Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 259)



  240. That was my next question. What does that mean? Can you define the in-service date?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I could, but I cannot remember. I wonder if Admiral Blackham can remember. We have it defined is what I am trying to say.


  241. I think it is in the brief and in the Major Projects Statement. Is it a brigade?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I believe it is the first brigade, in fact. If that is not the case I will let you know but I am pretty confident it is.

Laura Moffatt

  242. Let us move on. Was there any scope at all for speeding up this process? Is there anything that you can do to make it easier for those men and women in the field who desperately need this equipment?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) If I thought that I would not have outlined the plans that I have just tried to do which I have to make it clear are my plans, I have yet to persuade my colleagues of them and, most importantly, I have yet to get ministerial authority for them. I have laid out for you as frankly as I can how I envisage this programme going ahead. We have undertaken this personal role radio programme, that is designed to provide some alleviation to infantrymen. We have set aside more money for repairing and supporting Clansman, that is designed to provide alleviation to people who say that it is bust. I do speak to people in the Territorial Army and the Regular Army and some of them say "Clansman is great, all you have got to do is fix the aerial up properly". There are various views on whether these systems work or not.

  243. So the whole process of converting units cannot be speeded up in any way and you say your timetable is realistic?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) We have got a fantastically complicated computer model which I have been to look at which shows is it better to do it all in one big factory and bring all the units there—I am afraid, Mr Gapes, it is not in your constituency—or is it better to do it in five places around England. The more you put into a computer the more difficult it is to work out what the answer is. We do not yet know the answer but we will make the right decision on which is the quickest way of doing it.

  244. When will that decision be made? Is that the time when you begin to know who you are going with or is that made independently?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I think it must be nearly made now actually.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) There is a fielding plan. The difficulty is to balance the withdrawal of the units to refit them with the new equipment with the need to keep the right number of units on the front line to conduct operations. You do not have to read newspapers for very long to see that operations are not that predictable. So it is not impossible that that fielding plan may have to be adjusted in the light of what actually turn out to be commitments.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) One of the things which we have done in terms of making the requirement less costly is we have discovered that if we make these units absolutely geometrically the same as the Clansman then quite a lot of it could be fitted in line, could be fitted while the vehicle is still retained by the army rather than handing it over to a factory to do it. That is the sort of example where we have changed the requirement slightly to reduce the cost and to speed up implementation.


  245. The original vehicles that Clansman might have fitted into, for God's sake I hope they have been sold off or given away.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) One Land Rover looks much like another, Chairman, and I have spoken to this Committee before about new Land Rovers.

  246. On Ms Moffatt's question about the initial starting date, according to your memorandum that has been defined "as the date when a brigade HQ and two battle groups are equipped and capable of deploying on operations other than war." That is the answer to the question but it has raised another question. What does it mean "operations other than war"? Does it mean to say that your standards for this equipment in a war scenario will be different from a situation in periods other than war?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) What is an operation other than war? The sort of thing that is going on in Sierra Leone or even Kosovo is an operation other than war. In other words, it is the kind of operation for which a brigade is a suitable deployment. War in this context means divisional deployments in high intensity warfare.

  247. The ISD, therefore, is for a Sierra Leone type situation. What about an actual war fighting situation, are the standards the same or different?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No. The standard of the equipment would not be different. What would be different would be the size of the formation that you would field. In other words, you would have to be at divisional level if you wanted to deploy something for what we are defining as war in these circumstances and that would take longer to achieve. We will have a deployable brigade, as I said just now and as you have repeated, at the in-service date. A brigade is the sort of thing that we deploy in coalition operations or low intensity operations: Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and so on.[2]

  248. Is this a standard definition when you say the in-service starting date is for operations other than war? Is this used just for this case or in other cases too?

  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) We inherited a whole range of definitions of in-service dates when we came together at the end of last year from the different services, partly because of the way in which equipment is brought in. For example, in the case of a ship it is handed over before it has completed a lot of its trials and work-up because it needs a naval crew on it to do those trials. In the case of some other equipment it has to be handed to the user. We are now looking to see whether we can produce a common in-service date which will revolve around the deployability on operations. In this case it does revolve around the deployability of a specified size of unit.

Mr Viggers

  249. Switching to a different subject, the common new generation frigate is a generic term covering both the HORIZON frigate, which was intended to replace the Type-42, and also the missile system. The missile system has prospered but the HORIZON frigate project has been disbanded and has now been replaced by the Type-45 project. Can you tell us how the Type-45 project has proceeded?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Yes. We expect to place the contract for what is called demonstration and first of class manufacture, in other words ordering the first ship, or maybe it will be two or maybe it will be three, this year. That is what we are working towards. That leads us towards a situation where the ship will then be deployable in the sense that Sir Jeremy has just outlined, properly ready for operations in 2007, the first one. We are deeply involved with the contractors in sorting out how we are going to do this.

  250. At the in-service date of 2007, how many ships will be available?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) The first one. First of class.

  251. Available to the Royal Navy then to go through sea trials?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) No.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No, available for operations. This is part of the work that we are doing to change the definition of in-service date. So the date Sir Robert has just given means that the ship has conducted its trials and its work up and will be able to be deployed operationally.

  252. Can you give us some idea of—
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) It is either late 2005 or early 2006. It does not much matter. The contractor is in charge of the process of taking the ship, which is then a technical entity, out of the yard and proving its systems, that it does everything it can. We want to hold to the date when the ship is useful, not the date when you can push it out of the shipyard.

  253. So at what point is the navy involved in sea training?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) From the moment that the ship passes what we formally call the acceptance date. It will be about 15 months before the in-service date.

  254. What used to happen, as I understand it, is that ships were handed over to the navy and went down to Portland for sea training.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) That is a different sort of training. I would just like to make it clear that a first of class ship has to go through all its weapons systems, that is what uses up the bulk of the time before they go to Portland. Follow on ships are much, much quicker, it is just the operational training. With first of class the bulk of it is proving the systems, seeing do the missiles hit the targets as often as they are supposed to and if they do not we will not pay the money.

  255. So the date is in-service with the navy?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Spot on.

  256. Does that mean that it has been through the sea training?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It does. It means that it can be deployed on operations, the Commander-in-Chief can do want he likes with it.

  257. Is this related in any way to the trimaran which Vosper Thornycroft is bringing forward? Do you think perhaps that lessons learned from the trimaran might influence your judgment over the Type-45?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Absolutely not, but it is relevant to the Type-45. There is no question of changing the Type-45 hull into a trimaran, it would be far too soon. The trimaran has not started its sea trials yet, as you know. The second order connection, if I can put it like that, is that the trimaran is the first steel-hulled ship that Vosper's have built for the British Government for a number of years. That has reminded them about the industrial processes and the ways of doing business on that. That prepares them very well for what will be a pretty tough competition of quite a complex sort for the Type-45.

  258. Will the Type-45 have a high stealth specification?
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) I have to defer to Admiral Blackham on that. The truth is you cannot make a ship of 6,000 tonnes disappear.

  Chairman: Our last Government made lots of ships disappear.

Dr Lewis

  259. This one is not doing too badly.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) Let me say to be both present and not visible, which is a much more difficult thing. We will do our best to reduce the stealth of the ship but it will not be very stealthy. It has got one of the highest powered, highest duty radars that you have ever imagined on this, so making it stealthy is not a practical proposition.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) What you can do is take steps to reduce its signature, for example, its radar signature, by the use of angles and the materials you use, as has been done with the Type-23. As Sir Robert says, since you can actually see a ship 15 or 16 miles away at sea there is nothing you can do to make it invisible.
  (Sir Robert Walmsley) It will not be following the hull outline of the Vosper's stealth ship.

2   See p 94 Q7. Back

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