Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
HAWTIN CB, COMMODORE
OBE RN, MR PAUL
120. The American suggestion that they could
fire missiles as part of their defence from ships is equally deluding
themselves, is it?
(Mr Roper) The Americans can do it because of their
121. They can hold their ships steady, can they?
(Mr Roper) They can feed appropriate information from
sophisticated navigation equipment on board ships through to the
missile system. That is how Trident is launched, because it is
launched from a submarine that is moving, but that is not simple
technology and not something any emergent state is going to have.
122. What have we in the way of defending the
United Kingdom in the way of any short range thing coming in?
What can we do in the United Kingdom today or in the next 12 months
to protect ourselves?
(Mr Helliwell) At the risk of again sounding like
a broken record, it is not the case that active defences are our
only defence against this sort of threat. Coastguards and Customs
and Excise operate on intelligence. For example in the case of,
the MV Nisha a while ago we were operating on intelligence to
intercept what was perceived to be a threat. Active defence against
short range missiles using, for example, PAC-3 is probably one
of the least effective and most expensive ways of going down this
route. If you take PAC-3, the amount they cost and the amount
of area that they are able to defend, it would be a nonsense to
buy sufficient systems to put all the way around the coast of
the United Kingdom.
123. Let us talk about 1,000 British troops
deployed in Afghanistan for a prolonged period of time. Is it
not worth investing in protecting them? How do we protect them?
(Mr Helliwell) With the range of capabilities that
we set out earlier.
124. We have not got anything to protect them
from an incoming missile, have we?
(Mr Helliwell) There is passive defence, there is
counter force, there is deterrence and there are active defences.
We do not currently have active defences, but we have the other
three in some quality.
125. What options is NATO studying for our future
(Mr Roper) The NATO feasibility study completes at
the end of this year. It is taking forward work that started a
while ago on a potential staff target for theatre missile defence
in the NATO theatre. There are two consortia that are running
with this. It is primarily looking at command and control type
issues. If you look at the current capabilities of missiles that
are assumed will exist within NATO countries and how they might
be integrated and exploited to their maximum, that sums up my
knowledge of that study. It is due to report at the end of the
year. Industry is running with it until the end of this year.
Until we see the outcome, we will not know for sure what they
have come up with.
126. If we were to decide we needed theatre
missile defence, what would suit us best? What is the most cost
effective? What is the combination factor?
(Mr Roper) If you want to defend a military operation,
you will probably want to defend an area of 100 or so kilometres
at the minimum. The TRRAP studies reveal that the optimum way
of doing that would be via a layered defence comprising a very
short range, low altitude defence akin to PAC-3, accompanied by
a slightly longer range but still intercepting within the atmosphere
system and the US have one of those in development called the
127. Do you think we would buy off the shelf
or from our own initiative?
(Mr Roper) It is possible that the European industry
might attempt something. There is potential for that. It is inconceivable
we would do it nationally, on our own. Industry is multinational.
128. Does not the timescale of this preclude
anything other than off the shelf buying?
(Mr Roper) It depends when you want it. If you want
it straight away, yes, you are right.
(Mr Hawtin) To put this in context, one very interesting
observation President Bush made at his press conference with the
Prime Minister last year when he was talking specifically about
the United Kingdom, but in terms of the line of questioning it
has wider application, was, "As to whether there will be
sites or no sites in the United Kingdom that is too early to determine
because I have yet to propose to the Prime Minister what will
work." This "what will work" is a problem we face
very widely in terms of theatre missile defence and missile defence
in terms of homeland.
Chairman: Thank you very much. This subject
will not disappear upon your departure from this Committee room.
The Secretary of State is coming before us on 20 March. We will
be visiting Russia. It is a subject of primary importance that
we will be continuing to examine at very considerable length.
Thank you very much, Mr Hawtin and team.