2010 would finally see some tangible progress but it was not all easy street for FRES.
The beginning of 2010 saw BAE and General Dynamics promoting their respective entries for FRES SV
The General Dynamics offer was based on the Austrian-Spanish Cooperative Development or ASCOD vehicle which is in service with Spain and Austria, as the Pizarro and Ulan respectively.
The BAe option was a shortened CV90, fully developed and available in the flesh, although to what extent readiness extended under the skin was not clear. The basic vehicle was to be constructed at Hagglunds in Sweden and shipped to Newcastle for final assembly and integration.
Outwardly there was little to distinguish them, both using in service infantry fighting vehicle of nineties origins as the base platform and both were equipped with the mandated 40mm CTA cannon with a range of C4ISTAR, protection and automotive upgrades. The new Generic Vehicle Architecture would form the backbone of the sensor and electronic systems for both vehicles.
Neither featured a telescopic sensor mast as TRACER had and both were conventionally powered and protected, no hybrid powerpacks, electric armour, active hydrogas suspension or segmented band tracks.
This was a significant step back from both the TRACER and initial FRES visions because the MoD, smarting from relentless criticism, facing an impending budget crisis and continuing pressures of ongoing operations knew full well they would have to trade ambition for realism and getting something into service was critical for the credibility of the project and the department.
Therefore, FRES SV represented a paucity of ambition.
On the flip side of this complain is the reality that new vehicles were needed and maybe something that was 80% was good enough. Many pointed to an inability to trade capability for time and cost led to the demise of TRACER.
It was and is a fair point.
Both solutions offered uplifts across the lethality and protection domains, would be equipped with the latest (albeit off the shelf) sensor systems and offered great potential of future upgrades through Generic Vehicle Architecture and automotive improvements.
Neither was a poor design, far from it, both being solid, well designed machines.
The main issue that most commentators remarked on was the sheer size and weight of both proposals. It is difficult to envisage a force comprising 30-40 tonne vehicles being rapid to deploy, mobile on the battlefield without significant manoeuvre support or being stealthy in support of the reconnaissance mission as defined by UK doctrine.
BAE announced the investment of £4.5 million in a Turret Test Rig for both Warrior and FRES programmes in February.
The £4.5m Turret Test Rig (TTR) will mimic the field testing of turrets for Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) Scout and Warrior vehicles by subjecting them to tests under extremes of temperatures. The tests are expected to take a turret through a 20-year lifespan in 12-18 months.
Also in February the UK and French governments agreed to fund further development and qualification of the 40mm CTA weapon. Incidentally, the announcement mentioned 245 Scout vehicles, down from 270 in the original bid materials.
At the end of February the Investment Approvals Board met to decide between General Dynamics and BAE and the pressure was on to make a decision before the upcoming election announcement after which there is traditionally a six week period of purdah on major contracts.
As usual with these closely guarded secrets the MoD’s leaky sieve was in full on leak mode with a number of outlets reporting a win for General Dynamics.
BAE tried to sweeten the deal on jobs and fabrication location, Sweden to Newcastle being the new offer. BAE also issued a press release stating that the integrated demonstrator had completed testing at 40.4 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight.
In March the MoD announced that General Dynamics had been selected for FRES SV Recce Block 1, or more specifically, selected as preferred bidder.
General Dynamics issued this press release;
General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited has been selected by the Ministry of Defence to provide the next generation of armoured fighting vehicles to the British Army. The MoD has chosen General Dynamics’ ASCOD SV tracked vehicle as the winning design for the demonstration phase of the Specialist Vehicle competition, providing both the Scout variant and the Common Base Platform for up to 580 SV vehicles. ASCOD SV is the latest generation of a proven European design which has been significantly redesigned by General Dynamics’ UK engineering team, and will provide unparalleled military capability for the British Army over the 30 years of the vehicles’ life.
“The General Dynamics UK team won this competition to provide the British Army with its next generation of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) because it is the best vehicle for the British troops,” commented Dr. Sandy Wilson, President and Managing Director of General Dynamics UK. “We offered the best integrated solution, the best growth potential over the 30-year life of the vehicle, the best value for money for the British taxpayer and the best deal for the UK Industrial base.
The ASCOD SV programme is British to its bootstraps, delivering a Military off the Shelf vehicle with British design by British engineers to the British Army while safeguarding or creating 10,600 jobs for British workers.”
British troops using the ASCOD SV will have the best protection available in this vehicle class, both as it is delivered and as it grows to meet future threats. The vehicle will be immediately capable of delivering load- carrying growth potential of up to 42 tonnes thanks to a modern, proven drivetrain. This means that ASCOD SV is capable now of being equipped to meet future threats likely to appear over its entire 30 year life, without the need to upgrade its engine or transmission during that time. Finally, 80% of ASCOD SV’s full rate production will be based in the UK, securing or creating over 10,600 jobs for British workers.
These new jobs will be secured or created over the duration of the SV programme in South Wales where General Dynamics UK is based, Scotland, the North of England, the North West, the East and West Midlands, and the East and South of England. General Dynamics UK has sub-contracted Lockheed Martin UK INSYS to produce the turret of the Scout variant of ASCOD SV, and will transfer full rate production of the entire ASCOD SV programme to DSG in Donnington, ensuring 80% of ASCOD SV production happens in the UK.
Lord Peter Levene, Chairman of General Dynamics UK Limited said: “We are delighted that the MoD has selected ASCOD SV for its SV programme, a decision we believe will sustain the British tank industry for future generations. We are confident that the decision will, most importantly, provide the best protection for British soldiers, as well as provide both the greatest long-term value and the best military capability for the UK Government and the MoD. We look forward to delivering this contract in partnership with the MoD for the benefit of Britain’s armed forces.”
Based on a proven European design, it is the latest-generation vehicle developed specifically for SV by a team of General Dynamics UK’s engineers in Britain and Europe. It is a low-risk choice for SV, with excellent weight and growth potential.
The vehicle offers one common-base platform which can meet the range of SV roles. Its turret is designed by Lockheed Martin UK INSYS, specifically for the British Army’s scout role. ASCOD SV also offers high value to the UK Defence Industrial Base. Its Intellectual Property will be based in the UK, part of the sovereign capability available to the British Government. By value, 80% of the vehicle manufacture will be completed in the UK, with 70% of the supply chain companies UK-based.
Overall, ASCOD SV will create or safeguard more than 10,500 jobs in the UK.
There was still ambiguity on intellectual property, ‘based in the UK’ is not the same thing as ‘owned by the MoD’
It also made the British to It’s Bootstraps claim, that 70% of the supply chain would be UK based and 80% by value would be completed in the UK.
Bold claims, but very careful with the wording.
On the supply chain for example, British based maybe, but certainly not British owned or traded on the London stock exchange.
Industrial issues aside, at least the project now had some clarity, contract would follow based on a clear understanding on the relevant issues and BAE could now get on with closing its UK vehicle manufacturing base.
On July 1st the Leicester Mercury published a story describing a loss of jobs at the BAE Braunceton Frith, Leicester site. Quoting a BAE official, it said
We don’t see any short to medium-term opportunities for design and manufacturing. Design is the majority of what Leicester does
In other Leicester news, HJ Hall announced job cuts following an Army sock contract going to China
Quentin Davies said
the MoD must buy the best equipment regardless of where it was made
it also emerged that the General Dynamics solution would include a turret provided by Lockheed Martin, the actual design being based on the Rheinmetall LANCE medium calibre turret, another one of those British Bootstraps although Lockheed Martin insisted 75% of the turret would be manufactured in the UK, on what basis that 75% was measured was not clear.
Time for a video.
A Freedom of Information Act request made by the Times newspaper revealed that the MoD had spent £68 million on FRES SV to this point.
With the election out of the way the MoD and General Dynamics announced successful negotiations in June and the award of a £500 million contract for the Demonstration and Manufacture phase of FRES SV Recce Block 1. Seven prototypes would be built with first testing completed by the end of 2013.
RUSI published a paper written by Grahame Birchall in October that compared and contrasted the French success with their transformation programmes and medium weight vehicles compared to FRES. It is a fascinating paper and anyone interested in the subject should take the time to read it, click here
Briefly, Grahame distilled the the French secret as
- Be soldier centric
- Take decisions you know to be right without endless studies that confirm what you just know
- Sign off by the users, procurer and manufacturer at each stage
- Avoid the ‘big idea’
He also drew attention to the fact that NEXTER was involved at every stage and that organisation had a view across the wider subject, not just vehicles.
The annual ‘kick the MoD in the teeth’ report by the National Audit Office was published on the 10th of October.
For FRES, it revealed that the actual/forecast for FRES UV had risen to £162 million with no explanation of why.
Non FRES Vehicles
The first of the production Boxers are now in service with the German armed forces and the Dutch are starting their production facility build near Eindhoven.
In February/March, alongside FRES, the MoD was also considering the future of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project (WCSP), a competition between BAE and Lockheed Martin.
BAE released a marketing video for Warrior CSP that showed live firing trials of its MTIP-2 turret. BAE were proposing a new turret design (MTIP-2) and Lockheed Martin, an upgrade of the existing Warrior turret.
In March, the MoD Investment Approvals Board recommended a year long delay to WCSP.
The MoD announced another order for 140 Supacat Jackal 2A’s (an enhanced version of the Jackal 2) and an additional 28 Wolfhound Tactical Support Vehicle (Heavy) in June. The contract for Supacat was £45 million and bought the total numbers of Jackals in service to over 400.
The Light Protected Patrol Vehicle contenders continued with their media display, by now, it was down to the Supacat SPV400 and Force Protection Ocelot.
June was the bid submission deadline for the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle
June also saw a number of reports that BAE (after losing the FRES SV contract) and the MoD were negotiating the restart of the CVR(T) production, at least for hulls.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and BAE Systems are negotiating the re-started hull production for the British Army’s Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) fleet. The heavy wear and tear, corrosion and fatigue on the CVR(T)s deployed in Afghanistan has prompted the move, which has raised concerns among British Army equipment managers that the fleet of CVR(T) derivatives could soon be rendered combat ineffective. There are 1,100 CVR(T)s still in use. The CVR(T) is currently the mainstay of the Royal Armoured Corps’ reconnaissance regiments.
There are reportedly also concerns among senior army officers that the scout variant of the recently selected General Dynamics ASCOD Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) vehicle will not be ready by the planned 2015 in-service date to replace the CVR(T).
It is still not clear how many hulls are involved, but all the 100 or so vehicles deployed in Afghanistan are expected to pass through the rebuilding process.
Army sources indicate that they expect “a couple of hundred” CVR(T)s to remain in service beyond 2016 for use in air-portable and amphibious rapid-reaction units where the requirement is for a vehicle weighing less than 10 tonnes.
The irony of new build CVR(T)’s and old ones being retained for units that needed them for rapid deployment could not have failed to have been appreciated by all, especially BAE, the official loser of the FRES SV contract.
It was revealed later that CVR(T) Mark 2 would use remanufactured hulls and a wide range of improvements, Scimitar Mk2 would use a Scimitar turret and Spartan Mk2 hull.
Scimitar Mk2 it was, not Spartiman or Scimitan!
Pretty much every component was replaced or upgraded, mobility, protection, power provision and maintainability all improved.
125 German Boxer vehicles would receive a protection upgrade in the form of Schroth inflatable restraint system, airbags in other words, read more here
Navistar announced an additional £33 million order from the MoD in September for 89 Husky Tactical Support Vehicle )Medium)
September also bought success for Force Protection with its Ocelot vehicle for the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) requirement. The MoD announcement confirmed their status as preferred bidder and in November an £180 million order was placed for 200 Ocelots, to be called Foxhounds.
7 years after the first IED death in a Snatch
A number of Mastiffs and Wolfhounds were also purchased during the year.
Towards the end of January the Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry heard evidence of of a shocking lack of equipment in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
From a Guardian article
John Hutton, who described delays in providing the army with a new armoured vehicle as a “procurement shambles”
He sharply criticised the delayed Future Rapid Effect System project, designed to provide new armoured vehicles. “I think it’s hard to imagine a worse procurement shambles,” he said.
“That, I think, is a pretty grim episode and in my view makes the case for a very urgent shake-upof the equipment procurement function of the MoD absolutely essential … Ten years into it, we still haven’t got a single vehicle.”
The pressure on the MoD, on DE&S and on FRES was building.
Following the publication of the 2008 Defence Strategic Guidance and 2009 Future Army Structure (Next Steps) that recognised the most likely operation was not a large scale state on state operation but enduring medium scale interventions that would be complex, crowded and with ambiguous goals.
As Future Army Structures (Next Steps) matured in early 2010 the proposed light, medium and heavy structure gave way to the concept of six Ground Manoeuvre Brigades each with an identical modular structure. These brigades would be supported by three Support Brigades and a high readiness Air Assault Brigade.
Although FAS(Next Steps) made perfect sense it did not address the resource issue, indeed, when fully implemented it would have required a 10% uplift in personnel.
It was thus, utterly unrealistic.
This was recognised by March FAS(Next Steps) was no more and General Richards instructed the Army to come up with a new plan that recognised financial reality and paid attention to the newly published Future Character of Conflict published by the Defence Doctrine and Development Centre.
And so was born ‘Transformational Army Structure’ or TAS
TAS bought the 6 plus 3 plus 1 Brigade model of FAS (Next Steps) down to 5 Multi Role Brigades and 1 Air Assault Brigade and instaed of 3 support brigades, a single Joint Theatre Enabling Command.
TAS was much more inline with the Future Character of Conflict that suggested that future operations would be more like Afghanistan than the Gulf War; congested, cluttered, contested and connected.
October 2010 saw General Richards succeeds Jock Stirrup as CDS
Following the election the pre SDSR silly season was in full swing, leaks, counter leaks and inter service backstabbing reached new levels.
A Telegraph article on the 9th of October quoted the eponymous ‘Senior MoD Official’ who said
FRES is dead in the water. It’s a dead duck. It is the definition of everything that is wrong with the MoD’s procurement process
The Multi Role Brigade concept survived contact with SDSR 2010 but not unscathed, they would now be self supporting instead of using the Joint Theatre Enabling Command and force reductions across the board became the chosen position.
Although SDSR confirmed its commitment to FRES the concept of the Medium Weight Capability was dead in the water.
The FRES vision of a bulging middle joined by a smaller heavy and light capabilities was gone
The future was modular, the future was enduring and the future was certainly not the quick in quick out medium weight vision.
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.