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What adjustments or alterations need to be made to the Bowman system and equipment as a result of initial operational experience.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): We declared Bowman to be in service on 26 March 2004. At the in-service date, as planned, Bowman was capable of supporting two mechanised battalions in non-warfighting operations. It delivered high quality, secure voice communications down to half-section level including the vehicles that would be deployed in such operations.
We have always planned for Bowman, like other complex programmes, to be developed and delivered incrementally from in-service date. Therefore, work is continuing on conversion of, for example, armoured fighting vehicles, ships and helicopters, and on a comprehensive and progressive test and trials programme, ranging from laboratory integration and analysis to operational field trials. A further brigade-level field trial is due to be held before the end of the year. The aim of all this work is to achieve the full functionality of Bowman including data messaging, situational awareness capability and assurance of the system's robustness and usability. Together with parallel work to develop the non-equipment elements of military capability, we plan to achieve full warfighting capability in stages across different operational environmentsland based, amphibious and air assaultover the next two years or so.
We intend that the first deployment of Bowman for non-warfighting operations will take place at brigade level next year. We will continue to use experience from this deployment to inform the continuing programme to deliver the full Bowman capability.
Lord Bach: The smart acquisition of the Bowman personal role radio is a successful story. It was formally accepted into service in January 2002, two months earlier than forecast and within planned cost.
Lord Bach: Weight issues are being addressed across the aircraft system as a whole. Design changes to drive out the excess weight of the STOVL variant have been identified by the Joint Strike Fighter prime contractor and reviewed by the US Department of Defense. We are now in the process of considering the changes, against the background of our key user requirements.
Lord Bach: It was recognised at the time of signature of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the system demonstration and development phase of the Joint Strike Fighter programme that access to technology would be required but that this would need to be secured incrementally as the programme progressed and specific information needs were identified. The MoU is supplemented by an exchange of letters between the UK and US Defence Secretaries, which, inter alia, identify the principle of data sharing.
In line with this approach, access to such avionics software required at this stage to enable both the MoD and UK companies to participate as key partners in the design and development of the aircraft has been achieved.
Further technology access to meet the full exchange of letters requirements in the future is also being progressed jointly with UK industry and in close consultation with the Joint Strike Fighter project office. We will continue to work closely with the US to gain assurances that the technology required will be available to the UK when needed.
Lord Bach: The Government believe that there is a clear need to improve European defence capabilities. Improving the transparency and openness of defence procurement across Europe will be an important step towards this by providing greater access to European defence markets. The European Commission's Green Paper on defence procurement, published on 23 September 2004, and the creation of the European Defence Agency, provides an opportunity to discuss these issues in more depth.
As part of this debate, the Government have their own ideas on how a more open and transparent defence equipment market in Europe might be established. Our proposals were submitted to Parliament as part of our Explanatory Memorandum on the Commission's Green Paper on 28 October 2004, and centre on the use of a voluntary code of conduct covering a wide range of defence procurement. We are currently canvassing views on our proposals with other EU member states.
Lord Bach: The Ministry of Defence assessment of the effect of Sonar 2087 on marine mammals uses national and international peer reviewed and accepted data on the effects of acoustic noise. In compliance with the United Kingdom Habitats Regulation, the MoD continues to assess the likely impact of Sonar 2087 on the marine environment. In support of this the MoD liaises with, and receives advice from, the statutory nature conservation bodies.
The use of Sonar 2087 has been regulated during its development and manufacture phase in accordance with the recommendations of the global environmental impact assessment which was compiled by QinetiQ and peer reviewed by recognised academic experts. In continuing to provide the MoD with scientific advice QinetiQ reviews relevant published academic, scientific papers and research, and legal policy.
Lord Bach: The impact of landowners' and farmers' withdrawal of permission to train on private land can only be fully assessed when the scale of such decisions is known. This is, of course, entirely a matter for individual landowners and farmers. In the mean time, we remain extremely grateful for the assistance landowners and farmers give to allow the Army the opportunity to train on private land.
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