Committee of Public Accounts


Press Notice No. 46 of Session 2002-03, dated 18 November 2003


FORTY-SIXTH REPORT: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE-BUILDING AN AIR MANOEUVRE CAPABILITY: THE INTRODUCTION OF THE APACHE HELICOPTER (HC 533)

Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today the Ministry of Defence had made serious mistakes in introducing the Apache Helicopter which meant that the Armed Forces had not been able to benefit yet from the enhanced capability, and over £24 million of taxpayers' money had been wasted.

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 46th Report of this Session, which examined whether the Ministry of Defence had handled the introduction of the Apache Helicopter well to date and what risks remained to the timely introduction of the capability. MOD is procuring 67 Apache Attack Helicopters and associated training services from Westland Helicopters Limited (Westland) at an expected cost of £4 billion.

The Committee found that errors in introducing the Apache have resulted in additional costs and delays in delivering the operational capability to the Armed Forces. Separating the procurement of training and weapons from the prime contract has led the Department to assume additional risks and costs. The Department's approach to acquiring the training has led to additional costs of over £24 million, and meant that the introduction of the new capability has been delayed by two years. The arrangements for providing spares to support the helicopter for its first 30 months of operation, whilst sensible in concept, were also flawed because they were linked to a forecast schedule of flying rather than actual rates of flying.

Risks remain to the full introduction of the Apache capability. The capacity for the Apache to have secure voice and data communications with other aircraft and with United Kingdom ground troops will be restricted. As a result there remains a risk that the Armed Forces will not be able to fully utilise the Apache capability. As our recent Report on Combat Identification1 and recent experience in the Gulf has highlighted, such shortcomings also raise the risk of friendly fire incidents.

The Apache project provides important lessons on how to manage a major new capability. These include the value of a single focus for the programme management of the delivery of a complex capability; the need to set more realistic timescales; and the importance of putting in place better arrangements for the supply of data on equipments developed in the United States.

Mr Leigh said today:

"As a result of serious mistakes by the Ministry of Defence in introducing the Apache the Armed Forces have not yet been able to benefit from the enhanced operational capability that the helicopter will provide. Over £24 million of taxpayers' money has been wasted on additional costs and 40 helicopters, worth over £1.2 billion, will sit idle. In introducing future capabilities MOD must put in place much clearer programme management arrangements and realistic deadlines."


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