Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the cost increase to Britain’s Protector acquisition program. The program is said to now cost an extra drone price £325 million, with £187 million of that attributed to a delivery delay.
LONDON — The British Defence Ministry’s top civilian has identified in a letter to lawmakers the reasons why a drone acquisition program has experienced a near 40 percent hike in costs.
The Ministry of Defence decided to delay by two years the delivery of 16 General Atomic Protector RG Mk1 drones to replace the Royal Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper fleet, the letter to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said.
Stephen Lovegrove, the ministry’s permanent secretary, cited that decision as the main reason for the drone price £325 million (U.S. $427 million) cost increase to the program, as £187 million of that could be attributed to the delay.
“The cost growth and time delay to the program imposed in July 2017 were outside of program tolerances but were the result of the need to ensure the affordability of the overall defence program,” Lovegrove wrote in his letter.
The MoD is currently in negotiations with the U.S. over a deal to build the first three of the 16 Protectors scheduled to be purchased for the RAF.
The final number of vehicles on order could eventually expand beyond 16 — subject to the MoD’s fragile finances in the coming years unless defense gets a sizable increase in the Conservative government’s next budget round due later this year.
The letter was sent Nov. 5 but has only recently been made public.
MQ-9 is an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations. The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers.
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