Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. Will OCCAR be involved in the management of the BVRAAM programme?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) We do not currently envisage that. OCCAR is for a genuinely collaborative programme. The participation by the countries in this programme is asymmetric to the extent that the United Kingdom may well be the only country which is signing up for development and production in the first contract. OCCAR remains therefore a possibility but it is by no means an automatic certainty because we envisage the United Kingdom managing this project with other countries present rather than on a totally symmetrical basis between the six nations, two of whom incidentally are not in OCCAR.

  61. Which two?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Sweden and Spain.

  62. What safeguards will there be to ensure that we do not have inefficient juste retour as in some past collaborative projects which we shall not name but you know which ones?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I certainly do, kind of like every one. I did say there would be no directed workshare. That is absolutely a principle of this contract. I did also say, which I agree is slightly trying to have my cake and eat it, that we would make the prime contractor responsible for achieving work in the countries and I gave the broad ranges of percentages. Note they were broad numbers, this is not Eurofighter territory of 36.2% falling to one country. First of all, no directed work, but, I think quite sensibly, reasonable guidance provided to the prime contractor. We expect industrial participation from all six countries.

  63. How would you ensure that happens?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) We shall monitor it.

  64. If you found that there were discrepancies on your broad figures, what would happen?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Quite a difficult one. First of all, we would not sign the agreement until we got their commitment to some numbers. So if they choose to break the agreement there will be contractual arrangements which come into play. I cannot recall an occasion where somebody signed a contract or signed an agreement and then deliberately went out to bust it. I am sure it does happen, but it has not happened to us yet.

Mr Cann

  65. You said "be in charge". Would you like to rephrase that a little?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Probably.

  66. Like "take a leadership role" or something. Would that be better?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) It would and I wish I had said it, but I did not. I wanted to make it quite clear to the Committee—quite clear to the Committee—that this is not going to be a wishy-washy programme, where we all come in in the morning and decide what to do next. There is going to be leadership from an integrated project team. The fact that there is a UK citizen is far less important than that there will be a proper integrated project team with a single leader. The point I really should have made is that the programme will be under rigorous, disciplined management and we will take a leadership role.

  67. We can take that as being a recantation of what you said previously, for any of our Spanish and German friends.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) You certainly can. I think they have heard me before. I do not think they will be surprised or offended.

  68. My next question is for the Admiral. When you appeared before us last month you said that "... war is an economic activity", which took some of us by surprise, "it does not make sense to use a weapon that is more expensive than the target". Have we struck the right balance with Eurofighter/Meteor?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I am not quite sure what the point you are making is. I am not aware of any missile which remotely approaches the cost of an aircraft and if a missile were to be used to shoot down an aircraft that seems to me to be a pretty favourable economic balance.

  69. What is the cost of one missile?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I should have to defer to Sir Robert, but very substantially less than the cost of an aircraft.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Not much more than one%. I am being a bit opaque because we have not bolted down the prices yet, but it is not two%.


  70. When will all our Eurofighters be fully operational and fully capable?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) The last one comes off the production line under the present plans in 2014. I should think that at that stage we shall have the seven squadrons Admiral Blackham mentioned. Some of them will be kept in hangars, so they will not be fully operational. Some of them will be undergoing modification, some of them will no doubt be used for training and would not be fully operational and would be two-seaters. That is the best answer I can give.

  71. Why is there such reluctance for the Ministry of Defence to tell us about the ISD?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I do not think there is, although I am being rather bureaucratic in my answer. We have defined the in-service date as the date of the first delivery of the first Eurofighter to the Royal Air Force. We are quite open, that is June 2002. Where we are much shier, and I apologise for being coy and I am well aware of the background to this, is that with our partners we have not so far agreed to put in the public domain information related to the buildup of capabilities in our air force because it would relate to buildup of capability in their air force. I am sure that is going to burst through the dam quite soon, but it has not yet.

  72. So it is for our colleagues in other defence committees to be putting the same kind of question. What practical difference will a fully capable Eurofighter make to military operations?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It will provide the ability to achieve air superiority against the threats we can currently envisage.

  73. How about the present arrangements?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) The Eurofighter will, as you know, in the interim be fitted with AMRAAM and it will also have access to ASRAAM. It will be fitted with a range of missiles and I am quite confident that it can meet the threat of today and, as we have been discussing for the last hour or so, we are making preparations to ensure that we can meet the threat tomorrow as well.

  74. Whilst we are waiting for these aircraft, and 2014 is an awful long way away for them all to be available and I can imagine a National Audit Office report 20 years from now saying that there has been some slippage, but a long, long time away, are you satisfied that our existing aircraft are capable of achieving, bearing in mind the competition, what Tornado was intended to do in terms of air superiority?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Yes, I am. I am not convinced that will be the case when we get towards the end of this first decade, which is of course the reason why we are taking the steps we are. It would not be going beyond what Sir Robert said, if I just went a little bit further and said that the last aircraft being delivered in 2014 will probably be the last one of the attrition aircraft. I would expect that we will get full operational capability rather before that.

  75. I hope you are right. If it is possible to imagine that the Ministry of Defence is a super efficient machine—I shall give you a bit of time to work out what that might be—imagine that we had had Eurofighter available during Kosovo, what could we have achieved with that leap of imagination compared with what we were able to do with the aircraft available to the Royal Air Force?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I am trying to get my mind round the idea of the Ministry of Defence being a super efficient organisation. Having done that, I am not sure I can answer the question because I am not sure what more we would have wanted to achieve in Kosovo. We achieved all that we wanted to.

  76. Having seen the statistics, they do not lead me to the conclusion that the way in which the air force was deployed or the equipment available matched the aspirations of the Chiefs or their political masters.
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Our contribution in Kosovo was a range of different capabilities and as part of a very large allied force. We contributed to various different parts of that at various different levels. That seems to me to be the way we would normally operate. It also seems to me to have been a perfectly reasonable way to operate. The important thing is that the sum of that activity achieved the deserved result. I am not quite clear what more we would have wanted to achieve.

Mr Cann

  77. The thing was designed 14 or so years ago, it will come into service totally in another 14 years, therefore when it comes into service it will have been designed from beginning to end 28 years ago. Are you quite sure it will not be obsolescent?
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) That is a slight stretch of the facts. The aircraft was first identified as a need some while ago but it was not fully designed until much more recently. The programme is being reviewed constantly, both in terms of the avionics and the missiles. The aircraft itself is at the forefront of combat aircraft flying and we are now trying to ensure that the missile is the same.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) May I make absolutely clear—the point about 2014 is understood—that the question I understood the Chairman to have asked me was when would all the RAF's Eurofighters be in service. That was what I was trying to answer. Obsolescence will be managed throughout the life of the aircraft. We are already starting to encounter obsolescence issues in Eurofighter and equipment is being replaced. That is why we have embarked on a new solid state radar technology demonstration programme with France and Germany called AMSAR, which is just the sort of thing we need to do in the year 2000 if we are going to put a new radar into Eurofighter midway through its life.

  78. It is planned obsolescence then, is it?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) No.

  79. We keep adding bits to it, like we did to Tornado.
  (Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) We have always done that and I imagine we always will. Technology changes very fast and that affects both sides in any conflict. I should be astonished if that did not continue to be the case, indeed it is quite likely to accelerate, I should have thought.

  Mr Cann: Is this going to be on our list of things we track?

  Chairman: For a long, long time, I regret to say.

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