Select Committee on Defence Third Report


Key dates and scale of deployment

153. The key dates relating to preparation are set out in First Reflections:[218]

    25 November—Secretary of State for Defence announces that contingency planning is taking place for possible operations in Iraq.

    18 December—Secretary of State announces further contingency preparations, including approaching the shipping market to charter vessels.

    7 January—Augmentation of the Naval Task Group 2003 with 3 Commando Brigade is announced.

    20 January—Composition of the land package announced.

    6 February—Secretary of State for Defence announces the composition of the air package to be sent to the Gulf.

154. The Secretary of State told us about the approach to the preparations for and the scale of the deployment:

    Towards the end of 2002 and in the early weeks of 2003 our preparations necessarily moved up a gear. Along with the United States we began to deploy significant forces to the Gulf region…This was the largest logistics effort by the UK Armed Forces since the 1991 Gulf conflict but, on this occasion, we deployed about the same number of personnel and volume of materiel but in just half the time previously. Around 45,000 servicemen and women from all three services with all their equipment, from tents to tanks and planes, to portaloos and the supplies of food, water, fuel and ammunition required to sustain them, were deployed 3,400 kms to the region in 73 ship moves and over 1200 chartered and military aircraft sorties… In a logistics operation of this size there are bound to be glitches and we will look at how we can avoid these in the future, but I would like to take this opportunity in paying tribute to the remarkable hard work of those who have been involved throughout the logistics chain. They do not always get the praise that they deserve.[219]

Sea Lift and Air Lift

155. First Reflections also contrasts the logistics challenge of Operation Telic with the 1991 Gulf War: 'This massive logistic effort was achieved using 670 aircraft sorties and 62 ship moves in half the time it had taken to deploy a similar sized force during the 1991 Gulf Conflict'.[220] First Reflections states that 'Sea lift benefited from the recent introduction… of four new Roll On/Roll Off vessels under the Private Finance Initiative. These deployed 15,000 lane metres of equipment (some 11% of the total requirement)'.[221] 'The RN committed significant resources to protect… some 60 UK chartered merchant ships bringing in over 95% of all UK military equipment'.[222] On air lift, 'the daily air re-supply operation reached a maximum of 254 metric tonnes at its peak. Our four C-17 aircraft and other air transport assets deployed some 50% of the personnel and stores that were required to go by air'.[223] We conclude that deploying such a large force to the Gulf in the time available was a significant achievement.

Challenges faced by the sea lift and air lift operations

156. We asked whether it would have been possible to have deployed even quicker, if additional lift assets had been available. The Secretary of State told us that, in relation to air lift, the number of aircraft available was not a limiting factor; it was the availability of landing slots:

    The issue is how many flights take place. Sometimes having more aircraft, given the limitations, for example, of aircraft movements in and around a theatre, would not make any difference because physically it would not be possible to fly more into the particular base in question. I am absolutely confident that we had the right combination of lift needed to get this force at this speed to where it was going.[224]

157. General Fry told the Committee of Public Accounts about the challenges faced by the sea lift and air lift operations:

    We were planning at one stage to approach Iraq from an entirely different direction which would have led to an entirely different logistic assumptions… We then find ourselves with a significant logistic challenge, first of all we had to go right the way round the Arabia peninsula and through the Suez Canal in order to get there, which built a considerable amount of time into deployment. We then found ourselves in Kuwait…. this is a tiny and highly congested country with two sea points of entry and a single airhead. We sharing those very limited resources with a hugely larger American Army that was doing exactly the same thing at the same time.[225]

158. The challenges faced by the sea lift and air lift operations illustrate that deployment is very dependent on Host Nation Support, which is itself dependent on the infrastructure available. MoD should identify how the challenges of limited landing slots for aircraft and small sea ports could be addressed in the future.

Use of commercial shipping and aircraft

159. First Reflections states that 'Although both the C-17 in the air, and the new Ro-Ro ferries at sea, provided excellent support, both the deployment and the re-supply phases involved recourse to a large quantity of chartered shipping and air assets. We will need to keep under review our air and sea transport assets and our ability to secure access to commercial transport in the quantities and timeframes required to meet future expeditionary requirements'.[226]

160. MoD provided information on the use made of commercial lift—'49% airlift (equipment and materiel, not including personnel) by charter and 88% sealift (again equipment and materiel only) by charter'[227] and told us that the rates paid for the commercial assets 'were the normal market rates on the day, but market rates did increase over the period of the Operation, and these were subject to further negotiation'.[228]

161. MoD told us that 'the cost of sea-lift attributable to Operation Telic was £70 million. The cost of the air-lift was £53 ½ million… The Defence Transport Movement Agency… approached the market for shipping in five tranches. The first three tranches secured the majority of required shipping and the contracts were signed… by 31 December… the prices that we were offered were very good … That is not to say that by the time we got to tranche 5 the market had not woken up to what we were doing and we probably paid a premium'.[229]

162. We asked whether MoD had undertaken any specific review of the provision of sealift capacity for deployed operations.[230] MoD replied that it had not undertaken such a review since the Strategic Defence Review confirmed the requirement for an expanded sea lift capability (six ships in total) to transport equipment for the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces. The Defence Transport and Movements Agency (DTMA) used established relations to maintain periodic snapshots of ro-ro availability within the market.[231] MoD did, however, review the process for chartering freight-carrying commercial ships during 2003, following the conflict and as a result incorporated a more robust risk-based assessment into the process.[232] NUMAST have pointed to the significant decline in the UK's registered fleet over the last twenty years, and have argued that the decline has the potential to prejudice the UK's ability to secure sea lift of adequate quantity and quality for future operations.[233] We recognise the achievement of the DTMA in securing the sea lift for Operation Telic. We recommend that, drawing on the experience from Operation Telic, MoD should undertake a review of ro-ro shipping to inform its future planning.

163. In terms of the air lift, Colonel David Martin, Assistant Director Supply Chain Operations, told us that MoD fully utilised the C-17 because it is a relatively large aircraft and its turnaround time is very quick compared to the Hercules C-130. He said that his team 'were probably loading 50 or 60 tons onto a C-17 and that would compare to ten tons on a C-130'.[234] However, there were occasions when MoD had to move loads which were too big to put in the back of the C-17 and MoD made use of Antanov AN-124 aircraft. Colonel Martin explained that the advantage of the AN-124 is that it enabled MoD 'to fly 20 foot ISO-containers which many of our stores are stored in. There are some items which we had to move in a 20 foot container. That access to the AN-124 is absolutely critical to us.'[235] The Chief of Defence Logistics told us that 'there are three companies… we have been dealing with one company for a long time and has proved reliable'.[236] MoD provided us with further information on the use of Antanov aircraft—no difficulties were experienced in chartering the necessary outsize lift, but it became apparent that the US was actively chartering and therefore, mid way through the deployment, the UK committed itself to AN-124 lift in anticipation of the developing requirement. MoD believed that if it had not taken this action, it was likely that the available lift would have been committed to the US leaving insufficient lift for UK needs. There are 18 aircraft in the AN-124 fleet, but not all are available for charter at any one time, largely as a result of maintenance requirements.[237] The action taken by MoD ensured that the UK had sufficient lift, but the outcome could well have been different. For any future operations, MoD needs to avoid competing directly with the US for outsize lift and co-ordinate its efforts to secure such assets.

Balance of lift assets

164. We asked about the longer-term balance of lift assets. Colonel Martin told us that MoD 'have now got access to four C-17s and the six ro-ros, and both assets proved their worth. We have an enabling contract through the market for heavy lift aircraft… Really what we have is a good capability which we have immediate access to and a well tried and tested means of gaining extra capacity if we need it'.[238] Brigadier Kerr told us that the key issue was 'what do you keep as an internal capability that you have, and that decision has been made at the highest level, and what are you are prepared to go to the market with? I think the decisions have been right. There was enough shipping and aircraft to get us out'.[239]

165. MoD provided us with information on the lease arrangements for the C-17 aircraft:[240]

    'the contract has no limit on the number of hours that may be flown. However, funding for support of the aircraft was modelled on a total of 3,000 flying hours per full year for the fleet of 4 aircraft. Since entering service with the RAF the C-17 fleet has exceeded the modelled hours, largely as a result of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This has resulted in additional support costs'.

Lieutenant General Rob Fulton, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff for Equipment Capability, told us that the operation 'underlined the success of the C-17… we are looking at how far we can retain those in-service once the lease has expired because they have proved their worth'.[241]

166. In terms of future airlift, the A400M aircraft has been selected to meet the UK's Future Transport Aircraft requirement and a total of 180 aircraft are being procured. The approved in-service date for this programme was December 2009, but the current forecast in-service date is March 2011—a slippage of 15 months. MoD recognises that this delay is likely to aggravate the extant strategic, tactical and special forces airlift capability gap unless remedial action is taken. MoD's Director Equipment Capability (Deployment, Sustainability & Recover) is assessing options to bridge the current and emerging capability gaps.[242]

167. Recent operations have highlighted the need for sufficient sea and air lift. We look to MoD to ensure that those assets that have performed their task well are available to our Armed Forces in the future. We regret that the A400M programme, which is intended to meet the UK's Future Transport Aircraft requirement, has experienced delays to its planned in-service date. We expect MoD to ensure that the current forecast in-service date is met and that any capability gaps from delays already experienced are filled.

Urgent Operational Requirements


168. MoD's Lessons for the Future sets out the purpose of Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs):

By contrast urgent operational requirements for Kosovo operations amounted to £136 million.[244]

169. Rear Admiral Charles Style, Capability Manager (Strategic Deployment), told us that 'the idea of the Urgent Operational Requirement process is to make sure we give our people the very best that technology or industry can provide us with, up to the last moment'.[245]

170. We asked the Chief of Defence Logistics for a breakdown of the UORs for Operation Telic into the four categories which had been described to us.[246] MoD subsequently provided information on the four different categories and the percentage of total UOR expenditure relating to each category. This information is shown at Table 3.

Table 3 Breakdown of UORs for Operation Telic by category and by percentage of total UOR expenditure

Category of UOR
Percentage by value
UORs that hastened existing programmes
UORs that introduced new capabilities previously unprogrammed
UORs that topped up holdings of items already on the MoD's inventory
UORs modifying existing equipment / infrastructure

Source: MoD [247]

Note: MoD has emphasised that care is needed in drawing conclusions from this information as the attribution to the categories is not a straightforward proposition - the UOR process does not formally categorise UORs in this way, and many do not fall neatly within just one category. [248]


171. An indication of the use of Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) for operations in Iraq was announced to Parliament by the Secretary of State during the debate on UN Security Council Resolution 1441 on 25 November 2002:

172. The timing of UORs was influenced by the diplomatic efforts that were taking place. Sir Kevin Tebbit told the Committee of Public Accounts that 'the basic judgements that political authorities had to make was how much could be done by way of sensible preparation and how much would constitute an unhelpful development in relation to the overall diplomatic objectives which were in the forefront at that time.'[250] He said that the UOR for the modification of the Challenger tank was approved in October 2002 at a cost of 'some £17 million'.[251] Sir Kevin noted that 'it was a question of advancing routine activity where there would be absolutely no ambiguous signals given to anybody. Some, however, were much more directly related to a war-fighting intention and those were generally approved later. If you actually want a date, I think it was not until late November that the Secretary of State finally gave authorisation for pretty full military preparation'.[252] He drew a distinction between UORs and operational sustainability funding: 'we have urgent operational requirements and so-called operational sustainability funding, one is for big equipment and the other is for stores and supplies… the earliest approval from the Treasury for funding came as early as September for some activities and finally in December for others. There was a continuous process'.[253] We have discussed the timing of UK involvement in planning for military action previously (paragraphs 27-34). These dates for action on UORs are consistent with the Secretary of State's statement that planning and preparation for a specific military operation began in late September 2002.[254]

173. We asked Sir Kevin whether any UORs had been delayed because the Treasury had not wanted to authorise the expenditure until it judged that the war was going ahead. He told us that:

    Relations with the Treasury on this have been remarkably cordial and I really cannot say that they have denied us the funding for any of the urgent operational requirements we had. The problem was more a question of how to balance the risk that overt preparations would prejudice the diplomatic process against the need to be ready to take action if the diplomatic process failed. That was the critical calculation of when we could take the risk to go out to industry and let our planning become transparent when we were still seeking to pursue a diplomatic route. That was much more of a restraining, naturally and correctly restraining, factor than Treasury attitudes towards funding the urgent requirements.[255]

174. General Fulton told us about the approval arrangements for UORs:

    there were 194 UORs approved, and the ones that were not approved were those whose delivery would fall outside the timescale within which we needed to have the equipment in order to either complete the operation or indeed complete that part of the operation for which they were required. There were some examples of things like Temporary Deployable Accommodation, which we did not need for the start of the operation; we needed that for later on. The issue of funding only became an issue with the cut-off of things that would not be delivered in time.[256]

175. A UOR to provide enhanced air conditioning for the AS90 self-propelled gun, was delivered late. General Applegate told us that in this case:

    there was an impact of when we could start doing the planning… We had to wait to get the approval to go forward with the AS90 work… actually, we were planning for the end of March / beginning of April for that work to be conducted… That was sensible, because the majority of the work to be conducted on AS90 was to do with the very hot conditions… My point is it came in after the operation; it did not affect the operation because the temperatures did not get up to the high levels that were expected, but work began on the tail end of the war fighting operations to ensure that the AS90 could remain in operation in the theatre.[257]

176. In terms of other examples of UOR equipment which were delivered late, General Fulton told us that:

    There were some that were deliberately late. I mentioned Temporary Deployable Accommodation because we did not want it then. Also, the stocks of enhanced Paveway and Maverick were designed to backfill the stocks that were used. Ones that straddled the time at which they would have been used: we did not have a full set of the thermal imagers, Lion and Sophie, and the head-mounted night vision system at the time that the first troops crossed the line of departure, and we did not have a full complement of Minimi machine guns, and the Underslung Grenade Launcher also. We had most of the launchers themselves, but there was an issue that I think you are aware of about the release of ammunition. So there were a number of areas where there were numbers of pieces of equipment, of which we had some but did not have a full complement.[258]

177. We acknowledge that there were constraints on when the UOR process could begin, but it is of real concern that in some cases this resulted in Armed Forces personnel not having access to the full complement of equipment, such as Minimi machine guns and Underslung Grenade Launchers.


178. Lessons for the Future states that the 'majority of UORs were very successful in rapidly delivering enhanced capability.'[259] It highlighted successes such as the dust mitigation modifications made to the Challenger 2 main battle tank, the Minimi light machine gun, and the new Shallow Water Influence Mine-Sweeping equipment which was leased. The National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that 'overall, the enhancements worked very well'.[260] During our visits, the Armed Forces personnel we met told us that they were particularly impressed with the Minimi light machine gun.

179. There were, however, drawbacks in using the UOR process. First Reflections acknowledges that 'the UOR process inevitably involves the risk that not all requirements will be met in time.[261] Lessons for the Future[262] accepts that it 'may be necessary to review the constraints on earlier industrial engagement to minimise procurement delays in future' and that 'delivery of equipment was also complicated by some deployment dates being advanced once the date for the likely timing of the operation became clearer.' Some equipment had to be 'delivered direct to theatre', and that 'while delivery was still achievable in most cases some equipment was not able to be fitted prior to operations as a result'. Lessons for the Future[263] also states that 'personnel did not always have time fully to train or become familiar with new equipment' and that 'in some cases, where training occurred only in theatre, this delayed the achievement of full operational capability'. The complaint that they had insufficient time to familiarise and train with UOR equipment was raised with us on a number of occasions by Armed Forces personnel we met.

180. MoD recognises that 'other capability shortfalls (e.g. those involving more complex systems such as warships and aircraft) were not filled by UORs because of the long lead times involved. We need therefore to consider key war fighting capabilities and review the Equipment Programme to ensure that we can deliver them within planning timescales'.[264]

181. Much of the equipment procured as UORs made a significant contribution to the success of the campaign and, in most cases, industry supplied equipment at very short notice. However UORs are not the solution in every case. MoD needs to be better informed of which types of equipment and capabilities can be delivered in UOR timescales—there were a number of cases where equipment was not delivered by the time required or where users did not have a full complement. We do not consider that MoD planning properly recognised that the delivery date for a piece of equipment and the date by which a capability is achieved are not the same. If personnel are to be confident and fully efficient with their equipment there must be adequate time for familiarisation, training and integration. Furthermore, given the desire stated in the White Paper to be able to intervene anywhere in the world at short notice, we believe that the risks of relying on UORs, instead of holding adequate stocks, are not sufficiently well analysed or understood in MoD's risk assessment processes.

182. We asked what lessons could be learned from the UOR process to improve MoD's normal equipment acquisition arrangements. General Fulton told us that 'one of the key issues about a UOR is that it has to be available to be bought off the shelf… One of the reasons why a number of UORs did not succeed was because there was complex integration involved'.[265] We heard evidence that the UOR process was becoming part of the informal procurement process due to the frequency of recent operations.

183. There are likely to be positive lessons from the UOR process which have applicability to MoD's normal equipment acquisition processes: for example, where UORs were used to accelerate existing programmes. We expect MoD to identify and implement these and reflect on the appropriateness of UOR procurement becoming institutionalised.


184. The NAO reported that 'Urgent Operational Requirements fitted for warfighting may be removed, even sold, if long-term funding is unavailable or there is no identified requirement to retain them for the long term. In one case, that of "All Terrain Mobility Platforms", vehicles that had been disposed of were repurchased from a company at a cost of £1.1 million'.[266] MoD is 'now considering which of the equipment bought specifically for this operation it would be beneficial to retain for future use'.[267] Sir Kevin Tebbit told us that some UORs 'will have a continuing bill attached to them…. We would rather not have simply to destroy them for want of resources to sustain them in our force structure'. [268] General Fulton told us that:

    After this operation, we have been very careful to make sure that we look very critically at what equipment can and should be retained in service, because by nature of an Urgent Operational Requirement, it does not come with support funding; you buy it and that is it. So the first issue is whether we can afford to take it into the normal equipment programme and provide it with sufficient support funding so that it can then be sustained through life…. So there are a number of questions that we have to ask ourselves, but ultimately, what it comes down to is the affordability of retaining that capability in-service, and that is when you have to come back round the loop and ask what its wider applicability is…. There is a fine balance, and that is why we are going through it as part of the normal long-term equipment planning process at the moment, to assess how many of those 190 we can afford to keep and how many we cannot. Then the issue is, if there are some that we cannot afford to keep, the Chief of Defence Logistics would be very keen that we take them out of service, so that we do not have unsupportable equipment in the inventory that he cannot then maintain.[269]

We expect MoD to evaluate fully the performance of the equipment procured as UORs and the specific enhancements they provided to the UK's military capabilities. This evaluation must also take full account of the views of those members of the Armed Forces who used the equipment in action. Disposing of useful equipment cannot represent good value for money if it then has to be re-acquired in the future.

218   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), pp 41-42. Back

219   Q 1 Back

220   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), para 2.13. Back

221   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), para 4.22. Back

222   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), box on p 12. Back

223   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), para 4.22. Back

224   Q 42 Back

225   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 147 Back

226   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), p 27. Back

227   Ev 387 Back

228   Ev 387 Back

229   Q 1030 Back

230   Q 1037 Back

231   Ev 411 Back

232   HC Deb, 9 February 2004, c1178W Back

233   Ev 452-5 Back

234   Q 1039 Back

235   Q 1039 Back

236   Q 1041 Back

237   Ev 411 Back

238   Q 1031 Back

239   Q 1043 Back

240   Ev 387 Back

241   Q 1984 Back

242   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2003 (HC 195 Session 2003-2004: 23 January 2004), pp 45-50. Back

243   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 2.7. Back

244   Defence Committee, Lessons of Kosovo, Fourteenth Report, HC347-I (1999-2000), para 287. Back

245   Q 946 Back

246   Q 1018 Back

247   Ev 416 Back

248   Ev 416 Back

249   HC Deb, 25 November 2002, col 128 Back

250   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 2 Back

251   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 3  Back

252   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 4 Back

253   Committee of Public Accounts, Evidence Session 21 January 2004, Ministry of Defence: Operation Telic-United Kingdom Military Operations in Iraq, Q 130 Back

254   Q 2262 Back

255   Q 1771 Back

256   Q 1923 Back

257   Q 1939 Back

258   Q 1940 Back

259   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 2.10. Back

260   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 2.7. Back

261   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), para 4.4. Back

262   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 2.6. Back

263   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 2.9. Back

264   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 2.7. Back

265   Q 1942 Back

266   National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC-United Kingdom Operations in Iraq (HC 60 Session 2003-04: 11 December 2003), para 2.8 e (iii). Back

267   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003) , para 2.10. Back

268   Q 1772 Back

269   Q 1935 Back

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