Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Defence (PAC 00-01/170)

Questions 59 and 60. RBL755

  1.  The BL755 weapon was introduced into service in the early 1970s. It contains 147 bomblets but, to prevent excessive dispersal of the bomblets, it must be dropped from low level. In 1992 a requirement to deploy BL755 from medium level was initiated and the weapons were subsequently designated as RBL755. The modification consisted of a radar proximity fuse which delayed the release of the bomblets until the weapon had reached low level. Due to the particular operating circumstances of Kosovo the Department assessed that the balance of BL755 and RBL755 in the inventory needed to be modified and an urgent operational requirement to convert some existing BL755s to additional RBL755s was issued. Only RBL755 bombs were dropped during the Kosovo campaign. The manufacturer assesses the failure rate of the individual bomblets as 5 per cent.

Question 87. Cost of replacing Depleted Uranium (DU) ammunition for the Vulcan Phalanx system with tungsten ammunition.

  2.  The tungsten rounds for the Vulcan Phalanx system are about 40 per cent cheaper than the DU rounds, although this is an estimate of the relative costs of the two rounds because the Department has not bought DU ammunition for the Vulcan Phalanx since 1992.

Question 172. Cost of delays on the Sea Dart IR Fuse Update

  3.  The contract placed for the Sea Dart IR Fuse was firm priced (ie an agreed price which is not subject to variation for inflation) for development and fixed priced (ie an agreed price subject to variation to take account of inflationary movements) for production. When the contract was placed the price for development was £13.1 million and that for production was £15.9 million. The difference between these costs and the total estimated cost of £43 million is primarily attributable to the estimated effect of Variation of Price based upon input indices (labour and materials) on the production element (£10 million) and Defence Evaluation and Research Agency costs (£3 million).

  4.  When main production activities commence a revised price will be negotiated; these negotiations will also cover the need for agreement on where any additional costs may fall. These discussions may not conclude until the latter part of 2001, and only then will we be able to state what the delay in the new fuse entering service will have cost the MoD.

Ministry of Defence

30 January 2001

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