Examination of witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 22 MARCH 2000
OBE, COMMANDER RICHARD
HAWKINS and AIR
200. An assault weapon bearing RAF engines,
as they do at present?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) That is a different
201. How many pilots did we have available to
fly those aircraft who were qualified to land at night? Are you
satisfied that we had the right number?
(Commander Hawkins) In HMS Invincible we had
the standard peace-time complement of Sea Harrier squadron, which
was seven aircraft and 10 pilots. At that time approximately two
thirds of the pilots were night qualified, which is usual in peace-time,
and that is of the people who were on board the ship at the time.
At very short notice we could have augmented the squadron to provide
a full complement of night qualified people.
202. How many additional Sea Harriers did we
have available to join? If we had lost an aircraft or two, would
Yeovilton have been able to supply additional ones? Would they
have had the right qualities, which were being maintained? Is
it true that Yeovilton were asked and we were told there was only
one Sea Harrier available for deployment?
(Commander Hawkins) I cannot answer that specific
point, but I can say that there was an adequate number of FA2s
available at Yeovilton at a reasonable notice to deploy.
203. I would like reassurances that what you
have said is absolutely true.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Can I just clarify,
Chairman? You would like a note on the total FA2 capability available
Chairman: Generally available and could
be deployed very swiftly. We will now move on.
204. My questions really do concern your role
in the overall planning of things and the plan that was presented
to you as head of the operation to actually implement. Can you
tell us, when you saw the plan, when it was first given to you,
what the targeting strategy was and how all of this was going
to be interwoven? Were you satisfied with that? If this report
is going to mean anything, we need to know whether or not you
asked for changes, or were you unhappy about any of it?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Is this the air campaign?
205. To begin with.
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) We saw the air campaign
emerging from NATO. I was responsible for contributing, under
the direction of the Ministry of Defence, the air assets that
the United Kingdom had decided they would offer up. We were aware
of the targets and I was satisfied that we could provide a very
useful contribution to this NATO air campaign.
206. When you were doing that were you satisfied
that the plan and the assets actually could deliver the end result
that was required, and when were you made aware that there were
deficiencies in equipment and certainly in the capabilities of
some of the pilots?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I am not aware of any
deficiencies in the capabilities of some of the pilots.
207. I was with the then Minister for the Armed
Forces and we were told by the squadron commander in one of the
places that we visited that pilots had to return to the United
Kingdom for further training because there were not sufficient
pilots qualified for night flying. I find it hard to believe that
they were deployed in the first place and then sent back to the
United Kingdom for further training?
(Air Commodore Torpy) I think that was probably in
the context of the Harriers. When KFOR was going to be inserted
it was judged at that stage that there may be a requirement for
low level night operations. The crews who had been deployed for
the bulk of the air campaign clearly had not had the opportunity
to carry out night low level operations, and the intention was
that if night low level operations were required they would return
to the United Kingdom and carry out some night training before
they were used to support the ground insertion.
208. They did come back to the United Kingdom
and it meant that the pilots who remained had to do more flying
missions than were reasonably required of them.
(Air Commodore Torpy) That is a currency issue, because
they had not had the opportunity and it is a skill that perishes
209. How can you plan an operation when you
knew that you had pilots that were not sufficiently capable of
delivering what the plan involved them doing?
(Air Commodore Morris) As the Commander in Italy at
the time I never had any doubts at all about the capability of
any of the aircrew and what they were flying in, across of all
the aircraft types. Nobody was actually deployed to theatre unless
they had undergone the essential training to actually go to theatre.
Once the cease-fire came about it became obvious, as we all now
know, that the insertion of KFOR was going to take a 10 day period,
and exactly as Air Commodore Torpy has said, we then felt that
there might be a need to go in at low level. Clearly at that stage
we had two choices, we could bring in some pilots that were night
low level qualified and who had been trained in the United Kingdom
already but were not current in theatre and operating in that
air space and that environment, but it was the judgment at the
time that it was better to return some pilots who were current
in theatre and, if you like, were blooded in theatre, so that
they could come back and re-familiarise themselves in low flying.
It took a matter of a few days. I believe that it was a very,
very sensible move to do that and was making the best use of our
resources. We never had, at any time, any qualms about the capabilities
of the people that were out there. We would not have put people
in a combat situation unless we were satisfied that they had sufficient
210. Tell me about the aircraft. When were you
made aware, as head of joint operations, that some of the operations
would require aircraft which were not capable of delivering the
modified Tornadoe and that it was not at your disposal because
it could not carry some of the weapons that you might be asked
to deploy from it? When were you made aware that the modified
Tornado was not going to be an asset that was going to be able
to fly in Kosovo?
(Air Commodore Torpy) I presume that you are referring
to the GR4, which had gone thorough the midlife up-date. There
was never any intention of using GR4s because the delivery of
those aircraft was not in the timescale for allied operations
and Op Allied Force. Our intention was always to use the GR1.
211. Are you saying that none of those planes,
if you had wanted them, were available? I draw your attention
to what the Minister for the Armed Forces said in the defence
debate on this issue if you are now saying that none of these
aircraft were available for combat missions if necessary?
(Air Commodore Morris) My peace-time job is Senior
Air Staff Officer, Number 1 Group. Number 1 Group is responsible
for the fleet management and command of Tornado GR forces, so
obviously we knew only too well, and it is on-going with other
operations that we service and provide the capabilities for, but
it is our responsibility to deliver the capabilities. The Tornado
GR Force at the time was going through its midlife up-date programme,
and it is still on-going. The plan was always to meet our operational
commitments under the JRRF commitments etc, with the GR1 Force,
as we actually migrate from one type to another. At that time
we had not gone sufficiently through the up-grade programme, and
GR1 was always going to be our favoured option, and it gave us
the capability which met our needs at the time. We could have
delivered GR4s had we wanted to, and they could have been effective,
but not in all of the roles that we might have wanted to use them
for at that time. So the GR1 was definitely the right aircraft
to go with. We are now a year on, the situation is changing and
we would expect that some time in the not too distant future that
will change as the midlife programme is completed. It was no surprise
to anybody, it was purely a fleet management task, which is day-to-day
212. Could you tell us what influence you had
over the approval and the selection of targets?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Targets are generated
within NATO. Targets were allocated to nations for attack. The
approval process that happened in the United Kingdom was dealt
with in accordance with the delegated powers and was approved
at the highest level politically and from a legal point of view.
213. How quickly were you aware whether or not
the intelligence analysis of those targets had been successful
so that you, as head of joint operations, could talk to your subordinate
commanders in the field about the success or otherwise of attacks
on targets? At any time did you have to reconsider your position,
the type of equipment that we were using, the type of bombs that
were being dropped, et cetera?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) The battle damage assessment
process, which is what I think you are referring to, the assessment
of what you have achieved, is continuous. Every day I, or my representative,
briefed the Ministry of Defence Ministers on what had been achieved
in the previous 24 hour period. We took that information from
a range of sources. There were the initial reports from the pilots
that carried out the mission, there were then further reports
generated from many sources in NATO as to whether, in retrospect,
we had achieved what we thought we had achieved, and then over
the next few days we built up a wider picture. That is the three
phase battle damage process that we go through. So, it was a continuous
daily process of judging what had been achieved and assessing
what the impact might be. Air Commodore Morris was intimately
involved in that. He might want to give you a feel for what happened.
(Air Commodore Morris) The target selection was very
much a process. The NAC group approved target sets or grouping,
they are not individual targets, and we had a number of targets
which would be available for tasking against NATO assets as part
of a 24 hour period. I would be involved in the allocation of
those targets to us, so that, if I felt that it was right to do
so, I could turn down a target. On the other hand, if it was a
target that required high level approval, then I would pass that
up the chain to the PJHQ to get the appropriate level of approval
for the given target. Once the target had been attacked, obviously
the important thing then is to gather the information in as quickly
as we possibly can. The first thing that we rely on is the mission
reports coming back from the pilots, which are sent within a very
tight timescale to ensure that we get a hot debrief. I would speak
on the phone to the mission leaders, the formation leaders, and
we would get an instant debrief from any on-board films that we
might have and, of course, we would then start to look, in slower
time, at other sources that were available to tell us the effects
of the mission and the execution of those.
214. Would you say that you were getting an
accurate enough picture of what was really happening on the ground,
particularly in Kosovo, with regard to what damage was being dished
out? If a pilot came back through the system and found a target,
who could actually give him a further right to engage that target?
You talked about the right of engagement, if a pilot had seen
a target, or you yourself had selected it as being a good operation
for us, how much flexibility did you have?
(Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I did not personally
authorise targets, that was not the way the process happened,
it was part of a NATO operation. Air Commodore Morris has described
to you how it actually happened in theatre. If a United Kingdom
pilot could not identify his target he was under strict instruction,
which was always obeyed, to bring his weapon home. We were not
going to take risks with people who thought it was the right target
and dropped their weapon just in case. I was absolutely sure that
any United Kingdom air crew who could not positively identify
the target, within the constraints that they had been given, would
not attack outside their instruction. I was entirely confident
215. That was borne out by what pilots said.
Can I ask one final question, and it goes back to the role of
Invincible and the Harriers? I was a little confused about
what you suggested their role was, Air Commodore, when you said
that they were there to protect other air assets, and you went
on to try to persuade us what they might have been. I was interested
to know what you were protecting them from and, considering the
distance out to sea that the ship was and that these planes had
to fly, I am interested to know whether any of them fired anything
in anger? If they did, what were they firing at, an air target
or a ground target? You told us they saw one plane off. Can you
answer that for us?
(Air Commodore Morris) Absolutely. Out of the overall
effort from NATO the vast proportion of sorties were really supporting
sorties, and I would regard defensive air and manning combat air
patrols as a part of that. It is an essential part of mounting
an air campaign, and if you actually drop your guard, even though
there was no perceived threat after the initial days and weeks
of the campaign from the Serbian Air Force, if they had got even
one aircraft airborne and had either conducted an offensive bombing
operation into a neighbouring country, or had engaged one of our
high value asset aircraft, then obviously that would have been
a major drawback for us. So, even though we did have control of
the air to an adequate degree, we could not drop our guard, we
had to man these combat air patrols 24 hours per day, seven days
per week. It was our insurance policy, that we could control the
air. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that. The contribution
to that effort came from the vast majority of the contributing
216. Did they fire at all?
(Commander Hawkins) They did not actually fire, no.
217. Were any of the British planes ever under
any threat themselves?
(Commander Hawkins) Yes.
218. They were?
(Commander Hawkins) Without going into a classified
level, when that was so it was a known event which was controlled.
There was obviously the need, on occasions, to prosecute radar
targets. A particular ability of the Sea Harrier's radar is to
look down over terrain and spot low flying targets. Obviously
part of the mission was to, as far as possible, investigate what
those targets might be. In so doing, on occasions, they would
be aware that targets on the ground were looking at them, although
no Sea Harrier was actually positively fired at, as far as I know,
by a reasonable ground-to-air weapon. As far as the position of
the ship, I am sorry if I gave the impression that the ship was
a long way from where these combat air patrols were taking place.
They were not a very great flying distance from the theatre of
operations, so the carrier was an appropriate distance away.
219. But allowed the planes to have an effective
(Commander Hawkins) Allowed the planes to have the
vast majority of their mission on task.