Delays to the 20 biggest military equipment projects in the UK increased by an average of 96 months during 2007-2008 at an increased cost of £205m, the Committee of Public Accounts has reported.

According to the Committee of Public Accounts Chairman Edward Leigh MP the disappointing results are the worst since 2003.

“What lies behind this are the same old failings: a lack of realism and unjustified optimism about what can be achieved, at what cost and by when,” Leigh said.

“The consequences of all of this for our service men and women are serious. Delays to projects have led to gaps in our present front-line capability and the department, to live within its budget, is having to trade some future defence capabilities.”

Leigh was speaking as the committee published its 20th major projects report based on Ministry of Defence (MoD) information, which examined the impact of time slippage, cost increases and effective project management at early stages of equipment projects.

The major projects report 2008 provides information on the time, cost and performance of 20 of the largest military equipment projects being undertaken by the MoD, where the main investment decision has been taken, as well as the top ten projects in the earlier assessment phase.

The report also suggests that the reoccurrence of these problems is a result of the latest acquisition reforms, introduced in 2001, not yet resulting in the MoD making better investment decisions or improving the execution of its defence projects.

In particular, the main investment decisions for Terrier, Soothsayer and the naval extremely-high-frequency / super-high-frequency satellite communications terminals, made after 2001, suffered the largest slippages in 2007-2008.

The Terrier and Soothsayer in-service dates have already been missed, forcing the purchases of interim vehicles and continued use of outdated equipment in Afghanistan. The three to four year delays to the A400M aircraft have resulted in older Hercules aircraft serving beyond their planned out-of-service date.

By Daniel Garrun.