Examination of Witness (Questions 240
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
240. In terms of the capability improvements,
what are the relative advantages of either the STOVL version or
the Carrier Variant?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We, of course, have
not reached a conclusion on that. That decision has still to be
made. There are benefits to both types. We need to see whether
the two variants will meet the key user requirements that we have
for the systemwhat the relative costs are and what the
relative penalties areand weigh those against our needs
and make a decision at that time as to which we go for. The advantages
conferred by STOVL are, of course, a reduced training penalty
for crews operating on board ship and, of course, the ability
to operate from relatively short and relatively ill-prepared strips
ashore, bearing in mind always that this is a joint force that
needs to be capable of operating from ashore or afloat as the
need arises. The conventional version will have advantages of
its own. We will have to look at them very carefully.
241. In terms of making that decision, what
consideration will be made of costs? For example, would it be
correct to say that the Carrier Variant would actually be cheaper
than the STOVL?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I am not in a position
to answer that question because we have not actually had the information
back from the DPA who are working through all this right now.
242. So no decision has been taken?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No decision has been
243. In the final analysis, what role will the
element of cost actually play in making the final decision?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The first criterion
will be: does the aircraft meet the key user requirements? If
one meets it and the other does not, then the answer is likely
to be relatively easy. If they both meet the key user requirement
then the choice becomes more complex, obviously, and there will
be a balance between additional benefits offered by one type against
the costs of that type, versus the other.
244. Last week, I think, there were comments
in a "Defence News" article about possible cutbacks
in the number of STOVL versions being acquired by the US Marines,
which is obviously going to increase the costs of the STOVL version.
Is it possible that could actually put it outside our price range?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I think these are questions
for CDP, not for me. All I would say is that actually the reduction
in numbers is likely to apply to all of the services, and my sources
are the same as yours, but certainly the article to which you
are referring was talking about reduced combined numbers for the
US Navy and the Marines, not just for the Marines. I have seen
indications elsewhere in the general press that maybe even the
United States Air Force might need to reduce its numbers requirement.
So it is not an issue of conventional versus STOVL, it is an issue
of total programme numbers. What, if any, impact that is likely
to have on costs I do not know and could be an issue, as I say,
245. In terms of the decision to be arrived
at, you obviously are the person arguing for capability. How does
it play out in terms of what the MoD and others are actually saying
"Well, costs have got their implications" and where
your responsibility is capability? How will the arguments play
out against either your arguments about capability versus, obviously,
what the MoD and Treasury will be saying, that cost is vitally
important? Do you bang your head against a brick wall?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Because I am interested
in defence capability I am obviously crucially interested in cost.
First of all, the programme has to be affordable, otherwise we
will get no capability from it. Secondly, the more I spend on
one capability the less I have to spend on another. As I said
earlier, I am trying to squeeze the maximum capability I can out
of whatever resources I am given, and it does not matter, frankly,
what the level of resources is, there are always going to be tough
choices to be made and a balance of investment decisions to be
made. That is true of any enterprise. They are fundamental for
me, because they impact on the amount of capability that I can
deliver and the balance of that capability.
246. On that point, can I ask why we need that
£600 million of UK-specific requirements for the JSF, and
what extra will you get for that extra expenditure?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Although the JSF is
a common aircraft it has to operate with UK weapons, it has to
operate within our own command-and-control infrastructure and,
of course, we have to make sure that it complies with our own
safety and environmental regulations and all the rest of it. So
the additional £600 million is really about procurement of
UK weapons for test purposes and to support the integration of
those weapons on to the air-frame. There is some specific UK integration
work and ensuring that, as I have said, it is capable of operating
with our own command-and-control communications, computers and
intelligence systems, and then compliance with safety, environmental
and acceptance procedures. So that is what that money is being
247. What extra will we get for that, in terms
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We will get the capability
to field the weapons we already possess or are planning to possess,
we will get the capability to operate the aircraft in our own
command-and-control environment, as opposed to just in somebody
else's, and we will be sure that it meets all the safety criteria
and other regulatory criteria which are mandated.
248. Thank you. We obviously do not have the
same clout that the Marine Corps, the US Navy, the US Congress
or the manufacturers have, but if we have not made up our mind
what type of aircraft we want and what kind of deck we want to
put on the carriers, does that mean that we are therefore a prisoner
of the dog-fight that is taking place in the US? Therefore, putting
it at it worst, are we just sitting back and saying "You
fight it out and whatever you decide then we will adjust our fleet
accordingly"? Would it not be better for us to have made
up our mind and then that might tilt the debate one way or the
other as opposed to standing back and apparently not doing a great
deal to influence the outcome of that debate?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Again, I preface my
remarks by saying that this is very much CDP's area rather than
mine, and I would have to refer to him for the expert advice.
First of all, it is not the case that we have no influence. We
have all the influence in the programme that we need, and that
has been demonstrated over recent years. Secondly, there is nothat
I have been able to discoversubstantial evidence of a dog-fight
within the United States' servicesby which I presume you
to mean that some people want to cancel the STOVL variant and
go with the conventional. All the people that I have spoken to
at a relatively senior level have been absolutely clear that there
is no question of that, that that is not on the agenda and that,
indeed, the paper that was referred to earlier about reductions
in the combined navy and marine requirement was not about cutting
STOVL variant out. So no indications of that. The final point
I would make is that we are making up our mind. Obviously, we
have got to have the right information on which to base our decision,
but we are planning to take a decision on the variant in the middle
of this year and on which way we are going to go with the actual
deck and the ship at the beginning of next year.
249. The current carriers we have were brought
in during the Cold War with an anti-submarine role. Your responsibility
is looking at capability. Where is that capability going to exist
with the new carrier force and the running out of the Invincible
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The current carriers
were indeed anti-submarine warfare vessels but they were anti-submarine
warfare vessels because they were carrying anti-submarine warfare
helicopters. The Navy Merlin, of course, is now in-service, which
is a substantially improved helicopter. It has got very capable
sensors, it has got the Stingray torpedo, which is itself being
upgraded, and of course the Future Carrier will be able to operate
Merlin, if it needs to, and a wide variety of other helicopters,
although of course we would normally expect to see Merlin based
on the Type-22 and 23 frigates, which have the role of anti-submarine
warfare. The Type-45 will be able to operate the Merlin and, obviously,
it will be able to operate off HMS OCEAN, although mainly that
is to support amphibious operations, and a wide variety of RFA
ships can also carry Merlin. So the Merlin is a system with the
sensor and the weapon, and there are plenty of platforms around
on which to base Merlin. In addition, of course, we have the Nimrod
MRA4 coming into service, again armed with Stingray, and new sensors
dramatically improve processing power and dramatically improved
time on station. So there is a substantial improvement in ASW
capability, particularly against conventional submarines operating
in the litoral, which is again, going back to what I said earlier,
the big shift in the threat. We have also got the RN Lynx, of
course, and then from later on this decade the surface combatant
maritime rotorcraft to replace that. We have got ASW and ASUW
capabilities with the Astute class submarine that is coming in
and, of course, we are upgrading Swiftsure and Trafalgar as well.
We have got the sonar upgrades and a number of passive measures
as well. We have got the surface ship torpedo defence system coming
in 2004, which has improved counter-measures, and of course we
are always working at lowering acoustic signatures, which is one
of the features of the Type 45 as well. So I think we have
got a pretty impressive ASW capability for the future, which has
been appropriately focused away from blue ocean warfare much more
into the litoral, where the key area of operation is going to
250. That brings into play what the Future Carrier
is going to have as its role, what the Joint Strike Fighter is
going to be predominantly expected to do, how it is going to operate
andif it is going to operate close inthe number
of sorties available, etc, and the length of time on the targetall
those things will greatly increase. In your role in looking at
the capabilities of both the platform and the weapon system, where
do you see that role?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The principal role
of the carrier is to project offensive power. That will be the
principal role of the Joint Combat Aircraft that operates from
it. I am always, though, concerned to make sure that we retain
flexibility and agility to the maximum extent possible, to be
balanced off against the real purpose for which you are procuring
a system and, of course, the cost of building that flexibility.
As I said earlier, I cannot guarantee what the future is going
to come up with, and we need to be able to respond at short notice
to unforeseen events. So we need that agility. So, as I said,
the carrier could, of course, operate Merlin, if we wanted it
to, but that is not why we are procuring it and it is not its
principal role, but there would be that option for it. We are
very much focused on the offensive capability and, partly as a
consequence of that, we are very focused on the integration of
the carrier and its aircraft with the much wider system and network
that is required to carry out those sorts of operations effectively.
These things will very rarely be operating in isolation, and I
am not just talking about having accompanying ships, I am talking
about the much wider information superiority capabilities that
will be necessary if they are to be able to do their job effectively.
251. By what you have just said, you are suggesting
that there is a wide flexibility available in both the JSF as
the weapon and the carrier as the platform. That will enable us,
as a nation, at some stage, to be involved in the sort of events
we have had over the last ten years.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes, I think the events
of the last ten years have shown the utility and flexibility of
carrier-based aircraft and we would want to exploit that to the
252. What do you think comes first, the design
of the carrier or the system you are going to put on itthe
aircraft? What, in military terms, is the right way round, because
I am at a loss to understand quite where the two paths are meeting
at the present time?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The right approach
is neither of those but to consider it as an entire system. Inevitably
there will be chicken and egg decisions within all of that, but
this is a system of systems, this is not an aircraft, it is not
a carrier, it is not just an aircraft and a carrier, it is a total
system. As I referred to earlier, that actually has implications
much wider than the carrier/aircraft combination in terms of information
superiority in particular. Neither of them come first, they are
both interdependent. The decisions on the carrier and the aircraft
have to be made in conjunction with one another.
253. I was rather surprised when this Committee
visited the United States recently at the difference in size between
the two versions that were available of Joint Strike Fighter.
If you went for the larger version that would have, obviously,
implications for the carrier, and I still cannot understand how
we can be developing the design of the carrier at the speed we
are but still not making a decision about the type of aircraft.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Again, this is much
more about procurement strategy, but I think Sir Robert Warmsley
would say, and I think he has said in the past, that first of
all we are pursuing a twin-track strategy at the moment with regard
to the carrier until we make a decision on the aircraft variant.
The second thing is that the size of the ship (and I am obviously
not an expert on this and I would certainly bow to his judgment)
is not really a crucial factorbuilding a ship bigger or
smaller. Clearly, one has to make a decision but it is not a big
cost driver, it is actually what you put into it that is much
more important. So we have to make a decision on the variant of
the aircraft, we have to make a decision on the size of punch
and the reach required in the aircraft based upon the carrier,
and we are working on both of those at the moment. That will drive
a number of factors with regard to the ship itself.
254. What is the latest thinking on when those
decisions will actually start to emerge in the public domain?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I do not know about
the public domain, but we are looking, at the moment, to make
decisions about the aircraft variant in the middle of this year
and then work through the consequences of that so we are able
to take a decision on the carrier itself at the beginning of next
Chairman: Thank you. We have a group
of questions now on aspects of information superiority capability,
including Bowman which exercised the minds of the last Committee
and the MoD quite considerably.
255. Air Marshal, Bowman. To what extent is
your organisation drawn into project management of difficult programmes
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We are not drawn into
project management at all. That is for the DPA to do, that is
for the Integrated Project Team and for industry to do. We are
there to set the capability requirement and to make sure it is
being met, and to address any questions that arise as to trade-offs
between time, costs and performance.
256. In that case, is this a case of where incremental
acquisitiontrading-off capability against cost and timeis
forced upon you so at least some capability can be delivered?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We have already done
that, I think. We have introduced the Personal Role Radio into
service, and that is all part of Bowman. We have over 17,000 of
those in service already, we have got 1500 of them in Afghanistan,
with ISAF and 45 Commando, and they are proving themselves in
operation. That is a great step forwardwe have taken part
of the Bowman programme and delivered it early, because it provides
a capability we need today in operations. The rest of Bowman is
now on-track after the earlier difficulties of the project and
it is a fundamental part of our network-centric capability for
257. I have seen the individual radio and I
am interested that a gap has even been discovered. Anyway, the
troops seem to be very happy with it, so the proof of the pudding
must be in the eating. From a purely capability customer perspective,
is there any great imperative in having Bowman in-service by 2004,
given all the difficulties with Clansman?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Absolutely. Clansman
has significant difficulties, as you know; it does not provide
us with a secure capability and the kinds of things that Bowman
is going to provide us with: secure voice service, secure data
messaging, the automatic position location navigation recording
system, which is going to make command-and-control that much easier,
data communications in support of all our various information
systems and the management information system itself are all,
again, fundamental to employing our military power effectively
in the future. So it is the Army's top priority to get this into
service as soon as possible.
Patrick Mercer: Does 2004 look reasonable?
258. Be careful on this one. Many heads have
rolled on dates.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) 2004 looks reasonable
at the moment. Despite the fact that this is clearly the DPA's
business to deliver, I have personally spoken to senior people
from the companies involved and I have left them in no doubt whatsoever
of the priority that I attach to this and the importance to the
Army. So they understand where we are coming from.
Patrick Mercer: Thank you very much.
We will not quote you, I promise.
259. I think, Air Marshal, you are adjusting
to your new role extremely well and very rapidly. The timescale
there is being met. Can I follow on with Bowman? Can you tell
us what difference the Bowman system will make to the operational
effectiveness of our troops, by way of additional capability?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) As I said, first of
all, in terms of specifics, there is the secure voice service
that it provides, which we do not have at the moment; there is
the secure data-messaging (and I will return to that in a moment,
if I may), the data communications, the automatic position location
navigation recordingso you can see where all the people
and the various equipments areand the management information
1 On current plans, the JSF variant selection decision
will be made around the middle of the year, taking into account
the implications for the carrier design. This is likely to have
the effect of reducing the number of potential CVF designs from
four (one CV-based, one STOVL-based, from each contractor, under
the twin-track strategy) to two (one for each contractor, conditioned
by the JSF variant). In early 2003, the MoD intends to announce
which of the two competing prime contractors for CVF will proceed
into Stage 3 of Assessment, at which stage one design will be
taken forward. Back
On current plans, the JSF variant selection decision will be made
around the middle of the year, taking into account the implications
for the carrier design. This is likely to have the effect of reducing
the number of potential CVF designs from four (one CV-based, one
STOVL-based, from each contractor, under the twin-track strategy)
to two (one for each contractor, conditioned by the JSF variant).
In early 2003, the MoD intends to announce which of the two competing
prime contractors for CVF will proceed into Stage 3 of Assessment,
at which stage one design will be taken forward Back