Coming Soon

Some interesting stuff coming soon to Think Defence, Monty has refreshed his armoured vehicles post and there is some more fantastic guest posts in addition to the one MartinR has just posted.

The main effort on my side is a detailed look at the history of FRES, going back to the precursor to CVR(T), the Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV) and the FV430 Armoured Personnel Carrier.

Am about a quarter of the way through but what has struck me is how the conflict between protection, mobility and capability have played out over the decades and how we now seem to be refreshing concepts that we tried previously, but then let whither on the vine.

Generic Vehicle Architecture clearly has its roots in studies done by Alvis, Cranfield University and many more organisations in the eighties.

The concept of using medium weight vehicles packed full of electronics is not something that the latest FRES SV Scout has pioneered, VERDI Warrior was doing that and getting the T Shirt in the early nineties.It even had an elevating mast for the sensors, something that was carried over to TRACER but seems somewhat absent from the latest FRES concepts.

VERDI Warrior
VERDI Warrior
VERDI Warrior
VERDI Warrior

Opinions may be mixed on CVR(T) but there is no doubt strategic and tactical mobility was the single most important driver and it was followed through with singular focus.

It was doing the whole go there quick, go home thing decades before the revolution in military affairs, FCS and FRESathon made rapid deployment trendy.

CVR(T) Spartan Chinook sling load
CVR(T) Spartan Chinook sling load
CVR(T) Scorpion on a Medium Stressed Platform
CVR(T) Scorpion on a Medium Stressed Platform
CVR(T) Scorpion loading in a C130 Hercules
CVR(T) Scorpion loading in a C130 Hercules
CVR(T) and Foden DROPS
CVR(T) and Foden DROPS
CVR(T) between trees in Belize
CVR(T) between trees in Belize

And, it must be said, strategic and tactical mobility proved decisive on a number of occasions, Cyprus in 1974 and the Falkland Islands in 1982 being two notable examples.

CVR(T) also had a couple of strokes of genius, the Striker variant for example could blend in, hide behind cover, fire its Swingfire missile from a concealed position and even have the operator up to 30m away connected to the vehicle by a wire; a capability that we no longer have.

FRES now looks like it has firmly traded in any notion of rapidity in favour of protection, there is nothing wrong with moving up several weight belts but without a lighter weight, rapidly deployed capability we are making the Army much less responsive and mobile on the battlefield when it eventually gets there.

Something else that struck me when I started the background reading is just how far the RAF and RN have progressed in terms of major equipment since CVR(T), FV432 and Warrior were introduced.

FRES was/is a wide ranging programme that will deliver to the Army a range of vehicles to replace sixties era legacy vehicles like the FV430 and CVR(T), a pair of vehicle families that have been in service or development since the sixties.

In the same time period, the Royal Air Force has gone from this

English Electric Lightning 1964
English Electric Lightning 1964

To this

RAF 6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoons on Exercise Bersama Lima 11 in Malaysia
RAF 6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoons on Exercise Bersama Lima 11 in Malaysia

The Royal Navy went from HMS Walrus

HMS Walrus
HMS Walrus

to HMS Astute

HMS Astute and HMS Dauntless
HMS Astute and HMS Dauntless

The decades have rolled by, vehicle replacement programmes have come and gone, wars have been fought, vast sums of money spent and still CVR(T) and FV432 remain very firmly in service.

By 2020 the British Army may well see replacement for the FV432, a vehicle that hit the drawing board in 1958, and CVR(T), a vehicle family that started its service life in 1973.

Between 60 and 70 years service, just let that sink in for a moment.


About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

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June 1, 2014 5:13 am

Lovely piccies, looking forward to the main piece.

Didn’t Verdi do also a plastic light/ recce tank? The RAF comparison makes me think (without digging into the sources, to check) that the EE Lightning might well have been faster and with a better rate of climb than the modern yardstick displayed (and certaily so in comparison with the Lightning2, which is the future, and some claim a good effort to have a programme burdened with FRES-like compromises).

June 1, 2014 5:22 am

Re Striker, IIRC remote operation was 30 m or 100 feet (same as FV438), not 100 metres. But it was a brilliant concept, enabling a lightly armoured vehicle to fire missiles from behind cover against targets selected by an operator nearby, eg at an upstairs window. Putting 36 launchers in a 120 man battery was also an excellent way of operating the capability because it enabled centralisation or decentralisation according to tactical need. Given a more modern missile, SACLOS, raising the range to 6-8 km and giving the controllers some networked capability so they aren’t limited to their own launcher would be a very effective anti-armour capability and difficult to counter. FRES would be a good platform and should enable at least a dozen msls to be carried. A bty of this per brigade would put the bde well on the way to be able to defeat an armd division. Just disband a para bn to get the manpower.

June 1, 2014 8:22 am

How will the addition of active anti-missile defences on armour affect ATGM effectiveness? What I worry about is that focus on a single weapon system might render all your offensive equipment ineffective if the enemy came up with a specific countermeasure, or at least severely blunt the effectiveness of your units.

June 1, 2014 9:45 am

The Scorpion tank is so old that I had a couple of them for my Action Men. Which were not dolls.

June 1, 2014 9:46 am

I think Dreadnought (S101) would be a better choice than a P-class boat to illustrate your point. :)

June 1, 2014 9:49 am


I was thinking the same. The poor RAF have gone backwards. ;)

June 1, 2014 10:02 am

“Weren’t Strikers in the RA, not the RAC?’

If I remember correctly, they started with the RA in GW Btys and then shifted to RAC Regts at some point in the late 70s.

June 1, 2014 10:11 am


Sacrilege to say so, but in almost every other respect, it was outclassed (naff) after a few years in service. As I mentioned before, it was a stop-gap that became a regular.

Could be an interesting series, TD, British stop-gaps that ended up being standard :)

June 1, 2014 10:32 am

Re: the first Lightning, during that time, there was a philosophy of building aircraft specific to their roles, and I believe the EE Lightning’s role was a high speed interceptor, which of course meant it was designed for speed at the expense of fuel and payload. This philosophy later changed towards more general purpose aircraft straddling a middle ground in performance.

June 1, 2014 10:49 am

ACC – ref plastic tank – Chertsey and Vickers got together to make Advanced Composite Armoured Vehicle Platform (ACAVP) which looked at full composite structure armour. I think it used Warrior track/wheels/suspension/final drives and Warrior power pack/transmission, but was rear engined – I may be wrong here maybe these parts were from Vickers/FMC VFM5?. It definitely had a CVR(W) Fox turret fitted. It now hides at Bovington Tank Museum as do so many interesting bits of armour.

Engineer Tom
June 1, 2014 10:55 am

Didn’t the Lightning manage to intercept both the U2 and Concorde, that is a pretty good record to me.

June 1, 2014 11:31 am

looking forward to it.

want i really want to know is whether there is a requirement for something outside FRES-SV/C2 arising from the need for:
Strategic mobility
Tactical mobility
Minimal logistical support
Minimal engineering support

Something that can be moved fast, travel far, with little support, and continue to operate in austere environments.

Something built for africa!

1. Strategic mobility
1.1 Weight – two in an A400
1.2 Size – Iso Container dimensions (stripped down)
1.3 Numbers – Built cheap, exported widely, easily fits into others logistic chains

2. Tactical mobility
2.1 Weight – unmetalled roads and unreinforced bridges
2.2 Size – whatever the modern equivalent of malaya rubber plantations is…?
2.3 Environment – half the ground pressure of Fres-SV, and high road speed for self deployment

3. Minimal logistical support
3.1 Fuel consumption – could we quadruple FRES-sv (and double effective road range)?
3.2 Low volume, low sensitivity munitions
3.3 Minimise specialist consumables (e.g. no petrol engined CVR(t) in a mainly diesel fleet)

4. Minimal engineering support
4.1 Half the number of field maintenance hours per month of Fres-SV
4.2 Low-tech solution with reduced technological dependency
4.3 Ability to remove and maintain power-train without specialist rigs/machinery

What might this point towards?

Something like the french CTA40 armed 6×6:
a) modern v-hull with with an in an 18tonne weight
b) 100+ kmh road speed and 1000+ km range
c) half the unit cost and half the annual support cost of FRES-sv

does such a requirement exist, and would we give it to the three light-cav regiments that sit outside the reaction force?

Fluffy Thoughts
June 1, 2014 11:39 am

“Between 60 and 70 years service, just let that sink in for a moment.”

I will still condemn New-Labour for scrapping the Canberra PR9: And yet the Sceptics fly B-52s and Oirish blokes are proud to be identified as ‘U-2’. The facts are: The Israelis still use (do they not) Centurions…?


P.S. “Sea-Hercules”….

June 1, 2014 11:41 am

and how would they be employed?
i. at a brigade level as part of a larger multinational operation (assuming they were brought together as a third intervention brigade)
ii. at a battalion level to provide some teeth to an adaptable brigade, or as a high-readiness formation such as ATBF
iii. at a squadron level to reinforce our other high-readiness forces inc 3Cdo and the newly slimmed down 16AAB

June 1, 2014 12:03 pm

FT – I have made the statement at MOD briefings that the length of service of 430 series and CVR(T) was akin to WW1 rhomboids being the tanks we took to Korea. There were a few embarrassed faces to be seen.

Jedi – I have the designs here just waiting for MOD to get off their backside; as noted above they have been briefed and have been completely uninterested in engaging. But of course as soon as there is A Requirement it will be far too urgent to look at new designs – “You should have engaged with us earlier” will I expect be the patronising response…

June 1, 2014 12:09 pm

i can see africa as an enormous unmet requirement, and i can see three light-cav formations sat on their hands in the AF.

let us hope that SDSR15 recognises this requirement, the need for some suitable vehicles, and in consequence digs your number out of the Rolodex.

June 1, 2014 12:12 pm

While I kind of get what you are looking at, those are pretty bad requirements. Very little quantifiable, too much relative to other systems, an unhealthy dollop of wishful thinking and a fair degree of solutionising.

For example, point 3.2 is only there so you can justify CT40.
Point 3.3, “minimise” has no measurable meaning. How do you measure compliance?
Point 4.2 – without additional definition of “low-tech” and “technological dependency” it’s nothing more than a header.
Point 2.3 – what is “high” road speed. Which roads?
Point 1.3 – How do you even approach this?
And so on.

June 1, 2014 12:39 pm

Jedi, MrFred – I am perhaps a minority voice here, but these are the style of requirements we *should* be aiming for – when you go to buy a car for example I doubt you have a 400 page detailed spec against which compliance will be mathematically compared? You will have a loose (mental/verbal) spec of stuff you want in vague handfuls and you use discussion and investigation and product comparison to work out which car best suits your (not very specified) need.

I have watched many wildly over-specified defence projects deliver compliant kit that the user neither wanted nor could use, but couldn’t reject because the kit matched the spec. One MOD desk officer proclaimed “Oh no! You’ve given us what we asked for and not what we need!”

So I want MOD to write loose specs in handfuls-of-stuff terms, then once a contractor has been selected I expect the MOD to engage (that word again) and explain what they need the kit to do, what they definitely do not want it to do, what environment it would need to operate in, what size/weight/shape limitations there might be etc so that the designers can build what the user needs. No argument. No “You didn’t interpret the requirement correctly” or “You have met the wrong one of these two contradictory requirements – do it again” or the like. I find the current system barking mad – all this nonsense about not being allowed to explain what is wanted for fear of leading industry. If MOD knows what it needs (alright that’s a big if these days) then for crying out loud tell industry what they need to do and they’ll do it.

June 1, 2014 12:59 pm

@ Jedibeeftrix

The airlift constraint dimensions wise should be this,

June 1, 2014 1:00 pm

Chris, but mr fred is right in one thing, Jed’s requirements are very nebulous, not to mention do not take into account conditions like if you were going to use Vehicle X in Africa, what is your opposition? Mostly technicals? Then the CTA40 that you espouse is the “high tech” solution when an AP 0.5 cal is more than sufficient.

I can meet your specifications with a Toyota UTE and a 0.5 cal. or a 84mm/106mm RR. Why is there even a need to use armoured vehicles in the first place?

June 1, 2014 1:19 pm

@WiseApe June 1, 2014 at 9:45 am

“The Scorpion tank is so old that I had a couple of them for my Action Men. Which were not dolls.”

Your parents were rich enough to afford two of them? Wow……all I had was the jeep and helicopter… of course the very un-doll like ‘Talking Commander” and the extremely non-doll like Helicopter Pilot.

June 1, 2014 1:22 pm

@ Mr Fred – ” While I kind of get what you are looking at, those are pretty bad requirements. Very little quantifiable, too much relative to other systems, an unhealthy dollop of wishful thinking and a fair degree of solutionising.”

Sure, but you can see what i’m driving at, so if there is merit in the principle then hire a professional to detail the practice!

@ X – I can see the value of the given dimension available in widely available commercial airlift, but not sure it translates into a viable vehicle beyond a technical (which could be sourced in theatre).

@ Observer – “your requirements are very nebulous, not to mention do not take into account conditions like if you were going to use Vehicle X in Africa, what is your opposition? Mostly technicals?”

By 2050 several african nations will have per-capita incomes similar to that of germany today. Clearly there is a lot of change between now and then, from the technicals of today to the relatively sophisticated forces of tomorrow.

June 1, 2014 1:22 pm

@ Observer

I don’t think they are ready here for Vehicle X……

June 1, 2014 1:53 pm

I don’t think we have the budget for those x, especially the satellite monitoring system for them. :) And I heard their stealth systems are crap, shorts out when wet.

Jedibeeftrix, 4 points.

1) Money does not translate into armed force. Look at Brunei.
2) Speculation is just that. Speculation. A 40 year non-stop GDP growth is like the tooth fairy.
3) If those countries have the skill and infrastructure then to support sophisticated forces, all the more reason that there is no cause for you to operate there because their system is obviously working.
4) If you are crystal ball reading, then how would you know that in 2050, African nations won’t be getting MBTs, to which your vehicles would be nothing but skeet targets?

Your fast deployment vehicle is useful for the Africa of today (though requirements need a bit of tidying). Who can tell for the Africa of tomorrow?

June 1, 2014 2:44 pm


What I think is needed is a concise, precise set of high-level requirements. Handwaving, working in vague generalities and sticking in the occasional detailed requirement to drive the design down the path you want for no good reason is not the way to go. IMHO.
Perhaps such vague requirements might work for a procurement group who know how to objectively look at what is available, but for the army and their procurement organisations it’s not such a good idea.

Using your car analogy, Imagine, if you will, that you take your vague and nebulous requirements, hand them to someone else and, without further discussion, let them buy a car for you. Think that you’ll get what you want?
That’s for when there are available objects to compare. If you are designing your product (which you probably are, given costs and likelihood of private venture getting far enough to be properly assessed) then you need a good set of requirements that can be used and assessed against.

June 1, 2014 3:07 pm

@ Jedibeeftrix

Really? So things like this are out?

Or one of these with its cars decoupled?

And it is a shame because we have bought more than a few of these too…….

Yet you want it to fit between trees and be light on it’s feet too?

June 1, 2014 3:12 pm

I agree with mr fred. It’s for the flexibility that US RFIs have conditions like “threshold” and “target(?)”. Where threshold is the minimum required and target is the optimum.

x, in the land of the technical, the APC is king. :)

June 1, 2014 3:15 pm

MrFred – you insert the precise issue I desire to remove: “hand [requirements] to someone else and, without further discussion, let them buy [stuff]” – I want the User to engage. Not a low-grade Civil Service gopher, not a committee of the inexperienced, but the people that have the need. I never again want to hear “I don’t know; I’ll have to go and talk to someone else” – if the person with the knowledge isn’t prepared to get stuck in at the sharp end then bad things will happen. That goes for the current over-specified version of requirement management just as much as for the broad-brush target spec approach.

Like I said I am perhaps atypical, but I’m pretty sure a better job can be done by discussing needs and designs openly and constantly through the design process than by being given 600 dry requirements and a bad tempered audit once in a blue moon.

June 1, 2014 3:21 pm

@ Observer

But I have the prototype up and running………

……..which puts me ahead of Chris for the contract surely?

Walker roller AI vehicles (that can jump and climb walls) are the future I tell you.

Damn! Forgot the BV.

June 1, 2014 3:29 pm

TD – that was in the days of The Establishments where, funnily enough, Users discussed their ideas needs and constraints with the engineers that were designing the concept & prototype vehicles. Designed in months not years (decades). AS90 being perhaps the odd one out, but we have already noted the target spec that VSEL worked to was just one or two pages long, suggesting much of the design guidance was interactive with those that knew what they needed.

June 1, 2014 3:50 pm

Think the Russians had something to do with that too. :)

Chris, how do you know that the user making the decisions is the “right” user then? Look at mr fred and I, both of us have some experience with APCs, yet our philosophy is different where our final design that we are comfortable with diverge, with me preferring something similar to an IFV while he prefers a specialized APC. Is either one of us wrong? No, I really do understand why he would want it that way and in some cases his solution is superior, especially in terms of carry capacity while I have a different “comfort zone” where I feel safer with a 20-40mm on overwatch.

All Politicians are the Same
June 1, 2014 3:53 pm

@ Observer
Think the Russians had something to do with that too”

Spot on, much easier to agree to replace/upgrade something that is facing a threat like the warsaw pact.

June 1, 2014 3:56 pm

@ X – if Ocelot will go in that space fair enough, looks pretty marginal to me! :)

same for the other too.

June 1, 2014 4:04 pm

APATS – no argument from me that danger focuses the mind. Even of the Procurement Executive.

Obs – I fully understand your argument but it applies equally to the current monstrously detailed requirement sets – if the wrong advisors are selected then all you get is a ridiculously detailed requirement for the wrong thing. Or possibly worse still a mix of requirements some defining the ‘right’ option and some defining the ‘wrong’ option in a heap of incompatible requirements that can’t be met by a single product. Somewhere along the line MOD (in the UK’s case) needs to get the right team of Users together who have a common defined need and those are the ones that guide the requirement/design.

June 1, 2014 4:27 pm


There’s a good number of service personnel in the DE&S project teams alongside the civil service gophers which injects some operational insight into the process. The problem is that it’s really easy to argue what the high level requirements for something should be as pointed to above.

Given that we’re generally looking at off the shelf kit, it would be really really easy to write a requirement around a piece of kit from one manufacturer. But given that we’re bound by law to have open competition its difficult to do this without being sued.

John Hartley
June 1, 2014 5:08 pm

Re plastic tank. Could we use that steel/plastic/steel sandwich, that Intelligent Engineering developed for icebreaker hulls?
Its not just the armoured vehicle, we need to think of its transport as well. Say the UK decided its future heavy helicopter was to be the CH-53K, then we could develop a vehicle with the best protection, yet still able to be carried by a King Stallion.

Deja Vu
June 1, 2014 5:09 pm

This is all beyond my ken,

I recently bought FM Lord Carver’s autobiography “Out of Step” * As an armoured regiment CO in N Africa and Italy, he had a staff car for going back to brigade and a scout car for going forward on recce as well as his tank.

Do armoured regiment CO’s have a vehicle to go forward and if they do what is it in the absence of Fox or Ferret?

————- ————– —————
*It was on the £1 shelf in a left wing bookshop and I could not leave it there. I also bought Gen Dannet’s “lLeading from the Front” new at Pounndland – not as good a read.

June 1, 2014 5:10 pm

Hannay – I dealt with IPTs as you describe them, but the service personnel assigned to the procurement organization are not those that wrote the User Requirement, and those in turn are probably not those that would ultimately use the equipment. Like I said above, if the User isn’t engaged bad things happen.

As for the legal mandate to compete every buy, I think that’s one of the stupidest ideas MOD ever came up with. Firstly if the procurement is not straightforward COTS (for which competition is appropriate) then the system is competing promises of bespoke design all supposedly ending up at similar end products via long and tortured paths through which the requirement is expected to change many times – the guy who fraudulently agreed to sell the Eiffel Tower to a rich American collector had a more solid proposal than that. On top of which there are only four or five corporations considered worthy enough to get major projects from MOD so the number of competitors is small and the set of competitors is the same time after time, each of them knowing how the others work and charge etc. Hardly competition. And in commercial terms MOD is not a major buyer any more (once it was).

As was noted in a recent comment the fact there are so few UK defence competitors, and only one huge corporation, is a consequence of MOD procurement strategy. Ordinary sized companies can’t invest the millions required to make enough glossy bid documentation to keep MOD interested – either they drop military work, become menial subcontractors, or get bought out by the likes of BAE or Thales or LM. And while the number of companies ready to enter the multi-year bidding war for defence contracts reduces year on year, MOD continue to pat themselves on the back for their fine competition strategy and tell the world how successful it has been?

June 1, 2014 5:11 pm

Do not think that I desire PhD theses for a requirements set, I set great store in concise.
What I do want for a requirement is something definite. “as much as possible” or “as little as possible” “minimise” “maximise” all stem from the person who sets the requirement not knowing what they want. They do not know what is possible, so you get that nonsense. Even worse, those requirements are usually those that can be traded off against each other. That sort of discussion should be in the discussion, not in the requirements. If you have a definitive, important, requirement with good research behind it then that should be in the requirements.
Things like protection level, weight, power-to-weight, crew numbers, armament, requirements for the sensors, those sort of things.

June 1, 2014 5:18 pm

Out of interest, when did the system switch from “old-fashioned” to “new-fangled”?

June 1, 2014 5:18 pm

MrFred – OK I’ll agree with gritted teeth – so long as The Requirement fits on 4 sheets of A4, double spaced 12pt… After that real people need to do real talking to get to the real requirement (as in what the end user wants).

June 1, 2014 5:35 pm

As long as the real people stay in post until acceptance trials at least and all meetings/discussions are minuted and agreed.

If not there is likely to be all sorts of problems and spats based on who said what when.

June 1, 2014 5:36 pm

MrFred – The Defence Reform paper created under the chair of Lord Levene ( lists at 1.11: “the Heseltine reforms of the mid 1980s and the New Management Strategy that followed, and the various reforms of the 1990s and 2000s” which will be the ones that moved clear from Cost-Plus to competition for everything. Cost-Plus being shown to be inadequate chiefly by Nimrod AEW3. (I am hopeful Competitive Procurement for Everything will equally be shown to be inadequate chiefly by Nimrod MRA4. We’d better create a new Nimrod project to test the next great procurement strategy…)

Indeed the drive to compete everything, and resist MOD involvement in design, and to refuse to shoulder any risk at all, rests on the desk of Lord Levene. And as the recent Defence Reform strategy was chaired by the same individual, no real surprise it recommended more of the same but with more rigour. Not so much reform as re-affirm.

June 1, 2014 6:33 pm

@mr.fred June 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm

“Out of interest, when did the system switch from “old-fashioned” to “new-fangled”?”

Perhaps, when the Senior Brass decided that all presentations must be in Powerpoint and then set a team up to draw up the ‘standard layouts’ for Powerpoint……..

June 1, 2014 6:37 pm

EU competition law means that governments have to compete everything apart from in a few excepted cases e.g. national security. This is not a result of MOD policy but is at a much higher level.

An example of the sort of team Chris seems to want already exists in Team Complex Weapons. This is a government-Industry partnership with a commitment to actually develop and procure a number of weapons over a time period. However this was a choice to avoid competition and as such anything outside comes in as UORs e.g. Hellfire on Reaper.

June 1, 2014 7:16 pm

All the EU’s fault then. Another good reason to tell them to wind their neck back in….

June 1, 2014 7:16 pm

@Allan – I trust the Helicopter pilot was AAC?

Gloomy Northern Boy
June 1, 2014 7:27 pm

@WiseApe &Allan…Action Men are now passe, old-fashioned and thus very widely available second-hand (cheap)…all you need is a late-arriving Boy and you can collect a full-scale platoon (mostly jeep-mounted, but with a scorpion and a couple of scout cars) for the price of a heavy night at the pub… :-) :-)

Ours aren’t dolls either

GNB (& Junior)

June 2, 2014 8:48 am

DejaVu – ref CO’s ride – congratulations you have finally found a use for Ridgeback…

If the same mode of operation is used (in Industry terms it was formalized under the abbreviation MBWA by a fellow called Tom Peters – that’s Management By Wandering About) then you would have to assume Panther is the most likely, as it was bought on a Liaison Vehicle requirement.

Although there is still a thriving market in second-hand armour, in which Ferret regularly features. In the same way our personnel bought their own boots/camelbaks/GPS gizmos etc for Iraq, maybe the Gucci accessory for Commanding Officers is to have their privately owned Ferret for wafting about the AOI.

June 2, 2014 9:46 am

@ TD, originally Striker were in armd recce regts then in about 1978 both Striker and 438 were centralised into divisional RHA btys in Germany and an RA regt in UK. In the mid-80s they were split out again. The div bty was an excellent concept and worked well, the training standards rose markedly under dynamic battery comds instead of a subaltern lost in a regt or battalion with a coy/sqn comd juggling various specialist elements. Tactically it gave the divisional commander the choice of centralisation or decentralisation as the tactical situation required.

Brian Black
June 2, 2014 10:21 am

“in Africa, what is your opposition? Mostly technicals? Then the CTA40 that you espouse is the “high tech” solution when an AP 0.5 cal is more than sufficient.
I can meet your specifications with a Toyota UTE and a 0.5 cal.”

Given the size of the anti-aircraft cannons mounted on the average African technical, you’d be out-gunned in the back of your Toyota.

A heavy machine gun against militias on foot or in pickups leaves you stuck in a potentially deadly firefight; the 40CTA ends the firefight.

I don’t think JBT was suggesting giving up tanks either. His suggestion was for three light cavalry units to be beefed up. The vehicle he suggested would essentially take on the Scimitar role.

June 2, 2014 10:34 am

“Could be an interesting series, TD, British stop-gaps that ended up being standard”

Extend it beyond the UK and you get the B-52! Only ever meant to fill the gap between the B-36 (six turning, four burning, everyone on the ground laughing) and the B-70 Valkyrie (beautiful lovely supersonic waverider, hampered slightly by having the radar cross section of the Isle of Man), and still in service after sixty years.

June 2, 2014 10:50 am

BB – ref “essentially take on the Scimitar role” – I have a Scimitar type design too, if you prefer? The same turret fitted to both wheeled & tracked types…

June 2, 2014 12:58 pm

@WiseApe June 1, 2014 at 7:16 pm

“@Allan – I trust the Helicopter pilot was AAC?” – Of course.

@Gloomy Northern Boy June 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm

“@WiseApe &Allan…Action Men are now passe, old-fashioned and thus very widely available second-hand (cheap)…all you need is a late-arriving Boy and you can collect a full-scale platoon (mostly jeep-mounted, but with a scorpion and a couple of scout cars) for the price of a heavy night at the pub… :-) :-)

Ours aren’t dolls either

GNB (& Junior)” – Brilliant Top Notch :)

June 2, 2014 2:14 pm

“EU competition law means that governments have to compete everything apart from in a few excepted cases e.g. national security. This is not a result of MOD policy but is at a much higher level.”

That’s what I remember as well, though I remember a lower limit of 200,000 € (years ago) and am not sure whether military products are exempted or not.

June 2, 2014 2:29 pm

How many operational aircraft carriers did the Royal Navy have “back then?” How many operational aircraft carriers does the Royal Navy have now? (Aircraft carriers without fixed wing aircraft don’t count.)

June 2, 2014 2:37 pm

@jedibeeftrix – “3.3 Minimise specialist consumables (e.g. no petrol engined CVR(t) in a mainly diesel fleet)”

Easy-peasy. Diesel conversions for CVR-T are readily available and can even improve performance.

El Sid
June 2, 2014 2:45 pm

And for the official EU view, see

It doesn’t help that they’ve renumbered the Treaty of Rome so what is now Article 346 used to be called Article 296.

June 2, 2014 2:54 pm

@a – The B-47 was a stop-gap between the B-36 and the B-52. The XB-70 was the “follow-on” to the B-52.

June 2, 2014 3:00 pm

@DejaVu – US Army Tank Battalions (same-same BA armored regts.) have 3 tanks in Headquarters and Headquarters Companies: 1 for the CO, 1 for the XO, and 1 for the S-3. (At least they did when I was on active duty.) Otherwise, they have wheeled vehicles for running around the rear areas.

June 2, 2014 3:02 pm

Should there also be a replacement for Stormer? That vehicle will house the loved Starstreak HVM (loved to be deployed for sports security) .

June 2, 2014 3:18 pm

@Brian Black
You might need something with more range the a 50cal can give.
Thoughts Toyota/Nissan technicals could have 15mm MG or 23mm AA guns on the back.
They will also be shooting RPGs at you and what ever home made/ captured rockets/heavy guns they can come up with for artillery.
They are a lot of T34, T55, BMP1 etc. floating about also.

June 2, 2014 3:28 pm

Think the age of aluminium tanks is over, most are now steel frame + steel and ceramic armour.

Reason for this is better growth margins (applique armour) and better metallurgy and the change from steel or aluminium inbuilt armour to ceramic add ons.

as, the 0.5 cal advocate was me. A SLAP 0.5 round can punch through a BMP in theory. There is also a misunderstanding of how ZSUs are used on technicals. More often than not, they are used as siege guns, not mobile warfare. Traverse isn’t really good if you have to do it manually, especially against a moving target.

June 2, 2014 3:50 pm

@ Kent – “Easy-peasy. Diesel conversions for CVR-T are readily available and can even improve performance.”

That is a lovely example, but it is only a single example.

I sure there are people here who could tell horror stories from each service of over-engineered machinery that requires some Gucci coolant or lubricant not necessary in the logistic chain for any of the other vehicles in their formation.

Again, i’m talking principles and expecting others to work the practice.

June 2, 2014 3:50 pm

ElSid – fine clarification. That explains why so many French defence projects are performed by non-French companies then. And German ones by non-German companies, come to that. Its good that the EU provides such a broad level playing field for all member states, don’t you think?

Obs – ref aluminium armour – the rule of thumb was that aluminium armour needed to be three times the thickness for equivalent protection to steel, but was three times less dense. Result – same protection weighed the same. But because the aluminium structure would be thicker section, it would be more rigid, and while it would still spall with non-penetrating impacts presumably the shards would be lighter and have less energy, hence better protection from the spall liner. Composite is rumoured to be better protection for the same weight, although it needs a hard skin on the outside to work properly. On the assumption then that there would be a hard outside layer (Ceramic or RHA) and a spall liner inside, the structure in between could realistically be aluminium or steel or composite – not so?

June 2, 2014 4:00 pm

Not the armour Chris, the frame. Steel is more rigid, so you can put more weight on it without the frame warping. Ref your Vikings and the attempt to uparmour it.

June 2, 2014 4:23 pm

@jedibeeftrix – In the US Army we used 10W, 30W, and JP8 in our vehicles once the M151A2 Jeeps were retired. We didn’t do “Gucci.” We also replaced RBC and LO with CLP for small arms.

June 2, 2014 4:32 pm

this is the kind of thing i’m thinking of.

i can see that there is a place for non-standard stuff on expensive kit with a large support base, i am looking for the opposite however.

a modern day CVR(t), whether that be on tracks or wheels, 123 tonne or 18 tonne. something decisively easier to fight and maintain in austere conditions without brigade level REME support.

if that makes sense, i am a mechanically illiterate civvy after all.

June 2, 2014 4:40 pm

Jedi – have you been reading my marketing bumph? I agree; ease of maintenance has been one of the core design constraints I applied. That includes a minimum of tasks requiring total disassembly to get to the widget that just broke, but also includes ruthless commonality of systems and components (up to the point where the role would be compromised; fitness for purpose has to trump ease of maintenance).

For a self-confessed mechanically illiterate civvy, you speak more sense than some of the professionals I have met…

June 2, 2014 4:50 pm

Obs – I never saw the point of creating a rigid frame to hang slabs of armourplate from – in my view much better to follow the motor trade and make a monocoque armour cell (as indeed are CVR(T), Warrior, 432, Challenger – almost all the armour I can think of is either a welded or bolted/riveted structure. (Maybe ST Kinetics does it differently – I’ve not inspected any of their vehicles closely.) Use of appliqué is no different either way.

June 2, 2014 5:39 pm

@Chris – When I first enlisted we had the M60A1 which was a nightmare to pull the power pack (engine and transmission). Some genius at TACOM (Tank-Automotive Command) determined that it would be much faster to pull the “pack” if all the connectors were in the same place(s) so we ended up with the M60A1 RISE which only had about three places and the final drives to disconnect before you could pull the whole thing. “Pack” replacement time was more than halved. On the M1s the “pack” slides out on rails to be plucked by a crane (either fixed or on a recovery vehicle). A proposed diesel-engine conversion would use the same connections.

June 2, 2014 6:22 pm

Wouldn’t the ST Kinetics Bionix be suitable for a son of CVR(T)?

June 2, 2014 7:13 pm

Alistair – personally I think Bionix is on the heavy side for the gap left by CVR(T) – heavier than C-130 lift for example; as heavy as Warrior was on introduction to service and pretty well Warrior sized. All in all a bit too close to ASCOD/FRES-SV and Warrior to be useful in UK service. In my opinion.

Of course, I am somewhat biased…

June 2, 2014 7:37 pm

Chris, they use monocoque shells as well, I was just using the term “frame” as shorthand for the basic structure which is already armoured but then used to bolt add on armour. The basic armour package may be ok, but god knows what people are going to add on through the life of the vehicle.

As for the Bionix, Chris is right, it’s way too similar to something you already have, so no point getting a duplicate.

June 2, 2014 7:42 pm

I was about to say almost exactly the same thing.
Steel is only ever more rigid when comparing equivalent dimensions. As soon as you go for equal weight, aluminium is always more structurally rigid.
The space frame fallacy is one that seems to crop up a lot. It always misses out on the fact that you have to seal your structure against wind, rain, splash and EM, carry loads across it and support the appliqué (and the spall liner). That and you appliqué, should you want to do more than stop one shot or stop the shot on the good side of the crewman’s head, will include a reasonable weight of structural material anyway.

June 2, 2014 7:55 pm

TD – C-130 gauge is a useful yardstick even if UK retires all its C-130s. The gauge is very similar to W6 rail gauges; it keeps dimensions within (well, close to) road traffic limits, it keeps weight down to values suitable for temporary bridging and weak bridges – making the vehicle much more deployable than super-heavyweight tank-sized armour.

As for transportability by fixed wing? Most of my designs would fit two inside A400M and five in C-17. And of course would fit one (and, in one case, two) in a C-130. UK may not abandon all C-130 (others might know for a fact what the plans are; I don’t know for sure), but in any case sometimes we might just possibly be part of a multi-national force with C-130 available – FRES would be driving out of the airfield gates to take the slow road but light armour could hitch a lift.

(Its also good for export, but that’s not really UK MOD concern.)

June 2, 2014 8:09 pm

@TD and Chris
If we go it alone (or with other A400M buyers ) I am with TD we will have A400M , how unlikely is that though ? The US Military alone have about 500 hercs in service that’s a hell of a lot of transport to dismiss. If the S**t Hits the fan it will be all in scenario , do we want to be left literally left on the ground ? Granted the US will shift as much of their kit first as they can but logistics will come into place were our stuff should go next , a two tier armour level seems warranted, C130 compatible for first reaction and a heavier level to follow when it can.

June 3, 2014 12:37 am

@ jedibeeftrix – “…123 tonne…?” Kinda heavy for wheels, huh?

June 3, 2014 9:24 am

Observer, yes “Re: the first Lightning, during that time, there was a philosophy of building aircraft specific to their roles, and I believe the EE Lightning’s role was a high speed interceptor”
– it had two of the engines that the Draken was also using (one only)
– though the latter was not a Mach2 a/c (rather, a long-range interceptor and FAG, carrying heavy loads), I think a specially adapted version did Mach2 (on half of the Lightning’s power!)

June 3, 2014 9:35 am

RE “Wow……all I had was the jeep and helicopter…”
he-heh… I had a rocket to deploy the poor man by parachute. The chute did not always open, but a few scratches and broken bones is what happens with real practice jumps, too?

June 3, 2014 9:42 am

Germany actually used these metrics that x was putting forward, to design the armour for their air-deployable force
“@ X – I can see the value of the given dimension available in widely available commercial airlift, but not sure it translates into a viable vehicle beyond a technical (which could be sourced in theatre).”
They had ready-to-go reinforced floors to put into commercial 747 freighters, and the end result was 7 AFVs per plane
– though I would not say they would be very useful in Africa

June 3, 2014 5:40 pm

Thinking back on the specifications bit, if you are not going to go to cost-plus or bring design work back in house, then you need the specifications as the basis of your contract. Trading on requirements will alter costs to either side.

Gloomy Northern Boy
June 3, 2014 6:43 pm

@ACC – We have a para team as well – low altitude insertions from the velux in the attic a speciality; and a FOB manufactured from a crate, a covert observation post tucked under an azalea (I think – Mrs Gloomy does shrubs – I do small-scale trenches)…and a watch-tower… :-)


June 3, 2014 6:43 pm

Mrfred – personally I don’t want the return of Cost-Plus as it was implemented. It encouraged companies working on MOD contracts to try it on – it almost became sport to see how much more could be claimed and slid past the auditors than was deserved. Not the right way to support the armed forces.

So what I want instead looks very like Cost-Plus but with one vital and important difference; I want MOD personnel to join industry as part of the project team – not as embedded auditors and policemen (as the MOD QAR were) but as productive workers responsible for work products just like the industry players are. Advantages:

Overall personnel reduction – current MOD teams of auditors (for that’s what they all are) are huge and demand information on industrial scales to complete their audit spreadsheets, which means the industry team needs to be equally large to gather and package the demanded information. This is not productive work, nor is it cheap. By embedding MOD personnel as workers they do valuable work while at the same time gaining a clear insight into the triumphs and difficulties and disasters and redesigns at first hand. The MOD personnel would also be part of the day-to-day decision making process so their influence would remain.

Timescale reduction – on two fronts; firstly being on-site and fully up to speed there is no delay in waiting for MOD decisions when necessary, secondly by being embedded and able to nudge the rudder in small ways in timely manner the chance of getting the job right first time is increased. Much improved from the six month cycle (worst case, industry can present a sticky issue anything up to three months after first noticed at the next QPR and MOD formulate the response ready for the QPR after that) that the current system allows if the two sides are at loggerheads and not co-operating.

Happy User – by being on the design side the MOD (especially if Users are embedded) get to mould the design just as they want it, taking out the bad aspects and prioritising the most important features.

In terms of money, I see the old Cost-Plus rate of costs plus approx. 7% profit as about right. In the MOD embedded structure I would advocate one of the MOD posts be in the finance dep’t where hours and expenses on the project would be clear to see, removing the need for expensive audits of the validity of costs charged. Therefore no arguments over what MOD should pay, no delays before recompense, no chance for industry to pull the odd fast one for extra cash.

Its probably a naive view of how projects could be run, but I’d bet they would be faster, cheaper and deliver kit the User really wanted.

June 3, 2014 7:23 pm

Kit the User really wanted. Which user though?
A MoD man in the finance department to assess the validity of cost change? You clearly have a much higher opinion of finance people than I do.

The peril of cost-plus is that the 7% is on whatever gets spent. So it is in the interest of the company to spend more. Cost per vehicle could go up, the embedded MoD personnel might not be able to resist the shiny toys offered.

Then there is the question of how do you pick the right team to join up with?

June 3, 2014 7:54 pm

MrFred – I see bad sides to both all-costs-covered arrangements and fixed price ones. As you note as soon as the less honourable companies hear ‘cost-plus’ they rub their hands with glee at the prospect of a gravy-train. but equally once a fixed price has been set the similar less honourable organisation will scrimp & scrape to minimise spend, while spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to find aspects of the project that might be argued as extra scope (even if they plainly were in scope through the bid).

My suggested mitigation was the seamless embedding of customer personnel in the team – full visibility, no chinese walls.

There is still a risk of the much quoted flaw of Cost-Plus – that of interminable scope creep. That I am afraid is a matter for hard management, but the presence of The User in the decision making loop ought to be a force for good, as in The User would be aware of the nause of needed equipment arriving too late.

As for the right team, surely this applies in all projects no matter how the contractual boundaries sit? Surely you don’t advocate the current ‘Us & Them’ structure just because it allows poorly constructed teams? To a degree the embedded model forces MOD to step up a gear as there would be no chance to use group responsibility (AKA no one individual can be held responsible) to hide less productive elements within – full visibility works both ways…

June 3, 2014 8:20 pm

With how to pick the right team, I mean how would you chose which industry team to work with? BAE tried to make it them – that would have shut everyone else out of the industry – no innovation needed.

Us and them is not to be desired. Still, there is always a risk that the embedded MoD personnel become Us, or Them, depending on your point of view.

June 3, 2014 8:34 pm

@ Chris – “For a self-confessed mechanically illiterate civvy, you speak more sense than some of the professionals I have met…”

Obliged, but not sure it is gaining much traction within the establishment.

I have lived in africa, i know what it does to vehicles, it seems a valuable requirement.

June 4, 2014 9:06 am

Jedi – I can claim I too lived in Africa – well for one week I did. With a collection of others off to do Safari in a set of three ageing Toyota Land Cruisers. These were simple and very tough – early models that looked much like military Land Rovers – but with bigger six cylinder diesels to pull them along. On the way back to Nairobi on one of the red dirt roads (call it a road if you like – an unmetalled clay track with foot-deep ruts made in the rainy season) our Toyota threw a rear half shaft – the bolts holding the shaft to the hub had all sheared and the oily stick was extending out of the wheel like a James Bond accessory. No spare bolts, no tool kit, but thankfully no consequential damage done, so the half shaft was put in the back, a rag stuffed in the hole in the hub to stop the worst of the dust getting in or oil getting out, the transfer box set to 4WD ( it had been on RWD), and off we went to complete the last couple of hundred miles being pulled along by the front wheels. No problem. It was though a sobering fact that even the toughest of 4x4s suffered fatigue failures in ‘normal’ use. Trying to move fast off-road would put much greater demands on vehicles.

June 4, 2014 9:47 am

@ Chris

Apparently, so I am lead to believe, the Arabs were reluctant to give up part-time 4WD in their Land Rovers. They would drive about in to 2WD and when they got stuck they would slip into 4WD to extricate themselves.

Front wheel drive can take you a long way off road and our forebears knew which end to put their engines,

and not for nothing did Citroen put the engine avant in the 2CV or SAAB with their 92 (and on).

We had a 99 in the 70s with the inclined Triumph engine that was unstoppable.

Are you familiar with Africar?

June 4, 2014 10:12 am

I never met Africar but do know its designer. There was a documentary on TV many years ago following the design & development of the car (made mostly from 3/4″ marine ply, for those that are unaware) which was fascinating viewing (for engineers). The MD was asked why he chose to make the car out of wood, and after some time explaining that it was easily assembled in rural areas from kits, and easily repairable by men in huts with the most basic of tools & materials, the interviewer let rip with what he thought was the killer question – ‘But surely its not as strong as a proper steel construction?!” At this, the slightly annoyed MD leant out of shot to pick up a large metal cased extending tape measure, and slammed its corner deep into the mudguard of the part finished vehicle next to him. A triangular dent an inch each side and 1/2 inch deep was made but otherwise the wood was unchanged. “Right.” said the man, “I’ll fix that later with a bit of whittled timber and some filler. Now – shall we go do the same experiment on your car outside?”

One of the problems the programme showed was the engine choice was flawed. The vehicle used the Citroen GS suspension (leading/trailing arms and very long travel) which was good, but also used the GS’s flat four water cooled petrol engine, which in the confines of the wooden monocoque had real problems with cooling and proved unreliable. One of the clips of the documentary showed the trials team jubilant at the top of the Atlas mountains that they had struggled to climb in a series of sections interspersed with time for repairs and for the boiling radiator to cool enough to be refilled; while they were surveying the view next to the steaming wooden car with fluid dripping down and vague smoke wafting up, one of the Moroccan locals drove by in a beaten up 2CV that had made the ascent without difficulty.

June 4, 2014 10:45 am

@ Chris

I have the book of the series. I think I picked it up at the Donnington kit car show off a bargain table. I think the bookseller thought he had lost a pound or two as I was a bit too happy with my purchase.

The GS was a bit fragile.

It is interesting to look at what vehicles are available in other markets outside market. At one time in Africa there were several models of small 2WD pick-ups or bakkie available. Now it appears only Nissan and GM offer them, the other major brands offering just full size pick-ups and that staple of African transport the minibus.

June 4, 2014 10:52 am

x – surely not? What happened to all the Merc 190s and Peugeot 504 estates that were once African staple vehicles? (I have a great deal of respect for the 504 estate – very tough, reliable, comfortable and huge inside – I don’t think PSA has made a better vehicle since – see here for how tough they were:

June 4, 2014 11:04 am

@ Chris

I don’t think Peugot are still making the 504…………go back to read what I said. I am on about what the major manufacturers offer today. PSA don’t offer any commercials in Africa.

Interesting fact: the 504 was classed as a Group B rally car.

June 4, 2014 11:36 am

Sorry x – I interpreted ‘available vehicles’ to include new and second hand. As for 504 Group B WRC, I doubt it had much in common with the showroom version. I looked over a few WRC/Touring Cars/LeMans 24hrs GT cars on a visit to Prodrive – pretty much everything apart from (some of) the bodyshell was either replaced, modified or removed. At the time they were building a Ferrari 550 for Colin McRae to drive at LeMans; the floorpan of the car was used, and some of the structure remained (some of the door frame, the bulkhead, the rear pillars and the roof frame if I remember right) and the engine block. They may have put a small amount more of the original car back in later…

June 4, 2014 11:58 am

No it was quite ordinary; it all came about if I remember right about because of an entry to the Rally of Cyprus.

Ahh Group B………

June 5, 2014 6:11 pm

@ CHris – “What happened to all the Merc 190s and Peugeot 504 estates that were once African staple vehicles?”

Now that brings back a memory! They were indeed very popular.

We had a Renault 18. Used to change the exhaust every three months or so, depending on how many journeys on those magical red-dirt ruts we were doing.

Darned Consultant
June 11, 2014 3:42 pm

@ GNB and WiseApe

Ahhh, we had a Scorpion too – always had the tendency to throw a track, especially when used as gokart down the drive! (I wonder if it shared this tendency with the real thing?) We also had a British Racing Green Grand Prix car (not exactly sure of the connection between Action man in that era and GP cars??) Sure wish we still had them tho – lost to the great parents loft of the past…

Mine was always set up with the assault coarse in the loft too… that and a few jolly sailor types with the fuzzy beards. Tell kids these days that gripping hands are new fangled witchcraftery and they dont believe you!