UK adds detail to 10-year defence equipment plan

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The UK Ministry of Defence has detailed its equipment plan for the 10-year period until 2021-2022, for which its total spending will be just over £159 billion ($240 billion) across the three armed services.

According to figures included in a Defence Equipment Plan report published on 31 January, around £60 billion of the total will be spent on procuring new equipment, with £86 billion more to be allocated to supporting the operation of new and existing systems.

 

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Combat air-related spending of £18.5 billion will cover types including the Eurofighter Typhoon

Some £8.4 billion of "risk funding" is also contained within the spending plan, along with £4.8 billion "to manage cost variation and protect existing projects", the MoD says. Another £8 billion has not yet been allocated, but will be used "to fund, incrementally and flexibly, a number of additional programmes that are a high priority for defence, as soon as we can be sure that they are affordable".

A combined £44.5 billion will be spent on air-related projects, from which "combat air" activities will get £18.5 billion. This will cover "continuing investment to bring [Eurofighter Typhoon] Tranche 2 and 3 aircraft fully into service," the report says. "Further investment to develop and enhance the aircraft's multi-role and ISTAR [intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance] capabilities are priorities for use of unallocated headroom in the plan budget," it adds.

The combat air allocation will also include "increasing investment in the [Lockheed Martin F-35] Lightning II" and more spending on unmanned air vehicle projects, including through co-operation with France.

Royal Air Force transport, tanker and air support projects including the Airbus Military A400M, AirTanker-provided Airbus A330 Voyager and Airseeker electronic intelligence aircraft fleets will account for £13.9 billion, while rotorcraft programmes will cost £12.1 billion. The UK is in the process of acquiring 62 new AgustaWestland Wildcats and 14 additional Boeing CH-47 Chinooks, and is already upgrading its existing Chinooks and Eurocopter Pumas.

 

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"A capability sustainment programme" for the British Army's Boeing/Westland Apache AH1 attack helicopters (above) is likely to continue the type's use until 2040, while a plan to "address obsolescence and ship optimisation" for AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin HC3/3As - due to be transferred from the RAF to the Royal Navy - is described as "a high priority for future investment later in the decade".

Weapon systems programmes, which will include the purchase of "missiles, torpedoes and precision-guided bombs", will be worth around £11.4 billion until 2022.

Land equipment spending will total £12.3 billion, while the Royal Navy's surface ship and submarine programmes - including activities to sustain the UK's independent nuclear deterrent - will account for a combined £53.2 billion.

After conducting an assessment of the 10-year plan, the UK National Audit Office says the MoD "has taken significant positive steps designed to deal with the accumulated [£74 billion] affordability gap in the Equipment Plan 2012 to 2022". While commending the ministry for "approaching the task on a more prudent basis", it cautions that its attitude to risk "is still over-optimistic" when balanced against its past performance in buying new equipment.