Turret Delays Put Programme at Risk as Spending Review Initiated
One of the less well reported discussions at the Paris Air Show last week apparently took place between Tony Douglas, the Chief Executive of Defence Equipment & Support, and Marilyn Hewson, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin. Central to the discussion was the issue of continuing delays to the WARRIOR Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP).
Lockheed Martin was contracted in 2011 to upgrade and enhance the UK’s fleet of over 600 WARRIOR Infantry Fighting Vehicles, extending their service lives into the 2040s. The company won the contract, valued at £1 billion (of which fully two thirds is likely to be booked by Lockheed Martin itself) after the MoD eliminated BAE Systems from the running. Six years later none of the required 12 demonstrators with replacement turrets and weapon systems has been delivered and the company is said by observers close to the programme to be struggling with cost and complexity.
Timing could not be worse for either party, as the government initiates a 60-day spending review in the wake of a Brexit-inspired devaluation of almost 15% in the pound. The National Audit Office has issued a stark warning regarding unprecedented levels of risk in the MoD’s equipment plan, adding that the current £10+ billion contingency fund could be entirely swallowed up.
The original plan called for the upgraded WARRIORs to enter service next year, which is now clearly impossible. Although any programme as complex as this must involve the risk of schedule slippage, the extent of the delays is apparently causing concerns over the 500+ AJAX order, for which Lockheed Martin also builds the turrets.