MoD spends £1.1 billion on tanks - and gets none


The MoD has a lot of difficult jobs to do. Some would even say that they are impossible. However, surely buying tanks shouldn't fit into this category.

Yet somehow, today a committee of MPs heard how the MoD managed to blow £1 billion on a tank programme that didn't actually net them a single vehicle.

The problems

It's not for want of trying. Since 1998, the MoD has had a number of procurement projects on the go, which were meant to end in them buying a selection of the ultimate fighting and armoured vehicles.

But fitting all the bells and whistles takes time and money, and the projects has run on somewhat. It also hasn't been the smoothest of processes, and the MPs heard today that some £321 million of the money had been spent on projects that ended up being cancelled or suspended.

It was then scuppered almost entirely when the next round of funding was cancelled. It was meant to get another £10.8 billion to last the programme until 2021, when we can only hope one or two of these tanks, reconnaissance vehicles and personnel-carriers would start making an appearance.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, said: "The reason for this extraordinary failure is all too clear. Seeking to balance its overall defence budget, the MOD raided the armoured vehicles chest and removed £10.8 billion from budgets up to 2021."

The MoD admitted that as a result of all this: "there will be gaps in capability until at least 2025; making it more difficult to undertake essential tasks such has battlefield reconnaissance".

The mess

The government has stepped in to try to rescue something from this billion pound disaster. The Treasury will stump up £2.8 billion in order to have a few mine resistant vehicles. However, clearly this falls a country mile short of the ambition for the ultimate all purpose vehicle that was supposed to be protecting our troops overseas.

Hodge didn't have many positive things to say about the whole sorry pantomime. She highlighted that "matters were made worse by an overly complex procurement process and an unrealistic culture of always demanding cutting edge technology".

"The Department has yet to say how it is going to find the money to buy the vehicles it needs in future to carry out the full range of military tasks."

The Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff, has argued with the committee's findings, saying: "It is not true to say the £1.1 billion spent on armoured vehicles has not delivered any equipment. It has delivered Titan, Trojan and Viking vehicles, with Trojan and Viking used on operations in Afghanistan."

He added: "The armoured vehicle programme was left in a mess by the previous Government."

Sadly, therefore, it seems the mess is deteriorating still further into a party political row. Meanwhile. service men and women must be wondering when their safety will become a priority.
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