Douglas Barrie/LONDON

Lockheed Martin has paid the first instalment in a £23.5 million ($38 million) penalty charge to the UK Ministry of Defence for delays in delivery of the Royal Air Force's C-130J Hercules 2 tactical military transport.

Details of the "liquidated damages" are revealed in the National Audit Office's (NAO) Major Projects Report 1997, published on 13 May. Discussing the delay, the NAO says that it "-has investigated a worst-case scenario where every aircraft [C-130J] is at least a year late. Under this scenario, the department would be entitled to almost £54 million in-compensation". The MoD confirms that it received its first "cheque" from the US aerospace giant in April.

The RAF has 25 C-130Js on order, at an estimated cost of just over £1 billion. The C-130J development programme is running almost two years behind schedule. The NAO report notes that "-the aircraft's stall characteristics were unacceptable without aerodynamic corrections or the introduction of a stick pusher". Lockheed Martin has adopted the latter approach. Further problems have delayed deliveries until at least September.

The NAO report notes an overall £3 billion rise in the estimated costs of the 25 projects it reviewed, although it points out that almost half of this figure is down to the Eurofighter EF2000 programme. The bulk of the EF2000 cost increase arises from changes to the structure of the programme, coupled with the integration of additional air-to-surface weaponry.

Of the programmes considered, almost all had suffered from slippage from their originally planned in-service dates. Some 22 of the projects have been hit, with six suffering delays of more than 60 months.

This category includes the RAF's British Aerospace-led Panavia Tornado mid-life update. The original in-service date was 1993; the first Tornado GR4 was delivered to 9 Sqn at RAF Bruggen in Germany on 11 May.

The GKN Westland WAH-64 Apache attack helicopter programme, notes the NAO, has been delayed by 12 months. This, however, is not caused by any developmental difficulty as "-the programme has been slipped twice by six months to match the available Departmental resources". Originally, it was anticipated that the first nine WAH-64s would be delivered to the British Army Air Corps by December 1999.

Other programmes flagged up as liable to further delays include the Matra BAe Dynamics Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), the RAF's successor to the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

The report says: "There have been significant delays in the development firing programme which could impact the planned in-service date of December 1998."

Source: Flight International