13 July 2010 | Lindsay Clark
Partnership working between BAE Systems and its suppliers helped the defence giant unveil the UK’s first unmanned military combat aircraft at its Warton site in Lancashire yesterday.
The £142.5 million programme to build the Taranis vehicle has included supplier investment of around £30 million and was delivered through a partnership deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ, GE Aviation and the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
Given the track-record of increased costs and delays in defence procurement, the contract came in only around a sixth more than its initial £124.5 million estimate and a year later than expected to accommodate an additional programme of work with a wider scope, BAE said.
Chris Kelly, procurement director and head of programme delivery for Taranis told SM the project required a fresh approach in working with suppliers: “From the outset of the programme there was a cultural step change, moving away from traditional contracts, with a focus on Ts and Cs; this [programme] was more a collaborative framework, with the sharing of information and risk.”
The procurement process also won political praise. Gerald Howarth, minister for international security strategy, said at the launch: “Let me thank all the suppliers for their exceptional level of partnership and joint working that has led to the development of this world-leading air system – just three and a half years since the contract was awarded in December 2006. I also recognise the commitment and vision of the industry team and their willingness to share risk jointly through the significant private venture investment they have all contributed into this programme.”
Meanwhile, senior management recognised procurement’s contribution. Chris Allam, managing director of autonomous systems and future capability at BAE Systems, said: “At the heart of Taranis is a strong, diverse, supply chain structure with increased accountability for technology development, investment and risk management. By creating an environment that encourages risk sharing; the sharing of objectives, and clear leadership, Taranis now offers a host of options for the UK MoD and its partners as a base on which to form our plans for the future.”
The Taranis aircraft is a prototype which could lead to unmanned combat aircraft being controlled from anywhere in the world via satellite communications. Trials are set for next year.