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How Nice

After a while you begin to feel that the US has the worst military procurement program devised since the Byzantine defense official told the Czech cannon maker to find another client for his fortress destroying cannon in 1453. [He did and Constantinople was history.]

It is therefore encouraging when you find that others have problems, as reported by the BBC – MoD accused of Chinook ‘cock-up’

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of a “gold standard cock-up” over eight helicopters which have cost £422m but have yet to fly for the RAF.

[Commons public accounts committee chairman Sir Edward Leigh] said: “The Ministry of Defence’s programme to make airworthy the eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters, which it acquired in 2001 for special operations work, has been a gold standard cock-up.

“Nearly seven years since they were delivered, the Chinook Mk3s are still languishing in climate-controlled hangers – despite the fact that they are desperately needed on operations in Afghanistan.

“This is a very unhappy state of affairs, made more acute by the knowledge of how much our soldiers in the hostile terrain of Afghanistan need helicopter support.”

The aircraft were originally ordered by the MoD in 1995 at a cost of £259m.

To make them suitable for special forces operations, they were configured as the hi-tech Chinook Mk3, equipped with extra “fat” fuel tanks, night-vision equipment and enhanced defensive aids.

They were delivered in 2001 but have been beset by problems with their cockpit software.

Deemed safe to fly only at altitudes above 500ft in clear conditions when the pilot could navigate by sight, they were useless for special forces work and so have been confined to special air-conditioned hangars in Wiltshire.

I don’t know if I would classify this as a “gold standard cock-up” when compared to the Osprey, but it is certainly in the running for at least a silver.

2 comments

1 jams o donnell { 06.04.08 at 7:26 am }

It’s been a titanic balls up but it has yet to eclipse the fiasco of trying to convert the Nimrod into an AEW aircraft. A billion or so pissed away and the RAF got the AWACS – Exactly what it should have purchased in the first place!

2 Bryan { 06.04.08 at 12:52 pm }

It’s a matter of scale, Jams. If it had worked, the Nimrod conversion would have saved money. Of course, that ignores the reality that old airframes have a tendency to fall out the air, like F-15C fighters after a couple of decades.

It’s the batch purchases that screw everything up. If they would add a few at a time, they could catch problems and fix them, but when you buy a lot of them all at once for “efficiency of scale” the problems just get worse.

Instead of one helicopter with problems, you have 8. You have to wonder about the testing program that missed these problems early in the development. It’s not like the Chinook is a new design.