Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 260 - 279)



  260. Does it transmit maps?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It will transmit maps if you wish it to, yes. It will transmit data, so you can pass almost anything over it, although of course there can be band-width constraints as ever. We are talking about 48,000 radios here and 26,000 computers—a massive system—and 20,000 vehicles and something like 149 ships, a large range of aircraft and, as I say, eventually, 45,000 of the Personal Role Radios. So it is an extensive system. I have talked about the specific benefits that it provides, but why is this important in terms of military capability? I come back to what I said earlier about moving towards a network-centric capability. Bowman is a critical element of that. It will link in through Falcon to a range of other systems. It will enable us to exercise command-and-control of forces in a much more efficient manner than we are able to at the moment. Just as the Personal Role Radio is improving the situation a lot for individual soldiers on the ground, we are getting to the stage now where we are able to link up individuals and vehicles in an efficient way, and I draw a parallel with the introduction on to the Tornado F3 of the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System some years ago. The F3, as you know, was an aircraft which was designed to guard against a Soviet threat coming from the north, operating from what was essentially a very large aircraft carrier, the United Kingdom. It was not designed as an air superiority fighter to mix it with things like F-15s and so on, yet when we put the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System in that aircraft, suddenly its capability was transformed and the crew were able to hold their own in a wide range of circumstances, and many of them regarded it as the most significant development since the introduction of radar itself. This was because the ability to distribute information from a wide variety of sources to those who needed to have it transformed their situational awareness and the tactical capabilities, and the same is true in all environments, and Bowman is going to be a critical part of that for the land forces.

  261. Should the need arise, are there any further aspects of the prospective capability of Bowman that might be amenable for trading-off against cost or a timely delivery of this system? Is there an incremental acquisition capability which you might forgo or be prepared to forgo? I ought not let the manufacturer hear that, I suppose.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) At the moment, I am looking for the capability as advertised by 2004. The manufacturer tells me they can deliver, and I am expecting them to deliver.

  262. In terms of your own organisation, what role do you have in planning the transition to Bowman so that it does not impinge on current operational effectiveness?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is driven by the Army Department largely. The Army has to integrate the deployment of Bowman with its readiness cycle, so that the appropriate units as they come back through the training cycle can have their vehicles taken away and modified and so on. So we work very closely with the Army Department, as does the IPT, and it is integrated seamlessly so their requirements are met.

  263. So you do not think our number of forces will have to be reduced temporarily while kit is taken out of service; vehicles or ships are taken out of service?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No. That is the whole point, it is being stitched into the Army's formation readiness cycle, so they can maintain their operational tempo, their commitments, and as they are brought back through the training cycle the vehicles can be fitted.

  264. You have talked about the very large number of items of equipment that will have to be introduced—47,000 radios, 26,000 computer terminals—when you talk about 2004 being the in-service date, is that when you expect the majority of that equipment to be in place?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) No. I am trying to remember, off the top of my head, what we are using as the definition of in-service date there. I think it is the first units which are equipped with it. As I say, as the Army units go through their formation readiness cycle, they will be equipped, so it will take some time; it will be a rolling programme.

  265. So we will have units which will be air, sea and land, which will be equipped as from 2004 but not all the air, land and sea units?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Correct, and, of course, Bowman has a mode which makes it inter-operable with Clansman because we will have to inter-operate.

  Mr Howarth: Thank you.


  266. I am delighted to know how many ships we have. Are you sure you have got the figure right?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Yes, indeed. I hesitate about the definition of a ship.

  267. Of course!
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It certainly does include 42 capital ships, I can tell you that.

Mr Jones

  268. Air Marshal, we are now going on to take a few questions about reconnaissance and information systems. One of the lessons we learnt from the Kosovo campaign was the value of shortening sensor-to-shoot times. I understand that capability was very much needed in terms of the ISTAR system to link command and control. How does your organisation keep on top of developments in terms of getting the balance right between the different strands of information systems and getting the balance right between the different forms of those systems?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) What we are doing is developing a model for looking at defence equipment capability in the round, much more as a gestalt than a series of related projects, as it were, and then seeing how overlaying different types of information superiority capabilities on that will give us maximum leverage, if you like. We have made a determined effort over the last couple of years to shift investment into that area, as you know, but we also need a strategy for investing those resources, and that is the way we are approaching that.

  269. To what extent do we rely on our coalition partners in that work you are talking about, to ensure the systems do overlap?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I am sorry, I am not quite sure I understand the question. To what extent do we rely on them to provide capabilities?

  270. And also integration for joint operations.
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Inter-operability is crucial; inter-operability with likely partners is fundamental to those systems.

  271. In terms of UAVs, the Watchkeeper programme, why are we developing that when the US have already moved to the next generation of UAVs with things like Predator?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Watchkeeper is, from my perspective, a capability requirement. I need something and it is envisaged to be a UAV because the work which was done as part of the TRACER programme showed the value of a mix of manned systems on the ground and UAVs, but it is a capability requirement as far as I am concerned. Watchkeeper is not the name of a system, it is a requirement, and we do not know yet what is going to meet that requirement. I am waiting for the DPA to come back to me with the proposals for that.

  272. So it could be taking something of theirs off the shelf which is tried and tested?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It could be.

  273. Is that an option?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Absolutely. What is going to be most cost effective in meeting the requirement.


  274. The Americans are quite British-like in Afghanistan, strapping bombs on to drones, so it is a double-whammy for a system if we can deliver ordnance rather than simply transmitting information back?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Absolutely.

  275. We have one final section and that is another vexed area, Eurofighter, ASRAAM and BVRAAM. Eurofighter's air-to-air capability appears in many ways to hinge on the missiles it will carry. To what extent will integrating ASRAAM on the Tornado F3 reduce the imperative for bringing a similarly armed Eurofighter into service?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Not at all.

  Chairman: That is pretty succinct. Are you sure you would not like to add anything? I cannot recall ever having had a more precise answer. You are letting the side down, Air Marshal, by giving honest and terse answers!

  Mr Howarth: Shall we ask him why!


  276. We will accept his judgment. The MoD's refusal last year to accept ASRAAM into service appears to have hinged on the MoD's interpretation of the missile's ability to deliver the capability that the Department was looking for. What role did your organisation play in that decision?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We played a substantial role because we set the capability requirement but we also have to ensure that the solution which is delivered meets that requirement, so that is a fundamental part of the process. ASRAAM suffered from two specific problems at that time. There were some short-term issues which we judged could be resolved but needed to be resolved before we brought it into service at all. Then there was a longer-term issue which was that if we solved the short-term problems we would have a missile which was far better than anything else which currently existed but it would not be good enough for 10, 15 years hence when it would still be in service, so we needed to address the issue of how we were going to keep it ahead of the competition in the future. Those were the two specific areas we had to address. As you know, the short-term problems were solved, we brought it into service with the Air Force, we have delivered missiles to the front line, the operation evaluation units, and the response of the air crew has been very positive indeed. There is, as required by the previous Minister DP, a road map for taking the missile from where it is now up to the capability we will need in the future.

  277. You may want to give this information subsequent to our meeting, but can you give us an indication in public about the difference in capability that could have been available from ASRAAM last spring and what will be available when the missile is fully developed in due course?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We could not have used the missile until the short-term issues were resolved, it would not have given us any capability because of the problems of putting it into operational service. Now they are fixed, the capability it provides us is far superior than anything which exists anywhere else; a very fast, highly agile missile; good probability of kill; good counter-measures resistance, so we are very pleased with it.

  278. What longer range air-to-air capability will Eurofighter have in the first few years of its operational life, before it is fitted with BVRAAM?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It will be fitted with the AMRAAM missile, which has always been the intention in the near term.

  279. When some members of this Defence Committee went to the Bundestag three or four years ago, to plead with our colleagues to proceed with Eurofighter, they agreed, which I was very pleased about, and they were very concerned about BVRAAM, a European missile on a European aircraft. There have been one or two cases in the procurement of major weapons systems involving Germany where there have been delays over and above those which normally take place in the procurement of substantial platforms and weapons systems. Can you give us some indication as to—and you may say, "This ain't my responsibility" but I am pretty sure you know—what are the delays, why are we waiting for contracts to be signed, what effect will it have on the future National Audit Office report which will say, "Delays in BVRAAM" followed by an asterisk, and then you look down the bottom and it will say, "Due to contractual difficulties"? When will things proceed at the speed which those wanting to see this missile system on an excellent aircraft want? When will reassurance be given that everything will be on target, metaphorically and literally?
  (Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Chairman, this ain't my business! All I will say is that there have been some fairly complicated contract negotiations which have taken place, not least because both sides have wished to include the lessons learnt from the ASRAAM programme, and that has been done, and the methods by which the missile will be evaluated, the test points and all the rest, have been clearly defined to everyone's satisfaction. We have successfully concluded those negotiations now and we placed copies of the final draft contract with each of our partner nations, they all have it in their hands now, and we await to see the outcome.

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