to something else; would it be compatible to something
else which has not yet been defined.
106. Nobody is guilty then. If The Guardian
runs it tomorrow, with the figure given, you will deny you said
(Mr Hawtin) I do not wish to be unhelpful but
Chairman: It is impossible to say. At
least it is useful to have a notional figure comparing it, say,
to the cost of Trident.
107. Mr Howarth made the point that five months
after the event we have a discussion document11
as our answer to the problems of 11 September and yet nowhere
in it is mentioned missile defence. It brings to mind that as
long ago as the Gulf War it was a contentious decision at the
time but armed forces serving in Cyprus were felt to be under
such a threat during the Gulf War that they were awarded the Gulf
Medal for Campaign Service, although they were a very long way
from the firing line. Clearly, we still have forces there. We
still have forces deployed elsewhere in the Middle East and yet
your memorandum tells us that, for troops who are deployed in
an area in which ballistic missiles are available, it is still
premature to acquire an active ballistic missile defence capability.
(Mr Hawtin) Because, as we have sought
to explain, the precise technology is still evolving. A decision
on which would be the right system or systems to acquire is not
one that we believe sensibly we have reached. If we are going
to take such a decision, it is important given the resource implications
that one gets it right. We still do not think, given the changing
nature of the threat and technology, we have comfortably reached
that position. That is not to say that we are complacent or that
the other means of protecting British forces deployed within the
spectrum of activities we have described are being left on one
side. If it would help, I can give the Committee the main elements
of our non-missile defence, passive defensive measures that we
have in place, ranging from the timely identification of detection
arrangements for biological attack, rapid reporting and warning
of it; secondly, physical protection, of which there is a variety,
individual protection, respirators, protective clothing and equipment
and collective protection; hazard management to ensure that any
contamination is minimised and controlled. Chemical agent monitors,
for example. Medical counter measures which are in place, including
for those deployed at the moment the voluntary anthrax arrangements.
We have set up the joint NBC regiment which provides a very real
increase in capability and we are continuing to develop those
passive measures. They were set out in rather more detail in a
publication that Lord Robertson issued a couple of years ago,
on which I remember briefing Mr George on the day of issue, Defending
Against the Threat,
which we can make available to the Committee. A lot is being done
in that area but we do not feel we have reached the stage at which
we could sensibly take a decision on active defences. Finally,
when it comes to deployment in the Gulf or any other area of the
kind of operations you have in mind, we would expect to be operating
as part of a coalition operation, so it is not simply a question
of the United Kingdom over here, unprotected.
108. Trenches and Noddy suits is what we are
saying really. It is all reactive stuff and the containment of
a problem. Against an explosion or fall out of a chemical weapon,
once it has happened, we have nothing. A very short warning perhaps
is the best possible thing we have. With the way that missiles
are developing at the moment apace, why is our thinking therefore
at such variance, say, from the Dutch, the Germans and the Italians
with some of their proactive weapon systems?
(Mr Helliwell) First of all, in terms of it just being
trenches and Noddy suits, passive defence comprises a wide range
of things that are not just trenches and Noddy suits. Passive
defence is only one of the four potential pillars of our defensive
posture. There is also deterrence and counter force and active
defence. Just because we do not currently have active defences,
whether or not we are operating in a coalition, does not mean
that our troops are entirely vulnerable. In terms of why other
countries have a missile defence capability and we have not, that
just comes down to different approaches. Specifically, the Dutch
and the Germans have Patriot missile batteries and they are acquiring
PAC-3 which is the more capable successor. Those are the only
two countries in Europe that have an active missile defence capability.
Other countries are involved in collaborative research on specific
systems with the US, such as Italy and Germany. We are involved
not in specific systems but looking at the overall concept on
our own, with NATO allies, with the US. Just because we are not
at the moment involved in the development of specific systems,
it does not mean that we are ignoring the issue or not developing
our understanding to enable us to make sensible acquisition decisions
when we judge the time is right to do so.
Chairman: That is a brilliant answer,
worthy of the Secretary of State.
109. It is interesting that a country such as
Germany which has been, no disrespect to the Germans, cautious
in the deployment of its troops and military expenditure, unlike
ourselves who have taken a major role in expeditionary warfare,
believes the risk to be sufficiently high to start substantial
investment in this form of defence. I appreciate you cannot speak
for the Germans, but the seesaw of reasoning must be tipping,
surely. When does it tip to such a degree that we need to start
acquiring these forms of active defence?
(Mr Helliwell) I cannot give a specific answer to
that but the follow on work to TRRAP that we have underway concludes
in March next year and at that point we will again be closer to
being able to take informed decisions.
110. It is not going to tip finally once we
are attacked, is it?
(Mr Helliwell) Sorry?
111. I wondered if we would wait until we were
attacked and then we would say, "Yes, we jolly well need
this." We have heard so much of this, with respect to yourselves,
over the last few weeks and months, people saying, "It will
be fine. Stiff upper lip, chaps. Do not worry." All of the
threats we have heard about, for instance, from the Metropolitan
Police about attacks that have come within a hair's breadth of
happening. My greatest fear is that we will at some stage in the
future be sitting here saying, "If only" rather than,
"Let's go and spend the money and protect ourselves now."
(Mr Hawtin) It is a question of making sure that when
we take those decisions, assuming we do, we get it right and we
get the right systems. Mr Helliwell said the fact that the Germans
are investing is in part a reflection that they have had this
capability for some time and they are going into the next generation
of systems. We have not in that particular area of capability
and we need, if we are going to get into it, to make sure we acquire
the right systems at the right moment.
112. Ought there to be more urgency and energy?
(Mr Hawtin) I think, in terms of where the technology
is, where the threat is, and looking at the spectrum of deterrent
measures, we believeI do not wish to sound complacentthat
our approach at the moment is right but all of these studies are
moving towards a direction that if we decideif the government
were to decidethat this was a capability we should acquire
the ability to do that and to pick the right system, for example,
off the shelf would be much better informed. One faces a difficult
decision about whether to decide something early on, before you
have the full facts, or to wait until the information has matured;
the judgments will be better placed. That is a balance to be struck.
(Mr Helliwell) I can provide some assurance that the
key factors in making a decision are our assessment of the threat
and our assessment of the feasibility of the technology to counter
it. If we do decide to buy something, we want to buy something
that works. If we are going to spend the money, we want to be
sure that it is defending against a threat that we cannot counter
or we feel we cannot counter sufficiently by other means. All
of these factors come into the equation.
Patrick Mercer: More than ten years ago,
we had servicemen in fear of their lives in quiet, sleepy holts
like Cyprus and nothing has been done.
113. Do you not think that PAC-3 is a suitable
weapon for the United Kingdom to have as a defensive system?
(Mr Roper) It is a very short range system capable
of defending an area of about 20 kilometres across against short
114. The Germans, the Italians and the Dutch
have bought it for protecting their troops. They are not protecting
the homeland with it, are they? They are protecting deployed troops
or they are protecting themselves from seaborne attack. If they
can fire missiles out of the back of a truck up Whitehall and
into the back of 10 Downing St, somebody can shoot a missile out
of the back of a ship parked in the North Sea at London. What
would we knock it down with?
(Mr Roper) All the studies in TRRAP suggested that
a system like PAC-3 on its own would not be good enough. You would
need a layered defence, so you would need in addition a rather
longer range system.
115. What are you planning to defend the United
Kingdom from? We spend a fortune supposedly defending oil rigs
in the North Sea. I am interested to know what you are doing to
defend me and my constituents in Portsmouth from a seaborne attack
from a missile being fired at fairly short range, 100 miles, somewhere
up the western approaches, coming straight down the throats of
the people of Portsmouth. What can you do to stop that happening?
(Mr Hawtin) We have no evidence of such a threat.
Secondly, our deterrent posture covers a range of measures from
the deterrent capability that the strategic deterrent provides
through to the kind of more practical, passive defensive measures
that we have been discussing.
116. Correct me if I am wrong but you talk regularly
to your American colleagues about potential threats. The Americans
made it quite clear to us they do see a threat of a missile from
a ship off the coast of the United States. How come we do not
and they do, or have they not told us about the possibility of
(Mr Hawtin) We are not aware of such a threat.
117. Or even of that scenario being a possibility?
Nobody suspected people would use aircraft as human bombs, did
they? If we are to believe that 11 September has changed thinking
on these things, we now have to think about the least viable option
that people are considering, so they will not fire from Baghdad
but they might fire from a container ship somewhere.
(Mr Hawtin) The development of the threat is a matter
of concern, something that we are looking at very closely with
the Americans and others, and we hope we remain alert to the possible
threats and developments of them. I am sorry if it is repeating
what we have said but active defences in the terms you are describing
them, of protecting Portsmouth against this putative threat, are
not a simple issue. They are not something that necessarily features
in terms of urgency and requirements compared with the other measures
for dealing with the potential threat, ranging from export controls,
arms control, diplomacy, through missile defence and through deterrence.
We are looking at a spectrum of activities of which you are singling
out one particular element.
118. The question we are facing is that we have
not enough resources to protect the United Kingdom from a possible
close range missile attack on us, or is it that we feel it is
so much a remote possibility it is not even worth considering?
(Mr Roper) Are you talking about ballistic missiles
launched from ships?
119. I was talking about a missile being fired
from a ship. That is an obvious capability that is available to
people. I spoke to a general who had fired missiles from the back
of a truck, from a transporter, a sophisticated bit of kit, and
I was surprised that he said there was not a problem about putting
that on a ship and firing it. There is not a problem if you have
the thing and you have the ship. If Howard Hughes could build
a ship to lift a Russian submarine off the sea bed and nobody
know about it except a few people on the inside track, I am sure
it is possible for someone to acquire a transporter with a ballistic
missile on it and put it inside a ship. Then I was told it took
fewer than six peoplefive minimum, comfortably, tento
handle the whole operation, firing a missile off a mobile transporter,
off a ship.
(Mr Roper) The chance of that hitting Portsmouth is
slight. There is a problem. Already, the emergent missiles are
not particularly accurate in spite of the fact that they are all
lined up very precisely on terra firma. If you put one of those
on the back of a ship which is moving and you think you are going
to hit something, I think you are deluding yourself.
21 Mr Howarth referred to the Strategic Defence Review
New Chapter Back
The Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter Public Discussion
Note from Witness: The publication is "defending
against the threat from biological and chemical weapons"
published in July 1999. Back