08 August 2002 | Robin Parker
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is ploughing cash into speeding up weapons procurement after a series of high-profile disasters.
Of the £3.5 billion allocated to the ministry in Gordon Brown's recent public-sector spending review, £1.5 billion has been earmarked to make vital equipment more mobile and available.
The announcement comes as a National Audit Office report criticises the ministry over the effectiveness of equipment for exercises in Oman last year.
The NAO said tanks and mobile guns did not work well in the hot and dusty climate, and did not have the logistical support to keep them going.
It said the exercises were badly planned and funded, and as a result the MoD was forced to pay an extra £1.2 million to charter aircraft to transport personnel.
The ministry could also be forced to ditch the new version of the standard SA80-A2 rifle, which cost £92 million to modify, after reports that it was unreliable and tended to jam in dusty conditions.
Launching the spending review, Geoff Hoon, defence minister, told parliament: "We are looking at the use of more rapidly deployable and sustainable light forces and ways of improving their mobility and firepower."
He said improved logistical and supply systems and information-sharing would improve "the way we want to use our forces against a determined, mobile, often disparate and elusive enemy".
The ministry will commission a range of equipment to support this new "detect, determine and destroy" approach, including a family of air transportable, medium-weight armoured vehicles.
It is also speeding up the procurement of the £500 million Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle, and will shortly select two consortia, to begin testing prototypes early next year.