Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 40-59)



40.  How quickly will you be changing it, in case they are needed in the near future?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I think it will take about 12 months to complete.

41.  About 12 months? What if they are wanted between now and then?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are still usable and were used during the exercise.

42.  As long as it is not too hot.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) There was limited availability because of that factor, but they were limited to 25 kilometres per hour.

43.  And moving at night.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) They moved at night for different reasons.

44.  It says in the report that they were confined to moving at night.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) But not for the same reason. They were confined to movement at night for operational security reasons. As the general will tell you, it is what you do when you are fighting wars.

Mr Osborne

45.  This may seem an obvious question, but am I right in saying that the kind of conditions you experienced in Oman would be similar to the kind of conditions you might experience in Iraq?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, they are more extreme.

46.  In Oman?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) In Oman.

47.  Depending on which time of the year you go in or . . .?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) This is a purely hypothetical question, for reasons you will well understand. They are more extreme in Oman because of the amount of desert and heat, which is very different from Iraq, particularly northern Iraq. Obviously Iraq changes but it is the difference between sand deserts and rock deserts.

48.  Although, as the general says, the problems with the tanks were similar to ones experienced in the Gulf War.

  (Lieutenant General Reith) In terms of dust, not temperature.

49.  So you had the same dust problem ten years ago, albeit on a different tank, and you have the same dust problem now.

  (Lieutenant General Reith) Not the same at all. The dust was being ingested into the engines of Challenger 1; we were having to replace engines and main assemblies, which is very expensive and very difficult to do because you have to regenerate an engine. All we have to do now is to replace filters which are a disposable item.

50.  How long does it take to change a tank filter?

  (Lieutenant General Reith) About 20 minutes if you have the tank filter.

51.  Would a tank carry a tank filter with it?

  (Lieutenant General Reith) The tank filters move with the tank squadron.

52.  Does each individual tank have a tank filter on board?

  (Lieutenant General Reith) No, the quartermaster, who is with the squadron, moves with them with the filters and any other spares.

53.  Do you have to get outside the tank to change the filter?

  (Lieutenant General Reith) We always get outside our tanks on a regular basis because we have to do lots of maintenance to the outside.

54.  What I am getting at is that if you are in a —

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I think I can help you. You do need to remember the answer to the earlier question. If we were in an operational environment we would have side skirting, up-armouring, applique« armour, which would also reduce dust ingestion. Therefore the usage rate of the filters would be much lower and, I suspect, on the design specification.

55.  The trouble is that I do not know whether you are telling the truth about this.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Are you accusing me of not telling the truth?

56.  I do not mean "truth". I am not sure your guesses about the use of air filters are reliable at all.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are not guesses at all; they are not guesses. This is the result of the most detailed work you could possibly have.

57.  Why did you not do the work before you sent all these tanks into Oman?

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) Because it was an exercise; that is why we do exercises, to find these things.

58.  You did not send one tank maybe six months in advance to run around in the desert and work out that it had a problem.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) I am sorry, but I must repeat myself. The design authority for this equipment, not the Ministry of Defence, not me, told us that the life expectancy in the worst possible conditions would be 14 hours. They were proved incorrect. That is an experience we have now learned, an experience which is helpful, but in no way vital to the operation of our tank capability because, as I have said before, we have a very large number of filters now because we would not expect to operate in conditions quite as bad as the ones we used, in the most testing conditions we could find, because in operations we would have side armour on anyway which would change that ratio and because there are several options which we could adopt which would be very quick, although you must understand I am not at liberty to tell you just how quick, to solve the problem completely by doing what the Omanis have done.

59.  Your answer strikes me as incredibly complacent.

  (Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are just facts. I am sorry if you do not like them.

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