PRINCE Andrew has launched a stinging attack on the Ministry of Defence during a visit to Weymouth.

He hit out at the MoD for dragging their feet over tests on a revolutionary armoured vehicle built by Universal Engineering on the Granby Industrial Estate.

The prince visited the company to see their new Ranger vehicles as part of his role as an ambassador for UK Trade and Industry.

And after being told about the tests the company has already made to prove the protection they offer to soldiers he criticised army chiefs for asking for independent tests before making any orders.

He said: “Why do they have to do blast tests? It’s just increasing the cost.

“It just seems that because it takes time to get these things done – I would say to you that regrettably they will not get off their fat backsides.”

The prince also made reference to the war in Afghanistan and the effect that could have on orders.

He said: “They think they will be out by 2015. You’ve got a problem.”

He added: “The MoD are completely hopeless at these kind of things.”

The prince was shown a presentation by John Scott, the Ranger Programme Director, and agreed that the vehicle should sell well internationally He said: “This is supposed to be an export led Government recovery and this seems to be an excellent export product. I don’t think I need convincing.”

Mr Scott said the company enjoyed excellent support from the MoD and company bosses reiterated that they perfectly understood the processes required for all procurement.

Prince Andrew arrived by helicopter at Budmouth Technology College to be greeted by Mrs Valerie Pitt-Rivers, Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, before being driven around the corner to Universal.

He was given a tour of the machining factory and saw the Sea Wolf missile launch containers worked on.

The company’s chairman John Runyard, and James Gaggero, chairman of Universal’s parent company the Bland Group, both thanked the prince for visiting and hoped he would help market their products.

Mr Runyard, whose father Ernest was at Universal before he joined in 1970, said: “He saw the export opportunities and thought the Ranger was a fantastic piece of kit. And it will help with the sustainability of jobs in the area.”

Mr Gaggero was delighted with the prince’s enthusiasm.

He said: “He is clearly a man who is committed to trying to help support UK exports.”

Among the workers who the prince met was machinist Matt Newman, fresh from completing his apprenticeship and graduating. He said: “We are hoping he can go out and put the word across to other companies that we work hard and do a good job around here.”

An MoD spokesperson said: The size and weight of the prototype Ranger vehicle is similar to that of our Mastiff and Ridgback vehicles that are already being used in Afghanistan.

“In the event that future operational requirements are identified for a vehicle of its type then the Ranger could be considered.”