Analysis: European defense contracts


BRUSSELS, June 6 (UPI) -- The British Ministry of Defense has been humiliated by the Chinook investigation.

It's been about a decade since Boeing started delivering the 14 Chinook helicopters the British Ministry of Defense had ordered back in 1995. The six Mk2s entered service straight away and reported no problems. The eight Mk3s, however, presented a problem. Even though they were built exactly the way the contract had required, they were found to be not airworthy because of inadequate software. This "gold standard of cock-ups," as it was described by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, will cost the Ministry of Defense some $828.9 million, according to a report released by the National Audit Office.


The report further criticized the poorly planned tender and acquisition and the Ministry of Defense's extremely slow problem fixing. The allegations are especially stinging as Britain's forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, like most forces, desperately lack helicopters. These eight units will be grounded for several more years, although they could have been fixed by now, had Boeing and the Ministry of Defense not taken 30 months to agree on the Fix to Field program. This program, initiated in 2004, would have fixed all the problems but was dropped because the sides couldn't agree. Instead, they are now changing the Mk3s to Mk2s in order to save time.


The original $422 million Fix to Field program could have seen the helicopters enter service this year, but instead the scaled-down Reversion program will deliver them by 2012 at the latest. The Reversion program will cost $176.8 million. The Chinooks heading to Afghanistan will undergo a further $44.2 million night-vision upgrade.

Thales UK moves into the cheap short-range missile market

Thales UK, which traditionally builds high-end missiles, has unveiled its new precision-guided Lightweight Multi-role Missile, which will be pitched to countries with lower defense procurement budgets. The missile is the product of a $3.9 million investment by Thales, according to Defense News.

These low-budget markets recently have been dominated by China and Russia but are considered crucial business territory by Thales in order to advance its missile sales.

The missiles will be built by Air Systems, a Thales UK division, which expects the first orders to enter service within three years. Air Systems previously built the Starstreak and Starburst.

The LMM, which has a 5-mile range, is intended for armored vehicles and unmanned air vehicles. Its asking price is about half that of the Starstreak. Air Systems cut costs by making cutbacks in design and equipment choices.


Thales hopes to enter the LMM into the Royal Navy's Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon program. The program, which will equip the Future Lynx helicopter in 2014, could be a close match for the LMM, considering the British Ministry of Defense's well-documented lack of cash.

Lockheed Martin could scoop $11.9 billion from the Ministry of Defense for flight training.

According to Defense News, the Lockheed Martin/VT Group has signed a military flight training deal with the British Ministry of Defense.

The deal, which could last 25 years, will aim to satisfy the Military Flying Training System program with the Lockheed/VT Ascent joint venture for an initial 1.2 billion privately financed U.S. dollars. Payments will grow incrementally.

The Ascent venture will deliver ground-based fast jet training, full-mission simulators, flight training devices, desktop trainers, mission-planning systems and virtual briefing rooms.

Ascent will complement BAE Systems' 28 Hawk 128 advanced jet trainers, which the Ministry of Defense bought in 2006 for $2.76 billion and which will start being delivered later this year. It will also build infrastructure for the training modules.

Although the ministry estimated the total contract to be worth $11.9 billion, VT CEO Paul Lester suggested the final amount would be much lower.


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