NAO Questions UK’s Protector UAV Value For Money
- The UK National Audit Office (NAO) issues regular ‘Value For Money’ Reports at the request of Parliament, and has just issued the latest ‘Improving the Performance of Major Equipment Contracts’ on June 24,2021.
- It finds that the RAF’s Protector MQ-9B SkyGuardian program has seen the largest cost increase of any major UK defence acquisition across air, land and sea and suffered a delay of over two years.
- The Protector unmanned aerial vehicle was originally intended to enter service in 2018 to coincide with retirement of the Reaper predecessor capability. The Department’s forecast date for initial operating capability (IOC) was July 2021 by the time the decision was taken to delay the program because of budgetary pressures. 20 IOC is now expected in November 2023, requiring extension of Reaper at an additional cost of £50 million.
- The assessment for the Protector unmanned aerial vehicle (November 2019) stated the program remained VFM despite a two-year delay and increased costs of £326 million.
- The Department has regularly experienced difficulties in effectively managing its major equipment contracts, with frequent delays and cost increases. These stem from supplier under-performance; weaknesses in departmental contract management; the Department and suppliers underestimating the scope and technical complexity; and the Department prioritizing short-term solutions because of its affordability challenges. Consequently, the Department has not been able to optimize value for money from the contracts for its largest, most complex equipment programs.
- The full 68-page report is available here.
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