HL Deb 13 March 2003 vol 645 c196WA
Lord Tomlinson

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a prime contractor has been selected for the assessment phase of the future integrated soldier technology (FIST) programme. [HL2142]

Lord Bach

The FIST programme will bring the benefits of improved technology to the soldier by providing an integrated suite of personal equipment to enhance dismounted close combat capability. This will include the latest surveillance, target acquisition, navigation, communications and miniaturisation technologies, all integrated into robust, flexible and reliable military equipment, capable of operation anywhere in the world. It will further increase the tempo of our battlefield operations, ensuring British forces engaged on the battlefields of the future will be among the best equipped in the world.

Four companies were invited to compete for the role of FIST assessment phase prime contractor, Bae Systems Ltd, Marconi Mobile Ltd, Raytheon Systems Ltd and Thales Optronics Ltd, a division of Thales UK. All submitted strong bids. Following detailed consideration of the proposals, the four tenderers were reduced to two during August 2002. The final phase of the competition focused on the remaining companies' plans for the management of the assessment phase. After a further period of evaluation, the Ministry of Defence has today selected Thales Optronics Ltd as the prime contractor for the assessment phase.

The contract with Thales UK has a value of £20 million. The FIST assessment phase will sustain and create around 70 jobs at Thales plants in the UK. In time, the demonstration and manufacture phase, for which we retain the option to compete the requirement, will sustain and create many more.

The assessment phase will last until 2006. An in-service date for FIST will not be set until the main investment decision, but current estimates are around the end of the decade.