Examination of Witnesses(Questions 280-297)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I have to say no.
280. If not, how was she chosen? Who does the
choosing and do the troops have any say in the matter?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do not speak for
the troops. It may be that they have a different view. I do not
281. Do they have a say in the matter?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do not think they
chose Geri Halliwell. I suspect this was something dreamed up,
perhaps by you, General?
282. Did you choose her, General?
(Lieutenant General Reith) I had never
seen her before, but I did see Geri Halliwell.
283. Is that why you chose her, because you had
not seen her before?
(Lieutenant General Reith) No, I did
not choose her. The Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC)
sponsor these shows on our behalf and they choose. In fact there
was Geri, but also Steps, who were the top number one group within
the UK at the time. I can tell you that every soldier loved the
284. They do not actually have a say in who comes.
It is chosen for them.
(Lieutenant General Reith) It is a matter
of who one can get through the entertainment industry and SSVC
are much better at getting that sort of thing than we are.
Mr Williams: They do have a say in whether
they attend or not.
285. In questioning from Angela Eagle you accepted
that not everything was tested in this exercise. I just want to
pick up on a couple of things which were not tested. The first
was the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence Regiment which
it says in this report you decided not to deploy because of regional
sensitivities, which I of course accept. Obviously that is quite
a crucial consideration, particularly at the moment. How are you
trying to integrate their work into the general deployment of
the Rapid Reaction Force?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We do test that in
other exercises and have done so. In fact we tested it very fully
in Exercise Bright Star in 2001 and on other occasions. In other
words, this is not the only exercise we do. We are satisfied that
it works well, indeed it leads other countries. We have a better
NBC capability than any other country we know and we are planning
to increase that capability.
286. That is good to know. The second thing I
think is probably more integral. You are probably able to bolt
on the NBC thing but I do not know. You did not really operate
with close air support in this exercise. Is close air support
not absolutely integral to modern war fighting?
(Lieutenant General Reith) We did. Because
of the real world situation some of the Tornadoes had to be moved
to a real world task, but we still had the GR7s, the Harriers,
operating during the period of the exercise in Oman for the exercise.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I did see close air support happening
when I was out there.
287. I am quoting from paragraph 1.31 which says,
". . . the impact of arising concurrent operations on air
and maritime forces meant that planned elements of their involvement
in the Exercise, such as anti-submarine warfare and close air
support, had to be abandoned. The participation of Special Forces
. . . was also restricted". It just strikes me that of all
these things, submarines, use of Special Forces, air support are
the sort of bread and butter of military operations. If you say
there were exercises involving air support
(Lieutenant General Reith) One type of
aircraft was moved because it was needed for specific tasking.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) It was not fully exercised, but
I think we are pretty satisfied about our close air support operations
in Afghanistan. We have tested close air support quite a lot in
an operational context.
288. Obviously one can envisage that a lot of
that air support in operations is provided by the United States
of America. There were unfortunate incidents in the Gulf War.
We could debate whether those were avoidable or not. Are you now
pretty satisfied that our troops can work in close air support
with the United States?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, I think so. It
is outside this exercise scenario, which is why I am thinking
quite carefully. We do have very detailed arrangements now with
the Americans for ensuring with tactics, techniques and procedures
that we deconflict from those sorts of problems. They are never
completely removed, they cannot be, from the battlefield, but
we have done a lot of work with them to minimise the risks to
our own forces.
289. The general was in charge of deploying this
Rapid Reaction Force.
(Lieutenant General Reith) We had tactical
air control parties which go with any of the formations we deploy,
who are our link to the air. They exercise regularly with all
allies within NATO so that we can actually control the air. We
work with the Americans in particular on a regular basis.
290. I just want to move on to something entirely
different. I shall try not to be conflictual on this occasion.
I want to try to understand the business of command and control.
I notice that paragraph 2.3 states, ". . . the Exercise demonstrated
that a medium-scale operation of this nature could be managed
successfully". In paragraph 1.27 I note that the command
and control structure was an ad hoc arrangement because the standing
Joint Force Headquarters had been moved to Florida as a result
of the operation in Afghanistan. This leads me to two questions.
The capacity of your command and control structure to deal with
simultaneous operations in two separate theatres of war, particularly
where one operation might be of a larger scale than the one we
are dealing with here. I am conscious that I am asking these questions
in open session, so I might be treading on dangerous ground. I
do not know. It does seem to suggest that we would be well stretched,
perhaps over-stretched if a conflagration re-emerged in Afghanistan
or Kosovo or somewhere whilst we were dealing with the larger
scale operation. What are the implications for command and control?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I shall ask the General
to answer in detail but this is one of the very positive lessons
from the exercise. After the Strategic Defence Review, we set
up these arrangements to provide flexible ways of doing command
and control, so we do not just have one form of headquarters that
we can put into the field, we have several permutations of headquarters
which can be fielded simultaneously if necessary. We demonstrated
that when we went off to Afghanistan for real, concurrent with
the exercise Saif Sareea II. One of the best lessons we received
and a positive one was that we do have a very flexible concept
in our Joint Rapid Reaction Force, which enables different formations
to provide operational headquarters, depending on the size and
scale of the task, concurrently. That was the plan and I think
that works. The General can tell me whether it does or not.
(Lieutenant General Reith) We work different styles
of headquarters. We can work with the Joint Force Headquarters
on its own, that is a fully worked up and trained headquarters,
or we can use it to reinforce another headquarters and so forth.
On this particular exerciseremember that the real world
situation developed as we were going into the exerciseI
made a judgement that I needed the Joint Force Headquarters elsewhere.
We stood up 1 Mec Brigade headquarters, who went out and did the
task that the Joint Force Headquarters was meant to do. They had
been trained by my people and I kept back some elements of the
Joint Force Headquarters to give them added depth and because
it was slightly larger than their normal headquarters requirement
in Oman. They went in and reinforced them. That actually went
in and worked very well. In terms of the operational strategic
level communications, of course the difference here from a normal
operation was that not only were we running the communications
to both sides of the forces, two lots of forces who were opposing
each other, but we had to put in the whole control structure as
well, with all the umpires and everything else. I was effectively
using three lots of communications, where I would only normally
be using one. It worked. It was stretched at times, but it did
291. We have talked about the problem of communications
elsewhere during this session. I am more interested in command
and control rather than communications. I did refer to this question
of medium scale rather than large scale. Can you give us an assurance
that if a real operation rather than an exercise were to take
place and perhaps there were two theatres of war in different
parts of the globeand it is not difficult to conceive,
that could easily happenwhat then happens to command and
(Lieutenant General Reith) At the time
of Saif Sareea last year I was running eight different operations
around the world and communicating and commanding and controlling.
At the moment I am actually much less than that.
Jon Trickett: So paragraph 1.27 which
raises my eyebrows, should not raise my eyebrows really. I think
I have made my point.
292. A section we have not looked at at all,
paragraph 2.10. We know how important morale is for troops and
this deals with welfare and provisions and the new operational
welfare package which was tested for the first occasion on this
exercise. I understand that it met expectations as far as the
static troops were concerned, for understandable reasons, but
there was less enthusiasm amongst those who were mobile, tank
crews and so on and that you have been reviewing the guidance.
Are you in a position to give us any information on that review
or would you like to put up-to-date information in as a written
note to us? Perhaps that would be better.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We should be very
We regard it as a successful trial. Any weaknesses there were
more about making sure that the people who were deployed got the
same package rather than that there was a different package which
should be brought forward. It is really a question of making sure
that those who are in the remoter areas get delivery of the provisions
in our existing operational welfare package rather than changing
293. But you are issuing guidance addressed to
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Indeed.
(Lieutenant General Reith) My headquarters have been
working on this. We are recommending different scalings for the
mobile troops so that when they do stop, we are able to get Internet
connections as well as telephones in to them very quickly and
then have different scaling so that they can spend more time on
the telephone, that is using up the periods when they would have
been travelling. They will get the same allowances.
294. Thank you very much, that is helpful. Earlier
in the year we did a hearing on combat identification, friendly
fire. We remember the sad incidents in Desert Storm and there
have been one or two in Afghanistan. In this report we were told
that 10 to15 per cent of casualties traditionally are from friendly
in an attack situation that can rise to 22 per cent. Have we made
any advances? I remember in the Kuwait war that we lost some armoured
vehicles which had white crosses on the back. In the context you
are talking about a tank going along throwing up a lot of dust
and an aircraft coming in at high speed with rockets, are we any
further ahead than we were when we had the evidence earlier this
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do not think the
General was at the previous hearing, so he is not fully aware.
I think this was historic data and at the time we questioned whether
that would be the case in real conflict. It was the result of
this rather strange recent event. Unusually, in the Gulf War there
were very, very few casualties of any kind and therefore it made
the figures seem much more serious because nine of the 16 or 18
people who were killed were the result tragically of friendly
fire. We do not have data of large-scale warfare activity to be
able to validate 15 per cent or 22 per cent, so those figures
295. This contained a lot of American evidence,
if you remember.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are not figures
that we would recognise or anticipate. In that hearing we had
showed a degree of difference between us, where we were arguing
on our side that the vital thing in combat was to minimise the
casualties from whatever cause and to ensure that we used manoeuvre
concepts to reduce the risk that our people would suffer losses,
whether it was from the enemy or from friendly fire. Above all,
the thing was to keep the number of casualties down and that still
is the thrust of our work.
296. I seem to remember that at that hearing
we were way behind the Americans who were employing much more
in terms of electronic devices to protect their armoured vehicles
and other vehicles from friendly air attack. I assume we have
not got much further on that.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We did talk about
the importance of situational awareness rather than simply Target
Identification systems. We are fielding SIFF, which is an identification
of friend and foe system, throughout our forces.
It will not provide us with total situational awareness. I do
not have the details here because I was not prepared for this
particular hearing, but you are right that the Americans do have
more situational awareness than we have. That is where we are
going, that is where we are planning to go in the future. Meanwhile
we do use tactics, techniques and procedures to minimise the risk
of friendly fire incidents. There is also work going on in NATO
for common standards and working with allies is always tricky.
We have made particular effort to work very closely with the Americans
(Lieutenant General Reith) Mr Trickett
mentioned command and control. Control is one part of this and
by putting in very simple measures like fire support co-ordinating
lines, whereby nobody is meant to engage from the air one side
of a line or another, you can put controls in. We were applying
those during the Gulf War and there is no doubt that there was
an error by a pilot where he engaged well inside the fire control
line, our side of it, which he should not have done. He was tired,
it was his third mission and he saw an opportunity through a cloud
and he thought it was enemy. It was an individual's misjudgement
rather than anything else. By and large the control lines do protect
our ground forces.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Those are the training
and procedures I was referring to.
297. Very last question of the session. You made
considerable comment about the new combat outfit in polyester.
Earlier this year I seem to remember advice from airlines to passengers
was not to wear synthetics but to wear natural fibres because
they found that in the case of aircraft fires many people suffered
injury from synthetics melting on their bodies and causing extensive
skin burns, whereas they might have escaped those with natural
fibres. I suppose it is a trade-off as to advantage and benefits.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) It is true that now
we have the polyester-rich combat fatigues, which were chosen
because they were tougher and harder wearing, they do not breathe
as well as the cotton-rich combat fatigues used previously. We
are always trying to get this right. It is that difference which
is leading us to evaluate the temperatures at which people should
operate in. Maybe we should cap the polyester-rich version at
39C and issue desert combats which have better breathing
capability for conditions above that. We are certainly on the
case. I had not thought of the fire hazard issue. I do not know
whether it changes our judgement, but we are happy to build that
into the assessment. 18
Mr Williams: May I thank the three of
you? It has been a really interesting hearing. We may have clashed,
but that is because we genuinely want to get the answers and I
am sure you genuinely want to provide them. We look forward to
the written replies you have promised and we look forward to the
next time we see you. If your two colleagues are lucky, they will
not have to accompany you.
18 Ev 27.
15 Note by witness: Proposals to address the
need to better deliver the Operational Welfare Package to mobile
land forces should be finalised in the next few weeks. These will
then be the subject of further staffing within the Department.
The proposals will aim at improving the delivery, including speed
of delivery, of welfare services (including access to communication)
to mobile land forces. Back
Note by witness: Actually, the total number of casualties
killed during the Gulf Conflict was 15, of which nine resulted
from friendly fire. Back
Note by witness: This system is designed for air to air,
ground to air and maritime environments. Back