The British Army will have to struggle on with its obsolete 25-year-old comms system for at least another two years, the contractor appointed to build its replacement has warned.
Computing Devices Canada Systems (CDC) has been awarded a £1.7bn contract by the Ministry of Defence to complete the hugely-delayed BOWMAN tactical communications system, first mooted to be ready for use in the field by 1995.
First use of the system will now not be until the end of 2003, eight years late, with some army vehicles and personnel remaining untrained and/or unconnected until October 2007. That's if everything now goes to plan.
Government watchdog the National Audit Office estimates the botched project has so far cost the taxpayer £9bn, and has left "forces supporting land operations to operate with an insecure, cumbersome and unreliable tactical communications system".
Last year, a House of Commons Defence committee report last year labelled BOWMAN "the antithesis of smart procurement with over-ambitious requirements, inadequate competition and a lack of clear leadership".
The MOD has rejected previous tenders for the contract on the basis that they could not be completed quickly or cheaply enough.
CDC, part of General Dynamics, is better placed to finally deliver the new system. It has already completed a similar product, Iris, for the Canadian Government that has been in use since 1999.
The firm plans to build 95 per cent of the new system in the UK, creating 1600 new jobs, mainly in South East Wales. In addition, it will fund a new army communications research & development centre in the UK.
CDC said BOWMAN would be based on internet protocol, and claimed it would provide the infrastructure to support software used by the Army for the next 30 years.
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