"One of the incompetent procurements of all time."


The UK National Audit Office released a report on the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) effort that, according to London Times, "has spent more than £500 million (so far) on eight Chinook helicopters that have never been flown" since the MoD accepted them from Boeing. For the past seven years, the MoD has been trying to make the Chinooks airworthy.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee described the situation as of â''one of the most incompetent procurements of all time."

The Mk3 Chinooks were ordered from Boeing in 1995 at a cost of £259 million for special forces operations and were delivered to the MoD in 2001

As described in the Times story, "The major difficulty with the purchase arose when the MoD discovered that it had neglected to include in the contract a clause that would provide access to the source codes for the highly complex software. Without them, RAF specialists were unable to check whether the adapted helicopters passed Britainâ''s strict airworthiness criteria."

"Boeing was reluctant to hand over the codes since no request had been made for them in drawing up the contract. So the RAF said that the Chinooks could not be flown except in the most clement weather. The sky had to be cloudless and the pilots would have to operate from at least 500ft so that they could navigate by landmarks.'

Kind of makes the helicopters pretty useless for special forces work, one might conclude.

To overcome the problems, in 2004 the MoD decided to have Boeing upgrade the avionics software at a cost of £215 million, but that effort was canceled in 2006 because of the desperate need for Chinooks to support British troops in Afghanistan. However, the cancellation cost the MoD some £90 million in termination fees, almost double the £53 million it originally thought.

So the Chinooks are now being downgraded in capability to become vanilla troop-carrying utility helicopters at additional cost.

â''The MoDâ''s programme to make airworthy the eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters . . . has been a gold-standard cockup," Edward Leigh added.

What is it with 1960 era helicopters and avionic software improvement programs?


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City