Written evidence from the Trades Unions
Corporate Steering Group at BAE Systems |
1. This submission is from the trades union body
within BAE Systems representing members from across the whole
of the UK.
2. It considers the manner by which the SDSR
was conducted and believes that it was neither robust nor sufficiently
independent from the services to be properly strategic. It believes
that decisions appeared to have been taken for political reasons.
3. There are significant concerns for the future
of the aerospace industry and new work is required to maintain
design capability within the UK.
4. The decision to cancel and then destroy the
Nimrod MRA4s is considered to be a mistake both strategically
and economically, especially as it is believed that the UK will
in the not too distant future want to replace the aircraft.
5. It is believed that risks are being taken
as a result of scrapping the Nimrods and that lives will be lost
as a result.
6. Recommendations are made in regard to the
conduct of future defence reviews, support for the UK aerospace
industry, in particular UAVs and UCAVs and the retention of existing
Nimrod crews to ensure their valuable experience is not lost.
7. Further information on the above is contained
within the report and in the Conclusions and Recommendations at
8. This is a submission from the trades union
corporate Steering Group at BAE Systems UK. This group consists
of nine TU representatives, all convenors or chairmen from various
BAE Systems' sites, elected by colleagues from sites across the
UK. Through the various collective bargaining arrangements, they
represent in excess of 20,000 employees. Nothing in this submission
can be construed as necessarily representing or reflecting the
views of BAE Systems plc.
9. This submission concentrates upon the decision
to scrap and destroy the Nimrod MRA4s, though it addresses other
aerospace aspects of the Strategic Defence and Security Review
(SDSR). It also gives views in regard to the manner by which the
SDSR was conducted.
10. On the 27 September 2010, the Secretary of
State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, wrote to the Prime Minister, David
Cameron, concerning the SDSR. This letter, or at least part of
it, was published by the Daily Telegraph (28 September 2010).
In the letter, Dr Fox stated:
"Frankly this process is looking less and
less defensible as a proper SDSR (Strategic Defence and Strategy
Review) and more like a "super CSR" (Comprehensive Spending
11. Further press reports appear to suggest that
this was indeed the case, with the three services apparently acting
in isolation and offering up various assets to be cut in an attempt
to protect other aspects of their service. In particular, the
RAF was reported in the Daily Telegraph (20 July 2010)i
citing the respected defence publication, Janes Defence Weekly
(16 July 2010), as offering to dispense with the Nimrod MRA4 in
order to protect its fast jet fleet and another report (Daily
Telegraph 4 Oct 2010)ii suggesting that the RN was
prepared to take massive cuts so long as it protected its carriers.
As is now known, these were reflected in the outcome of the SDSR.
12. If it was the case that the outcome of the
SDSR was even partially based around accepting offers from the
three services to dispense with various assets, then this has
to be a major concern as it would reflect a lack of top level
joined up strategic thinking. The decision to cancel the Nimrod
MRA4 programme could not be a clearer example, something that
is expanded upon below.
13. It is not believed that much consideration
was given to external views regarding the SDSR. The authors wrote
to the Prime Minister on the 13 September 2010. His office eventually
referred the matter to the Secretary of State for Defence, who
wrote back on the 29 January 2011, over three months after publication
of the white paper.
14. The chairman of the Defence Select Committee,
the Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, stated in the House of Commons
on the 4 November 2010 during a debate on the SDSR:
"...we also wanted to look at the process
of the review and we concluded that it was, pretty much, rubbish.
This review took five months, whereas the highly regarded 1997-98
review took 13 months. The haste of this review meant that an
opportunity to consult the wider public, defence academics, the
defence industry and Parliament was missed."
15. The Defence Select Committee itself had previously
concluded (in its first report printed 7 September 2010):
"The rapidity with which the SDSR process
is being undertaken is quite startling. A process which was not
tried and tested is being expected to deliver radical outcomes
within a highly concentrated time-frame. We conclude that mistakes
will be made and some of them may be serious."
16. The Nimrod MRA4 was a Maritime Reconnaissance
Aircraft with a very wide range of capabilities as listed below:
detection through the use of active and passive sonobuoys (which
are dropped into the sea by the aircraft), by radar and by magnetic
attack using Stingray torpedoes and depth charges.
ship detection via radar.
ship attack using air to surface missiles.
missile deployment (Storm Shadow).
to air defence using missiles.
high resolution electro-optical camera and radar technology.
Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR).
deployment for sea rescue purposes.
of 6900 miles or 15 hours flight duration time.
17. The roles the Nimrod MRA4 would (and could)
have included (also noting past roles of its predecessor, the
MR2) are listed below:
for the nuclear deterrent.
for the surface fleet (including the new carriers from 2017).
tracking and if necessary attacking submarines and surface ships.
of the Falklands.
security, noting its role during the Heathrow missile threat in
2003 and during the 7 July 2005 bombings.
security noting the MRA4s were to be fitted with extra equipment
specifically for the Olympics.
theatre operations, such as in Afghanistan, providing command,
control and communications, surveillance etc. It could be used
over land as well as sea.
and rescue for shipping utilising sophisticated scanning equipment
and a range well beyond the range of helicopters.
to NATO (note the Norwegian government has already expressed concern
that areas are not properly being monitored (Scotsman 20 November
18. The predecessor to the MRA4, the MR2, is
known to have been used in the Falklands conflict. It had been
used for homeland security purposes during the missile threat
at Heathrow in 2003 when it was deployed as (at least) a communications
relay and during the 7 July bombings for (at least) the same purpose;
special forces officers reported that they were "deaf and
blind" prior to the MR2 taking to the skies over London owing
to the mobile phone network being overloaded (see Daily Telegraph
27 Jan 2011).iv The MRA4 was to have been used for
19. The MR2 was also used extensively during
the Iraq and then Afghanistan conflicts in support of Special
Forces (Daily Telegraph 27 Jan 2011).v
20. The MR2 was used continually for submarine
detection around the UK and for protecting the nuclear deterrent.
21. The MR2 was also used for non defence purposes
in search and rescue for vessels in need of assistance, providing
"topcover", which is defined as providing communication,
radar or visual search prior to helicopter arrival and safety
cover for helicopters. The MR2 would act as backup to helicopters
in case they had to ditch, which was not as improbable as might
be imagined, especially if a helicopter was at the extreme of
its range with many on board. The MR2 played a very significant
role during the Piper Alpha, Thistle Alpha and other oil rig rescues
acting as a command and control platform to direct the many helicopters.
22. David Cameron in an interview during the
Andrew Marr show on 3rd Oct 2010 stated:
"We've got to think about piracy in the Gulf,
we've got to think about drug-running in the Caribbean"
23. The MRA4 would have been a very efficient
resource for the above.
24. A further potential use of the Nimrod would
be to track oil slicks.
25. The above shows how incredibly versatile
the Nimrod MRA4 aircraft was.
26. The Government has stated that it can cover
for the loss of Nimrod by other means. These have been specifically
stated as being through Type 23 frigates, Merlin helicopters and
Hercules aircraft, the latter being for search and rescue. The
effectiveness of these will be minimal in comparison for the following
27. Submarine detection is undertaken by using
a variety of means, but the principle technique is using sonar.
The Nimrod used Sonobuoys which would be dropped by the Nimrod
into the sea. These were available as both active and passive
devices, the former transmitting a signal and awaiting a return
and the latter just listening. The latter were used far more than
the former because a) they were far cheaper and b) a submarine
would know that it was being looked for by detecting the signal
emitted by an active device. Hence, it was possible to detect
a submarine without it knowing that this was the case. The advantages
of this are fairly obvious, but especially so if the submarine
is involved in covert activities, for example, placing intercepts
on underwater communication cables. Having detected a submarine,
the Nimrod could then use magnetic anomaly detection to precisely
locate the submarine, though this would generally only be used
if the submarine was to be attacked, which the Nimrod could do
by dropping either depth charges or torpedoes.
28. The Government's alternatives are the Type
23 frigate, which has an active sonar capability and a passive
one, the latter by towing a "barge" behind it. In addition,
the Merlin helicopter can drop sonobuoys and has an active dipping
sonar system. The major disadvantage with this approach in regard
to passive detection is that the noise signature of the frigate
and especially the Merlin is such that a submarine would be able
to hear them and then be able to take noise countermeasures prior
to being detected. A Nimrod, being a jet is barely audible so
would be able to track a submarine without the submarine knowing.
It is worth adding that the P3 Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft
used by the US and many other countries, being turbo-props, also
risk being heard by submarines so are less effective. In regard
to active detection, submarines can still take measures to minimise
the chances of detection and detection ranges are dependent upon
sea state, rain, size of submarine, sonar power transmitted and
the daily thermal cross section of the sea.
29. The next issue is coverage. It is understood
that two Type 23s and four Merlins have been assigned to submarine
detection (and possibly deterrent protection) duties. It is difficult
to imagine how they could be as efficient in covering UK waters
as a fixed wing maritime patrol aircraft.
30. If the situation was one in which an attack
by a submarine was possible, the lack of a Nimrod capability could
have serious consequences to a ship(s), with a submarine being
able to launch a torpedo before being detected. This would pose
considerable risks if ships were deployed to high risk areas and
it must be borne in mind that many nations have a submarine capability,
with a most recent example being the alleged torpedo attack by
a North Korean submarine sinking a South Korean on the 26 March
31. The Government has, understandably, been
unwilling to detail how it would go about protecting the deterrent,
but one could surmise that it could involve Type 23 frigates to
escort the deterrent out from Faslane and/or use of hunter killer
submarines. It is difficult to know how effective this would be
and reference would need to be made to others more expert in such
32. The Government has stated that it would use
Hercules aircraft. The Hercules has no electro-optics. It does
have radar but this is not designed for search and rescue and
will only detect large vessels; certainly not yachts or dinghies.
At night crews will have to use night vision goggles looking out
of windows which are not well positioned for the task. The crews
are not as well trained as the Nimrod crews in S&R. It will
take hours longer than the Nimrod to detect lost seamen, by which
time it may be too late. They also lack command and control cover,
so important in saving lives during the Piper Alpha disaster (1988),
and coordinating evacuations from the Thistle Alpha platform (2007)
and the Safe Scandinavia (10 February 2008), amongst many others.
It is believed that the UK will struggle to meet it obligations
under the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue,
33. The Government has not addressed this issue.
Should an incident or threat present itself and a quick response
be required, then the Nimrod would be able to offer a rapid response
to many situations, certainly at sea beyond the range of helicopters
and fast jets. Ships would clearly take a long time to respond.
Simply put, nothing has the combination of speed and range as
34. The Government has stated that it will rely
upon its allies to assist, notably the French and the US. However,
the maritime reconnaissance aircraft possessed by the French and
US come nowhere near providing the same capability as the MRA4
and probably even its predecessor, the MR2. In addition, one would
presume there must be a quid pro quo for relying upon allies.
What is the quid pro quo? Could it be that the UK would buy or
lease a replacement for the Nimrod MRA4s from the US at some point?
Direct Impact of Losing the Nimrods
35. As can be seen from
the above, the stated measures do not go anywhere near to covering
the roles undertaken by the Nimrod and a capability gap is evident.
This will create risks for the defence and security of the UK
and its territories. These risks have been recognised by statements
made by ministers and those heading up the armed forces:
the new MRA4 reconnaissance planes was "a risk but not
a gamble"General Sir David Richards speaking to
the Defence Select Committee on 17 November 2010.
worried am I? I am very uncomfortable. I'm happy to say that publicly,"Admiral
Sir Mark Stanhope answering a question from former Nimrod pilot
Sir Brian Burridge at a Spectator defence procurement conference
in London (9 November 2010).
the Nimrod MRA4 programme was a finely balanced judgement too.
This, I have to say, was the most difficult decision we took in
the SDSR. I recognise that this means taking some risk on the
capability Nimrod was to provide."Secretary of
State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox speaking at RAF Cranwell, Lincoln
(9 November 2010).
the "spy-in-the-sky" aerial surveillance planes
would leave the military with a "capability gap"Armed
Forces Minister Nick Harvey as reported by the Daily Mail (4 November
36. However, the above has to be compared with
the views expressed in a letter to the Daily Telegraph (published
on line on 26 Jan 2011) by Air Vice
Marshal Tony Mason, Major-General Patrick Cordingley, Marshal
of the RAF Lord Craig, Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, Major-Gen
Julian Thompson and Admiral Sir John Woodward:
of the nine airframes has now begun
a massive gap in British
security has opened."
is committed to the support of the UN, Nato and the EU. The vulnerability
of sea lanes, unpredictable overseas crises and traditional surface
and submarine opposition will continue to demand versatile, responsive
would have provided long-range maritime and overland reconnaissance,
anti-submarine surveillance, air-sea rescue co-ordination and
reconnaissance support to the Navy's Trident submarines."
countries are actually seeking to reinforce their maritime patrol
37. Other views are as follows:
is no way that Nimrod can be replaced, and the decision will have
serious implications for Trident."Paul Beaver
(Defence analyst) as reported in the Scotsman online on 20 November
of the Nimrod MR4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces
rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the Deterrent,
compromise maritime CT (counter terrorism), remove long range
search and rescue, and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement
plan."Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Defence
in his letter to the Prime Minister published in the Daily Telegraph
(on the 28 September 2010).
38. The National Audit Office, in its Major Projects
Report 2010, also recognised a capability gap, stating:
"The consequence of the Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance
and Attack Mk4 ISD slip, post the Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance
Mk2 Out-of-Service Date of March 2010, is that a capability gap
will be endured."
39. Reports in the press have highlighted issues
in regard to Russian submarines. One concerned a Russian submarine
trying to track a Vanguard class nuclear deterrent leaving Faslane
(Daily Express 5 September 2010)vii and the other in
regard to a search for a Russian submarine in the Atlantic which
it is reported the US P3 Orions could not find (Daily Record 22
40. The same Daily Express article above refers
to the potential for future disputes in the Arctic regions, especially
given the presence of oil. Similar arguments would probably apply
to the Antarctic. The fact is, with an ever changing world (noting
recent events in Algeria and Egypt), it is difficult to predict
where the next dispute might arise and the availability of a resource
as adaptable as the Nimrod could well be critical.
41. With the loss of both the Ark Royal and the
Harriers, the UK will not have an effective carrier capability
until 2020. Hence, the importance of being able to provide an
effective way to defend the Falklands is now even greater, given
that the UK would almost certainly be unable to retake them.
42. Two former heads of the Royal Navy, Lord
West and Sir Julian Oswald, along with Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy
Blackham, Vice-Admiral John McAnally and Maj Gen Julian Thompson
wrote to The Times (20 November 2010) in regard to the decision
to scrap the Harriers. They stated:
"In respect of the newly valuable Falklands
and their oilfields, because of these and other cuts, for the
next 10 years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt
to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss
43. During a subsequent BBC Today programme interview
(10 November 2010), Lord West, who served as security minister
under former prime minister Gordon Brown, stated:
"If the islands were captured we have absolutely
no way whatsoever of recovering them unless we have carrier air."
44. Lord West also stated during the interview
that the Falklands could be defended if the intelligence was available
in regard to an increased threat, but that it was not always available.
45. The Nimrod MRA4 would have been able to contribute
considerably to the defence role, as recognised by Dr Fox in his
letter to the Prime Minister. The Nimrod would have been able
to provide early warning of a potential attack, facilitating an
earlier mobilisation of existing forces on and around the Falklands.
The Nimrod would also have been able to actively defend through
its offensive capabilities.
46. It is not believed that the US or the French
would provide their maritime reconnaissance aircraft to help defend
or retake the Falklands.
47. It is worth remembering that it was a white
paper in 1981 from the then secretary of state for defence, John
Nott, proposing deep cuts to the Royal Navy (a fifth of its 60
destroyers and frigates), that factored in the Argentinean decision
to invade the Falklands.
48. Hence, it is clear that there is joint agreement
that losing Nimrod is a risk and creates a capability gap; presumably
it is the extent of that risk which is under question. The authors'
view is that it is an unacceptable risk and it is in fact a gamble.
49. As already stated above, the effectiveness
of measures introduced by the Government to mitigate for the loss
of Nimrod are considered minimal, but there are further consequences.
With the Royal Navy already suffering a reduction in its surface
fleet, including the loss of four frigates and Ark Royal, its
ability to cover existing commitments will be impacted by the
need to now cover for the loss of Nimrod. In addition, there will
be a considerable cost involved in deploying frigates (and helicopters)
for these to cover for the Nimrod. A similar argument will apply
to the use of Hercules aircraft, which have been in much demand
50. In regard to search and rescue, without a
Nimrod to provide safety cover, the need to use an additional
helicopter to provide cover will increase. Hence, unless additional
risk to helicopter crews (and those they rescue) is to be increased,
there will be a greater demand on helicopters, which may not be
able to be met. It is worth noting an articleix about
search and rescue written in 2004 which stated that Nimrods were
deployed in search and rescue around 70 times a year.
51. It must firstly be appreciated that the Nimrod
MRA4s were nearly complete (one had been delivered to the RAF)
and fully paid for by the taxpayer at a cost of £4 billion.
52. The Government has cited cost as the reason
for cancelling the Nimrod programme. It has stated that it will
save £2 billion over ten years. It is the authors' view that
this needs to be challenged:
is the break down of this amount and what else did it include
which was not directly related to the Nimrods? For example, RAF
Kinloss acted as the home of the national Aeronautical Rescue
Daily Telegraph reported the cost of maintenance and support of
the Nimrods as being £50 million pa (20 July 2010).x
attempts, if any, were made to reduce these costs? For example:
Woodford trades unions suggested flying Nimrods out of BAE Systems
suggested combining elements of a spyplane (currently R1s) with
functionality of the MRA4s.
the possibility of a Private Finance Initiative for provision
of a Nimrod MRA4 service by BAE Systems considered?
the possibility of moving Nimrods to another airbase to make efficiency
a value for money consideration for the service provided by the
Nimrod's made? Given its considerable range of capabilities compared
to other resources was a comparison with other defence assets
costs were predicted by the MoD (ie prior to the SDSR white paper)
in regard to the decision to scrap the Nimrods and close RAF Kinloss?
are the true total costs associated with cancelling contracts,
dismantling and disposing of the Nimrods, the closure of RAF Kinloss,
redundancy payments and any other costs resulting from the SDSR
decision regarding the Nimrods and RAF Kinloss?
did the expected costs and the actual costs compare?
are the costs associated with using other resources to cover for
the loss of the Nimrods?
53. Following representations made by the Trades
Unions at Woodford to local MPs, a meeting took place between
those MPs and the Secretary of State for Defence. The MPs informed
the trades unions from Woodford that if they were to retain the
aircraft in storage for use at a later date that they would need
to retain the crews with the expense that would involve.
54. Other than that,
little appears to have been said as to why the planes were to
be dismantled rather than mothballed. It would appear that it
is inconceivable that the UK could continue indefinitely without
a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Indeed, the Secretary of State
for Defence, Liam Fox, in a BBC TV news interview (27 January
2011)xi strongly hinted that they could replace it,
"if we do need that capability, we may need
to get it from somewhere else".
55. Defence insiders have informed the authors'
contacts that the MoD is already considering a replacement, something
also reported in the Daily Telegraph (26 January 2011).xii
56. If it is replaced with Boeing P-8A Poseidons,
then based upon the deal with the US Government for an initial
six such aircraft at $1.6 billion, the price for nine for the
UK would be circa £1.5 billion. The P-8A is a much closer
match for the Nimrod MRA4 than the very old P3 Orions, though
some would argue even the P-8s are not as good as the MRA4s, for
example it is believed the range/flying time of the MRA4s would
have been far greater than the P-8s and the MRA4s would have been
far better at flying at low level over the sea for anti-submarine
57. Hence, if the Government, following the next
SDSR in five years time, were to procure the same number of P-8s
as there were to be MRA4s, this would equate to £300 million
pa over five years, far more than it would have cost by the Government's
own figures to have put the MRA4s into service and hence vastly
more than it would have cost to mothball the MRA4s and retain
the crews. Even if it were to be in late 2020 before P-8s were
procured, this would equate to £150 million pa, not that
far from the £200 million pa quoted by the Government to
58. Another question that has to be asked is
regarding the pace of the demolition process. Given the Government
could have allowed the construction of the Nimrod MRA4s to continue
at presumably no extra cost, given a contract was in place, it
could easily have allowed the Defence Select Committee to undertake
its review of the SDSR and then review its decision. Hence, it
would be important to understand why the Government was so eager
to destroy £4 billion of aircraft without allowing a second
59. Following the widespread coverage in the
press and media of the demolition of the MRA4s, including helicopter
coverage by the BBC, the Government attacked safety and other
issues relating to the Nimrod MRA4s. This was soon followed by
an article by the Secretary of State for Defence, Liam Fox, in
the Daily Telegraph (28 January 2011) and a leak to the Sunday
Times (30 January 2011), allegedly of a report on the aircraft
written on the 17 September 2010 by Defence Equipment and Support
inspectors, providing some details regarding issues with the MRA4.
Significantly, however, there was no mention of a rectification
sheet which would have been expected to accompany such a report
addressing the issues raised.
60. In the Telegraph article, Dr Fox referred
to the aircraft being late and over budget. This is irrelevant.
It is money already spent and the delays are in the past.
61. In answering the Sunday Times, BAE Systems
told the paper "At the time of the cancellation of the
MRA4 programme, we were working with the Ministry of Defencein
the normal wayto resolve a number of issues relating to
the aircraft. We are confident that these would have been resolved
to enable the aircraft's entry into service as planned."
The Trades Unions at Woodford, representing those building the
aircraft, report that this statement was entirely in line with
62. To state that an aircraft that presumably
must have had a certificate of airworthiness from the CAA and
had recently flown at two airshows was "simply unsafe"
comes across as being a gross exaggeration. If it was as bad as
claimed, surely the BAE Systems chief test pilot would not have
flown the aircraft.
63. It is known that some of the issues raised
by the inspectors had already been addressed.
64. If the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 programme
had been considered a possibility, then it would be advantageous
to write an overly critical report of the aircraft and to delay
acceptance by the RAF. Could this have been the case?
65. Most significantly of all, however, are the
report was written, according to the Sunday Times, on the 17 September
the 27 September 2010, Dr Fox wrote to the PM arguing in favour
of the Nimrod, after the above report. Surely he would have been
made aware of the above report to assist him in the SDSR decision
the PM announced the SDSR white paper to the House of Commons
on the 19 October, he made no mention of any issues with the Nimrod
Fox stated, as reported earlier in this submission, that cancelling
the Nimrod "was the most difficult decision we took in
the SDSR". Even in the Telegraph article he repeated
a similar mantra, before going on to criticise the aircraft.
why was it, if the aircraft was as unsafe and so riddled with
faults, some of which might never be fixed, as he claimed, that
he did not mention this much earlier when justifying the decision
to scrap the plane?
if the aircraft were as he described, it would have made it an
easy decision to cancel the Nimrod MRA4s not the most difficult
Fox only started to criticise the aircraft when the publicity
surrounding the decision to destroy them increased significantly.
was it that a leak to the Sunday Times occurred when it did, following
on immediately after Dr Fox had started to criticise the aircraft?
Who was responsible for the leak?
66. Dr Fox also claimed, in his Telegraph article,
that it would take more money to complete the aircraft, throwing
"good money after bad". Our understanding is
that any further costs would have been borne by the contractor,
not the Government and that the contract included "penalty"
67. He went on to state that there would be no
demand for a 1940s airframe and that storing them would not be
cost effective. In regard to the latter, see above for the comparison
with buying Poseidon P-8s and in regard to the former, the Government
has just placed an order for three Rivet Joint spy planes at a
price of $1.1 billion which are based on 1950s airframes. The
fact is that the MRA4s were 95% new, including brand new wings.
68. As mentioned at paragraph 54, it appears
inconceivable that the UK could continue indefinitely without
a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The statement in that paragraph
by Dr Fox to the BBC, which he did not have to make, appears significant
in this regard.
69. Many other countries have a maritime reconnaissance
aircraft, including Iran and Argentina. Wikipediaxiii
reports 18 countries as possessing P3 Orions, yet a major maritime
nation such as the UK, with a defence budget that is circa the
third biggest in the world, has no maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
70. In the Nimrod MRA4, the UK would have had
an aircraft specifically designed to meet UK requirements. Replacing
with P3 Orions would surely only be a stopgap measure prior to
the P-8 Poseidons coming into service. As detailed previously,
if a P-8 is purchased in five years time, this will mean that
the UK would have been better off even if it had put the Nimrods
into service. If replaced in ten years time the savings compared
to having continued with the MRA4s in service would have been
71. The authors' have been told that the experience
of the Nimrod crews is of considerable importance in regard to
the roles they carry out. It is not something that can be gained
simply from training but takes many years. This experience will
now be lost when the crews are made redundant, so even if new
aircraft are procured, it will then take much longer before the
UK can gain the same overall capability as a result of the new
crews needing to gain experience.
UK AEROSPACE INDUSTRY
72. The SDSR has seen the withdrawal from service
of Harriers, to be followed in a few years time by the Tornados
and the Nimrod R1 spyplanes. This, along with the scrapping of
the Nimrods, is already having a significant impact upon employment
within BAE Systems, with thousands of jobs expected to be impacted
over the coming years.
73. Future business is now centred around further
Typhoon and Hawk work, including export and Joint Strike Fighter
and the Government is being very supportive in the area of UK
74. The recent decision by the Government to
procure three Rivet Joint spyplanes to replace the Nimrod R1s
is very disappointing. With spare MRA4 airframes having been available
and already paid for by the Government and with similarities in
construction to the R1, it is believed that it could have been
cheaper for the Government to have used MRA4 airframes as future
spyplanes. The decision to have them supported in the US is a
further blow to UK aerospace jobs.
75. If the UK Government procures P-8 Poseidons
from the US, the authors would hope that the Government insist
upon a level of offset work. Offset is becoming much more the
norm as customers request that some of the work be undertaken
in their own countries. It would be hoped that support and maintenance
work would be based in the UK as well.
76. The importance for Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV)
and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) to be procured from the
UK (or jointly with the French) cannot be underestimated. BAE
Systems is known to have invested heavily in this area and this
work has helped retain very important aerospace design skills
and needs to do so for the future. The Government needs to act
quickly and decisively and support UAV and UCAV work in the UK.
77. If the UK defence aerospace sector is not
sufficiently supported, it could have an impact upon the civil
sector, as it reduces the skill base within the aerospace sector
generally within the UK.
78. The UK defence industry as a whole makes
a very significant contribution to the UK economy, which in 2009
was worth £12 billion and generated £7.2 billion revenue
in exports. Every job in the industry creates another 1.6 jobs
79. At a time when the UK Government is stating
that manufacturing is important to the country and young people
are trying to be attracted into engineering, the pictures of new
Nimrod MRA4 aircraft being destroyed could not have sent a positive
message to them. Workers at the Woodford factory were gutted at
seeing all their work over many years cut up and this was not
a good advert for the aerospace industry in the UK.
80. There are significant concerns for the future
of the UK aerospace industry and strong Government support is
required. Whilst this has been very positive in regard to export
of existing products, new work is required to maintain a design
capability within the UK.
81. It is the authors' view that the SDSR process
was not robust and sufficiently independent from the services
to be properly strategic. For example, the NSC adopted an "Adaptable
Britain" posture, but then decided to cancel the Nimrod MRA4
programme, depriving the military of what was probably its most
adaptable and flexible asset. This made no sense. To then destroy
it as well, given the UK will no doubt at some time need to replace
it, does not stack up economically.
82. Jobs were always going to be affected by
the review, given the economic situation, which is obviously going
to be very difficult for those concerned, but to have jobs lost
not on the basis of proper strategic thinking but for what appears,
in some cases, to be political reasons makes the situation for
those affected even worse. The varying messages from Dr Fox regarding
the reason for scrapping the Nimrod MRA4, the fact that he wrote
to the Prime Minister in support of Nimrod and the subsequent
leak of a report about the MRA4 is strong evidence in the authors'
opinion that there was more to scrapping the Nimrod than just
83. The UK will endure a very significant capability
gap as a result of scrapping the MRA4. Whether this was fully
appreciated by those making the decision is not known. It is the
authors' belief that history will show that the decision to lose
an MRA4 type capability was wrong and that the decision to destroy
£4 billion of aircraft was economically unjustified and a
waste of taxpayers' money.
84. The Defence Select Committee concluded of
the SDSR process that "mistakes will be made and some
of them may be serious". The scrapping of the Nimrod MRA4s
must surely be one of them.
85. The enacting of decisions of the SDSR white
paper prior to review by the Defence Select Committee, especially
in the case of decisions which were irreversible, such as the
destruction of the Nimrod MRA4s, was wrong.
86. David Cameron in an interview during the
Andrew Marr show on 3 October 2010 stated:
"I am passionately pro-defence, passionately
pro our armed forces. I will not take any risks with Britain's
87. However, risks are being taken as has already
been acknowledged by the General Sir David Richards and Dr Fox
(see paragraph 35). It is the authors' view that lives will be
lost as a result of losing the MRA4s.
88. It is recommended that the Government acts
positively in regard to supporting a significant UK developed
and manufactured UAV and UCAV capability.
89. It is recommended that the Government, where
it does feel compelled to purchase from abroad, insist upon offset
work coming to the UK to support UK jobs. In addition, support
and maintenance work should be based in the UK.
90. It is recommended for future SDSRs (or their
equivalent) that the Defence Select Committee be allowed to review
decisions from the SDSR, especially in the case of decisions which
are irreversible, before they are enacted.
91. It is also recommended that sufficient time
be allowed for future reviews and that a robust and sufficiently
independent (of the services) expert review of defence strategy
be part of the SDSR process.
92. Given it is understood that considerations
are being given to a replacement for the Nimrod MRA4s, it would
be important to ensure that the considerable and important experience
of the current crews is not lost. It is, therefore, recommended
that the Government give consideration to the retention of existing
14 February 2011