The British government has been urged to review its military equipment purchases following continuing delays with key procurement programmes, such as the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft programme.

In its 2008 report on defence equipment, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee says the Ministry of Defence (MoD) needs to make “difficult decisions which will lead to a realistic and affordable equipment programme”.

The report raised concerns about defence procurement, labelling it “unaffordable”.

Committee chair James Arbuthnot says the MoD needs to develop a realistic procurement programme that delivers equipment on time and within budget.

“A realistic equipment program will give confidence to our armed forces that the programs that remain will be delivered in the numbers and to the timescale required, and will also allow industry to make informed investment decisions,” Arbuthnot says.

“The MoD must carefully examine whether it should cut its losses and withdraw from this sorry saga of defence equipment.”

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Responding to the report, Minster for Defence Equipment and Support Baroness Taylor says the size and complexity of the ministry’s equipment programme sin both delivery and technological development should not be underestimated.

“We are putting the changes in place to improve the delivery of our equipment programmes to our Armed Forces,” Taylor says.

“We keep spending plans under regular review, as we are doing in the current planning round fro both equipment and the wider Defence programme, to ensure that we continue to spend money on the right priorities and balance our current commitments with those that may arise in the future.”

Taylor says the 2008/09 defence budget is likely to be around £34 billion.

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh