Examination of Witness (Questions 280
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
280. That is a very good, diplomatic reply.
Would you ask somebody to tell us what the real picture is in
due course? Where are the delays? I do have enormous respect for
our German allies, but there are delays for all sorts of weird
reasons, often political, the position of the Defence Minister,
the unwillingness of maybe the Bundestag to take the right decisions,
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and it is damaging the credibility
not only of our German allies but those associated with the same
programme. Could you ask people to write to us and tell us whether
there are avoidable delays which could be overcome?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) If I may, and without
wishing to dig the pit for him, I believe CDP is coming with the
Minister (Defence Procurement) next week, and that might be an
opportunity to quiz him on that.
Chairman: You have read all the manuals,
Air Marshal, I can see that! There will be a few questions on
this, quite clearly.
281. Air Marshal, you are getting very experienced
at avoiding missiles. It seems that we do have quite a large number
of aircraft programmes underway which do have similar capabilities.
Obviously, we have the Eurofighter, which is principally an air-to-air
air superiority fighter but will ultimately have a ground attack
role, we have the JSF, the Joint Strike Fighter, which is, as
you have described, carrier-based but with a multi-role capability,
and in the longer-term the Future Offensive Air Capability system,
FOAS or FOAC, to replace the Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft.
Does your organisation have a role in reducing unnecessary proliferation
of platforms? Can you share with us some of your thoughts, particularly
given your background in the Royal Air Force, as to the rationale
behind these different platforms from a capability point of view?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Just on a point of
detail, you have referred to the Joint Strike Fighter as a carrier-based
aircraft, the Joint Combat Aircraft is a system which will be
used from afloat or ashore
282. I am sorry, I meant to say that.
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) We want as few different
types as we can possibly manage. We are in the business of expeditionary
operations which need to be characterised by speed, precision
and force protection. We need to minimise our logistic footprint
and the logistical support role, so reducing types not just in
the air but in all environments is critical to that. The Eurofighter
is an aircraft, the Joint Combat Aircraft is an aircraft which
is looking like the JSF, so there are two aircraft types there.
The Future Offensive Air Capability is just that, a capability.
We do not know yet, we have not decided, how it is going to be
met. There are all sorts of options, manned aircraft, unmanned
combat aerial vehicles, stand-off missiles, all of them may well
have their part to play. So it is not a foregone conclusion that
the Future Offensive Air Capability is going to involve a new
and different aircraft type. That is the first thing. The relationship
between them and the balance between them is something that interests
us greatly because it does drive our requirement for numbers and
it is something we look at extremely closely. Maintenance of air
superiority and air supremacy, the ability to seize and maintain
control of the air, will, I think we all agree, be fundamental
to military operations in the future as it is now. Eurofighter
is a system that is focused on that. It has capabilities that
will not and cannot be provided by the Joint Combat Aircraft as
envisaged. Of course, we want to be able to have flexibility in
Eurofighter and we want to have a degree of offensive capability
in it, nevertheless as currently envisaged Eurofighter will not
provide the sort of offensive capability which we expect to get
out of the Joint Combat Aircraft. So there is a degree of overlap
but only to the extent that we need for flexibility in operations.
It will not be the case that one can easily do the other's job.
We still, though, have to decide upon the balance between the
two of them and that is an on-going question. As I say, the Offensive
Air Capability itself remains a completely open question.
283. Given the extraordinarily long gestation
period of the Eurofighter, to the extent it is not going to enter
into service until effectively another two or three years as a
fighting force, how would you respond to people in some quarters
who suggest that because of this delay perhaps we do not need
the full complement of 232 Eurofighters when the Joint Combat
Aircraft and the Joint Strike Fighter are scheduled to come into
operation in 2012, although perhaps that is an ambitious target
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) I would say that our
requirement remains for 232 Eurofighters but we always keep these
things under review, as I said earlier, because the environment
changes, circumstances change, technology changes, and we need
to be agile in responding to this. That remains our requirement
at the moment.
284. But you could see a possibility that there
might be a reduced requirement?
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) It is possible that
all sorts of things might change. I would not want to speculate
about specific platforms. The point that I would want to stress
is that we do not take a decision and then bury our heads in the
sand and forget about it.
285. You also hold very firmly to the view that
the Eurofighter provides a capability that the proposed JSFs will
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) The Eurofighter and,
as pointed out, the missiles that go with it and the other parts
of the system will have a capability that cannot be matched by
the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
Chairman: I forbid members to deduce
from Mr Howarth's last question possible reductions of Eurofighters
in those many constituencies where British Aerospace are operating,
in advance of tomorrow's local elections!
Mr Howarth: I have to intervene at that point
to declare my interest in that I represent the headquarters of
the company which manufactures the aircraft, so I can assure you
that I have a very strong vested interest in the success of this
aircraft. The Air Marshal pointed out that it has a capability
that even a projected aeroplane will not be able to deliver.
286. That is clear. Thank you very much. I will
not patronise you. You have performed incredibly well. All I suggest
is that you look at any video of Sir Robert Walmsley, who is the
consummate appearer before select committees. He has a quality
that you will not yet need to developthat of putting your
hand up in the air and admitting to occasional mistakes. Fortunately,
your tenure is reasonably short to ensure that there will not
be too many occasions when you will be able to admit to mistakes.
You will be well retired before then. Thank you very much. It
was a very pleasant and informative session. I am sure we will
(Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup) Chairman, thank you
very much. I enjoyed it.