Ministers must ‘fix or scrap’ troubled £3.2bn Ajax armoured vehicle contract as it is undermining national security, MPs warn
Ministers must fix or scrap the UK’s troubled Ajax armoured vehicle programme this year as it is compromising national security, MPs warned today.
The Ajax programme was intended to provide a state-of-the-art reconnaissance vehicle for the Army.
However, despite running for 12 years and costing £3.2billion, 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 programme was intended to provide a state-of-the-art reconnaissance vehicle for the Army. Pictured behind, a General Dynamics UK Ajax armoured fighting vehicle
These include noise and vibration problems that injured soldiers testing the vehicles.
In its report, the committee warned that the Ministry of Defence still does not know when Ajax will enter service or whether the noise and vibration issues can even be fixed two years after they were first raised.
The MPs said management of the programme had been ‘flawed from the outset’ and the MoD had ‘once again made fundamental mistakes’ in planning and managing a major equipment programme.
As a result, the committee warned that the MoD was ‘failing to deliver’ the vehicles the Army needed ‘to better protect the nation and meet Nato commitments’.
Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, the committee’s chairman, said: ‘Enough is enough – the MoD must fix or fail this programme, before more risk to our national security and more billions of taxpayers’ money wasted.
‘These repeated failures are putting strain on older capabilities which are overdue for replacement and are directly threatening the safety of our service people and their ability to protect the nation and meet Nato commitments.’
The MoD said any delays would not come at extra cost to the taxpayer 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 to the Ajax programme had forced the Army to make ‘operational compromises’ including prolonging use of the Warrior armoured vehicle which entered service in 1987.
Although the Army is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Ajax can enter service by 2030, the committee warned that any further delays would increase the risk of missing even this target and urged the MoD to explore alternatives should the contract with General Dynamics collapse.
The MoD agreed a fixed-price contract with General Dynamics worth £5.5billion for 589 Ajax armoured vehicles, but so far just 26 have been delivered and these can only be used for training purposes.
The MPs said it doubted that the programme could be delivered within existing arrangements.
Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, the committee’s chairman, said: ‘Enough is enough – the MoD must fix or fail this programme, before more risk to our national security and more billions of taxpayers’ money wasted.’
The committee said it expected a decision on whether to persevere with Ajax or scrap the programme entirely by the end of the year.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘The UK contributes more than its force requirements and readiness levels asked of it by Nato.
‘The Defence Secretary has been clear that Ajax is a troubled programme. We agree with many of the committee’s recommendations and are actively taking steps to correct these.
‘Our firm price contract means any delays will not cost the taxpayer more. General Dynamics have received no payments under the contract in 2021 and 2022. No further payments will be made until we are satisfied with the future trajectory of the programme.’
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