You assert in Comment (Flight International, 5-11 November) that the procurement chain adopted by the UK Ministry of Defence for the Apache helicopter shows that "the ministry has used initiative and escaped from outdated methods of doing business".

Perhaps it has, but in doing so it has substituted a process that undermined three fundamental principles of procurement: the prime contractor's responsibility for the complete weapon system; the synchronisation of all supporting activities; and clearly defined lines of responsibility and accountability.

With any procurement programme the customer has the right to expect these principles to be upheld. Furthermore, he will expect his purchase to meet the specification, be delivered on time and within budget. He will not expect to foot the bill for a flawed private finance initiative or industry's failure to deliver.

The Apache programme does not score well on any of these points. In short, the procurement process for a weapon described by the National Audit Office as "the cornerstone of the British Army's air manoeuvre capability" (with an initial in-service date of December 2000) has been a costly and damaging scandal that will blight the operational effectiveness of the army for years to come.

Michael Badger

Chichester, UK

Source: Flight International