British Defense Secretary Vows to Fix Tank that Deafens Troops
Wallace is to meet with the CEO of General Dynamics, maker of the Ajax light tank.
The U.K. defense secretary pledged to fix a troubled armored fighting vehicle that is reportedly so loud that soldiers are suffering hearing loss during military test trials.
During a visit to the United States this week, Wallace said he is scheduled to meet with Phebe Novakovic, CEO of General Dynamics, maker of the Ajax light tank.
“We’ve paid for a piece of equipment, we expect it to be delivered,” Ben Wallace said Tuesday during a press conference in Washington. “Just like any other consumer, we have those rights, and if it's not up to scratch, we'll take action.”
Earlier this month, The Times of London reported that “urgent talks” would be held to discuss the project’s future, after 20 soldiers suffered hearing loss during Ajax trials.
“We, both General Dynamics and the Army, have determined they're going to have to put this right,” Wallace said.
The U.K. Defence Ministry originally awarded the Ajax contract to U.S. weapons maker General Dynamics in 2010. The £4.62 billion ($6.4 billion) contract calls for 589 vehicles. So far, General Dynamics has delivered 25 to the British Army for acceptance trials. Another 91 Ajax vehicles are built and awaiting delivery, according to General Dynamics.
“We've already withheld significant amounts of money from progressing of the contract until we fix it,” Wallace said. “It has to be fixed.”
In prepared testimony for an upcoming Parliament Defense Committee hearing about Ajax, General Dynamics pledged to fix the tanks.
“While we work diligently to address concerns referenced in the question, we are confident we will be able to implement any appropriate actions,” the company said in the prepared testimony.
The company said “no other vehicle is available at this level of maturity” to meet the British Army’s requirements.
“[General Dynamics Land System-UK] places the highest priority on the health and safety, general wellbeing, and protection of its employees, contractors, and customers, and takes seriously the health concerns raised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in regards to noise and vibration,” the company said in the prepared testimony. “GDLS–UK is working closely with the MoD and partners to understand the root causes of the concerns on noise and vibration, and GDLS–UK is taking the necessary measures to ensure the reported issues are addressed.”
The British defense secretary, who was a tank commander in the British Army when the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle was introduced in the 1980s, said new weapons projects typically “have teething problems,” but “this is more than a teething problem.”
“It's a troubled program, no one's hiding that,” he said. “We've got to get to the bottom of the problems with it.”