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The BBC's Andrew Gilligan
"The Ministry of Defence is being faced with an equipment crisis"
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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 07:19 GMT
Catalogue of MoD misery

Eurofighter
Eurofighter is one of many projects to go over budget


News that a multi-million pound overhaul of 300,000 standard issue British Army rifles is needed is just the latest in a catalogue of setbacks to dog the Ministry of Defence.

Earlier this year there were claims that the Royal Navy was keeping some ships in dock because a shortage of fuel meant they were unable to send vessels out on patrol.

Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon vigorously denied that any of the Navy's operations had been affected by the fuel crisis.

This week it was revealed that the 1bn Tornado GR4 had encountered early difficulties dropping precision-guided bombs. It was caused by problems - now resolved - over integrating the laser-designator system.

Overbudget

The problem emerged after a consignment of 45 of the front-line bombers fitted with a new laser-guided targeting system was delivered to operational squadrons without the state-of-the-art mechanism in full working order.

The upgraded jets could not be used in the Kosovo conflict last year because of their inability to use the Thermal Imaging and Laser Designation system, forcing older Tornado GR-1s and Harrier jets to be used instead.

The Kosovo operation also underlined the inadequate state of the Clansman radio, which was meant to have been replaced by the Bowman system some years ago.

The new battlefield radio system to replace Clansman equipment - based on 1960s technology - was delayed for four years, leaving forces vulnerable to electronic counter-measures and unable to provide secure lines.

'Weak'

MPs found last year that the MoD's handling of major defence projects was "weak in almost every aspect" after 25 large-scale purchases overran by more than 3bn and were delivered on average 37 months late.

These included the Eurofighter, the four-nation project to produce one of the most advanced military jets in the world, which has overrun by at least 1.36bn and will enter service in 2002 - three years behind schedule.

The RAF has ordered 232 of the aircraft, with British companies including British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce among the key contractors.

The cost to taxpayers is currently estimated at 16.1bn.

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See also:
25 Feb 00 |  UK
British Army rifles defective
13 May 98 |  Politics
Defence budget over-runs criticised
12 Dec 99 |  UK
Cash crisis 'brings ships to shore'
21 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Tornado fuel tanks jettisoned
03 Jan 00 |  UK
Damning report into Kosovo campaign
24 Jan 00 |  UK
Cash shortage torpedoes Navy exercise
23 Feb 00 |  UK
1bn jets 'unfit for combat'
10 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Defence cash shortfall fear

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