Feeds

MPs: Axe Nimrod subhunters to balance MoD budget

Rogue dinosaur project for the chop?

Boost IT visibility and business value

As the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) confronts yet another looming annual budget shortfall, Parliament's Defence Committee has issued its 2008 report into British military kit procurement. The oversight MPs say bluntly that it is time for the MoD to start axing major equipment programmes, rather than spreading its cash ever-thinner across too many projects. They give a strong hint that the troubled Nimrod MRA4 subhunter plane should go.

In particular, the report considers several of the big headline purchases underway now, and those planned for the immediate future. The MPs examined the Nimrod MRA4 subhunter plane, the A400M turboprop transport, the Type 45 destroyer and the F-35 stealth jumpjet, all of which are under construction now. They also reported on the plans to build two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy (Future Carrier) and to replace much of the Army's current combat vehicle fleet (Future Rapid Effects System).

Overall, the Nimrod MRA4 seemed to come out worst in the MPs' view. This is not surprising, as the Nimrod project is now running more than seven years late and has ballooned in cost from £2.2bn to £3.5bn (for now) - while the number of planes has simultaneously dropped from 21 to 12. Thus the per-plane price has almost tripled, to a horrifying £292m apiece. Even worse, there are a lot of people asking whether the British forces genuinely need a fleet of huge expensive submarine-hunting aeroplanes right now.

According to the MPs:

The Ministry of Defence... states that the “major programme showing cost growth at present continues to be Nimrod [MRA4]”...

Since the [MoD purchasing bureau] Chief Operating Officer, Mr Gould, told us that the problems being experienced on the Nimrod MRA4 programme were not considered unusual... and that “it was predictable”, we are deeply concerned that they nevertheless seem to have come as such a surprise to the MoD...

The Nimrod programme has experienced further slippage in 2007-08 of 3 months.

We hope that the new Minister for Defence Equipment and Support will look closely at this programme and consider whether it is ever likely to deliver the capability our Armed Forces require in the timescale needed. If it is not the MoD should withdraw from the programme.

In other words, just bin it. Much of the acquisition cost has already been paid, but huge sums would be saved down the road in running and support costs. It would probably be possible to close down a large RAF base, for example.

The current, ancient Nimrod MR2s wouldn't be much missed. They are working hard above Afghanistan right now - despite the fact that they aren't the safest planes around - but the jobs being done aren't such as to call for quarter-billion-pound airliners full of specialist submarine tracking gear. Comms relay, electronic intercept and surveillance can be done by cheaper planes - or even by hugely cheaper unmanned jobs, without risking flyboys' lives.

The only other project which the MPs see as a possible candidate for the chopper is the plan to build two big new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. These, however, have top-level political protection - they are to be built in a yard within sight of Gordon Brown's constituency seat - so their axing would appear unlikely. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.