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back to article MoD sorts out 'turkey' helicopters for Xmas

One of the sorriest British defence procurement stories of recent times - which means a very sorry story indeed - finally approached resolution this week. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that it will modify eight large helicopters it has had since 2001 so that they can actually be used. You read that right: even …

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Anonymous Coward

Typical

Fucking cock up, I'm hugely unsurprised by this. The real worry is that this level of incompitence is almost expected now.

Can't we just "get rid" of all the people who make this country shit?

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MOD - SNAFU

This is quite normal for the MOD..

Look at the L85 (SA80 rifle) this is not on the 2nd edition after a very expensive re-work by the German armourers H&K just to let it fire properly without jamming...

The MOD are getting ripped of left right and centre, and sensible business would do some major cost cutting reviews as well as something called negociation to get the price down to a reasonable level.. It seems once your an MOD prefered contractor its a license to print money!

Just think... all that saved cash could provide better welfare for our troops.... that almost sounds too sensible...

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Re: Typical

That would probably be about 90% of the population. Does make you sick doesn't it? Considering we pay for everything, and don't have a single say on anything. This is no longer a democracy. New Labour is probably the most corrupt & incompetent government I've ever seen. And the sad thing is, that 90% of the population will vote these morons back in, 'because it's better the devil you know'

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troops are always the ones to pay

The jackasses who project-managed this will have their careers held back a bit, at most. The higher-ups will collect their MBEs and all of that. And our lads on the ground, who serve their queen and country with their lives, well, they can just get maimed or killed, because a few tommies are clearly cheaper than one helicopter.

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Boffin

Inflation

but remember they're protecting us against inflation by giving 90m to the merkins while making sure the plods are kept in line with their 1.9%

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@ the world.uk

What I find worrying is that this new deal is split between two groups, and is 'estimated' at 90m.... and due xmas 2009....

So it will be 140m, and arrive 2010 then... when other armys are using stealth anti-grav tanks by remote control from mars.

-ano

[not overly optimistic]

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Grrr

This country boils my piss. We were a once great nation, but now we're just a laughing stock. The troops are desparate for air lift capability, and there are properly spec'd Chinooks gathering dust.

Who is in charge at the MoD? Is it a case of bean counters running the show, or are there any former military people? It's a fucking disgrace.

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Anonymous Coward

Get your choppers out lads...

There are some other nations associated with the Afghan NATO operation who could probably consider getting off their arses.

While the press are always cheerfully announcing the dead, it's good to hear someone mention the horrifically injured men and women who have been shuftied to obscurity in these wars. It riles me when they are forgotten or ignored.

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No IT angle needed

"Anyway. Merry Christmas to any of ours out there who happen to be reading this. Some of us at least back here are sorry we don't look after you better."

Well said, sir. My sentiments exactly.

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GT
Alert

This is not a joke

Brave people are dying and being maimed because of this incompetence. Write to your MP and complain. http://www.writetothem.com/

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Where are those helicopters?

I got a flight in a chinook a couple of months ago. I was in hampshire, with a group of scouts.

I'm not saying it was a bad experience, but why was that chopper at home, and not out with the boys (& girls) where its needed?

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VFR

Exactly how the f*** can a Chinook which im assuming is laden with avionics not be capable of flying on instruments?

Or is the a case of health and safety gone mad and the MoD not 'knowing' how to certify the aircraft as I refuse to believe that Boeing would supply an army spec helicopter to any airforce that wasn't capable of flying on a cloudy day!??!

I mean christ there are flying 40+ year old gas tanks (Nimrod's) in service in a Afghanistan and nobody is concerned about them but heaven forbid our lads could get their hands on some up to date kit that doesn't have the correct paperwork, that would be far to dangerous!!

Cupid Stunts.

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why not just find a way to prove they are safe

if they are cleared under american air saftey laws (which i would assume aren't much different to the uk) the aircraft must actually be safe to fly so why not instead of spend 90m converting them to match current rules spend 10m in reseach to show that they are actually safe to fly and that the regs should be altered to accomodate the modifications

also i assume there was a reason for requesting the alterations in the first place (i.e. they must have a point ) which surly will still be unmet once the conversions are completed

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May I add my voice to the choir?

@Anonymous Coward(14:23)& Arse Face

Two general elections after we got them, it would seem that we can't get rid of the people who make this country shit... maybe next time eh?

@Ian Hunter & A.C.(14:42)

Never under estimate the "leadership" capability of an HR/finance whore with a chip on their shoulder, they'll lead you into hell...from the rear. There are a lot of bits of the British Defence Industry that are more about keeping their employees (particularly HR) in employment than providing anything, ever, to the lads at the sharp end.

What should be budget for kit for the forces is being misappropriated purely to keep the unemployment figures down. And from a certain, cuntish, point of view it's money well spent, as it's also creating a lot of people who'll never need a job again.

Thoroughly fucking despicable.

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GT

@Jon Pain

Helicopters are constantly needed for training and also for reserves. Remember the problems in Lebanon a couple of years ago? It was Chinooks used for evacuating civilians.

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Black Helicopters

DERA -> Qintetiq = 100k -> 25m

The disgusting wealth creation scheme that was the DERA -> Qintetiq scam keeping John Major's chums in excessive wealth (bottom line 100k investment produced 25m payback a few years later - just a 250x return!) was repugnant on its own before it becomes involved in this Chinook fiasco. There must be a lot of Valium and whiskey sold in the UK or else there's certain people not getting much sleep over being involved in making huge profits letting British soldiers die in a foreign country fighting another country's war. I am staggered at the incompetence of the MOD and revolted that they let this situation go on for so long. Fuck the workers building choppers in the UK there's a whole social security system we're also paying for to support them, it's the soldiers out in the bullets and sand that haven't got anything to save them from the MOD screwups.

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Anonymous Coward

Individual vs Collective Responsibility

Looks like a case of no one actually wanting to put their name to the flight safety authorisation......because if the modifications aren't flight safe, the person who signed them off as safe will carry the can.

I suspect the person upon whose desk the authorisation document landed remembered Kintyre and the deaths of a significant number of the Northern Ireland security top brass and didn't want to sign off on something that was "unverifiable" as was apparently the case with the FADEC chinook flight control software.

If this is the case it shows neatly the difference between collective and individual responsibility.

The Outsider.

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Didn't...

...the one that crashed into the side of Ireland come into the equation somewhere?

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Scotland

Please oh please let us become independant and get away from these incompetent bafoons.

...no Scottish soldiers would have died in Iraq either.

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Stop

Might not be all it looks

Not saying that the MOD can't cook up a spectacular cock up when pushed, but this might actually be down to Boeing.

Flight systems aren't going to be certified if there is no proof that they are designed and manufactured to appropriate standards. Now US standards are.... interesting. They are interesting in that they don't necessarily met UK standards which say the manufacturer doesn't get to write the rule book. They actually have to prove, to an independent authority, the kit is good.

Now if such standards were imposed, and Boeing balked at, say, providing access to source code and quality design documents for the HC3 variant software - then MOD would be in a difficult place if the contract were not worded precisely correctly. Boeing might be able to claim the delivery were up to standard, without actually proving it to anyone's satisfaction that this wasn't a crock. Is that MOD's fault for not writing even more copious contracts, or Boeing for not being able to prove they haven't delivered a turkey?

Not saying that is what happened. I've no idea. But do you really want kit accepted into service without some more proof that it works than the average Microsoft app?

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LW

Absurd.

"This is no longer a democracy."

It has [i]never[/i] been a democracy, and if you think new labour's corruption and incompetence are a change from what came before you've obviously got a short memory or you weren't there for it.

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Actually, to be fair....

...the mandarins at the Pentagon are just a capable of making this sort of screw-up themselves; witness the current CSAR-X furore, where an updated version of the Chinook 'won' the competition for the USAF's new SAR chopper, despite the fact that it was too large, didn't meet many of the criteria, but was built by Boeing so must be the right choice!!

If our Lords and Masters concentrated on the real needs of the troops, rather than on local political concerns, things would be so much more affordable.

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Black Helicopters

What does QuinetiQ have to do with this?

Hold on, a model for which Boeing has full blueprints is converted into a standard Boeing design. WTF does QuinetiQ have to do with this besides pork collection?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Scotland

>Please oh please let us become independant and get away from these

>incompetent bafoons.

The incompetent buffoons, you mean like Gordon Brown, Tony Blair perhaps Des Browne?

Or do you have some other buffoons in mind?

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Stop

Re: DERA -> Qintetiq = 100k -> 25m

John Major? Please check the facts.

A PPP was formed to pontificate and prevaricate about the DERA's fate in 1998, well into Blair's tenure.

The actual split didn't occur until 2001, and Carlyle Group(Major's "Chums") didn't get their noses in the trough until 2003... although the value of Carlyle's share has risen some 220% they aren't the Executives who garnered a few hundred million out of "co-ordinating" the sell off.

Whoever might have cleaned up on this act it still has "Nu Lab technophobia" written all over it. Which is normally their excuse for "Wallets are such complicated things we didn't know that we shouldn't give them to uncle frank to look after them."

As for "What the fuck are Qunietiq doing reworking a boeing product back to a boeing design" Now THAT is an interesting question.

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and bonus's all round

Well all I can say is at least somethings been done - and 7 years isnt really that long - not when you consider they'll keep them in service until its not safe to do so anymore (like the nimrod), learn there lessons and replace them with something better and without the issues - like the sea king replacement with merlin's.

Truly I'm sure that the civil servants and Brass have been reprimanded for their mistakes and taken the criticism on the chin and been passed over for their next promotion.

it keeps happening

type 45 - twice the price of a US Aegis cruser and half the capability

eurofighter - the dogfighting aircraft with no cannon (ok ones been added) thats all most doubled in price (if you account for the fact that 40% are going to sit in a hanger moth balled)

Apaches - sitting in a hanger for 4-6 years due to the US not wanting (quite rightly) a private company qintetiq to have all the info on them

new carriers - god where to begin

Bowman - can anybody hear me!

personally I think the MOD procurement staff should have a balls up clause in their contract - straight to a front line unit - to see how the money should have been spent!

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Two more things

1) Just remember, Chinooks are the machines that flew into the Mull of Kintyre, so they have a history of problems with instrument flying.

2) On a more general note, remember that that Parkinson's Law was originally created to describe the relationship between the increase in Civil Service Administrators and the reduction in the armed services personnel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_law

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Alert

So basically:

Step one: Design something to custom specifications and have it built for you

Step two: Decide that what you've just had built is completely unusable (or, apparently, that you can't tell if it's usable, which is even worse)

Step three: Try to blame it on the manufacturer

This is incredibly stupid and irresponsible, especially since these helicopter are needed to save lives. I hope they're being put to some kind of good use here and not just being wasted.

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Dan
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@By Jon Pain

At a rough guess that Chinook you got free ride in was from RNAY Fleetlands undergoing testing, repairs, or maintenance, (most likely because some numpty RN pilot smacked it in to the flightdeck edge of HMS Ocean as they KEEP doing.) Otherwise it came from RAF Brize Norton where the rest of the Chinooks are based, and they have to keep a couple in Blighty for use here.

Agreed though with everyone else that the MOD should have gotten off of their arses and got this sorted years ago. How does it cost 90 million though ?? Nah, wait I'll ask my friend who used to be a Chinook mechanic at Fleetlands this weekend when I see him. Its probably the nice fat cuts that corrupt Labour MP's take thats pushing the price up

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Pirate

Only one complaint

Not even with the article, but with the comment from the parents of the dead Major.

I'm sure it's horrible to loose someone like that. But how can you call it murder, he's fighting a war, would they like it if any confirmed kills he'd made were attributed to him as murders?

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Dera = QinetiQ

I do wish a few folk would get there facts straight before yet again going for the cheap shot/politics of envy.

Taxpayers good a reasonable deal from the QinetiQ venture - several thousand Civil Servants were removed from UK PLC wages bill - a large estate and repairs bill was also removed, and previously underperforming assets were freed from the dead hand of the state.

Taxpayers intially received £800m in return for the sale, and on IPO got another lump of money, and we still have a substantial stake in a sucessful and expanding company (see recent US contract wins for details)

Moan about the private equity deal all you like, but neither the Chairman or the CEO needed the cash going into the deal, and despite handsome rewards, both are still with the business and taking it forward.

If anonomous coward is so foresighted as to really understand the risks and required rewards of large IPO's and managing £1bn + businesses, can I ask which company you are CEO of ?

There is a good deal wrong with MOD Procurement - mostly because of useless placemen on rubbish commitees with limited decision making skills - EIGHT YEARS have gone by before action is taking on these choppers ... EIGHT YEARS !

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Unhappy

@ Chris Morrison

When Scotland finally does get Independence can you please invade England at least as far as the Humber. That way us Yorkshire men will get a decant government in stead of those w*nk*rs in London.

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Unhappy

Lynx is a different class of helicopter.

The Chinook HC3 was intended as a "low-cost" version of the US's MH-47E special forces helicopter. We might as well have just bought the Amercian model! As I understand it, the "low-cost" bit was to use a cheap cockpit design which turned out to be unsuitable for the radar and nightvision gear. Who's fault this was has been the sticking point between Boeing and the MoD as there is some suspicion Boeing wanted to push the more expensive all-digital cockpit design instead and may have taken the original contract knowing the cheap version wouldn't fit.

Lynx is smaller and more suited to many recce and small squad carriage roles, and can fit into smaller landing zones and is more agile than the Chinnok. It has a big advantage over the Chinook in that it can be converted to act as a gunship, which is possible with the Chinook but presents a very big and expensive target. In fact, the Septics did make a few very heavily-armed Chinook gunships in 'Nam in the '60s, one of which managed to shoot it's own front rotor off with a 20mm cannon! Not many people seem to remember the basic Chinook is almost as old as the Comet airliner the Nimrod is based on. The Yanks had more luck with Hueys and finally created the first purpose-built helicopter gunship in the Cobra. SInce then, the Chinook has been a heavy transport chopper only.

More to the point, why didn't we fill the gap with the Westland Commando or Westland Sea King HC4 as used by the Royal Marines? It may not carry as much as the Chinook but it's bigger than a Lynx and already a known and trusted product, and I'm sure two could have been bought for the price of each Chinook HC3! And the politicos can keep Westland and hence more British workers busy!! Winners all round! ;)

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Pirate

@Arse Face

90% is about right. The most frustrating thing is that I'm stuck on this fucking planet with st00pid people and their invisible friends, who only seem to want to reaign fiery death on those with different imaginary friends. Incompitent m0r0ns who i have to work extra hard to compensate for and lazy good for nothing, small minded, nosey, easily offended fucking tossface arse monkeys!!!!!

I'm on the first flight off this shithole planet! But I won't be going by Chinook...

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Ian

Read some History

A book that everyone should read is ``Why the Allies Won the War'', by Richard Overy, now Professor of History at Exeter. It's an economic (largely) analysis of the second world war. One of the key points it makes is that although German weapons were technically (in many cases) excellent, not merely were they not produced in sufficient quantities they were produced late and with insufficient spares. This was because the Army regarded its suppliers as part of its own structure, and endlessly fiddled with designs to optimise them for combat. Which at the quantity-one level is a good thing, but if you want some gear NOW and some spares too it's a disaster. The US and the USSR, on the other hand, handed rough designs to manufacturers and said ``make some of these''.

Hence, on the one hand, the beauty of the Panther Tank or the StG44 assault rifle, unfortunately available in tiny quantities, late, and with insufficient spares to keep them going. On the other hand the M4 Sherman or the M1 SMG, available in industrial quantities. Indeed, in the case of the Sherman, there are welded versions made by companies that could weld and cast versions made by companies that could cast. Similarly the T34: never mind what the military want, what can Tankograd make?

When there isn't a shooting war on, military procurement is a playground for the semi-competent to play top trumps. So what if Eurofighter takes 20 years and has no purpose once delivered: if we're not shooting at anyone, weapons that work are the same as those that don't. But when there IS a shooting war on, delivering kit to solders right now matters, and today we're like the Germans (who couldn't) rather than the Yanks and the Russians (who most assuredly could). Perfect AND available is good, of course, but imperfect and available trumps perfect and unavailable every time.

Remember, a bunch of blokes with drawing boards took the Spitfire from 300mph to transsonic in a shallow dive in six years, while over the road another bunch of blokes were going from 250mph of Hurricane to the Tempest, which was not totally incapable of mixing successfully with jets. In six years they went, without the benefit of Excel OR Sharepoint, from bombers that could carry 2000lbs to Hamburg to bombers that could carry 22000lbs almost as far, and produced aircraft that could operate in daylight over one of the most intensively defended pieces of airspace the world has ever known, unarmed, safely, made of wood. Now, ask yourself this: why can't we do that today?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So Basically

Nope, they're doing nothing.

And they've done nothing for several years... oh christ every single moving part will be jammed solid by now.

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@wabbit02

Don't forget, the MoD was the organisation that failed to design an Army boot that wouldn't fall apart, melt and/or cripple the user.

If the MoD can't work out how to join a bit of dead cow to a bit of rubber, I don't think it's fair to expect them to specify a workable helicopter containing hundreds of thousands of precision-engineered components and millions of lines of code designed to work in the most hostile of ingredients.

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Black Helicopters

What I heard......

As I recall the problem with the HC3 getting it's full flying certification was that without knowledge of the software used (source code, documentation etc, so a very IT angle) no one was able to say it was safe. Imagine the hysterics if one crashed and the enquiry found no one in the UK had the first idea how the software worked, "We just kinda assumed it would be fine because the guys we bought it off said it was."

Rumour had it that the software info wasn't going to be released because the US DoD was squeamish about technology transfer to a foreign country of software it was using in it's own SF chinooks. If the software info wasn't in the contract originally then I'd be surprised to see a defence contractor that wouldn't amend a contract for some more cash.

And please don't whine about HR/Finance running everything, this procurement was run by engineers, many of them military.

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The question I have is...

...who came up with the specs for the HC3?

To be fair, probably not procument, but the officers on the front line...

Yes other people then signed it of, but it could well have been the fault of the people who use the choppers in the first place. Who would you ask what they want? And as IT people you should know full well that just because someone says they want a new peice of kit to do something it dose not mean that is correct, or legal, or what they even want.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Chris Morrison

Can you take Gordon Brown with you please? He's one of your lot isn't he? ;-)

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MOD

Just why does it take 10 years to sort out something a 5 year old could have worked out in 5 minutes.

One does wonder if the guys and girls at the MOD are fit to purchase a Christmas Turkey without adult supervision let alone spec & buy military equipment.

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Unhappy

Its all a bit dull

The government bashing in these posts is getting a bit out of hand. I concede that this Chinook cock-up is one on a grand scale but a) it's one of a long history of procurement errors which I suspect is just a fact of life, I am sure that a bit of digging would unearth any number of equally large mistakes in every country of the world since god was a boy; b) it's a bit pathetic to lay the blame at individuals in government. Sure, blame them for the strategy (e.g. going to war in the first place) but you can't really blame Gordon Brown for not personally signing off an air worthiness certificate; c) if you think this country is bad now then you should've lived through the eighties/early nineties with Poll Tax riots, the miners strike, negative equity, IRA bombs and soldiers being killed in the Faulklands (an equally spurious war). In fact the seventies were pretty crap too with electricty blackouts and petrol rationing and the Austin Allegro. I'm not saying it's a bed of roses now (although as the 5th largest economy in the world we're not exactly a basket case) or that I support the government (I have never voted Labour) or that somebody ought not to be accountable for things like this Chinook debacle, but really, the tone of some of the posts on this story is as depressing as the very things they are complaining about.

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IT Angle

'safety' is NOT an absolute

A previous AC has it correct in writing: "As I recall the problem with the HC3 getting it's full flying certification was that without knowledge of the software used (source code, documentation etc, so a very IT angle) no one was able to say it was safe."

The spec on Boeing (written by MoD) is the source of the f***-up, in that the associated Statement of Work did not require Boeing to accompany delivery of the kit with the relevant s/w documentation items that are needed for the safety and particulalrly software safety assessment processes. Without insight into the design of the s/w, the assessment processes could not start to determine if what Boeing had actually done was necessary and sufficient to meet the acceptance criteria for the whizzy avionics to be adjudged 'safe enough for the intended purpose in the defined operatonal environment'.

A bit of MoD yet again showing superb aptitude at taking aim, shooting and damaging their own feet. F***wittage of an outstandingly high level of achievement.

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WFT?

@ "What the fuck are Qunietiq doing reworking a boeing product back to a boeing design" Now THAT is an interesting question.

What Lewis is not clear on is whether the Quinetiq upgrade is purely to equipment/instrumentation, or to the FADEC engine management software which AFAIK is still not officially acknowledged to be a problem, tho pretty much everyone this side of the Atlantic except HMG believes it to be. It is difficult to infer which it is from the price of the contract, given the history of MOD procurement. As written, the story is consistent with a scenario in which Quinetiq get enough technical information from Boeing about the Chinook hardware to be able to rewrite the flight control software from scratch to be provably correct. But is this scenario the one here? Of course, if the software is not "a problem", then a big fat contract to "correct" it is not possible.

Perhaps someone with the relevant IT experience might be able to tell us how much it might cost to write a provably correct control system for a helicopter? From which we will know whether or not to expect more Chinooks to fall out of the sky in due course.

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Anonymous Coward

Choppers in service.

I recommend reading Kiplings' "TOMMY" ti give an indication of the attitude towards the military, in which I spent over twenty years, as an indication of the change (?) of attitude of those in governmental circles in the last 100 plus years.

There has been none and the military experience of those who delegate others to die in their place is equally obvious. I despair of the grab and grasp attitude of those in power when it comes to understanding the needs of servicemen and women in this new century. Just read the poem and reflect.

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Bureaucratic cowards

These helicopters could fly out to Afghanistan tomorrow if someone signed them off. Are they really dangerous ? If anyone thought they were then we wouldn't let UK troops working with our allies fly round in identical US built Chinooks would we ? Has there been a constant stream of foreign Chinooks falling out of the sky ? No.

I would quite happily sign, balancing the tiny risk of maybe perhaps something might happen someday against the certain knowledge (never mind what the liars in the MoD say) that UK troops are dying in road moves that take place because we don't have enough helicopters. That is proper risk management and quite justifiable in court.

Instead, what we have are cowards in fancy chairs in a newly refitted building letting soldiers die rather than go against the process. They are almost without exception second rate jobsworths who can't get a better paid job in industry. Sure, they work hard but just produce more crap as the emphasis is on process and not on results.

Sometimes, during contract negotiations, my colleagues and I have compared the relative salaries on either side of the table. The answer illustrates exactly why the MoD fail abysmally more often than not.

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Coat

@Ian

"Similarly the T34: never mind what the military want, what can Tankograd make?"

Odd you should say that, "Tankograd" often delivered better results than the Soviet High Command wanted and were quite cheerful about breaking the rules to do so. Its wryly amusing that Soviet military engineers cared more about the fighting power of their nation than do, say, those of more current times and more local shores.

1) The T-34's first gun was a duffer. The Russian High Command wouldn't give permission for a new one, so the engineers simply put the better model in and didn't mention it to anyone. They eventually got permission after the event. Had the new gun been a failure they'd have all been shot - this is Stalinist Russia after all.

2) The original spec for the T-34's armour was (IIRC) 20 mm or so. The engineers delivered 34mm (Hence, T-34). This additional armour was sloped and from the front was invulnerable to pretty much everything the Germans had except the legendary 88mm.

3) The original request was for something a lot smaller and weaker than the T-34. The engineers again did something different. Design for the revised T-34 started in 1937, delivery of the first tanks was at the end of 1939. The first test run in early 1940 involved a 1,500 mile deployment from Central Russia to Finland.... And back. This test run killed the designer by the way - he caught pneumonia.

4) The Russian engineers continually improved the T-34 - between 1939 and 1941: cost per unit halved, production time halved, the number of components dropped by about 25% and the workers skill levels required fell rapidly... We can only dream about these figures from our defence engineers - the Russians went for TQM in a big way in the 1940s.

5) Starting from 1943, the upgraded T-34/85 alone outproduced the Germans. At the start of the German invasion T-34s were around 4% of the Soviet forces. By 1945 they were 55%.

6) The Russian engineers had to fight competing designs ranging from cheaper and more primitive options (BT-variants) , to the ultra advanced T34M, to the completely out there IS-2. Current British defence procurement would be to have the IS-2 or T-34M (or both!). The IS-2 arrived in mid-1944 and its not unreasonable to suggest that had the Russians had to wait that long for something half decent, the Germans would have won.

I have no life. I'll get me coat.

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For crying out loud

The treatment of our troops by the MOD,part time Minister of excuses, sorry defense, and this odious government has got to the point where several should be prosecuted for manslaughter as soon as possible. If we are not prepared to look after those who put their lives on the line for us everyday then we are complicit in the crime

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