Examination of Witnesses(Questions 60-79)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
60. You carried out an exercise to see whether
you could use these tanks in the desert. We may be facing an operation
where we are using tanks in the desert and you are saying that
we do not need to learn the results of this because actually the
real tanks we deploy would have all this applique« armour
so it is not a lesson worth learning and because we ran it around
near Toronto it is fine.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You are misrepresenting
entirely what I have said. Let me try again. We now have very
high stocks of tank filters, very, very high indeed. We now have
lessons which tell us in what conditions the filters have difficulty.
We have operational armour which would mean this was different
anyway in a real operation and we have tested that arrangement
again to prove that is the case. We also have a number of options
available to us and this is very important. We have a number of
options available to us which we will adopt if necessary, which
will ensure that our tanks have full protection against dust should
they be required for operations.
61. Thank you; that is good to know. May I turn
to communications where another problem was thrown up by the exercise?
It says in paragraph 2.35, "Tank squadrons . . . were unable
to communicate effectively with each other, and were frequently
forced to interrupt manoeuvres in order to consult on orders for
ongoing training". They could not use the mobile phones which
they were able to use in Kosovo because there was no mobile phone
coverage. Am I right in saying that if we deployed forces in the
next year we would still have major communications problems?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You are right that
we would still be using only the first bit of the upgraded communication
system, that is to say the personal role radio, which is not encrypted
and therefore is not secure. We would still be using Clansman
because we will not have finished the complete upgrade to Bowman
62. It says in this report that there is a capability
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes; indeed.
63. I have been told stories that people had
to communicate by hand signals between tanks in the operation.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That may again be
a slight failure to understand the context, but may I ask the
64. Did they use hand signals?
(Lieutenant General Reith) They do anyway.
It is normal, when you are on the move with a tank formation,
to use hand signals to move. It is sometimes much easier than
cluttering a radio net.
65. If you are advancing under fire, would you
undo the hatch and signal to the others?
(Lieutenant General Reith) Everything
that is done with a tank formation is done by pre-arranged drills.
Normally, until you come into direct fire contact, you will actually
have your hatch open because that gives you better all-round awareness.
Once you close down you are obviously looking through sights and
so forth which are more limited. You need that spatial awareness
when you are travelling. The commander will signal and when his
tank moves the others will then move automatically into the right
66. Presumably if they cannot communicate with
each other, if they cannot see what the lead tank is doing, maybe
because of the dust and explosions going on, then they cannot
actually communicate at the moment from one tank to another.
(Lieutenant General Reith) That is not
correct. Clansman has its problems, there is no doubt about that.
It is very ageing equipment and Bowman is much looked forward
to. With the distances between tanks in a tank formation they
definitely can communicate, but we are not communicating secure,
which is what we will be getting with large elements of the Bowman
package beyond the personal role radio.
67. What about the clothing? Do you now have
the 30,000 uniforms which this report suggests you have for desert
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, not at this point.
We do not have those and we are about to make a judgement as to
whether we should do that or not.
68. Some lightweight footwear, so soldiers do
not have to go to buy their own?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is not quite
69. "We encountered a number of personnel
who had purchased suitable footwear at their own expense."
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) There is always that
option and people do tend to do that.
70. A sort of eighteenth century army where you
come along with your own clothes.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, not at all. Do
you really want to know about footwear?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We issued desert footwear
only for the 2,000 advance troops who went in the heat of the
summer on the judgement that it was going to be cooler during
the exercise and normal boots would be appropriate for the rest.
That does seem to have been correct. Other footwear was issued
which was for people in the headquarters, like chukka boots. Those
were the ones which were about ten years' old and not very good
if you are taking them into the desert. They should not have been
taken into the desert.
72. Can you assure me that if we were to mount
an operation in the next year, the combat troops we would send
in, the front-line troops, would have proper desert clothing and
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, we do hold stocks
of desert clothing and did during the exercise. We held it back,
we did not use it, because we may have needed it for a real operation.
Therefore we only issued a small proportion of it for the exercise
in the belief, possibly mistaken, that the temperatures would
not be so extreme as to require full desert equipment. We are
now looking at whether the so-called Combat Soldier 95 clothing
is adequate for temperatures of this kind or not. If it is not,
then we have the option of buying more desert equipment. In any
case, we can generate enough capacity to get it very quickly from
industry if we need it. There is another aspect of our relations
with the Committee, which you may know about, where we are urged
not to hold more than we need. Therefore we have to strike a balance
between what we need to have in our stores holdings and what we
can procure urgently from industry. That said, if we find that
Combat 95 uniform is not good enough for extreme conditions, then
we shall procure more desert clothing.
73. Would you give me an assurance, as this is
the sixtieth anniversary of our most famous desert battle and
we may be engaged in another desert battle at some point, without
speculating too much, that when we ask our soldiers to go in they
will have the tools to do the job?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Indeed I can assure
you of that and I am sure the General can as well. It is of course
nearly the two hundredth anniversary of Trafalgar as well.
74. We did not get onto the maritime aspect of
(Lieutenant General Reith) We made a
conscious decision over the desert combats. I said that those
who were going in early and were going to be working out in the
desert during the very hottest part of the Omani weather period
should take it, because it is pure cotton and is much more comfortable
in those temperatures and that those who need it during the exercise
for camouflage purposes as part of the exercise should also be
issued with it, which they were. We did not issue any more because
we do require stocks to be held and that was what we did. I should
also say that Combat 95 is actually a very versatile set of clothing.
In fact I suggested to the PUS that I should be wearing it today,
but he told me I had to be much smarter for the Committee. It
was designed to cover from the arctic, right through into desert
conditions and it works on a layer principle. The balance is whether
we have the mix between polyester and cotton right for the extreme
temperature end of the scale. That is all.
75. You told Mr Osborne that Bowman would be
introduced in 2005. In paragraph 2.36 it says ". . . Bowman
is introduced from 2004". I took "from" as meaning
during 2004. Are you now saying that it has slipped another year
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, it is not slipping.
It is slightly misleading. Bits of Bowman are being introduced
now and already exist, that is to say the personal role radio,
which is a bit of Bowman. This is a reference to the encryption
and data links which come with Bowman and will be fielded out
for 45,000 people. That will happen during 2004 and be completed
in 2005. I do not believe there is any difference between what
is written here and the plan. It is not slipping.
76. The encryption links are very crucial, are
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) The encryption is
very important indeed. Even so, one might still want to retain
radio silence and use hand signals. Nevertheless, it will be a
77. I would really hope that you are not going
to get very tetchy with me.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I am never tetchy,
Mr Steinberg. I am just anxious to get the truth across.
78. You signed up to this report. We receive
this report and read the report and make our judgements from the
report which we read. Therefore if you disagree with what is in
this report, you should say so at the time so that we are not
under any misunderstanding about what the National Audit Office
are trying to say to us. It is clear from the questions which
both Mr Osborne and Mr Williams put to you that they were questions
based on the report. My questions are based on exactly the same
sort of line but you seem to object to those questions. At the
end of the day, you signed up to the report. If you did not agree
with this report, you should not have signed up to it.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Let me be clear. What
is often happening in what I am saying is that the factual statements
about what actually happened on the exercise are accurate. The
inferences which are being drawn from them, in terms of what this
would mean for real-life operations, are in some cases erroneous;
not in all cases. Some very valuable lessons came out of the exercise,
many of which are in this report; we got 2,000 lessons from it.
79. We can only draw the conclusions we draw
from the report we read.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I agree.