107m RAF Tornado hangar for MOD never used – Stakeholder Case Study

By Geoff Reiss
Red Dragon was a project between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Welsh Authorities for the development of the St Athan site in South Wales. The original plan was for the construction of a state-of-the-art aircraft maintenance facility, a super-hangar, able to accommodate 48 RAF Tornado jets, costing £107 million. To support this there was a ground lease for the land, an airfield and supporting infrastructure.
multi-millon super hangar for RAF tornado jets never used

Once complete, 5,000 newly employed Welsh workers were supposed to be busy as the RAF flew their planes in for repairs.

The benefits planned included the creation of new jobs at St Athan with a £14 billion investment over 25 years with an estimated £57.4 million spent into the local economy.

Clearly a major stakeholder was the RAF. You might reasonable expect that stakeholder management would have led to a pretty watertight agreement plus great stakeholder understanding between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Welsh Authorities. You would be wrong

So when the RAF carried out a major review of aircraft support and decided to change the way the Tornado and Harrier Jump Jet’s repair business was organized, the whole super-hanger thing was no longer needed.

The site became a white elephant.

The NAO report explains how these two organizations had very different long term ambitions and instead of seeing the initiative as a joint project between two government arms, it was seen as a commercial venture.

The NAO reported that:
The Red Dragon project highlights the danger in large and complex projects that involve multiple public bodies of insufficient openness and information sharing.
The two organizations did not work closely together.

Some use of the facilities is being made but nothing like the benefit expected has been, or very likely, will be ever achieved. Today, Aston Martin make motor cars there.

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National Audit Office (NAO), 2009, The Red Dragon project. REPORT BY THE COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR GENERAL AND THE AUDITOR GENERAL FOR WALES. PREPARED JOINTLY BY THE NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE AND THE WALES AUDIT OFFICE. Available online at https://www.nao.org.uk/report/the-red-dragon-project/