Examination of Witnesses(Questions 220-239)|
TEBBIT KCB, CMG, LIEUTENANT
REITH CB, CBE AND
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002
220. I am slightly concerned that we appear to
have a certain number of tanks ready to be used in an operational
situation yet actually only some of them could ever have side
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, not "ever".
We operate on warning time and the Defence Review in 1998 set
out various assumptions which were approved by the Government.
One is that if we were to operate on full scale, mobilise everything,
there would be sufficient warning time to up-armour, produce more,
to equip our force completely. We are not working on short warning
time for a full-scale war; in other words we do not judge the
Russian threat to be imminent.
221. It would be useful to have a note of how
much of the side armour is ready to go on the tanks if they are
needed in an operational situation.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That may be quite
difficult, but I shall do my best. This is a very difficult area.
222. Difficult in a security sense or in a data
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) This is purely in
a security sense. We do not wish to give any information away
which could be helpful to an enemy or an adversary at any stage.
223. Is it the sort of information you would
give to our sister Committee, the Defence Committee?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We have not given
it to the Defence Committee either.
224. No, they have not asked for it. If they
did, is it the sort of information you would give to them?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I shall look into
it and see what we can do.
225. I understand that the side armour effect
had been discovered on the Challenger 1; so the general was telling
us previously. It was not known until after this exercise whether
it would have the same effect on Challenger 2 because I understand
you then went back and did another test.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We wanted to demonstrate
226. General Reith was saying earlier that a
later test was done to make sure that it had the same effect on
the Challenger 2. Would it not have been sensible to use this
exercise to test that effect on the Challenger 2 rather than waiting
until afterwards to see whether it had the same effect?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) The armed forces decided
not to do that and their rationale was to protect operational
capability and because this armour we are talking about is extremely
important and we do not want to damage it unnecessarily in anything
other than an operational situation. That was why it was decided
not to field it.
227. Not even on one tank, although later you
did use it on one tank when you did your later test? You must
be prepared to make a test with one tank as you did so later.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) We did so later because
we were acting on exercise lessons. Back again to a very basic
point which I have not mentioned here. We do exercises and training
in order to learn lessons, not to be perfect. We learned lessons
there which we are now applying; 2,000 lessons throughout the
228. May I start by picking up some issues relating
to the Container Handling Rough Terrain system in paragraph 2.23
and onwards? As I understand it, it is a five-year contract which
maintains the vehicles in the United Kingdom and Germany. If it
was within the last five years, as it must be, that is since the
Gulf War. Why did you sign a contract which did not make any concession
to the possibility of these vehicles going outside the UK or Germany?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That was where the
contract ended. It is a lesson we have learned and we are now
looking at extending the contract to operate elsewhere.
229. When did the contract end?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That was the contract.
The contract is still in place.
230. When was it signed?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) When was it signed
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I could not tell you.
232. If it is a five-year contract, it must have
been signed since the Gulf War, which was 1992 or so. I just find
it surprising that since the Gulf War the MOD was prepared to
sign a contract which specified that maintenance of equipment
would only apply to the UK and Germany. Can you just clarify that
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) They are the places
where the equipment is based, therefore the contract was organised
accordingly. The exercise was a one-off activity. We have now
learned from it that this also matters, so we are in the process
of looking at extending the contract. It is a lesson we have learned.
233. Did it not occur to somebody at the time
of signing this contract that this equipment might be used outside
the UK and Germany, for example in a subsequent Gulf War? Can
you understand my concern?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) It was always a possibility
that might happen, but I suspect the judgement was made at the
time for cost-effectiveness reasons that it was not worth building
in the extra cost for a global support contract.
234. That is interesting. Presumably the alternative
was to maintain it in-house and there is an issue then about the
public sector comparator which was used. Do I take it then that
the public sector comparator which was used only specified the
UK and Germany?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) No, I do not think
we did use a public sector comparator for this. It was taken off
contract from the people who do these things. It is not unusual
for it to be prohibitive to try to develop within the armed forces
skills which are very, very specific and relate only to a very
small number of equipments. It would have been very expensive.
We only have one defence budget.
235. I understand that, but it was prohibitive
to have the contract applying outwith the UK and Germany, so prohibitive
that you did not do it.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) I agree. We are now
looking at extending the contract. It is a lesson we have learned,
that this was a problem we experienced during the exercise and
we are taking steps to remedy it. It was the lowest availability
of any equipment.
236. Yes, I know that. May I come back to the
question of the Omani desert. Earlier on you indicated that the
situation was so severe in the south Omani desert that even the
Omanis do not exercise there.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, I have learned
that subsequent to the exercise.
237. The point of exercises is to undertake what
the social services department used to call "valuable learning
experiences", but surely somebody ought to have clarified
with the Omanis whether or not they ever trained in this area
and discovered that nobody did it. If we discover that this is
the only area of this type of desert which you are likely to find
in the whole of the Gulf States, there is surely an issue there
about whether or not it is an appropriate training environment.
My anxiety is that we focused more on what happened in the south
Omani desert, perhaps at the expense of the other parts of the
exercise which were more typical.
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) That is true; that
238. From which more appropriate and significant
lessons might have been learned. Can you understand my anxiety?
(Sir Kevin Tebbit) Yes, I can indeed.
The basic answer is that one is also in the hands of the Omanis
in these things. One has a bilateral discussion, negotiation,
to agree on areas which would be available for us, to agree on
various things, which imparts a certain degree of inflexibility
and artificiality to the exercise. Some of those parameters may
actually be harder than it might be in ordinary operations. Where
we had to do our exercising first, in the south Omani desert,
was one of those aspects. The other thing was a strain on the
communications, where we had to provide the communications for
them as well as us. We had to do it for both sides when one would
usually only do it for one. I think that is the reason.
(Lieutenant General Reith) In the negotiations with
the Omanis, clearly they were very sensitive of the impact on
their environment and their people. The area they offered for
that period of training was in that southern region. As it transpired,
we found later that they did not exercise on a normal basis in
that area themselves, but they did exercise with us on the final
phase when we combined with them in the last phase of the exercise
in that same area. On a normal basis they did not, so we found
239. That was a valuable learning experience
(Lieutenant General Reith) Absolutely.
12 12 Note by witness: This is highly sensitive
information the disclosure of which would not be in the interest
of national security or defence. Back
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