Select Committee on Public Accounts Fifth Report


10. Although there is evidence that the Department has begun to control costs better, control of time remains a problem. 17 out of 20 post-Main Gate projects have slipped with the average project delay increasing by three months in the last year. [12] The reasons for these new delays break down into three roughly equal parts: aligning missile projects with aircraft projects (24 months), technical difficulties (19 months) and budgetary deferral (18 months).[13]

11. The Air-launched Anti-Armour Weapon (Brimstone) will enter service eleven years later than originally planned and 13 months later than approved at the equivalent of Main Gate.[14] At an earlier hearing the Department had suggested that the equipment now expected to enter service would be better than if had there been no delay.[15] Pressed on the extent to which improvements in capability which arose as an accidental outcome of delays could compensate for the operational and cost penalties associated with the delayed introduction of equipment, the Department said that the image recognition which allows the Brimstone missile to discriminate between various different targets would not have been available if it had been introduced when originally planned.[16] The Department conceded that this justification was no basis for a strategy as it meant that the Armed Services did not have the right equipment in the frontline[17] but emphasised that it was important to keep pace with the technological change. For example, the twelfth Type 45 destroyer would be of much greater capability than the first.[18]

12. In July 2000, the Department announced it was not confident that Archer Communications Systems Ltd (ACSL) could deliver a solution to the BOWMAN requirement and that the competition would be re-opened, some 12 years after the requirement was first raised. The Department wished it had stopped working with ACSL sooner, but insisted that it acted quickly once it received the final bid on 23 June 2000, announcing the termination with ACSL on 25 July.[19]

13. In April 1999, the Defence Ministers of the United Kingdom, France and Italy decided not to proceed with the collaborative Common New Generation Frigate programme. The Department is now procuring the Type 45 destroyer as a national solution to the United Kingdom requirement to provide air defence to the fleet. The new ships will be equipped with the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) which is being procured collaboratively with France and Italy.[20] The Type 45 is expected to enter service almost 5 years later than the date forecast for the Common New Generation Frigate and with some capability shortfalls which will be addressed through an Incremental Acquisition Programme.[21] The Department admitted that the collapse of the Common New Generation Frigate programme left it with a gap in replacing the existing Type 42 destroyers. It was nevertheless noteworthy that within not much more than a year of the collapse it actually had on order a programme of ships to deploy PAAMS.[22]

14. Figure 2 lists some of the capability shortfalls which have been caused by delays on the case study projects examined by the National Audit Office. This huge gap in capability has been going on for many years. The Department re-assured our predecessors that it always regretted the delay in capability. It was not complacent, and recognised that the task was to ensure that the situation in future was very much improved.[23]

Figure 2: Examples of the operational impact of in-service date delay

The Type 45 Frigate

The anti-air missile system deployed on the Type 42 destroyers which the Type 45 will replaceCSea DartCwas not designed as an anti-missile missile. The modifications which have been undertaken throughout its life are designed to enhance its capability against sea skimming missiles and the Department is confident it remains a very effective long range weapon against aircraft.[24] However, the Department conceded that our ships would only be able to defend themselves if the United Kingdom were involved in an operational scenario similar to the Falklands conflict because Sea Dart forms part of a mixed fleet and will be in service with Sea Wolf, which has been designed specifically as an anti-missile missile.[25]

The Air-launched Anti-Armour Weapon (Brimstone)

The weapon Brimstone is to replace, the BL755 cannot defeat modern armour and only half of one percent that went to the Gulf was actually used. The Department said that this version of the BL755 had to be dropped from a height of around 500 feet, limiting its use in that conflict. The weapon has since been updated so that it can be dropped from a much greater height.[26] The Department accepted that BL755 was not as effective against modern armour as it was against other targets but said that it was extremely effective against soft skinned targets.[27]


Analysis conducted by the Centre for Defence Analysis predicted that deploying digitised battlefield command and control systems may reduce the time taken to seize an objective by up to 75 percent. BOWMAN will not enter service until 2003 at the earliest and, until this time, forces conducting and supporting land operations cannot reap the significant benefits expected from digitisation.[28]

Medium Range TRIGAT

The requirement for a medium-range anti-tank weapon has not been cancelled but following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from Medium Range TRIGAT the Army is conducting an Anti-Armour Balance of Investment study. Until this concludes and a solution is procured the Army must rely on MILAN which first entered service in 1979 and represents an increasingly limited threat against modern armour.[29]

15. The Sea Dart anti-air warfare system fitted on the Type 42 destroyers is undergoing a programme of modifications so that it can deal more effectively with modern threats such as sea-skimming and high-diving missiles. The upgrade to equip Sea Dart with infrared fuses is currently running eight years late.[30] Asked what had gone wrong and why the delay was allowed to happen, the Department said that a number of test firings had shown false triggers of the fuse. It had been extremely difficult to establish that these false triggers were caused, among other things, by the effect of the sun on the upward looking component of the infrared fuse. The Department was, however, confident that it would soon prove software arrangements to discriminate successfully against the sun if it suddenly emerged from behind a cloud at the critical moment in the engagement.[31]

16. The Sea Dart missile system contains old-fashioned obsolete components and will be harder to maintain as the missiles become older. The Department re-assured us that it was taking enormous efforts to defeat obsolescence on the missile and assured us that, although it was expensive to make small production runs of the components, there were no technological barriers to doing so.[32]

17. Our predecessors asked the Department how the ,800 million of write-offs and additional expenditure incurred on the Medium Range TRIGAT, BOWMAN, Brimstone and Type 45 destroyer programmes would affect the provision of defence capability more widely and sought assurance that they would not result in vital funding being cut elsewhere in the budget.[33] The Department's responses are summarised in Figure 3.

Figure 3: The effects of the write-offs and additional costs incurred on four projects


Write-off /

Additional costs


The Type 45 Frigate

,565 million additional support costs

The additional support costs were for running on the ageing Type 42 frigates.[34] The Department suggested that the additional costs had not yet been incurred and had been accompanied by a deferral of the Type 45 procurement expenditure. Thus it argued that over the period of slippage the Department would not have to spend more than it planned and so there was no impact on the defence budget during the period.[35]


Write-off of between ,35 million and ,102 million

The Department regretted that the money spent on procuring BOWMAN had been wasted and said that the consequences in terms of the impact on the defence budget would depend on the size of the write-off, and on which contractor won the new competition.[36]

Medium Range TRIGAT

,115 million write-off

The Department suggested that, if the programme had not been conceived, there would have been an alternative anti-tank guided weapon system, although the Chief of Defence Procurement did not believe that the effect on the budget would have been so substantial. The problem was rather that the front line of the armed forces was today relying on MILAN when they had a reasonable expectation of having a modern anti-tank guided weapon system.[37]


18. Seventeen of the 20 projects in the Major Projects Report 2000 have slipped against the in-service dates set at the approval equivalent to Main Gate and seven have slipped by a total of 63 months during the last year. This is an unsatisfactory situation which has negative cost and performance implications. As new projects approved under Smart Acquisition principles begin to enter the Major Projects Report we expect to see the rate of slippage reduce.

19. The Department appears on occasion to excuse delays by arguing that they may allow improvements to be included that were not available at the planned in service date. For example, the Department argued that Brimstone's image recognition capability would not have been available if it had entered service on time some 10 years earlier, and that the missile would now have needed upgrading; but it admitted that this was an inadvertent consequence of the delay rather than a planned strategic decision. The Department needs to be clear about the time it is prepared to wait for new equipment in order to secure the latest improvements.

20. The Department suggested that it acted quickly when it decided to withdraw from programmes, for example replacing the Common New Generation Frigate programme with the Type 45 Destroyer, and deciding to re-open the BOWMAN competition. In both of these cases the Department moved fast once the decision was made, but the time taken to reach the decision itself was too long given the track record of problems on both programmes. The Armed Services will not receive, when originally planned, the capabilities which these equipments would have provided. The Department should make decisions on when to withdraw from programmes in a more timely manner in future to prevent such capability gaps occurring.

21. The adverse operational impacts of the delays in entry into service of all four case study equipments is unacceptable. Without the Type 45 Destroyer the capability of the Navy will be less between 2002 and 2007. In the meantime the Sea Dart missile, supplemented by other systems such as SeaWolf and Phalanx, will have only limited effectiveness against modern sea-skimming missiles. Troops still do not have a secure communications system because of the delays on BOWMAN, the MILAN missile has limited ability to defeat modern armour and the RBL755 cluster bomb, which Brimstone will replace, is only effective against soft-skinned targets.

22. Over a number of years our predecessors have highlighted numerous problems caused by equipments being unable to operate effectively in the required environment. To add to this list, the Department has admitted that the upgrade of the Sea Dart system has been delayed because the software could not discriminate targets against the sun. The Department should develop processes to enable it to better anticipate such environmental difficulties by drawing on its own past experience and the expertise available to it in DERA and industry.

23. The Sea Dart system was designed in the 1960's and contains components which are obsolete and which the Department is having to go to a great deal of effort to replace. Obsolescence is another example of the Department having to spend more money because replacement equipment is not available on time. The Department should ensure that the costs and resource effort required to manage obsolescence are properly managed and minimised.

24. It is unacceptable that the Department has wasted between ,35 million and ,102 million in pursuing an unworkable solution to the BOWMAN requirement. The precise scale of the write-off is unclear but, even at the lower end, it would probably cover the cost of the sonar which the Department now intends to fit on the Type 45 Destroyer.[38] We expect the Department to minimise the amount written-off and to be able to demonstrate that it has utilised the results of the abortive BOWMAN expenditure to good effect.

25. The Department has written off ,115 million of Medium Range TRIGAT development costs. It argued that, if this money had not been spent on Medium Range TRIGAT, it would have been spent on an alternative solution. The fact remains that the Department failed to procure an effective weapons system, so the money has, in effect, been wasted.

12  C&AG's Report (HC 970 (1999B2000)) para 1.16 Back

13  Q189 Back

14  C&AG's Reports (HC 970 (1999B2000)) p31, and HC 613 (1999B2000)) Figure 20 Back

15  33rd Report from the Committee of Public Accounts (HC 247 (1999B2000)) Back

16  Qs 9B10 Back

17  Q51 Back

18  Q140 Back

19  Q8  Back

20  C&AG's Report (HC 970 (1999B2000)) para 3.10 Back

21  ibid, paras 3.11 and 3.14 Back

22  Q18 Back

23  Q269 Back

24  Qs 28B31 Back

25  Q32 Back

26  Q54 Back

27  Q56 Back

28  C&AG's Report (HC 970 (1999B2000)) para 3.31 Back

29  ibid, paras 3.18 and 3.21 Back

30  ibid, para 3.13 Back

31  Q38 Back

32  Q40 Back

33  Q2 Back

34  Q41 Back

35  Q3 Back

36  Q7 Back

37  Q5 Back

38  For the detail of the fitting of the sonar to the Type 45 Destroyer see the 6th Report of the Committee B Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2000CThe Role of the Equipment Capability Customer (HC 369 (2001B02)) Back

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