14 Nov 05. Following on from our story last week, BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.7 ISSUE 45, 17th November 2005, IT’S THE PANTOMIME SEASON – HAS CVF TEAM BEEN BLACKADDERED?, the FT reported that Lord Drayson has decided to use a sporting acronym, a “fantasy football team” is the phrase used by Lord Drayson, defence procurement minister, to describe the alliance of companies that will build two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, the biggest warships built in Britain. The trouble is the players appear to spend much of their time arguing about who should be wearing the captain’s armband, while the rest of the side struggles manfully to work out their best positions. In the three years since the Ministry of Defence announced the winners of a bitterly-fought competition to build the two carriers in a project worth £3.5bn, the government and the defence industry have been engaged in a seemingly endless series of negotiations on how best to structure the programme. An end to the wrangling appears in sight?
Comment: It appears that BATTLESPACE is not alone in its view of CVF. One major contractor told us at Dubai that one scenario could be to keep the industry happy with promises of work until after the election and then announce that shipbuilding was, ’no longer core to UK defence industry policy,’ keeping a capability for equipment but subbing out the hulls to overseas countries such as Korea or India. In other developments it looks as if the CV version of the JSF could be a casualty of the JSF cuts leaving the VSTOL version to be delivered to the USMC and the Royal Navy. It also appears that the Merlin will be chosen for the ASW role above the Northrop Hawkeye, thus nullifying the requirement for a catapult. Also a VSTOL-based carrier would also cut the required size of the vessel and hence the price. One source suggest that Carrier 1 will be fitted for but not with a catapult and Carrier 2 will be fitted with. However, given the stretch of the budget could it be that the end result will be a new version of the existing ‘through-deck cruisers’ as they were called in the seventies or a ‘a larger HMS Ocean’ capable of carrying multiple air fleets and requirements to meet out-of area operations on African scale not grandiose schemes as envisioned by Mr Blair. We also understand that there is a wrangle with the MoD and the Treasury about who pays for the Operation in Afghanistan next year, to which the MoD is already committed.
23 Nov 05. The Ministry of Defence has reduced the projected cost of its 20 largest weapons systems by £699m in the past year, ending a two-year slide in which its biggest arms programmes ballooned by £4.8bn.Although details of the cost reductions will not be released until the National Audit Office sets out its annual analysis of the MoD’s arms programmes on Friday, MoD officials said by far the biggest saving came from the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, where the department cut £659m to take its projected cost to £1.9bn.
Comment: It looks as if a clever piece of accounting has gone into this release before the detailed NAO Report. BATTLESPACE understands that the Nimrod and Typhoon details have been left out for ‘security reasons.’ It will also be interesting to see how the NAO treats the £96m TRACER/FSCS wasted spend (See: IS FRES GOING EUROPEAN?)
24 Nov 05. Business has an unprecedented opportunity to shape the government’s innovation policy, including the distribution of £200m a year in technology grants, the head of the UK Technology Strategy Board says today.
The days when the Department of Trade and Industry decided the policy with token industrial consultation – and then offered funding to companies on a take-it-or-leave-it basis – are over. Graham Spittle, the board’s chairman, launches its first annual report today and a separate “call to action” for companies to become more involved in the strategy. The business-led board, set up a year ago, has already put some of the ele