The most serious shortcoming in UK capabilities
shown-up by the air campaign was the lack of a precision-guided
weapon capable of being used in all weathers against static and
mobile targets. By the end of the campaign, precision-guided weapons
had accounted for only 24% of the weapons used by the RAF.
45. The Government agrees that, although Tomahawk
provided an excellent capability in these conditions, overall
there was a lack of all-weather precision-guided weaponry. However,
the Government has taken action to meet the shortcomings identified
in our analysis of operations in Kosovo. In July, the Defence
Secretary announced immediate enhancements to the equipment capabilities
of the Armed Forces. These were:
- the procurement of Maverick anti-armour missiles
for the RAF's Harrier GR7s, subject to integration trials being
successful. The trials were successfully completed and a contract
for the missiles has now been placed. The missiles will come into
service early next year;
- the procurement of weapons to provide RAF Tornado
GR4s with a precision guided all-weather bombing capability as
soon as possible. We have since announced that we will be purchasing
enhanced Paveway Bombs from Raytheon and we expect to have an
agreed contract by the end of the year;
- enhancement of the security of air-to-air communications
for key aircraft types in order to maintain interoperability with
NATO Allies. Trials have taken place and work is going ahead to
fit equipment to aircraft. Good progress is being made and the
work is expected to be completed over the next few months.
These are the most pressing capability shortfalls
to emerge from Kosovo and we are acting now on them.
The Committee will also be aware that both Stormshadow
and Brimstone are due into service in 2002 and that the full precision
guided bombing capability will be in service by 2006. These weapon
systems will greatly enhance our ability to strike targets in
poor weather conditions.
It is regrettable that, like other examples in
this report, the Tornado mid-life update is another programme
in which delays have prevented new and improved systems being
available for the Kosovo campaign. The MOD and the contractors
- BAE Systems - must get this programme back on track, and prevent
any further delay. (Para 143).
46. Since its relaunch in 1993 the Tornado mid-life
update programme had run successfully to time and budget. Notwithstanding
this good progress, the GR4 would not have been expected to be
operational by the time of the Kosovo campaign.
More recently, the integration of TIALD on to the
Tornado GR4, as anticipated, achieved a Military Aircraft Release
in July this year and is being used in training by our front-line
crews. As experience has increased in using the new software,
a number of reliability problems have been encountered with integration
of the software supporting the TIALD pod with the Tornado GR4's
computer. These problems are being urgently addressed by the contractor,
who is working on a new release of software which is expected
early next year. We are therefore delaying plans to deploy the
GR4 operationally. The contractor, supported by the MOD, has embarked
upon an urgent investigation into the cause of the current problems,
and will report progress shortly. In the meantime, Tornado GR1,
Jaguar and Harrier GR7 aircraft will continue to provide the required
The need to retrain pilots and reactivate techniques
for using unguided bombs suggests a lack of foresight. The MOD's
professed faith in the great utility of 'dumb' bombing in the
Kosovo campaign suggests that it has been economical with the
truth, if not attempting to mislead us. Dumb bombs may be more
'reliable' in the particular sense of the term as used by the
MOD, but their future utility in peace support missions undertaken
by a perhaps reluctant Alliance will be limited by the operational
and political constraints of such endeavours.
47. Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) are more likely
to deliver consistent results, and are therefore preferable in
certain scenarios, including many in the NATO air campaign where
the emphasis was on the minimisation of collateral damage. Nevertheless,
as the Committee has already commented elsewhere, weather conditions
made it difficult for the UK to use PGMs in all circumstances.
In such cases, where the target is suitable (e.g. a large target
with limited risk of collateral damage), use of unguided bombs
may be appropriate, and can be assisted considerably by the use
of GPS aircraft location. In the Kosovo air campaign, and as the
Committee was told in oral evidence, the technique required for
this type of operation is simple, but trials were conducted to
prove its accuracy, which was important in an operation of this
nature. In light of these facts and the evidence supplied to the
Committee, the Government does not accept the suggestion that
MOD has been economical with the truth or in any way attempted
to mislead the Committee.
Over 50% of the bombs dropped by the RAF were
cluster bombs. The Secretary of State's claim that cluster bombs
are 'the most effective weapons' for an anti-armour ground attack
task does not, we believe, apply to the circumstances of this
campaign. At the very least their reputation as an indiscriminate
weapon risks international condemnation, undermining popular support
for an action. The UK needs a more discriminatory anti-armour
system in order to move to an early end to reliance upon recourse
to these weapons in inappropriate circumstances.
(Paras 147 & 150).
48. The UK will always use the weapons systems judged
most effective against a given target, taking into account the
need to minimise collateral damage. In Kosovo, cluster bombs were
regarded as the most appropriate weapon to use in a number of
scenarios. The Government agrees that experience of the operation
in Kosovo has suggested that a capability to strike static, mobile
and armoured targets more accurately would be desirable, and it
is for this reason that it has decided to acquire the Maverick
It is clear that for air-to-ground attack, and
even for just an anti-armour capability, a mix of weapons is required
which the UK does not currently possess. (Para
49. The UK already possesses a good mix of weaponry
for a wide range of scenarios, but improvements to the armoury
are planned. Our analysis of operations in Kosovo identified a
number of important equipment capability lessons. One of the highest
priorities is the need for improvements to our capability to attack
static, mobile targets with precision in all weather conditions.
A contract has been placed for the Maverick anti-armour
missile that is due to enter service in February 2001. Maverick
is a proven weapon that will provide the RAF Harrier GR7 with
the ability to attack armoured and mobile targets with precision.
We have also initiated work that will provide the
RAF with a precision guided all-weather bombing capability as
soon as possible. Use of Global Positioning Satellite technology
will allow us to overcome problems like those caused by poor weather
during the Kosovo campaign. It is planned that procurement will
commence during 2001, on completion of a successful flight trial.
Both new precision weapons will help us to limit the risk of civilian
In addition to the Kosovo related enhancements, both
Stormshadow and Brimstone are due into service in 2002 and the
full precision guided bombing capability is due to be in service
by 2006. These weapon systems will greatly enhance our ability
to strike targets in poor weather conditions.
We recommend that, in the light of the experience
of the utility of Tomahawk for use against tactical and mobile
targets the MOD reconsider the decision to stick with the current
standard of the TLAM. It is important that the UK should be able
to capitalise on the success of cruise missiles in Operation Allied
Force, and we look to the Department in its response to this report
to set out its strategy for defining its long-range precision-guided
land attack capability and the mix of air and sea launched systems
it intends to acquire or maintain. (Paras
156 & 157).
50. The Block IIIC Tomahawk Land Attack Missile is
a highly capable weapon system, which fully meets our requirements
for a coercive capability in terms of accuracy, weight of ordnance
and the ability to attack the likely target set. The Department
presently has no plans to purchase the Block IV variant which
the US is currently developing as vertical launch only. This variant
can be redirected in flight and may be cheaper to maintain. However,
the Committee will be aware that initial joint research with the
US has been undertaken to determine the feasibility of developing
a torpedo tube launched variant of the Block IV missile that could
be deployed in our submarines should we subsequently decide to
procure it. This variant of the missile is the only type that
will be available for replenishment of UK stocks in the event
that any of the Block III arsenal is expended.
The Department continually assesses its capability
requirements against likely threats and procures (and maintains)
a balanced mix of weapons systems to reflect this. The UK's Block
IIIC Tomahawk provides a strategic capability, to be deployed
primarily in the early stages of a crisis as part of the effort
to prevent the crisis deteriorating into conflict. For this reason,
its use as a warfighting weapon in Kosovo should not be seen as
typical: it was providing an all-weather precision attack capability
to be used in high intensity operations against high value targets
such as communications infrastructure, storage depots or surface
to air missile sites. Different inventories of each system have
been procured to reflect this balance.
That our pilots could not communicate securely
and that they could not always communicate with American pilots
was a major shortcoming. That NATO should be surprised at the
use of this new, more secure but non-interoperable system by the
Americans suggests either a woefully poor speed of response or
exchange of information within NATO on a vital matter, or a worrying
degree of isolationism on the part of the USAF.
We expect the government to set out a precise timetable for
remedying this problem. (Para 158).
51. The requirement to enhance the security of aircraft
communications was one of three high priority Kosovo related measures,
as detailed in paragraph 45 above. Good progress is being made
and the work is expected to be completed over the next few months.
Work on joint digitisation of the battlespace
should be hastened. (Para 160)
52. Recent experience has confirmed the importance
of the Joint Battlespace Digitisation (JBD) initiative. Work since
1998 to achieve information superiority across the joint battlespace
is addressing the most significant capability gaps. To drive this
work forward we have made a number of important organisational
innovations. We have established an Integration Authority to achieve
the necessary interoperability of operational systems across defence,
and we have established a Director General of Information who
is working to ensure better exploitation of information for all
Defence purposes. We have also begun developing new operational
policy for the concept of Command and Battlespace Management (CBM),
which covers people and processes as well as hardware and software.
Operation Allied Force revealed just how limited
is the capability UK forces possess to find mobile forces and,
once they have been found, to target and engage them rapidly before
they can move again. The momentum behind developing the capability
of Phoenix to provide targeting data to strike aircraft must be
maintained. (Paras 161 & 164).
53. In order to engage mobile targets more effectively
in all weathers, we (and our Allies) need to improve Intelligence,
Surveillance and Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR)
capability. For the UK, the introduction of the ASTOR system will
significantly increase our capability, supplementing existing
systems such as the PHOENIX UAV and Allied capabilities such as
JSTARS. This will allow us to make faster attacks on targets.
Work continues on the technologies to enable the
provision of targeting information to strike aircraft. The capability
has been demonstrated in various trials including trials involving
the PHOENIX UAV. The concept is sufficiently well developed that
a useful operational capability could be deployed at short notice,
although more general introduction to aircraft fleets is subject
to the wider priorities of the equipment programme.
The MOD must set out how it is going to ensure
that the tanker fleet is sufficient for likely future needs and
that new tankers become available soon enough to replace the present
ageing fleet before they are obsolete. There have been suggestions
made of establishing a European tanker fleet - this is clearly
an area where wholesale duplication by each of the Allies of this
capability is likely to be inefficient. It will be essential that
the UK's own requirement is addressed in the wider context of
the European-NATO shortfall in this capability.
54. The Government shares the Committee's
recognition of the importance of air-to-air refuelling
(AAR) and will ensure that the UK maintains a capability
commensurate with its requirement. That the UK made a significant
contribution to AAR in Kosovo is notable, and that the Government
welcomes the Committee's acknowledgement of this fact.
The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) is planned
to replace the current VC10 and TriStar fleets from around 2007.
We are investigating the potential for achieving a service based
solution to the requirement under the Private Finance Initiative
(PFI). We are discussing our respective AAR projects with a number
of European and NATO nations. AAR is clearly identified within
the Defence Capabilities Initiative as a major capability requiring
attention, with shortfalls made up and older equipment replaced.
Innovative solutions to the current capability deficiency are
being sought under Netherlands chairmanship.
Increased strategic lift is of critical importance
for the realisation of European aspirations to have a genuine
European rapid reaction military crisis management credibility.
The credibility of the current order for strategic lift, and of
the balance between air and sealift, needs further examination.
(Paras 171 & 172)
55. The Government agrees that strategic lift is
of critical importance. That is why, as the Committee knows, we
have announced selection of the preferred bidder to provide a
six-ship PFI strategic sealift service, and are leasing four C-17s
to meet the short-term outsized strategic airlift requirement
until we receive 25 A400M aircraft, which will provide the long-term
outsized airlift capability, in the latter part of the decade.
The balance of investment is driven by the need to
deploy in the necessary timescales lead elements of the JRRF by
air, with the majority of the heavy equipment following by sea.
The Government's recent response to the Committee's 10th
Report (on Major Project Procurements) set out in detail how we
had reached our conclusions on this balance. The lessons learned
in the Kosovo campaign informed that process.
The DCI addresses the shortfalls in capability in
this area, and work is being taken forward on both strategic sealift
and airlift. The European Airlift Group continues its work on
potential closer integration of national strategic airlift assets.
Without the continued support of the Greek and
Macedonian authorities, sometimes in the face of considerable
domestic opposition, KFOR's logistics resupply would have been
compromised. Those politicians in these countries who stood by
NATO exercised considerable political courage. (Para
56. The Government fully endorses the Committee's
The resort to cannibalising front-line aircraft
in order to keep up the deployed Sea Harriers' availability is
clearly a matter to be taken up by the new joint Task Force Harrier's
command. We expect to be kept informed of any continuing incidents
of damage to the Sea Harrier's fuselage-mounted missiles.
(Paras 153 and 176).
57. The Joint Force Harrier is addressing these issues,
and the Committee will be kept informed of developments. The problem
of AMRAAM carriage in certain Sea Harrier weapons configurations
is the subject of continuing in-service trials work, but trials
since the potential problem was first identified, together with
a longer period of time carrying the missiles, have shown the
damage to be much less than feared, and containable within current
stock levels and maintenance routines.
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's relaxed attitude to the rate
of consumption of precision guided munitions during Operation
Allied Force depends far too much on the efforts 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. 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.
(Paras 178, 179 & 180).
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. 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. (Para 182)
58. Stockpiles of PGMs were put under some pressure
due to the prolonged nature of the operation, but the majority
of the stockpile remained at the end of the operation. Contingency
measures were in place to ensure that additional weapons would
be available if necessary, although these were not in the event
required. Current PGM stockpile guidance is being reviewed in
the light of this experience. The extent of the use of PGMs and
unguided weapons, and future smart weapon capability is addressed
at paragraphs 47 and 45 above respectively, and also paragraph
48 on Maverick.