Examination of witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2000
and MR SIMON
80. Most have moved back.
(Mr Tebbit) Exactly.
81. I want to ask a series of questions about
the bombing campaign but not repeat about the pace of the campaign
which has been dealt with effectively already. Could we start
with what role the UK had in the decision to initiate bombing
and also put it in the allied context of the decision making process
for the initiating of bombing?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) The UK, along with all
the other members of NATO, were fully part of the decision making
process of issuing the NATO ACTORDs of deciding that would give
authority to the Secretary-General, Mr Solana, and that he then
had the authority to let SACEUR start the bombing campaign. With
our Permanent Representative in NATO, Sir John Goulden, we were
fully involved in that process, along with the other allies.
82. We heard from Sir Charles about the constraints,
the political constraints and the military constraints.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Legal constraints too.
83. Yes, indeed, legal constraints. The military
ones specifically Sir Charles mentioned, the bad weather. To run
through some of these, the lack of sufficient precision guided
weaponry, was that a factor? The safety of the pilots? Perhaps
making them fly too high? Any actual assessment of the FRY's anti
aircraft capability? Can you run through the military constraints?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) If I can cover the low
level one first. Any decision to carry out any military operation
is a balance of risk and looking at all the factors. What NATO
looked at with regard to whether it went at medium level or low
level, it looked at the vulnerability of the aircraft and hence
the crews, it looked at the pre-knowledge of target details, including
the exact location, time and the location of the attackjust
because you know where something is now does not mean to say you
will know when the attack hits therethe tactical and strategic
value of the target and then weighing that against the risk to
the air crew. It was quite clear that throughout the campaign
the balance of risks favoured staying at medium level. Once the
Serbian air defence system had been degraded to a certain extent,
aircraft, particularly for tactical targets in Kosovo, were given
authority to come below 15,000 feet on the pilot's discretion,
depending on the target, target acquisition and the value of that
target. We were prepared at all stages to go low level if the
balance of risk and the benefit changed. We were prepared particularly
to go at low level for the ground entry if the ground forces had
been opposed and, indeed, our crews were specifically requalified
for day and night low level operations.
84. Did we have enough aircraft to do this job
as we had set out and were they the right type of aircraft?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) We had enough aircraft.
I answer that in the fact that we were part of a coalition and
the number of aircraft that we provided was part of an overall
package of 900 odd aircraft. We provided our fair share, bearing
in mind the other commitments that we had already. They were certainly
the right type of aircraft. We happened to have aircraft that
were best configured for bombing as opposed to air defence but
that was what the pressure was for so we did, yes.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Can I answer your question
about all weather precision strike? We do have a precision strike
capability, that is the Tomahawk missile, that can operate in
most weather conditions. The problem we have with the laser guided
weaponry is that it can be deflected by cloud or poor weather
and what we would really like, and what we are looking for, is
to have a GPS guided system, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition,
JDAM, which is used by the United States. Now we are looking at
options to solve this problem. We are not yet in a position to
announce the results of the work but we hope to do so very shortly
because it is a gap in our armoury.
85. That is interesting information. I know
it is all about costs and policy decisions but would we be in
a position at some point in the future if there is a similar war
or similar conflict to adopt a purely precision guided strike
policy and not have to use random bombs?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I am not sure what I
would call random bombs because you can drop dumb bombs very accurately.
I do not think we would want to go to a completely precision guided
lot of weapons, certainly we would like to have more. We would
like to have more not just because of hitting the target but,
of course, avoiding collateral damage. On many occasions our pilots
returned with their bombs because they did not dare drop them
through cloud in case they hurt the civilians below.
(Mr Tebbit) It is an interesting point. I am always
candid, as the Chairman knows, I have made a great break with
the past in terms of frankness.
86. That is really very helpful. It confirms
everything I believed.
(Mr Tebbit) One thing I learned which was quite interesting
was just how much cloud and bad weather there was in Kosovo. This
was not surprising, we should have known it all the time. I am
sure our meteorological people would have been only too pleased
to have told us what to expect. The fact is we were surprised
that there were only 21, 22, 23 daysI cannot rememberout
of the 78 where it was absolutely clear. It has brought home the
problem of laser designation through cloud. Also, we thought the
laser designators were more effective through cloud than they
were. I will not pretend this was not a frustration for the coalition
as a whole. Personally I have a much greater interest in weather
men now than I did at the beginning of that campaign.
87. I think there are a few redundant males
in the BBC available to give you weather advice, Mr Tebbit. Can
I ask in bombing, if you do not have precision guiding missiles
and you are bombing from 15,000 feet, what are the chances of
hitting the ground let alone the target?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) The chances of hitting
the ground are 100%.
Mr Cohen: Where?
88. Not into the sea?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) Yes, or the sea. Perhaps
I should pick up the point on precision guided munitions. We intended
that the campaign would be conducted with the precision guided
munitions but it was hoped that it would be a fairly short campaign.
As we became thwarted by the weather, the Royal Air Force went
out and cleared some of its dumb munitions, as they are named,
from medium level and this proved that we were getting consistent
and good accuracy, not as good as a precision guided munition
that guides properly but certainly good and consistent accuracy.
Therefore, ministers cleared us to use those weapons through cloud
or where there was broken cloud and there was a chance you could
be thwarted against suitable targets. Now those targets have to
have a very low probability of collateral damage on civilian buildings
or people. We do not know, because there was cloud, we cannot
guarantee that we struck the target but there was certainly at
least one occasion where an unguided dumb thousand pounder completely
destroyed a radio relay facility that previously a laser guided
bomb had failed to hit because it did not guide properly. Now
that does not mean to say laser guided bombs are not good. The
fact of the matter is if we know today the precise co-ordinates
of where we are trying to hit, the precise co-ordinates of where
the aircraft is through GPS and modern navigational systems, gravity
and a bit of bomb fall characteristics do the rest. You have got
a bit of wind to take into account. We did find, to our surprise,
that we got much better accuracy than we had expected and that
was achieved through trials during the campaign.
89. I heard a number of pilots complaining very
strongly when I visited Gioia Del Colle in Italy how little training
they had in this kind of bomb dropping. Were you satisfied the
training was adequate?
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) As I explained, this was
not a technique that the Royal Air Force had used for many, many
years. Because the trials were conducted in the UK the pilots
involved at Gioia Del Colle, you are right, probably did not have
a chance to practise. However, it is a very simple technique for
a trained Harrier pilot in that he just flies the aircraft, having
set the equipment up properly to a point in space, and then releases
the weapon. Providing it has all been set up properly and the
calculations have been done properly, gravity will do the rest.
Chairman: We will have a good session
next week, I am sure, with some very searching questions.
90. On the targeting plans, what was chosen
and what was omitted? We know the North Atlantic Council Military
Committee selected the broad category of targets. I wonder, in
view of the allied unity being a factor, were any countries able
to veto those targets before they were allocated to specific countries
to carry them out? Who decided which countries would do what targets?
Presumably some countries vetoed the targets they were given,
I believe we did. Sir Charles talked about the international law.
Can you explain that?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) The target plan was
brought together by NATO and they took into account the aircraft
availability, the suitability of the weapons system, I imagine
the experience of the air force and they put together a very thorough
plan. We knew what targets we had on that plan. Now I do not want
to go on about what other nations did but we did turn down targets
because of collateral damage.
91. Did other countries then pick up those same
targets we had turned down, to your knowledge?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I am not sure about
that. On occasions, yes, I think.
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) On occasions, yes, but
it was probably because additional information had become available.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) When we turned down
a target, it did not mean to say we would not do it the next day
or in two days' time, but what we wanted to do was to check it
out absolutely to see proximity of civilian housing in areas.
When we did know that we could accept it.
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) And the military justification
for the target as well.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Yes.
92. Individual countries, their political oversight
of the targets, other countries particularly, in your opinion
did that slow down the pace of the operation?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I do not think I am
really in a position to judge that, you would have to ask NATO
that question I think. I do not think that we were affected by
political oversight. We discussed our targets with our Secretary
of State for Defence and the law officers took a very close interest
and the Prime Minister got involved in targeting too, but very
seldom. There was definitely political control.
93. Again on this broader NATO role with targeting,
you got it right at the end with this approach of strikes against
the VJ forces on the ground in Kosovo, with attacks on high military
targets in the FRY, a combination of both. That was only really
picked up in the second phase so you got the winning formula at
the end but it was somehow reached without any clear direction,
or it feels like that?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) It goes back to this
question that we were not at war with Serbia, we were ratcheting
and putting the programme up, the plan up, and putting increasing
pressure on Milosevic.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Unfortunately, Milosevic
could have saved everybody a very great deal of time and pain
if he had seen sense earlier.
95. I appreciate that point. We all agree with
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Yes.
Mr Cohen: Just before I leave this point
on bombing, I have got four quick points which I will roll in
together. They are separate but I will roll them in quickly to
save time. We have seen newspaper reports that in some aspects
the United States went it alone on some of the targets they decided
to bomb. Have you any suspicion or any indications that might
have been so? Secondly, there is recent news that some of the
target lists were open to too many people to see and could have
resulted in security problems, including for our pilots? Thirdly,
the issue of getting a broadcasting centre, this may have political
implications. Is the broadcasting centre deemed to be a legitimate
target? What is the thinking on that? Finally, coming back to
the use of cluster bombs, what thought was given to the longer
term consequences of using things like cluster bombs?
Chairman: Before you answer that, as
we have a section on the Royal Air Force next week, cluster bombs
we can ask about next week, hitting the broadcasting centre next
week, target lists available to Serbs, if not the Defence Committee,
we will discuss when we deal with intelligence and the US going
it alone, we will ask that again next week. Those questions that
cannot be dealt with, despite Mr Cohen's valid attempt to roll
them all into one, I think they are all very good questions so
we will serve you notice for whoever is coming in next week.
Mr Cohen: You successfully rolled up
the censorship into one.
Chairman: Not as successfully as I would
have liked. Peter Viggers.
96. The object of the option was said at the
beginning to be to avert a humanitarian disaster, so a few questions
about co-ordination with the Department for International Development.
Did the MoD/DfID relations work well?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Very well indeed. We
established them and we have worked increasingly closely with
DfID over the last few years. We established very good relations
in Macedonia when we were there together. DfID provided a lot
of expertise which we could not possibly do and we were able to
help DfID with building camps and the running of camps. I think
it is very close.
(Mr Tebbit) Internally we had a daily meeting and
DfID was always present at our internal meetings. The Permanent
Secretary in DfID chaired one of the groups that was running as
we went through this process to ensure that, as it were, the military
operations and our aid/humanitarian operations were entirely co-ordinated.
Was it safe to drop food to civilian populations or was it not?
Did it affect the military operation? Would it be effective? Those
sorts of questions were continuously co-ordinated between us.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) The Secretary of State
for DfID actually appeared on the same platform in the Ministry
of Defence as I did on several occasions.
97. So when did DfID first set up a presence
in the Permanent Joint Headquarters?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) In the Permanent Joint
(Air Marshal Sir John Day) They were in the MoD right
from the first day along with the Foreign Office.
(Mr Tebbit) Within the central building.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) In the Ministry of Defence
every morning at the Minister's briefing there was always somebody
from DfID there, sometimes Clare Short, sometimes the Permanent
Under Secretary, there was always somebody there, so we were tied
in with their plans.
98. Did you know when the first meeting between
officials from NATO and officials from the UNHCR took place?
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) No, I do not.
(Mr Tebbit) Not the first meeting.
99. Perhaps you could advise us. Once the air
campaign began, NATO forces in Macedonia and Albania were quickly
overwhelmed by refugees it appears. What lessons have been learned
(Mr Tebbit) One practical lesson is just how good
the military is in providing tented camps very, very rapidly.
In fact, one of the problems I have these days is trying to persuade
the aid ministry that we actually do things other than humanitarian
relief. The UNHCR were in the lead in the theatre in dealing with
these things and the aid agencies did take a little time to get
up and running and in the meantime, I say as a civilian, I thought
the armed forces performed absolutely splendidly and worked until
they dropped. Without what the army did, for example, over the
Easter period an awful lot of people would have been in the open
in very, very terrible conditions.
100. Have there been enquiries and discussions
about how liaison might improve in the future? Have you been in
discussion with DfID?
(Mr Tebbit) I think our own liaison was first class.
I do not think we could have done anything that would have got
MoD/DfID out into the field faster than was achieved. I think
there is a bigger issue, as it were, for the aid agencies own
co-ordination in these areas and I am sure they have been doing
a lot of work on it. I am trespassing off my patch.
101. Thank you. What were the most difficult
day to day issues that the MoD had to handle in relation to the
PJHQ and the rest of Whitehall? Were these difficult issues successfully
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) I think it went well.
We were able to meet every single day with people from the headquarters
in different ministries and we had video conferencing facilities,
so we were in each other's minds. PJHQ and the Ministry of Defence
in general worked together very well indeed. I think that because
this was a very high profile campaign, perhaps the Ministry of
Defence did rather more on this occasion than it would over something
like East Timor. One of the things I have learned is that perhaps
PJHQ should develop rather stronger ties with some of the other
national headquarters, for instance the American headquarters
in Tampa, the United States' headquarters in Europe, the French
headquarters, but I think we can develop that quite easily.
102. Perhaps you could drop us a note at some
stage, Sir Charles, there is no desperate rush, on lessons derived
as you have started to tell us.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Yes.
103. And perhaps too on relations between SHAPE,
NATO HQ and Commanders in the field. Do you think from your observations
on that and those of your colleagues that this was handled well?
In your note to us maybe you could include that also.
(General Sir Charles Guthrie) Yes.
104. Mr Tebbit has a flight to catch and we
are truly accommodating where necessary. Our questioning was a
bit like the NATO campaign, we expected to end the questioning
fairly early and it went on rather longer. I am not accusing you
of Milosevic style dissembling or deception but I am afraid we
will have to invite you to come at some stage to continue.
(Mr Tebbit) I would be happy to do so.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Our inquiry
will roll on. Thank you very much.