The MoD’s failure to ensure the timely delivery of the Crowsnest radar system leaves the carriers with less protection than planned in its early years, warns the Public Accounts Committee.
In a report published today, the Public Accounts Committee commends the Ministry of Defence for delivering two aircraft carriers that form the bases for Carrier Strike but says this success risks being undermined by failure to provide the capabilities essential for the carriers to do their job.
The report states the following referring to the Ministry of Defence:
“The Department has regarded the Crowsnest project—which will provide a new airborne radar system to protect Carrier Strike—as a very high-risk project from the start. There were problems with it between 2016 and 2018, including slippage against milestones. Then, in January 2019, the Department realised that Crowsnest’s initial contracted capability would not be delivered until September 2021, 18 months later than planned.
It has told us that the problems were because the sub-contractor did not understand the technical risks and had been overly optimistic when reporting progress. The Department assures us that there will be a “credible baseline capability” when Carrier Strike deploys in 2021 and it will be able to respond to potential threats. Although it plans to improve incrementally the radar capability by 2023, it could not assure us that it would achieve this.”
You can read more about Crowsnest here.
The recommendation from the PAC states:
“The Department should write to the Committee to advise how it has addressed the challenge of not initially having a fully operational Crowsnest system, and on the timetable for enhancements. More broadly, it should advise the Committee how it has improved the oversight of sub-contractors in the light of this case.”
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:
“As things stand the UK has two world-class aircraft carriers with limited capability because the wider debate about the UK’s strategic defence capability – and funding – has been repeatedly delayed. This debilitating lack of clarity threatens our national defences yet it’s not likely to be resolved when the strategic defence review and the comprehensive spending review look likely to be out of step with each other once again.
The MoD and the nation it’s responsible for defending cannot afford for this rare beacon of success, in delivering the two carriers, to descend into yet another failure to deliver defence capability. The MoD must recognise that is a real risk, a real risk to a vital part of our national defences, and it must demonstrate now a clear plan to capitalise on the massive investment the UK has already made – and deliver Carrier Strike.”