HOW MUCH MORE IS THE CRAZY CANON PROJECT GOING TO COST THE TAXPAYER?
By Julian Nettlefold
18 Mar 09. In spite of promises by BAE Systems to include the Editor in its CTA canon updates, the Editor was deliberately omitted from a Press Briefing by CTAI on March 18th as BAE Systems told him that, “Your opinions seem unshakeable and would not help our cause.” Some industry executives have their doubts about CTA and call the project ‘The Crazy Canon Company.’ Most people who know the Project have great praise for CTA supremo David Leslie’s salesmanship in keeping the project alive with millions in borrowed money being poured down a deep black hole. Where have we seen this before? John Reed’s excellent book, ‘It Costs a Bomb’ should now be updated with CTAI as Chapter 1.
Having seen the piece written by Andrew Chuter of Defense News, I can see their point, the information provided reinforces our view that CTAI is another ‘UK Special’ Programme doomed to failure, costing the taxpayer millions. Millions, which at this time of budgets problems, we can ill afford.
Defense News reported that, ‘The joint venture, based at Bourges in central France, has spent 75 million euros ($102 million) developing the weapon. The French and British governments have plowed an additional 25 million euros into the work, mostly to fund turret demonstrator programs using the weapon.’
Given that the Project has been ongoing for 15 years the interest alone on €100 million at a conservative 5% compound would account for a final cost of €240 million up to 2014 before one single canon is sold! This does not account for wages and continued development costs and the cost of building the plant post 2009. How many Bushmaster canons could have been procured for €240m to save lives in Afghanistan in Iraq, not wait until 2014 for more money to be poured down the drain which could buy this equipment!
The Defense News article said that, ‘CTAI Chairman David Leslie told reporters attending a March 18 briefing here that the qualification effort would begin in the fourth quarter of this year.’
We asked Mike Sweeney of BAE Systems who would pay the huge cost of qualifying the gun and ammunition to Production Level TRL 9. He said that the MoD and the DGA had agreed on a Joint Project but would not say what the cost would be or who would pay it. BAE said they have fired around 1400 rounds although sources suggest that the U.S. Requirement is for at least 60,000 rounds in all weathers to prove the system. CTA’s performance in the cold is not known. He said they were working on developing cheaper versions of the round using automotive and beer industry techniques. We reported from a source last month that the price per round could be £150.00, £1500 for a 10 round burst! The Editor was then accused of being a Luddite not a realist! BAE did not confirm whether they had solved the reported barrel wear problems or the round ‘wobble’ at 500m which caused accuracy problems.
Lockheed Martin’s CTA solution is reported to be progressing well a source suggested that they were using a simpler ammunition feed systems and had solved the reported obturation problems.
We then asked BAE Systems the cost of building the production line and the filling plant. Sweeney told BATTLESPACE that the round would form part of the £120 million MASS ammunition Project but he declined to say how much the line would cost to put in at Glascoed. We then asked about the extra logistic costs for the UK and France to ship the ammunition into theatre and what would happen if they ran out as there would be no second source, he said that BAE hoped by that time that any other customers would have purchased the system including the US who would retrofit CTA into their Bradleys. Dan Zinini of SAIC’s FCS Team told BATTLESPACE at AUSA that the FCS Team has no intention of putting CTA into their vehicles and would stick with the Bushmaster 30mm.
It seems unlikely that the U.S. would choose a