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Military Capabilities

Government highlights perilous state of UK defence aviation programmes

06 July 2018
An artist's impression of the Protector, a new Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) ordered for the Royal Air Force. A government report has said that the successful delivery of this project is 'unachievable'. Source: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc

The UK government has declared that nearly every major defence aviation procurement programme currently ongoing is either in danger of not being successfully delivered, or can only be delivered once significant issues have been overcome.

In its Annual Report on Major Projects 2017-18, the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) found that all of the seven programmes reviewed required varying levels of management attention if they were to be successfully delivered, while the successful delivery of one project was said to be “unachievable”.

Published on 4 July, the report noted that the AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat battlefield and maritime helicopter was rated Amber/Green (successful delivery appears probable; however, constant attention will be needed to ensure risks do not materialise into major issues threatening delivery).

The Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft, CROWSNEST carrier airborne early warning helicopters and Thales Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft system (UAS) were rated Amber (successful delivery appears feasible but significant issues already exist, requiring management attention. These appear resolvable at this stage and, if addressed promptly, should not present a cost/schedule overrun).

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) were rated Amber/Red (successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible).

However, while these six projects could still be delivered with enhanced oversight and management, the IPA determined that the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Protector UAS cannot be delivered on schedule or on budget, rating it as Red (successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable.

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