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Ministers to ‘fix or scrap’ £3.2bn Ajax armored vehicle contract

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Ministers must ‘fix or scrap’ troubled £3.2bn Ajax armored vehicle contract as it undermines national security, MPs warn

Ministers must fix or scrap the UK’s troubled Ajax armored vehicle program this year as it threatens national security, MPs warned today.

The Ajax program was intended to provide the army with a state-of-the-art reconnaissance vehicle.

Despite being in business for 12 years and costing £3.2 billion, it has so far failed to deliver a single deployable vehicle.

Originally intended to enter service in 2017, the Ajax has been repeatedly delayed due to what the Commons Public Accounts committee described as “a litany of failures”.

The Ajax program was intended to provide the army with a state-of-the-art reconnaissance vehicle. Pictured behind it, a General Dynamics UK Ajax armored fighting vehicle

These include noise and vibration issues where soldiers were injured while testing the vehicles.

In its report, the committee warned that the Ministry of Defense still does not know when Ajax will enter service and whether the noise and vibration issues can be remedied even two years after they were first raised.

MEPs said program management was “flawed from the start” and that Defense had “again made fundamental mistakes” in planning and managing a major equipment program.

As a result, the commission warned that the Department of Defense “failed to provide the vehicles” the military needed “to better protect the nation and fulfill NATO commitments.”

Labor MP Dame Meg Hillier, the committee chair, said: “Enough is enough – the Ministry of Defense must fix or fail this program, before there is more risk to our national security and more billions of taxpayers’ money wasted.

“These repeated failures put pressure on older capabilities in need of replacement and pose a direct threat to the security of our service personnel and their ability to protect the nation and fulfill NATO commitments.”

The Defense Department said any delays would not result in additional costs to taxpayers due to the nature of the contract, adding that no further payments would be made to manufacturer General Dynamics until the department was “satisfied with the future trajectory.” of the programme’.

The report said delays in the Ajax program had forced the military to make “operational compromises,” including extending the use of the Warrior armored vehicle that entered service in 1987.

While the military is “cautiously optimistic” that Ajax could enter service by 2030, the committee warned that further delays would increase the risk of missing even this target and urged the Defense organization to explore alternatives if the contract with General Dynamics were to end. to collapse.

The Ministry of Defense agreed a fixed price contract with General Dynamics worth £5.5 billion for 589 Ajax armored vehicles, but so far only 26 have been delivered and can only be used for training purposes.

The MPs said they doubted whether the program could be implemented within the existing agreements.

Labor MP Dame Meg Hillier, the committee chair, said:

Labor MP Dame Meg Hillier, the committee chair, said: “Enough is enough – the Ministry of Defense must fix or fail this program before it puts more risk to our national security and more billions of taxpayers’ money wasted.”

The committee said it expected a decision by the end of the year about continuing Ajax or canceling the program completely.

A Defense spokesman said: ‘The UK is contributing more than its force requirements and readiness levels that NATO has requested.

‘The Minister of Defense has made it clear that Ajax is a restless program. We agree with many of the committee’s recommendations and are actively taking steps to correct them.

‘Our fixed price contract means that any delays no longer cost the taxpayer. General Dynamics did not receive any payments under the contract in 2021 and 2022. No further payments will be made until we are satisfied with the future trajectory of the program.”

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