Douglas Barrie/LONDON

The four-nation Eurofighter 2000 project has come under fire from the UK's financial watchdog, the National Audit Office, which has heavily criticised political and industrial management of the programme.

The EF-2000 programme is three years late, and the UK's costs are £2.2 billion ($3.5 billion) over-budget, at £14.9 billion.

According to the report, the management set-up for the project is "cumbersome and bureaucratic", with development work on the aircraft determined by political, rather than financial, requirements.

"Eurofighter has been unable to impose its authority to ensure the resolution of problems on the programme since the lines of accountability have been blurred," says the report.

It also warns that there remain "...a number of challenges to be overcome if the contracts for future phases of the programme are to be placed in early 1996, as intended."

The four partner nations (Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK) are now trying to resolve work-share issues in the run-up to the production-investment phase of the programme.

German work-share, in particular, will need to be altered following substantial cuts in the number of aircraft it is to procure.

The NAO warns that the partner nations risk, introducing further delays into the programme. "A large reallocation of tasks for the production phase is likely to prove difficult to achieve at an acceptable cost without causing some delays to the programme."

The audit office argues that on future collaborative programmes one single company from a participating nation should take the lead role.

Within the Eurofighter project there have been discussions, say sources, on whether this approach should be adopted, with British Aerospace taking over the reins of the project.

Source: Flight International