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Military Capabilities

NAO report highlights increase in ‘store rob’ for RN fleet

31 October 2017
HMS Dauntless, the designated Type 45 harbour training ship, donated 148 parts during 2016–17, according to the NAO. (Richard Scott/NAVYPIX)

Key Points

  • The RN is increasingly being forced to cannibalise equipment because of a lack of spare parts
  • The NAO says the MoD has failed to understand the reasons for, and consequences of, equipment cannibalisation

Spares shortages mean that the UK Royal Navy (RN) is increasingly being forced to rob working components from other ships, submarines, and aircraft to repair defective equipment, a report by the government’s spending watchdog has found.

Publishing the findings of its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the RN, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had exacerbated the situation by failing to monitor the reasons for cannibalisation, and not fully understanding the impact of reductions in the navy’s support budget.

In one case, the need to remove components from the third Astute-class submarine HMS Artful during build caused a 42-day delay, resulting in a GBP4.9 million (USD6.5 million) cost increase and having a knock-on effect on other Astute boats.

The report also found that a lack of information about when parts will be delivered, and delays in receiving parts on time, were making the situation worse.

Equipment cannibalisation – also known as ‘store robbing’ within the RN – is the process by which parts and components are removed from equipment on one platform to satisfy the priority materiel needs of another unit. While it is by no means a new practice, it has always been regarded as a last resort in the absence of suitable stock spares or other sources of supply.

Cannibalisation presents a number of challenges to the navy, specifically programme delays, increased engineering risk, and a demoralising effect on personnel.

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