UK Watchkeeper project is under review

The Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft program is one of the first to come under scrutiny from the U.K. Defense Ministry’s Major Projects Review Board, which was created to help monitor large-scale defense modernization programs in a bid to avoid cost overruns and schedule delays.

Watchkeeper UAV

Watchkeeper UAV

Defense Secretary Liam Fox, who chairs the board, called for its creation as part of a range of acquisition reform measures spelled out this year in Parliament. As Australia already has done, the U.K. also will establish a list of projects of concern to help increase pressure on industry to rectify problems.

In announcing the June 12 meeting, Fox says “I want to send a clear message across [the defense ministry]: Reckless spending stops here. Too often there has been too much reliance on industry’s self-reporting of time delays and capability deficits, rather than a transparent process to track performance.”

Initially, 50 programs will be examined, although that list is slated to grow. The collective cost of the reviewed programs is $100 billion. The first three projects reviewed are Thales’s Watchkeeper tactical unmanned aircraft program, with a value of $635 million, the army’s $315 million Falcon army communications system and the $134 million Valiant Jetty project.

Watchkeeper, for instance, has suffered several delays, although program officials now insist it is on schedule. Falcon also has seen delays, but industry officials believe the system is now on track for operational deployment next year. Under the “projects of concern” rules, the programs have three months to show improvement. If they fail, they will stay on the list until things improve.

Source: Aviation Week