When the MoD published the ‘Defence in Numbers‘ booklet the equipment lists were clearly an error, perhaps an error produced by a junior person.
A number of press outlets picked it up, after Think Defence of course!
At the end of the day, it is no big deal that they took some of the numbers from Defence Statistics Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) returns, compare the numbers if you like. We can all have a laugh that it lists obsolete training aids but no one is actually fooled into thinking that a Wessex, Jet Provost or FH70 is deployable, modern or in any way reflective of the current strengths.
Sometimes, though, when you have dug a hole, the best course of action is to stop digging.
Instead of ‘fessing up’ and correcting the publication with a more accurate picture, or at least explaining how the numbers and equipment types are sourced, the MoD seems to have doubled down on the nonsense, compounding the error.
Two Parliamentary Questions on the subject, and their answers;
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, which pieces of equipment included in his Department’s Defence in Numbers publication of August 2015 are used only for training or ceremonial use.
Mr Philip Dunne
The Defence in Numbers booklet is a snap shot of the UK’s Defence capability and how we are spending the fifth largest Defence budget in the world. As well as giving details on civilian and personnel numbers and current operations, it also includes a list of the Ministry of Defence’s equipment holdings, the vast majority of which are in service and deployable. We will continue to review the Defence in Numbers booklet to ensure that it best reflects the breadth of defence equipment.
The Defence in Numbers booklet has a section for “training aircraft”, and all of the aircraft types listed there are used for training only. This includes the Hawk, Viking, Vigilant, Tucano and Jet Provost aircraft.
The other pieces of equipment used only for ceremonial use are BAE-125 aircraft, Wessex helicopters, Challenger 1 battle tanks, FH70 Towed Howitzers and Chieftain Armoured Vehicles.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, for what reasons retired and out-of-date equipment, including FH70 howitzers and Jet Provost aircraft, were included in his Department’s Defence in Numbers publication of August 2015; and if he will make a statement.
Mr Philip Dunne
The Defence in Numbers booklet is a snap shot of the UK’s Defence capability and how we are spending the fifth largest Defence budget in the world. As well as giving details on civilian and personnel numbers and current operations, it also includes a list of the Ministry of Defence’s equipment holdings, the vast majority of which are in service and deployable or used for training (for example Jet Provost) or ceremonial (for example FH70 howitzers) purposes.
Both claim the ‘vast majority are in service and deployable’
It makes a specific claim about;
Ceremonial; BAE-125 aircraft, Wessex helicopters, Challenger 1 battle tanks, FH70 Towed Howitzers, and Chieftain Armoured Vehicles
Training; Hawk, Viking, Vigilant, Tucano and Jet Provost aircraft.
The Wessex helicopter, when I last extracted in-service aircraft numbers from PQ’s, was not even listed, here is one at HMS Heron, perhaps they mean this one when they say they are ceremonial, how do you have a ceremonial helicopter or VIP jet anyway?
Jet Provosts are used for ground training, and not entirely sure when the FH70 was last seen on ceremonial duties.
Attack Helicopters are actually incorrectly classified, AH stands for Army Helicopter, so classing the Lynx and Gazelle as falling under the definition of Attack helicopter;
Attack helicopter: A combat helicopter equipped to employ anti-armour, air-to-ground, or air-to-air guided weapons and equipped with an integrated fire control and aiming system for these weapons. The term “attack helicopter” comprises specialised attack helicopters and multi-purpose attack helicopters.
Is another mistake.
The vehicle types are incorrect and omit much of the current in-service fleet.
FH70’s used for what ceremonies, exactly, remains a mystery.
Some of training aircraft listed, like the Viking, sound impressive, after all, there are 81 of them in on the list, except when you realise that they are used for the Air Cadets; and are currently grounded for various reasons.
What does it do for the credibility of the Government when it lists Air Cadet gliders as part of its ‘in service and deployable or used for training’ equipment?
Of ocurse they are not incorrect, an Air Cadet glider or Jet Provost might technically be used for training, but in the spirit of being informative, is it right they are included?
We all get that the Government sometimes has to present an optimistic view, nothing wrong with that, but trying to bluff your way out of a mistake, a mistake Ministers probably didn’t even know about in the first, seems cack-handed at best, and borderline deceitful if one wanted to take a less charitable line.
What is troubling is that this is not a bit of marketing ‘flim flam’, this is a Parliamentary Answer to a member of Parliament, a Parliament that the MoD is accountable to.
The MoD has fought hard for its new found credibility and whilst this is a minor storm in a minor teacup, it kind of dents that credibility a bit.
It can, and should, do better.
And this should start with owning up to what is a trivial error, and putting it right, instead of frankly, bullshitting Parliament.