def061208 - No. 05

Session 2006-07, 8 December 2006

Publication of First Report


Publication of First Report

US RELUCTANCE TO SHARE TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE THREATENS JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER PROGRAMME: DEFENCE COMMITTEE REPORT

The Government should not sign a production agreement with the US over the collaborative Joint Strike Fighter programme unless it receives American assurance, by the end of the year, that it will disclose all the technical information Britain needs to operate its future fighter aircraft independently, says a report by the House of Commons Defence Committee published today (First Report, Session 2006-07, Defence Procurement 2006, HC 56).

The Ministry of Defence is procuring a variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) from the US to meet its requirement for Joint Combat Aircraft to operate from the Royal Navy’s two future aircraft carriers. But it is still uncertain whether the US will agree to transfer the technology required to give the UK operational sovereignty of the aircraft, and the Committee says that, if there is no deal by the end of the year, the Government should switch its efforts to developing a “Plan B”, ensuring that there is an alternative aircraft available when the carriers enter service.

The report also highlights the equipment urgently needed by UK Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and welcomes the Prime Minister’s recent commitment that commanders on the ground will get whatever package of equipment they want. While acknowledging that requests from the front line have to be evaluated, the Committee calls on the MoD to process requests quickly and on the Treasury to recognise that additional funding will be needed to support new equipment once in service, so that commanders are not inhibited from asking for equipment by fears for their future budgets.

Of particular concern to the Committee is the Armed Forces’ shortage of heavy lift helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report describes, as a sorry episode, the loss of £205 million on eight Chinook Mk 3 helicopters, which remain in hangars in UK, possibly until the next decade, while the MoD negotiates with Boeing about responsibility for solving a software problem.

The Rt Hon James Arbuthnot, Chairman of the Defence Committee, says “The Defence Procurement Agency did well last year in achieving all its targets for the first time, but we are still seeing too many defence equipment programmes with major time and cost overruns - and in some cases costs have only been controlled by reducing the quantity of the equipment ordered. We would like to see lessons from the procurement of Urgent Operational Requirements - which generally works well - applied more widely.”

The report is published at 00:01 8th December 2006. Embargoed copies will be made available from 11:00 on 6th December 2006.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP (Chairman), Mr David S Borrow MP, Mr David Crausby MP, Linda Gilroy MP, Mr David Hamilton MP, Mr Mike Hancock MP, Mr Dai Havard MP, Mr Adam Holloway MP, Mr Bernard Jenkin MP, Mr Brian Jenkins MP, Mr Kevan Jones MP, Robert Key MP, Willie Rennie MP, John Smith MP

2. News Release: No. 05

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