Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 220 - 239)



  220. So would you agree that we have less of a capability?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, forgive me, but I made clear that if I could I would have preferred to have retained a viable Sea Harrier in service because we will be without one of the layers of air defence—the aircraft layer—but we will have many other layers and a number of them will be substantially improved. The Type-45 will be a substantial improvement over the Type-42. So it is not the case that we are going to have a worse capability in the Type-45 than we had in the Type-42, it is the case that the Type-45 does not provide the same capability as the Sea Harrier. Given the strengthening of that layer, given the risks involved and the money and technical risk involved with the Sea Harrier upgrade, then that balance in investment made sense.

  221. The technical risk of upgrading the Sea Harrier I still have not properly grasped, and I would be grateful, when you write to the Committee, if you could cover that in some detail. If it is just about fitting engines into these planes—and you yourself admitted that could be overcome—I am still not altogether sure what technical risks or gambles there still are about that. I am inclined to think that the greater risk is that you take out the Sea Harrier and replace it with a new Type-45 with an immature missile defensive system which cannot deliver the same capability; there has to be a risk attached with that. I would be interested to know where your organisation comes in when deliberating on or assessing that risk.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The Type-45 will be delivered with a missile system that will be maturing rather than immature.

  222. That is a bit like saving money and not spending it.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, I do not think that is quite the case. It is mature against the threats it will face at that time but it is not mature against the kind of threats it might face seven or eight years further on, so it will need to be developed continually.

  223. What does the Type-45 missile give to the fleet and to that ship in the way of protection in range as compared with what the Sea Harrier could give to the fleet under its existing profile?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) First of all, the Type-45 has a long-range radar and it has Samson radar, which is a world-beating radar. Those two together will give it a coverage of up to 400 kilometres.

  224. You have got to hit what is coming at you.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Indeed you have. So it has got extensive coverage. It has got extensive capability to counter electronic counter-measures because of the particular beam-shaping principles that we use with the Samson radar. It has got two types of missile, a long-range one and short-range one, at very high speed; the missiles use the piff-paff nose-vectoring (?) when they get close to the target, such as you see on spacecraft. So in a number of tests the missiles have actually hit the target.

  225. That is short-range.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No, there is a longer range and there is a shorter range missile. For obvious reasons I would not want to go into the details of the ranges here. So they are going to be highly capable against the most sophisticated missile threat against ships.

  226. Multi-threat?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes, absolutely. Of course, there is the overall command-and-control system that goes along with this. The radar is going to be able to deal with hundreds of tracks at once, the command-and-control system is going to be able to deal with more than 10 targets simultaneously, and the whole process is automated. It really is a highly capable system. We also have to think about the environment in which our ships are more likely to be operating. We have moved away from the blue-water, open ocean conflict to more littoral conflicts. Given the problems that exist there, with hostile terrain and overflight on hostile terrain, with the masking that is involved, we are very much more interested these days in shorter range and higher reactive systems to threats that pop up at short notice. Again, the Type-45 is admirably suited to that.

  227. You made a very interesting point about the flexibility of the Type-45 and you recognise that most of the projected conflicts we could be involved in will be close to shore. Can the Type-45 with the PAAM system actually be deployed as an air defence for land forces?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes.

  228. It can. Effectively?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It depends. It depends where the land forces are, it depends what the surrounding terrain is going to be like. I would not suggest for one moment that land forces ought to rely solely on Type-45 for air defence cover, but can it make a contribution—absolutely.

  229. Can I then develop the issue about the Type-42's upgrade to carry a different type of missile, like the Tomahawk? There was a suggestion that the Tomahawk, at some stage, will be fitted to it. When would you suspect that the Type-45 would be in a position to be able to offer air defence and a very offensive, useful weapon like the Tomahawk? Where do you see this in the phasing of the commissioning of these ships?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We have not made any decisions on that yet. We have not made decisions on the surface-to-surface guided weapon, either Harpoon, which it could take, or fitting Tomahawk to it. At the moment, of course, we have submarine-launched Tomahawk and we will shortly be getting the Storm Shadow air-launched missile. So we have a complementary missile system there. The issue of launching Tomahawk from surface ships is something that we keep under consideration, and we have reached no decisions yet, I think is all that I will say. It is something that we do look at.

  230. Without increasing the bulk of the ship too much, it is possible to put Tomahawk missiles on to it without downgrading its air defence role?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) All the indications so far are that it will be entirely possible to put it on. A ship can only, obviously, carry so much in the way of armaments, so I would hesitate to say we could do everything all the time.

  231. I would hate to see us needing two ships to do two different roles; one hopes that we can have one ship for each. My final point is about the link between the Type-45 and what it will be able to do—its capability—when it comes into service, as opposed to what it is going to be like in the year 2016 when the final ships are in the water, and how many Sea Harriers a Type-45's capability can actually replace. I am interested in this scenario that the Sea Harrier will be redundant anyway once the Type-45 comes into service.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I would not claim that and I do not think I have claimed that. As I say (repeating myself, I know) I would rather be able to keep a viable Sea Harrier capability in service until it is replaced by the Joint Combat Aircraft. I do not see the Type-45 as a direct replacement for its capability. What I do say is that given the nature of the likely operational environment and the demand that is going to place upon defence and the need for highly reactive, short-range systems, the strengthening of that particular layer of the air defence system represented by the anti-air warfare destroyer is a very valuable addition to our capability.

  232. I would understand if you could not answer this, but how many Sea Harriers are needed to tackle the number of simultaneous air threats that it is projected a Type-45 could deal with?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is impossible to say because the Type-45, for example, could deal with very fast, low-flying missiles. The Sea Harrier just could not deal with those at all. However, of course, it might, depending on how they were launched, have been able to deal with an aircraft which launched such missiles. So it really is not possible to draw a direct comparison between the two.

Mr Howarth

  233. Air Marshal, can I ask you one quick question? You have talked about the cost of the upgrade. Given that the Sea Harrier is doing a great job as it stands, given that there is not just a twelve-month but a very serious gap in terms of years, why not just let the Sea Harrier carry on as is?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) There are a number of specific shortcomings, which I would not want to go into in open session, which mean that the circumstances in which it could be usefully employed narrow dramatically after 2006. We can certainly provide more information on that.


  234. We have facilities for storing sensitive documentation. Just a couple of questions before we finish on the Type-42/45. The fleet of Type-42 destroyers began their operational lives in the Cold War, although I understand even in the Cold War the MoD was thinking of refining its concept and weapon systems. To what extent has the requirement for a maritime anti-air capability changed since the end of the Cold War?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think the most substantial change is the one to which I have already referred, which is the need for air defence in the littoral environment as opposed to air defence in the open ocean. This is a reflection of the change in the employment pattern of sea power in the round. Sea power operations are much more about littoral operations than open ocean fighting. The consequences of that are as I have described: operating in a cluttered environment, close to shore and the inability always to see out to the range one would wish and, therefore, the need to be able to react at very short notice to incoming threats.

  235. If there is anything else perhaps you could let us know. Perhaps it is not fair asking an RAF man about maritime history.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) That is the fundamental change, and it has affected all areas of naval warfare. I have referred to the air defence implications, but, of course, there are anti-submarine warfare implications as well.

  236. The previous Defence Committee produced a report on the Common New Generation Frigate. In that Inquiry the MoD told that Committee that the number and mix of Type-45s and Future Surface Combatants—set by the SDR at 12 and 20 respectively—would be subject to "continuing critical operational analysis". Is this an area in which you see scope for revision?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The Strategic Defence Review, in a number of areas, specified numbers. The numbers were drawn to a large extent from the sorts of capabilities that would be seen within the various platforms against the sort of threats that they might face. Both of those things evolved over time. My business is about producing capabilities, not specific numbers. So what I am interested in is actually how we get the job done. If a system becomes more capable it is entirely possible that you might need fewer of them, but of course there are other considerations—concurrency, for example; one ship cannot be in two places at once, obviously. So we have to take all that into account. My business is capability, so I will define what we think the capability needs to be, and when we see what the potential solutions are, when these are produced by the integrated project team, then that will lead us through a process of operational analysis to determine what the precise numbers requirement is. So I suppose the short answer to your question is yes, of course, we keep it under review.

Mr Hancock

  237. Can I ask one quick question, which goes back to the Sea Harrier replacement. I actually feel that possibly it is game, set and match to those who believe there is a significant gap when they are phased out in the defence fleet, as opposed to the argument the MoD is putting. You are taking 32 aircraft out of commission with the Sea Harriers' departure. Was the option of upgrading ten of them, so that you would have five aircraft available for any one air carrier deployment and five land-based for maintenance etc, ever seriously looked at as an option? Is it something that is still potentially in the melting pot?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I cannot answer the specific question as to whether that option was looked at. What I would say is that the risk and the cost of improving the capability is largely involved with figuring out how to do it. Once you have done that, doing it for ten aircraft as opposed to five is not usually that much—

  238. As opposed to 30.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Indeed. In other words, it is the up-front cost that is important in figuring out the solution. That is going to be the same no matter how many aircraft you are going to upgrade.

  Chairman: Thank you. We have a few questions now on the Joint Strike Fighter, the Harrier replacement.

Kevan Jones

  239. Air Marshal, obviously the replacement for the Harrier, the Joint Strike Fighter, is the ultimate gain in terms of what we need in capacity terms. What additional enhancement in capacity terms will we get from the Joint Strike Fighter as opposed to an upgraded Harrier?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We will get modern systems, we will get a substantial level of stealth integrated to the aircraft, we will get substantial range, we will get substantial payload capability and we will get substantial improvements in supportability and cost of ownership.

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