The Ministry of Defence has slashed the budget for the army’s Bowman radio system by £400m, and suggested that its preferred contractor, the Archer consortium, could be replaced.
The cut, from £2.1bn to £1.7bn, is part of a series of defence spending cuts. Archer, which comprises BAE Systems, ITT Industries and Racal Electronics, had budgeted for £1.9bn under its latest production plans.
The cost cut will mean that fewer Bowman radios will operate in extreme temperatures. The MoD insisted the change could be made `without compromising operational capability.’
The MoD is looking for alternative suppliers in case Archer cannot deliver. An MoD spokes-man said: `We are considering fallback options in case the preferred solution fails.’
Companies which have been invited to come up with alternatives include Computing Devices of Canada and Thomson-CSF, which owns Archer member Racal. Computing Devices says it could deliver its system within two years.
The cutback came at the same time as the MoD awarded an £80m contract to fix the army’s stock of unreliable SA80 rifles and machine guns, following problems in the recent Kosovo crisis and doubts over the guns’ performance in extreme climates.
The rifles, originally made by BAE Systems subsidiary Royal Ordnance, will be modified by RO subsidiary Heckler & Koch in Germany. The contract is for 200,000 rifles to be modified, with the first 22,000 to be delivered by the end of 2001.
The MoD is negotiating with H&K over the number of UK jobs involved. Early signs are that stripping and refurbishing work before modification will be done in Britain, probably at the Army Base Repair Organisation at Donnington, Shropshire. The modifications are expected to be carried out in Germany.
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