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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / PR AM

£28 - 34k: Guru Careers: An ambitious PR Account Manager is needed to join a c...

Guru Careers: Web Content Editor / Web Editor

£35 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Web Content Editor / Web Editor is needed to join a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital