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According to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) the British Ministry of Defence’s ten-year equipment plan is underfunded by €3.3 billion. The ministry plans to spend €210.3 billion on equipment and support over the period 2019 to 2029. This compares with a budget of €207 billion. If all identified risks materialize, the deficit could rise to almost €15 billion. This figure does not yet include the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) programme, which is to procure 528 Boxer for €2.6 billion in the period mentioned above.

The Equipment Plan covers large and complex procurement projects including nuclear-deterrent submarines (Dreadnought-class), global combat ships, new armoured vehicles (Ajax) and Lightning II aircraft. It also includes a budget to support new and in-service equipment, such as maintaining Typhoon aircraft, and introducing modern information and communications technology.

The Ministry of Defence intends to counter financial pressure by tighter control of in-year-expenditure and has undertaken a detailed analysis of investment options. However, the NAO considers that it has again delayed the difficult decisions to make the equipment plan affordable and to set its priorities for future key capabilities. Its continued short-term focus on living within its annual budget is increasingly leading to reduced capabilities.

Gerhard Heiming