May 15, 2012 AirTanker
On Thursday 10 May 2012, BBC Two’s Newsnight reported on continuing weaknesses with MOD procurements and focussed some of the programme on the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) contract.
The main focus of the discussion on FSTA was that the cost per aircraft to the MOD was £152m, whereas a standard A330 could be acquired for as little as “£40m – £50m”. They asserted through the use of “industry experts” that converting the aircraft to tankers would cost an additional £10m. The question to the Secretary of State for Defence was then essentially “how could MOD sign a contract where they paid 3 times the going rate?”
Much of the information used by the programme was inappropriate. Prior to the programme AirTanker provided relevant data to the Newsnight team to ensure they had the correct information to prevent them misinforming viewers, but unfortunately they chose not to use it. Newsnight speculated on achieving a very low price for procuring a standard A330, rather than properly researching and constructing a valid comparator for a modified, flight tested and certified tanker which is fit for MoD use. Publically available information clearly demonstrates that the price paid by the MOD (although they are not paying for the aircraft directly, rather they are paying for the service) is broadly equivalent to that paid by many other military customers for similar platforms.