Army set to axe £5.5billion Ajax 'light tank'

Army set to axe £5.5billion Ajax ‘light tank’ – which could not be fired on the move or go faster than 20mph

  • In tests, the Ajax could not be fired on the move or go faster than 20mph
  • It also caused crews to suffer acute hearing loss, nausea and spinal injuries
  • The Ministry of Defence has already spent £4billion on Ajax
  • Defence minister Jeremy Quin told admitted it may be cancelled 

The Army is set to scrap a £5.5billion ‘light tank’ before it has entered service.

In tests, the Ajax armoured vehicle could not be fired on the move or go faster than 20mph. It also caused crews to suffer acute hearing loss, nausea and spinal injuries.

The Ministry of Defence has already spent £4billion on Ajax but only 26 of the 589 ordered in 2014 have been delivered. 

Yesterday defence minister Jeremy Quin told MPs an independent expert is being sought to evaluate the project and admitted it may be cancelled. 

Major General Timothy Hodgetts told the defence select committee the Army was now looking at alternatives.

Cancellation could spark a legal battle between the MoD and makers General Dynamics (UK) over compensation.  

In tests, the Ajax armoured vehicle could not be fired on the move or go faster than 20mph. It also caused crews to suffer acute hearing loss, nausea and spinal injuries. Pictured: The Ajax Army tank ordered by the Ministry of Defence

Mr Quin insisted the military, officials and contractor General Dynamics were all committed to making the Ajax vehicle a success.

But he told MPs ‘we can’t be 100% certain that can be achieved’ and military commanders are already working on contingency plans in case the armoured vehicles cannot be used.

Trials of the light tank have been paused because of safety concerns which have left some personnel complaining of vibration injuries while others have suffered hearing loss – in some cases requiring steroid treatment in an attempt to reverse the damage.

Mr Quin told the Defence Select Committee: ‘I have described Ajax as a troubled programme, I wish it wasn’t, but it is.

‘It requires a lot of work from ourselves and our industry partners to get ourselves back on track.

‘We can’t be 100% certain that that can be achieved.

‘But this programme matters to the British Army, to 4,100 employees in 230 companies across the UK, and we will do our utmost to succeed.’

A leaked internal report had claimed the machine were unable to travel safely faster than 20 miles per hour – half the 40mph top speed, and crew members were suffering noises so loud that it made them feel sick

The overall cost of the contract is £5.5 billion, with around £3.2 billion of taxpayers’ money spent so far.

A new official will be appointed to oversee the programme until it reaches final operational capability (FOC) – or is scrapped.

‘We are currently undertaking a search for the right person who will be responsible for the delivery of this programme through to FOC or indeed informing ministers if – which we sincerely hope is not the case – this is for any reason unachievable,’ Mr Quin said.

Tory committee member Mark Francois, a former defence minister, said: ‘If you are having to give people steroid injections after having been in the vehicle, that tells you everything you need to know.’

It was time to ‘rip the plaster off’ and cancel it, he said.

Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood welcomed the minister’s ‘willingness to conduct a review and make a sober assessment as to whether you can genuinely go forward with this or whether it is then time to draw a line’.

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