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Glitch In The Program

Software Blunder Grounds British Chinooks In Iraq

"Absolutely extraordinary."

Those are the words being bandied about in the British Defense Ministry after a software goof-up grounded half of the Queen's Chinook helicopters.

"Thanks to a massively botched job, they cannot be flown when there is a cloud in the sky," said Edward Leigh, chairman of the British parliament's accounts committee.

Officials said navigation software critical to the Chinooks' missions can't be installed. That leaves eight of the twin-rotor giants sitting on the ground at a cost of about $476 million.

"Instead of desperately needed helicopters, the MOD (Ministry of Defense) might as well have bought eight turkeys," added Leigh, a Conservative Minister of Parliament.

The helicopters were purchased from the United States in 1995 by the Conservative Party government then in power. The Conservatives have since been ousted by the Labor Party led by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

British authorities estimate a fix will cost about $241 million dollars and can't be completed until 2007 -- nine years after the Chinooks were supposed to enter British service. There is now some doubt at Westminster about whether the aircraft will be retrofitted at all.

FMI: www.mod.uk

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