Examination of Witnesses(Questions 100-119)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
100. Who was the design authority?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) For air filters it
is a British company called PALL Aerospace.
101. If you are going to lay all the blame on
them, it might be helpful to know who they are.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) PALL Aerospace.
102. I am right, am I not, that this exercise
was three years in the planning?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, it was.
103. Why did you not do what Mr Osborne suggested,
which was to take one tank out there? I am just amazed that you
did not say to yourself, perhaps these design authority people
are right, perhaps they are wrong, why do we not find out? Just
take one Challenger tank out there in the unamended, `undesertised'
condition, find the most extreme conditions you can and thrash
it and see what happened. Why did you not do that? Would that
not have been obvious and pretty cheap?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) With the benefit of
hindsight, yes. By the way, if we had taken it to the main exercise
area we would not have found anything different from the specification.
I have to keep coming back to the problem of doing it in the southern
Omani desert. You are quite right, we could have done that, but
we did not do it. I say "we", but the armed forces judged
that was not a necessary measure.
104. The real question about the Challenger which
I want to come on to is: what now? We may be having an operation,
a real deployment, within not so many months. What are you doing
or what have you done to the Challenger 2 tank fleet now so that
if we have an operation they will be ready?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We have a very high
level of filter availability now. I should not like to go into
details but our holdings are adequate, many times more than before.
Secondly, in an operation we would up-armour, we would add applique«
armour to the sides of the tanks for other reasons, but which
also happens, because they are like skirts, to change the way
in which the dust folds over and goes down into the tank engine.
That reduces ingestion automatically without any of the `desertisation'
measures. Thirdly, if we choose, it would not be a technically
difficult or time-consuming issue to add various measures, whether
it be changing the angle of intakes, whether it be improving or
upgrading the filters themselves, whether it be doing other things
to the engine area which would again improve the issue. It is
not a technically challenging, time sensitive issue.
105. May I ask you about the SA80 rifle? I know
that it went wrong. Defence Review magazine described it
as a resounding failure with stoppages after every round, but
added that that was no great shock when you realised that it was
the old A1 model. This is a journalist called Winfield writing
in winter 2001. He says that the number of times squaddies ask
when they are going to get the new models goes to show how much
morale has been affected by its lack of performance. Will soldiers
deployed in any future operations in the Middle East in the near
future have the SA80A2?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) It depends how soon
you are talking about. I have to be very honest about that. If
you were to hypothesise, certainly the SA80 Mark 2 is now being
fielded and is coming on stream rapidly.
106. It says here that it works very well in
all conditions, including very reliably in the desert. Is that
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes.
107. So if you were a squaddie, that is the gun
you would want to take with you, if you were taking the Queen's
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Let me ask the General,
because he fires these things all the time. I have only fired
them from time to time. By the way, I have never had a misfire
with the SA80. I actually thought it was a good gun already, but
we had a confidence problem with our forces and we have rebuilt
that confidence. We introduced some modifications as well.
108. I bet you have not tried the SA80 in such
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, yes, we have
trialed it. Both the marines and the army participated in the
latest trials and are absolutely satisfied about the SA80 Mark
109. When will our soldiers have the SA80?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are getting them
already. We used them in Afghanistan.
110. Will any soldiers who go to Iraq have the
(Lieutenant General Reith) I doubt it.
I cannot say for certain, but I doubt it.
111. Do you mean they will probably have the
(Lieutenant General Reith) No, sorry.
I doubt any will have the A1.
112. Do you mean they will all have the A2?
(Lieutenant General Reith) We are in
the process of fielding it now. When we deployed the marines into
Afghanistan, we deployed them with the A2 to ensure that on operations
they had the best available weapons.
113. Is your plan to do the same for Iraq?
(Lieutenant General Reith) Indeed.
114. If you had to.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is a hypothetical
(Lieutenant General Reith) It is a hypothetical question.
115. I know it is a hypothetical question.
(Lieutenant General Reith) I have fired
the SA80 many times. When I commanded a battalion we converted
from a self-loading rifle to the SA80 during my command and I
saw an increase in quality of shooting by about 50%. It is a completely
different weapon to anything we had experienced before, little
tolerance, high performance, very light weapon, very easy to shoot,
less weight in ammunition to carry, a very good weapon. We had
problems with the A1; there were design faults within the A1 which
we encountered and because of that we spent a lot of money developing
the A2. The A2 is a much, much better weapon. I said to you that
in Afghanistan the A2 was used by the marines and we appeared
to have the same problem again. The difficulty was when we introduced
the A2, because we did it in a hurry, we had not yet put the maintenance
booklets for them forward with it. They had problems because there
had been a decision, as we had with previous weapons in dusty
conditions, not to oil the weapon regularly and therefore they
got lots of stoppages. We have since trialed that against other
weapons as well and we have proved that providing you oil them
regularly and there is not somebody who makes a decision not to
oil them, actually it is an extremely reliable weapon. We are
now issuing the right maintenance advice to everybody, the trials
occurred and we are building the confidence back into the armed
116. The climate categorisation for this exercise
was A3, is that right?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes.
117. According to page 22 this refers basically
to the conditions we have here in western Europe and Canada. Have
you been to Canada?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, I have.
118. Are you familiar with the climate in Canada?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes; reasonably.
119. Have you been to the Middle East?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I lived in Turkey
for three and a half years.
2 Note by witness: All references to Iraq are
hypothetical as no decision has been taken by the Government. Back
Ref footnote to Q 110. Back