No more spiralling shipbuilding costs, vows navy chief

Members of the Friends of the Earth discuss the quality of air in Portsmouth with visitors to the For the Love of Portsmouth event        Picture: Keith Woodland

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THE head of the Royal Navy's destroyer programme has vowed: the days of spiralling costs are over.

Commodore Steve Brunton, head of destroyers, said the Royal Navy now knows enough not to repeat the mistakes it made with Type 45 and supercarrier programmes.

Both projects ran over in cost by billions of pounds.

Now he said it is time to get tough and make contractors realise there is no 'open-ended cheque book' when it comes to the next generation of Royal Navy ships - the Type 26 frigates, still in the design stage.

He said: 'These ships not only need to be designed efficiently, but need to be efficient in in-service costs, whether that's people, fuel, general support. This is being considered in the design phase.

'They need to be designed to cost. There's a very clear idea of what the affordability bracket is to buy.

'It's a subtle change in philosophy. We don't have an open-ended cheque book.

'It's putting on the financial rigours London is feeling and passing those out.

'It's exactly as if you bought a car in your private life - it's bringing into public life what the responsible among us would do in private life.'

Asked if the navy shouldn't have been doing exactly that in the first place with all their projects, he said: 'We've all got degrees in hindsight.' He would not comment on whether the military is seeking penalty clauses for late delivery.

On the Type 45s' problems, which have included failing engines, a malfunctioning missile system and problems with RADAR, he said: 'Just because they're launched doesn't mean they're ready to go into service. It's not like buying a car, going to a forecourt and driving it away... There have been some teething problems.'

But he said these issues have now been resolved, and pledged that 2012 is 'going to be a very busy year for what is proving to be a successful project'.

The carriers, Type 45s and Type 26 frigate programme have all been handled by massive international weapons firm BAE Systems. BAE Systems refused to comment.

Cdre Brunton spoke to The News on Whale Island, following a meeting between the Royal Navy and around 80 contractors who have worked on the Type 45 programme.