Tim Ripley

In a major reversal of policy the UK government has dropped the BAE Systems-led Archer consortium as prime contractor for the much troubled $2.7 billion (£1.7 billion) Bowman communications programme.

With a staggering sense of mistiming, the UK government chose to humiliate the country¹s premier aerospace company in the middle of the Farnborough showcase. However, as one BAE Systems staffer commented: "there is never a good time." Baroness Symons, the UK¹s defence procurement officer, announced the shock news in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, that the competition to provide the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy with a "tactical internet" was being _re-opened. Earlier this month BAE System submitted a sole supplier bid to the Ministry of Defence in a "put up or shut-up" move _to prompt them into finally issuing a contract to allow production of more than 44,000 hi-tech radios and 17,000 computer terminals. "After careful consideration we are not convinced that they can deliver a communications system that meets our requirements in the time allowed, or that it presents value for money," says the Baroness. "We are confident that a new competition now offers the best prospects for delivering the best value for money and the lowest risk solution." BAE Systems says it is "disappointed" with the decision and is consulting with its partners on how to go forward, as it has "serious implications" for the 400 people engaged on the project.


The huge Bowman contract involves the equipping of up to 30,000 vehicles, 40 warships, more than 500 aircraft and helicopters. Since its inception early in the 1990s, the programme has been dogged by delays, technical foul ups and cost over-runs.

BAE Systems has led the Archer consortium, made up of ITT Defence, BAE Systems and Racal Defence Electronics, since 1997. Earlier this year the government asked for rival proposals from Computing Devices Canada and Thomson-CSF for off-the-self solutions.

Source: Flight Daily News