Ministry of Defense – UK

Following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed and troubled projects from around the world.

Ministry of Defense – UK
Project : Chinook Helicopter upgrade
Date : Jun 2008 Cost : $1,000M USD

Synopsis :
Problems with cockpit software leave 8 Chinook helicopters intended for “specials ops” grounded after 7 years of effort.  Maintained in special air conditioned hangers, the aircraft have never seen operational use.  Although the helicopters can fly, they can only safely be operated “above 500 feet on cloudless days”.  How the helicopters get up to 500 feet in order to start flying safely is not revealed.  Failure to deliver the helicopters for operational use leaves a critical gap in the British military capability in Afghanistan.

According to reports, the fleet was grounded because the contract with the vendor “did not specify that software documentation and codes for avionics systems should be analyzed in accordance with UK Defense Standards”. Efforts to correct the situation abandoned and helicopters converted back to regular operations.

Contributing factors as reported in the press :
Failure to adhere to appropriate standards for documentation and project management. Poor procurement processes that failed to specify that UK airworthiness standards required the vendor to release the source code for verification as part of the certification process.  Shifting operational missions combined with slow progress rendered certain key strategic decisions worthless resulting in project resets.

Reference links :

  1. National Audit Office – Chinook Mk3 Helicopters
  2. MoD accused of Chinook ‘cock-up’
  3. Grounded Chinook costs rocket to £500m

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