Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
WEDNESDAY 17 JANUARY 2001
WALMSLEY, KCB AND
240. Right, fine. Can you confirm that one of
the main reasons that the Antonov bid was not successful was because
basically it was not a tactical plane and the C17 was chosen because
it was a tactical plane?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) No. I think the main reason
was assured access.
241. Would it be fair to say that the C17 is
a tactical plane?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I think the United States categorises
it as a tactical plane but it looks pretty strategic to me. It
has tactical capabilities but it looks strategic because it has
got long-range huge capacity and can use large airfields and has
got these very attractive features of being able to move on the
ground and requiring no ground support.
242. Is it true the C-17 cannot carry out a
low level flying parachute, air dropping of equipment, casualty
evacuation, hub and spoke evacuation and forward air strips.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Some of those it can do and
some it cannot. The aircraft which we are leasing, the terms on
which we are leasing them do not allow them to do low level operations.
Of course they can do casualty evacuations, it has enormous capacity
for lifting casualties; of course it can do hub and spoke operations,
it has a very good rough field landing capability.
243. Under the leasing arrangements were you
restricted from conflict?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Definitely not.
244. Are there any major issues that prevent
the aircraft from entering service later this year?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) No. Later this year, I am not
sure if it is later this year, they will be on service as planned.
245. What is "as planned"?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) We may get one or two this year,
and the rest during 2002.
Mr Burns: Thank you very much.
246. Sir Robert, may I say I think that rather
inadvertently you have damned your staff with justifiable praise,
because you commended them for never having worked so hard as
they have on resource accounting. I looked at the Treasury bench
at that time and I saw glee come out of their eyes. I suspect
in 18 months time there will be a demand for cuts in establishment
within your department and it will all be on your head. I just
say that as a kindly warning so that you can think of alternative
uses for the staff you have. Outside I asked you a question, which
I think I would like to repeat to the Committee, because I think
it is important, when we make decisions on changing procedure
we should look at it from both points of view. I asked you, rather,
if it made enormous difference to you our switching from dealing
with the major projects in more than one session, of which I was
guilty of, having sat here for years and seen the department buried
in an avalanche of statistics on large numbers of projects I felt
that the Committee was utterly incapable of doing its job. From
your point of view, what difference does it make? Has it imposed
hardship on the department that you think we should be aware of?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) First of all, I would like to
say how hugely grateful I am, apart from one or two exceptions,
we have not been looking at the MPR 99 in detail on Monday or
today. If Monday was, as I originally thought, going to have dealt
with MPR 99 in the traditional way and today with MPR 2000 in
the traditional way I would have found that too difficult to handle.
They are different financial regimes. I might be able to do that
in a normal year but not in a year when we switched to resource
accounting. I absolutely admit that when this proposition was
put of two hearings, two days apart on different cash systems
I said I do not think I feel comfortable with that. Somehow, magically,
MPR 2000 then descended on both days and I have to say that I
find it just as easy to come twice in a week as once. I would
also say that I find it much easier to the come twice in a week
than once one month and once the next month.
247. That was the other point I made about the
time gap. I think we note that point. When you look at the department
over the years you will see an enormous amount of money that has
been wasted in the MoD, I do not ask you to accept that, and the
enormous delays on contracts, which would be truly unacceptable
in any other government department, the variation on contracts,
and so on. We have the NHS Executive here quite a few times a
year and it does not seem to impose too much of a hardship on
them. At one time when Sir Duncan Nichol was the head of the NHS
Executive I argued he was Whitehall's answer to Sylvester Stallone,
because I have never known anybody else to appear so often with
exactly the same script. If you are feeling a little hard done
by in having your work load doubled, it is less than doubled,
I just wanted you to have a chance to put your view on it. I now
switch to the main questions. I am not a technical man, but my
assumption is there must have been something awfully wrong with
the earlier model of the Apache because the Apache did not take
off once against the tanks in Bosnia, and my understanding is
that that was a move that was requested by the Europeans, was
vetoed by, as it their right, by the OMS. Since Milosevic's tanks
came out unscathed I was left wondering why they had such a great
reputation as being tank busters when they did not seem to be
busting much there? Are you satisfied that the version you are
getting now, which you said is improved, will achieve what you
want it to achieve?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It is a different version. It
is called the Long Bow Apache, it has greater reach. It was one
of our decision criteria when we ran the competition. I will ask
Admiral Blackham to comment on the operational utility of it.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is a different
aircraft. It is technically different. Sir Robert has already
mentioned the Longbow radar, which is a different order of radar
than the US ones had. I have already mentioned the improved defensive
aids suite. Not only that, there is quite an important issue of
training. The flying in Kosovo in extremely mountainous terrain
is extremely demanding and for perfectly good reasons the United
States crews when they arrived were not adequately trained in
this. We had the advantage of seeing that experience in designing
our training package, which is a PFI training package, and making
quite sure the pilot training is up to what is required. I am
pretty confident about that.
248. That is a Naval perspective. I must admit
that looking at it in the land use I am still not one hundred
per cent satisfied. Perhaps you can drop me a note on that rather
than spending more time on that. I want to move to Eurofighter.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I would very much
regret it if you thought I was giving you a Naval perspective.
I am in a purple job and I spend a great deal of time trying to
ensure that I understand the other environments.
249. That is a legitimate point taken on board.
As I understand it, the intention is, that we are going to end
up with the Eurofighter, perhaps, in various versions but as basically
a single strike aircraft, from what I have read in the documents.
In this respect I am puzzled. Going back to the question of the
cannon, we are told that the Eurofighter was designed for something
completely different. It was not designed for what it may have
to face some time in the future. The situation with the cannon
seems singularly a strange one, since we are told that it will
have, which it was never intended to have, a ground support role.
One can understand an aircraft that is going to be involved in
dog fights with air-to-air missiles not wanting a cannon, but
in ground support one can imagine they would. If you are going
to tell me that it does not why, then, did the Americans have
it on the aircraft the Chairman referred to and why do some of
the other people who will be using the aircraft want to have a
cannon? Is it just for decoration or is it something they can
stick a flag in the end of?
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) You
will have to ask them why they want one. The Eurofighter was procured
predominantly, as you know, as a fighter aircraft, that is the
fundamental role for which it has been designed.
250. Whose aircraft is it going to fight? Our
role is going to be primarily, or very considerably, in an EBS-type
role. We are more likely to be involved in Kosovo-type situations
now than in major international confrontations, where we will
be taking on one of the major air forces of the world. How relevant
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) If you are correct,
Mr Williams, my job would be a great deal easier. The fact remains
that I am still tasked to provide the forces with a capability
to counter the worst threats that we might potentially face. That
is the task that is laid on me. In doing that I must look at the
potential of those people whom I am directed to.
251. I accept that entirely. I am not being
rude, do you not also have a duty to ensure that you can meet
the threat you are most likely to encounter? What I am asking
is, is the Eurofighter relevant to what we are most likely to
encounter in the political and military scenarios we face at the
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) If I can be allowed
to answer in full. Firstly, I believe that it is. One can speculate,
but amongst the reasons why we have established air superiority
in the operations we have conducted and why we have not found
too much opposition air, we like to think, is the level of capability
we possess in the area. In other words, anybody who wants to fly
against us must be prepared to challenge the level of capability
252. With respect, I must interrupt there, but
it is the level of capability that the Americans will supply that
they were afraid of, not the level of capability we had. If it
had been dependent on the amount of air craft we had it might
have been a very different outcome there. It was the air defence
systems that caused enormous problems for our aircraft, they did
not go in low enough because of Milosevic's very good air defence
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Fighters do not
go low to attack the ground.
253. This is an all-purpose aircraft.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is designed
as a fighter.
254. It is designed to replace the Tornado and
the Jaguar. It is going to be the all-purpose aircraft.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I said it is designed
as a fighter, and it has been so equipped. We now find, as you
pointed out, that the kind of operations which we take part in
the most have changed. We now have to find a way to meet both
the most difficult operations and the most likely. That means
that we have to look at a range of our equipment to see how we
can swing roles so they can do other things. The Eurofighter clearly
has AD rating and ground attack. They are not the only aircraft
we have for ground attack, we have Harriers and Tornados lasting
until 2018, or so. We have announced today we will replace the
Joint Force Harrier with a JSF, an aircraft specifically designed
for ground attack. There will be a range of options. The Eurofighter
will be able to contribute to that, it will be able to carry appropriate
missiles. We have not found in all of the analysis we have done
a satisfactory use for a cannon.
255. We will consider that. Let us then turn
to table ten, our page 12 of the 2000 Report. This deals with
the operational impact of the in-service delays. It is a very
worrying scenario. Let us just take the second one, the delay
in the HVM introduction date has resulted in the first UK armoured
division having no specific, very short range air defence capability.
That is a very serious gap in terms of the modern armour not having
such a defence capability.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is. As I have
already said, more than once this afternoon, I always regret the
delay in service of any equipment for which we specify the need.
256. This is every bit as badif you happen
to be a member of the tank crewas last Monday's going to
sea in a ship without a sonar. It cannot do much for the morale
of our tank crews.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) The weapon is in
257. It took 81 months, or beyond, the time
it was due to.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I agree it is unsatisfactory.
I am a customer, I want the capability I ask for when I ask for
it. Obviously I regret the delay.
258. What worries me, back to one of my hobby
horses from Monday, is of all of the money we poured into defence
over the Cold War period and yet looking at this equipment at
any one time how inadequately our troops or our servicemen were
served by the quality of the equipment that they had available
to them and that, in effect, we were going to be shunted behindwhich
is one of the things the Americans have been shouting about, they
want burden sharing but they do not want the European defence
systemAmerican capability rather than our own capability.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) You were advocating
a moment ago that we should shelter behind American capability
as far as air-to-air is concerned.
259. No, I was not. I was pointing out that
that is what we had to do.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I had understood
you to say that.
4 Note by Witness: The C-17 is potentially
capable of all the roles mentioned, and there are no restrictions
in the licensing, support arrangements or contract which would
prevent their use for these tasks, including low level operations.
However, as stated in the answer to Q296, the UK has no requirement. Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 2, page 37 (PAC 00-01/62). Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 2, page 37 (PAC 00-01/62). Back