Today, during the statement from Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin MP, on the Ajax armoured fighting vehicle, I asked the Minister about the use of taxpayers' money and the cost of the ammunition.
You can read the full question and answer below:
I thank the Minister for his frank and transparent response. The assembly of the Ajax in Merthyr Tydfil contributes greatly to prosperity and jobs in north Wales, but he will know that the Defence Committee has taken a keen interest in the Ajax project, and we have concerns, mainly around the effective use of taxpayers’ money. Is he in a position to tell us how much the ammunition for the Ajax 40 mm cannon costs?
I am not. I am writing to the Defence Committee, of which my hon. Friend is a very important member, on exactly that issue, as well as other issues that the Committee raised after my appearance before it. I have seen lots of rumours about the costs of rounds, many of which are way out, but I am constrained. As the House will appreciate, there is nothing more commercially sensitive for a supplier than the exact price of a particular product that it sells to one of its major customers.
If I may, I will explain the difference between 30 mm and 40 mm. An analysis was conducted by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. As the Committee and the House are well aware, there is extra weight on armoured fighting vehicles to enhance the survivability of the crew within them. Given those trends, DSTL’s view was that we needed a heavier weight of ammunition to have effect and to have lethality. That was why we went for the 40 mm rather than the 30 mm option for Ajax, in combination with the entire system, including the stabilisation. The extra punch from the 40 mm, with the system that supports it, means that we would expect to get lethality from one shot. That is incredibly important to our service personnel. It means that they are not dwelling to get an accurate shot and they are not, unlike with the 30 mm, required to send a burst with a shotgun effect. They have a single precision strike. When we look for value for money, the ability to protect our crews and to provide lethality and to ensure that we get that one strike are what is important.
As a result, when we compare the costs of a round of 40 mm with a round of 30 mm, we are comparing a 30 mm burst of three rounds with, in normal circumstances, one shot from the 40 mm. That is the context of value for money, which I hope will persuade my hon. Friend that it is not just a straightforward round-for-round shell comparison. It does not give the full answer.
Stay updated with my work in Wrexham and Westminster and sign up to my monthly newsletter: