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Audit Slams Australia's Tiger Helo Program (May 3)

The [Australian] Government's costliest defence project this year - buying 22 helicopters "off the shelf" from Europe - has again fallen behind schedule and could blow-out to an extra $110 million, an independent report today found.

Senator Mark Bishop, Shadow Minister for Defence Procurement, said this meant troops serving overseas must continue to rely on outdated equipment. The Auditor-General's report into the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Project was delivered to Federal Government this morning.

It was looking into why the project to manufacture and deliver 22 Tiger helicopters "off the shelf" from France - touted by the Federal Government to be the most cost-effective plan -- could actually cost taxpayers $110 million above the original estimate.

"Again, poor planning, inadequate specifications and huge time delays have led to a cost blow-out in the defence budget," Senator Bishop said.

The fiasco started six years ago, when the Government decided to buy 22 Tiger Armed Reconnaissance helicopters from France.

These helicopters provide aerial reconnaissance and fire support for ground troops.

But the army is still waiting for these, since four "test" craft delivered to the government failed to meet capability standards.

The test crafts' engines were too heavy and they consumed too much fuel, the Auditor-General's report found.

Four years on, this design fault has still not been fixed, Senator Bishop said.

The report also told how the Defence Materiel Organisation identified another 69 faults in the test craft that were eventually delivered. "Despite this, the Government still accepted the delivery of helicopters that cannot do the job."

He said the report also showed that to fix the design fault - and effectively make the craft airworthy - would blow out the budget by $110 million.

"I intend to ask how this has happened at the next round of Senate Estimates, since it is the largest capital expenditure by the Howard Government in this financial year," Senator Bishop said. (ends)
Media Statement: 'Copter Costs Could Rocket To More Than $110 Million: Report