Eurofighter crash-lands in audit

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The Independent Online
A sorry tale of how work- sharing between Britain and three European partners led to cost overruns of pounds 662m and a delay of three years in the development of the Eurofighter 2000 was told last night by the National Audit Office.

The pounds 40bn fighter is designed to be unstable, but the management failures in its crucial computer system matched its radical aerodynamics.

Last night, it was under fire from the NAO, a public sector watchdog, for a 23 per cent increase in development costs. The delay will force the RAF to pay out a further pounds 104m to keep ageing Jaguars and Tornado F3s in service until the Eurofighter is ready from 2002. The NAO warns that, despite moves by industry and the four partner nations - Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain - to rectify problems, "significant" technical risks remained.

Labour condemned the Ministry of Defence's management of the project."This report is a damning indictment of the lack of adequate management control," David Clark, its defence spokesman, said.

The NAO report said the main cause of the delay was the work-sharing arrangements between the four nations. Development of the electronic boards of the stick sensor and interface control assembly was given to two separate companies in two countries, the NAO said.

The software was extremely complex but had to be divided between the four. When the four parts were brought together by GEC Marconi Avionics, they would not work properly and had to go back.

To add to the difficulties, the only test bed capable of running a full trial of the computers was held at the German partner, DASA. "Consequently, GEC Marconi could only test the computers as separate units and not running together." That had caused further delays.

The NAO said GEC Marconi believed it could have saved one-third of the cost with a solo bid for the work.