Factbox - How Britain's 15 biggest defence contracts stand

Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:00pm GMT

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(Reuters) - Britain will have to cancel or re-negotiate defence contracts to meet budget targets, a parliamentary watchdog said on Tuesday as Defence Secretary Liam Fox outlined plans to keep a lid on procurement projects.

Following is a list of Britain's 15 biggest defence contracts showing their current status and cost to the public purse although a spending decision on the biggest -- replacing Britain's fleet of nuclear submarines -- is not due until 2016.

Project: Typhoon (Eurofighter) Fighter Aircraft

Estimated Cost: 20.6 billion pounds

Contractor: BAE Systems, EADS, Finmeccanica

Status: A total of 707 aircraft have been ordered by Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Austria and Saudi Arabia. In 2009 Britain cut its order to 160 from 232 and no further cuts were introduced in last year's defence review.

Project: Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft

Estimated Cost: 11.9 billion pounds

Contractor: AirTanker (Babcock, Cobham, EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales)

Status: A contract to supply the Royal Air Force with air-to-air refuelling and air transport capability over a 24 year period was awarded in 2008. The first of 14 aircraft is due to be delivered in late 2011 and the fleet is seen as crucial if air force jets are to deploy quickly over long distances.

Project: Astute Attack Submarine

Estimated Cost: 6.7 billion pounds

Contractor: BAE Systems

Status: The company got the go-ahead to build the fifth and sixth nuclear-powered submarines in the programme in March 2010. The order for a seventh and final submarine was safeguarded in October's defence review.

Project: Type 45 anti-air warfare destroyer

Estimated Cost: 6.5 billion pounds

Contractor: BAE Systems

Status: Four out of six vessels are in service or undergoing trials with the remaining two due to be commissioned in 2012 and 2013. The programme originally envisaged the building of 12 Type 45s but that was cut to eight in 2004 and to six in 2008.

Project: Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier

Estimated Cost: 5.9 billion pounds

Contractors: BAE Systems, Thales, Babcock

Status: Two vessels -- HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales -- are currently being built with the first due to be fully operational by 2020. Under the 2010 defence review both will be built but one is likely to be mothballed as soon as the other enters service and one will be redesigned to allow it to operate cheaper jets that do not rely on vertical takeoff.

Project: Nimrod MRA4 Reconnaissance Aircraft

Estimated Cost: 3.6 billion pounds

Contractor: BAE Systems

Status: The delayed and over-budget programme was scrapped altogether last year having already been cut to 9 aircraft from 21. The cancellation has been widely criticised with former military chiefs noting that an island nation needs a strong maritime reconnaissance capability.

Project: A400M Large Transport Aircraft

Estimated Cost: 3.2 billion pounds

Contractor: EADS, Rolls-Royce

Status: The replacement for the C130 Hercules transport aircraft has been undergoing air-to-air refuelling, cold weather and fatigue trials this year. European nations hammered out an agreement to fund cost overruns in November, with Germany cutting its order by 7 aircraft to 53. Britain cut its order to 22 from 25 in March last year.

Project: Joint Combat Aircraft (F-35 Lightning II)

Estimated Cost: 2.4 billion pounds

Contractor: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Pratt and Witney, Rolls-Royce

Status: No firm order has yet been placed for the Harrier jump jet replacement being developed with the United States. But Britain announced in last year's review that it would drop plans to buy a more expensive vertical take-off variant powered by Rolls-Royce lift technology. The Ministry of Defence says its plans assume Britain will need 150 aircraft.

Project: Lynx Wildcat light helicopter

Estimated Cost: 1.7 billion pounds

Contractor: Finmeccanica's Agusta Westland

Status: The programme to deliver multi-role helicopters to the Royal Navy and British Army in 2014 and 2015 was cut from 80 to 62 units in 2009.

Project: Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (Meteor)

Estimated Cost: 1.3 billion pounds

Contractor: MBDA UK Ltd (BAE Systems, EADS, Finmeccanica)

Status: The contract for an air-to-air missile to equip the Eurofighter Typhoon, as well as Sweden's Saab Gripen and France's Dassault Rafale aircraft, was awarded in 2002 with the development programme due to run until late 2011. MBDA expects to deliver its first production missiles during 2012.

Project: United Kingdom Military Flying Training Capability

Estimated Cost: 0.9 billion pounds

Contractor: Lockheed Martin, Babcock

Status: The Ascent consortium is due to deliver its first outsourced MFTS course in November 2011.

Project: Watchkeeper unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle

Estimated Cost: 0.9 billion pounds

Contractors: Thales, Elbit Systems

Status: Britain has ordered 54 Watchkeeper UAVs and last year's review referred to Britain's fast-jet fleet being "complemented by a growing fleet of unmanned air vehicles." The aircraft made its maiden flight in April 2010.

Project: Merlin helicopter Capability Sustainment Programme

Estimated Cost: 0.8 billion pounds

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Finmeccanica's Agusta Westland

Status: A contract to update avionics on 30 EH101 Merlin helicopters with upgraded versions entering service in 2013 and full operational capability due by December 2014.

Project: Falcon communication system

Estimated Cost: 0.3 billion pounds

Contractors: BAE Systems

Status: The battlefield communication capability was awarded to BAE Systems in March 2006 and entered service in 2010.

Project: Tornado fighter aircraft upgrade

Estimated Cost: 0.3 billion pounds

Contractors: BAE Systems

Status: BAE was awarded the contract to upgrade communications on the Tornado GR4 and to integrate a precision guided bomb in 2008 with upgraded versions due to come into service next year. Under last year's defence review, the RAF's Tornados are due to be largely phased out over several years.

(Sources: Reuters, National Audit Office, Ministry of Defence, contractors)

(Reporting by Paul Hoskins)

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