Examination of witness(Questions 200-219)|
GCB OBE ADC
WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002
200. There may still be time to come back in
before you retire.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I could not possibly comment.
201. I am slightly depressed by your response
to Patrick Mercer about the question when the lessons are not
learned and your analogy that, looking at the Falklands and the
1945 War, you would see that they were fairly similar. It is a
very depressing tale that the lessons are not taken note of. I
want to ask a specific question relating to the Apache helicopter
because if lessons were ever going to be learned, if you are going
to procure something which is so significant a development for
the armed forces, you would certainly want to be sure that you
had the capability of putting it into operation. Where was the
failure there? I would be grateful if you could tell us when you,
as Chief of Defence Staff, were first made aware that this was
a significant problem that would take years to overcome.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) So far as the delivery
of the helicopter itself is concerned, by and large, that is meeting
our expectation. What is holding up the programme has been the
training of the pilots to fly the thing. I was extremely disappointed
at finding out that we are not going to get this capability in
as quickly as I would wish. I guess that probably I knew about
it within the last year and that the simulator was suffering the
delays that you are aware of.
202. Why was not Parliament told? You were told
a year or 18 months ago and the Ministry of Defence have an obligation
to keep Parliament informed. This was a significant, major procurement
development, running into billions of pounds.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I cannot answer that question.
203. Was it kept just at your level?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I should not think so.
It is not my direct responsibility to track what is going on in
the procurement world. As a user, I have a very active interest
in getting the capability I want in.
204. You have responsibility for the training
of the personnel who are going to operate this aircraft. Surely
that was a significant flag waving exercise on the part of someone?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I will track any equipment
coming in because obviously it will be factored into my appreciation
of what our operational capability is. It is not my responsibility
to drive the projects. That is another part of the department.
205. We have made significant changes in the
order of battle and all sorts of things to accommodate the role
of these aircraft in the future of our armed forces. The capability
to be able to fly them was the key factor. We do not buy new fighter
planes without making sure the pilots are ready to fly them and
the two things should have been working togther.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I agree.
206. At the personnel level, the morale sapping
situation must have been devastating in the armed forces.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I am seriously hacked
off. How we got into the situation, I believe, is information
that is available. The business of getting a simulator on line
has been slower than it should have been for three or four reasons.
Chairman: We are rather cynical. Two
years and ten months' delay is almost normal. It does not come
on the radar screen if it is five or eight years, I am afraid.
207. Why was it not possible to send our pilots
to be trained in the United States on the simulator they use?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We have done a certain
amount of that, certainly with our instructors, but now the simulator
is on line and we are putting our pilots through it. We have reassessed
the length of time it takes us to train our pilots as well.
208. All of our operations, be they high profile
operations in Afghanistan or lower profile operations continuing
at a lower level, have involved special forces. Have we enough
special forces and, if not, how are we going to increase them?
Should we increase their size?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) In the New Chapter, we
recognise in the new strategic context the value of our special
forces and we are looking to see if there are ways of enhancing
209. We have met a fairly negative series of
responses from a variety of different people about this, saying
that it is just not possible. Every capable soldier, sailor or
airman that can be moved into special forces is already there.
Do you accept that?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The course to become a
member of special forces is a very demanding course with a very
high attrition rate so you do not flick your fingers and increase
your size by five, 10 or 20 per cent. It is a tough course and
getting the right calibre of people through it is a lengthy process.
Whatever our aspirations are about what we think we should have,
realising them in practice will probably take a long time.
210. Are you optimistic?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes. It will not happen
quickly and we will work on our own internal PR to try and make
sure that we carry the people forward through the course.
211. Similarly, we see organisations like the
Royal Marines being used time and time again. Is there a possibility
to train line units for those specialist roles so that there can
be more flexibility and the possibility of not just using the
Royal Marines as the spearhead, with operations like Anaconda?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes, I believe there are
ways of bringing our line units in to do some of the tasks that
are sometimes more traditionally sent to the paras or the marines.
I believe there are competent infantrymen around who could do
some of this responsibly.
212. What is being done about that?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) At the moment, we are
still looking to see how, given the amount of activity that is
going on at the moment, in the army we have room to get the extra
training in for such regiments. That is something we are still
213. Is there a solid programme in place?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Not yet, no.
214. That has not progressed very far?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No.
215. We have asked hardly any questions on the
Royal Navy and how, as a purple commander, you keep in touch with
your own service. In terms of the size and shape of the surface
fleet, what numbers are we operating on now? Is it 32, 30, 28,
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) You mean so far as the
destroyer and frigate forces are concerned, as opposed to the
vast majority of the other ships?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) At the moment we have
32 but we are going to have 31 when HMS Sheffield goes.
217. Is that the base line?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Based on the Strategic
Defence Review assumptions, we reckoned we needed to have broadly
speaking 26 ships in the operation side to discharge the tasks
perceived in the SDR. In order to deliver that capability, we
needed 32 destroyers and frigates. With the introduction of the
Type 33 frigate and the better availability we think we can get
out of it and the improved maintenance processes that we have
within our maintenance organisation, we believe that we have 31
ships and can still provide the 26.
218. Just one last question, I did allude to
it before, the story that appeared in the Daily Telegraph
on 2 November, not written by Michael Evans, I understand. Is
there any truth in it: "Brown warns defence chiefs war on
Iraq is `too expensive'", "Treasury balks at £15
billion bill for attack on Iraq"? Is somebody whingeing inside
the MoD? Is it speculation? Even in your student daysthis
IS going back a few years, not as far as me thoughhave
you heard of a case where Chancellors do seem to impose their
views on the conduct of a war?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I will start with the
article in the newspapers that was referred to there. It is something
outside my knowledge and it is untrue as far as I am concerned.
219. That is a Hoonism. I would expect that
from the Secretary of State.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Obviously, if we are going
to be engaged in operations, the Treasury needs to be consulted
on a variety of issues. This story about him blocking some activity
is one which was news to me, another piece of fictional reading
I am getting used to in some of my newspapers.
Chairman: Perhaps we should invite Mr Gilchrist
and the Chancellor on to the War Cabinet because they seem to
be having a big effect on the conduct of operations.
Patrick Mercer: That is not what he has just
Chairman: Thank you very much. It was very interesting
and very relevant.