U.S. Markets close in 6 hrs 14 mins

UK launches competition for weapons buying contracts

LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) - Britain has launched a competition to find private sector partners to help run project delivery in its weapons buying unit, a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said on Monday.

Reuters reported on Friday that the government was planning to split the multi-billion pound Defence Equipment & Support operation into smaller contracts, with notices to be sent out to potential bidders as early as this week.

The government is tendering out support contracts for DE&S's project delivery, human resources and financial responsibilities. Project delivery - which involves managing the MoD's weapon programmes - is being split further into four smaller contracts for land, fleet, air and joint command.

The move comes after an earlier failed attempt to outsource management of the entire unit, which has often been criticised for cost overruns and delays, to a private firm.

Industry sources said firms such as Fluor, KBR , Bechtel, CH2M Hill, Balfour Beatty and Atkins were likely to look at the latest proposals.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Neil Maidment)