Operations in Libya - Defence Committee Contents

4  UK contribution to the operation

Role of the National Security Council

92. The operation in Libya was the first new operation since the creation of the National Security Council (NSC) in May 2010. In the early days of the operation we asked the then Secretary of State, Dr Liam Fox MP, about the role of the NSC. He told us:

    As well as the National Security Council itself, the sub-committee, the NSC(L)[National Security Council(Libya)], has met on a very regular basis, and the NSC(LO) [NSC(Libya Officials)] for officials meets on an even more regular basis. For my own part [...] the flow of information that comes to us to help us to understand what is happening on the ground and the decisions that we will have to take come in a timely way. The process is now getting into a rhythm where the meetings are in a predictable timescale. The NSC has adapted quickly to what has been [...] a major challenge early on in its existence.[106]

93. We also asked Dr Fox whether the NSC was "on top of" the overall strategy for the region (Middle East and North Africa). He replied:

    The NSC does look at, and has looked at, the region as a whole. It would simply be untrue, Chairman, to say that any policy maker in the western world has been on top of the speed at which events have happened in the Middle East and North Africa. None of the self-professed experts whom I have been able to talk to predicted Tunisia or Egypt, or the speed of what has happened in Syria or Libya.

    At my talks in the United States yesterday, the speed of the change of events is such that everybody is having to assess and reassess the impacts, as we go on; what it will mean for security in the region; what it will mean for our national security, as has already been alluded to during this session, and what it will mean for the UK and our allied interests abroad. If there is one thing that politicians would be wise to have in view of the speed of events, it is a little humility. We are not always quite as able to understand what is about to happen next as politicians sometimes like to pretend.[107]

94. The NSC was also instrumental in promoting interdepartmental cooperation. Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, said:

    Principally, that was co-ordinated through the National Security Council and its Libya sub-committee, which met on a very regular basis. For a long time, it met daily; thereafter it met at least twice a week. There was a lot of contact between officials, hour by hour, throughout the campaign, including not only those in the Foreign Office but those in the Department for International Development and, at different points, the Treasury and other Departments. There were many different aspects to the engagement in Libya, of which the military component was but one.[108]

95. The National Security Council appears to have worked well in respect of the situation in Libya, particularly in coordinating the response of Government Departments. This was important as the mission in Libya had many component parts, not just the military operation.

Capabilities deployed

96. In answer to a written Parliamentary Question, the Ministry of Defence gave the following information about the capabilities deployed for Operation ELLAMY:

    At its peak, some 2,300 British servicemen and women were deployed on Operation ELLAMY. We deployed 32 aircraft including 16 Tornado GR4s, six Typhoons, five attack helicopters, refuelling tankers and specialist surveillance aircraft and helicopters. Over the course of the operation we also deployed eight warships and attack submarines.[109]

The UK's contribution to the coalition firepower also included the use of Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-launched missiles.

97. In a statement on 21 October the Defence Secretary, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, stated that the UK had flown over 3,000 sorties over Libya, more than 2,000 of which had been strike sorties.[110] Of the total NATO sorties conducted (26,281 sorties and 9,646 strike sorties as of 23 October 2011) the UK's contribution totals approximately 11% of overall sorties and 20% of strike sorties.[111]

98. In response to a written Parliamentary Question, the MoD gave the following breakdown about the number of sorties carried out by UK Forces during Operation ELLAMY:

    The approximate number of air sorties flown by the UK armed forces by month in support of operations in Libya is given in the following table:
Table 1: UK sorties

Month    Number of Sorties

March 2011    180

April 2011    430

May 2011    440

June 2011    490

July 2011    510

August   2011    540

September 2011    390

October 2011    240

Data source: HC Deb, 1 December 2011, cols 1059-60W

    In addition, from 19 March to 31 October 2011, C130 and C-17 aircraft flew 25 operational sorties that landed in Libya; and, Lynx helicopters also flew 172 sorties in support of operations in Libya. Flights in support of Operation ELLAMY have also been flown to and from Italy and Cyprus but the information on these sorties is not held in the format requested.[112]

99. Since operations began, the UK has contributed a total of 16 Royal Navy warships, submarines and Royal Fleet Auxillary vessels to humanitarian, combat and embargo operations off Libya.[113]

100. On 21 September 2011, the North Atlantic Council agreed to extend NATO's mission in Libya for a further 90 days. With the extension of operations in September, the UK altered its deployed assets slightly. The MoD withdrew its Typhoon jets and three Apache attack helicopters from theatre, leaving a remaining fast jet contingent of 16 Tornados and two attack helicopters.[114]

101. In October 2011, the UK had the following assets deployed on Operation ELLAMY:

  • RAF Tornado aircraft based at Gioia del Colle in Italy
  • RAF VC10 and TriStar air-to-air refuelling tankers based in Sicily and the UK
  • RAF Sentry and Sentinel surveillance aircraft based in Sicily and Gioia del Colle. Sentinel aircraft were re-deployed from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus to Italy on 18 October
  • HMS Ocean (helicopter carrier), deployed with two Apache attack helicopters
  • HMS York (Type 42 destroyer)—deployed to the Mediterranean to replace HMS Liverpool on 18 October
  • HMS Bangor (Sandown Class minehunter)
  • Fleet Air Arm Sea King helicopters (Airborne Surveillance and Area Control role)
  • RAF air transport aircraft providing extensive logistic support to the deployed bases in Italy, Sicily and the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus.[115]


102. The role of the Royal Air Force in operations in Libya began on 24 February 2011, when the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force started evacuating UK nationals from Libya.[116] In the space of a few days, the UK was able to evacuate over 800 UK nationals and over 1,000 nationals from over 50 countries.[117] The UK Armed Forces used helicopters, Hercules aircraft and HMS Cumberland in this evacuation.

103. The RAF used various capabilities as part of operations in Libya; the main role of the Tornado was attack and of the Typhoon air combat and attack. Army Air Corps Apache helicopters were also used in the attack role. Other air capabilities included reconnaissance, refuelling and logistical support aircraft. We asked Air Chief Marshal, Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, about the success of air operations, who said:

    First of all, the performance of Tornado has yet again proven it a bedrock of multi-role capability, having precision weapons, first-class reconnaissance capability and first-class targeting capability. As in Afghanistan and as before, it has demonstrated that the Tornado is an excellent platform for what we do and has proved to be very effective.

    Typhoon, on its first outing in an operation as opposed to its defensive counter-air role in the UK and the Falklands, proved again to be very reliable—4,500 flying hours with no engine changes.[118] It is an amazingly reliable piece of kit. Within a matter of days, we were able to bring forward its existing air-to-ground capability on top of its air-to-air capability and to deliver very effective and very poignantly laser-guided bombs, and eventually to make sure that it could conduct that role simultaneously with its air defence role. Therefore, it could provide the requirement to enforce the no-fly zone and target precisely and accurately targets on the ground.

    All of those have proved extremely reliable and effective.[119]

104. Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper, UK Military Representative to NATO, commented on the role of attack helicopters during the mission:

    We actually saw a very capable air capability deployed from a maritime asset in the form of attack helicopters—at peak there were five—being operated from HMS Ocean. They played a very pivotal role in delivering capability at a particular point in the campaign, where there were significant movements of pro-Gaddafi forces up and down lines of communication. So, arguably, this was an area of UK involvement in the campaign in Libya where you saw jointery at its best.[120]

105. On 21 December, Peter Luff MP, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, wrote to us that "Typhoon, in its first multi-role mission in providing both air and ground attack, has demonstrated exceptional levels of survivability and, in its ground attack role, a targeting capacity with minimal collateral damage, proving it is truly a formidable aircraft".[121]

106. We commend all air units on their role in the operation, both in a combat role and in the Non-combatant Evacuation Operations for UK and other civilians by Hercules prior to the commencement of combat operations. We note the Chief of the Air Staff's view that both Tornado and Typhoon had operated well. We particularly note that in its first operational role Typhoon performed very reliably. We also note that the Joint Helicopter Command was able to deploy successfully Apache helicopters to the Mediterranean Sea as well as maintain numbers in Afghanistan.


107. Early in the mission, the MoD announced an extension in the service of the Nimrod R1 signals intelligence aircraft which had been due to be decommissioned in 2011.[122] ISTAR capability was key to the success of the operation as it provided effective targeting and helped minimise the risk of civilian casualties. Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, told us that the protection of civilians was at the forefront of British and NATO planning and that rates of civilian casualties at the hands of NATO were very much lower than in any comparable action.[123] Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, said that many potential targets were rejected because of the risk of civilian casualties.[124] Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets were essential in the prevention of casualties.[125] Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper, UK Military Representative to NATO, also stressed the importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance:

    It [Sentinel] played a key and pivotal role in the operation. There is no question about that. This is a highly capable ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platform that is able to detect movement on the ground with extraordinary high fidelity and provide that information in real time. Discussion with the air commander would indicate that he relied extremely heavily on its capability and on similar capabilities provided by other platforms. So, without that capability I do not think that we would have seen the rapid success that has been achieved.[126]

108. There was a heavy reliance on US Forces for ISTAR capabilities (see paragraph 88). As described above, Sentinel played a central part in Operation ELLAMY but is due to be decommissioned once its role in Afghanistan ends.[127] Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton told us of its fundamental role:

    It [Sentinel] was fundamental. We were able to link up and securely pass information from the Sentinel aircraft providing the ground-mapping capability through the AWACS in E3 aeroplanes, through secure satellite comms, through data links to the Typhoon and from Typhoon to Tornado and onwards. All that was done. Without that combat ISTAR [...] the ability to do something about what you find on the ground at the same time—this would undoubtedly have been a more complex operation. The technical capability is there, and it has proven itself to be combat-ready and combat-capable.[128]

109. We asked Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton if he would be sorry to see Sentinel go. He said:

    The requirement for Sentinel is in the SDSR paper, which talked about the fact that when it was no longer required for Afghanistan, we would look to take it out of service. Of course, in the interim, its quality and its performance in Afghanistan and in Libya have demonstrated what a fundamental part of the ISR and the whole combat ISTAR piece it is. I feel that as ever, we will have the opportunity in the next SDSR to look at whether [...] that is one of the capabilities that we will want to look at again, to see whether it was the right decision to say that when it is no longer required for Afghanistan, it will go. I am sure that is what we will do.[129]

110. ISTAR capabilities are vital to the ability of UK Armed Forces to undertake operations such as those in Libya. We note that it was necessary as part of the mission to extend the service life of the Nimrod R1 signals intelligence aircraft. We expect the MoD to give a higher priority to the development of such capabilities in advance of the next SDSR. In response to this report we also expect the MoD to clarify the position on the future of Sentinel and whether consideration is being given to its retention and what impact retention would have on other budget areas.


111. We asked about the impact of capabilities being withdrawn from standing tasks to operate in Libya on the Royal Navy's ability to perform these standing tasks and to be ready for other tasks which may arise. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, told us:

    [...] Before Libya, we had already recognised stretch in our ability to satisfy our commitment to have a warship in the Caribbean during the hurricane season. We were covering that with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which is entirely acceptable to do that job, although it did not absolutely satisfy it. During the Libya operation, to satisfy the standing overseas commitments, there was a need to extend some operational tasking programmes. We had to extend time on task for some units and manage our way through the period of the Libya crisis.[130]

112. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope further explained:

    The contingent capability in the maritime sphere is the Response Force Task Group [...]. That was planned as a standard training requirement that would go into the Mediterranean and some of the units would transit to the Middle East in the early part of this year. We deployed that group early as a consequence of the growing crisis in Libya. In terms of its use, we worked it up in the Mediterranean and had it standing by for contingent option capability—in Libya or as required.

    When the situation on the ground in Libya sorted itself it meant that we could make some judgments—we sent the remainder of that group into the Middle East for a period of time before returning it to the United Kingdom. HMS Ocean, for example, was deployed with it, expecting to be away for seven weeks; she is still on operations as contingent requirement in the Indian ocean. So our contingent requirement was available to be used for the crisis of the time. Some of it was used; some of it went on to be contingent in the Middle East.[131]

113. The Royal Navy contribution stressed the value of building flexibility into maritime thinking and capability: HMS Cumberland [Type 22 Frigate] made a key contribution to the safe evacuation of UK and entitled personnel from Benghazi; HMS Brocklesby [mine counter measures ship] was equally important to the underwater operations and to the mine countermeasures effort; the successful deployment of Army Attack Helicopters to HMS Ocean for the first time in live operations gave a very useful option to the Operational Commander and also proved to be an effective area of liaison with French forces; whilst the value of TLAM [Tomahawk Land Attack Missile] fired from submarines, and the 4.5inch gun and air and maritime surveillance and co-ordination from HMS Liverpool were again proven.

114. We commend the actions of the Royal Navy in the operation particularly in respect of the evacuation of civilians from Benghazi, the enforcement of the arms embargo and the early deployment of the first Response Force Task Group. However we note that important tasks, such as the Fleet Ready Escort and counter drugs operations, were not able to be carried out due to meeting the Libya commitment. Given the continued high levels of standing maritime commitments it is likely that this type of risk taking will occur more frequently as the outcomes of the SDSR are implemented. This will be a significant challenge for the Royal Navy and the MoD who should outline their plans to meet this challenge in response to our Report.


115. The Government claimed that the success of the Libya operation indicated that the policy and decisions of the SDSR were justified, including those on enduring a capability gap on carrier strike and the decommissioning of the Harrier Force. During our inquiry, we discussed whether the UK would have deployed an Aircraft Carrier and Harrier Force if it had been available as part of the operation. This was an area of contention between witnesses during our inquiry. Other nations did deploy ships capable of carrying aircraft (US, Italy and France). The UK also deployed HMS Ocean to carry helicopters. The First Sea Lord agreed that a Carrier with Harriers would have been deployed if available but also said:

    Using Libya as an example of the need, or not, for aircraft carriers can lead you to some false assumptions. If we had had a carrier with Harrier capability, as we used to, I suspect we would have used it as another option, and it might have been reactively tasked in some circumstances. But, let us be absolutely clear, it could not have provided the effect of Tornado with Brimstone and Storm Shadow. At that stage, Harrier was not capable of embarking those weapons. We would have had to have used the same effort to achieve the same effect. Of course, we had the advantage of local air basing rights and overflight rights, so we could position strike capability from Italy to be embarked into Libya. It worked—and it worked splendidly.[132]

Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, added:

    If we had instead deleted Tornado at the end of 2010, the first challenge for the residual Harrier force would have been to re-engage in Afghanistan. That being so, it would have been highly unlikely that it would have been available for the action in Libya. Even if it had, it would not have had the same fire power, as the First Sea Lord has observed.[133]

116. In our SDSR report we noted the decommissioning of the Harrier Force. Whilst none of our witnesses told us that the Libya operation could not have succeeded without a fixed wing aircraft carrier, we note that three ships capable of carrying aircraft were deployed in theatre as well as the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. We also note that the First Sea Lord told us that if a carrier with Harrier Force capability had been available it would probably have been used. In response to our Report the Government should indicate if the operation could have been carried out more effectively and efficiently with an aircraft carrier. We repeat our support for proceeding with both Queen Elizabeth class carriers to ensure one is always available for operations.


117. On the attack capabilities which performed well, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, told us:

    As far as we are concerned, the principal four weapons systems that were used all performed to an extremely high level of satisfaction in terms of their capabilities, and well above the predicted level percentage-wise, with very few exceptions. For instance, to talk about Brimstone in particular, 98.3% to 98.7% of the missiles fired went exactly as per the textbook and did exactly what we expected, so the quality of that was extremely high. The same is true, in ratio terms, of all the precision weapons that we dropped—and bear in mind that that is exactly what we require.[134]

118. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, told us about the maritime attack capabilities that had performed well:

    As far as maritime fires are concerned, the early requirement to use Tomahawk to suppress enemy air defence was proven yet again. Once you have suppressed the air defences, you can project power more comfortably from the air. Naval fires simply using the 4.5 gun, which some people have suggested was not appropriate in this modern era, was proven again in terms of the ability to put fire on the ground where necessary with some considerable precision. We had to work up our standard procedures to be able to do that, to ensure the required precision that was again necessary to guarantee the safety of life.

    Not quite a naval fire, but a very important part of the ability to sustain some of the operations was the mine countermeasures vessel capability, which ensured that, when they placed mines, we were able to disable those mines to allow, ultimately, the passage of vessels in and out of Misrata. [...][135]

119. There has been speculation that UK Forces nearly ran out of ammunition, for example, the newer version of the Brimstone missile during the operation, or that there was a stockpile of missiles in Afghanistan awaiting servicing. On 23 September 2011, the Royal United Services Institute raised concerns about supply problems for UK Armed Forces of some types of ammunition during the operation, particularly, Brimstone Missiles. It said:

    Brimstone Missiles

    Did UK forces nearly run out of ammunition in the Libya operation? It is a claim which has been much discussed in relation to the Brimstone missile. A new variation on this anti-armour missile is the Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone (DMSB) which makes it a laser-guided weapon with a small but very potent charge. But the military only had so many of these upgraded DMSBs, with a stockpile in Afghanistan of Brimstone that had not been used and were due for re-servicing. The supplier, MBDA, was able to increase production of the seeker heads; and other weapons were fired wherever possible. Supply then caught up with demand. But the stock of usable DMSBs was reported to have fallen to single figures at one stage. There is no question of the UK running out of munitions for this operation. Nevertheless, it ran very short of the new variant of the weapon which most suited the chosen tactics.[136]

120. Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton told us:

    In the whole area of weapons stockpiling, in the old days, [...] we would end up buying a whole stock of weapons; at the time, you needed to do that, because the production line was going to run from now to then, and stop. In today's world, what we do differently is that we make sure we have access to enough stock to meet what we think are the planning requirements in the early stages, and then we maintain a relationship with industry such that we can reorder weapons as required, when their usage starts to go up. We actually have that as part of our formal strategy and policy, and contracts are in place to do it.

    That is exactly what we did here. As we started to use the weapons up, new weapons or converted weapons were tasked to industry to be produced and developed, and they were; they were delivered, and therefore the stockpiles were kept at a level commensurate with our operational requirements. Yes, inevitably, decisions are made on a daily, or shall I say a weekly, basis about whether we send weapons stock to this or that place, depending on where we are operating, to make sure that we keep the balance right and the required stocks in place.[137]

121. Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton further told us that the UK ordered more Brimstones when they realised they were likely to use more.[138] Part of the order included converting some of the standard missiles into "dual mode seeker" Brimstones.[139] Mr Harvey told us:

    Munitions stockpile levels are classified, so I am not going to get drawn into that. We were able to sustain the effort throughout; we did not have any serious worries. [...] It [the system] operated satisfactorily throughout, without undermining what we could do in Libya or Afghanistan.[140]

122. Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper, UK Military Representative to NATO, re-iterated that, as we discuss in the section on NATO, nations involved in the Alliance shared assets:

    [...] this was an alliance operation, in which essentially the sum of the parts come together to deliver the required military effect. Therefore, any limitations suffered by an individual nation are made up for by what other members of the alliance contribute to the campaign. It was pretty widely reported that a lot of the key enablers were provided by the United States and, indeed, the debate has subsequently been opened as to whether European nations need to do more to fill the capability gap in terms of being able to have some of those key enablers for themselves. However, during this campaign, we did not suffer for lack of any particular capability. Indeed, alliance members and in particular the United States bent over backwards to make sure that we were always provided with the minimum capability required to be able to prosecute the mission as successfully as we did.[141]

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton told us that he was not aware of the UK having any discussions with allies concerning any shortfalls in assets or munitions.[142]

123. We asked Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope if there was any removal of capability from some of the UK ships. He told us that there were no armaments used in the Libya campaign about which the UK had any concern in terms of shortage of stocks.[143] He further told us:

    In deploying ships, we equip them for the mission which they are tasked for. That might be constrained with regard to the equipment placed on the ship. There are areas of risk in the positioning of ships that require us to put more equipment on board them, for instance, operations in the Arabian Gulf, where the threat levels are higher, than if we are going to operate them in the North Atlantic. Some of the vessels used for Libyan operations were not fitted with what one might call the area-specific kit, nor was it required.[144]

124. During our inquiry, we also explored the selection of munitions for individual missions in Libya and the high proportion of precision weapons used by UK Forces which are more expensive compared to the other options or tactics that might have been used.[145] According to a written Parliamentary Answer on 14 September, up to 1 September 2011 "76% of weapons employed were precision guided" which included Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone, Enhanced Paveway II, Paveway IV, Storm Shadow missiles and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.[146] We put it to witnesses that other coalition members had used cheaper weapons without inflicting collateral damage or civilian casualties, as a consequence of using those weapons. Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, replied:

    The other issue would be that, for instance, no other country had Brimstone and its dual-mode capability. The consequence of that is that those aircraft were doing very specific missions. In essence, therefore, what they achieved was unique in the overall scheme. So trying to make any comparison of that against what others were targeting [...] would be rather false unless you use something very simplistic, which is not valid, such as the cost per hour, because the effectiveness is what we are trying to achieve. [...]

    [...] if you wanted to know what the cost-effectiveness of doing that was, you would very quickly get to a point where, in some cases, there was only one that could do it.[147]

He added:

    [...] you take the assets that were contributed by other nations and you then match the capabilities and weapons that those assets have to the targets that you have to go against. For instance, if we had tried to throw a squadron's worth of F16s' capabilities with 500 lb bombs against some of the targets that you send a Tornado with Storm Shadow in, you could have sent another three squadrons and you would not have achieved anything because it is the combination of the aircraft and the weapon that achieves the effect you want on the ground. So that is why it is not simple to do a quick, straightforward cost-effectiveness comparison between one aircraft and its capabilities and another and its capabilities in this sort of mission.[148]

125. We note the high reliability and accuracy of the principal air munitions employed, but we also note reports regarding shortages of munitions, such as the new variant Brimstone missile, during the operation. UK Armed Forces require large enough stocks of 'Warlike Materiel' which can be quickly replenished when used. This requires larger stocks of those items which are more difficult to procure or slower to produce. In response to this report the Government should outline the contingency measures that are in place and whether it has any plans to review them. We accept that that it was necessary for UK Armed Forces to use costly precision guided weapons on some missions in order to minimise or avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage. In response to our Report, we request a detailed explanation on how decisions on which munitions to deploy are made, and at what command level, and whether cost is one of the factors considered.

Impact on other operations and standing tasks

126. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force had to divert assets from other tasks and prioritise how to deploy them to undertake this operation. We were concerned that operations in Libya might have had an impact on operations in Afghanistan and standing tasks elsewhere in the world. We received the following responses to our questions:

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: The overall position is that we were able to maintain all our commitments—for instance, UK air defence, air defence of the Falklands and our commitment to Afghanistan—while conducting the operation in Libya. We did necessarily prioritise where assets went on a daily basis. In some cases they were sent further east and in some cases they were kept in the Mediterranean. These are assets that are, by nature, designed to be able to flexed from one theatre to another when they are needed for the priority that they are doing. Therefore in terms of the overall ability to conduct what we are tasked to conduct as a standing set of tasks, we were able to do that without impact on the operational capability, and where we needed to move assets around we did so. Another example would be that we sometimes took TriStars off mounting air logistics deployments to make them into tankers to support the Tornadoes that were flying out of the UK. We backfilled that, if necessary, by using other assets. If we did not need to and we could delay the missions for the air logistic support, that is what we did. We prioritised the tasks at the time, depending on what they were.

    Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: [...] we satisfied all of our standing overseas commitments throughout this period, with the exception of that single one in the Caribbean, which we covered through other assets. We managed our way through maintaining coverage in those areas through extended deployment for some ships and by stretching the length of string that some of them were on from various focal points in the South Atlantic, where they were in the South Atlantic. [...] at the early outset of the operation, when we were still under Op Deference—the recovery of personnel from Libya itself—we took one unit that was en route to the Falklands and put it into the Mediterranean to provide support for a short period of time. [...] we had Cumberland coming back from the Indian Ocean, which we used to provide the necessary recovery of personnel from Benghazi. We managed it for the period of the operation through flexing and stretching some of the deployment baselines.[149]

127. Although the UK was able to satisfy both operations in Libya and the Military Standing Tasks and other operational commitments, Operation ELLAMY was conducted prior to the implementation of many of the Strategic Defence and Security Review decisions on capability reductions. We believe the Government will face significantly greater challenges should an operation of similar size be necessary in the future and it will need to be prepared for some difficult decisions on prioritisation. We consider that Operation ELLAMY raises important questions as to the extent of the United Kingdom's national contingent capability. We urge the Government to review the United Kingdom's capacity to respond to concurrent threats. This work should be conducted as a matter of urgency before the next Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Anglo-French co-operation

128. The mission in Libya was the first new operation undertaken since the signing of the Anglo-French Treaty on bilateral defence cooperation in November 2010. We asked Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, for his assessment of the effectiveness of the cooperation in the Libyan operation:

    I think it has undoubtedly been a significant success. Of course, in the early days we had to get used to each other's modus operandi. We had some initial difficulties in basic communications, but those were overcome. As time went on, it went from strength to strength. We are pleased to have demonstrated the ability of the UK and France to act together in a leading role in the way that we have, which is encouraging for the future. NATO allies and the US will have been encouraged by that, too. On the back of the treaties that we signed with France last year, this was a very significant achievement in improving our interoperability and working relations with France.[150]

129. We welcome the successful interoperability of Anglo-French Forces during the operation, particularly in respect of maritime-based attack helicopter operations. We note the Minister's comments that there were some problems in the early stages of the operation and request an account of what these were and how resolved. We will continue our scrutiny of the Anglo-French Defence Treaties.

Cost of Operations

130. In a written statement on 23 June 2011, Rt Hon Liam Fox MP, then Secretary of State for Defence stated that the costs of Operation ELLAMY for the six months from mid-March to mid-September were estimated to be £120 million with the additional cost of replenishing munitions of £140 million. The additional costs incurred by the Ministry of Defence on Operation ELLAMY would be borne by the Reserve, and would be in addition to the core Defence budget.[151] In a further written statement on 12 October, the figure for the whole operation, from mid-March to mid-December, was revised to £160 million with the cost of replenishing munitions remaining at £140 million. [152]

131. Following the evidence session with Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces on 26 October, we asked the MoD for additional information on the methodology used for calculating the additional cost of the operation and the cost of replenishing munitions. We received the following response:

    Our estimates for the cost of operations in Libya are on the basis of the 'net additional cost of operations' (NACMO). It includes only additional costs incurred by the MOD as a result of the operation, and excludes costs which would be incurred anyway.

    Top Level Budget Holders (TLBs) are tasked to provide the MOD centre with an estimate, based on policy agreed with the Treasury, on what spending should come from the core budget, and what is NACMO. For example, included in NACMO would be: costs of additional fuel and munitions consumption; extra maintenance requirements; spares; an assessment of capital depreciation; the deployment and recovery of equipment and personnel from theatre; accommodation; operational allowances; and theatre-specific training. Excluded from NACMO would be: base salaries of service personnel and civilians involved; a base level of equipment usage, such as occurs during standard training; and most significantly the procurement costs of equipment which will stay with the MOD after the operation.

    With regard to munitions, HM Treasury have agreed to provide the cost of replenishing munitions from the Reserve, and will assess any future claims on a case-by-case basis. Final costs for munitions will be contingent on future decisions regarding required stocks and estimates for the market price of munitions. Not all costs are reclaimed in year—we often replenish munitions stockpiles over a number of years.[153]

We also asked for the figures on how much was spent on oil, fuel and munitions during the operation:

    Fully audited figures will be produced as part of the annual accounts.

    On current estimates we expect the net additional cost of the operation to include around £25 million on oil and fuel.

    In October, the previous Defence Secretary provided an estimate for the additional cost of munitions of £140 million; this was based on the continuation of Operation Unified Protector until mid-December. We are now working on a new estimate based on the completion of operations in October, which I will announce in December.[154]

132. On 8 December, following the completion of operations, the Secretary of State for Defence estimated that the net additional cost of Operation ELLAMY would be £212 million. This estimate was made up of £145 million of operating costs, plus a further £67 million on the cost of replenishing. He also stated that "the fully audited cost of Operation ELLAMY will be published in the Ministry of Defence's annual report and accounts".[155]

133. However some commentators have suggested that the cost was much higher. In an article in the Guardian on 25 September, Francis Tusa stated that the cost could be between £850 million and £1.75 billion (see box below for further details).[156]
Extract from Guardian Article (25 September 2011)

Francis Tusa's key figures were quoted as:

  • "Officially", as of late August, the UK's operation has cost some £230-260-million for the 25 weeks since March 19. The new calculations put the cost of UK operations at well over £600-million, and arguably into the £1.25 billion-plus range. This has to come out of existing MoD reserves
  • A breakdown of the costs of mounting an air operation: £35,000 per Tornado GR4 mission, £45,000 per Typhoon Eurofighter active mission
  • Bombs and missiles are more expensive: £183,000 for a Brimstone missile, £50,000 per Paveway guided bomb
  • A long-range extra mission including cruise missiles cost £11m
  • Use of the Italian base at Gioia del Colle has cost the UK at least £10m
  • Up until the end of May, Tusa estimated missions had cost around £512m
  • Since then, the estimates are of another £377m—taking to it to a max figure of £950m, for air and sea operations alone.

134. We asked Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, for his assessment of Mr Tusa's costings:

    You referred to an article, which I think was in The Guardian. I have explained that we compute costs on the basis of net additional costs, and the journalist's calculations in The Guardian story appear to be his cockshy at estimating the entire cost, regardless of whether some of that was cost that the Department would already have been incurring. Governments never estimate the cost of an operation on that basis, and such calculations are almost impossible to verify because there is not really a methodology for doing so. I am sorry to say that I do not recognise his figures or the logic that he has deployed to arrive at them.[157]

135. We note that in December 2011 the Government stated the estimate for the whole operation was £212 million, made up of £145 million of operating costs, plus a further £67 million on the cost of replenishing munitions used in Libya. We also note that the Secretary of State for Defence announced that fully audited figures would be produced as part of the annual accounts. We expect the details included in the accounts to be as complete as possible and should include a detailed explanation of the component parts of the additional costs, including those of replenishing munitions. In response to our Report the MoD should indicate the timetable for them being reimbursed the additional costs by HM Treasury. In light of the fact that other commentators have estimated the cost of operations to be much higher than the MoD estimate, we expect the MoD and HM Treasury to provide us with a detailed and transparent explanation of the methodology used when calculating its figures. We remain concerned that the MoD does not understand the full costs of operations in Libya.

106   Q 76 Back

107   Q 77 Back

108   Q 208 Back

109   HC Deb, 14 November 2011, col 517W Back

110   Ministry of Defence Press Release, Hammond -Proud of Armed Forces' role in Libya, 21 October 2011 Back

111   House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/IA/5909, Military Operations in Libya, October 2011, p 24 Back

112   HC Deb, 1 December 2011, cols 1059-60W Back

113   MoD press release, RFA Fort Rosalie finishes her Libya mission, 3 October 2011 Back

114   House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/IA/5909, Military Operations in Libya, October 2011, p 24 Back

115   House of Commons Library Standard Note SN/IA/5909, Military Operations in Libya, October 2011, pp 24-25 Back

116   Ev 53 Back

117   HM Government, Libya Crisis: National Security Adviser's Review of Central Co-ordination and Lessons Learned, December 2011. Available at: www.number10.gov.uk/news/report-on-libya/  Back

118   Note by witness following evidence session: this figure should read 3,035 flying hours Back

119   Q 272 Back

120   Q 175 Back

121   Ev 59 Back

122   HC Deb, 30 March 2011, col 392W Back

123   Q 241 Back

124   Q 241 Back

125   Q 241 Back

126   Q 178 Back

127   Q 275 Back

128   Q 274 Back

129   Q 275 Back

130   Q 205 Back

131   Q 206 Back

132   Q 279 Back

133   Q 279 Back

134   Q 267 Back

135   Q 269 Back

136   Royal United Services Institute Interim Campaign Report, Accidental Heroes, Britain, France and the Libya Operation, September 2011, p 6 Back

137   Q 255 Back

138   Qq 255-256 Back

139   Qq 255-256 Back

140   Q 260 Back

141   Q 159 Back

142   Q 261 Back

143   Q 264 Back

144   Q 265 Back

145   For details of costs of precision weapons see HC Deb, 18 October 2011, col 875W and HC Deb, 17 May 2011, cols 111-2W.  Back

146   HC Deb, 14 September 2011, cols 1206-7W Back

147   Qq 292-293 Back

148   Q 294 Back

149   Q 253 Back

150   Q 270 Back

151   HC Deb, 23 June 2011, col 24WS Back

152   HC Deb, 12 December 2011, col 30WS Back

153   Ev 56-57 Back

154   Ev 57 Back

155   HC Deb, 8 December 2011, col 41WS Back

156   See also Ev 57-59 Back

157   Q 289 Back

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Prepared 8 February 2012