The Story of FRES – 2009 and a Return to FRES

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

Just sayin

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.

FRES Family of vehicles
FRES Family of vehicles (Image Credit – Realitymod)

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 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.

Other Vehicles

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.

Supacat SPV400 Modules
Supacat SPV400 Modules
Creation UK Zephyr
Creation UK Zephyr

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.

Jackal ISTAR
Jackal ISTAR

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

Lockheed Martin AVA-1
Lockheed Martin AVA-1

The Jackal 3 was unveiled at the show, having a protected cab, the Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle was unveiled. 

Jackal 3 Mock Up (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Jackal 3 Mock Up (Image Credit – Plain Military)

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.

Timeline below

Future Protected Vehicle Timeline
Future Protected Vehicle Timeline

That was a pretty stretching time objective but look at this extract from one of the presentations.

Future Protected Vehicle Goal
Future Protected Vehicle Goal

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.

Future Protected Vehicle Air Transportability
Future Protected Vehicle Air Transportability

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.

Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle

Future Protected Vehicle (2)

Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle (6)
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle (6)
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle
Future Protected Vehicle

It really was a sci-fi vision, just of FRES and FCS, only £30 million though so not real money!

Future Protected Vehicles concept


Time for a musical end to the noughties

Joe McElderry with The Climb

Joe McElderry – The Climb

CVR(T), Saxon and FV432, yep, still hanging in there



The rest of the series

The Story of FRES – Introduction

The Story of FRES – The Sixties

The Story of FRES – The Seventies

The Story of FRES – The Eighties

The Story of FRES – The Nineties

The Story of FRES – US Experience in the Balkans

The Story of FRES – 2000 to 2003

The Story of FRES – 2004

The Story of FRES – 2005

The Story of FRES – 2006

The Story of FRES – 2007 and the Trials of Truth

The Story of FRES – 2008

The Story of FRES – 2009 and a Return to FRES

The Story of FRES – 2010 Scout Contract Award

The Story of FRES – 2011

The Story of FRES – 2012 to 2014

The Story of FRES – A Summary


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.




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!

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
July 19, 2014 9:36 pm

I always LOL when people say that BAE could point to an actual vehicle, in reality all they had was a demonstrator of one variant which may or may not have met the customers requirements.

July 19, 2014 9:44 pm

Perhaps we get to thenumberof road wheels on theCV offering later? Would this have changed anything else than mobility?

The Other Chris
July 19, 2014 10:06 pm

Phantom Swift and Avenger VTOL style drones in those concepts :)

July 20, 2014 1:21 am

Hmmm’s so how many Boxer MRAv’s would 191 million have got us ?

How much UOR and normal procurement money would have been saved if a defenve industrial strategy had prevented BAe from buying Vickers Alvis and we had gone to war with further developed versions of Scarab in place of Panther and versions of Alvis 8 / Mamba (a proven mine protected vehicle in a completely different class than Snach). Would we have needed to buy Husky and even Foxhound ?

Perhaps we might have got the Boxers in theatre to prevvent any need for Mastiff, but perhaps not, either way we might not have needed to buy as many of them. Truly the mind boggles.

But what would we have done at the medium tracked requirement ? With the later change of focus from FRES UV (MRAV) to FRES SV , could we have done something like add TRACER technologies to a Warrior 2000 platform, or had the assembley line for Warrior well and truly gone by 2009 ????

Or if we had put our money on MRAV and bought Boxers, might we have developed the 6 x 6 version as a turreted armoured recce version.

No doubt there are many alternative histories that would have seen the tax payer better served, the average squaddie better equipped and the Army of FF2020 – its really quite ssad :(

July 20, 2014 9:00 am

Jed – ref Alvis-Vickers and BAE – I feel a perspective coming on…

When I left the company it was still Alvis of Coventry; “The Alvis” as the people of the city knew it. It had shrunk from the mid-thousands of employees to something like 125 and was hanging on to existence by its fingernails, but even so its workers were astonishingly loyal and proud of The Alvis to the extent it felt more like family than company. Its MD at the time was a nice enough fellow who wanted the best for the company but was an accountant by trade – this meant the company decisions were focused on the state of the books at year end; if not doing R&D or if reducing the wage bill by a round of redundancies made the figures look more healthy then that was the way to go. After I left a new man took over, this time an entrepreneurial businessman; he understood the no-spend route would end in the company folding so fundamentally changed the direction. He gained investors and set about building the brand – investment money allowed Hagglunds to be bought which increased Alvis’s standing such that GKN Defence became a target for acquisition (by complicated exchange of shareholdings Alvis officially bought GKN Defence by giving GKN a large stake in the combined company). This is where the new boss showed his lack of understanding of the Alvis history and its place in Coventry – he shut the Coventry works and moved to the GKN site at Telford. Few Alvis staff made the move; essentially all Alvis’s IPR and its belongings were handed to an Alvis-branded GKN Defence while the Coventry workforce was unceremoniously dropped. Hey ho.

The bigger Alvis-GKN company gathered more investors – it was growing fast and there was stock market confidence growing in the brand; it looked north at Vickers and decided to make the next merger happen. Vickers had just bought South Africa’s Reumech OMC – a sound move but in the process presumably knocked Vickers share price back a bit, so Alvis charged. Soon then there was an Alvis-Vickers; containing Hagglunds and OMC and Glover Webb and the ex-Royal Ordnance vehicle works at Leeds as well as what was Vickers-Armstrong, and Sankeys who were the original FV432 contractor bought by GKN, GKN itself and Alvis. A large chunk of the UK AFV manufacturing capability. The rest of that capability, VSEL and the rest of Royal Ordnance, had been brought together when GEC and British Aerospace merged into BAE Systems.

Alvis-Vickers had grown by acquisition from a provincial small engineering company of great heritage and local pride that was running down to insolvency, into a major AFV manufacturer with tremendous breadth and excellent exporting potential. All of this in the ten years between 1994 and 2004. To do so the new boss had torn the heart out of the company (which many in Coventry wouldn’t forgive) and had piled up a mountain of investors. Those investors were similarly unemotional about the heritage of the companies that made up Alvis-Vickers; they invested and wanted returns. General Dynamics approached Alvis-Vickers with an offer to buy. As far as I recall the Board of Alvis-Vickers were against a take-over but had decided to approve the GD bid because it was unstoppable – the balance of power was with the investors who sensed maximum return on investment.

BAE stepped forward, decrying the offer of American giant GD as unwelcome; suggesting that the shareholders would be selling off the family silver to America if they accepted the deal. BAE on the other hand projected itself as a safe pair of British hands that could keep Alvis-Vickers safe from Johnny Foreigner. Bidding wars ensued, getting quite nasty between GD & BAE as each tried to smear the other and court shareholders. BAE won the fight and in 2004 took over Alvis-Vickers and wiped all reference of their names from all company material – they had been bought and had no separate identity, they were BAE.

In the US, BAE had been negotiating the purchase of United Defense as well; a sound presence in the US would be good for business with DoD and BAE wanted to cover as much of the market as they could. Within six months BAE had bought United Defense and, knowing DoD would not approve of the company being managed from abroad, had grouped ex-Alvis-Vickers under the management of ex-United Defense. After all the ‘safe British hands’ arguments, within six months of taking over the British AFV industry it had been handed over to American control.

Apart from American-controlled BAE Land Systems and Armaments, there are a few small independents left around the UK. Oviks and Penman and Supacat have made military armour their business; the likes of Permali and Jankel and NP Aerospace are armour materials & components suppliers. None has yet reached the capability that even run-down Alvis of Coventry was, let alone the bigger companies of GKN and Vickers. JCB is a sound company making military machines in parallel with the civilian, but still in limited volume. Universal dabbled with armour (the Ranger MRAP) but their business is not AFV oriented.

GD has benefited from the apparent “buy anything but BAE policy” that TD mentions above and has set up a design office in Newport on the back of FRES, although vehicle production lines are unlikely to follow.

Thales markets Bushmaster & Hawkei in the UK but these are definitely Australian products of the acquired ADI company.

And there’s me, doing designs for whizzy light armour without external investment/influence.

As far as I understand it, that’s the shape of the UK AFV industry and how it got to where it is. Considering the leverage shareholders had within Alvis-Vickers I don’t think HMG had a chance of preventing its sale to another defence company. Maybe if the prospective buyer had been Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod the Government may have stepped in on the grounds of national security, but sale to known and trusted UK/NATO Defence Contractors would raise no such option.

We are where we are; what’s left of Alvis-Vickers still operates from GKN’s site in Telford but MOD has chosen not to make use of it. Its future doesn’t look comfortable it has to be said. You do have to wonder what sort of future the Alvis-Vickers company might have had if it had remained independent; no guarantees either way though – through the global recession it may have just folded without external corporate funds. Or it might have been busy making FRES Scouts. Who knows?

July 20, 2014 9:09 am


Great stuff! This really is one of your best series so far. See separate email from me to come.


I like your post a lot and agree 100% with your observations / recommendations. What BAE did to Alvis was unforgivable. It was only ever about making money, not about serving the customer with a first class product. That’s a recipe for disaster for any company. Scarab was a very interesting concept. Boxer changed very little after 2005, we could have easily had it in service by 2009 if we’d really wanted to. Bundeswehr were delighted with it and it has performed well in Afghanistan.

The Italians are presently developing Centauro 2. This is an 8×8 low profile platform with a 120 mm gun. In essence, it is 27-tonne tank. I think it is an immaculate bit of kit. Using the same appliqué protection kit as FRES UV, this vehicle really could be a 30-tonne tank. I’m presently in Italy on holiday and saw three Centauro 1s barrelling down the superstrada from Grossetto to Roma. 100 kph no problem. A living interpretation of “Go fast, go hard, go home.”

July 20, 2014 10:19 am

Those future protected vehicle concepts look awesome, they have it all, a one man networked precision killing machine it’s not wishful thinking at all.

I can’t wait for them to build some prototypes then waste more millions on changing there minds and to then find myself finally talking to a couple of the next generation of squaddie’s about kit in 20 years time, whereupon I will be told that a new vehicle based on the Boxer is coming into service, called the Prompt, Armoured, Sundry (Tyre) family of vehicles.

Or the PAS(T) vehicle programme.

It will be based on the doctrine of ‘go fast, buy last’

July 20, 2014 10:33 am

DN – I’m relieved I wasn’t the only one to think the delicate wheeled pod-vehicles didn’t seem sensible…

July 20, 2014 10:42 am


Centauro 2. This is where I get confused on all the wheeled AFV’s design concept. From reading various threads on here, I’ve been left with the strong impression that whilst these vehicles, like Stryker, are excellent at moving infantry forward towards the front, as follow on troops, the last thing they were designed to do was to operate at the front line, which is why we need heavy, better armoured, tracked IFVs in the 40 tonne class.

Why then would you ever want to fit a 120 mm (or the Stryker 105 mm MGS). I can see a use as direct fire artillery for clearing strong points, but wouldn’t there be alternatives for that role already ?



July 20, 2014 10:50 am

and does the “Go Home” part of “Go fast, go hard, go home.” actually exist in practice…

July 20, 2014 10:59 am

Nick – I suspect the reality would be better summed up as “punch quick, punch hard, hand over” In other words get effect into action by the fastest route possible, engage and contain opposition forces before they have a chance to establish, and hold the line until the big boys arrive to take over. Thereafter the lighter forces become tools of opportunity for Command.

July 20, 2014 11:09 am


I can see the idea behind them, a sort of wheel/track hybrid, don’t know whether they have any real advantage over a traditional wheeled system.


The reasoning behind the wheeled concept is that you can move move your vehicles quicker and have the ability to fight a near pear enemy without the need for heavy armour. Once you get into the heavy armour use they can then support the armour with flank protection etc where their speed is a bonus coupled with reasonable protection. they also allow a transition from the fighting to policing stage of any operation without the need for shipping in specialist vehicles in large numbers such as we did with Iraq and Afghan.

‘and does the “Go Home” part of “Go fast, go hard, go home.” actually exist in practice’

Rarely, which is why you need the medium weight capability.

steve taylor
July 20, 2014 11:14 am

@ Nick

There are alternatives HE delivered by a missile at £50k and upwards per shot, taking up space in a vehicle or hanging off an expensive air frame.

The other choice is a towed gun or make it self propelled both dependent on your area of operations.

Stryker MGS looks awful and whomever designed should be ashamed of themselves. ;)

July 20, 2014 11:34 am


But who are your opposition going to be ?

Insurgents and Separatists are likely to be using a range of weapons from IED/RPG/Suicide Bombers and old Toyota flat beds up to hand me down T54/T55 (and maybe something more modern a la Ukraine if there’s external support). Therefore you’re 8×8’s are going to need to be protected to a more serious standard than most of those in current service are (even with the slat armour). Isn’t this the problem the UK is having with the entire FRES concept at a practical level ?

That said, my specific question why would you want to procure a variant with 105/120 mm gun added to such a vehicle ?

Presumably, if you end up in a GW1 scenario, against serious second tier opponents with some decent training, then you need proper armoured infantry and Challenger.


The only op I can think of recently, where US/UK haven’t been in the forefront, is Chad. I don’t think the French have handed over to anyone, even if there are some African Union support troops in place. I also think they’ve been lucky that North Africa isn’t on the same radar as Syria/Iraq (the Sunni/Shia issue is the difference ?)

July 20, 2014 11:43 am


I always thought that the automatic mounting looked very vulnerable on the MGS (in fact the remote weapons stations do as well).

July 20, 2014 11:52 am


Your opposition will range from a near peer enemy and then could transition to an insurgency, such as the situation in Iraq, basically the 3 block war scenario. The problem the UK had with protection levels is that they found getting that level of protection in a C130 (>20t) compatible aircraft impossible, most modern 8×8 such as the AMV, VBCI and Boxer have achieved the level of protection required but in the 25-30t range.

Whether you fit a 105/120mm gun to it is depending on your doctrine, the South Africans, French and Italians seem to find a use for them but if we want them is another question. In a GW1 scenario the medium units would be used to support the heavy units offering flank protection coupled with a faster flanking ability of the enemy once the breakthrough had been achieved with the heavy units.

July 20, 2014 12:08 pm


I promise not to take up any more space asking layman questions, but from what I can read all of these vehicles are quoted as protected up to 14.5 mm heavy machine gun type level, which means you need to add extra armour to cope with RPG threat (and redesign the floor protection for IED).

If you were purchasing a similar vehicle from new, wouldn’t you want to have this level of protection built into the design from the outset (meaning a heavier and certainly less air transportable vehicle) ? Isn’t this at least one reason why we seem reluctant to choose any of the current OTS designs ? (which on paper all seem to meet a generally similar set of criteria).

July 20, 2014 12:32 pm


Yeah, most modern 8×8 are now protected to Level 4 kinetic and blast over a 360 which is:
Kinetic Energy
14.5x114AP / B32 at 200 meters with 911 m/s

155 mm High Explosive at 30 m
Grenade and Mine Blast Threat

10 kg (explosive mass) Blast AT Mine:
4a – Mine Explosion pressure activated under any wheel or track location.
4b – Mine Explosion under center.

All the necessary Armour upgrades have been incorporated in any 8×8’s from experience in Iraq and Afghan. RPG protection would still need bar/slat or appliqué type Armour added due to the nature of the way the warhead works as opposed to straight forward kinetic energy projectiles. There’s a few lightweight RPG Armour systems available such as Tarian ( ) which is already in use by the UK armed forces, which do not add too much weight to the vehicle. As long as the weight of the vehicle is capable of being carried by an A400, then its is air transportable.

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
July 20, 2014 1:09 pm

Future Protected Vehicle image 3: I’m sure it wasn’t intended but it looks like they are charging them up from the windmills.

EDITED to add: Is that a mobile nuclear power unit in the same picture?

July 20, 2014 2:19 pm

@ADG: Yup, not forgetting the chap leaning on the mobile nuclear power plant for a fag and who says the MOD are out of touch with reality? LMAO.

Even if somehow LFTR were suddenly available, the only tech you could feasibly do such a thing with, in maybe 40-50 years(20 to get it going, 20 to make it portable), you still wouldn’t want to be leaning on it for a smoke.

SHIELD Helicarrier and Ironman are just out of shot btw.

July 20, 2014 3:33 pm

Now now Chuck, it’s perfectly safe to take a fag on a nuclear reactor provided you don’t unscrew it and use it as a dustbin. Got to have balls of steel if you do emotionally, but technically? Perfectly safe.

July 20, 2014 3:50 pm

On a permanent reactor with 40ft of shielding sure. The biggest effect on your health would be the cigarette. On something built by the lowest bidder, spec’d by the MOD, with a few inches of shielding, that’s been dragged around and is still in a war zone, maintained by a guy who’s had 8 hours sleep this week, that’s going to light up real bright on IR. I’ll pass.

July 20, 2014 3:56 pm

Chris – many thanks for the excellent historical perspective.

Monty – I can’t get enthusiastic about wheeled “tank destroyers” with high velocity guns, maybe a bit more enthusiasm for a tracked 35 tonne “medium” tank, but not much. Maybe it’s just a doctrinal thing and I struggle to see how we would use them. Of course as soon as you purchase a type with a modern 120mm smoothbore, some MOD pinny pincher will decide that means we no longer need a “proper” MBT and out goes the Chally…….

Thats why I bang on about the 120mm breach loading mortars in a turreted application – it’s obviously not a “tank gun” but it can provide direct fire support out to 1.2 to 1.5 km with a big wodge of HE, plus be a missile launcher for ATGW, as well as being used in its traditional role of in-direct fire support. I suppose doctrinally though, you would need to ensure the Mortar platoon dont get bogged down in direct fire support, and vice versa (ensure the ammo load is appropriate to task ?)

July 20, 2014 4:12 pm

Out of interest what is the smallest calibre cannon you could use in the direct fire role? Would be something like the low pressure 90mm cockerill cannon?

July 20, 2014 4:38 pm


July 20, 2014 5:49 pm

Nick – when I wrote of handing over I meant to heavier units, not other nations’ armies. Unlike many here I see value in having different size/weight/mobility platforms for different tasks. Which was at one point the rationale behind FRES – this being a quote of Quentin Davies giving evidence for Defence Equipment 2009 report:

Coherence is not something we pursue for its own sake, just for the sake of neatness and having a nice inventory that looks good on paper, coherence is what we want to have where the capabilities of the various vehicles are complementary so that you can move across a spectrum, going from heavier to lighter, going from greater firepower to less firepower, going from faster to not so fast, for difficult terrain, less difficult terrain, so that you have the widest possible scope for choosing the vehicle that you really need for that particular operation. That is what we are trying to give commanders in the field and that is what I mean by coherent so that each particular platform relates to the others in the sense that it is complementary, it is not if you like duplicating the capability of the other one, it is expanding the full range of capability available to us.

Which means in addition to all the heavy stuff that is being talked about (30t+) I see value in lighter punchy stuff – the sort of vehicles DN assures us are impossible – that can get to emerging troubles fast and, if you like, apply the brakes on opposition progress. The heavier stuff can then take the extra time it needs to get into theatre without opposition forces swarming through in the delay. I would not expect the light & fighty as I labelled them to dig in for protracted engagements – that’s a task for the supposedly better protected equipment.

While I touch on the ‘P’ word, a note about protection. I have deliberately designed small vehicles with consequently reduced armour surface area. It is the smaller surface area that has contributed towards their lighter nature, allowing lighter engine/driveline which further reduces size and weight. Win win win. In terms of protection level they are certainly in AMV territory, possibly on a par with Boxer. In other words the hide is as tough but the area is less, therefore total weight is less. It might mean some would see the vehicles as claustrophobic, or lacking in internal stowage volume, or too small to carry off-the-shelf turrets – all these statements may be true, but as noted (many times) before I would expect the light & fighty to be just part of an Army that also had the bigger heavier vehicles better suited to a slogging war.

July 20, 2014 6:04 pm

Where do all these good guys disappear to?
“Quentin Davies giving evidence”
– that was pretty clearly articulated, if not in detail

The tenure of Defence Secretaries has been incredibly short, on average, for a good while by now.

On the serving side, the problems with a 2 or 3 year role in the requirements definition and procurement roles have been recognised (whatever has been done about that in promotion crteria, and career/ succession planning, I don’t know… but surely something).

July 20, 2014 6:47 pm

re Vickers-Alvis,

There were too many AFV manufacturers in Europe, MoD had no intention of sustaining the British industry anymore (it had failed to export any of its products in meaningful numbers for years, handfuls of Warrior and Challenger 2 aside) so something had to give, and it was Vickers Alvis.

Lets not get too carried away with the success of others, GD have all but shut down vehicle manufacturing at Steyr Daimler Puch due to lack of orders just as BAE had to with the Hagglunds wheeled vehicles programme, Rheinmetall acquired Storck which will have nothing to do after 2017, Renault trucks Defense (itself owned by Volvo) acquired Panhard and Nexter has taken the first steps towards an eventual merger with KMW. Most people accept that there is more blood to be spilled.

As for MRAV and other pre-FRES spending, £191 may sound a lot but it really wouldn’t buy you very much, remember that is less than the first Foxhound order.

July 20, 2014 6:58 pm


William Owen, in one of his various RUSI articles on armoured warfare, summed-up the role of 8x8s perfectly. He quoted US Civil War General “Stonewall” Jackson who said: he who arrives first with the most troops wins. In essence, that’s what wheeled vehicle formations allow an army to do. 

Typical deployment situations might see a brigade- or battalion-size force deployed to seize a bridge, airfield, supply dump or simply to occupy a piece of strategic ground. Routinely, the formation would travel in convoy on major roads when out of direct contact with the enemy. It might take an unexpected route via less obvious B-roads to perform a flanking manoeuvre or simply to by-pass an enemy position. Once in contact, tactical movement cross-country might be necessary. 

Whatever the scenario, you would want some kind of forward recce element (with APC-mounted infantry readily on hand) to deal with unexpected armour or other enemy vehicles e.g. technicals, to neutralise enemy in buildings firing RPGs. You’d also want flank protection or a forward screen to cover movement. You’d also want a dedicated vehicle to take out other 8x8s. What I’m saying is that a vehicle like the Centauro would act like an MBT in a situation where you might ordinarily want MBTs but where tanks would lack the speed and agility to precede or follow a wheeled unit. Ultimately, medium wheeled armour is an analogue for heavy tracked armour with 8×8 cavalry units complementing 8×8 infantry units.
I don’t think 8×8 tank destroyers should be viewed as substitute MBTs. They’re not. They simply provide a degree of strategic mobility that MBTs do not. They do what tanks cannot when the need arises. When it comes to armament, you might use a 30 mm Mk 44 Bushmaster cannon or a 40 mm CTA cannon. These weapons certainly have a place, but a 120 mm or 105 mm gun is a serious bit of kit. Don’t judge 8×8 tank destroyers by the Stryker M1128 MGS, it is rubbish. Centauro, Roikaat, and MCS are all much better systems. 

When it comes to protection, we’re seeing newer medium armour vehicles that can withstand hits of well above 30 mm cannon APDS across the frontal arc. It takes something like a 90 mm gun to take-out such protection. 
Finally, I agree with Jed that vehicles with 120 mm breech loaded mortars would be a useful if not essential addition. I would field these in a separate artillery regiment rather than replacing 81 mm mortars at battalion level. Mounted in a vehicle like the 8×8 Patria Nemo or Amos, such a vehicle would be able to keep pace with other 8×8 units to provide a highly flexible and rapid artillery response when needed. It would be much more mobile than a towed 195 mm light gun battery. 

July 20, 2014 7:27 pm

Chris, Monty

Everything you say makes perfect sense to me (although its the opposite to what we’re doing with more expensive kit eg F35 one size fits all tasks). If we were fighting an offensive action like GW1 (or the early stages of GW2) that’s exactly what we’d want our highly mobile advance forces to do.


Doesn’t that imply a different sort of equipment for Iraq style COIN where protection seems to be more important than rapid mobility (although small makes sense from an access point of view).

Conundrum is – can you do both in the same vehicle without (too much) compromise ?

July 20, 2014 7:36 pm


‘the sort of vehicles DN assures us are impossible’

Can you design a vehicle that can carry a full section with good cross country performance with Stanag level 4 blast and kinetic protection levels that weighs less than 20t?

July 20, 2014 8:10 pm

DN – I think I already have, noting that there would be a raft of development work needed to move from concept to prototype. Like I said before it might not be seen as spacious but it is not designed to fight as a vehicle (there are non-dismount carrying variants that are well armed) but to carry troops to where they are needed.

July 20, 2014 8:18 pm


Yes, I get it I really do, it’s just that we cant have our cake and eat it in current budgetary / fiscal environment ! Also we have never really gone in for this class of vehicle since WW!! Sherman Firefly with 17 pdr; which is why we have had AT overwatch vehicles with ATGW rather than light(er) gun armed tank destroyers.

So once again that in effect brings us back to doctrine, but this time multi-national coalition ops versus where we might go it alone. So if you want someone to get there fast you send the Italians or French and send British, German or U.S. units to replace them……

A Centauro 2 with 120mm (low recoil ?) is a wheeled tank destroyer, a Stryker MGS is exactly what it says on the tin, a “Mobile Gun System” – an infantry support weapon, it has no AT role, the U.S. has plenty of other vehicles / helos with that role.

Oh and 8 x 8 is theatre mobility – not strategic. Strategic mobility for UK is a Albion, Bay or Point class ships with STUFT, and / or C17…… or the channel tunnel I suppose :-)

July 20, 2014 8:19 pm


‘raft of development work needed to move from concept to prototype’

Do you think that is where your problems are laying? you are asking the MOD to invest money they are short on or a company to invest for a light vehicle that is not really fighty so it cannot take it’s place as the medium weight vehicles the armed forces need to replace 432 and Mastiff etc. Would it not be more sensible for the armed forces to buy more Viking and Foxhound if we need more light vehicles, rather than the extra cost of a new family of vehicles?

July 20, 2014 8:37 pm

DN – I guess that depends on what they want. Oh and thanks for the ‘not very fighty’ slur. You asked specifically for a section APC so that’s what the answer related to. The wheeled and tracked armour carrying medium calibre guns and GW are plenty fighty, thanks, but they weren’t what you asked about. The current in-service vehicles are fine if their combination of mobility protection and punch is adequate. I have pushed on a bit with protection and especially mobility, and packaged the whole in smaller dimensions. I wouldn’t be so crass as to declare them ‘a new paradigm’ or ‘setting the standard others will be measured against’ – pointless marketeer speak anyway. But they are a little different and the differences bring advantages. If no-one in HMG is interested in engaging then they can go buy the same stuff bought years ago and get on with it, bearing in mind if that culture had prevailed since 1900 the Army would still be moved by horse and wagon.

July 20, 2014 8:58 pm


‘Oh and thanks for the ‘not very fighty’ slur’

Wasn’t meant as a slur, light by it’s definition is not fighty. What’s the largest weapon your light vehicle can mount? whats it protection level? how much ammo, fuel, food and water can it carry on top of what the section is carrying? you said yourself it’s smaller in dimensions than the norm. How fatiguing is it due to being more cramped over a period of time? Is it smaller than a 432? because that is about the internal dimensions that are comfortable for 8 blokes, with lots of storage bins ( we used to strap a post pallet to the top to carry all our dems kit etc)

July 20, 2014 9:08 pm


Apologies for labouring the point.

In this current financial climate, yes, I’m not expecting anything beyond 6 battalions worth of a basic 8×8 design. I wonder if we’ll even go beyond an APC to get command, ambulance and repair / recovery variants.

I take comfort that both the French and the Germans were somewhat skeptical about the Medium Armour concept during their vehicle development and acquisition programmes. Now that they have fielded the VBCI and Boxer respectively, both are delighted. In fact, they’re looking beyond basic 8×8 variants to widen their wheeled capabilities. The EBRC replacement for the AMX10RC, is very much cast from the same mould as the Centauro. Now the Germans are likely to jump on the same bandwagon with an cavalry version of the Boxer.

One huge worry about future British Army procurement is that the Army no longer seems to say: we know exactly what we want and this is what it costs. Instead, it thinks about what price tag the MoD will agree to and frames capabilities around that. I showed a hypothetical revised Army 2020 structure to a senior officer and said what do you think? His reaction was: that’s not affordable. When I suggested that he was missing the point, he agreed that the capabilities we had outlined would be medium armour nirvana.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
July 20, 2014 9:17 pm

There is actually some huge value in not being very fighty. Makes you think and do things a different way.

Sometimes, being able to fight has advantages, and you can’t swap your wagon over mid-war, but in my experience in both desert and mixed (Yugoslavia), most times you don’t want to either fight or to be seen. Even in Yugoslavia, I parked up the wagons a few hundred metres away under deep cam, and had the boys dismounted with a few sniper rifles about.

The main difficulty was getting sniper rifles issued at all, but that was just phone calls and writing a good White Paper before we deployed, plus knowing the General and persuading him to sanction an experiment. That is what officers should be good at, having wacky ideas and making them happen.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
July 20, 2014 9:51 pm

Whilst I am probably know to be a big fan of the 8×8 especially the AMV and Boxer, until the MoD gets its act together nothing is going to change. The Idea of Capability Management introduced in the 1990s was a sound idea but the MoD doesn’t seem to understand how it is supposed to work. They are supposed to generate a Capability requirement and let industry (or in house organisation) come up with and present the best solution to meet said capability. The problem is the MoD keeps interfering and putting additional restrictions and new requirements in to the mix before even the initial proposals are submitted and then keeps doing so. This is more like the old days of issuing detailed service requirements which laid down everything needed including the colour of the officers toilet paper! The MoD wants it both ways and also non of the risk. Industry is going to simply not bother to play ball leaving maybe one or two who will but they will do their best to ensure they are financially covered by the costs of the programme not to be left out of pocket. Result the MoD ends up paying way more for equipment than it needs to.

The MoD needs to change its attitude to procurement especially regarding non-complex equipment which really covers most of what the Army needs, and yes I think the CA2 is not complex! From where I stand the only piece of UK specific equipment that needs to be fitted to a COTS platform is the Bowman radio suite. The CTA40 would be provided as Government furnished equipment and a usable turret already exists if required. The term vanilla is often used in the US to describe equipment bought at the minimum service standard, but which is incrementally upgraded, usually at scheduled maintenance and overhaul. We try to get everything included from day one and then try to add even more, usually what we didn’t;t think was needed at the time, which overly complicates procurement. But at the core as mentioned above, the capability requirements need to be simpler.

For example for the 8×8 we need a platforms protected against say 30mm at the front, a level of mine resistance able to carry 8 dismounts and be armed with nothing larger than a 12.7mm in an OWS initially. Against that there are quite a number of candidates. TO that as part of the assessment we need to look at how far each platform has been developed and what variants are in service or available as working demonstrator to ensure the minimum cost of purchasing variants needed for the UK. For example this might mien we purchase a 120mm variant rather than build a bespoke 81mm variant weighing the increase in effectiveness vs the cost difference. IN reality the latter would not be great as the base for the 120mm should easily be adapted to the 120mm as should the ammunition stowage but this is just an example.

One of the common sticking points in recent AFV procurement has been the desire to include growth in any platform. I am very dubious about this argument. Almost all recent AFV platforms are designed from the outset with substantial growth. This is only a problem usually with legacy platforms where newer tech has had to be shoehorned in. The fitting of Bowman into legacy platforms is a good example of this. So growth potential seems to be used more of a way of eliminating platforms that do not suit the ideas of the service involved than a legitimate concern.

Another area that need to be restricted is the interference of politics into procurement programmes. Putting restrictions like where a platform is built should not result in the rejection of submissions out of hand. If the capacity and capability exists to build a platform in the UK for the same amount or less as overseas then fine. But is not this should not really influence any decision to be made. This is difficult I know especially for big ticket items like warships but for AFVs it shouldn’t. Obviously very large programmes make the setting up of a UK production line feasible but more importantly the work to maintain and upgrade should be UK based rather than the initial manufacture. We are no longer in the new AFV export business, but we still retain skills in maintenance and upgrades that have potential.

FRES (SV) is a good example for the MoD’s convoluted procurement. As a replacement for the CVR(T) series it is a joke and is producing a family of bespoke platforms that we do not need. We do not need a light tank and the additional family members could probably be meet for the conversion of surplus Warriors and a 8×8 platforms. But it is the only new AFV programme really moving forward and the MoD would lose all its remain credibility if it didn’t follow through, but at what cost to other more important and relevant programmes. The planned medium formations in FF2020 are simply there as a home for the FRES(SV) family, not essential to any logical future Army!

FF2020 it a masterwork of making something that is a total mess look organised as if it was the plan all the time. Many a square peg has been hammered into a round hole to make it look the part but if it is retained I cannot see any of the brigades being deployed as organised, but rather like now units combined from different brigades to meed the in theatre needs.

The Brigade structure we should be aiming at should be;
1 Armoured Regiment – CA2
1 Armoured Infantry Battalion – Warrior 2
2 Mechanised Infantry Battalions – 8×8
1 Artillery Regiment – 155mm/CAAM/ISTAR
1 Engineering Regiment
1 Signals regiment
1 Logistics Regiment

In my world the Warrior Battalion would also be replaced by a 8×8 mounted battalion to improve in theatre mobility and reduce the logistics requirement. Ground recce would be provided by two, four vehicle sections attached to the HQ of each infantry battalion, supported by the organic ISTAR assets (UAVs) in the Artillery regiment. The platform used should be something akin to the Fennec used by the Dutch and German armies. The Armoured Regiment would be be of the Type 44 organisations with 3 squadrons of 14 CA2 allowing each Infantry battalion to be allocated a squadron which combined with other assets would form 3 Battle Groups per Brigade.

Three of these Brigades would form a Division of which the UK would have
two. To this would be a Light division combining 3rd Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade plus 21 and 23 reserve SAS Battalions.

Centrally manned would be reserve formations containing the remaining heavy GMLRS and AS90 platforms, additional logistics, ISTAR, signals, engineering, medical services etc. These formations would have a large Reserve component but in each category there would be a regular component capable of rapid deployment to provide an initial capability to be supplemented by the reserves soon after.

Oh well having diverted in to my usual this is how the Army should move forward speech, to sum things up the MoD need a rocket up its A$%e to sort out how it managed capability and its procurement. FRES(SV) is not needed and is a waste of money. FF2020 is a joke and finally I really hope we do not deploy any servicemen and women until we get the mess that is our Armed forces sorted out. That is my positive spin on the subjects

July 20, 2014 10:41 pm

Is not the major problem with the 8×8 that they’re neither here nor there. When speed and lightness are required you have a number of 4x4s that can are lighter, faster and more reliable. If you need firepower and protection because you’re expecting a heavy fight then you need proper armour; tanks and tracked IFVs.

The 8×8 is a poor compromise at both.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 21, 2014 6:42 am

This article should remind us that the MoD at one point believed that medium armour would have the survivability of a MBT (currently 70 plus tonnes of Challenger) thanks to new technologies that would be magically wished into existence.

Buy anything on the market today and you’ll be far off from a MBT. People here want an 8×8 to knit together the need to fight with the heavy armour of 3 div and the need to deploy with light forces such as 16AAB; they’re competing priorities, try and meet both and you risk equipping half the Army with vehicles that do neither particularly well.

I think we’d do better to separate the “rapid effects” part from the UV program. Get relatively light armoured vehicles that prioritize rapid deployment and rapid manoeuvre.

On the scale of the Army, where a single armoured brigade will be a major commitment, then we shouldn’t be thinking about deploying these “rapid effects” forces in anything larger than a battalion, and often just a supplement to an even lighter battalion group. Use them as you would airborne or heliborne forces – ie, deploy, relieve, recover – don’t expect them to carry on alone, but quickly replace with the heavier longer-term force.

For much of the rest of UV, we should maybe be looking at the SV base platform.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 21, 2014 6:44 am

Question for Chris.

Do any of your vehicle designs have 2m of suspension travel?

Is that even a remotely sensible target?

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
July 21, 2014 7:34 am

A problem with alot of suggestions here is that people still want the British Army to retain its old capabilities, that of heavy and light formations as the priority. The first is really too inflexible to be used on future operations against realistic opponents and the latter is too light. There is also a some who still believe that tracks still trump wheels when it comes to mobility, to such an extent that is more than compensates for the greatly increased logistics and running costs.

We are pushing ahead with FRES(SV) because it is the only thing on the menu and the people in charge desperately need a good news story to counter all the previous negatives regarding vehicle procurement. But it has been tinkered with to such an extent that it is not a COTS purchase by any stretch of the imagination. We could have taken the basic ASCOD, fitted it with a new turret aka that of the Warrior 2, british comms and we would have had a platform fit for purpose. Additional modular protection packages already exist for the ASCOD so protection would not have been an issue, and if we had pursued additional variants, Austria, Greece and Spain would probably have come on board as a means to replace some of there ageing M113 fleets. But no we end up with a UK bespoke family of platforms that have little or no export potential and is over priced. It is an expenditure that is criminally inept at a time we need to spend out limited funds wisely.

8×8 have proven themselves time and again in recent years and the majority of NATO armed forces are procuring them, and for good reason. What was FRES(UV) should have been the Army’s priority. Yes the CVR(T)s are wearing out but how many were deployed in Afghanistan at any one time out of a fleet of over 1000. Yes it was nice to have a little tank that could be shipped over there easily but as we all know the modifications to make them fit for purpose made them top heavy as well as pushing the chassis to its limit.

Afghanistan would have been the ideal place to trial the Warrior 2 if that programme had been accelerated but no, FRES(SV) ate all the funding pies! and the three wise procurement monkeys dithered on the fence.

Regarding “Light” formations, what a lot of people propose are on the verge of becoming medium weight formations. Light tracked platforms have all the disadvantages and few advantages in these formations compared to vehicles 10tons heavier. The requirements that led to the CVR(T) family have been over taken by events in the same way the US Army’s FCS has been or the original idea behind FRES. Our light formations are designed to get in theatre fast but need rapid support by heavier units. Against likely threats platforms like the AMV and Boxer fill that role very nicely especially if the the operational fit includes active protection as well as passive. Remember we are not going to be going up against top tier opposition any time soon and definitely never alone. In all probability we will have command of the air, at worst superiority at best dominance. That means CAS by everything from F-35s to Apache to UCAVs. enemy AFVs are going to be an endangered species and will not be able to operate in concentrations but more like as individuals or small groups. Those we face will be at best export T-72 and ageing BMP variants with greater numbers of T-55, BTR and BRDM style platforms. All of these are very vulnerable to modern ATGWs, IATWs and heavy auto-cannon. In fact modern western MBTs are actually overkill against such opposition but that is always a nice situation to be in. Non of the above can accurately engage targets on the move and have issues engaging moving targets. Both of these capabilities are standard in most western AFVs. They have poor night fighting abilities though these are improving with cheap older generation thermal optics becoming available. Medium platform are more than adequate to effectively combat this level of threat, and with CAS they will outmatch any threat considerably.

Words like “Effect based”, and “Capability” have cause huge confusion in the procurement process. They sound very good in sound bites, but history tells us that if we try to leap too far forward in one go it is a bad idea. We need a good solid platform with growth potential and there are many contenders. If we want a light tank, then call FRES(SV) that as that is what it is and will be used as. It and its family are definitely not a replacement for the CVR(T) family.

July 21, 2014 8:27 am

BB – 2m of suspension travel? Of course! And more! Forward and backward relative to ground that is. Vertical movement? Not a hope, but then neither do any of the current crop of armour as far as I know. The High Mobility criteria in the Def Stan is for 200mm bump from static – that’s what I have.

As regards one platform to support both heavy armour and rapid reaction forces, like you I think its never going to work. As ASCOD/FRES-SV shows – a ‘Rapid Effect’ CVR(T) replacement that fully kitted out fits one per C-17. With some spare payload to carry the bowser full of fuel the thing is going to munch through. It has become a heavy armour support vehicle by dribs and drabs, I suspect not because the great military minds think that will deliver the optimum effect in conjunction with the other assets in the inventory, but because the politicians fear tabloid headlines more than military impotence thus will only sanction vehicles so protected no-one can get hurt. Sophistry of course; no vehicle is invulnerable.