Babcock to Seek Partial Revival of Scrapped U.K. Defense-Training Program
Babcock International Group Plc, which maintains Britain’s submarine fleet, said it aims to revive parts of a U.K. military-training project after a venture including Qinetiq Group Plc lost an order amid budget cuts.
Babcock, which bought government-services company VT Group Plc in July, already trains parts of Britain’s army, navy and air force and is “very capable” of delivering new teaching plans, Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogers said today in a telephone interview.
The government canceled the first stage of the so-called defense training rationalization program on Oct. 19 as part of a plan to reduce military spending by 8 percent. Metrix UK, a joint venture including Qinetiq and France’s Sodexo SA, was the preferred bidder on the program, which was aimed at specialists in aeronautical engineering, electro-mechanical engineering and communications and information systems.
“The original plan was to build a university of the armed forces in south Wales,” Rogers said. “That’s become unaffordable, but they still have the need for training.”
Government efforts to revise the program are “something we are very capable of helping them with,” and training could take place at a number of sites the Defense Ministry already owns without the cost of setting up a university, Rogers said.
Other military-spending cutbacks outlined in October include a 6.9 percent reduction in the U.K.’s standing army, reduction of the naval fleet and cancellation of an order for BAE Systems Plc’s Nimrod surveillance plane. The Defense Ministry said when it scrapped the training program that it will “examine a range of alternative proposals.”
The U.K. will proceed with building two aircraft carriers, adapting the vessels to allow the use of a variant of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter plane. Babcock is one of the contractors building the ships.
Alexander Hesketh resigned yesterday from Babcock’s board after the London-based company distanced itself from comments he made in a Daily Telegraph interview criticizing U.K. defense policy.
The Daily Telegraph cited Hesketh as calling the aircraft carrier program “a disaster” and saying Britain’s fleet of Typhoon warplanes, made by a group including London-based BAE, could have been adapted for naval operations rather than the F- 35s built by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed. Rogers said today that he didn’t know whether this option had been explored.
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