Examination of Witness (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
200. Is there a real concern in the Ministry
of Defence for the need to save money in the period 2006 and 2012
when the JSF allegedly will come on stream?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is not a question
of saving money, it is a question of getting the maximum capability
that we can for the purposes for which we need it across defence
from within the resources that are available. So we have choices
to make. If we spend money on one thing, we cannot spend it on
something else. As I said, the amount of money that would be involved
in upgrading the Sea Harrier would have been substantial and very
high risk and therefore
201. Of course, as we know, some of the aircraft
are only three years old.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) That does not alter
the risk involved in upgrading them.
202. May we go back to this capability gap which
you acknowledge and the Minister on Monday acknowledged represented
a risk. Can I just take you back to some of the points you made
earlier. You say that the capability gap is going to be met by
some unspecified enhancements to the Type-42 Destroyers. You made
the remark, "We do not envisage operating without allies
or partners." The truth of that assertion, Air Marshal, is
that if the Argentinians were again to invade The Falklands and
we were required to take action on our own without the support
of the United States, we would be powerless to do so.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) First of all, I do
not think I said that we would not operate without allies and
203. You said that you envisage operations being
with allies and partners.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think I said that
we envisage in most cases high intensity combat operations being
with allies and partners and that is the case, that is stated
defence policy. Of course, since we are required to respond to
a very wide range of potential situations and threats across a
very wide geographic area, we cannot cover every bet 100 per cent.
If I could sit here and guarantee to you that no matter what,
come what may, I could guarantee that we have everything absolutely
nailed down, then it is quite clear that we would have vastly
over-invested in defence and that is not a sensible way to manage
any enterprise as we all recognise. So, it is about risk management
and, if you narrow down the circumstances to any particular set,
you can always find some particular area, some particular eventuality
where we would find life a little tricky. That is inevitable.
You mentioned The Falklands. We do not envisage fighting for The
Falklands but, in that kind of situation
204. We did not envisage doing so in 1982.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) In that kind of situation,
it is not only the air defence capability represented by the Sea
Harrier that will have changed, all sorts of other capabilities
that we possess would have changed as well and we would fight
that conflict in a substantially different way.
205. I think The Falkland Islands would be extremely
alarmed to hear you suggest, as we approach the 20th anniversary
of the recovery of The Falkland Islands, that that is not the
kind of operation that we should be envisaging. Surely the purpose
of defence is being prepared for the unexpected. Indeed, that
is the whole debate that we are having in the aftermath of 11
September. Let me just take you back to this capability gap that
will exist. Can you confirm that the first Type-45 is not due
into service until the end of July 2007 and that, once it enters
service, it will immediately be withdrawn because it will be undergoing
further sea trials and will in truth not be in service until late
2008? The next one is not due into service until 2009. We are
not talking about a narrow period here, we are talking about a
long period where the capability of the United Kingdom in mounting
maritime operations without the support of allies is not going
to be possible save at severe risk to our forces.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) All that you say about
the sequencing of ships coming into service is true on current
plans. I would just say, though, that were a major crisis to arise
then we would, as we always have done in the past, respond to
that and bring things into service as they were neededif
necessary without all the appropriate trials that we carry out
in peace-time. We have done that in the past. It would not be
true to conclude that because the sequencing is based on these
particular dates, therefore, no matter what, it could not be available
until that had been completed. I would just go back, for a moment,
if I may, to the Type-42s because I did refer to those and you
mentioned some unspecified improvements. There are going to be
improvements to the 966 radar's reliability, improvements to its
ability to detect and track targets which will be linked through
to the Sea Dart missile and it will have a new infra-red fuse
for the Sea Dart, so there are a lot of substantial improvements.
However, of course, we need the Type-45, which is why we are procuring
it. Again, it comes back to the point: would I prefer to keep
the Sea Harrier in if I couldyes, absolutely. But to do
so will require a substantial investment which will have to come
from other crucial areas. For example, information superiority.
We cannot mount any kind of air defence or, indeed, any operation
without adequate information superiority, and we must make more
investment in those areas. So it is a question of hard choices,
it is not a question of not wanting to do something, it is a question
of what is within the art of the possible within the resources
Mr Howarth: Or more resources.
Chairman: Thank you. I think the question
of Sea Harriers is a very emotive issue and I do not think the
MoD has succeeded yet, if it will, in making the case for their
disposal. We would have a number of additional questions to youand,
in fact, my colleague Syd Rapson will continuebut lest
you think you have got away with it we have a number of questions
and we would be most grateful if you would provide us with substantial
additional information, particularly on the cost and the need
for upgrading. We have argued very strongly, very, very frequently,
that many of the problems with the military forces are problems
imposed on it by the Treasury, and if additional resources were
made available some of these awful decisions would not have to
be made. We have a couple more questions on the Sea Harrier, but
we may raise the issue further with the Minister when he visits
206. When the announcement was made I was in
the wrong place at the wrong time. I was in Yeovilton with a group
of dark blue-suited navy pilots when the announcement to scrap
the Harriers was made, and it did not go down too well, I must
admit. I want to probe the changes in a small detail, as Mr Howarth
has covered most of it. The Sea Harriers now are some 30 years
old and, no doubt, some of the air-frames have just about worn
out, I would imagine, with the hard wear they get . That must
have been part of your thinking. What are the specific capabilities
that the ordinary Sea Harrier has that the GR7 or 7a will not
have. Is it just the Blue Vixen radar and the AMRAAM?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) That is, essentially,
it; the Blue Vixen radar, which gives it the detection capability,
and the AMRAAM, which gives it the long-range engagement capability.
It also, of course, has a short-range, infra-red missile but so
does the GR7 and the GR9. So that will be common to both, but
of course the GR7 does not have the radar or the AMRAAM capability.
207. There is no way of upgrading? The air-frame
is restricted on the Sea Harrier compared to the GR7s, which is
a larger air-frame, and presumably you cannot integrate and upgrade
into the GR7s, along with the new Pegasus engines?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) You mean put a radar
and the AMRAAM on it? It would be entirely possible, I am sure,
but it would be a mammoth programme costing a very large amount
of money that would take the GR7s out of service. Of course, they
are there for a projection of offensive power, which is what we
seek from our carriers. By the time it was completed we would
probably have the future Joint Combat Aircraft in anyway. So the
combination of cost, complexity and timescale means that that
is not really an option that we could pursue.
208. Talking about numbers and your projection
of power for the future, the Joint Strike Fighter and our new
super aircraft carriers: the present Harrier fleet is 83, when
we lose the Sea Harriers it will be down to 51, and we are talking
about it being replaced by 150 Joint Strike Fighters. There is
a large gap between what we are going to end up with and what
we are going to get in the future. Obviously, your planning must
be the same. So the gap between having 51 aircraft able to support
operations in an offensive capability and the new world order
of two bloody great aircraft carriers and 150 very interesting
and exciting Joint Strike Fighter aircraftthere seems to
be a large gap in the thinking. Can you explain that?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes. We are not, of
course, in the business of replacing an aircraft with an aircraft,
so it is not the case that we have got X aircraft which could
go out of service here, we must find the same number of aircraft
to replace them. We always ask ourselves the question does it
have to be an aircraft at all? Is there some better way of doing
it? We are about providing capabilities. That is the first point.
The second point is that the 150 Joint Combat Aircraft is, of
course, a planning figure and we have not let any contracts yet
and we have not made any final decisions on the number, but that
is the figure we are planning for at the moment. We have to look
at that number in the context not just of the carriers but from
shore-based operations, because those aircraft, as part of the
future joint force, will be, just as the current force is, capable
of operating either from afloat or from ashore. We have to look
at offensive aircraft in the round, so we have to look at how
the Joint Combat Aircraft will tie-in with Eurofighter and Eurofighter
numbers, and the future offensive air capability which we are
looking towards to replace the capability currently provided by
the Tornado GR4s. So the balance between all of those programmes
and the capabilities provided with them is an important question
and one that we are continuing to address.
Syd Rapson: That is certainly a very good answer;
I did not understand any of it, but I assume that it will make
sense when I read it and, hopefully, at some time there will be
some written explanation as to our procedures and how we plan
to offset one against the other.
209. I will join in Syd's self-effacement. When
it comes to the Joint Strike Fighter, I understand it will be
capable of air defence and offensive operations, so you cannot
see it simply in terms of Sea Harrier replacement. Is that true?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is primarily about
offensive power. It will have an air defence capability but it
is not an air defence aircraft. We are, of course, procuring Eurofighter
in the air superiority role and the Americans, of course, are
procuring the F-22 Raptor. Neither of us are procuring the aircraft
for the air superiority role, that is not what it is designed
for, but it will have an air defence capability.
210. Does that mean on a new aircraft carrier
the complement of the new fighter will only have an offensive
role, or will there be specific aircraft on the ship which will
enable it to defend itself and other vessels in the fleet, whose
only role is air combat in defence of the fleet?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) That will be a matter
for the operational commander and the operational servicethe
Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force between them. They will have
a system that will be primarily designed for offensive capability
but which will have a defensive capability as well. How they wish
to use it will depend on their judgments of the operation environment
and the tasks that they face.
211. If you look at the American configurations
on aircraft carriers and the French on the Charles de Gaul,
there is a sizeable chunk of the aircraft on board those ships
whose only role is to defend the ship and other ships in the fleet.
I am rather surprised that we have not got anywhere near positioning
ourselves with what proportion of the air-crew on the ship will
actually only have the role of defence rather than offensive.
It must be taken into consideration now because it is a different
type of aircraft, is it not?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, it is the same
212. What the aircraft is actually armed with
is different, is it not?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) What the aircraft is
armed with is different but the aircraft will be able to do both
roles. I doubt very much that we would have crews on board that
will only be able to carry out one role. It may be that there
will be some crews that do more training in air defence than in
offensive operations, but as I say that is a question for the
service involved rather than for me. I am in the business of providing
equipment capability, they have to then take it and, together
with doctrine training concepts and all the rest of it, produce
military capability. All I would say is that what we would seek
is the maximum flexibility. There will be circumstances, one can
foresee, where it will be entirely unnecessary to have any aircraft
in the defensive role. One would not, therefore, wish to be tied
down in a particular area with aircraft that could not be used
for what the operation is all about.
213. For air defence, if you are going to defend
against an incoming missile or aircraft, the aircraft you have
got must have radar that can detect that. It would seem that the
GR aircraft are not going to have the equipment to identify and
pick up the multi-targets that you need. You can have brilliant
pilots and good aircraft, but it is no good if you cannot find
them up in the sky.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) That is true, but I
would also say that there are other ways of doing it than having
just a radar on the aircraft itself.
214. A mobile telephone?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Integrated Data Distribution
Systems, for example.
215. What do they fire?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) What do they fire?
They do not fire anything but they tell you where something is
that you can shoot at. In terms of the JSF, which is the question
we are addressing, the JSF will have a substantial air defence
capability, there is no doubt about that.
Chairman: We will move seamlessly to
the Type 45.
216. I was really interested in your response
to Gerald Howarth when you suggested that saving money was not
the same as not spending money in the Ministry of Defencewhen
you were talking about why things were not being done. That leads
me to the Type-45 and a couple of questions. One is the suggestion
that the first set of three that are being built will have a missile
capability which will only be projected up to the level of threat
around 2007, and development will then continue and as the ships
come on station they will have a progressively updated missile
system and capability. I would be grateful if you could explain
why a brand new ship would actually come in to service with a
missile system which is only looking at projected threats at the
time it is launched rather than a longer span of time? If we are
talking about money, I would be interested to know how that programme
of progressively updating missiles for future ships is going to
be funded and over what period of time and how you update the
first batch of ships? I would also be interested to know what
maritime early warning provision is going to be made in the down-time
between the Sea Harriers going out and the Type-45s coming in.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) A number of the questions
you pose there, really, are for the Chief of Defence Procurement
rather than me, because they are procurement issues rather than
capability issues. On the point about why would it only have a
capability for a limited period against potential threats and
will then have to be upgraded, in a great many systems that we
are introducing we are following the path of incremental capability
acquisition quite simply because if one were to wait until full
capability were delivered then the introduction into service of
the equipment would be unnecessarily delayed.
217. That depends on how long it takes. These
ships are not going to be in the water for some time and the progressive
upgrading of the capability must be going on now.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes, but the technology
required to provide the capability is under development. The software
that is necessary is under development and the integration of
the software is under development. All of that takes time. By
and largeand, again, I think I am now treading into an
area that is much more CDP's preserve than minethe writing
of software and the integration of software is one of the critical
paths in equipment acquisition these days. So doing it on a graduated
basis rather than a big bang basis makes sense.
218. What you are really saying, then, Air Marshal,
is that the first batch of Type-45s can only go into the water
and, possibly, into combat with either an unproven and technically
not very superior, immature system, or an obsolete system. That
cannot be right, can it?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, I do not think
that either of those are true. The first Type-45 will have the
capability that we believe it requires to meet the circumstances
at the time. It will not be an obsolete capability but it will
be a capability that needs to be upgraded as we go along. After
all, if I go back to what I said earlier about the tension between
platforms and the necessary agility, we need to be able to upgrade
capability at short notice, we need capability to be inserted
and technology to be inserted throughout the life of platforms.
The notion that you can bring into service a platform and all
the capability that it entails, which is very much to do with
software and other systems, and that it can then remain in service
for 25 years and meet all eventualities that might arise, is a
false one. So we actually are much more about delivering capability
as it is required, because then that gives us more freedom to
adjust as we get closer to that particular date.
219. Would you say that the Type-45 as currently
planned to enter servicethe original batch of threewill
fully cover the deficit left by the withdrawal of Sea Harriers?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I would never say that,
and I would not suggest it.