in 2009 the story of FRES would advance with the launch of the Specialist Vehicles (SV) requirement, the Utility Vehicle (UV) having been swept as far under the MoD’s carpet as possible.
Future Rapid Effects System (FRES)
The FRES 2009 got off to a cracking (not) start as the Defence Select Committee published its Defence Equipment 2009 report in February.
The FRES programme has been a fiasco. In February 2007 we concluded that the MoD’s attempts to meet its medium-weight vehicle requirement had been a sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay. Two years later the story is, incredibly, even worse. We find it extraordinary that, some seven months after announcing General Dynamics UK as the provisional preferred bidder for the FRES Utility Vehicle, the MoD has announced that priority is now to be given to the FRES Scout Vehicle. Whilst we recognise that the MoD’s equipment requirements need to reflect changing threats, that is no excuse for the MoD’s behaviour in this programme; they have wasted their and industry’s time and money. The FRES Utility Vehicle programme was, from the outset, poorly conceived and managed. The MoD must work out what its requirements are for medium-weight armoured vehicles and identify lessons from the saga of the FRES Utility Vehicle programme. In its response to our Report, we expect the MoD to set out the cost to date of the FRES Utility Vehicle programme and how it plans to take forward this programme in the future
The report repeated what the committee said of FRES in 2007
The MoD’s attempts to meet its medium-weight vehicle requirement have been a sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay. It is high time the MoD decided where its priorities lay
Situation normal then…
On FRES UV and the collapse of the contract negotiations after General Dynamics were awarded preferred bidder status with the Piranha V, the report made clear the MoD’s position on intellectual property and design rights;
General Dynamics always made clear that they had a different concept than we did as to the role they wanted to play. We made clear that their concept was not ours and their concept was not the basis on which we were going to let the contract. They decided however to bid, making it quite clear that they had a different concept. The basic different concept, as you say, related to the fact that they wished to continue to have the intellectual property and they wished to be responsible, if they got the design contract, for the development and manufacturing, or at least to have a share in that.
What we did was we gave them provisional preferred bidder status, and we made it clear to them that we were making it provisional because confirmation of their status was entirely contingent on our agreeing on commercial terms that would be acceptable to us.
Having postponed the commercial discussions, because that is the way the company wanted to play it (and we saw no reason why we should not play it that way, and everybody was being completely honest and transparent with everybody else) we then tried, in good faith, to see if we could reach agreement with them commercially in the course of the summer, and we failed to do that. Both sides, with no ill-will, in total transparency and with good faith decided then that we did not have a basis on which we could proceed commercially. That is the position we found ourselves in last month
The members of committee were rightly horrified at this world class buffoonery but the exchange about chassis commonality and the shifting threat landscape had greater significance for FRES.
General Figgures said;
capability (which I plan) is a relative notion; you cannot stand still in time because the enemy has a vote in this… the fact that our original view with respect to FRES was that perhaps it had to be proof against kinetic energy rounds in preference to chemical and improvised explosive devices. Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated that we have got to shift that balance
The evidence session also had this statement;
I have discussed the matter with Mr Wilson, the Chief Executive of General Dynamics and with Lord Levene, the Chairman of General Dynamics
The same Lord Levene that was a former Chief of Defence procurement and appointed Secretary of State for Defence, publishing the Report on Defence Reform in 2011
In March it was announced that FRES Specialist Vehicles would be obtained in a single programme.
The all new and improved FRES Specialist Vehicle programme comprised five blocks of vehicles and sixteen variants with an expected final quantity of between 1,200 and 1,300.
Recce Block 1 would comprise 589 vehicles in four roles and three variants;
- Scout, envisaged as a block of 270 vehicles
- Equipment Support Recovery
- Equipment Support Repair
- Protected Mobility Recce Support
Recce Block 2 comprising 141 vehicles in three roles and one variant;
- Joint Fire Control
- Engineer Reconnaissance
- Formation Recce Command and Control
There was also a Light Armoured Support (Cargo) variant but this was later removed
Recce Block 3 comprising 280 vehicles in six roles and four variants
- Route Denial Mine System, a scatterable anti tank mine system
- Formation Recce (Overwatch), much like CVR(T) Striker
- Formation Recce Command and Control, additional purchases of the vehicle in Block 2
- Ground Based Surveillance
- Medium Formation Recce Unit Aid Post
- Medium Formation Recce Ambulance
Medium Armour (previously Direct Fire) comprising three roles and two variants;
- Direct Fire likely armed with 120mm smoothbore main gun
- Equipment Support Direct Fire Repair
- Equipment Support Direct Fire Recovery
A separate Manoeuvre Support Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) requirement would likely be met with Terrier
The first vehicles were expected to enter service in 2015
General Dynamics proposed a further development of the ASCOD 2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) to meet the FRES Specialist Vehicle (SV) requirement and BAE, an improved CV90.
Both of course made various claims about the suitability of their respective products.
The MoD responded to the Defence Select Committee’s scathing Equipment Report in May.
On the accusation that the MoD could not hit water if it fell out of a boat, it said this
We do not accept this conclusion
And went on to state;
Defence has invested significantly in Protected Mobility (PM) in the recent past, however the PM package has never been designed as a substitute for the Utility Vehicle (UV) programme; indeed, it has been designed to cater for the specific operational requirements of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the capability delivered falls significantly short of the stated UV requirement to deliver the medium component of the Balanced Force through the FRES programme.
In May 2008 we announced the provisional selection of Piranha V, offered by General Dynamics (UK) Ltd, as the preferred design for the FRES UV. Following a period of intensive negotiations with General Dynamics to address a number of commercial issues, it became clear to both parties that it would not be possible to reach agreement on the commercial conditions required to enable further progress on the basis of the current procurement strategy. It was therefore decided that we should withdraw General Dynamics (UK)’s provisional preferred bidder status.
Our examination of the Equipment Programme, in 2008, separately considered the balance of investment and priority in the Army’s armoured vehicle programme. We have concluded that, in the context of current operations, and bearing in mind the considerable recent investment in Protected Mobility, the highest priority should now be accorded to delivering the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme and the FRES Scout vehicle as quickly as possible. Against that background, we have decided to restructure the FRES programme, giving priority to FRES Scout.
We are now considering how best to take forward the procurement of the Utility Vehicle, but General Dynamics (UK) will have an opportunity to compete in any future Utility Vehicle competition.
The cost of the FRES UV programme until the end of February 2009 was £133m. This investment in the UV programme will serve to progress and de-risk the early stages of the SV programme. The Department can confirm that we have identified lessons that will be applied to all elements of the FRES programme as it moves forward. We are now considering how and when to reset the competition.
This was the first time the £133 million figure was released.
Money spent so far
£133 million on FRES UV
£57 million on MRAV
Total = £191 million
All with precisely fourth fifths of the square root of nothing to show for it.
June news from the USA was the official cancellation of the Future Combat System (FCS), confirming the earlier announcement in April by US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.
This was a clear break from the ‘go fast go home’ medium weight philosophy, operations in Afghanistan and Iraq finally having put paid to that vision, although it must be said, lightweight rapid intervention forces are still very much a valuable capability.
The Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton MP, in a speech at the Royal Society of Arts in London in the same month echoed Robert Gates thinking about changing priorities.
But we will need to go further. We must be ready to consider deep and wide-ranging changes to our Armed Forces changes that will help our own people prosecute these kinds of campaigns even more effectively and safely in the future.
Earlier this month we saw real leadership from President Obama and Secretary Gates in their ambition to set the US military policy on a new course, rebalancing and reprioritising investment effort on a huge scale.
We need to see a similar readjustment here in the UK in the years ahead.
A rebalancing of investment in technology, equipment and people to meet the challenge of irregular warfare. If a country like the US, with all its vast resources and military strength has decided to prioritise, I believe the UK must do the same.
If the FCS/FRES concept of substituting protection derived from mass, for speed, electronic countermeasures and networked precision was effectively destroyed by Iraq and Afghanistan, this was official wake.
The difference between the all powerful network in the FCS vision and the Network Enabled FRES concept was bought into sharp focus by the creaky BOWMAN system, effectively failing to live up to pretty much most of the promises made of it.
Following the design rights and intellectual property issues exposed by FRES UV and subsequently ridiculed by the Defence Select Committee, the MoD announced a new approach to design rights and intellectual property in April.
At the RUSI Land Warfare Conference on the 23rd of June, Quentin Davies MP, Permanent Secretary and Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said of the armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) sector strategy;
From now on, we will be insisting from the outset that we have the rights to all design information and access to relevant design knowledge for the purpose of upgrading, supporting or inserting technology in the future into the vehicles we are buying.in order to maintain the appropriate degree of sovereignty over industrial skills, capabilities, capacities and technology to ensure operational independence.
We should take a slightly less protectionist and slightly more international position. We need of course those capabilities, but we don’t necessarily need all of them in this country and we’ll be prepared to look at them in the EU and NATO and, on a case by case basis and if there’s a justification for it, even outside those areas.
This was the MoD’s all new ‘cake and eat’ strategy on AFV’s
It wanted to buy equipment on the open international market and still retain the benefits of other nations traditionally protected armoured vehicle industries or actually purchasing intellectual property at fair market rates.
This also signalled two things.
- The future of the British armoured vehicle industry would pivot on FRES SV and Warrior CSP contracts
- A warning shot to BAE
And so came about a buy anything but BAE policy in armoured fighting vehicles resulting in the drawn out demise of the long tradition of Alvis, GKN and Vickers.
At the September DSEi show in London General Dynamics UK Vice President, Steve Rowbotham, told reporters;
ASCOD 2 has leapfrogged past its nearest rival.
He also revealed that initial chassis production would be carried out in Spain followed by a transfer to the UK. The Common Base Platform is being developed by taking the ASCOD technology test bed PT5 and integrating a range of new automotive components.
BAE made similar claims, pointing out the combat provenance of CV90 and the fact that it could point to a completed vehicle not a video of an older ASCOD and some nice graphics. Coherence with the Warrior MTIP turret was also emphasised.
BAE also focussed on the intellectual property issue that had scuppered the Utility Variant competition, campaign director Arne Berglund said;
We will use a tried and tested model to ensure the UK MoD has access to the information it needs to ensure operational sovereignty
At the same time, BAE stated that initial production would take place at the production facility in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden with some integration work carried out in the UK.
The competition result was due to be announced early in 2010 and represented the first £2 billion phase of Specialist Vehicles, Recce Block 1.
November was bid submission month for FRES Specialist Vehicles which neatly coincided with a leak of Bernard Gray’s report on defence acquisition and procurement reform.
The leaks did not paint a pretty picture, but that is for another post.
2009 was also a low point in relations between the Army and the government. Helicopter availability and personnel caps in Afghanistan were poisonous issues that bled out into the public domain.
This did not help the FRES case which was exacerbated by the National Audit Office Major Equipment Report which started the budget ‘black hole’ theme.
Future Army Structure (Next Steps) would be started in 2009 and report a year later, more on that in the next post.
In line with the other posts in the series it is useful to understand something of the wider vehicle programmes and project landscape.
France and the UK agreed a common certification process for the 40mm CTWS in March.
In response to the long overdue requirement to replace the Snatch, specifically the Snatch Vixen, the Light Protected Vehicle Competition was launched with a Pre Qualification Questionnaire in June. Bids had to be in by the end of July, the MoD were not messing about although the scoping studies had been in progress for some time.
The requirement was described as
Mastiff levels of protection in a 7-tonne vehicle, with a footprint roughly the same as a Land Rover
Prospective competitors included Supacat, Force Protection and Creation/Babcock with their Zephyr, Renault/Land Rover with the Sherpa, Oskosh with the Sandcat, a development of the LMV from Iveco, BAE with the RG32 and General Dynamics with the Eagle.
In April, a joint Supacat and Babcock press release confirmed their relationship
Supacat Ltd, the designer of the widely acclaimed ‘Jackal’ weapons-mounted 4×4 patrol vehicle and Babcock the leading engineering support specialists have formed an industry alliance to deliver around 110 Jackal 2 (the enhanced, latest iteration of the original Jackal design), and more than 70 of the new 6×6 ‘Coyote’ Tactical Support Vehicle (Light) (TSV(L)). Supacat as the vehicle designer has been awarded the prime contract supported by Babcock as the vehicle manufacturer for whom the contract is worth around £55 million.
This contract is in response to the MoD’s latest Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) and is a part of the £700 million Protected Mobility Package announced by the MoD late last year. The vast majority of both vehicle types are scheduled for delivery in 2009 to support operations in Afghanistan.
Within the alliance, Supacat, as the design authority will be responsible for design, development, prototyping, integration and overall programme management. Babcock will take responsibility for detailed production planning, purchasing and manufacture at their Devonport dockyard facility. A single project office, located at Dunkeswell in Devon, will provide overall control.
Also in April, Supacat conducted live fire trials with Jackal ISTAR equipped with a Kongsberg M151 Protector remote weapon station. This vehicle was not in response to a specific requirement but a logical development of the Jackal and a recognition that Jackal might provide some basis for a lightweight CVR(T) Scimitar replacement.
The MoD was by now progressing with the Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) and Lockheed Martin showed off their unusual looking but reportedly very capable Adaptive Vehicle Architecture (AVA) vehicle at the Defence Vehicle Dynamics show. These were targeted at both the medium (4×4) and large (6×6) requirement and were both built by Babcock. Both vehicles were built on the Supacat HMT Chassis (same as Jackal), Lockheed Martin having purchased the intellectual property for HMT a few years earlier
The Jackal 3 was unveiled at the show, having a protected cab, the Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle was unveiled.
The MoD announced a further £74 million order of 110 Jackal 2’s and 70 Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle (Light)
The MoD ordered 200 International MXT vehicles in a £200 million contract in May and after a £20 million upgrade, the first Panthers were deployed to Afghanistan. This Theatre Entry Standard (Helmand) was for 67 vehicles only, the remainder of the 401 strong Panther fleet not being deployed.
In November, Lockheed Martin and the MoD’s Defence Support Group signed a partnering agreement in support of their Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) and Future Rapid Effects (FRES) bids.
Lockheed Martin and BAE submitted their bids for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project in November.
By the end of the year the first of the 115 ST Kinetics Bronco/Warthog protected mobility vehicles started to be delivered. Variants included a troop carrier, command, ambulance and repair & recovery. Warthog increased the normal 16 tonne Bronco Gross Vehicle Weight to 19 tonnes, additional armour from Permalli, air conditioning from Gallay, Platt MR550 weapons mount and a full suite of BOWMAN communications and ECM equipment.
In Jan 2009 with General Richards as CIC (Land) Op Entirety was being pushed to the fore. By August, with General Richards now Chief of the General Staff, Op Entirety went forward in a major fashion. Afghanistan demanded all the services engage fully to ensure success.
Casualties from IED’s in Afghanistan continued, new vehicles and improvements to existing vehicles tried to counter the threat and of course, politicians were blamed for a lack of funding but this narrative, whilst having some truth, is flawed at a most basic level because the Army’s choice of vehicles, Viking, Vector, Snatch and Jackal particularly were all vulnerable to the most common threat.
LPPV was the reaction but it would not be for another year when they were in theatre and casualties whilst riding in or driving these vehicles were the result of poor choices made by the Army, not politicians.
Mastiff, Wolfhound and Ridgeback were the exception, as well as Bushmaster.
Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision – The 30 Tonne Tank
Whilst FRES was still in the future and FFLAV was firmly in the past, the MoD decided to look into the future again and initiated the Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision.
After the FRES and FCS vision of a 20 tonne tank, reality had entered the world of fantasy fleets and instead of C130 transportable armoured vehicles the MoD was now spending money on A400M transportable armoured vehicles.
Readers at this point may well have to go and have a lie down before progressing.
£700 million on protected mobility UOR’s, several hundred million on CVR(T), Saxon and Warrior upgrades, £133 million on FRES UV, £57 million on MRAV and £131 million on TRACER
And we are back looking at the tank of the future, with scarce MoD funds.
The MoD is nothing if not persistent!
We are looking for highly innovative ways of delivering the same capability as our current Main Battle Tanks, but in a significantly lighter package that is more easily transportable, fuel efficient and less reliant on the supporting military infrastructure.
A potential solution is the use of Hybrid Electric Drive Technologies that can significantly enhance mobility over demanding terrain with the benefits of good fuel efficiency and high reliability. Creative ideas that will provide the overall systems architecture that will host all military vehicle functions should also be included. We will award a number of contracts to demonstrate proof of principle of innovative technologies and applications of technology that will improve the mobility and overall effectiveness of the Future Protected Vehicle.
Delving into some of the documents at the DSTL Event Call (click here) the headline scope was;
An Electric 30 tonne Armoured Fighting Vehicle with the ‘punch’of a current Main Battle Tank
An electric 30 tonne vehicle which will embody the effectiveness and survivability currently associated with a Main Battle Tank but with high tactical mobility, reduced logistic footprint and strategic mobility of a rapidly deployable, air portable system
It will employ a modular, open architecture approach to underpin a future generation of mission configurable platform
A ‘Troop Carrier’ variant capable of carrying a fully equipped eight man section is to be the main demonstration focus
- An electric 30 tonne vehicle which will embody the effectiveness and survivability currently associated with a Main Battle Tank (MBT) but with high tactical mobility, reduced logistic footprint and strategic mobility of a rapidly deployable, air portable system.
- It will employ a modular, open architecture approach to underpin a future generation of mission configurable platforms
- A ‘Troop Carrier’ variant capable of carrying a fully equipped eight man section is to be the main demonstration focus
- Enhance survivability and other performance aspects, through adjustable ride height (2 meters of suspension travel is the target)
- Test Bed Demonstrator within 4 years
- Experimental Operational Capability: ~2013
C130 transportability was still a key requirement, despite the A400 and C17.
That was a pretty stretching time objective but look at this extract from one of the presentations.
It is pretty much the same medium weight graph as seen in explaining the US Future Combat System (FCS) and UK Future Rapid Effects System (FRES).
Transportability was also very similar, just with a different aircraft.
This was a little confusing because other documents in the initial call detailed C130 requirements and three time 30 tonnes does not into a C17 go so that would suggest the Utility and Recce family vehicles were 20 tonnes and Heavy Family, 30 tonnes.
A few interesting images and concepts appeared as part of the call although not looking much like those graphics above.
It really was a sci-fi vision, just of FRES and FCS, only £30 million though so not real money!
Time for a musical end to the noughties
Joe McElderry with The Climb
CVR(T), Saxon and FV432, yep, still hanging in there
The rest of the series
As one might imagine, this series has taken an enormous amount of research, taking into account many sources but I must give special mention to our Chris and Challenger2 from Plain Military, without their expansive knowledge and most helpful insight and support, this would have been much the poorer.