The training of Royal Navy recruits at Faslane nuclear base could be delivered by multinational arms firms bidding for a £2bn Ministry of Defence contract.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, two of the world’s biggest private arms companies, are in the running for a UK Government project called Selborne which is estimated to be worth £2bn over the next 12 years.
Project Selborne is due to start from 2021 and the successful bidder will deliver all levels of naval training including recruits at a new submarine school at HM Naval Base Clyde, where Britain’s nuclear arsenal is kept.
Both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon already provide training and logistics support for the US military.
Politicians and critics of nuclear weapons and the arms trade have expressed concern, however, citing fears over safety, the US firms’ links to alleged human rights abuses and the creeping privatisation of the UK’s armed forces.
According to a contract notice for prospective bidders, Project Selborne will involve moving submarine training currently provided at HMS Raleigh, based at Torpoint in Cornwall, to HM Naval Base Clyde.
The notice says: “Additional Training Services including: Move of the Submarine Training in HMS Raleigh to HMNB Clyde to form the Future Submarine School (FSS) relocating, modernising supporting the resulting training and equipment delivery and support in the new facility.”
The successful contractor will also provide training to the Royal Marines and manage “military assets, equipment, documentation” and a “cadre of Naval Service instructors”.
Raytheon makes laser systems for so-called smart bombs at a plant in Fife with the weapons linked to the death of civilians in alleged war crimes in Yemen.
The indiscriminate bombing by Saudi Arabia has been blamed for thousands of deaths and British sales of arms to Saudi were last week ruled unlawful by the court of appeal in London.
The judges ordered international trade secretary Liam Fox to review arms deal with the Saudis worth at least £4.7bn.
It emerged in January that Raytheon, which has received more than £200,000 in grants from Scottish Enterprise, had signed a £250m contract with the MoD to provide support services to the Royal Air Force’s fleet of surveillance aircraft.
The 11-year contract to support Shadow aircraft secured 200 jobs at Raytheon’s intelligence and surveillance hub in North Wales.
Raytheon is reportedly working on its bid with outsourcing firm Capita, criticised for a number of issues including wrongly archiving 130,000 NHS patient records.
Capita was also criticised over a 10-year contract in 2012 to manage recruitment for the armed forces.
Last December, however, the National Audit Office found that Capita had consistently missed the army’s targets, meaning personnel numbers in some frontline British army units were down by as much as a third, prompting concerns about their readiness for action.
Lockheed Martin, which builds the F35 fighter jet, has confirmed it is in the running for the MoD contract.
Labour MP Paul Sweeney said: “The war in Yemen has resulted in an appalling humanitarian crisis, and politicians on all sides of the political divide now have a moral duty to call for restrictions on the export of armaments to Saudi Arabia from the United Kingdom.
“Since 2010, the Tories have stripped over £2.5billion from our armed forces budget and have already presided over a series of failed privatisation contracts.
“They have cut the size of the regular Army from a peak of 114,000 in 2010 to a target size of 82,000 by 2020 and privatised recruitment to a company called Capita in 2012.
“As a result of the botched performance of Capita, in July 2018 the Army was 5,600, or about 7%, short of the number of regulars needed, and it is highly unlikely to meet its target headcount for 2020.
“Privatisation has failed to deliver more efficient performance and is driven by an irrational ideological zeal to dismantle as much of the state as possible.
“Rather than outsourcing yet more taxpayers’ money to private American defence contractors that are linked to potential war crimes in Yemen, the Conservatives should be focused on addressing the collapse in morale and exodus of disillusioned personnel within the armed forces.
“We should be investing in our armed forces in pursuit of an ethical foreign policy, and the Tories should match Labour’s commitment to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence.”
An MOD spokesperson said: “All of our suppliers are subject to robust assessments prior to a contract being awarded and are closely monitored throughout. As we are still in the competition stage for this contract, no decision on contractors has been made.”
Lockheed Martin said: “We can confirm that we intend to bid for Project Selborne in order to provide world-class training to the Royal Navy. As the competition is underway, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
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