The fighting capability of Britain's armed forces is being put at risk by delays in projects which are costing the taxpayer an extra pounds 645m, according to a public spending watchdog.
The National Audit Office says more than 90 per cent of the Ministry of Defence's major projects had failed or were likely to fail their completion dates.
It challenged a report by the MoD showing that the overall cost of 25 projects was likely to be pounds 1.6bn less than forecast. When two exceptionally large projects - for the Trident nuclear weapon system and the Eurofighter 2000 were excluded - there was an increase in the forecast for MoD spending of pounds 645m.
But the National Audit Office warned that the delays were also leading to "older less capable equipment" being kept in service for longer than planned. Delays in computer software to run warship command systems had forced the MoD to limit deployment of type 23 frigates.
The NAO says: "The deployment of type 23 frigates without the first three phases of software of the type 23 command system carries significant military risk."
Other major defence projects which had been delayed included the the Spearfish torpedo, now six years behind schedule and requiring the MoD to run the Tigerfish torpedo for longer than planned.
The armed forces were using Clansman combat radios, based on 1960s radio technology, because its replacement, codenamed Bowman, was over four years overdue. It is costing pounds 200m to keep the Clansman system in service.
NAO MoD major projects report 1994; HC 436; HMSO; pounds 13.25.Reuse content