Army’s new tank project branded a ‘shambles’ as trials halted again

Defence minister admits programme - which could eventually cost taxpayers £5.5bn - is ‘troubled’

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 30 June 2021 09:10
<p>Report says speed restrictions had been caused by excessive vibrations in the Ajax tanks and that crews were limited to 90 minutes inside them at a time</p>

Report says speed restrictions had been caused by excessive vibrations in the Ajax tanks and that crews were limited to 90 minutes inside them at a time

Trial’s of the army’s £3.2bn new fleet of armoured vehicles have been halted for a second time over complaints about noise affecting the crew.

The new vehicles, named Ajax and built by General Dynamics, are billed as "fully digital" and the "next generation of armoured vehicles".

But trials were halted for four months to March after crews reportedly suffered nausea, swollen joints and tinnitus.

Now, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced all Ajax trials have been halted again following renewed concern about the issue.

Defence minister Jeremy Quin acknowledged the programme - which could eventually cost taxpayers up to £5.5bn - was "troubled".

Mr Quin said: "This long-running troubled programme requires ongoing intense work by our industrial partners and ourselves to ensure its delivery.

"In achieving this, the safety of our personnel will always come first."

The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, urged the government to task the National Audit Office with conducting a special audit of the programme "to prevent billions more of taxpayer money being wasted".

"Only three weeks ago, ministers assured MPs that Ajax would begin operations from next week," the Labour MP added.

"The MoD must get a grip on this stop-start shambles. Ajax is over budget, behind schedule and still not working safely."

The MoD's top mandarin has launched a thorough safety investigation, working with General Dynamics, which is expected to conclude at the end of July.

A spokesperson for the firm said: "General Dynamics Land Systems-UK is confident in its vehicle design and stand behind Ajax.

"The MoD has informed us that the pause is temporary and precautionary only."

Officials insisted the MoD remained committed to the Ajax programme.

Mr Quin faced questions about Ajax from MPs on 8 June and said the MoD was looking at two headsets to help address the noise problems, although he admitted that would not get to the "root cause" of the issues, which he suggested could be mechanical or electronic.

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