The Typhoon fighter jet will cost the UK government a fifth more than previously forecast by the Ministry of Defence, and will not reach its potential as a multi-role aircraft until 2018, according to a spending watchdog.
“The cost of the Typhoon project has risen substantially. Despite the Ministry of Defence (MoD) now buying 72 fewer aircraft, down from 232 to 160, a reduction of 30 percent, the forecast development and production cost has risen by 20 percent to 20.2 billion pounds,” a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said.
“This is a 75 percent increase in the unit cost of each aircraft.”
The MoD has been repeatedly criticised for delays and cost over-runs on major defence projects. A parliamentary committee warned last year that the ministry could face an equipment funding gap of up to 36 billion pounds over the next 10 years.
Since then the nine-month-old coalition government has ordered cuts in defence equipment and personnel to help rein in Britain’s record peacetime budget deficit.
Experts say more cuts may be needed to meet the goal of cutting the defence budget by 8 percent over four years.
The MoD agreed to purchase 232 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft under a collaborative arrangement with Germany, Italy and Spain in the mid-1980s. The number of aircraft being purchased has subsequently fallen to 160.
The NAO report said that key investment decisions on Typhoon were taken on an over-optimistic basis and that costs had risen at a rate the MoD did not predict.
It added that the objectives of the four partner nations on the project were not fully aligned and that decision-making was slow.
The aircraft was designed primarily to fulfil an air combat role but is being upgraded to become a multi-role aircraft, which can conduct both air-to-air and ground attack missions.
The Typhoon already fulfils some key defence tasks but it is unlikely to reach its full potential as a multi-role aircraft until around 2018, said Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO.
“The full multi-role capability (of Typhoon) won’t be available for a number of years. Until this happens the MoD will not have secured value for money from its over 20 billion pounds investment in Typhoon,” said Morse.