Examination of witness (Questions 20-39)|
THURSDAY 1 MARCH 2001
GCB, CBE Chief of Defence Staff
20. What is your assessment of the military
value to the United Kingdom of a missile defence programme?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think that what we have
to be aware of is that countries are developing ballistic missile
systems which are soon going to have a capability which starts
to come close to what was previously held in Russia. In other
words, they will certainly have a trans-continental if not an
inter-continental range capability. I think we would be very silly
not to look to see how we could counter that particular threat.
If there is a way of doing it, rather than just the deterrent
of having mutually assured destruction, then we should give it
quite serious thought. What worries me slightly about that, if
we decide there is a system which can counter this threat, is
that I suspect it would be extremely expensive. I have got no
idea what the figures might be but I guess it would be very expensive.
My concern would be that if we were ever to decide to invest in
it, that money for it should be given as an addition to the defence
budget and not try to be found from within the defence budget.
21. Can I explore that a little bit further
but first make the comment that, of course, the Ministry of Defence
has just published a document about threat assessment which says
that for the period up to 2030 it does not perceive a missile
threat of that kind to this country. That is just a comment. Can
I ask you this question on possible reductions elsewhere if we
had the expense of such a programme. Do you believe that such
reductions would result in a lower capability and a reduced ability
for us to carry out the expeditionary strategy which is in the
current policy of the Government?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes, I do.
22. So would you feel that the military value
of any missile defence system, in whatever form it developed,
would compensate for such a reduction in other capabilities?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No, I do not, not if we
are to retain a full expeditionary capability. I think this would
have to be an add-on. If we had some national missile defence
capability it would have to be an add-on to our expeditionary
capability, unless we had another Defence Review which decided
to do away with the expeditionary strategy and we went for something
else. On the present defence budget, I do not believe that we
could maintain a sensible expeditionary capability and afford
a national missile defence system as well.
23. That is very clear. Can I just put to you
that what you are saying in effect is unless there was a significant
increase in the defence budget we would not be able to go ahead
with the missile defence system without seriously undermining
our other defence capabilities and our ability to carry out the
expeditionary strategy, support for the UN peacekeeping and all
the other issues in which we are involved?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes.
24. How do you see the so-called revolution
in military affairs affecting how you go about your work?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I am not sure I fully
understand any more what is meant by the "revolution in military
affairs". It was a good expression three or four years ago
or so, but I am not sure that the revolution has not already happened
and we are now dealing with the aftermath, if you like, or rather
we are in the aftermath and we are dealing with it, or is a revolution
in military affairs something such as the asymmetric point that
Mr Viggers raised, or is it a mental revolution in military affairs?
I am really not sure how to answer the question. We are working
very hard at trying to make sure that we are staying at the leading
edge of technology, at least understanding where it is taking
us, and exploiting it where we possibly can. I do not think that
we are ignoring any area because it looks like being too difficult,
we are keeping an eye on it. We are trying to exploit where technology
is taking us to enable us to do our business as well as we possibly
can. As I said, I think the revolution bit was a good expression
10 years ago but I think we are up with it.
25. Let us clarify it then. The emphasis on
more sophisticated, more expensive equipment, does that inevitably
mean less men and women in our Armed Forces? Does it mean a greater
emphasis on war without casualties, making conflict more remote
and, in a sense, almost like video technology? I am trying to
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I understand exactly.
I think the answer to the question comes in two parts really.
First of all, we should certainly be exploiting technology where
it allows us to reduce the manpower bill. A very good example
of that, if I can use a naval example because it is easier for
me to do that obviously and it is also a very clear one, is if
we take the Type-23 frigate, which has a crew of about 180 at
the moment, that particular ship is more capable than the Type-22
frigate which has a crew of 280 people on board. That saving of
100 people is significant when you multiply it by a few crews.
We shall continue to drive down manpower where possible, where
technology allows us to, up to a certain point. If I can go to
the other end of the spectrum, for example if you are fighting
a war you are always required to have boots on the ground at the
end of the day if you are to occupy territory to complete the
war. The silver bullet answer, which is what you were implying,
having a war without casualties, is one which is really revolutionary
in military affairs and is well beyond this century and probably
the next century as well, I suspect. Therefore, we are always
going to require the man in the system somewhere, but we will
do it with fewer of them, men or women in the system. I do believe
it is totally responsible to look to see where we can reduce the
size of the crews, or number of people required to support a particular
equipment, wherever we possibly can.
26. Can I switch focus slightly. There is a
lot of debate about greater role specialisation among the European
members of NATO. What should the United Kingdom specialise in?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We already specialise
in a number of areas from which our coalition or NATO allies or
coalition allies benefit. For example, our Tomahawk firing submarine,
our Trident missile firing submarines, the strategic lift which
we are getting in at the moment, the C17s and the ro- ro ships
when they come in will be, certainly as far as Europe is concerned
anyway, a capability which other countries do not have. Our nuclear
attack submarines, although France has got some, but amongst the
other European countries we are the only owner of those and elements
of our Air Force and Army equally have got capabilities which
other countries do not possess. In a sense when we are operating
in the Alliance, and certainly so far as our European colleagues
are concerned, we already have a number of specialities which
they are able to use to the benefit of that particular force which
has been put together.
27. What should we leave to them that we do
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think that there are
one or two areas which they are exploring which we will be certainly
very interested to use. For example, the Dutch are exploring theatre
missile defence, and I do not think we have a need particularly
to go down that route at the moment if they are. I think that
that can work well. In fact, we are looking at working with the
Germans, looking at improving our suppression of enemy air defences
as well. It is an area which they are quite good at. Those are
two particular areas.
28. Clearly there are not many that you are
prepared to leave to other NATO partners in Europe?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I do not think so, Mr
Gapes, because of our wish, if we are to maintain a properly packaged
expeditionary capability, we must have a pretty reasonable hand
of cards to be able to exploit that when we send it off around
the world. Not too many of our partners are willing to go wandering
around the world doing the sorts of jobs that we do.
29. Does that mean that specialism in the European
sense means we do things that other people do not do but in general
we do everything?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Apart from the two or
three things I actually mentioned, such as, for example, suppression
of air defence, theatre missile defence, we already have got most
of the capabilities that we need to do our expeditionary warfare
which, yes, certainly some of the other nations are able to benefit
from as a result.
30. As a result we will continue to spend significantly
more proportionately than some other NATO European allies?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Other European countries
do not have the same defence strategy that we do. Certainly our
expeditionary strategy is one which is not shared by most of the
31. You were talking about specialisation, can
I just ask again about medical services? The French, I believe,
have 15 military hospitals, we are proposing to have none. Is
that an area where we are yielding specialisation to another country?
Are we content to yield it to France?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We are not doing anything
that I am aware of, of handing over to France to look after our
medical facilities. We are certainly going down a different path
from France in terms of their hospital side. I cannot speak for
what the French medical system is, I am not particularly well
versed in it. There is certainly no thought particularly at the
moment of going down a role specialisation route in so far as
hospitals are concerned.
Chairman: We have some questions on jointery.
32. What are the biggest remaining stumbling
blocks to fully effective joint operations amongst the UK Armed
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think that we have probably
done just about as much as we want to do on the operation side
now in working towards joint forces. We have a joint Harrier force,
a joint helicopter force; we have a joint nuclear biological and
chemical warfare regiment; we have a joint logistics organisation
and, of course, our permanent joint headquarters. I think that
probably is as far as we sensibly need to go at the moment to
produce the sort of joint organisations which will optimise our
expeditionary capability. There is not a lot more you can bring
together which makes sense in the environmental sense in terms
of the ships, tanks and aircraft type of modelling. Outside the
operational area we are still looking at seeing where there may
be sensible rationalisation of some of our training areas and
work has been going on for the last year on that and we are expecting
to come out with some completion to that within the next few weeks.
33. Are there any significantly unique problems
faced separately by each of the three services? To what extent
do these need a single service solution?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I am sorry, I not sure
I entirely understand.
34. The limits of jointery, there are some things,
apart from the fact the navy are best at sailing at ships, which
can only be done by a single service and are not in any way amiable
to further development in jointery?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) There are a variety of
things where there are deep specialist environmental subjects
which are only pertinent to one particular service. Oceanography,
for example, or aspects of tank craftsmanship, if you like, armoured
warfare. There are a variety of specialist warfare areas which
only make sense to be conducted within a single service training
machine in terms of the operation as well.
35. Have you come across instances where jointery
has been tried and proven to be a failure and, therefore, reversal
to the more traditional single service approach?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think the only one where
we looked at it very closely was in the ground based air defence
systems where the Army has an air defence missile system and the
Air Force also operates it. In fact, in a sense, this rather answers
Mr Hood's question as well. When we looked at it very, very closely
indeed and did our evaluation, although they both use what might
look to the untutored eye pretty similar weapons systems, the
way in which they are used are certainly different. It did not
make sense in that particular case to have an amalgamation, to
have just one ground based air defence system which was a joint
one. That is a good example, Mr Hood, of what you were getting
at there. They were so differently operated that there was no
sense in bringing them together.
36. I am not quite sure why these questions
that I have been allocated to ask come under jointery, towards
the end they tend towards multinationality which I know is coming
up later. I know Mr Hood has some more questions about jointery
straight after this. For what it is worth I have a number of questions
about Trident. Trident, and before that Polaris and Chevaline
were always described as minimum strategic deterrents during the
1980s and the 1990s. Do you consider that the conduct and posture
of the UK Trident force now is commensurate with the risks that
the UK faces today or in the years ahead?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes, I do. We looked at
this in the Strategic Defence Review in 1998 and we took a very,
very close look to see how we could bring down to what we believed
to be the minimum acceptable posture the number of missiles, number
of warheads and so forth, and a number of changes were recommended
and, indeed, have now been implemented. We now have adjusted our
posture, we have adjusted the number of missiles and warheads.
To answer your question directly, I think we now have the right
sort of level of posture and number of weapons deployed which
is commensurate with the sort of situation we might find ourselves
37. So if the various tests were relaxed further,
it would not be possible, would you say, to make further savings
without significantly endangering our security?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I believe that to be the
38. Are there any military reasons why in trying
to find another way out of this problem the UK and the French
submarine based deterrent forces should not move closer together?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) My understanding of the
French strategic doctrine is that it is quite significantly different
from ours. The doctrines themselves are fairly incompatible, so
I do not believe that there is any room for having some joint
force, for example, or combined force with the French.
39. So you would not anticipate a time coming
when it would be practicable in terms of the military tasks that
you have in mind for Trident that the two forces should ever consider
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No, I do not. One should
be aware, of course, that our strategic system is also assigned
to NATO so that it is available for the Alliance already. I do
not think anything could be gained particularly by going to some
sort of tied together force with the French.
Dr Lewis: Thank you.