DEF060117 - No. 17

Session 2005-06, 17 January 2006

Comments on Report

Comments on Report


The changes being made by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to its support of RAF front line aircraft - only four years after the establishment of the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) as a trading fund - are contributing to a period of unnecessary turbulence and uncertainty in aviation logistics provision, says the Commons Defence Committee in a report released today, 18 January 2006.

MoD plans to transfer support for fast jets (Harrier GR9 and Tornado GR4) from DARA St Athan, South Wales to RAF Main Operating Bases while support for rotary wing aircraft (helicopters) will be moved to DARA Fleetlands, Hampshire. The Committee concludes that the new arrangements are inconsistent and will not stand the test of time.

The new arrangements for support carry risks: the long term sustainability of efficiency programmes; potential over-dependency on industry, and the capability of the RAF’s new support processes to meet surge demands.

In the light of allegations of problems with the Harrier programme, the Committee recommends an independent audit and, if necessary, a delay to the Tornado changes to allow the lessons to be taken into account.

The MPs say that these changes to aircraft support -soon after the creation of DARA - suggest that either the original decision to establish DARA was unsound or the recent decisions regarding its future are misjudged.

Prospects for the DARA St Athan site, including the recently completed £104m Superhangar facility, are in doubt. The Committee says the decision to go ahead with the funding for the Red Dragon project in 2003 was incomprehensible  and extraordinary given the uncertainty surrounding air logistic provision at the time. It recommends an investigation by the National Audit Office and the Wales Audit Office.

The Chairman of the Defence Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, said:

"This story has not been a happy one.  The Committee felt that the combination of decisions - to pour taxpayers' money into an outstanding new facility in St Athan at the very same time as the MoD was conducting a review which would take the work away from that facility, so that the MoD then had to spend millions more on reproviding those facilities elsewhere, was quite extraordinary.

"The new arrangements for doing the repairs to RAF aircraft may work, but they may not.  Of course the RAF will give it the commitment they give to everything, but the Committee had little hope that the facilities that would be provided for the RAF would be as good as those that already exist at St Athan.  And the RAF would be more dependent than they currently are on monopoly suppliers in industry.

"We will have to come back to this matter in future years."

The Committee’s report will be published as the Third Report of Session 2005-06, Delivering Front Line Capability, (HC 557).


1. Comittee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP (Chairman), Mr David S Borrow MP, Mr Colin Breed MP, Mr David Crausby MP, Linda Gilroy MP, Mr David Hamilton MP, Mr Mike Hancock MP, Mr Dai Havard MP, Mr Brian Jenkins MP, Mr Kevan Jones MP, Robert Key MP, Mr Mark Lancaster MP, John Smith MP, Mr Desmond Swayne MP

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