Committee of Public Accounts: Press Notice


Publication of the Committee's 30th Report, Session 2008-09

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

"The Type 45 destroyer is an impressive and sophisticated piece of air defence naval weaponry, based largely on new technology. Our Committee saw for itself just how advanced the ship is in terms of manoeuvrability and speed. But the risks to the successful delivery of the Type 45 were poorly judged.

"Persistent over-optimism and underestimation of the technical challenge, combined with inappropriate commercial arrangements, led to burgeoning costs and serious delays.

"It is encouraging though to hear that the Department appears to be applying the lessons from the Type 45 project and its actions to turn the project around to its programme to procure the two aircraft carriers.

"HMS Daring, the first of the six Type 45s, will not now enter service until the end of 2009, over two years late and £1.5 billion over the original budgeted cost. What is disgraceful is that it will enter service with not one of its main anti-air missiles having been fired from the ship - and it will not be fully operational until 2011. The fleet of Type 45s will not have their full capability until well into the next decade. As a result, the existing Type 42 destroyers are having to be patched up and kept in service for longer.

"In the Committee's view, there are two deeply worrying implications for the UK's air defence capability. One is our having to rely for a number of years on ageing vessels designed and built for the Cold War. The other is that, even when the full complement of six Type 45s is fully operational, this number of new destroyers falls short of the 12 originally planned and then eight subsequently proposed, making it very difficult for the MOD to meet its requirement of having five ships at sea at any one time."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 30th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Ministry of Defence, examined capability provided by the Type 45 Destroyer, the reasons for the cost increases and delays on the project, and the lessons learnt for the Carrier project and support contract.

The Type 45 Destroyer is being procured to form the backbone of the Royal Navy's air defence capability for the next 30 years, and will provide a very impressive capability compared to the Type 42 Destroyers which is it designed to replace. There have been a number of problems on the project, meaning it will enter service over two years late and £1.5 billion over its original budget.

The Department has had to extend the life of the Type 42 Destroyers for longer than originally planned as a result of the delays to the Type 45. These ships are increasingly expensive to maintain, provide a more limited capability than the Type 45 and are more vulnerable to the most up to date threats from a modern enemy.

The Department originally planned to buy 12 ships. However, because of reduced threat, revised planning assumptions and an intended improved network capability, this number shrunk to eight and eventually just six. Despite this, the Department's requirement to have five ships at sea at any one time remains unchanged. It will be more challenging for the Department to meet this requirement with only six ships.

The problems on the Type 45 project result from the Department's failure to take sufficient account of the technical risks involved in such a complex project in its estimates of the likely costs and timescales to deliver, or in the commercial construct which it agreed, which led to a poor relationship with industry. Following a far-reaching review of the project, the contract was renegotiated in 2007, and there have been no further cost increases or delays since then.

Although the Type 45 will enter service in 2009, it is a disgrace that it will do so without a PAAMS missile having been fired from the ship, and will not achieve full operational capability until 2011. Other equipments and capabilities which will enhance the ship's ability to conduct anti-air warfare operations will not be fitted until after the ship enters service in some cases.

It is essential that the Department learns the lessons from both the failures and successes on this project, and applies them to its other programmes such as the Carrier, if it is to avoid a repeat of the cost overruns and time delays that have been a feature of so many of its major Defence projects. The Department also needs to apply the lessons in taking forward its longer-term support arrangements for the Type 45, which have yet to be finally agreed.