'Most incompetent procurement' is now 'gold standard cock-up'

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
3 June 2008

The cost of a project to buy eight Chinook helicopters, previously described as "one of the most incompetent procurements of all time", has risen to more than £422 million.

The project involved buying 14 helicopters from Boeing, six Mk2a and eight Mk3 Chinooks. But when the eight Mk3 helicopters, which cost £259 million, were delivered in 2001, it was discovered they could only fly when the sky was cloudless and landmarks were clearly visible to pilots because of problems with their software.

Seven years later the helicopters remain inactive in a climate-controlled hangar, at a total cost of more than half a million pounds.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee - which described the project in 2004 as "one of the worst examples of equipment procurement" - today lambasted the programme to get the helicopters in the air, branding it "a gold standard cock-up".

In 2004 the Ministry of Defence decided to upgrade the helicopters at a cost of £159 million. However, this plan was abandoned at the start of 2007, in favour of "reverting" the Mk3s to the same standard as the Mk2as already purchased.

The whole cost of the purchase and process will now be £422 million, slightly less than the £502 million total the upgrade would have reached.

The helicopters are now expected to be in service by 2009-2010.

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