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£2.4bn military radios slammed by accounts committee

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has slammed the roll-out of the military’s new £2.4bn battlefield radios, over delays and unsuitable kit.

The PAC has criticised the lack of management control of the project, the fact that the radios are too heavy for the infantry to carry easily, and the lack of interoperability with systems used by allies - meaning the continued possibility of a high number of “friendly fire” incidents.

The PAC also said the radio systems were difficult to fit into vehicles, as many of them differed from standard configurations.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the PAC, said, “Our armed forces have had to put up with an insecure, analogue military radio system for far too long. But Bowman, the planned new digital replacement system has been a very long time in arriving and it won’t do all we were led to believe.”

Leigh said, “The decision to incorporate Bowman with CIP, a computer-based battlefield management system, has made the challenge all the greater.”

The military first ordered the radios in two stages, in 2001 and 2002, but the first radios have only recently been introduced into combat. 

Leigh said that in the future, the MOD must take a much more “hard-headed and realistic approach” to its relationship with contractors, timescales, the costs over the whole life of a project, and the capabilities of a system when it is finally in service.

Such an approach was clearly lacking in the Bowman case, said Leigh, where there was no single person in firm control of the project. Although the radios are now coming into service “the troops at the sharp end are suffering the consequences”, said Leigh.

Army to get new battlefield comms system

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