Examination of witnesses (Questions 140
WEDNESDAY 22 MARCH 2000
OBE, COMMANDER RICHARD
HAWKINS and AIR
140. So at the end of the day, bearing in mind
the constraints under which you were operating, do you feel that
we used our resources in the best way or do you think there was
a waste of resources in the manner in which the campaign developed?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) What resources are
you referring to?
141. I was thinking particularly of air resources
and the use of non-precision weapons.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think they were used
very effectively. We were extremely effective in attacking targets
in a demanding threat environment. We did not lose any aircraft.
UK attacks, so far as we know, did not result in any collateral
damage. We went to extraordinary lengths to minimise the risk
of collateral damage and the risk of civilian damage and we played
a very effective part in a NATO air campaign. I think those resources
were used effectively.
142. If there was such an endeavour to avoid
civilian casualties, why was there such extensive use of dumb
bombs whose accuracy is pretty awful?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I would like to turn
to Air Commodore Torpy because we went to considerable lengths
to trial the weapons before we used them knowing full well that
they were not as accurate as precision guided munitions.
(Air Commodore Torpy) Clearly the ideal situation
would be to use precision weapons. The weather intervened on a
large proportion of days during the campaign. What we did in response
to that, so that we could maintain the tempo of the operation,
was to look at what other options that were available other than
precision guided weapons. What we did was conducted a number of
trials on both the Harrier and the Tornadoes to see if we could
improve the accuracy using unguided weapons. So we conducted a
number of trials on our UK ranges to refine the procedures, made
modifications to the aircraft so that we could use the aircraft
in such a manner against certain targets within the collateral
damage limits that we had set ourselves and produce a worthwhile
contribution to the campaign. That is why we ended up bombing
through cloud with the GR7s.
143. If you drop dumb bombs at 15,000 feet,
how many yards or miles can you actually get the bomb close to
the desired target?
(Air Commodore Torpy) At an unclassified level I am
afraid I cannot go into the details of that.
144. Is it in yards or miles?
(Air Commodore Torpy) It is in yards.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) We can give you a note
145. You are saying a dumb bomb, with a bit
of luck and skill, at 15,000 feet can get within yards?
(Air Commodore Torpy) That is correct.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Chairman, it is not
just luck, it is as a result of very careful trials.
Chairman: Of course.
146. As you were head of joint operations presumably
one of the things you were given at the start of this operation
was the previous weather patterns for this area.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes.
147. It seemed to me a little less than sophisticated
that we were trying dumb bombs virtually every day that we started
air operations. When were you first confronted with the fact that
the smart weapons you had at your disposal were not going to be
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I always knew that
carrying out an air campaign at that time of year was going to
be affected by the bad weather prevailing. We knew that air drop
laser guided weapons could not be used through cloud. As the campaign
developed and as we saw the impact of that bad weather we began,
as you have heard, to develop and trial to improve our overall
148. But that was after operations started.
If you foresaw this happening, why was it that we were not ready
for this? Why did we waste, once again, a long period of time
trying out bombs on ranges here to see how accurate we could get
them when we foresaw that the weather was going to be so bad at
times that we could not use the smart weapons that we had suggested
we were going to use?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Although we were doing
contingency planning we did not know that we were going to go
into a bombing campaign until late 1998. So that was probably
why we did not start doing trials. We were part of a coalition
and other aircraft in the coalition, American aircraft, did have
other capabilities that did allow them to bomb through the cloud.
Although we were aware of the background and the weather, we were
aware of our own capabilities, we knew that we would be part of
an overall NATO coalition which had a range of capabilities but,
and it is easy to be wise with hindsight, we did not then decide
that it was sufficiently important to carry out the trials and
develop that additional capability.
149. Surely you had a duty to know in whatever
operation, whether it was going to be Kosovo or anywhere else,
the capabilities not only of the smart weapons but also the dumb
weapons you had at your disposal. To suggest that you had to wait
until you had it confirmed that the weather was going to be so
bad that you could not use the sophisticated weapons you thought
you were going to use that you then had to try out dumb bombs
to see how good you would be at dropping them, I do not think
the British public was aware of that.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) We did not try out
dumb bombs. What we wanted to do before we used them over Kosovo
was to make sure that we knew precisely the accuracy we could
achieve in order to minimise collateral damage and save civilian
casualties. We wanted to be absolutely sure of the effect of using
Chairman: We are going to come on to
this in a later session, so be prepared, tell your colleagues.
We come now to intelligence. Obviously some things you may not
wish to say in public and we can reach that crisis when we do.
150. Not too soon, I hope. You referred to NATO's
coalition having a range of capabilities and obviously one of
those capabilities is different access to intelligence information.
How accurate do you feel the intelligence that you received was
on which you based your contingency planning?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I believe it was very
accurate. We have many different sources to draw on. I have to
tread slightly carefully here, as you will understand. I believe
we had a very good picture, both from NATO sources and our bilateral
sources we had with various countries, to allow us to build up
a good intelligence picture of what was happening.
151. Were there any areas, any gaps, which caused
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) There were no gaps
that caused me great anxiety but you may wish to ask that question
152. I am sure we will, and your colleagues.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Can I just ask Air
Commodore Torpy were there any gaps?
(Air Commodore Torpy) Not in overall intelligence
but clearly one of the lessons that we have identified out of
Kosovo, and indeed other operations, is the overall ISTAR capability
that we have in terms of identifying mobile targets and being
able to respond very quickly to attack that sort of target. That
is one area that we clearly are doing more work on.
153. Is that because intelligence is based on
sources which are from the air and with cloud cover and various
other things, unless you have got people on the ground you cannot
be sure that things have moved?
(Air Commodore Torpy) It is a combination of all the
different intelligence collection assets, so it is not just people
on the ground. Weather is not the only thing which prevents you
from gathering intelligence. The way the equipment, the troops
are configured on the ground and the terrain, there are lots of
different factors which make the collection of intelligence quite
different against certain target sets.
154. We were dealing with an adversary who had
spent 50 years preparing for territorial defence and it was well
known that the Yugoslav forces were based upon the ability to
hide, to manoeuvre, to stay out of the way, the way in which the
partisans had operated in the whole history of the Yugoslav defence
structure. It could not have come as any great surprise to you,
(Air Commodore Torpy) No, we always recognised it
was going to be a challenge.
155. Were you then disappointed that the number
of targets you hit was so few or was it what you expected?
(Air Commodore Torpy) It was broadly what we expected
against that sort of target set. Against static targets we were
very successful but against mobile targets we always recognised
it was a challenge to recognise them and to be able to respond
sufficiently quickly so that we could attack them before they
had moved on. That has always been the most demanding part of
156. Given the experience you now have, what
do you think could be done by NATO in future to make up for the
shortcomings which have been identified both prior to and during
this Kosovo operation?
(Air Commodore Torpy) I think for all of the NATO
nations, ourselves included, some of it is pure technical feasibility,
so it is not a case of pure resources, it is that we do not have
the technical ability to achieve some of the things we would ideally
like to do in the time frames. It is a case of concentrating on
trying to find technical solutions to improving what we call the
157. When you say technical ability, do you
mean that you are so dependent upon the United States and there
are not other sources of information?
(Air Commodore Torpy) No, because even the US find
it a difficult area of warfare to identify and target and attack
158. What is your assessment of the political
directions that came through from the North Atlantic Council and
the Military Committee before and during the air campaign? Were
these directions based upon adequate information and intelligence?
Did they take account of the different types of targets to be
attacked and the reality of conflict, or were they really unrealistic
and not taking account of the reality as you saw it?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think they took account
of the reality. It became very clear during the campaign that
it was extremely difficult to hit some of these demanding targets
in Kosovo, the fielded forces. I think the political direction
was clearly governed by the need to maintain Alliance cohesion.
As you have heard, the air campaign developed to reflect the circumstances
in Kosovo. I am not sure I can add very much to that answer, unless
you think I have not quite answered the question.
159. When you say the need to maintain Alliance
cohesion, are you actually saying that for political reasons decisions
were taken by the North Atlantic Council which were causing difficulties
in terms of the military implementation of what was necessary
and, therefore, there was inevitably a tension between what was
politically acceptable and militarily necessary and desirable?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I suspect in any conflict
there will be a certain tension between what the military would
prefer to do and what we are directed to do by our political masters.
That is inevitable because we are fairly simple people. Coalition
warfare is much more complicated than that. I revert to an earlier
point, which I think is well known. I think the centre of gravity,
as we call it, was Alliance cohesion. That was all important and,
therefore, we had to work in response to that overriding NATO
priority and, therefore, the political direction that came down
from NATO reflected that real political climate which was prevalent
at the time and we did our best, I think very successfully, to
respond to that political direction that came out of the coalition