The National Audit Office (NAO) report on the Ministry of Defence’s Equipment Plan for 2023-2033 has shed light on financial challenges faced by the Meteor air-to-air missile programme, specifically concerning its mid-life upgrade.

The report identifies that the mid-life upgrade of the Meteor missile has a funding assessment of up to £2 billion, which is not currently included in the budget.

“Meteor air-to-air missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate) Mid-life upgrade funding assessed at up to £2 billion is not included.”

The Meteor missile, known for its advanced beyond-visual-range air-to-air capabilities, is integral to maintaining the UK’s air superiority. The mid-life upgrade is essential for ensuring that the missile system remains effective against evolving threats. The lack of allocated funding for this upgrade could impact the UK’s air defence capabilities.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, expressed grave concerns over the unaffordability of the Equipment Plan in the report, which can be found here.

“The MOD acknowledges that its Equipment Plan for 2023–2033 is unaffordable, with forecast costs exceeding its current budget by almost £17 billion. This is a marked deterioration in the financial position since the previous Plan. Deferring choices on spending priorities until after the Spending Review, while understandable given the government’s ambitions expressed in the updated Integrated Review, risks poor value for money if programmes continue which are later cancelled, scaled down or deferred because they are unaffordable.

The MOD should consider how future Plans can achieve their core purpose: providing a reliable assessment of the affordability of its equipment programme and demonstrating to Parliament how it will manage its funding to deliver equipment projects.”

Brief summary of projects either not Included or partly included in the Equipment Plan

The National Audit Office report on the Ministry of Defence’s Equipment Plan 2023-2033 reveals several critical capability requirements that are partly or fully excluded from this year’s plan. These exclusions, despite being integral to the UK’s defence strategy, have no funding allocated in the equipment plan.

Programmes Not Included in the Plan:

1. Land Environment Capability Assessment Register (British Army):

  • Unfunded Gaps: Significant gaps in lethality, air defence, C4I systems, logistics, CBRN, and mobility.
  • Internal Balancing: The Army is conducting an internal exercise to modernise forces within existing funding.

2. Warrior Armoured Vehicle and Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (British Army):

  • Costing Uncertainty: Extensions for Warrior and Challenger 2 are still being costed, potentially leading to unfunded pressures.

3. Land Precision Strike (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Requirement: A need for a ground-launched precision guided weapon with at least 80km range.
  • Funding Status: Programmed for the end of the decade, but no financial commitment yet.

4. SPEAR Cap 3 Electronic Warfare Air-to-Ground Missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Programme Status: Initial low-cost capability demonstrator under negotiation; full programme confirmation pending by the RAF.

5. Meteor Air-to-Air Missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Mid-Life Upgrade: Funding of up to £2 billion required for mid-life upgrade, currently not included.

6. Test and Evaluation Contracts (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Funding Shortfall: Insufficient funding to replace two contracts ending in 2028; development and procurement funding gap exists.

Partly Funded Programmes Included in the Equipment Plan

1. A400M Transport Aircraft Additional Purchases (Royal Air Force):

  • Funding Status: Some funding held centrally; sufficient but does not align with later years’ spending needs.

2. F35-B Combat Aircraft Third Front-Line Squadron (Royal Air Force):

  • Capital Budget Shortfall: Increases by £0.1 billion between 2023-24 and 2026-27.
  • Operational Funding Gap: Lacks £0.4 billion needed to operate the squadron.

3. New Entries into the Shipbuilding Pipeline (Royal Navy):

  • Projects Included: Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance ships, Type 32 Frigates, Multi-Role Support Ships, Type 83 destroyers, Future Air Dominance System.
  • Financial Shortfall: Costs are £5.9 billion higher than current budgets.

4. In-Service Extension of RFA Argus (Royal Navy):

  • Implementation: Extension of the primary casualty receiving ship is underway.
  • Budget Issue: No additional budget was received for this extension.

5. Mine Hunting Capability (Royal Navy):

  • Plan Inclusion: Second phase included in the Plan.
  • Funding Shortfall: No additional budget for this phase; additional funds sought for Hunt Class vessels until new capability is operational.

6. Future Commando (Royal Navy):

  • Modernisation Funding: £0.7 billion required for Royal Marines modernisation to enable operations from the sea in high-threat environments.
  • Budget Exclusion: This funding has not been included in the Plan.

7. Directed Energy Weapons (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Status: Novel capability with assessment phase funding.
  • Review Pending: MOD to review at the end of the assessment phase; may replace or supplement other capabilities.
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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also previously worked for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Steve
Steve
1 month ago

We are very much in the period of the Conservatives doing salted/scorched earth tactics as they know they can’t win the next election and so want to make sure Labour can only win 1. There is zero chance they will fix these gaps as they will add to the issues.

Politics for you. Doesn’t matter the party, almost they care about is power and stuff the country if they can keep it or gain it.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve
Bulkhead
Bulkhead
1 month ago

All these latest article’s from George have made me feeling really jolly, nothing to do with George of course. It’s just the self serving scum that have alleged position’s of power. Happy Christmas everyone…..😎

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
1 month ago

When you compare this to the cost of the T45 program or CAMM or T31 then the magnitude of these costs sinks in.

£2Bn strikes me as quite a lot for a mid life upgrade. Yes, it is a complex missile. …..but……?

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

I think you need to put it into context. There isn’t much of an export market for these and so tools and personally need to be kept trained to upgrade these, which will cost millions a year. Plus your talking single source provider and so zero competition.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

How much of the cost of a sports car comes down to the fact they are are made in smaller numbers than your average family hatch back.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 month ago

Wonder if the Meteor will ever make it onto the Tempest? Ridiculous money. Hope someone’s onto it and asking questions. Could pay for 2-3 T26s, 4-5 T31s, 1&1/2 Astutes… Lol 😁

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
1 month ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

That was my thinking as well.

Sounds like an essentially new missile to me dressed up as an upgrade.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
1 month ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

It would also buy 24 new Typhoons…..

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago

I agree £2Bn seems too much.

I found this:

(roughly 200 million Euros) signed in 2019 between the Brazilian air force and the European company MBDA for the supply of 100 Meteor air-to-air missiles.

2M Euro new at 2019 euro prices probably including support.

Last edited 1 month ago by AlexS
Math
Math
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

2Bn to maintain air superiority may not be that expensive compared to plateform costs. Especially in the light of long range weapons that are being developped by China and the performance of R37 in Ukraine, with ranges up to 450km / 500 km. If we consider the aim of these new weapons: pushing back all support planes like air refueling and Awacs, the creation of a longer range missile will not change anything. It is not because longer range missile would be developed that they would regain freedom to operate. Though, of you consider the abilities of fighters to engage… Read more »

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
1 month ago

Another nail in the coffin. What a mess.

Old Tony
Old Tony
1 month ago

In the Autumn Statement, Hunt said proudly that the government was planning to meet the NATO minimum of 2 % of GDP being spent on defence.

Words fail me.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Old Tony

Second that 👍

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Old Tony

Missed that, I guess the uplift was just words without follow up. This government has fine tuned that to perfection and the media never reports on it. Unfortunately the new status quo has been set as they get away with it and so no matter who wins the election they Will probably do the same

monkey spanker
monkey spanker
1 month ago

£2b! What kind of upgrade is it getting?
Even if the RAF has 2000 missiles that’s £1million each.
Have threats changed that much? Russia and the countries it supplies are still using the same stuff.
China has some different kit. Will it be ECM that will effect it a lot more now.
Would it be cheaper to and better to purchase some new missiles and just do an obsolescence upgrade of current stock.

monkey spanker
monkey spanker
1 month ago
Reply to  monkey spanker

Adding to if new missiles were bought the old ones could have booster added and turned into SAMs.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 month ago
Reply to  monkey spanker

Yes, I integrate them into NASAM or some other GBAD system or off the back of a Supacat!

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  monkey spanker

Would guess its not so much upgrade in capability but mainly expansion of shelf life. Explosives only last so long if not used.

The Artist Formerly Known As Los Pollos Chicken
The Artist Formerly Known As Los Pollos Chicken
1 month ago

It’s not just the (anything but) Conservative party it’s ALL the political shitebags they are globalist and not U.K. plc they are only interested in furthering the Globalist agenda long long laid out.

nothing is going to change unfortunately the direction of travel is set….

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇬🇧

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago

A spot on assessment mate. Any possibility of sorting out defence would come with a 3% GDP price tag, locked down and ring fenced.

Even then the first two years would be dedicated to paying off the massive current overspend.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Clark
Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

I don’t think so, there just needs to be better use of funds. Too much clearly being funneled off in corruption, before we even talk about stupid delays to save money in short term at huge cost in medium term.

klonkie
klonkie
1 month ago

Well said Sir!

Geoffi
Geoffi
1 month ago

What an absolute mess….

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Geoffi

Very depressing 😕 🇬🇧

AHMS
AHMS
1 month ago

I think Meteor will need upgrading as though it is a very effective missile currently the Russians and Chinese are developing and introducing air to air missiles that will outrange it. The Russian R-37 has a range of approximately 400km and the Chinese PL-XX which is rumoured to have a range approaching 500km.

GlynH
GlynH
1 month ago
Reply to  AHMS

Yes but we should all know that MadVlad’s & PoohBear’s countries always quote the max theoretical range.

Lord Baddlesmere
Lord Baddlesmere
1 month ago

This is purely a tactic to claim that METEOR is unaffordable and you will shortly see news that the UK will save £2Billion by buying AIM260 from the USA, (you may recall the US delay to integrate METEOR into F35. Just a USA blocking tactic until AIM 260 is ready) – This will allegedly lead to greater commonality and interoperability with the USA. As long as we agree to start destruction of one of our few remaining defence technology sectors. We are finally a client state of the USA we willingly destroy our industry and export markets to buy product… Read more »

monkey spanker
monkey spanker
1 month ago

I would have thought with meteor being a European missile the upgrade cost would have been spread across operators or would be a company investment that then sells the upgraded missile to all members.
Perhaps the cost is with just the new bits and the development has already been done. Seems expensive tho.
The U.K. fighter aircraft and missiles are really its only platform capable of dealing with any air threat. CAAM is just to small numbers and only other things are manpads.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  monkey spanker

Yeah, I seen nothing about France or Sweden allocating £2 billion for a mid life upgrade.

I’m guessing the figures are probably nonsense.

Sooty
Sooty
1 month ago

Hope you’re wrong about bean counters looking for an excuse to buy from the US. Let’s hope that the £2Bn can be spread across the partners involved with Mereor.

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
1 month ago

What makes you think the US wants the UK as a client state? It has enough problems.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Not the US Government but the US military industrial complex. They already have the US Government as a client state.

Ex-Marine
Ex-Marine
1 month ago

Meanwhile, Germany has published analysis that Russia may be ready to attack NATO’s Eastern flank in 6-10 years. The US believes that may be 8-10 years and Poland has released a report that Russia’s arms industry is working 3 shifts a day, 7-days a week to rebuild it’s capability inside of 3 years. Poland believes Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could be attacked in the next 3-5 years unless NATO can deploy sufficient strength on its Eastern flank to dissuade Russia.

And the UK government constantly dilly-dally the same money about for several years pretending they are investing in our defence.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Ex-Marine

Yep, we are faced with an existential threat and a rapidly heating Cold War and the Tories and Labour are doing nothing and planning nothing except more of the same waffle and fu#k all action.

We need 3% GDP ring fenced and locked down on the defence budget right now, a through and comprehensive SDSR, to asses the force levels needed, followed by a clear, all party agreed multi year plan to get there.

rst 2001
rst 2001
1 month ago

Where does all the money go . A 1 billion upgrade , thats just graft and corruption in my book. How many man hours does it take? The missile is already built it just needs an upgrade. There’s private companies pitting themselves out of a job . But I guess the ceo want there bonus today and will just move on or retire when the company is close . With the uk defence budget supposedly being one if the largest in world, granted we have a bigger navy than most that costs. We seem to do very poor at spending… Read more »

Gareth D
Gareth D
1 month ago
Reply to  rst 2001

Got it in one.

simon alexander
simon alexander
1 month ago

Hang on, is not MBDA UK working with international partners, the meteor is for F35 world wide, there will be exports or joint development money.

monkey spanker
monkey spanker
1 month ago

Well I would think if the U.K. is paying for development of the new model then it should get a portion of each sale of the new missiles.
I think this cost is probably for upgrades only rather than new developments

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago
Tom
Tom
1 month ago

£2bn for a rocket upgrade, to enable said rocket to not just kill and destroy things, but kill and a destroy things in a more permanent manner!

Another gross disgusting example of the MOD being robbed and ripped off by warmongering arms manufacturers.

David Owen
David Owen
1 month ago

The damage done by the fxxxxxxg tories amounts to criminality, they care or no nothing about defence ,quicker that useless scum are out the better,

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago

I dont understand the 2 billion for this, it’s a huge amount,.Japan and the UK have already been working together on the next generation medium range air to air missile..joint new air to air missile..this programme will end in 2024 and it looks like Japan is taking the learning and developing its own next generation medium range missile and there will not be a joint missile developed…but Japan is planning to spend around £130-140 million dollars on developing this missile….reading between the lines Japan was not willing to throw the amount of money the Uk/BMDA was looking for at the… Read more »

Matt C
Matt C
29 days ago

Perspective: although some items have not been included and that is a cause for concern, this 17 billion shortfall is over a 10-year period to 2033. It’s 1.7 billion pounds extra a year to cover, out of a defence budget of, what, 50 billion? It’s not the end of the world.