How the MoD Wastes Billions

An interesting and pretty hard hitting programme, as soon as we start talking about service personnel bleeding to death in a minefield because of a lack of medium helicopter lift or being killed when their Nimrod MR2 crashes because of a fire onboard it immediately hits home that the subject we like discussing is serious stuff.

For this reason I want to try and do justice to what was a well intentioned documentary so will briefly go through it now and perhaps follow up some of the points in later posts.

The first blow was a pretty low one, a bit of class envy and a contribution from Patrick Mercer who would have well taken advantage of the same married quarters as being portrayed. The point about being top heavy is well made, its a point we have made before but in comparing the Army with the USMC the programme makes its first blunder.

The USMC is of course part of the US Navy and falls within its larger command structure, size is almost irrelevant in this instance because the USMC does not have the breadth responsibilities that the Army has. It would have been much better to look into the real facts about rank inflation rather than making inappropriate comparisons. We are not alone in suffering rank inflation, I will try and compare the France and the US in a future post and bring the issue up to date.

Helicopters for the Chiefs is a pretty shocking but the point about the married quarters brimming with servants is way off the mark, these are often used for official functions including medal ceremonies and entertaining foreign diplomats or military personnel, all part of the defence diplomacy activity.

Listing the cost of private school tuition is another pretty low blow because while the narration says ‘all service personnel’ it is narrated over a clip of people quaffing champagne to the sound of violins. Just to make the point, all service personnel can benefit from this but also have to make a contribution.

Kevan Jones talks about Abbey Wood having a railway station, Bristol Parkway, next door, like he used it every time he visited, but I thought it was Filton Abbey Wood.

In the round though, yes we need to address rank inflation but this is small beer.

We then move on to weapon systems with an introduction from Douglas Carswell.

First up is the Nimrod, to support the narrative about BAe being useless it selectively quotes from the Haddon-Cave enquiry but fails to point out that the words were directed at the MoD, QinetiQ AND BAe. This is selective quoting at best and at worse, would seem to be misleading and unfair. The whole issue of wings not fitting is covered but also fails to mention the role of the MoD or indeed Boeing in the whole MRA4 debacle.

Then it makes a bold assertion that in a recent report major MoD procurement projects run on average 40% over budget and 80% late, listing the poster child of the overun, the Astute and Type 45. Not sure what report that would be because the last Major Equipment Review from the National Audit office paints a different picture, an 8% increase in cost for example. The film states that all the projects that hove gone over by a billion pounds are BAe ones, without delving too deeply into this claim there are plenty of other non BAe projects that go over by proportional amounts, or more.

Douglas Carswell then goes on to make the ‘protectionist racket’ claim which is again, unfair. The Defence Industrial Strategy is a complex issue and just throwing the UK industry to the dogma of free market thinking whilst conveniently forgetting the very real issues of sovereign capability, returns to the taxpayer and the issue of overseas manufacturers enjoying the same so called protectionism that UK manufacturers do.

The reality is that the UK has one of the most open defence markets in the world is not for one second entertained, go and look at a French, German, Italian, Swedish, US, Russian or Chinese soldier and see what equipment they are using, or more importantly where it is obtained from. The defence market is becoming increasingly international anyway. Buying off the shelf just means you become the victim of an overseas monopoly protectionist industry. In fairness to the programme makers, a range of views on this were shown.

The SA80 gets a mention but credibility takes a bit of a nosedive when it says that if it is good enough for the SAS it is good enough for most soldiers, there are completely different issues at stake with a general service rifle and one used in niche roles and very small quantities. As for the shiny pop studs on issue body armour being visible to infra red sensors, have a look at any night image from the MoD web site and you will IR patches to do exactly that.

The revolving door issue between the MoD and industry is highlighted, making comparisons with other departments. I tend to agree that this needs seriously looking at but if you have been a soldier for 30 odd years and someone offers you a job that uses your accumulated skill and experience to carry on paying your mortgage its hard to refuse.

Quite rightly the short term saving versus long term cost increase issue and inter service rivalry comes in for serious criticism.

The final act looks at helicopters and particular re-supply. As we have seen, these have become the focus for the shortcomings of the MoD but it would be fair to say at this point that helicopters are not the only equipment that is needed for resupply, our focus on logistics in recent posts, everything from vehicles to containers to asset tracking software shows the issue is a bit more complex than just helicopters.

Future Lynx, the answer to a question that no one knows, is held up as a prime example of how the MoD gets things wrong. This gets interesting when the issue of Future Lynx, its non competitive contract, how generally poor it will be in the battlefield utility role, Sir Kevin Tebitt and revolving doors. We have covered this issue many many times and in general I agree that the Army Wildcat might be just about OK for a limited set of recce and light utility roles, medium lift it aint.

Comparing Wildcat and Blackhawk is like comparing a Transit van and Focus, the Puma would be a more appropriate comparison but then in what I think is the most incredible part of the programme, Sir Richard Dannatt continues to show why inter service rivalry is so pernicious. The Army has always seemed OK with the RAF/RN flying Puma, Merlin and Sea King so why not Blackhawk.

Frankly, if the issues highlighted in this section, that inter service politics dictated the Wildcat purchase ahead of something more appropriate like Blackhawk or NH90 then the service chiefs should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I think things are a bit more complex than that but seriously, my gob was hanging loose when this particular section was aired.

The report mentions a £44bn budget and £17bn on equipment, is this right, I thought it was £37bn and £9bn.

Sorry if this post seems rushed, been rewinding and fast forwarding through the programme.

In general, it was a reasonable programme and made some good points, despite being  poor in places, one sided, innacurate and spectacularly missing the point in others. Perhaps it was too wide in its remit, distilling the issue in a balanced way in less than 60 minutes was always going to be tough and this lack of focus showed.

However, if it gets people talking then its a good thing.

The report ends with the words

Chronic waste and inefficiency is no longer an option

For all the issues we might take with the aim and accuracy I think we can all agree with this.

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-58/episode-2″]
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13th spitfire
September 21, 2010 12:23 am

Hmpf, I always loved the SA80 – at 5kg a pop it might be the heaviest NATO weapon but it sure as hell is the most accurate, in my opinion.

DominicJ
September 21, 2010 7:39 am

£44bn includes the Afghanistan Special Reserve funding.
“Equipment” could mean anything, from additional unit costs to research, development, spares, fuel and servicing.

Jim30
Jim30
September 21, 2010 8:25 am

As am in theatre, didnt see programme, but sounds like it hit my low expectations for it. The retinues attack is a cheap blow = these people are often having to change into multiple uniforms daily, and host official dinners in the evening. In the private sector business chiefs could take people out for dinner and claim it on expenses, or get a private chef in. Service chiefs have no such option.

If we’re paying someone 150K per year to run the armed forces, I’d rather he ran the armed forces and not worry about whether his onion soup is good enough for the French CGS!

As for the helicopter useage – below is what I wrote on ARRSE about this issue.

My understanding is that from what I’ve seen seniors (ie 3* and above) have call on a small number of VIP transport helos under certain circumstances. Firstly this is to get them where they need to be in a hurry, often in a crisis or the like. Secondly take a look at the daily diary of a 4* officer – most of them are expected to work for stupidly long hours, often having to travel across the country to get to different events/meetings/briefings.

Most of the time they’ll use staff cars, or often stay overnight at their location. Sometimes they need to jump between meetings with Ministers and long planned events and also handle an emerging crisis – at this point being stuck on the M25 in traffic isn’t an option – particularly if the crisis needs someone to make a decision urgently. I can fully understand why there is an ability held to move very senior officers about between widely seperated locations – it means they spend more time working and less time stuck in traffic. It also means that they can run programmes to enable them to get out and meet the troops, and still have time to handle the affairs of state.

Contrary to what public perception is, 4*s and their offices are seriously busy people, in very early and out very late. Their programmes are micromanaged, often down to the minute, and knock on delays in travel or a meeting can impact dozens, if not hundreds of other people. In those circumstances, it makes perfect sense to have access to helo transport when required.

You won’t see daily use of helos, and you definitely don’t see each service chief having his own private ride. However it makes emminent sense to ensure that very busy people can get to and from locations, often all over the country, in the same day if required. We’re paying them to work, and not sit in traffic jams.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 21, 2010 9:09 am

13th Spitfire, re: SA80, me too, but as you say not the lightest of weapons.

However, given the opportunity to pick up and play with other assault rifles does give you food for thought. Once you’ve handled a HK 53 or a CAR-15 you do feel your fondness for the SA80 start to wane somewhat.

One of the points I picked up was the cancelling of the ‘popstar’ budget to transport senior offices around the country in helicopters. The comparison being drawn with the lack of helicopters ‘in theatre’. I believe the figure mentioned was £2.5million, what the programme didn’t say was what happened to the money afterwards.

The problem I found with the programme was that its all well and good to cut funding where inefficiency, waste or lavish expense is concerned, but nothing was said as to where this money went or whether it went back into the pot to be ‘wasted’ elsewhere. Was the cancelled ‘popstar’ budget put into the helicopter procurement or support budget? My gut feeling is probably not.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 21, 2010 9:22 am

As an aside, I can remember watching some horse racing event on the TV a few years ago, I think it was Ascot. As the camera panned down the line of helicopters for the VIP’s I distinctly remember seeming a camouflaged Gazelle complete with flotation kit. My reckoning being it belonged to the then 3 Cdo Brigade Air Squadron. Using a military cab for a freebie to Ascot sounds like a misuse of military kit.

Jim30, good point about the 4*’s, but the programme did highlight our super-top heavy rank structure. Do we need that many generals, Admirals and Air Marshalls when our forces seem to shrink year on year? Let the Staff Officers keep their homes and retinues, just get rid of all the surplus Generals etc.

x
x
September 21, 2010 12:08 pm

13th spitfire said “Hmpf, I always loved the SA80 – at 5kg a pop it might be the heaviest NATO weapon but it sure as hell is the most accurate, in my opinion.”

What I never understood is why something made out such crap metal and plastic ended up on the heavy side. (Though me being 6 foot and 15st I didn’t really find it that heavy.)

I have less fond memories of the two occasions I carried an SA80. If I field stripped the things once I did half dozen times. I am awkward and it was a pain.

Though it is accurate the main role of the modern infantry weapon is suppressive fire. I think it was that long trigger linkage that was the reason for the accuracy which is counter-intuitive. But I think it is the trigger. Though I have never shot one myself I have seen LSW shot with quite amazing accuracy.

Still think SA89 is crap. Please Dr Fox can we have HK416?

x
x
September 21, 2010 12:17 pm

Richard Stockley said “Once you’ve handled a HK 53 or a CAR-15 you do feel your fondness for the SA80 start to wane somewhat.”

Way back in the early 90s we sent some cadets down to Lympstone. We had a particular keen and resourceful ex-RM instructor at the time who had managed to talk the ACF into letting the section train with L98 and have use of an SA80 for the gas parts.

Off the baby Royals, freshly trained on the British long arm, went to Jenna country. While on the range they all got a go with an M16. After that they weren’t to fond of the L98. Considering that a few of those kids were still in the county regiment when it was Iraq I hope that that their SA80s didn’t let them down to often.

c
c
September 21, 2010 2:03 pm

I’ve been under the impression that the MOD have been willing to buy small arms off the shelf over the last few years in order to meet requirments. Sharpshooter comes to mind as does the new sniper rifle, and whilst the SA80 certainly isn’t a vintage piece of design I wouldn’t replace it with an M16, which the yanks have been trying to get rid of for years. Weight whilst being understandably a bad thing when it comes to mobility helps reduce recoil increasing the accuraccy of sustained fire. Small arms design is as in all things a trade-off between different requirements.

Phil Darley
September 21, 2010 3:07 pm

It isn’t the weight that is the main problem with the SA80, it’s the design and ergonomic layout.

Having to twist the rifle and reach over (crossing hands) to cock the rifle.

Crossbolt safety catch that results in user having to take finger off trigger to apply

Unable to fire left handed or around right hand corners

Bastard to strip down

Not venting cartridge gases away from working parts like G36/HK416 that makes fouling much worse.

Plus numerous other niggles that make it a poor rifle.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 21, 2010 3:17 pm

C, admittedly the M16 and its variants aren’t perfect. But given a selection of weapons alongside the SA80, if your average squaddie had to choose and pay for his own rifle (as they do with plenty of other kit), I’m sure there’d be plenty of SA80’s left on the shelf.

Stimpy
Stimpy
September 21, 2010 4:08 pm

Admin, are you serious in your analysis? The program may have over-simplified, but as a journo myself (not in defense) I know it’s hard to get very detailed arguments into a 50 minute slot. Essentially, the show was pretty fair, and it was refreshing to hear a prime time TV investigation cut out the normal MOD puffery and spin.

We may not like facing up to this, but the UK has some serious defence shortcomings. Painfully serious. Not just in procurement, but across the board in leadership, vision, strategy and training.

And because of it, people have died needlessly, and we have effectively ended up losing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The late, great Alan Clark described the inadequate UK defence industry as “paying people to make buckets with holes in them”, and it’s been like that for decades. Einstein said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – yet we keep on tolerating an incompetent defense establishment whilst moaning that we can’t get the effects that we need from it.

Unless we radically reorganise the MOD and procurement to boot, we can’t expect quality, value, capability or accountability, and we’ll keep getting national disgraces like Shackleton AEW, Nimrod or SA80. Taxpayers and service men and women deserve better.

13th spitfire
September 21, 2010 4:09 pm

For what it is and was, I do like the SA80. But as so many have remarked it has a load of problems that should have been taken into account when it was designed. Do also recall that they went for the cheap when they went for the SA80 back in the day. Overall it is a good rifle and sturdy as ****.

x, I never thought the SA80 was too bad to field strip, obviously it was always made worse by the cold, and you always had to it when it was cold and wet. Never when there was sunshine and dryness.

I imagine everyone has heard stories about the SA80 but one of my favourites must be the one with the gurkhas and some new recruit squaddies (not sure it is true). The latter where on exercise and the chaps on stag were naturally crap so they never saw them coming. The gurkhas field stripped all the weapons in darkness and removed the firing pins and them assembled the weapons again. Next day the squaddies were attacked by the gurkhas, who, of course, raped them.

paul g
September 21, 2010 5:59 pm

just watched it 40% interesting 60% pish and that’s not including airtime for page!!
The blackhawk saga was drawn out and blown up for good broadcasting ie sensentional.
Really can’t be bothered disecting it totally as it might mistaken for willy waving if i agree with dannet about battlefield helos should be army, and it was arse trying to say it was his fault that because of this we didn’t get blackhawk. Good to see the naming and shaming of certain people, however anyone who understands defence will know they went for big headlines 5/10 for effort!!

x
x
September 21, 2010 7:46 pm

@ 13th spitfire

No like I said I am awkward that is what made stripping the SA80 a pain. The SA80 isn’t hard to strip after all the SA80 is basically a bull pupped AR15.

Even if a design is cheap to build it doesn’t mean the design should be intrinsically poor. Somebody has already mentioned the fact that the rifle (the IW!) isn’t ambidextrous. Now you think when that design was signed off where was the British Army spending most of its time on active duty? Ulster. So day-after-day Tom when in Londonderry or Belfast was going out into a potential FIBUA situation with a far from ideal weapon. (Would you want to patrol down the righthand side of the street?) Out in the country or indeed over in Germany jumping in out of 4tonners/FV432 I am sure (know) the design had a lot going for it. Further the omission would be more forgiveable if SA80 was a pioneer. But it wasn’t! The French had been issuing the excellent FAMAS for nearly a decade before hand.

The bayonet and SUSAT are wonderful so it isn’t a total loss.

x
x
September 21, 2010 7:54 pm

c said “Weight whilst being understandably a bad thing when it comes to mobility helps reduce recoil increasing the accuraccy of sustained fire.”

American Army DI used to demonstrate the low recoil of the M16 by firing the weapon with its butt pushed into the crutch.

Modern rifles have MOA better than the shooter anyway…..

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
September 21, 2010 8:19 pm

X

That would be a bull-pupped *AR18* :-)

R

x
x
September 21, 2010 8:36 pm

Yes I think you are right!!! Sorry.

But I think you appreciate that what I was saying was that the design was not fresh.

IXION
IXION
September 21, 2010 9:13 pm

I watched the ch 4. Can I “Come out” as not having any service history just a hobbiest millitary historian. By profession I am a Lawyer (boo hiss). However it does teach you a number of skills,

One of which is on each side of my head are 2 highly tuned bullshit detectors. They did go to conditon red when those defending the status quo were speaking

From a lay point of view the programme made a number of points, it was guilty of oversimplfication, but as said, it only had 50 minutes.

The SA 80 has been universally slagged off, in every report I have ever read; no one bought any ever, it has been subject to hugely expensive rebuild (in fact arguably 2) when it could have been replaced for much less.

Th Lynx Wildcat a classic answer to question no one asked. The programe hinted at that. I don’t know about the much more qualified than I contributors to this site; but I have close contact with a number of infantry both NCO and officers who have served in Afganistan. If I may paraphrase they wake up at night screaming Blackhawks gimmi gimmi I want one of those!

It may have selectivly quoted, but it remains a fact the whole Nimrod rebuild plan was an expensive mess. I challange anyone to convince me it was a good idea to try and rebuild an aircraft that is older than I am.

Imagine how much we could have saved in cash if we had done what the Isrealis did and bought F16 as Portillo wanted. Remember Euro fighter was not just a few years late, (It only became Eurofighter 2000 when it had been a decade late).

I Notice no one seems to be taking issue with the conspracy of optimism part.

Can someone explain to me why 1 star generals and the like are involved in lots of “Diplomacy” when the should be running units.

Can I ask another question, we may have dealt with the £5 million Blackhawk. However just what wrong with New Mil 171-V7 at say £4mil? Bearing in mind one of the few western pilots to fly both, rated the original Mil 8 as equal to or superior to the Sea king (in the late 60’s that is).

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 21, 2010 10:40 pm

Ixion,

However just what wrong with New Mil 171-V7 at say £4mil?

There’s nothing wrong with the Mi-171-V7, apart from the fact that it isn’t made in the UK. The UK actually bought and operated a small number of the earlier model Mi-17’s, I’m sure it was at Boscombe Down, to train Afghan pilots. When the project finished sometime last year they handed the aircraft over to the Afghans. Quite a few former eastern block countries, now NATO members, still operate it. So there is very little to stop us. In another thread to previous post I advocated doing just that, but in addition buying Mi-24D/E’s and Su-25 Frogfoot’s for use in Afghanistan and leaving the whole lot over there when we pulled out, handing them over to the Afghans.

Sorry, there is something stopping us, politics, manufacturer lobbying and armed forces snobbery.

X,

“Somebody has already mentioned the fact that the rifle (the IW!) isn’t ambidextrous.”

The original IW was designed in both left and right hand models.

paul g
September 21, 2010 11:02 pm

blackhawk blackhawk blackhawk, remember last year when all the papers were screaming chinook chinook chinook, it is the saviour so much so the knee jerk reaction was to place an order for 22. let’s try shouting medium transport helicopter x3 (not typing that 3 times)!
As with everything else in the real world get quotes for x different types and trial ’em.
Thank god for the people on this site who actually do comparisons, lets hope people in the MOD do read this
BTW someone ARRSE summed it up nicely
lewis page=throbber! nice one

IanB
IanB
September 21, 2010 11:32 pm

To be really honest its not how much money they waste as long as we get something at the end, what REALLY p***es me off is the billions spent and the project is cancelled ie SP70,Horizon or we pull out TRIGAT,BOXER or even worse they are sticken from service before they actually enter service ie Upholder Class.

x
x
September 21, 2010 11:49 pm

Richard said “The original IW was designed in both left and right hand models.”

Yes I know. Thank you. That there are prototypes of better weapons sitting in pattern rooms doesn’t fill me with much comfort…. :)

x
x
September 21, 2010 11:53 pm

paul g says “lewis page=throbber! ”

I do feel very ashamed if I find myself referring to Page. Some of his what he says about the navy is bonkers.

Um. But I will confess I did sort of quote him use something he said on a paper I wrote about threat of WMD vs SALW proliferation. I only got a 2.1 for that paper; I blame Page.

IXION
IXION
September 22, 2010 12:18 am

Richard Stockley

Thank you. someone agrees with me!

Kit snobbery seems rampant.

One ex met officer and former Tanker, I know laughs about how whenever the SAS anti terror unit got a new piece of kit, Scotland Yard’s armed units just had to have it as well; eg HK assault rifles.

Same guy once cross questioned firearms instructor on what exactly was wrong with AK47 series rifles. Besides a certain lack of accuracy. The instructor just kept muttering “terrible terrible weapon”, but would not actually say why. Inf Officer of my aquantance, says “heavy inacurate but otherwise brillant”, and he has been shot at,with them, by people that meant it. But I am sure others equally experienced would disagree. Forget £350 US assault rifles, you can buy AK’s for the price of a good bottle of Malt! In 5.56 as well.

Interrestingly even Arrse speaks foundly of the RPG 7.

Not all Russian kit is any good but what is, is available and cheap.

Some Eurocopter helicopters seem remarkably cheap EC 135 for example.

Why are we rebuilding another antiquated airframe(PUMA) when we could buy new?

IanB

Couldn’t agree more FRES was once described to me by someone involved as not a programme, its just an excuse for not actually buying anything.

x
x
September 22, 2010 12:35 am

I think you are referring to the Finnish M76 built by Valmet and the IMI Galil which both use the 5.56x45mm round and are based on the AK47.

If you wanted a proper AK47 the East German were the best. While the Chinese variants could prove to be more lethal to the firer than the target.

IXION
IXION
September 22, 2010 12:49 am

X
Apparantly the US Survivalist gun nuts think the Egyptian ones to be the best made! You can get 5.56 varients from just about anyone.

South africans use them as well. (Another source of some good cheap kit).

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 22, 2010 9:34 am

Paulg, you beat me to the three Blackhawks! Serves me right, should log on earlier/stay up later.

The point I was going to make though was, its alright shouting for Blackhawks, but very few people mention which variant. If we had the UH-60M which the US Army use, we’d have a lot trouble operating them on board ships due to their lack of automatic rotor blade and tail folding. A capability we’ve had on the Sea King for around four decades. We’ve got to be clear on which Blackhawk is required and the only one that fits the bill for us is the MH-60S. Technically this is not a Blackhawk but a Seahawk, a hybrid of the US Army’s UH-60L Blackhawk with the Navy’s SH-60 Seahawk. This would be more useful as it lends itself to amphibious operations due to its naval heritage. If the UK bought it would have to be able to operate off ships.

In this sense, the battle cry should be Seahawk Seahawk Seahawk!

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 22, 2010 10:17 am

Stimpy,

You said, “Unless we radically reorganise the MOD and procurement to boot, we can’t expect quality, value, capability or accountability.”

However, one of the departments that seems to have received little attention in all of this is the BIS, which was the DTI up until 2007. The DTI as it was wielded a huge amount of influence and did so blatantly. Why do British forces use British kit? Not because it is the always the best, but because its good for British business.

Before we reorganise the MOD, we need to reduce the power and influence of the other departments that can have a direct impact on it, and we should start with the BIS.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 22, 2010 10:25 am

On the subject of AK’s and the like, consider the virtues of the Hungarian AMD-65!

Nicholas
September 22, 2010 1:09 pm

Richard Stockley,

Thank God the message about the Blackhawk is finally getting through. I hope Westland will start building them again under license. I’d love it if someone in the MoD had the sense to go for the MH-60S Seahawk variant. But just getting this excellent beast into service would be a quantum leap in capability.

X and 13th Spitfire,

The SA80 is an appalling military weapon by any standard. It is only reliable by virtue of the fact that it now has the working parts of an H&K G36. The only way H&K could get it to cycle properly was by using lower-powered ammunition. The US Army will not fire British 5.56 mm L2A2 ammunition out of their M4s because it barely goes 200 metres.

The SA80’s saving grace is its 20″ barrel. This makes it accurate, especially when fitted with an ACOG x4 optical gun sight. The only accolade it truly deserves is that of being the wrold’s heaviest assault rifle.

During trials in 1984 in Belize comparing the SA80 to the M16A1, the US weapon was lighter, easier to shoot with and considerably more reliable. Having recently fired the HK416 and HK417, they are in a different class.

My real concern about SA80 is not so much the weapon itself, even though I intensely dislike it, but its ammunition. Half of all small arms engagements in Afghanistan are taking place at ranges above 300 metres (source: UK MoD) but the maximum effective range of 5.56 mm NATO is proving to be only 300 metres not the anticipated 500 metres. With insurgents frequently opening fire at ramose of 600 metres plus, British troops frequently cannot return fire.

The MoD has just spent millions developing a new 5.56 mm round, but it fails to address the fundamental range issue. This is madness. However, we have adopted new 7.62 mm rifles, the L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle. We presently have 440. There are 10,000 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

The German Army has recently deployed the Boxer FRES in Afghanistan. We were partners on this but pulled out, because we felt Boxer was too heavy. Now it is the only infantry combat vehicles that combines required mobility with proper IED protection. It has passed every off-road test, whereas our fleet of Mastiffs are about as agile as a brick shed. The unsuitable chassis of what is essentially an armoured truck means that a significant percentage of the fleet are off the road at Amy one time due to suspension failure.

Blackhawk, the missed opportunity. SA80, an object lesson in how not to procure a weapons system. And Boxer, a total failure to align operational needs with current technology. These programmes reflect a genuine waste of taxpayers money.

Jim30
Jim30
September 22, 2010 1:41 pm

Nicholas

While I understand your concerns on the SA80, it is important to understand that it is just one of a range of weapons in a normal infantry fire team now. IIRC the breakdown of weapons including machine guns, Sharpshooter, UGL etc means there are only about 2 ‘normal’ SA80s in a fire section. Everyone else is carrying different weapons to respond to the needs of the patrol.

The days of 7 SA80s and an LSW are gone forever in HERRICK. Its also important to note that this range of weaponry means that your statement that troops are being outranged in engagements is fundamentally untrue. There is a range of weapons available for each situation, and I’ve worked with plenty of people who are very happy with the firepower available to them on the front line as it gives them the flexibility required to deal with most situations.

Its also important to realise that the Sharpshooter was bought for a very specific purpose and not as a replacement for SA80 – and its being used by front line patrols and not most people. For the overwhelming majority of us, SA80 is more than adequate for our needs – a self defence weapon which we have confidence will work to lay down enough firepower to extract ourselves from trouble in the (hopefully) unlikely event of a contact. Most people in HERRICK arrive, put weapons into the armoury and next see them on range days, or when they go home. Very few will be patrolling outside the wire.

For the infantry and front line soldier the situation is different, and that is why their fire team loadout has changed so much in recent years.

Finally, can I ask a serious question here – how many people complaining about the SA80 are serving and have used the SA80A2? I ask this as if you look on ARRSE (a good barometer of army opinion) the opinion is clear – the SA80 as built was pants, but the SA80A2 is essentially a whole new rifle and there is a lot of genuine praise for it. I’ve used it and fired it dozens of times and never had a problem with the A2 variant.

Without wishing to sound rude, I susepct many of those criticising said rifle have never actually used the A2 variant, as I have yet to hear any serving personnel be disparaging about the SA80A2.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
September 22, 2010 1:50 pm

I would aver limited budgeting timelines and an inability to take big decisions waste lots of money. For example, what the hell is the point of only ordering 22 Merlins, rather than replacing all the Pumas and ordering say 70? Why only order 25 C130J, just order 60 and have done with it? Making the decisions and following through saves money by volume discounting and reducing types in the support chain.

It’s noticeable that most of this silly salami slicing is associated with “Euro” projects…..

R

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
September 22, 2010 1:57 pm

Nicolas

How familiar are you with the 6.5mm Grendel, 6.8mm SPC, and arguably with .280 British? Some food for thought :-)

R

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 22, 2010 2:05 pm

“The US Army will not fire British 5.56 mm L2A2 ammunition out of their M4s because it barely goes 200 metres. ”

Perhaps the most inadvertantly funny thing I’ve read for a while.

Gareth
Gareth
September 22, 2010 2:18 pm

“Then it makes a bold assertion that in a recent report major MoD procurement projects run on average 40% over budget and 80% late, listing the poster child of the overun, the Astute and Type 45. Not sure what report that would be because the last Major Equipment Review from the National Audit office paints a different picture, an 8% increase in cost for example. The film states that all the projects that hove gone over by a billion pounds are BAe ones, without delving too deeply into this claim there are plenty of other non BAe projects that go over by proportional amounts, or more.”

The Bernard Grey report the Government sat on?

“Douglas Carswell then goes on to make the ‘protectionist racket’ claim which is again, unfair. The Defence Industrial Strategy is a complex issue and just throwing the UK industry to the dogma of free market thinking whilst conveniently forgetting the very real issues of sovereign capability, returns to the taxpayer and the issue of overseas manufacturers enjoying the same so called protectionism that UK manufacturers do.”

Sovereign operational capability has been sacrificed for sovereign (and European job sharing) manufacturing capability. The issue isn’t where the stuff comes from but that some of it is substandard and costly which has reduced combat effectiveness and the money available for other stuff.

“Comparing Wildcat and Blackhawk is like comparing a Transit van and Focus, the Puma would be a more appropriate comparison but then in what I think is the most incredible part of the programme, Sir Richard Dannatt continues to show why inter service rivalry is so pernicious. The Army has always seemed OK with the RAF/RN flying Puma, Merlin and Sea King so why not Blackhawk.

Frankly, if the issues highlighted in this section, that inter service politics dictated the Wildcat purchase ahead of something more appropriate like Blackhawk or NH90 then the service chiefs should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I think things are a bit more complex than that but seriously, my gob was hanging loose when this particular section was aired.”

Didn’t see the programme. Until recently I was similarly minded to Carswell but have changed my opinion.

If you assume that the Army will always have a small chopper and will always have use for it the replacement Lynx, while seemingly expensive, doesn’t seem so bad.(Including doing jobs the Gazelle used to do in addition to what the Lynx already does?) The issue should never have become what the Lynx gets replaced with nor the Army wanting a bigger helicopter and the RAF preventing it – it is that a preventable gap in capability developed despite there being ample funding, Joint Helicopter Command, the MoD Top Brass, The Government and Parliament all supposedly having an interest in what is going on.

I would guess the people at the sharp end really don’t care who is driving the bus so long as they are there in suitable numbers when they are needed. In Afghanistan they haven’t been and it was avoidable.

Afghanistan hasn’t suddenly become hot and high. British forces have been there in some capacity since 2001. Solutions to the issue of poor chopper performance could have been addressed long before it became a serious issue not after but then, the funding would have come from the regular budget rather than plundering the Treasury Reserve wouldn’t it? Kit that is outdated or unsuitable has not been upgraded or replaced in a timely and rational fashion and at sensible prices.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
September 22, 2010 2:29 pm

If British 5.56 ammunition can be stopped by the proverbial wet blanket at 200 metres when fired from an M4, we have some seriously slow burning propellant. Rule of thumb for high accuracy is that the all burnt point should be reached when the bullet is 2/3rds the way down the barrel. I know the SA80 has a 20 inch barrel rather than the M4’s 14 inch one, but that doesn’t quite pass the smell test: the drop in muzzle velocity is unlikely to be that large

Nicholas
September 22, 2010 2:47 pm

Jim30,

You make a good point about the range of section weapons now available. We generally deploy 2x Minimis, 2x L85A2s, 2x L85A2s with UGL and 2 x 7.62 mm weapons (GPMGs, L129A1s and L96s) in an eight man section. So still sectionforepower is predominantly 5.56 mm biased.

In an age of ‘Shock and Awe’ warfare, any debate about small arms was considered redundant – until of course the thorny issue of collateral damage and civilian casualtiees became a primary concern in asymmetric campaigns. We need to neutralise insurgents with surgical precision. That’s what small arms do very well.

The other point about section firepower is to avoid waste. We are using an incredible number of Javelin anti-tank missiles to take out single insurgents in situations where SA80 doesn’t have the reach. Javelins cost well north of £75,000 a throw. Now, I’m not saying troops shouldn’t use Javelin, but a better general purpose assault rifle with increased range – enabling the entire section to engage a target at 600 metres (a capability we used to enjoy when we had 7.62 mm weapons throughout the section) would certainly help.

With the latest optical combat gunsights, individual standards of marksmanship have gone up dramatically. Suddenly, ordinary soldiers can shoot further and more accurately than ever before. So their small arms need to match their abilities. At present, they do not.

Is SA80 acceptable? Of course, I know the L85A2 well. It is reliable and as accurate as it should have been from day one. But what few British soldiers have experience of is other equivalent weapons being produced by the likes of H&K, FN and IMI. We were the last Army to issue a standard automatic rifle after WW2. Now it looks like SA80 will have to soldier on long after every other NATO ally has replaced its small arms.

Rupert,

The Remington 6.8 mm SPC has much better terminal effectiveness than 5.56 mm, but still suffers from lack of effective range issues. The 6.5 mm Grendel is still not much more than a hunting round and needs to be fired out of a 24″ barrel before it matches 7.62 mm at 1,000 metres – nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction. With further development, the 6.5 mm Grendel could become an excellent military calibre. The UK’s .280 / 7 mm Mk 1Z ammunition developed for the abortive EM2 rifle was briefly accepted for service back in 1951. It was the ideal military calibre then. It is the ideal miliary calibre now. If I were Minister of Defence, I would have no hesitation in reissuing it immediately to replace all 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm weapons. I would use it in modiefied H&K HK 417 rifles and MG121 machine guns. Job done.

Jim30
Jim30
September 22, 2010 2:52 pm

“I would aver limited budgeting timelines and an inability to take big decisions waste lots of money. For example, what the hell is the point of only ordering 22 Merlins, rather than replacing all the Pumas and ordering say 70? Why only order 25 C130J, just order 60 and have done with it? Making the decisions and following through saves money by volume discounting and reducing types in the support chain.”

22 Merlins and 25 C130s were ordered in the mid 1990s due to a bit of a kerfuffle by the last Tory Government. Essentially it boiled down to three main problems – lack of money, need to buy new kit and need to retain sovereign capability.

The end result was a buggers muddle in which we bought Merlin and Chinook, 25 C130s but also ordered 25 A400M (good for the European credentials) and didnt standardise. This was another case where Government politics took precedence over the needs of troops.

IXION
IXION
September 22, 2010 3:09 pm

Rupert Fiennes

Not necessarily slow burning just less of it. The UK 5.56 was reduced in power because the SA80 just could not take the strain of normal ammo, that is well attested, by users.

The 6.5 Grendal has many champions, an the science and such test evidence as there is seem to show that it largly “does what it says on the tin”.

However can we get back to the central Contentions of the programme, which were

: –

1)That we are buying expensive buckets with holes in. Because they are British made expensive buckets with holes in rather than cheap (or even quite expensive), forign ones Without holes.

2) The powers that be seem to fail to understand that, and buy expensive buckets etc etc and then spend millions more on programmes to patch said Buckets in a rolling 10 year programme, to have all buckets in that batch patched, just in time to buy their replacements. It Is actualy madness in the private sector they would all be fired.

3) They realy seem to be determined that unless it is britsh made tat or otherwise, then our troops will go without.

To be fair that does seem to be born out by the available facts.

On the great carrier controversy, some people in the industry have claimed that if we had gone the,

“Get the hulls and basic prime movers built and afloat in poland or S Korea and then get them fitted out at Harland and wolf we could have had them at £1 billion each!

Someone else has done the comparison with the what would have happened if we had bought F16’s

BTW The soverign capability lot should consider the fact that the chips used in just about everything made in US are made in china, and in fact USG now very worried in case crafty Chinese Have built in some form or electronic sabotage.

As my wife observed having watched the programme with me, “the MOD would appear that if it wanted a hoover, it would contact Dyson (British company) for their most expendive delicate wiz bang hoover, and then test them for years, and then order the flashest one at £300 a pop

In the rest of the universe anyone who actauly works as a cleaner and has a heavy duty cleaning job to do, buys a Henry for £100.

Helicoters trucks with wings, there are about shift stuff.
Carriers just that should be big cheap hulls with planes on
If the Sa80 is just self protection weapon why did we spend a grand on ech one when the best AK series are available for £150.
Why did we buy the MAN over the Iveco,

I could go on and on in the same vein.

No one in the Uk defence procurement industry seems to be able to say anything other than:-

“British jobs,
Soverign capability,
We will do better next time”

That is Bullsh**.

Sorry for the length of this post

Marc
Marc
September 22, 2010 3:12 pm

Guys on the ground need more helo’s and a more capable force to fly them. Bin the RAF helo crew’s and let the army fly them. Sortie rates would increase. The RAF just don’t have the right atitude.

paul g
September 22, 2010 3:58 pm

hmm think my point was missed earlier, to be honest i’m not interested in blackhawk as pointed out you need a specific variant and you’ve more chance of platting snot than getting it for the mythical £8 million.
Plus the US buys in big numbers it’s seen a lot doesn’t make it the best it’s a 25+year old design, i really can’t see nicholas’s point about getting a licence to build it. The better options are AW 149 or realistically,NH-90 it’s been in service, had it’s problems surface and sorted. it uses the same engines as 2 of our helos, therefore your spares, trained engineers and the tech pubs that go with it are already in place, plus no faffing with a licence as already in place which also means the jigs are at yeovil, so quicker in service date
This unglamourous side is the bit that takes up a lot of the money and time.
By the way SA80 A2 used it, taught it. good weapon, had a press in the early days and people who don’t use just latch on to those headlines.
I’m annoyed as that programme has highlighted a couple of good points and then overshadowed them with jazzed sensationalism to get ratings.
case in point ixion, if you didn’t buy the “super dyson” and someone died using the henry, pound to a pinch of sh1t the mod would be lambasted for buying on the cheap. oh and iveco didn’t exactally shine with the panther now did they?

x
x
September 22, 2010 4:37 pm

@ Richard Stockley

I have been good boy and have not only mentioned BlackHawks here but SeaHawks and JayHawks.

@ Nicholas

Yes the following of “British” ammunition is quite pronounced. Over the years I think the build up of residue and the poor porting on the SA80 have compounded reliability problems.

And I am aware of the ranges at which contacts are occurring in Afghanistan. I don’t by nature a “one size fits all” approach to solving problems therefore the idea that 5.56mm can answer all problems in the field doesn’t fly with me. Scenarios shift. I think 6.8mm Remington is a good compromise. Or do you think we should just go back to 7.62x51mm round?

As for Boxer, well making anything “air portable” is again something that doesn’t sit easily with me. If it can be achieved OK, but it shouldn’t be a driver. Well only if the RAF had a fleet of 20 or 30 C17s. “Air portable” seems to be one of those things “they” trot out rather like ships being able to land Chinooks or being able to “deliver SF.”

As for Boxer being the only “IED proof” 8×8 I think you need to look at this,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazar_BVT

Does this tick the boxes for you? :)

And I am very jealous that you have shot a HK416. Are they truly wonderful or just sublime?

x
x
September 22, 2010 4:38 pm

I said following I should have typed fouling.

Sorry admin.

IXION
IXION
September 22, 2010 5:07 pm

paul G

And what do we hoover with for 5 years whilst waiting forthe super dyson when the MOD Buy 100 of them, And troops are told “sorry I know you would like a hoover but we only have 100 in total and 50 in theatre and theyt are deployed elswhere on more urgent tasks.

When they could have bought 300 Henrys. troops would at least have something. (On a more practical note for Hoover read helicopter).

Iveco Panther Bad example. Came out of one of those ridiculousley long and expensive selection trials.

In fact having done the superdooper selection process they then picked a piece of cr*p.

paul g
September 22, 2010 5:48 pm

mate i don’t want to sound like a walt, however i was in military aviation (rotary) for a long time and believe me you would not had got the blackhawk overnight. I’m not saying the right decisions were made however, we only ramped up in the sandpit in 2006, helicopter shortages only really came to light after that, you do have a valid point about MOD purchases being half cock at the best of times but this “should’ve bought blackhawk when we offered it” is pure media spin.
don’t forget when GB went for bonus points and publicity by grandly announcing 22 new chinooks last year the in service date was 2015 due to a bloody big queue! Yeah possibily we could’ve got 60 blackhawks couple of years ago but realistically they would’ve taken a while to get into theatre so i’d drop your 5 years to 2 at the best as a footnote when i left a well known army aviation unit in 96 we had just chosen apache, westlands came and told us we’d be operational in 98/99 with it, just coming in as left in 2005!!!

Jasons
Jasons
September 22, 2010 6:20 pm

“The issue should never have become what the Lynx gets replaced with nor the Army wanting a bigger helicopter and the RAF preventing it – it is that a preventable gap in capability developed despite there being ample funding, Joint Helicopter Command, the MoD Top Brass, The Government and Parliament all supposedly having an interest in what is going on.”

This squabbling over ownership occurred despite the existence of JFH. So should we now bin JFH ? or go further/deeper in “Jointness”.

Jasons
Jasons
September 22, 2010 6:21 pm

for JFH please read JHC , I meant Joint Helicopter Command ! (my bad)

IXION
IXION
September 22, 2010 8:09 pm

PAUL G

I am not saying we should or could have bought Blackhawk 5 or even 10 years ago, we should have bought it when it was put into service in the early 80’s. Folding rota’s or not. The lynx hasn’t become magically smaller overnight it and the Gazelle always were to small for a meaningful transport role.

We could have bought Mil 171 (ok not latest version) 10 years ago pretty much off the shelf.

Again we could have bought Apachie much much quicker if we had bought it straight from yanks much cheaper, MOD Insited on having it built in devon that did the damage there (and more that doubled the cost).

x
x
September 22, 2010 9:37 pm

I have just spotted something in the article. A small point but the USMC IS NOT PART OF THE USN, it is a separate service which comes under the US Department of the Navy. I am sorry to have to resort to Wikipedia but,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DON-org-sec.png

paul g
September 22, 2010 9:58 pm

well actually as explained on different threads building it in the uk was not the problem (it was actually assembled, not built) the problem was putting rolls royce engines in which involved changing the air frame, also insisting on the d version instead of a mix of a and d types pushed up the price. however if you look at photos of uk apaches in the sandpit they are carrying the mast mounted radar US apaches aren’t as they haven’t got the power to lift so really we were ahead for a while.
no requirement for blackhawk in the 80’s remember no iraq/afghanistan just the rolling plains of germany mil 17’s? well i’ve never understood the reluctance to look east for equipment but even as late as 2000 there was no chance at all of buying anything from the east. lynx mk 7/9 do actually carry more and the wildcat has shrunk internal cabin size, gazelles have seats for 3 in the back so 1 pilot + 4 or 2xpilot 3 pax.(top fun trying to lift with 5 pax in)!!
However fella we are in danger of going off thread here instead of looking at should/could’ve been done, it’s a case of how can we sort it ASAP. if you look at the westland website you will see they can already build NH-90 (very good medium aircraft IMO better than b’hawk) and also chinook so the words birds, two and stone spring to mind cancel army wildcat fire up the NH-90 jigs with the money and use the £300 million from cancelling the incredibily useless puma upgrade. While they are being built bang some heads in main building so pilots are ready to climb in when the cabs are ready.
by the way i’m not shouting this out i enjoy the cut and thrust on here although i do keep quiet about boats/ships as there some bloody clever blokes on here regarding the senior service!!!

Alan
Alan
September 22, 2010 9:59 pm

Please forgive my ignorance (I am nought but an interested civvie) but I don’t understnad interservice rivalry.
If both the Army and the RAF want to operate (for sake of argument) an MH60 variant and can use the same variant for what they want, why can they not simply operate the same machines?
Both Navy and Army operate variants of Lynx (admittedly there are differences) and both Navy and RAF operate Merlin (again with differnces.)

If I am wrong in my assumption or out of line I appologize, but I don’t understand the apparent bickering.

paul g
September 22, 2010 10:05 pm

power, funding, power, manning, power, willy waving, have i mentioned power?

x
x
September 22, 2010 11:05 pm

Alan said “If I am wrong in my assumption or out of line I appologize, but I don’t understand the apparent bickering.”

Either in this thread or the one on the C4 prog’ ThinkDefence said that surely all the armed forces are working towards a common objective. And I countered that armed forces are like any other organisation in that they have their own objectives, their own structures (both formal and informal) etc. The armed forces are made up of people after all.

On another forum when the BlackHawk weight limit got mentioned I did ask if anybody knew where it was written down officially that the Army could only fly helicopters of a certain size. But nobody knew or had the faintest idea where to look. Alan you are right that it is pathetic.

As for willy waving, well Royal Navy willies are so large they can’t be waved. :)

IXION
IXION
September 22, 2010 11:39 pm

PAUL G

I actually think we are shouting from a pretty similar hymn sheet.

Your point about NH9o well made, I have no problem about buying westland or british in general, but it does appear to the layman that the Procurement process for a lot kit of all the services, is so bad as to be insane.

I have seen and heard “experts” pro the status quo, become increasingly shrill as questioners refuse to be deferential, before falling back on the soverign capability argument. It does not excuse incompetence, on a massive scale, and some criminal wastes of funds, like the

Panther,
RB44,
SA 80 (yes I know it works now 25 years after it was intorduced at a stupid cost).
50mm morter

I repeat the point about microchips. They are in everything and and they are not made in the uk.

Jed
Jed
September 23, 2010 2:09 am

Ref Ixion’s list of disasters:

50mm mortar ? Do you mean replacing our old 51mm mortars with underbarrel 40mm grenade launchers ? Or do you mean the realization that they can only reach out to 400m, thus requiring UOR purchase of US 60mm mortars ?

Getting rid of 51mm mortar for grenade launchers in the first place was silly – supplementing grenade launchers buying 60mm mortars was a good idea.

Ref the Panther – why was it bad buy ? Why do people slag it off so much ?? I have never sat in one so I have no idea, but many countries have bought the Iveco Lince (Lynx) and the Panther is just a variant of it, so are all these other countries also buying the wrong vehicle ? It’s a lightly armoured, mine protected “Command and Liaison Vehicle” – so surely its better than a soft-skinned LandRover Wolf FFR ???

DominicJ
September 23, 2010 8:45 am

“Ref the Panther – why was it bad buy ?”

From my limited understanding, informing the other side that all of your officers will be in a certain type of vehicle, and that certain type of vehcile will only ever contain officers, is a pretty effective way of getting your battle field command staff wiped out in short order

IXION
IXION
September 23, 2010 8:51 am

ADMIN AND JED

Admin when we bought 51 mm the rest of the world were all using 40 mm as standard, having bought it did it no one think we might need ammo for it?

We bought it deployed it then chucked it, the fact that it worked quite well in a way makes it worse!

Panthers are apparantly restricted now to uk only training, and have been described as too small, for the job they were bought for, indeed read some comment on this site about only being able to get 4 small soldiers in them.

IanB
IanB
September 23, 2010 9:15 am

IXION

The 51mm mortar was developed from the pre-war 2″ mortar and used the same ammo. So this weapon had a development cycle of some eighty years and has outclassd most of its contemperies which were either heavy grenade launchers or heavy 60mm mortars. As a manpack weapon it was second to none untill the devlopment of lightweight commando 60mm mortars so it makes sense ro retire it now and go for the bigger bang.

And the Panthers i believe with BOWMAN in it its now down to three small men

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 23, 2010 9:46 am

Admin,

Only if they are naked and greased up like a Channel swimmer!

No wonder they don’t use it in Afghanistan! Sand and goose grease, there’s a combination to promote chafing!

paul g
September 23, 2010 10:01 am

I wasn’t aware that the panthers had been pulled out of afghanistan, I remember a large wad of cash been used to upgrade them for op use, and then large amounts of PR showing them in use out there (again showing the world and terry they were command vehicles). I also believe your 3 men were downsized with the extra equipment added for the sandpit.
ixion, if i win the euro lottery tomorrow i intend to buy all the RB44’s in the country and burn them, had to drive that clown car twice and promptly refused to ever set foot in it again, on previous thread i recalled all the 44’s being vor for 18 months due to violent swerving when braking, who trialled and ordered that!!! 51mm mortar = sexual chocolate, had left before having a go of 60mm

x
x
September 23, 2010 10:47 am

All this talk of willies and sexual chocolate and getting greased up and nakedness. Um. I think we should stop before we get raided by the Vice Squad.

IXION
IXION
September 23, 2010 7:21 pm

x

Vice squad probably have better kit.

Alan
Alan
October 7, 2010 10:12 am

I have to comment on a piece I read on the BBC website yesterday, link here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11483771 (or copy and paste if it doesn’t work)

It is however these two paragraphs that had me spitting out my dummy;

“It emerged on Tuesday that the Ministry of Defence is to try to save millions by re-negotiating the rules on defence contracts.

Ministers say the 40-year-old rules – which require the MoD to contribute towards contractors’ office running costs, pensions and redundancy payments – were overdue for reform.”

I’ll say they’re overdue for reform! A contribution towards developement I stomach, but running costs pensions and redundancy payments is quite another thing.

Rant over.