UK defence issues and the odd container or two

The Story of FRES – 2012 to 2014

We are now in the home stretch, racing to the conclusion of this series on the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES)

In January 2012 the MoD’s long awaited Defence Equipment Plan was published, not much detail but a confirmation of a commitment to FRES

FRES SV Protected Mobility 740x740 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Protected Mobility Support Vehicle
FRES SV Recovery and Repair 740x740 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Recovery and Repair
FRES SV Repair 740x740 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Repair

In the early part of 2012 more and more on Agile Warrior and the studies being carried out by General Nick Carter were being released and discussed. These studies were looking at the shape and organisation of the army in a post Afghanistan world where the regular army would be in the region of 80,000 personnel.

Agile Warrior was a series of activities designed to get the Army Thinking;

  • Deliver an authoritative evidence-based analysis of future land-force requirements within a JIIM context
  • Across all Lines of Development
  • FCOC era out to 2020
  • Policy aware not policy constrained
  • By the Army not to the Army
  • A Brand name

Agile Warrior 11 had a number of themed questions;

  • Test the ability of the TAS structure to transition to best-effort Divisional level operations in a hybrid conflict.
  • Test how a Multi Role Brigade will fight and operate in a hybrid conflict. Test how our sustainment and service support organisations will operate in hybrid conflict.
  • Evaluate and determine the Army’s future C2 requirements and associated models, for ISTAR and CIS.
  • Determine the ‘Understand’ demands of continuous modulated engagement and deployed brigade operations and recommend the optimum structures to meet them.
  • Determine the nature of future demand on commanders and soldiers.
  • In what ways will we need increased Army agility in the future and how should we look to promote it?
  • Test and evaluate the major constituent parts of our current doctrine and determine its necessary conceptual direction of travel in the next 10 years.

The final report highlighted 17 key insights and the 2012 events worked on the following questions;

  • Urban Operations;
  • Cyber and Influence;
  • C2 at Div. and Bde;
  • Whole Force Concept; Contractors & Reserves
  • UORs into Core;
  • National Interests;
  • Professional Development;
  • Force Support;

Separate but linked activities included Exercise Urban Warrior and Exercise Mad Scientist.

A number of these documents pointed to the Multi Role Brigade being able to sustain an ongoing stability operation in a town the size of Newton Abbot, population 25,000. Certainly not Basra or an area like Helmand.

I think the Multi Role Brigade was a sensible concept because it reflected the most likely operation types, the excellent Future Character of Conflict work and the world around us.

Ultimately, it was not to be.

In May 2012 the Army released Joint Concept Note 2/12, Future Land Operating Concept, an update of the 2008 version.

It said’

Armoured infantry will be a core capability around which manoeuvre will be built. The complexity of the environment will require small and robust combined-arms teams able to fight dispersed. Mobility support will be critical in the complex battlespace; assault engineers will be required in greater numbers than at present to fight within complex environments, such as urban terrain. Armour, drawing on its protection and ability to provide precision fire, will be required primarily to provide intimate support to dismounted infantry, although armour should continue to be capable of defeating an adversary by shock action and ground manoeuvre

It was an important milestone because it laid the foundations for Army 2020 and from a FRES perspective, completely expunged the whole notion of medium weight intervention forces.

The document contains ZERO instances of the word ‘medium’ and scant mention of rapid intervention.

One cannot escape the conclusion that the troubled concept of the medium weight force that was so completely aligned to FRES (or perhaps the other way around) was now history.

All that study, all those joint concept notes, hundreds of thousands of words, tens of thousands PowerPoint presentations and god only knows how many millions.

All gone.

The underlying concept behind FRES was as dead a Monty Python parrot

The Parrot Sketch – Monty Python's The Flying Circus

The vehicle lived on though, with beautiful and expensive plumage

In July 2012 Army 2020 was in the public domain and whilst the media generally focussed on the Reserves and cap badge bun fights, the Multi Role Brigade was no more, replaced with the Reaction Force, Adaptable Force and Force Troops.

Many believed that whilst the Multi Role Brigade was sensible it was simply unaffordable, even in the watered down concept presented in SDSR 2010.

Army 2020 would retain a heavy core with a lighter follow on force bolstered with an enlarged reserve component for enduring operations. There were (and are) many critics of Army 2020 seeing it as a return to the a Cold War comfort blanket, but in response to resource reality it was difficult to see other options and it cannot be said that it was without rigorous underpinning analysis .

Where did all of this turmoil leave FRES.

On the surface, completely unaffected.

The MoD document, Transforming the British Army, published in July 2012, provided some insight into future structures, further information was provided by an update later in the month.

Army 2020 Armoured Infantry Brigade 740x445 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
Army 2020 Armoured Infantry

FRES SV Scout work carried on throughout the year the odd news piece would highlight some element of the programme or another.

It also became apparent that final quantities would likely reduce and In Service Date slip. There was also some movement between the various blocks and a number of variants were quietly withdrawn from future plans. The Medium Armour element had already gone in 2011.

FRES SV Mobile Test Rig The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Mobile Test Rig

By the end of 2012 FRES SV Scout had  completed its Preliminary Design Review.

In April 2013 BFBS had a new story on swapping CVR(T) for a WMIK

Scimitar Armoured Vehicles Fire a Farewell 09.04.13

Most definitely the least convincing ‘brave face’ ever!

The Mobility Test Rig was undergoing its Accelerated Life Testing, designed to demonstrate reliability and provide test data the MTR in the video above covered 300km and towed a 92 tonne vehicle train.

FRES Scout Mobility Trial The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES Scout Mobility Trial

The also MTR underwent low temperature testing the INSTITUTO TECNOLÓGICO ‘LA MARAÑOSA’

Instituto Tecnológico 'La Marañosa'

Tests included a 72 hour period at -32 degreec C followed by a series of starts using a pre heater and no pre-hetear.

In summer 2013 a number of Warrior announcements were made

Procurement of Cased Telescoped Cannons (CTC) Ammunition

The Specialist Vehicle Cannon Project Team, part of the UK Ministry of Defence, intends to place a further buy of ammunition, with CTA International through an Amendment to Contract No FRES/0075, to support the demonstration phases of the Cased Telescopic Cannon which will be provided to Prime Contractors for integration into the Scout Specialist Vehicle (SV) and the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP).

How much?

Total final value of contract(s)

Value: 25 629 034 EUR
Including VAT. VAT rate (%) 20

So there you go

FRES SV Scout The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Scout representative prototype

The UOR into Core programme for protected mobility continued with the announcement of an RFP for fleet conversion.

 To provide Fleet Conversion services for the Army’s Protected Mobility (PM) fleet of vehicles to achieve the correct variant mix to meet the requirements of the Army 2020 (A2020) Force Development Strategy, against the following vehicle types, hereafter known as ‘The Platforms’.

  • Mastiff – all variants,
  • Ridgback – all variants,
  • Wolfhound – all variants,

Fleet Conversion.

Currently envisaged deliverables to include, but not be limited to:

  • Mastiff Troop Carrying Variant (MAS TCV) to Mastiff Enhanced Communications Variant (MAS ECV) Conversion,
  • Ridgback Troop Carrying Variant (RBK TCV) to Ridgback Command Variant (RBK CV) Conversion,
  • Wolfhound Explosive Ordinance Disposal (WHD EOD) variant to Wolfhound Military Working Dog (WHD MWD) variant Conversion,
  • Mastiff 1 to Mastiff 2 Conversion.

Cost Range: between 40 000 000 and 60 000 000 GBP

The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme was also being shown off in the middle of 2013 after completing the initial design review.

Warrior Upgrade The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
Warrior CSP

Towards the end of 2013 news emerged of problems with the Scout turret. Defense News reported that General Dynamics had agreed to pay Lockheed Martin several million pounds in compensation for failing to keep to a timetable on requirement delivery. It also reported problems with weight growth and a delayed ISD.

Testing continued in Spain

Scout SV in Spain The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
Scout SV in Spain

February 2014 was publication date for the National Audit Office Major Projects Report

The current planning assumption is to deliver a reconnaissance fleet of up to *** vehicles incrementally

It also confirmed the work done on some of the other variants.

In parallel, assessment studies, including representative mock-ups, confirmed that Ambulance,  Command and Engineer Recce roles could be delivered by sub-system installation on the Protected  Mobility Recce Support vehicle. Assessment studies continued on options for the remaining roles of Formation Recce (Overwatch), Joint Fires Command and Ground Base Surveillance roles, against the existing User Requirements, to determine whether incremental upgrades are required to develop their capability further

All the Key User Requirements were forecast to be met, the vehicle programme was right on track.

By the end of 2013 the Foxhound had entered service and the MoD announced further orders, bringing the investment to £371 million and 400 vehicles.

Also by the end of 2013 the MoD had announced that the vast majority of the protected mobility vehicles would be bought into core.

After a series of successful design reviews and 40mm CTA qualification in early 2014, the WCSP achieved Initial Design Approval in January 2014

Bringing this right up to date, following the Lancaster House agreement on defence cooperation the UK announced it would be trialling VBCI in an 8 month programme with Phillip Dunne commenting in Janes that;

VBCI had fallen down on three elements in the original competition: accessibility to the vehicle’s powerpack, the vehicle’s armour protection levels, and its growth potential. VBCI has undergone a significant upgrade, the new export variant of the VBCI includes the ability to remove the vehicle’s powerpack in the field and an improved suspension and transmission to increase the VBCI’s maximum weight from 29 tonnes to 32 tonnes. Other improvements include fourth-axle steering, a repositioned fuel tank, upgraded cooling and engine performance, and small hull reconfigurations to increase the vehicle’s internal volume.

On the 20th June 2014 ARTEC handed the first production Netherland Boxer over to the medical company of the 13th NL Brigade.

Earlier in this post I suggested that the medium weight rapidly deployed concept was history but maybe medium now means 35-40 tonnes not 15-26 tonnes that it was previously.

The latest pictures were from DVD, the Defence Vehicle Dynamics show of the Protected Mobility Support Variant.

FRES SV Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support2 740x492 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support
FRES SV Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support 740x492 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support
 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
FRES SV Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support

 And that, is the story of FRES

To finish the history section of this series I am going to go back in time to the birth of CVR(T), the first prototype in January 1969.

CVRT Protoype 01 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
CVR(T) Prototype

It is still in service and will be for some time yes, the latest Mk2 now having rollover protection fitted.

BAE Systems Safety Devices Scimitar2 CVRT ROPS1 740x555 The Story of FRES   2012 to 2014
BAE Systems Safety Devices Scimitar2 CVRT ROPS

Time for a musical end to the story, the UK Number 1, August 8th, Magic! by Rude

 

 

 

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

Sources

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!

10 Comments

  1. Observer

    Impressive historical study TD. Must have been lots of work.

    Good luck on the FRES, it really looks like something long overdue.

    Interesting to see the old M2 on the Recon Support vehicle. Big bugger.

  2. Monty

    In reality, the story from 2012 to 2014 is about marking time and making plans for when we have money.

    The concept of multi-role brigades died because we couldn’t afford it, but also because it didn’t make strategic sense. There is no doubt that FRES SV Scout is a capable vehicle, but I tend to think it is rooted in redundant Cold War thinking rather than a future proof “Go anywhere, Do anything” capability. I would have preferred to see a heavy armour brigade structure of 3 x infantry battalions all in Warriors or ASCOD 2 plus 1 x Challenger 2 regiment. Reflecting on the vast pool of knowledge expressed on TD, I would undoubtedly prefer to see the recce role performed with MBTs. If you need to fight for information, then give the boys the maximum amount of protection possible and the biggest gun.

    The US Stryker Brigades have been a huge success. The US Army now has 9 such brigades (although this will be reduced to 8). Each Stryker Brigade combat team has three infantry battalions supported by an MGS regiment. Although the M1128 MGS vehicle has been less than ideal, there are plans to replace it with a new vehicle. France and Italy are equally happy with their wheeled formations. In all cases, the above armies have opted to create dedicated wheeled and tracked formations not multi-role brigades.

    Sorry to bang-on about strategic mobility but it is an important capability which the UK has only at an LPPV level (with Foxhound). So FRES UV still matters a great deal. It isn’t just about adding a wheeled battalion to heavy armoured brigades, but developing dedicated medium weight wheeled brigades. There is a lot of discussion going on at the moment about this very topic. So the FRES story is still ongoing.

  3. jedibeeftrix

    “A number of these documents pointed to the Multi Role Brigade being able to sustain an ongoing stability operation in a town the size of Newton Abbot, population 25,000. I think the Multi Role Brigade was a sensible concept because it reflected the most likely operation types, the excellent Future Character of Conflict work and the world around us.”

    Doesn’t the first sentence rather prove the futility of organising ones army around a role that serves little geostrategic purpose insofar as advancing the interests of HMG?

  4. Monty

    @TD

    Am still on holiday (in Italy). Can read TD on iPhone, but text is too small on the iPad Mini. I wish I could access the standard site and self-adjust the text.

    Anyway, still enjoyed the article and looking forward to the debate it has inspired.

  5. Frenchie

    It’s a great vehicle, it is as fast as Scimitar, it has high performance sensors, it can be transported in a A400M and is very quiet. Moreover, it is a vehicle that has the advantage to be at the forefront of technology. But it is large, it will not be a vehicle that could acting close to the enemy lines, it would be an easy target in the open field, and it could not to defend itself with its CT40 faces a battle tank. It will be very effective if it works in a forest, sheltered eyes. From my point of view it is not a scout vehicle. For me a scout vehicle is a small vehicle that can go anywhere, sneaking, watching without being seen, the movement of the enemy. Here we have a large vehicle that could act as the Bradley in the US Army. Being a frontline vehicle destroying enemy tanks and fighting vehicles, but it has no anti-tank missiles.
    For me it will be an observation vehicle, as the German Fennek, but much more expensive.

  6. Observer

    I’m not really sure if the “multi-role brigade” is as dead as you’d assume TD, it might just be a question of structure and new wine/old wineskins. The “adaptive force/reaction force” isn’t a brigade structure, but the “pool” of resources that you pull together to form a brigade, basically a battlegroup concept. You can still get a “multi-role brigade” if you mixed and matched the resources right. Something like the bricks in Lego. The “adaptive/reaction” force pool would be the pool of bricks in the bucket that you use while the “brigade” would be the final product after putting the bricks together, and as the situation changes, you remove a few bricks and replace them with others from the bucket.

    Or did I miss something?

    Other than the numbers cut, that one I didn’t miss, but we were talking about adaptive structure, not numbers.

  7. Frenchie

    I don’t understand why you always talk about the multi-roles brigades, the choice of the armored division is logical, the Adaptable Force otherwise is very unclear for me, a poorly equipped division, it does not make sense.

  8. Observer

    Frenchie, think in terms of “occupation forces” :) It makes more sense then. Less politically correct but more understanding.

    More infantry, less heavy tanks for “sustainment”.

  9. Frenchie

    We can say that French forces located in Africa are in some way of occupation forces, but we can not say that they are under armed, (although our terrestrial vehicles are outdated), they are ready to fight against a potential enemy.

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