177 During Operation Allied Force, the RAF delivered
244 precision guided munitions and 761 gravity ('dumb') bombs.
Of the latter, 230 were 1000lb bombs and 531 were cluster weapons.
20 TLAM cruise missiles were fired from HMS Splendid. In
addition 6 ALARM anti-radiation missiles were fired. On average
12.8 bombs or missiles were delivered by the UK each day of the
campaign, with a peak of 63 on 3 May 1999.
178 At the outset of the campaign it was intended
that all weapons used would be precision guided: in fact the majority
of weapons used were not. The MoD consistently asserted that
stockpiles were not a factor in this decision.
Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham told us that there had been no
area in which the UK was running short of supplies of munitions.
The Chief of Joint Operations also told us that the UK was not
constrained by stockpile levels in any way, right up to the very
end the campaign;
he also told us that he was not hampered at all by instructions
to conserve missiles because of expense.
The same line was taken in the MoD's report on the Lessons
from the Crisis
Sufficient numbers of weapons
were available throughout the operation, with contingency plans
in place to ensure that additional weapons would be available
if needed, although these were not in the event required. Precision
Guided Munitions were in particularly high demand during this
operation, and this put our stockpile of this weapon under some
pressure. Nevertheless, the majority of our stockpile of each
of the weapon types used remained available at the end of the
conflict, which would have enabled us to continue air operations
for some time thereafter. Current stockpile guidance is being
reviewed in the light of experience of the air operation and the
planning for a ground operation, to ensure that we have the right
quantity and balance of weaponry in stock.
The Department also informed us that contingency
plans had been put in place to ensure additional weapons would
be available if necessary from NATO allies, but that these arrangements
were not required.
This phlegmatic assessment of the rate of consumption of precision
guided weapons contrasts with the assessment of the National Audit
In April 1999 the Department
initiated procurement action for [precision guided munitions]
as stocks were below the planned contingency levels and, had bombing
at maximum levels been possible each day and night during the
campaign, there was a real risk of exhausting stocks of precision
guided munitions within a number weeks.
Very few of the Urgent Operational Requirements issued
during the campaign related to munitions.
However, Human Rights Watch, whose report is based largely on
NATO evidence, comments
During [the last three days
of May], the intensity of the attacks also peaked. This was also
a time when the percentage of precision-guided munitions being
used by NATO aircraft was declining (due to inventory shortages
and cost considerations).
179 It is also evident that in achieving a balance
between stocks and weapons used, the UK benefitted from the comparatively
low percentage of strike missions by its forces which led to weapons
The MoD itself made the link
The numbers of weapons used
in the Operation did not exhaust current stockpiles which were
adequate numerically for the task. However, the rules of engagement,
weather and a trend to a medium altitude bombing campaign precluded
the use of our weapons on a number of occasions.
We recognise that more favourable circumstances,
allowing a higher tempo of operation, might have also allowed
the conflict to reach a conclusion more quickly. But this is not
a proven proposition, and the trade-off may not have been a linear
one. The crucial point remains that had the campaign continued
for longer, as it might well have had to, or had the air assets
had to be transferred to close support for an opposed ground attack,
stockpiles might well have come under much greater pressure. In
our view, the MoD's relaxed attitude to the rate of consumption
of precision guided munitions during Operation Allied Force depends
far too much on the effects of extraneous factors on the rate
of use. There is no doubt that more unguided weapons were used
during the campaign than it was intended at the outset.
180 There was concern in the US about TLAM cruise
missile stocks even before the operation started, and this increased
during the conflict as cruise missile usage was higher than anticipated.
Long-range precision missiles such as TLAM were used extensively
during the early stages of the campaign and during periods of
bad weather. Only on 21 of the 78 days of the campaign were weather
conditions reported as being favourable for air operations.
SACEUR, General Wesley Clark, admitted to 'the heavy use of the
cruise missiles early on when we had targets that were suitable
for cruise missiles, and when we needed them to keep the pressure
on during periods of especially bad weather'.
The MoD suggested that NATO commanders were able to continue operations
at a lower intensity through the use of various assets including
UK and US TLAM, other US cruise missiles, and the US Global Positioning
System-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Later in the
campaign, as we outlined above, UK pilots were able to use 'dumb'
bombs released by using GPS, when they believed the value of so
doing outweighed the risks of collateral damage. Nevertheless,
it is clear that in bad weather, and when the need for accuracy
was critical, HMS Splendid with its TLAM cruise missiles
represented the only European unit available to contribute to
the attack element of the campaign.
Unsurprisingly therefore the MoD has concluded
that as a result of the Kosovo campaign, the UK's capacity in
the smart and precision guided munitions area now needs to be
addressed with a higher priority. We would agree that the UK's
smart weapon capability needs to be reviewed, but this review
needs to be urgent and radical in the light of the lessons of
Operation Allied Force.
181 There is clearly a balance to be struck. Keeping
large numbers of weapons on shelves is not cost-efficient and
many weapons deteriorate after a time in storage, making them
unusable. But equally, sufficient quantities need to be available
to support operations. The current balance struck between stockpiles
of precision guided munitions and reliance on the ability to replenish
those stocks at short notice may carry too high a risk to the
ability of the RAF and Royal Navy to support certain types of
operations for any length of time. As we noted in our report
on the Royal Ordnance Factory, Bishopton,
the Department had been reviewing its weapons stockpile plans
as a part of the SDR, the results of which were expected by the
end of 1999.
This review was still under way during our current inquiry,
and we continue to look forward to hearing its results, which
are now seriously overdue.
182 Despite the MoD's confident assertions that
stockpile levels had no direct impact on operational decisions,
we conclude from the evidence we have taken that, had a significantly
higher percentage of sorties led to weapons release or had the
weather allowed a greater use of precision guided munitions, then
stock levels could have been a constraint affecting the UK's contribution
to the operation.