Not Taking No For An Answer

When you ask a patently silly question but receive a firm but polite reply a normal person might get the hint.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department’s RWMIK vehicle platform has passed the NATO STANAG 4569 Level 2A test.

The obvious answer was

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

I regret that I must withhold the information as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

That question is liking what the launch codes are for Trident or the address and postcode of the building where all the secret plans are stored!

Does she give up?

7 days later

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the NATO STANAG 4569 Level 2A test reports on the RWMIK vehicle platform.

Instead of telling her to calm down and stop being bloody stupid we get this

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

I regret that I must withhold the information as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

Do you think she has got the message?

27 Comments
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Sven Ortmann
Sven Ortmann
November 1, 2010 5:57 am

I always thought that members of parliaments should have the opportunity to get classified info as answers to their question. The answers should just not be published, probably not even be written. Faction leadership would need to promise to enforce a code of conduct (keeping mouth shut about the answer), of course.

It’s difficult to trust a parliamentary control of intelligence services and armed forces if the very parliamentarians can’t even get answers to their questions.
This restricts the civil control of intelligence services and armed forces to less than half a dozen people.

DominicJ
November 1, 2010 7:50 am

Sven
I agree, unfortunatly, British soldiers are dead because Labour MPs have released classified information under the protection of the house.

Although much of the “you cant know that” goes back much further.
I’d be more concerned, but if it was the fifth of May, she’d have blindly supported “you dsont need to know that”.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
November 1, 2010 8:30 am

Well, the obvious coment is that RWMIK is a weapons installation, and not a vehicle. However if Mr Luffs 1st answer had been along the lines of “RWMIK is not a vehicle and therefore can neithr pass of fail a test designed for blast protected vehicles”, then that may have concentrated Ms. Seabecks mind, she may have consulted the constituents who told her to ask the question, and she may then have asked the question she really meant to ask.

Now, what that question is I really don’t know. I suspect that, despite being in charge of a predominantly Naval constituentcy (Devonport Dockyard is in part of it), and the original home of the Supacat company (of HMT Jackal fame), she doesn’t know much about the military.

However, one interesting possibility is that the constituents that prompted her question actually meant to cast doubt on the recent winner of the LPPV competition – the Ricardo/Force Protection Ocelot, in favour of the “local” candidate, the Supacat SPV400.

In Ms. Seabeck’s mind, maybe RWMIK=Ocelot?

Or am I just getting paranoid first thing on a Monday morning?

paul g
November 1, 2010 9:55 am

ah just kick her in the clunge that should sort it

Jed
Jed
November 1, 2010 1:31 pm

DominicJ said: “I agree, unfortunatly, British soldiers are dead because Labour MPs have released classified information under the protection of the house.” – WTF ? Back that up with evidence Dom !

This is a ridiculous storm in a teacup – it does not matter what she wants to do with the info, the opsec / national security element is pure BS. AQ / Taliban do not need to read Hansard to poor over the details of the written response. They have eyes – “mmmm’ is that a slightly different looking LandRover shooting at us? Perhaps a ‘large’ IED is required next time rather than a medium…….”

Perhaps she is trying to understand why a lightly armoured, essentially soft top vehicle is in use ? Perhaps she needs someone from the Army to explain the utility of this type of vehicle. The Army could put on briefings for MP’s – oh, no, don’t bother, non of them would turn up…….

IXION
IXION
November 1, 2010 3:56 pm

I;m going to stick my head over the parapit on this one.

It’s a perfectly reasonable question

Taliban will shoot at them, and (as with every armoured vehicle ever deployed), when those doing the shooting see it bouncing off they will ‘up calibre’ until such stage as it does not bounce off.

The Taliban will shoot 5.45 7.62(both types) and then 50 cal at them. If it bounces off they will try something else involving RPG or hundreds of punds of explosives

The STANAG level is a technical detail that is all. Too much secrecy is often used to cover up crap choices or poor decision making.

DomS
DomS
November 1, 2010 4:16 pm

Agree with ixion. The woeful track record in procurement of mine-protected vehicles is a matter of record. Jackal was touted as a replacement for wimik land rovers, but the ‘mobility vs armour’ argument was a bit of a fudge. Several soldiers have died in ied strikes on Jackals. Subsequent fielding of the Jackal 2 was supposed to provide additional protection (sort of an admission that the mobility wasn’t enough to keep casualties down). So why not clarify the level of blast protection? This is often advertised by the manufacturer anyway. And as rightly pointed out by Jed and others, the Taliban simply use heavier ordnance until they find out how to destroy one.

dominicj
dominicj
November 1, 2010 6:10 pm

jed
ted rowland announced we had cracked there diplomatic codes in 81.
They used the same code for mil traffic.
6 months later, we couldnt just turn the radio on to find out when the next jets were incoming.

Jed
Jed
November 1, 2010 6:53 pm

So Dominic by that I suppose you mean Falkland Islands – in that we had cracked Argentine diplomatic codes in 81.

While I will take your assertion that “they” used the same codes for Military use, I don’t really understand your assertion that “6 months later we couldn’t just turn on the radio to find out when the next jets were coming” ???

I doubt very much that Argentine mission orders were passed to airfields by interceptable HF radio. Back in the 80’s voice radio was not encrypted, so I guess mission orders went either over a landline network (think teleprinters) or Radio Automatic Teletype (RATT). Nothing leads me to believe that we could have ever just “turned on a radio” to pick up their orders. We did of course put SAS teams ashore in various places to try to listen to (and get eyes on) their local airfield traffic.

So, strategically Mr Rowlands mistake may have been contributory to not preventing the Argentine invasion, although I think there were many more important factors. Tactically I doubt his mistake made the slightest bit of difference and I therefore doubt it led directly to the death of a single Jack, Squaddie, Bootie or Crab.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 1, 2010 8:34 pm

I have to weigh in here. The first question is relatively benign, but still somewhat useful to persons hostile to the British Armed Forces. The second is absolutely of use to the enemies of our soldiers.

If it is known that a particular target vehicle is proof (or not) against a specific size of buried charge (given in detail in the STANAG), then a hostile person or persons can use this information to ensure that any buried charge directed at the vehicle is of at least that size. It can be inferred that if a vehicle is proof against one level defined by STANAG 4569 then it will not be proof against a higher level. Likewise any specific data on ballistic protection will inform hostile forces of the weapons, projectiles and range that they must engage the target vehicle from.

The Taliban may or may not have some kind of central command that transmits lessons learnt to all the groups operating in Afghanistan. If they do not then is it wise for us to provide details of our weaknesses?

Without definitive information, the enemy will continue to produce bombs that can be defeated by the vehicles protection, use weapons beyond effective range and continue to supply and use ineffective weapons and projectiles.

The second question, asking for a detailed report, is even worse. It would give and indication of what threats do what to the vehicle. That bit more information allows more accurate tailoring of the threat.

Each bomb that isn’t quite big enough, every bomb that is too big and takes resources away from other bombs and location, is one that reduces the enemy’s ability to do our soldiers harm.

Jackal 2 has numerous advantages over Jackal 1 beyond any upgrades in protection. The ring-mount is further forwards, placing the forward crew behind the muzzle of the heavy weapon and reducing the sound load upon them. Two passengers may be carried in energy attenuating seats rather than one. (or rather, one heavy weapon operator and one passenger)

IXION
IXION
November 1, 2010 9:56 pm

If the ocelot is proof against RPG or maybe even 50 cal armoured peircing it will represent a major technical advance in it’s weight class (frankly I doubt it is).

The Taliban has certainly adapted tactics and equipment to situations and threats. The IED in use in Afghan will certainly damage destroy one If they can do the same to ridgeback/mastiff. I sevearly doubt the Taliban are Producing vehicle specific charges deployed to areas where specific vehicles are being used. That would require a complex command structure, the danger would be more apparant than real. In any event we can mutter darkly about special armours etc but the laws of Physics/ballistics, are pretty immutable and those in the know ( and I assume as they are getting pretty good at IED the Taliban are in the know, can make pretty good guesses at what will be needed to stop one.

The publication of STANAG would I suspect upset the sales applecart, and disclose that maybe its not as tough as some of the claims for it say it is.

The last vehicle anywhere near its weight class to claim to to be 360 degree proof aginst 7.62 NATO armoured piercing was the Alvis prototype for the contract PUMA won. (I forget the name) But it weighed 12 tons!

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 2, 2010 7:23 am

It would take a command structure to inform Taliban groups across Afghanistan of which bomb to use against which vehicle. If that doesn’t exist, I don’t see why we should provide it for them.

The impact on sales is largely irrelevant. If a country or organisation is able to purchase the vehicle, then the appropriately cleared persons within that group will have access to the actual protection capability reports, but these will not be publicly released.

You can guess what may or may not be the case with regards to protection, but you will not know for sure. An example: in North Africa, British tank crews believed that their 2 pounder guns were ineffective against German tanks, because the tracer from the shells was seen to be bouncing off the front of the German armour. The reality of it (found from after-battle investigations) was that the shell was penetrating but the tracer element was breaking loose and flying off on its own.

IXION
IXION
November 2, 2010 7:07 pm

Mr Fred

The Taliban will put FOGB chunks of expolosive in the ground or one of the 122mm shells converted to self forging fragment warhead, or simply point an RPG at it. It will be destroyed by such things. The smoking wreckage will be proof of its destruction, as will be the casualty reports etc.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 2, 2010 8:43 pm

As admin says and as I have indicated, high explosives are a finite resource. Terry can choose to build 5 2kg bombs or 2 5kg bombs, but he can’t make 5 5kg bombs if he only has 10kg of HE.

Each one of the overmatching bombs is harder to emplace (a bigger hole needs to be dug) and cannot be placed to cover as many approaches. If one is found that is proportionally more of the bomb-makers cache that has failed to do any damage.

If the results of a STANAG test are published, then Terry will get hold of them. If these results mean that a 3.3kg bomb is enough, then he can build three bombs rather than two for the same effect. Nine men rather than six are now at risk.

In the ballistic realm, it is even more significant, especially with small calibres. A penetrating hit will not look any different to a non-penetrating hit and the internal effects will not be immediately apparent either. If we release the protection detail then the enemy may then know that they can kill the occupants from distance Y with a PKM. This allows them to take fewer risks (not engaging with ineffective weapons or from too far away) which increases their efficiency at killing British Soldiers. A PKM is much easier to use and hit targets with, from further away, than an RPG.

Jed
Jed
November 2, 2010 9:23 pm

Oy – the bad guys dont sit at desks in air conditioned offices working this out on their laptops, they are not frakking stupid!

They don’t need their Pakistani cell to get on the interwebs and download Hansard, they do it by trial and error and talk to each other. Some of them have been blowing shit up since before the Soviet invasion. Generally speaking I am guessing (based on my old Staff Sgt and WO1) goes along the lines of:

TT1 “do you think thats big enough ?”
TT2 “Oh yeah, definitely”
TT3 “right then, double it to make sure”

And if needed the Pakistani C3I cell with the laptop can simply look at Wikipedia to find out what that particular stanag level equates to, and then look up some photos of the RWMIK, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out whether the vehicle in question would survive it !

paul g
November 2, 2010 9:48 pm

quite often in the reme we would double the amount of solder as we would always say bigger the blob better the job!!!

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 2, 2010 10:02 pm

“They do it by trial and error and talk to each other.”
Each error they make is a lost opportunity to kill our soldiers. The more they talk to each other, the more likely our sigint people are to pick them up. Would you hand them the DS solution on a multimedia plate?

The difference between Stanag level 1 and level 2 is huge. 2 is three-quarters the weight of 3. If the released report indicated a difference in protection between (a) and (b) then this would provide information of use to Terry or anyone else who felt like a pop at the British Army.

Once again, Terry’s supply of HE is not infinite. Each bomb he doubles, “Just to be sure” is one bomb that doesn’t exist.

An anecdote related to me about mine resistant vehicles in South Africa described a vehicle that had operated with a near-perfect safety record over numerous mine-strikes. This changed when a vehicle was attacked with a buried charge of similar size to previous incidents, but most aboard were killed or badly injured. An after action investigation found that the plans for this vehicle had been leaked and this allowed the hostile irregular force to create a fuzing system that targeted a specific weakness in the vehicle design.

paul g
November 2, 2010 11:16 pm

i was a wobblyhead (technician) and i’ll have you know we REME only use variable pressure applicators, admitally SOME people call them hammers but what do they know, philistines!!

IXION
IXION
November 3, 2010 12:29 am

I do not supose we are going to agree on this. Just remember the IRA destroyed a Saracan with about 900lbs of explosive. Your right I and the Taliban can guess they will get there pretty quickly anyway.

Jed
Jed
November 3, 2010 1:33 pm

Mr Fred – I think you are not understanding my argument.

1. The STANAG is described on Wikipedia.
2. Photos of the vehicle concerned are all over the public inter-webs
3. The vehicle concerned is not a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected type vehicle – its a bloody LandRover

The bad guys do NOT need leaked schematics or Parliamentary answers to figure out how to blow it up or otherwise kill or incapacitate the crew.

Jed
Jed
November 3, 2010 1:34 pm

Oh and I forgot, Terry does not need commercial or military grade HE, he can use Nitrate based fertilizer, probably supplied via DfID……..

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 3, 2010 6:52 pm

Jed, I believe that I follow your line of argument, I just believe that it is flawed.

The Stanag is described on Wikipedia. This is true. It is also incomplete, but let us assume that the full details are readily available. It tells you that there are tests for a small grenade, and three different buried mines.

Pictures of the vehicle are readily available. Again, partially true. While they are about, they are not highly detailed and rarely show or describe the vehicle as an RWMIK. There is rarely, if ever, any detail of the underside or crew protection.

Yes, it is a Land Rover. It may or may not have additional protection built into it. In a similar vein, is a Snatch simply a Land Rover?

It isn’t a question of “can you blow it up”. If it were that, then nothing is safe – just build a bigger bomb. However, soldiers might just see it if you attempt to direct them over a buried aircraft hanger full of ANFO.

If the level of protection is not known, then hostile parties have to err on the side of larger bombs. Larger bombs require more resources and are more difficult to hide. This means fewer total bombs for any given quantity of explosive available and more bombs spotted before they can be detonated, thus reducing the number of casualties caused to the British Army. The more bombs found intact means that more can be defused and used for forensic evidence that can then be used to locate the sources of bomb-making expertise.

Finally, if the information is so readily available; what is the most efficient way to blow up an RWMIK-equipped Land Rover. You have 30kg of HE, how many can you take out?

Ixion:
900lbs is bloody enormous. I wouldn’t rate a Mastiff against that. How easy is that to get in position without it being spotted? I’d wager that it was a culvert bomb – i.e. a ready-made hole in the ground, but it would still need a good few men and vehicles to emplace. How much more damaging would that amount of HE have been if they’d known that 50lb would do the job? 1 Saracen vs 18?

If it doesn’t matter that the enemy knows what Stanag you are protected against, why bother testing against threats so close together?

IXION
IXION
November 3, 2010 7:49 pm

It was a Culvert bomb.

We are not going to agree on this, I think the protection offered by the secrecy is illusory.

Taliban will use RPG and modified artillery shells more than capable of doing the job.

Mr.fred
Mr.fred
November 3, 2010 9:26 pm

And therefore have fewer resources to do other things. If Terry has to use an RPG to kill a soft-skin or a cluster of artillery shells where one would do, then that’s less capacity he has. I can live with that.