New maritime reconnaissance and attack aircraft, Nimrod, should be scrapped, MPs say

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New maritime reconnaissance and attack aircraft, Nimrod, should be scrapped, MPs say

Post by Guest on Sat 29 Mar 2008, 2:22 pm

Defence ministers should consider scrapping a maritime aircraft programme that is more than seven years late and costing £3.5 billion, a committee of MPs recommends today.

The Ministry of Defence, which is suffering the worst budgetary pressure since the 1970s, may already have to cancel projects to balance the books, the Commons Defence Select Committee says in a highly critical report.

The MPs suggest that the Nimrod MRA4 maritime reconnaissance and attack aircraft should be axed because of persistent delays and rising costs.

Delays in replacing ageing Nimrod MR2s – one of which burst into flames over Afghanistan on September 2, 2006, killing all 14 on board - total 92 months. The order for new Nimrods was reduced from 18 to 12 in 2004 to save money.

“The new Minister for Defence Equipment and Support [Baroness Taylor of Bolton] needs to look closely at this programme to assess whether it is ever likely to deliver the capability that our Armed Forces require within the timescale needed,” the MPs say. If it does not, the MoD should withdraw from this programme, they add.The MPs are concerned that the MoD “does not appear very alarmed” by the rising cost of the programme.

The committee also outlines other defence projects that are seriously behind schedule and increasing in cost, such as the Astute Class nuclear-powered submarines and the Type 45 destroyers. These projects plus the Nimrod MRA4s are nearly 14 years behind schedule in total, and cost overruns amount to £2.9 billion. Given the current defence budget of £33.4 billion, which will rise by 1.5 per cent a year over the next three years, MPs say that it might make more sense to scrap projects rather than delay them.

They criticise the MoD for failing to explain why the contract for two large aircraft carriers has not been signed, which they suspect is because officials want to postpone spending the necessary £3.9 billion. James Arbuth-not, the chairman of the committee, said: “For too long the MoD has had an unaffordable equipment programme and needs to confront the problem rather than giving the usual response of salami-slicing and moving programmes to the right.”

Lady Taylor said: “We keep spending plans under regular review . . . to ensure that we continue to spend money on the right priorities.”

How costs took off

Cost when approved: £2.8 billion
Cost estimate now: £3.5 billion
Original in-service date: April 2003
Current forecast in-service date: September 2010
Cost rose at the end of 2006-07 by £687 million
Cost rose in 2007-08 by another £100 million

Source - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3628743.ece

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