MoD defends time spent on Top Gear stunts

Whether it is trying to blast a Lotus sports car off the road with an Apache helicopter, or using an RAF Typhoon to race the world’s fastest road car, no series of Top Gear would be complete without some sort of high-octane cameo from our armed forces.

With a regular audience of more than 5 million viewers (and a further 350 million worldwide) defence chiefs are more than aware of the BBC show’s potential as a recruiting sergeant at a time when new recruits are very much in demand.

Which might explain why the Ministry of Defence is so keen to help out on the show. The sheer scale of the MoD's cooperation with Top Gear was revealed last night in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association which showed that military personnel have been involved in filming the equivalent of 141 man days, whilst civilian officials spent 48 days working on items for the programme.

Defence officials did not say how much money the stunts with Top Gear had cost the tax payer and have insisted that they took place within set training days at no extra expense. Over the past five years equipment worth billions of pounds has been used in a series of major setpieces which have usually revolved around soldiers firing at or racing fast cars driven by the show’s main presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

Ministry of Defence officials quickly defended their involvement in the show which they said was a valuable way of raising the public’s awareness of what the armed forces do. But the revelations come at a time when service personnel are becoming increasingly critical at what they believe is a lack of critical equipment on the front line in Afghanistan.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, questioned whether the Top Gear appearances were a valuable use of the armed forces’ time. “Given how overstretched the Army’s resources are, you have to wonder if this is the best use of time, troops and equipment,” he said. “These filming sessions may only cost the same as any other training exercise, but filming Top Gear is hardly the same standard of training as the troops normally have to pursue. Chasing Jeremy Clarkson round in a tank may be good fun, but it’s hardly the top priority for military resources at the minute.”

Last week there was widespread anger following the revelation through another Freedom of Information request which showed that civil servants at the Ministry of Defence were paid £47m in bonuses during the first seven months of the financial year.

Keen to avoid similar criticism last night an MoD spokesman insisted that “in no circumstances” were resources diverted from operations for the events.

“The filming utilised scheduled training hours and resources which would have been consumed irrespective of the BBC filming or not, and were therefore used at no additional cost to MoD,” he said.

“Having these events appear on one of the most popular television programmes in the UK was an excellent opportunity to raise public awareness of the Armed Forces and enable greater understanding and support for our sailors, soldiers and aircrew.”

Officials insist that involving the army in such a prime time show is actually a very efficient way of advertising the armed forces compared to a standard television commercial which would cost anything up to £50,000 per 30 seconds.

Top Gear’s most prominent presenter Jeremy Clarkson is a staunch supporter of the armed forces and became a founding patron of the Help for Heroes charity alongside his wife Francie and General Sir Richard Dannatt.

Last night the revelation of many military man hours have gone in to Top Gear was causing much amusement amongst personnel on the Army Rumour Service web forum. One soldier joked: “It’s good PR for the army…and a pity they can’t use real bullets against Clarkson and Co.”

* The armed forces’ Top Gear debut began in 2004 with Jeremy Clarkson racing a Lotus Exige against an Apache helicopter. The idea was to see if the Lotus could do a lap of the Top Gear test track before the Apache’s sophisticated missile radar locked on to it. The Lotus did manage to outrun the helicopter although the pilot later admitted in real life he would have simply switched to the Apache’s canon and cut the car in half.

n With a top speed of 253.5mph the Bugatti Veyron is the world’s fastest road car. So Richard Hammond decided to race the RAF’s newest fighter jet, the Typhoon, in a two mile drag race. The Typhoon won.

n Unable to decide between a Porsche and a Mercedes, in 2005 Clarkson decided to elist the help of the Irish Guards. He drove through an abandoned village, they shot at him (with blanks), and whichever car got him through the village with the fewest confirmed hits would win. In the Porsche Clarkson was hit six times, in the Mercedes he was hit 13 times.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk