NEWS IN BRIEF
05 Mar 09. Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies has today commented on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into the MoD’s procurement of eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters for the RAF. This is the fourth report to deal with the Chinook MK3 helicopters and their procurement has been examined in great detail, well-documented and lessons have been acted upon. Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies said: “This is the fourth report which has focussed on the Chinook Mk3 and it offers nothing new. This was a very bad case, and I entirely accept the criticism that successive reports have made. The contract was signed in 1997 – before the introduction of Smart Procurement. Since then we have fundamentally changed our methods of doing business, but this episode will remain a salutary example to us all. “I am sure that given the problems that existed with this contract the decision to convert these eight aircraft to a support helicopter role was the right one. This will enable us, subject to operational requirements, to increase our Chinook fleet in Afghanistan in 2010 – two years earlier than would otherwise have been possible. This would build on the significant increases in Chinook flying rates that we have already delivered. We are also upgrading Lynx Mark 9 helicopters to improve their performance in the hot and high conditions of Afghanistan and will be switching the Merlins to Afghanistan once they have completed their mission in Iraq – all of which will deliver a significant increase in helicopter capability available to operational commanders in Afghanistan. “Our priority is on giving military commanders in Afghanistan the helicopters they need, and we have already increased flying hours and helicopter numbers in Afghanistan by 60% over the last two years.” In addition we have deployed upgraded Sea King helicopters to Afghanistan and acquired 6 new Merlin aircraft from Denmark to increase our Merlin fleet by 25%.
Comment: This Project goes from bad to worse and to make it all the more problematic, these Chinooks had their existing glass cockpits ripped out and were replaced with the old versions, to save time, according to a Boeing spokesman. This means that all the new CH-47 models will have a superior glass cockpit to these ones refitted at a huge cost with old technology! Watch this space for these cockpits to be replaced in the near future with glass cockpits!
02 Mar 09. The taxpayer is to lend large sums – potentially billions of pounds – to private finance initiative projects in an attempt to rescue a clutch of deals that risk collapsing for lack of bank lending. A new unit in the Treasury, run as a private limited company to get round Treasury lending rules, will lend to projects at market rates alongside the banks. It will be staffed initially by up to 15 or so bankers with project finance experience. Treasury officials expect lending in the coming year to run at perhaps £1bn to £2bn. But that could rise if the debt markets do not recover and the government remains determined to get its roads, prisons, schools, waste and defence projects built during the recession.
The fund could build up a much bigger stake over time if bank lending remains constrained and other finance sources, such as more investment from pension funds, do not materialise. The Treasury hopes to recoup the money, at some unspecified date, by selling the debt on once the market recovers.
Comment: No doubt the QinetiQ Metrix Consortium to build the new defence Training Academy which has yet to be signed and possibly the FSTA Air Tanker Consortium and the MFTS Flying Training Programme which have been signed. Don’t expect anymore defence PFIs in the near future. The one PFI which stands out as a resounding success is the Astrium PFI to manage the Skynet 5 satellite system. See PQ below: Armed Forces: Training
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence purs