MoD spends £250m on Chinooks it cannot fly

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The Independent Online

A brand new fleet of RAF Chinook helicopters which cost the taxpayer £250m may have to be broken up and used as spares because of the botched way the Ministry of Defence bought them, a damning report by a committee of MPs reveals today.

A brand new fleet of RAF Chinook helicopters which cost the taxpayer £250m may have to be broken up and used as spares because of the botched way the Ministry of Defence bought them, a damning report by a committee of MPs reveals today.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee describes the purchase of the eight Chinooks from Boeing in 2001 as "one of the worst acquisitions" it has ever seen by any government department.

The helicopters cannot be flown because the MoD is unable to determine whether they are safe. It has now written down their value to just £45m to reflect the amount the taxpayer could recoup if they were cannibalised and used as spares for other helicopters in the fleet.

The MoD's inability to fly the Chinooks has also widened the "alarming gap" between the number of helicopters Britain's armed forces need and those available, says the committee. It says the shortfall is anywhere between 20 per cent and 38 per cent depending on how it is measured.

Edward Leigh, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said: "It is simply disgraceful that the MoD has spent a quarter of a billion of taxpayers' money on the botched procurement of eight Chinook helicopters that cannot be flown because the MoD can't determine if they're safe."

The problem has arisen because the MoD cannot validate the software codes used by Boeing in the helicopters' avionics system and flight controls. The US company is not prepared to release these for security reasons.

The MoD has been unable to say who within the ministry was responsible for the flawed procurement of the Chinooks, prompting the MPs to comment: "No one seems accountable when things go wrong." They say that the MoD failed to implement suggestions in previous reports into botched military equipment programmes that all aspects of a project should be accounted for by a single named individual who would act as "owner" of the project.

According to the MPs, the MoD has decided not to fill the gap in the Joint Helicopter Command's fleet. "This will potentially increase risks, including the risk of overstretching equipment and pilots," Mr Leigh said.

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