Missile deal still not settled

GEC-Marconi has not had confirmation that the promise of extra Nimrod work will be fulfilled

By George Paloczi-Horvath

GEC-Marconi has still not firmed up its involvement in British Aerospace’s Nimrod 2000 maritime patrol aircraft project despite being promised £200m of extra work on it last summer.

A BAe executive confirmed that the Nimrod 2000 contract’s value of `around’ £1.85bn will include GEC-Marconi’s extra work, but said that what kind of work was the subject of dispute. At the Treasury’s insistence the price cannot be raised to accommodate GEC’s additional work.

BAe won the replacement maritime patrol aircraft contest last July. GEC-Marconi was the mission system supplier for the rival Lockheed Martin Orion 2000 bid.

In a deal negotiated by deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, GEC-Marconi – already a supplier of minor Nimrod 2000 systems – was promised more work to ease the effect on jobs of losing the patrol aircraft bid.

BAe signed the Nimrod 2000 contract with the MoD on 2 December after agreeing its main provisions in October and November.

Efforts to persuade other nominated Nimrod 2000 subcontractors to give GEC-Marconi more work have ruffled feathers.

`GEC was shoe-horned into this project and is now trying to tell subcontractors it can do some of their work even though it was never selected for it,’ one subcontractor claimed. The firm has tried to settle the matter with BAe.

Last week the first of three Nimrod fuselages to be rebuilt under the 21-aircraft Nimrod 2000 programme was flown to FR Aviation in Bournemouth.

Other subcontracts so far awarded include one worth $639m for the mission system which was awarded to Boeing on 31 January, and a £62m contract for training systems, awarded to Thomson Training & Simulation on 17 January.