Compensation claimed for late aircraft order

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The Independent Online
The Ministry of Defence is seeking compensation from the US makers of heavy transport aircraft after the disclosure that delivery of 25 of the C-130J aircraft costing pounds 1.8bn has been delayed by a year.

The C-130J jets, replacing the United Kingdom's ageing fleet of Hercules transport aircraft, were ordered in 1994 and rolled off the tarmac a year later at the US plant of Lockheed, the American makers. But the aircraft stall at low speeds, and there have been problems with the avionics, MoD sources said yesterday. The MoD is invoking a clause in the contract to seek compensation for the cost of the late delivery.

Aviation experts shrugged off the delay in the development of the C- 130J as "one of those things", but late delivery of defence equipment has been a continuing source of concern for the Public Accounts Committee, which is expected to investigate, when it is set up.

John Spellar, the defence minister, told MPs in a written Commons answer: "The programme has not yet met its implementation milestones as a result of development problems and difficulties in meeting the flight test and certification objectives. These have caused a delay of about one year to initial aircraft deliveries."

The order was placed with the US company in the face of fierce competition from British Aerospace which wanted investment in a new generation of heavy-lift aircraft in a European consortium, codenamed the FLA. The Major administration announced a compromise, in which it would buy the planes, but would also support the development of the FLA on the drawing board. The Government is soon to face a tough choice over whether to go ahead with developing the FLA.

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