Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. Have the inducements or penalties been made public or could you let us have that? I shall tell you why. I have a vested interest. I have had to go out twice to Bonn, pleading with the Germans to stay in the Eurofighter programme. Frankly I do not like going on that kind of political mission. They stayed in; thank goodness they are still in. What will ensure that we stay in, that other countries stay in? Can you give us a little more detail as to the kind of financial penalties which would be exercisable if anybody starts getting second thoughts and by that forcing the remaining countries to rethink their position? I do not want to see that.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) The financial penalties are pretty onerous, but I cannot quantify them in terms of euros or pounds sterling. What I can say is that if you get into an MoU, you have signed it with other people and you decide to change your mind about your commitment to the MoU, or ultimately walk away from the programme, what it will say in page 372, paragraph 716, is under such circumstances the withdrawing country will bear the costs of the other participants.

  21. Is that absolutely watertight?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) That is why we are stuck in the long-range Trigat development programme, even though we are not taking the missiles.[1]

  Chairman: That is quite reassuring. Perhaps you could find a way to inform us in rather more detail because I hope it will not have to be activated.

Dr Lewis

  22. In your response to the Chairman just now when he asked about the balance of different types of weapon on the Eurofighter Typhoon, you pointed out that the long-range and shorter-range air-to-air missiles are not infinitely capable of substitution one for the other because under different circumstances it might not be appropriate to use BVRAAM and it would only be appropriate, as you gave the example, to engage after you had a visual sighting of the aircraft. At the moment our forces are being reoriented towards expeditionary type warfare in the absence, for the time being, of a major strategic threat. Would you accept that there are some sorts of targets which might have to be engaged in that context in the future by Eurofighter Typhoon which might not be worth a missile of any sort?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It does not seem to me to be terribly likely. Most of the aircraft we find ourselves facing are either built in the West or built in the former Soviet Union. They are therefore by and large high performance aircraft. It is very unlikely that we would not want to use a missile if we were forced to engage one.

  23. If we were involved in some lower level conflict against some less well-equipped adversary, are you saying that we would not be using the Eurofighter Typhoon, we would perhaps be using some other aircraft?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I am sure we would be using the Eurofighter, but we have a system which is matched both to the aircraft and to the missiles we are providing for it. The most effective way of using it would be to use those missiles.

  24. Under no circumstances at all could you see a need to have a gun on the Eurofighter Typhoon?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) As is well known, we have decided that we do not require a gun on the Typhoon. There are several reasons for it. Firstly, because it provides an additional training and support mode, and indeed fatigue rate on the aircraft, which we judge is not necessary. Secondly, because the gun itself, because of the shock it produces, causes some risk to some of the avionics. In those circumstances we have concluded that the gun does not give us any advantage over the missiles which we have already procured.

  25. Why did we conclude this at a time after it had already been decided that the first tranche of 55 Eurofighter Typhoons was going to have the gun?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) As you would expect, we are reviewing the programme the whole time. We have to make decisions based on what our current understanding is and of course on what we think the right balance of investment in the programme is at any time. It was, as a matter of fact, one of the earliest decisions that the new customer organisation made. It is true that we had sunk some £90 million in this all together. That does not seem to be a very good reason to go on sinking more money into it. In point of fact the decision not to use the gun, apart from having no operational impact in my view, will save some £2.5 million a year in the other areas I have already mentioned.

  26. Is it not a fact though that the reasons you have given to us today for not valuing and having the gun should have been as obvious at the beginning of the process as they are now?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I am not sure that I can answer that. The beginning of the process was quite a long time ago and the people then may well have judged that there were other factors in play; indeed the gun was something that some other countries at the time thought they wanted. Our conclusion now is that we do not want it and that we do not need it and that it gives us no capability that we have not already provided.

  27. Yet the strange thing is that the strategic context has been moving over time more in the direction when we are more likely, not less likely, to come up against opponents at a lower level, where lower levels of armament might be required.
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I think we shall probably have to disagree about that. By and large the opponents we face operate aircraft either built in the West or built in the former Soviet Union. These are capable aircraft.

  28. What capabilities then will German, Italian and Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons have because of their Mauser cannon that RAF Eurofighters will lack? I suppose you will tell me I ought to go to ask them. Have any aircraft in the current RAF inventory ever had recourse to fire their cannon in anger?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Not at other aircraft, nor in the strafing context, which seemed to be the most likely uses.

  29. In any other context?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Not that I am aware of.

  30. Have any other aircraft suffered fatigue problems through the use of their cannon, as far as you know?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I am afraid I do not know. I can certainly find out for you.

  31. If the cannon is of such doubtful benefit, why do you think it was originally included in the Eurofighter Typhoon specification?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I cannot speculate about that. I assume that at the time people thought it might have greater value than we now think it has.

  32. Surely you have the files from an ongoing project so you would be aware of the origins and development of this project.
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) We certainly would have. We are going back some 15 or 16 years of course. It is a very long time in a very different world situation.


  33. Are the proponents of using a gun rather fixated by the Snoopy-and-the-Red-Baron complex? Is it the First World War scenario of dogfighting? Is there a more sophisticated version of a gun which might be required should your missiles fail or somebody be half a mile away from you? What kind of range would this gun have and what would the proponents argue the requirement is for having a gun strapped onto an aircraft in the first place?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I am tempted to say they would have to ask themselves, but Dr Lewis would not like that. I think I must say that it would have a range of a few hundred yards and I can only conceive of it being in the sort of dogfight circumstance you described, but that is precisely what we purchased ASRAAM to deal with.

  34. Does the United States have this type of gun on its aircraft or do you think they intend having a gun of this kind on its aircraft?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) To the best of my knowledge they do not intend having this on future aircraft.

  35. Perhaps you could let us know, if you would not mind? Obviously it is an issue which has surfaced and has had some salience and the arguments against need to be very strongly put.
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Indeed.[2]

Mr Cann

  36. This aeroplane was designed about 15 years ago with different conceptions. When we talked to the Tornado crews we saw in Saudi Arabia, they did not use the guns. You pop somebody off with a missile about 100 miles over the horizon, you do not fly about firing cannon like the Second World War. Is that correct?

  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Yes, it is correct.

  37. That is what the pilots say. Therefore was it a mistake originally of the MOD to configure a cannon into these machines? I know it was done a long while ago, Dr Lewis will not want me to mention this but, under a previous government. Would the MOD now consider that in retrospect to be a waste of money?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) What I can say is that we have concluded in the circumstances that we face today that the cannon does not represent a very sensible use of our money and does not provide a capability we really want. So, as you know, we have stopped it.

  38. We only have it in the first tranche and it will not be in any more and that is that.
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) That is right.

  Chairman: If an enemy aircraft is that close, a prayer book would be more desirable.

Laura Moffatt

  39. This is a question to you both. Could you tell me how much more the Meteor solution is to the Raytheon solution for BVRAAM?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) How much more in financial terms?

1   Also see p 93 Q3. Back

2   See p 93 Q4. Back

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