Examination of Witness (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
180. Against that background, what would you
say to the proposition, which some might say, that, under the
procurement system as we have it at the minute, there is far too
much emphasis on project deadlines, cost budgets and not enough
on what they might term and, for all I know you might term, customer
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We have three key parameters
when dealing with our projects: time, cost and performance and
we consider them all. The performance is set by us in terms of
key user requirements which are set after detailed consultation
with those who are going to have to use the equipment. Obviously,
we are always alive to the possibility of trade-offs between them.
If somebody comes along to us and says, "Look, we cannot
deliver this capability but we can deliver 80 per cent of it for
half the cost", then we would take a very close look at it.
If delivering 80 per cent of the capability meant that you could
not win, we would not be interested. If it meant that you could,
perhaps you might have to do something else with another system,
perhaps you might have to change your processes a little but you
could alter things and deliver the necessary outcome for 50 per
cent of the cost, then of course that is what we would wish to
do. We need to use the money as wisely as possible. We have a
responsibility to the taxpayer, but also of course I have a much
closer interest which is squeezing as much capability out of the
resources available as I possibly can.
181. Just so that I understand, is that a "yes"
or a "no" to the proposition? In other words, did you
agree with that proposition about customer value versus project
deadlines and cost budgets or not?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, I did not agree
because your proposition, as I understand itand forgive
me if I have it wrongwas that we did not really worry about
customer value, we just worried about time and cost.
182. Again, just so that I understand this,
what is your definition of customer value?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We set key user requirements
for our capability and whatever system is delivered has to meet
those key user requirements. That is then delivering the value,
the outcome that the customer needs. As I said, if there were
an opportunity to deliver slightly less than that for a significantly
reduced cost or much, much quicker, then we would of course look
at it. However, we would need to be sure that the capability required
would produce the desired outcome. If it did not, there would
be no point in it.
183. Do you have any thoughts about how customer
value might be better recognised or measured because of course
measurement is always the key thing, is it not?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think that we have
a good system with our key user requirements because we do not
any longer, in my area, specify that a piece of equipment must
go at a certain speed or something like that. We talk much more
in terms of outcomes because it is outcomes that we are after.
184. Do you feel that the equipment capability
customer has enough influencethat is the important wordin
steering equipment programmes to meet evolving requirements once
they are under the control of the Integrated Project Teams?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes, I do. I would
just say that as we have to continue our progress in looking at
equipment capability in the round and the interactions between
different projects, that has to be mirrored with in the Defence
Procurement Agency as well. So they face exactly the same challenge
that we do. Integrated Project Teams are very focused on their
own projects, but they cannot be delivered in isolation because
everything connects to everybody else.
185. What difference will the new Investment
Appraisals Board make? What is the key difference?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It will not make any
difference to me. I am not really the right person to ask about
the Investment Approvals Board. The purpose in moving from the
old Equipment Approvals Committee was to address the fact that
we are no longer just about buying systems and therefore approving
the expenditure on those systems. We are actually about procuring
systems and/or services in terms of equipment capability and of
course there is a range of other very large investment decisions
which are outside the equipment capability area that go in the
Ministry of Defence. It is about drawing all those together in
a systematic and coherent way.
Chairman: When you leave in a few years'
time, Air Marshal, we will ask you on how many occasions the advice
of the Equipment Approvals Committee was ignored by higher authority.
It is quite difficult to get that information out of anybody.
We have given you 40 minutes of rather gentle questioning but
now we are coming onto the really dirty stuff and there is no
one better to deliver difficult questions than my colleague, Gerald
186. We have had the theory, Air Marshal, and
now we turn to the practice. We would like to ask you a number
of questions relating to the Sea Harrier, the JSF, Eurofighter
so on. As you will know only too well, two months ago, the Ministry
of Defence announced, rather unexpectedly, the withdrawal of the
Sea Harrier force beginning in 2004 and ending in 2006, which
of course is at least six years before the introduction of its
proposed replacement, the Joint Strike Fighter. Can you tell us
what role your organisation had in the decision to withdraw the
Sea Harrier from service prior to the original planned date of
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) My organisation had
a significant role, as you would expect since we are about future
equipment capability. The issue was how we were going to continue
to provide the necessary range of capabilities on board carriers
until the new carrier and the Future Joint Combat Aircraft came
into service. What was clear to us was that, to sustain the Sea
Harrier, the FA2, beyond 2006 as a viable weapon system was going
to require a very great deal of investment and would entail substantial
technical risk. There were a number of other areas of the programme
that required investment and, as ever, it was a question of balance
of priorities and, given the need to balance the priorities, the
decision was taken that it would not be sensible for that period
of time and given the risk to make the degree of investment in
the Sea Harrier that would have been necessary to keep it viable
187. Given that the Fleet will be unprotected
in that time, I think it is only reasonable to ask you what that
essential upgrade would entail and how much it would cost.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is not the case
that the Fleet will be unprotected; I must make that absolutely
clear. First of all, the
188. Perhaps, making that rather bold assertion,
Air Marshal, you could tell us how the Fleet will be protected.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Absolutely. First of
all, what is it that we seek in terms of capability from our carriers?
We seek the projection of offensive power. That was the purpose
behind the decision to procure two new larger carriers in the
defence review. The carriers are about the projection of offensive
power in which the Sea Harrier plays a very small part and a reducing
part as the technology, in terms of offensive power, moves on.
189. Forgive me, Air Marshal, but we are not
talking about carriers, we are talking about the fleet that we
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, but that is the
rationale for our carriers. It is projection of offensive power.
It is true of the carriers that we have now as it will be of the
carriers that we will have in 2012. That is the primary role.
We have, for a number of years now, embarked GR7s and we will
be embarking GR9s on carriers to carry out that role. We embark
them on the current carriers and we have done for a number of
190. That is an offensive role.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) That is the primary
purpose of a carrier.
191. That is not a Fleet Air Defence role?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No.
192. They are two completely different aircraft
with completely different roles.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) They are indeed, but
I need to make clear, before moving on to some more detail about
air defence, why we have carriers in the first place and it is
not to provide air defence for the fleet, it is to provide projection
of offensive power. Clearly, if you have a fleet at sea, you need
to make sure that it is properly protected from the range of threats
that it might face: sub-surface, surface and from the air as well.
We are introducing, as you know, the Type-45 Destroyer which is
going to have a substantial range of effective surface-to-air
defences, a world beating radar, world beating missiles to go
with it and a command and control system to go along with those.
In the interim, we are making some substantial improvements of
the Type-42 to make sure that its air defence capability remains
at the level that we need. We have the Frigates providing point
defence with missiles. We also of course, depending upon the scenario,
envisage mostly operating with allies and partners in intensive
combat operations. So, it may well be that we are being provided
with air cover from other ships. We also may be able to provide
air cover by aircraft operating from ashore. Again, all depending
upon the circumstances. If you were to say to me, would I prefer
to continue to have the kind of capability that the Sea Harrier
produces up until 2012, my answer would be "of course",
but not at any cost given the opportunities in other areas that
we would have to forego if we were to make the necessary investment
and that is the fundamental point.
193. Would there not be greater savings that
could be attributable to, for example, rationalising the Tornado
F3, the GR4, GR7s and Jaguar?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Those are areas that
we continue to look at and that we are investigating at the moment.
We have not chosen only to look at the balance of investment in
the FA2, we are looking at the balance of investment across the
whole range of capabilities. However, it remains the case that
not only would the necessary improvements to the FA2 have been
extremely expensive, but they would have been at extremely high
technical risk and it may have turned out that we could not have
194. Can you spell out to us what that technical
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) For example, it needs
upgraded engines. The Sea Harrier is not the same airframe, as
you know, as the GR7/GR9. Putting the larger engines into the
Sea Harrier was a formidable task. We have had some experience
of putting new engines into aircraft unsuccessfully. So, we have
a very clear idea of the risks involved and they would have been
substantial in the case of the Sea Harrier.
195. Is that because you need the upgraded Pegasus?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes.
196. It was suggested to me by John Farley last
night, whom you will know is a most distinguished proponent of
the VSTOL theory, that there are engines in America which would
be perfectly suitable for the purpose of upgrading the FA2s.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I do not know to which
engines he was referring, but certainly all the studies we carried
out showed that to put an engine of sufficient power into the
Sea Harrier while not obviously impossible was a substantial task
involving a very high degree of technical risk.
197. If the MoD concluded that it cannot afford
to upgrade the Sea Harrier, why has it happened now? Why was the
decision not made some time ago?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The decision was made
now on the basis of a great deal of work that was undertaken in
terms of balance of investment. I cannot give you a specific answer
as to why it was not taken two years ago, but the most likely
conclusion one can draw is that the necessary material and evidence
was not to hand. There has been an attempt at coming up with an
affordable plan to continue with the Sea Harrier in service because
nobody really wants to see it go before it is replaced. It is
not, as I said earlier, something that I would have chosen to
do were it not for the fact that we have to make some hard choices
in terms of balance of investment.
198. Why not make the savings now? Why not scrap
it now? Why wait until 2004/06?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We have to move the
aircrew from the Sea Harrier across to the GR7/GR9 in order that
they can perform the offensive power role flying those aircraft
from the current carriers. We have to move the people, we have
to put the training in place and we have to get sufficient numbers
and that takes a bit of time.
199. That takes two years and meanwhile all
these costs that you are talking about are going to be incurred.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No; the costs that
I referred to are the costs that would be entailed if we were
to make the kind of improvements necessary in the Sea Harrier
for it to remain viable post-2006.