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By Julian Nettlefold

23 Feb10. BATTLESPACE’s views on the Franco/British CTAI canon system have been canvassed on our pages for some time, including our headline in 2008 ‘HOW MUCH MORE MONEY IS GOING TO BE WASTED ON THIS CRAY CANON PROJECT?’Well today CTAI gave us the answer – another £11 million with more to come!

This may explain why in March 20 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.

Andrew Chuter of Defense News, having been included in the Press Conference, reported that, ‘The joint venture, based at Bourges in central France, has spent 75m euros ($102m) developing the weapon. The French and British governments have plowed an additional 25m 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 €100m at a conservative 5% compound would account for a final cost of €240m 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.’ Well, as we have reported on countless occasions, he was wrong by at least two years!

The release, issued by CTAI, just prior to the rumoured FRES Scout order being evaluated by the IAB states: A revolutionary new (25 year old!)weapon system for the British and French armies has been given a major boost with the signing on the 8th of February of an £11m contract with the French and UK ministries of defence.

Under the contract, CTA International, an Anglo-French joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter Systems, will begin qualification in early 2011 of cannon and ammunition for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP), the Scout reconnaissance vehicle for the British Army and the future reconnaissance vehicle (EBRC – Engin Blinde de Reconnaissance et de Combat) for the French Army.

Here we have to put a large question mark over the 2008 Kirkcudbright trials held under ‘secure conditions’ where BAE and its CTA partners trumpeted a successful firing demonstration, including ‘firing on the move’. We later learnt that the system could not fire on the move and we suspected that most of the ‘firing on the move’ had been carried out by the coaxial machine gun! Still it made good copy for Jane’s amongst other publications. Jane’s has been a major supporter of CTA since its inception with remarked unshakeable views on the system.

It continues – Qualification is a rigorous process designed to prove that a weapon system is safe, effective and reliable. Both the gun and ammunition will be subjected to freezing, baking, extremes of humidity and a series of “shake, rattle and roll” trials to demonstrate that they will operate under every foreseeable circumstance. While the system has been passed for manned firing and considerable data has already been collected, these trials will formal

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