MoD told troubled military vehicle project poses risk to national security

Five years from original deployment date, army’s new wheels still in development hell

Liam James
Friday 03 June 2022 00:26 BST
General Dynamics developed Ajax armoured fighting vehicle behind an all-terrain unmanned ground vehicle at Bovington Camp in Dorset – file photo
General Dynamics developed Ajax armoured fighting vehicle behind an all-terrain unmanned ground vehicle at Bovington Camp in Dorset – file photo (PA)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been warned that the troubled Ajax armoured vehicle programme risks compromising national security if it is not scrapped or fixed.

The development scheme has already been running for 12 years and cost £3.2bn but has so far failed to deliver a single deployable vehicle.

The Ajax vehicle was originally intended to enter service in 2017 but has been repeatedly delayed due to what a review by an influential parliamentary committee described as “a litany of failures” including noise and vibration problems that injured soldiers testing the vehicles.

In a report published on Friday, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the MoD still did not know when Ajax would enter service or whether the noise and vibration issues could even be fixed two years after they were first raised.

The PAC said management of the programme had been “flawed from the outset” and the MoD had “once again made fundamental mistakes” in planning and managing a major equipment programme.

The committee said it expected a decision by the end of the year on whether or not to scrap Ajax.

PAC chair Dame Meg Hillier said: “Enough is enough – the MoD must fix or fail this programme, before more risk to our national security and more billions of taxpayers’ money wasted.

“These repeated failures are putting strain on older capabilities which are overdue for replacement and are directly threatening the safety of our service people and their ability to protect the nation and meet Nato commitments.”

Then-prime minister David Cameron with soldiers from the Royal Welsh Infantry in front of an Ajax vehicle at RAF Northolt in 2015 (PA)

The MoD said any delays would not come at extra cost to the taxpayer due to the nature of the contract, adding that no further payments would be made to manufacturer General Dynamics until the department was “satisfied with the future trajectory of the programme”. It added that the UK readily met its Nato commitments.

General Dynamics has been approached for comment.

The PAC report said delays to the Ajax programme had forced the army to make “operational compromises” including prolonging use of the Warrior armoured vehicle which entered service in 1987.

Although the army is “cautiously optimistic” that Ajax can enter service by 2030, the PAC warned that any further delays would increase the risk of missing even this target and urged the MoD to explore alternatives should the contract with General Dynamics collapse.

The MoD agreed a fixed-price contract with General Dynamics worth £5.5bn for 589 Ajax armoured vehicles, but so far just 26 have been delivered and these can only be used for training purposes.

The PAC said it doubted that the programme could be delivered within existing arrangements.

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