Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Is the F-35B an "object lesson in the pitfalls of procurement"?

Is it really five years since I last discussed the TAC associated with fighter jets and problems with not getting it right?  Well, regardless of that the Times have now started to reveal the sad story of their investigation into yet another 'flawed' procurement of fighter jets - one commentator says "it is turning into an object lesson in the pitfalls of procurement". Yes, TAC still remain unproven art.

Yesterday's Times had six pages on this 'crime of procurement' and given the long history of implied incompetence of defence procurement globally, I suppose this is an easy target.

While I was immediately drawn to the story with a pejorative attitude towards the procurement when I reflected I wonder if MOD procurement are being fairly criticised.

I do think there are serious flaws if, as is implied, a performance specification wasn't used which would have ensured that Lockheed carry the risk of ensuring vertical take off capability, and that the jets have to open bomb bay doors to compensate for overheating. I think some steps should have been taken to protect against the falling exchange rate, which it is thought will have added over an addition £1Billion. I think it was a mistake not to include the cost of spares from suppliers who could perhaps hide other future profits, after all the MOD will be held hostage to the supplier for the life of the jets. Then there's the decision not to buy a Battlefield Airborne Communication Node (BACN) which will enable secure undetectable communications - let's face it once the enemy knows your position the jet could potentially be up in smoke.

Having said all that, it does strike me that some criticism levelled may not be reasonable.  For example, assuming that there should have been a blank cheque to upgrade the wider MODs protection against cyber attack - you have to have a blueprint with a strategy of getting there but it would be unreasonable to criticise this specific procurement for that strategy.

Yesterday's 'reveal' may only be the first instalment of evidence of a procurement debacle and perhaps the worst is yet to come.   A quick glance at today's diverts attention to the other old favourite, HS2.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting article, personally I think it is unfair to criticise the MOD for some of these "hidden costs". Obviously, we might not know the full reasoning behind why these extras weren't initially included in the deal or taken into account of the cost.

    If this is a case of the MOD having a lack of foresight then we might be right to criticise, but as you pointed this smacks of The Times attempting to reopen the MOD's previous blunders.