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The £ 5bn acquisition of the trouble-free Ajax light tank for the British military will be a full value-for-money audit of the public order dog.
The National Audit Office will investigate four armored vehicle programs – including the Ajax project – and said it would look at ‘systemic issues’ in management at the Ministry of Defense.
Ajax was meant to give the military a weapon for an era of high-tech warfare. They would be fast – a top speed of 70km / h – and deadly, with a powerful cannon of 40mm and built to avoid the detection of the enemy.
Yet, more than a decade after the Department of Defense signed a contract with U.S. Defense Contractor General Dynamics for a family of 589 vehicles, the Secretary of Procurement acknowledged the program was in doubt.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said his team would look at the Ajax, Boxer, Challenger and Warrior programs. In a letter to John Healey, secretary of the shadow, seen by the Financial Times, Davies said the goal is to compile the report next March.
The delivery of Ajax vehicles to the military should have started four years ago, and of the 26 now handed over, no one has been employed.
Trials with the vehicles were stopped twice after concerns that noise and excessive vibrations caused their crew hearing damage.
There are reports that the vehicles could not fire their cannon while on the road – a claim that General Dynamics denies. The company said last month that all six variants are in full production and that 116 vehicles have been built and have either been delivered or are being handed over.
Quin told MPs last month: ‘I have said before that I can not promise 100% to this House that we will find a solution to these issues, but we are determined to work with GD.’
Earlier this year, Healey wrote to the NAO to undertake an investigation, with a view to ‘increasing concern about fundamental faults in the vehicle, secrecy over the terms of the contract’ and the ‘large costs and unilateral risk’ borne by the taxpayer.
Healey said: ‘These vehicles are essential to the future of our military. But a decade of procurement failure has wasted millions and made our service personnel more vulnerable on the battlefield. “
In March, a report by the Commons’ Defense Committee warned that ‘bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general incompetence’ put the forces’ very seriously ‘at being’ by potential adversaries’.
A MOD spokesman said: ‘We want our armed forces to have the best ships, aircraft and vehicles, while always delivering value for money in every phase of our purchasing programs. ‘
The MoD said it supported the review, as it delivered its ‘ambitious modernization’ plans set out earlier this year in an integrated review of defense and foreign policy. The Ajax light tank was an important part of the army’s new strategy.
The spokesperson added: ‘Through new streamlined processes and the development of our delivery contracts with a view to delivery, we have delivered more than £ 6.2 billion in equipment plan financial savings since 2016 and are on track to make £ 3 billion in efficiency savings between 2021 and 2025. ”
GD told the FT last month that he was ‘working very closely with the British military to deliver this transformational capability’ and was committed to ‘fully supporting the Ministry of Defense to employ this critical platform’.