Watchdog to investigate troubled UK armored vehicle program

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UK Government’s £ 5.5bn purchase of Ajax armored vehicle for UK military to be subject to full value-for-money audit by Parliament’s spending watchdog .

The National Audit Office will investigate four armored vehicle programs, including Project Ajax, and said it will look at “systemic issues” in management at the Defense Ministry.

Ajax was supposed to give the military a weapon for a high-tech era of warfare. They had to be fast – a maximum speed of 70 km per hour – and deadly, with a powerful 40mm cannon and built to evade detection by the enemy.

Yet more than a decade after the Defense Department signed a contract with U.S. defense contractor General Dynamics for a family of 589 vehicles, purchasing minister Jeremy Quin admitted the program could be put questioned.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said his team will review the Ajax, Boxer, Challenger and Warrior programs. In a letter to John Healey, shadow defense secretary seen by the Financial Times, Davies said the goal was to produce the report in March of next year.

Delivery of Ajax vehicles to the military should have started four years ago, and of the 26 that have now been handed over, none have entered service.

Instead, testing of the vehicles was halted twice over concerns that excessive noise and vibration could cause hearing damage to their crews.

It has been reported that vehicles cannot fire with their cannon in motion, a claim General Dynamics denies. The company said last month that all six variants are in full production and 116 vehicles have been built and delivered or are in the process of being delivered.

Quin said in the House of Commons last month: “I have already said that I cannot make a 100% promise in this House that we will find a resolution to these problems, but we are determined to work with GD.”

Earlier this year, Healey wrote to the NAO asking it to initiate an investigation, raising “growing concerns over fundamental vehicle flaws, secrecy about contract terms” and “high cost and one-sided risk” borne. by the taxpayer.

Healey said: “These vehicles are vital to the future of our armed forces. But a decade of unsuccessful supply has wasted millions and leaves our service personnel more vulnerable on the battlefield. “

In March, a report by the Commons Defense Select Committee warned that “bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general incompetence” put the forces at “very serious risk” of being “overwhelmed. “by potential adversaries.

The Defense Ministry said, “We want our armed forces to have the best ships, planes and vehicles, while always delivering value for money at every stage of our procurement programs. “

He also said he supported the work of the NAO in implementing its “ambitious modernization” plans.

The Ministry of Defense added: ‘Through new streamlined processes and the development of our industrial contracts with a focus on delivery, we have achieved more than £ 6.2 billion in financial savings on the plan. equipment since 2016 and are on track to achieve £ 3 billion in efficiency savings between 2021 and 2025. ”

General Dynamics told the FT last month that it was working “very closely with the British Army to provide this transformative capability” and pledged to “fully support the Ministry of Defense in bringing this platform into service. -critical form “.


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