Examination of Witnesses(Questions 80-99)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
80. If you believe that those conclusions are
going to be made by us, then you should ensure that is what is
said in the report so we do not go down the wrong lines. I feel
that I spent virtually the whole of Sunday afternoon wasting my
time reading this report, putting quite a lot of work into it
when you then come along and say it is a load of crap anyway.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I did not say
81. You inferred that.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I did say that
if you read paragraph 1.22 of the report, for example, it says
that the exercise was a success and that is indeed the conclusion
of the report at a later stage. I have to say Mr Williams opened
with a suggestion to me that it was a complete failure and that
is what I challenged.
82. I have to say that after I read the report,
my line of questioning was basically exactly the same, that it
had not been a very good exercise because of what had actually
happened. Let us just look at page 2, paragraph 6, for example,
the whole of the paragraph. It makes us wonder whether the exercise
was really worthwhile in the first place. Basically what it says
is that it took three years to arrange, yet it is the Joint Rapid
Reaction Force which has to react within 30 days and this took
three years to arrange. It says that the medical facilities were
not scaled for a real war, only half the armoured brigade was
taken and full war stocks of munitions were not taken. So how
do you know from this, if we have a conflict situation, that there
is not going to be a catastrophe, because these were never tested?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You are making my
point when I was trying to explain the context. The context is
that exercises, even a big one like this, are not the only way
that we demonstrate and exercise our Joint Rapid Reaction capability.
In parallel with this we were doing real world operations and
we have just done one in Afghanistan. During this period we were
keeping 2,000 forces in the Balkans, 3,000 in Kosovo, 2,000 in
Bosnia. We were keeping quite a large force at that stage in Sierra
Leone. So in addition to the exercise, we were learning real lessons
about JRRF generation from operations. It is a form of force that
we use for flexible purposes. Sometimes we use small elements,
sometimes we use large elements. This was a medium scale; pretty
big actually for a medium scale, 22,500 people. It is not the
only way of demonstrating the JRRF concept, but it is a very good
way of testing where the lessons really need to be learned. In
operations we tend to go heavy. We tend to go with what we need
to win. This exercising is a good way of trying to see where the
limits are, where we need to make actual adjustments.
83. Basically what you are saying there is that
there would not be a complete catastrophe if there is an action
in the Middle East in that particular area, that this exercise
has proved that we are quite capable of
(Sir Kevin Tebbit)lifting large
amounts of people and equipment into a battle zone.
84. And that the equipment will work.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes; indeed. The availability
levels of the equipment are really quite high, although there
were some artificialities like holding back some of the tanks,
because of the problems of dust ingestion, for the last phase.
85. Paragraph 9 says that the exercise actually
did fully extend the dedicated strategic lift assets, but even
with the new C17s you were unable to lift everything you wanted
to and you will have to depend upon civilian aircraft to do that.
Is that wise that in a conflict situation you have to depend upon
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We do rely on a balance
and a mix; that is quite true. We have four C17s and our C130s
which are far more than any other European country has. We have
ro-ro ferries coming along very soon, but we do rely on civil
charter as well. To have our own dedicated forces to move everything
would be quite prohibitive in cost. We have the A400M project
coming forward, so we are doing a lot to improve our lift capability.
This does work.
86. In the recent conflicts we have had over
the last 60 years, have we depended upon civilian resources in
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, we have always
relied on civilian resources to some extent. There is a very wide
range of companies and providers out there and we did not have
problems in Kosovo, for example, when we were going in for real
in 1999. We used that civilian mix and it worked. Similarly in
Afghanistan, we could have done although largely we used our own.
Basically it does work.
87. There is no undue risk.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, we believe the
risk is managed properly.
88. What would happen if it were not?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is a hypothetical.
89. It is all hypothetical, is it not?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You would require
then the whole of the global transport effort to be denied to
us and I think that is unlikely.
90. Two previous members have gone into the situation
with the Challenger 2 tank, troops, equipment, clothing, so I
do not want to go down that line any further. What I wrote down
was that you had 23,000 men there, but once they got there they
did not have the right clothes and the weapons did not work. Logistically
it was successful to an extent but it is a bit worrying, is it
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) The weapons did work.
91. I can remember Kosovo. You got them to Kosovo,
but you did not have any beds for them to sleep on. Do you remember
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, I can remember
92. This is a similar scenario, is it not?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Even with Challenger
2 we had 83 per cent availability which is very high for a military
93. Did you know about these things before you
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, not all of them.
I knew that we were making judgements as between cost and other
operations and this exercise and that we were going to find some
interesting outcomes. We could have spent another £20 million
and upgraded the tanks. Actually I do not think we would have
done because of the operational requirements at the same time.
We could certainly have played safe.
94. What was very worrying in the report as well
was that it seemed to indicate that some of these problems which
occurred, occurred during the Gulf War and the general was there.
Yet the same problems were still happening ten years later. Had
nothing been done to put those problems right?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) They were not quite
the same as the problems from the Gulf War. These were different
tanks for one thing. As I said, we had 83% availability. We learned
a great many lessons.
95. You argued that the desert in Oman was much
hotter than it would be in Iraq. Presumably you knew that. On
the other hand you argued that you did not realise it was going
to be so hot when you went to Oman.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I did not argue that.
The report sets out the difference between expected climate and
the climate we actually faced. It was hotter than was expected.
That is a fact.
96. Figure 11, page 19. We talked about equipment
and the failing of equipment and you explained the problems with
the tanks and the AS90s. Figure 11 tells us that you took with
you on the exercise 44 helicopters, but it says that the average
availability was only 55%, which is to me that only 24 of those
helicopters were actually available. Over 50% of those helicopters
were not available for the full length of the exercise. That is
going to be very worrying. Presumably helicopter warfare nowadays
is vitally important and if half your helicopters do not work,
that has to be quite serious, does it not?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) You mentioned not
learning the lessons from the Gulf War. If you read the report,
paragraph 2.28, it acknowledges that we did indeed draw on the
lessons from the Gulf War and did anticipate certain problems.
The problems we had about helicopter availability were not actually
about desert conditions or dust, they were actually general problems
affecting helicopters worldwide, which are being dealt with as
part of an unrelated worldwide programme.
97. So the enemy will have similar problems with
their equipment, will they?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Basically, there are
various kinds of problems affecting helicopters. Some had to be
withdrawn for general maintenance and safety checks, which is
true of aircraft fleets and helicopter fleets worldwide. That
happened to coincide with the exercise. The Gazelle helicopters
were affected by what is called main rotor heating and an in-theatre
solution was found, but not before there had been a loss of availability.
Unfortunately we did have a crash of one of the two Lynx helicopters,
the Mark 9s, which is why that one goes down sharply, but I have
to say that we actually got above average usage from our helicopters,
compared with the real world, which just goes to show that there
are problems about helicopter serviceability and availability
generally which are being dealt with by means of a worldwide programme
rather than anything Saif Sareea specific. The exercise was quite
good in demonstrating that we can maintain helicopters to pretty
good availability. I am afraid 55% is not bad for helicopters
at the moment.
98. May I pursue this question of the tank a
little bit further? It does say in paragraph 2.20, "Difficulties
encountered by the Challenger 2 fleet . . . and their consequential
impacts on other exercise participants became, for a time, the
single largest problem faced by exercise planners". You did
say that there had been a judgement call about not doing the extra
work and that that was probably in retrospect the wrong judgement.
I have here a copy of Soldier magazine from December 2001
reviewing the exercise a couple of months afterwards. It says
that the warning signs of the problems to be faced in Oman were
signposted in Canada by a dramatic rise in the use of air filters.
That our Challengers were not designed for these temperatures
and for the dusty environment. That experts had been saying for
at least a year that air filter use out here was going to be significantly
greater than in north-west Europe and that there was a requirement
to front load a lot of air filters, in other words to have them
in theatre before they were needed. I assume that experts were
saying that. Why did you not take any notice of them?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) The design authority
were still saying that at very worst they would last 14 hours.
99. This is the 14 hours.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes.