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25 Jan 2010 : Column WA285

Written Answers

Monday 25 January 2010

Afghanistan and Iraq: Friendly Fire

Questions

Asked by Baroness Quin

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): The Ministry of Defence (MoD) deeply regrets each death or injury caused by "friendly fire" or fratricide. After every such incident we carry out a thorough investigation as we would for any other death in service, initially led by the local commander and subsequently by the military chain of command. We also take careful note of the recommendations of service inquiries and coroner's inquests, and track their implementation through a single service or joint lessons register.

Additionally, the MoD maintains a Combat Identification Steering Group which meets every six months to ensure that all three services have coherent procedures and equipment to reduce fratricide.

The common causes identified in friendly fire incidents are:

Mistakenly identifying friendly forces for enemy-in the confusion of battle, the ground commander can sometimes mistake friendly forces for enemy forces and call for fire support (fast jets, helicopters, heavy weapons and artillery) against them.

Procedures not followed correctly-our Armed Forces have very effective procedures for minimising fratricide when calling for fire support. When these are not followed fully then errors can be made e.g. when the map reference of the location to be fired on is not confirmed with the ground forces before firing. Research is currently under way into the human factors which cause such errors.

Loss of situational awareness-in the confusion of a battle, fire support elements can lose track of where enemy and friendly forces are positioned (in military parlance, their situational awareness). To counteract this, fire support will be "talked on" to their target by friendly forces involved in the battle with a verbal description of the target. Some incidents of fratricide result from a misunderstanding of the verbal description provided.

The key lessons learnt are in three major categories:

Collective training and multinational interoperability -many fratricides occur when unfamiliar units are suddenly forced to work together. This usually arises

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from necessity, as when troops come under fire and call for close air support. In this situation the nearest available air asset will be directed to assist and thus the pilot may not immediately recognise the friendly force.

To minimise the risk of fratricide from such incidents our Armed Forces place considerable emphasis on joint training at every level before deployment, and on familiarisation with the equipment and procedures of coalition allies both prior to deployment and in theatre.

For the occasions when unfamiliar forces must work together, the UK is actively engaged with our NATO partners on developing equipment and procedures for combat identification. To test candidate technical solutions, the UK participated in a multinational combat identification exercise in October and November last year involving ground troops and fast air support from 12 nations.

Time lag of data in tactical communications and information systems-due to technological limitations, real time flow of information can never be achieved: there is always some delay (known as latency) in the transmission or refreshing of the information available to our forces, which could contribute to "friendly fire" incidents.

Shared situational awareness-the three services (and our coalition partners) have different requirements for information about the tactical situation which lead to different amounts of delay between an entity being reported at a particular location and the report of that position being received. UK ground and air forces therefore use different systems to display information about the current tactical situation. Some fratricide incidents have occurred which may have been caused by differences in the information available to the various parties. The MoD is putting significant effort into supplying near-real time force tracking information to tactical operations rooms and has made considerable progress in the past three months. The upgrade of Bowman in Afghanistan next year will also help to ensure that ground forces have a common and up-to-date understanding of the tactical situation.

Alcohol

Questions

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): A minimum pricing policy for alcoholic drinks would not be achieved through increased duties; therefore no explicit assessment has been made of the effect on revenues.



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The indicative level of duty on a pint of beer is given in table 6 of the tax ready reckoner available at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/pbr09_taxreadyreckoner.pdf, as 39 pence.

No assessment has been made of the level of duty beyond which HM Treasury would begin to lose revenue.

Armed Forces: A400M

Questions

Asked by Lord Gilbert

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson):The arrangements for contract cancellation on the A400M programme are complex and are determined by the contract agreed between partner nations and the prime contractor.

The precise contractual arrangements and costs that would apply should a decision be made by one or more partner nations to withdraw from the A400M programme would be determined by the particular circumstances surrounding that decision, and are commercially sensitive.

The contract does not permit Airbus Military to cancel for convenience; if it elected to terminate, it would be breach of contract. In such a case, the amount for which it could be liable would depend on the particular circumstances surrounding that decision, and is commercially sensitive.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: The Government have made no such assessment.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: My department has been in contact with Boeing and Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems throughout 2009 on the potential availability of additional C-17 and C-130J aircraft respectively. An additional (7th) C-17 is now on contract and we would expect to continue this dialogue while we consider the way forward for the A400M programme with our international partners.



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Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: The department keeps its current and future airlift requirements under constant review, and is undertaking work to study the fallback options for alternative air transport capability solutions.

While discussion takes place with the US at working level on a range of airlift issues, no formal discussions have taken place with the US on the purchase of alternative airlift solutions in the event that the UK orders for A400M aircraft do not proceed.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: C-130Js and C-17s are both able to perform in-theatre tactical airlift and strategic deployment into theatre, although for UK purposes C-130J is more ideally suited to tactical tasking and C-17 for strategic deployment. Nevertheless, the load capacity of C-130J significantly limits its ability to carry a wide range of vehicles. While C-17 could be used to carry these loads tactically, we assess that this would lead to significant growth in support costs. A400M is ideally suited for such tactical taskings and would also contribute significant strategic airlift capability, effectively providing a swing-role capability.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: The US air transport requirement is satisfied by various marks of C-130, C-17, C5 and the recently introduced C27J aircraft. While the MoD has not undertaken detailed analysis of the US fleet mix, our understanding is that the capabilities we envisage A400M will provide are largely met through use of C-130s and C-17s, albeit using C-17.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: The department considers a number of factors when deciding policy, including supplier production capabilities.



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Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: The next occasion that such a decision could be taken is 31 January 2010, when the current "standstill" period agreed between A400M partner nations and Airbus Military comes to an end, although consensus amongst the nations would be required to exercise this option.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: There have been continuing discussions with partner nations on this topic, but it would not be appropriate to disclose any details of them.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: The A400M programme is managed by Airbus Military which also takes the lead for any potential sales beyond existing members of the programme, however, the UK, alongside the other partner nations, would support potential sales. The UK Government have received no approaches concerning the sale of A400M.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: None of the aircraft ordered as part of the A400M launch contract has been cancelled to date.



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As you may be aware, South Africa recently cancelled its order for eight A400M, however, these were additional aircraft and not part of the development of the core A400M programme, which is unaffected by this decision.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson We cannot provide a forecast of orders, this is the business of Airbus Military, but nations have agreed to support Airbus in its export drive.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: After the C-130K goes out of service in 2012, the RAF's air transport requirements will be primarily met by the C-130J and the C-17, which have forecast out-of-service dates of 2030 and 2031 respectively, until A400M comes into service. FSTA, TriStar, VC10, BAe 146 and BAe 125 can also be used in a transport role. With a working assumption that A400M will be in service until 2045, under current planning assumptions the RAF would operate a three aircraft fixed-wing fleet dedicated to the transport role from around 2014 to 2030.

Asked by Lord Gilbert

Lord Drayson: There is no contractual mechanism for varying payments should the specification fall short, but nations would be able to reject aircraft failing to meet specified performance guarantees. All performance guarantees are expected to be met.

Armed Forces: Costs

Question

Asked by Lord Lawson of Blaby

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): I refer the noble Lord to the Answers given to the noble Lord Marlesford on 5 January 2010 (Official Report, col. 4W) and 18 January 2010 (Official Report, col. 201W).



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Armed Forces: Helicopters

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Chinook Mk3R helicopters are just being brought into service and are at present operating with 12 clearances with limited evidence (CLE) for a number of subsystems. It is anticipated that four of these CLE will be uplifted to full clearances within two months, and the others will be uplifted as soon as possible.

Banks: Lending

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Lord Davies of Abersoch): SME lending data collected by BIS show that while it is true to say that demand for finance remains subdued and new lending is down comparatively with 2007, the large majority of SME applications for finance are successful.

The Government continue to monitor the situation closely, for example the experiences of both lenders and borrowers are discussed regularly at the Small Business Finance Forum.

While continuing to encourage lending to viable SMEs, the Government have agreed lending commitments with RBS and Lloyds. Lending commitments will also be in place for next year up to March 2011.


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