A top spending watchdog blames “over-optimism” at the MoD for a multibillion-pound overspend on the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Billions more have already been spent on developing the fighter plane than was originally anticipated – but the Typhoon is still unlikely to be ready for ground attacks until 2018.
The government originally ordered 232 Typhoons in the mid-1980s. That number has since been reduced by 72, but development and production costs have risen by a fifth to £20.2 billion, and support costs have also risen, according to the NAO.
Altogether the watchdog estimates that each individual aircraft is £55 million – or 75 per cent – more expensive than planned and the total programme cost will eventually hit £37 billion.
The Eurofighter joint management deal with Germany, Italy and Spain has resulted in problems obtaining spares and meant the RAF has had problems fully training pilots.
While Typhoons are performing well in air-to-air combat – which means they could see action enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya – £564 million of work on adapting the jets so they can attack ground targets is unlikely to be complete until 2018, according to the report.
NAO head Amyas Morse said: “The Typhoon is currently performing important operational tasks but the full multi-role capability won’t be available for a number of years.
“Until this happens the MoD will not have secured value for money from its over £20 billion investment in Typhoon. MoD has put some of the building blocks in place to enable this to happen. But difficult and deep-rooted problems remain to be overcome.
“Our examination has shown that key investment decisions were taken on an over-optimistic basis; the project suffered from corporate decisions to try to balance the defence budget; and the department did not predict the substantial rate at which costs would rise. None of this suggests good cost control, a key determinant of value for money.”
Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff said the MoD and Eurofighter had learnt from past problems with the programme.
He said: “The four partner nations are working hard together to ensure their project management continues to match the excellence of the Typhoon, which is a world-class, multi-role weapon system which meets the defence challenges of the 21st century.
“The Defence Secretary has announced reforms to prevent future delays and cost overruns in Defence procurement, ensuring our armed forces are properly equipped and taxpayers get value for money.”