Examination of Witnesses(Questions 260-279)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
260. How long were they there beforehand?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) They were there for
about three or four months at a guess.
261. Am I right in thinking that we have British
forces on a small scale, advisers and so on, in Oman pretty much
all the time?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes.
262. There is a very helpful map here at the
front of the report. With the very helpful scale you have supplied
I worked out that Oman is some 250 kilometres deep at its narrowest
up to about 450 kilometres and about 900 kilometres long. It is
not a particularly large country. I would have thought that if
you have people there all the time and in the buildup these several
thousand people . . . I think I am right in saying, am I not,
that we have historically supplied senior officers to the Royal
Omani forces, that people sometimes leave the British Army and
go into the Royal Omani Army? That has been a long-standing thing,
has it not?
(Lieutenant General Reith) It has changed
over the years. We do have people there on loan with them, but
there are no people on contract
263. What I am trying to say is that there has
been a long-standing relationship.
(Lieutenant General Reith) Yes.
264. What I find staggering about what you said
a minute ago in answer to an earlier question is that you found
out subsequently that they do not normally exercise in the south
of Oman. How could you have all this relationship over such a
long period of time, advisers there all the time, thousands of
people there months before this exercise started and nobody said,
"Oh, chaps, where do you normally exercise?".
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) But you see
265. I am sorry, I was asking the general.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) But I was just going
to answer. I am not implying
266. Sir Kevin, would you mind if the general
answers my question.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Okay, but that decision
was not necessarily for the general.
267. What am I missing?
(Lieutenant General Reith) What you are
missing is the fact that the people who work with the Omani Army
do not work for us. They go there for a period and for that whole
time they are working under the Omani Army.
268. Are you telling me they do not come back
to the Cavalry and Guards Club, have a gin and tonic and say "Oh,
we were exercising in the south"?
(Lieutenant General Reith) They are on
loan to the Omanis, they wear Omani uniform and they are part
of the Omani Army.
269. I find it literally incredible that you
could not have known until after this thing had got going that
the Omanis do not normally exercise in this area. Is it not just
something you find out in the course of your travels?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is not necessarily
a reason for not exercising in that area.
270. I did not say it was, but the fact that
you did not know had an impact on the kind of sand and that had
an impact on the success of the project.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You are still misunderstanding
what constitutes success or failure of the project.
271. Let me just read you something which Lieutenant
Colonel Millen of the Royal Dragoon Guards said. He is talking
about `just-in-time' delivery of parts like air filters. He said
that that kind of delivery does not work if you are talking about
strategic level deployment. He is contracted to provide combat
power and was not able to do so because in spite of the best efforts
of the logisticians of all ranks on the ground the logistic flow
did not get to him. He had massive frustrations. He goes on to
talk about the problems and concludes that the problem was the
air filters and in particular, even when the air filters were
available, getting them to the right place. They wondered why
the Omanis did not have these problems and they concluded that
the problem was that the Omanis, as well as having slightly modified
tanks, had a different kind of skirt, the skirt which is referred
to here, which would cost you only £460,000 to get right.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We have discussed
skirts already and applique« armour. Had we been in an operation,
we would have had that arrangement. It is also the case that the
British Army does not just operate in Oman or the Middle East.
It also operates in Europe, in the Balkans where we have extensive
forces and therefore we have to cater for a range of possibilities
rather than just one. We had not judged that it was necessary
to `desertise' a proportion or indeed all of our force. As I said
before, that proved to be a judgement we need to review and we
are reviewing it.
272. Indeed you should have done.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I do come back to
success criteria. The NAO report tells you that by the standards
we set for our exercise it was a success. We met all of the objectives.
One of those objectives was to put our equipment and our people
through very arduous training conditions and see whether they
could actually fight in those conditions. The answer was yes,
273. Lieutenant Colonel Millen says he could
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Well then he disagrees
with the Chiefs of Staff.
274. I have occasionally driven across deserts,
indeed I did so only about two weeks ago. I always find in desert
conditions that on the whole an air conditioner is probably more
useful than a heater. It appears that some of the vehicles which
were used in this exercise actually had to turn on their cab heaters
in order to keep the engines cool. Can you assure us that if we
are to go to war in any Middle East state, hypothetically during
the next year, we would not be using any vehicles in which they
had to turn on the cab heaters whilst crossing a desert in order
to make sure the engines were kept sufficiently cool?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I cannot give
you that assurance. I can talk about the equipment. The Land Rovers,
the new equipment we have, work absolutely superbly and you have
seen in the report 95 per cent availability of Land Rovers. They
are absolutely brilliant. The new equipment we are bringing into
service performed extremely well indeed. The problems we had were
these so-called B vehicles, which are 25 years' old, which we
have given a life-extension programme to, which are due to be
replaced in 2004-05, which will not all be replaced in that time.
Meanwhile we shall have to use them. For old vehicles they perform
275. So for the next three or four years at least
we may have to have vehicles being used in deserts where you have
to turn on the cab heater.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I think that is anecdotal.
It may or may not be true. I do not think that was the general
experience, but it is an interesting observation.
276. When the armed forces procure equipment,
what efforts do you make to purchase equipment which is usable
anywhere in the world in its own right, flexible enough to be
used in all environments? Or, if you cannot do that, and I can
understand how different environments may require different specifications,
what efforts do you make to make sure that the equipment you buy
can be modified quickly and easily in order to make it usable
in conditions which are not those for which it is primarily designed.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Since 1998, since
the Defence Review, we now look at much wider projection of our
armed forces than before and the new contracts for equipment which
we are now issuing, the new plans we are working on, specify a
much wider range of environmental tolerances. The issues you are
essentially talking about are legacy equipment which we already
have, which was produced for the north German plain, Cold War
period, where we have to modify. Modifications are available and
are quite straightforward to do and are not onerous if you are
fighting a war.
277. Anything which you are procuring new now
will either be usable in all environments or will be easy to modify.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is right. That
is absolutely correct. Even the legacy stuff is not that difficult
to modify, it is just that it costs money and we have to make
278. The final question which I cannot resist
asking you. Is Gerri Halliwell your favourite entertainer?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Me personally?