Aquila Air Traffic Management Services (ATMS) was formed in 2014 as a joint venture between National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and Thales. Aquila was awarded the £1.5 billion Project Marshall contract by the Ministry Of Defence (MOD) in 2014. The project involved handing over the responsibility of running, then replacing and modernising the UK’s existing military air traffic control systems in the UK and overseas, to meet critical safety standards and release radio spectrum for other purposes.


Aquila and MOD worked together to design a project delivery plan and contract delivery services.  Delivery was challenging, and ultimately the need for external input was recognised to achieve successful delivery. These challenges had unfortunately got as far as a formal dispute.  To prevent project failure, we were appointed by Aquila to undertake a fundamental review in order to turn the project around and successfully deliver the intended benefits whilst avoiding any costly and potentially public dispute.


Our agreed approach was to identify potential bottlenecks in processes, enhance key capabilities, review proposed systems and plans and to identify a remediation approach (both delivery and governance).  We were also requested to support negotiations between Aquila and MOD. Following an open procurement, agreed business case and the public announcement of key dates, it was imperative that commercial, fundamental and timeframe requirements were maintained.

We also had to consider:

  • Ambiguity over demarcation of responsibilities between the JV parties existed; and
  • This was a fundamental safety service that was responsible for keeping aircrafts safe.

Following an in-depth review of the initial project plan, it was clear that fundamental change was required, and position adjustment held the key to achieving a resolution.  To gain commitment and understanding from all parties, we:

  • Identified and explained the underlying issues, supported by evidence and outlined an approach to achieve resolution;
  • Identified the best way forward (explaining our rationale) with clearly defined responsibilities, whilst maintaining necessary routine aspects of day to day delivery;
  • Understood and adjusted the expectations of the JV parties, meaning broad internal revenues and risk profiles remained similar, and ensured work was distributed to the most appropriate party;
  • Clearly defined the work packages and success measures;
  • Re-prioritised key and non-dependent deliverables to meet deadlines; and
  • Enhanced the delivery teams’ capabilities and streamlined processes, whilst maintaining high standards of safety compliance.


We worked alongside Aquila, engaging with key stakeholders to turn around the project and deliver a sustainable outcome.  Key dates were maintained, expensive and uncertain formal dispute processes were avoided, and most costs and responsibilities remained as originally envisaged.  The overall results were; no formal dispute; and an agreed revised, practical approach with tangible delivery to the newly agreed plan.



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