Written evidence submitted by the Ministry of Defence
Q211 and Q215 – The overall forecast for pilots up towards the end of the decade, whether British F-35 trained pilots are currently serving abroad (and if so, how many and where) and request for detailed report on the investigation into the pilot selection process
F35 pilot numbers will continue to grow in line with platform numbers, ensuring the F35 force will operate effectively. On current plans, we expect to have approximately 70 F35 pilots by the end of the decade, but these forecasted numbers will be kept under review and may be subject to change as the programme develops.
Q258 – The long-term pound-dollar exchange rate assumption over the 10 years of the Equipment Plan and what proportion is hedged
The Committee will received this answer as part of our response to a separate letter on Main Estimates.
Q269 and Q271 – AJAX updates: outcome of current trials; confirm when formal Reliability Growth Trials (RGTs) are due to begin and how long estimated to last; when is the Sheldon inquiry into Ajax expected to be completed and therefore published; can MOD set tentative revised IOC and FOC dates, and when if so?
The October 2021 User Validation Trials completed successfully, confirming the modifications addressed the noise and vibration issues previously experienced by Ajax crews and that they consistently ensured crew exposure to noise and vibration levels remained within legislative requirements. The results have informed the preparatory work to conduct the Reliability Growth Trials that we plan to commence early this year. The trials are part of the normal acquisition process for this type of equipment. Their purpose is to stress test the platform and systems through simulated battlefield missions to identify and resolve issues beyond noise and vibration.
Both the MOD and General Dynamics are both fully committed to delivering this vital capability for the Army. Work to recover the Ajax Programme is well underway and is expected to be taken forward for formal approval, upon which a new timetable will be agreed on the introduction of Ajax into service.
The report from the Sheldon Review is expected early year; once finalised it will be published.
Q301 – Whether the MOD put any requirement on its suppliers to have apprenticeship and technical trainee ratios as part of the conditions of contract
Although there is no formal requirement for Apprenticeships in all MOD contracts, we do consider social welfare and prosperity factors. Where apprenticeships and skills development are linked to the subject matter of the contract, Cabinet Office policy set out in Procurement Policy Note 14/15 requires buyers to include requirements for potential suppliers to provide evidence of their commitment to developing and investing in skills, and in particular their commitment to the creation of apprenticeships. There is no set ratio, but any commitments to skills development and apprenticeships made in tenders are included as obligations in the final contract.
Application of the government’s Social Value Model (Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note 06/20) is also mandated for Defence procurements; and one element of this relates to ‘Create new businesses, new jobs and new skills’, which can also contribute to apprenticeships and skills development. However, in applying the Social Value Model we do not require potential suppliers to have a set number or % of apprentices.
Q307 – further details on PESCO, including whether the UK is considering joining any programmes other than the military mobility project –
As the committee noted the UK has applied to join the Dutch-led PESCO Military Mobility Project. The project is designed to coordinate and align NATO and EU military mobility requirements, national activity and EU regulations. It is directed by participating states rather than the EU.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has underlined the importance of addressing any impediments to moving military personnel and assets across Europe at pace. Joining the Military Mobility project would better enable the UK to shape relevant EU rules and requirements, including for cross-border military transport procedures and transport infrastructure, and support our broader drive for NATO-EU coherence and cooperation.
PESCO currently consists of 60 collaborative projects, each led by an EU Member State, to develop defence capabilities and training and improve interoperability. Non-EU ‘third countries’ can apply to participate in specific projects, which does not obligate them to participate in others or to adopt EU defence policy. Our NATO Allies Canada, Norway and the USA joined the PESCO Military Mobility project last year for the same reasons as us. Our own application to that project was approved by EU defence ministers on 15 November and we have since accepted a formal invitation to join. We will now need to negotiate the specific terms of UK participation with the Member States who participate in the project.
Successful negotiations to join the Military Mobility project would not obligate us to participate in any other PESCO projects, or other elements of EU defence policy. I would like to reassure the Committee that the UK retains full sovereign control over its defence, decision making and the deployment of its Armed Forces and their equipment. We are not joining a European Army. The Government’s position remains that we will not support any measures that undermine our sovereignty over our own armed forces, or that leads to competition or duplication with NATO.
We are only focused on the military mobility project at this time. However we will continue to monitor other PESCO projects to see where they might engage UK interests. We continue to stress to European partners that EU defence capability and industrial initiatives should respond to NATO capability requirements, support cooperation with non-EU NATO Allies, and avoid protectionist approaches.
Q326 – Whether the MOD withheld medical information collected on nuclear test veterans
12th January 2023