UK defence issues and the odd container or two

The Story of FRES – A Summary

Where do you start with a summary of the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES)?

I suppose the first thing to do would be define what FRES actually is.

And therein lies the problem.

What FRES is remains a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, an enigma that wears clown shoes.

It started with a recognition that whilst CVR(T) was a brilliant design for its time, its time was coming to an end and there was a need for a protected mobility vehicle somewhat better than Saxon and FV432.

All military equipment evolves, becomes obsolete and needs to reflect contemporary operating requirements, CVR(T), Saxon and FV432 are no different.

The FRES story really starts with what went before it, CVR(T), FV432 and Saxon.

By the end of the sixties, CVR(T) was well on its way to being in service and FV432 was already there. As the seventies concluded, CVR(T) was firmly established with a family of vehicles having proven their lightweight rapid deployment value in Cyprus and Belize.

The vehicle size and weight was directly limited by transport requirements, the vehicles, ships and aircraft in service. The whole point of the vehicle was deployability; strategic, theatre and tactical. Protection, that was what was available whilst maintaining size and weight limits.

Size and weight ruled the roost, not protection, not firepower.

In 1982, those deployability and mobility characteristics would be spectacularly showcased again, in the Falklands conflict, and during the rest of the decade a number of developments would come to fruition, some not, that showed the inherent flexibility and soundness of the CVR(T) design.

At the end of the eighties the electronics revolution was providing a glimpse of what it could deliver on the battlefield but this was not the age of the iPhone or flat screen, electronics were bulky, fragile and had significant power and cooling requirements.

The Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative (VERDI) was a somewhat revolutionary look at concepts that would exploit emerging computing, communications and sensor equipment. It is not specifically documented anywhere that I could find but I suspect the reason a Warrior was chosen as the base vehicle for VERDI and not CVR(T) was because of size constraints.

Also during the late eighties the MoD formulated a plan to replace its menagerie of obsolete vehicle types with the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) study that identified a number of roles that would eventually inform the CVR(T), FV432 and other vehicle replacement. These were resolved down to 13 roles and 50 sub roles with a weight range of between 3.5 and 24 tonnes.

FFLAV was a sensible and low risk look at the big picture, not simply a vehicle replacement study but marks the start of attempts to replace CVR(T), 1989. It was far too sensible to survive reality intact but would go on to provide the basis for the TRACER and MRAV programmes.

Sprouting from the seeds of FFLAV would come two programmes; Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER) and Multi Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV)

The 1992 Staff Target (Land) 4061, more commonly known as TRACER, Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement was to be the new CVR(T) replacement. TRACER envisaged an in service date of 2004, by then, CVR(T) would have been in service thirty years and the design, over 40 years old (give or take)

It was a joint project involving the USA and UK, a scout/reconnaissance vehicle that would have replaced Bradley M3′s, M1114 HMWWV’s and CVR(T).

Despite showing a great deal of promise, TRACER was arguably a little too advanced for the time, extensive sensor fusion and target recognition software, all the usual sensors, a hybrid electric propulsion system, segmented rubber band tracks, elevating sensor mast and a single crew compartment with remote 40mm cased telescopic cannon.

VERDI-2 was a continuation study of the earlier programme that really pushed the boundaries of sensor integration, combining optical, thermal and radar. Another programme that was a littel too revolutionary, but then I suppose, that was exactly the point.

The second offshoot of FFLAV was the Multi Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV).

As the programme matured it would be envisaged as an 8×8 wheeled vehicle delivered on conjunction with France and Germany to a harmonised requirement. France eventually dropped out (to develop VBCI) and the Netherlands joined

The vehicle would go on to become the Boxer and enter service with the Netherlands and Germany recently.

The first prototype of the ASCOD vehicle was delivered in 1992.

The end of the cold war, the Gulf War and operations in the Balkans would give rise to a new way of thinking that would envisage the application of military force in a new, or revolutionary, manner. Instead of the ponderous build up of heavyweight combat power prior to operations or as a follow on for lightweight forces, a medium weight force would bridge the time gap and as capabilities matured the medium weight force would replace the legacy heavy forces also.

US experience in the Balkans with the Sava River, Task Force Eagle and Task Force Hawk also had a considerable influence on the US Army plans for FCS. The Russian dash to Pristina Airport was also influential in shaping the evolving concept.

Although the UK would not completely drink the US Revolution in Military Affairs and Future Combat System (FCS) Koolaid of network controlled rapid deployed forces that would substitute mass for technology and speed, it would certainly fall in love with it.

Where FCS led, FRES followed, the UK had caught the ‘transformation’ bug and go first, go fast, go home was the new mantra.

Network Enabled Capability (NEC) and the transfer of control of major projects from a single service to a joint function would ultimately lead to FRES.

Despite its promise the US withdrew in favour of FCS leaving the UK alone, given the UK was by then following the same (or similar) philosophy as FCS, TRACER was cancelled, to be followed by MRAV.

FCS evolved rapidly during the late nineties and next few years but it eventually ended up with a requirement that focussed on networks, advanced sensors and systems and especially, rapid deployment by air, specifically C17 for inter theatre and C130 for intratheatre.

This put a series of physical constraints on the vehicle that would prove to be largely unachievable.

The reason the promising MRAV and TRACER programmes were cancelled was simply because the UK slavishly followed the US in its pursuit of C130 transportable main battle tanks.

No independent thought, no listening to the dissenting voices who knew full well it was a fantasy.

Civil servants or politicians were not making these decision, it was those in uniform.

9/11 would only accelerate the perception that big old US Army was ‘too fat to fly and too light to fight’

FRES formerly emerged in 2001 with a non competitive contract award to Alvis for preliminary informing studies.

Confusion followed, the concept was unclear and the acquisition strategy even less so.

The MoD appointed a third party Systems House (Atkins) to provide engineering and project management expertise and act as an intermediary between the MoD and the rest of industry, an industry that had suffered at the hands of MoD prevarication but was now gearing to for the massive project that FRES was promising to be.

War in Iraq demonstrated, as it did in did 1991 and operations in Balkans, the enduring value of heavy armoured vehicles that could take hits and keep slugging it out. Using the speed and shock of heavy armoured vehicles to dislocate the enemy was as valid in 2003 as it was in 1943.

Lessons learned reports would reinforce this point, notable by their absence was any notion of what was missing was the capability being promised by FRES.

FRES sailed serenely on.

TRACER had cost £131 million, MRAV, £57 million, by this point, delivering no vehicles to service.

Beyond some information and experience, the MoD had precisely nothing to show for the fat end of two hundred million pounds, money was being continued to be spent on the legacy fleet and industry and everyone else was scratching its collective heads about exactly what FRES was.

There followed a divergence between the Army, Joint Doctrine Development Centre (JDDC) and the Directorate of Equipment Capability in the MoD.

DEC would win that argument and the C130 17 tonne requirement was set in stone.

In service date was stated by the MoD to be 2009, 8 years after the programme was initiated.

Despite significant resistance from within the armies of both the USA and UK, the transformation advocates won the day, ably supported by industry of course, the revolutionary medium weight concept promised to be a tech fest to end them all.

The post combat phase in Iraq and operations in Afghanistan would soon demonstrate the requirement for high levels of protection wholly incompatible with C130 air portability. The IED/RPG combination and the arguably criminal tardiness in providing suitable vehicles in response to a largely predictable threat would politicise FRES as the word Snatch and IED entered the mainstream vocabulary.

The Army stood accused of being unwilling to adapt for fear of jeopardising its FRES vision of the future, Iraq, seemingly being a diversion from the real business of transformation.

FRES was entering its silly period as everyone seemed to have a different answer to what FRES was, confusion everywhere remained.

The envisaged contemporary operating environment was characterised by a diversity of operation types on the same mission. The ability to ‘nip things in the bud’ by rapid intervention by forces that were more capable than traditional lightweight forces was  at the core of the concept. Although not using the same language as ‘too fat to fly, too light to fight’ it was the same argument as General Shinseki with FCS.

The essential ‘work in progress’ nature of the (Medium Weight Capability) MWCap was recognised by many, it is was about much more than a vehicle replacement programme. Much of the concept work during this period reinforced the criticism levelled at MWCap, a criticism that said it was oblivious of what was happening in the Middle East.

FRES sailed on.

The bizarre acquisition strategy with its complex structure would simply add to the ongoing confusion.

It is important to note again that Army transformation and doctrine development, and by extension, FRES, was managed not by the Army alone but by the Directorate of Equipment Capability in the MoD and the Joint Doctrine Development Centre (JDDC).

This is of great interest because there existed a divergence about what the shape and size of the FRES vehicles between the Army and JDDC/DEC.

Although General Dannat had been instrumental in getting MRAV and TRACER cancelled in favour of FRES in his autobiography he made the point about getting something into service quickly. It was already several years since FRES was started and the MoD were only just entering the initial assessment phase.

This sentiment was echoed by then Chief of the General Staff, General Michael Walker who was quoted in the book ‘Transforming Military Power Since the Cold War’ about what the requirement was;

A big armoured box, stick an engine in it, a set of tracks or wheels, and upgrade it as and when we needed

The Army, despite cancelling MRAV, itself a big armoured box, wanted a big armoured box

When you read those comments and realise that the Germans and Dutch were on the cusp of placing production orders for Boxer, a vehicle the UK had spent £57 million developing, it really is incredible, made even more when recent events are taken into consideration.

Despite this desire for simplicity, they (the Army) were over ruled by DEC(Ground Manoeuvre) who aligned FRES to FCS, the 17 tonne Main Battle Tank concept from the USA.

Again, the Army lost the concept battle.

For most commenters and observers of FRES this is often misunderstood or its effect under estimated.

This was reinforced by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and USA on Land Battlespace Systems. FRES started with a recognition that C130 transportability was useful but not critical it was now the exact opposite, just like the US FCS programme.

Reality and those inconvenient laws of physics eventually intervened and the requirement for C130 transportability dropped in favour of the A400M but not until a great deal of time and money had been expended on chasing the C130 goal for a vehicle with a high degree of protection, protection amply demonstrated as being a key requirement by operations in Iraq.

By 2005, as operations in Iraq bloodily continued, FRES had evolved, or more accurately, it was now a joint programme, the Joint Medium Weight Concept.

Some of this revised thinking included the rapid deployed by air element was now only at Battalion or Battlegroup level, not as many have subsequently claimed, whole brigades for which the UK simply does not possess the air transport fleet for.

FRES was still very much seen as being ‘significantly lighter’ than the current heavy forces and Challenger, Warrior and AS90

In service date was now 2010 with a cost of £14 billion

2006 saw FRES go back in time but perhaps forward in maturity, the transformational ninjas were losing ground.

C130 transportability was confirmed as being dropped and the Utility Variant was by now the top priority because of Iraq.

The Utility Variant was now envisaged as an 8 x 8 wheeled chassis, weighing between 25 and 30 tonnes. Joining the wheeled 8×8 would be two tracked platforms, one between 20 and 25 tonnes and the other between 30 and 40 tonnes.

Despite this the Joint Medium Weight Capability doctrinal underpinning still remained, the definition of medium weight now changed.

The convoluted acquisition strategy was also starting to show the cracks. The FRES Integrated Project Team (IPT) was operating with the assumption that the MoD Directorate of Equipment Capability, Ground Manoeuvre or DEC(GM) was actually called “Customer 1” and the Army “Customer 2”

Whatever the reasons for this, that the Army was designated Customer 2 was deeply symbolic of what FRES had become, a joint capability not a vehicle replacement.

In 1988 the FFLAV vision had a tracked vehicle between 20 and 25 tonnes, cancelled.

In 1992 VERDI-2 demonstrated a tracked recce vehicle in the 25 tonne bracket, no further work carried out.

In 2001/2 TRACER, a tracked vehicle between 20 and 25 tonnes had been cancelled, £131 million wasted.

Then we had a little wobble with FRES and here we were in 2006 aspiring to a tracked vehicle in the 20 to 25 tonne bracket.

On the utility vehicle variant, FFLAV resulted in MRAV, an 8×8 vehicle weighing between 25 and 30 tonnes, cancelled at a cost of £57 million and  almost by magic and the power of the force, we were back with the notion of an 8×8 wheeled vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes.

So 6 years later, we were back in post FFLAV country of TRACER and MRAV, plus a really heavy variant.

Is it any wonder the Army and MoD were roundly condemned, the defence select committee in 2007 describing it as;

A sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay

FRES was still seen as the long term solution to Army requirements and the protected mobility fleet were for ‘over there’, certainly not how the Army saw it fighting in the future or how they would want to fight.

The Chief of Defence Procurement (Sir Peter Spencer) was emphatic that FRES and protected mobility vehicles were very different

These UORs have not impacted on the budget for FRES, full stop

A report also confirmed the Army’s stance that NO off the shelf vehicle available would meet the FRES requirement, for any variant, and the main reason was upgradeability over the expected 30 year lifecycle of the vehicles, specifically, 10-15% additional weight growth.

An interesting position given a) the age of the vehicles currently in service b) none of them were specifically designed to be massively upgradeable and c) the difference between in service weights and current weights of the same vehicles.

Warrior started out at 24 tonnes and will leave service (probably in and around 2040) at over 42 tonnes.

CVR(T) started out at 7 tonnes and will leave service (who knows when) at over 12 tonnes.

Without being specifically designed for huge weight increases, they have both, with good engineering and design, managed to accommodate significant weight growth.

Then, the Medium Weight Brigade gave way to the Mechanised Brigade terminology. In order to counteract the epic levels of confusion about what FRES and the medium weight capability actually was, the Joint Medium Weight Capability (JtMWCap) was developed and accepted, Joint being the important word. JtMWCap absolutely avoided the word FRES but it was clearly a cover story for it and attempted to get buy in from the other services, presenting it as a joint concept.

The new head of DE&S (Lord Drayson) had previously insisted on the 2012 In Service Date (despite what Atkins said) and had pushed hard to give the Utility Variant some momentum. The politics of Iraq, Snatch and protecting our boys combined with the MoD’s confusion about what FRES actually was led to him concluding that replacing CVR(T) was much less of a priority than protected mobility.

Instead of a completely bespoke vehicle which would not be in service by the new target date of 2012 the new position was a modified military off the shelf vehicle, an evolution of existing designs.

This was another change in position, only a year earlier the MoD had been insistent that no in production vehicle would be suitable but it was now in a big hurry to do something, anything.

The market was assessed, all the 8×8 vehicle manufacturers invited to provide information, initial assessments carried out (including the AMV and Freccia) and three vehicles would go forward to the so called ‘Trials of Truth’ in summer.

One of the Boxer prototypes in APC configuration would participate in the Trials of Truth, joined by Véhicule Blindé de Combat Infanterie (VBCI) from Nexter (previously Giat Industries) and the General Dynamics Piranha V

It was rumoured that the head of DE&S, Lord Drayson, wanted the VBCI because it would be quickest into service. It is probably true that the Snatch Land Rover controversy and the ongoing political dimension on fighting two wars on a shoestring budget whilst the other services were steadfastly refusing to see the strategic importance of current operations played into the ‘need for speed’

Both Boxer and VBCI were rejected by the Army, despite what Lord Drayson wanted.

We had a choice of two vehicles that would need minimal development and were already (or about to be very soon) in production and a PowerPoint design, the PowerPoint of course won the trials. The actual vehicle trialled was not Piranha V but Piranha Evolution, a surrogate for the final design.

This alone made a mockery of the very term, trials of truth.

Instead of a stand up knock down fight between in service vehicles with the winner taking all, it was, essentially, a sham

In hindsight, there absolutely no possibility of Boxer winning and it’s inclusion and subsequent rejection was obviously to prove the Army leadership right in their rejection of it years earlier. By demonstrating it lost, the earlier decision to cancel MRAV and waste £57 million would be vindicated.

Its inclusion was a smokescreen, the Army wanted the General Dynamics Piranha V.

After a series of reported ‘blazing rows’ with Bill Jeffries who sided with the Army, Lord Drayson wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Brown, laying out the impasse.

Des Brown backed Bill Jeffries, the Army and the Investment Approvals Board, Lord Drayson walked.

With Lord Drayson out of the way the MoD then sat on the decision and the end of 2007 would come without any formal news of FRES Utility.

There were various rumours about the delay, some said all three vehicles did not do well and others said it was to give the Treasury time to batter down the cost, but it was simply a lack of decisiveness on the part of the new team at DE&S and the MoD. Many news sources guessed correctly that Boxer was a fig leaf and the only version in service was supported by Lord Drayson, with him gone, the obvious winner would be Piranha.

FRES Specialist Vehicles Scout was quietly back on the agenda with assessments contract awards to BAE and General Dynamics.

Making the assumption that future operations would include more Afghanistan than Gulf War the MoD published the Defence Strategic Guidance document in June 2008. Although the full spectrum combined arms operations were still considered an important capability to retain the DSG focussed on enduring stabilisation of counter insurgency type operations.

The next war would be the same as the last.

Meanwhile, in the USA, a seismic shift was about to take place in the Future Combat System (FCS) programme. After being restructured in 2007 in response to the requirements of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new Defense Secretary (Robert Gates) marked the card of the FCS with a speech about next waritis and the need to prevail in Iraq.

FCS was dead man walking and remember, where FCS led, FRES followed.

The Future Land Operational Concept (FLOC) was published later in the year but it was still talking about the Joint Medium Weight Capability.

At the end of the year FRES UV was as dead as Disco, preferred bidder status was withdrawn from General Dynamics over the issue of intellectual property, but still, FRES SV Scout was back on the front burner.

In 2009 the MoD confirmed FRES Specialist Vehicles would be obtained in a single programme in 5 Blocks of vehicles with 16 variants, an estimated quantity of between 1,200 and 1,300 vehicles and In Service Date of 2015.

The Army had changed its mind again, UV was not the priority after all.

The MoD also confirmed that the aborted FRES UV work had cost £131 million and at about the same time, the US FCS was formally cancelled.

If the FCS/FRES concept of substituting protection derived from mass, for speed, electronic countermeasures and networked precision was effectively buried 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, this was called the ‘cake and eat it’ approach.

2009 also saw the MoD’s DSTL embark on the frankly bizarre Future Protected Vehicle Capability vision, commonly referred to as the 30 Tonne Main Battle Tank. 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!

The FRES SV Scout competition was between General Dynamics and BAE, using the ASCOD and CV90 as a start point respectively.

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 because it had to come into service.

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 BAE and GD 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.

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.

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.

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, 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.

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, joint or otherwise, 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 concept.

The five Multi Role Brigades, plus 1 high readiness Brigade and a smaller number of deployable HQ’s pretty much killed off the medium weight intervention force model of which FRES was the poster child.

It is difficult to see how as a programme, it could continue, given the underpinning doctrinal sands had completely shifted.

But survive it did.

Despite this, the National Audit Office published a stinging rebuke to the MoD in the form of its 2011 report, the Cost Effective Delivery of an Armoured Vehicle Capability.

It reported the total spent to date on FRES UV, FRES SV, TRACER, MRAV, Terrier and Warrior CSP was £718 million, with not a single in service vehicle to show for it.

FRES SV, Warrior CSP and Terrier were predicted to require another £9.1 Billion to complete.

FRES UV would be on top of that figure.

In 2011, in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan the German armed forces did two things, first they upgraded existing vehicles to the ‘Afghanistan A1′ configuration and second, announced that all new vehicles would now come off the production line in this same configuration, starting from vehicle number 41. Most modifications were relatively minor, more storage space, an improved crew harness with integral airbag, fitting smoke dischargers and increasing the height of the remote weapon station to improve depression angles. A more significant upgrade was integration of an ECM system and improved belly armour.

VBCI was already in Afghanistan by this point, both vehicles rejected by the MoD in the FRES UV Trials of Truth

Throughout the year, the Army had been struggling with squaring the circle of trying to fit 5 Multi Role Brigades into the personnel reductions described by SDSR and the additional reduction announced in July.

In charge of these initial studies was Lt. General Nick Carter and it was becoming apparent that the Multi Role Brigade construct was likely to be changed.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

And that is the story of FRES.

Despite the numerous missteps, wrong turns and what seems on face value to be procurement buffonery of epic proportions the current Scout development seems to be maturing, despite programme slippages and possible cost increases.

But the cost to get here has been significant to say the least, opportunities squandered and the British armoured vehicle industry greatly diminished.

The bill so far, not including medical and other welfare costs incurred as a result of the vehicles not being in service for current operations would be a matter for the National Audit Office to determine but from open source documents we can at least quantity, TRACER, MRAV, FRES UV and FRES SV costs to date.

£133 million on FRES UV, £57 million on MRAV, £131 million on TRACER and £500m on FRES SV to date

821 million of the Queens Pounds

£821 MILLION AND NOT A SINGLE VEHICLE IN SERVICE

We might like to reflect on the Finnish purchase of 60 CV90’s in 2004 for about £200 million or the £2.25 million unit production cost for German and Dutch Boxers a few years later.

Harder to quantify but still very much related is money (lots of) for development and production costs for the CTA 40mm weapon (shared between FRES and Warrior), UOR funding for protected mobility vehicles, various planned and UOR upgrades to the legacy fleet that would have not been needed if FRES was in service (accepting some of these might also have been needed for FRES), development contracts for related technologies such as VERDI and VTID, Generic Vehicle Architecture and a number of vetronics programmes, Future Protected Vehicle, Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) and the huge amount of time/money spent on development of the various flavours of FRES Medium Weight Capability doctrine.

On top of that £821 million and who know how much for the items in the paragraph above are future costs for production and through life support for FRES SV Recce Block 1, development, manufacture and through life support of Recce Block 2/3, and not forgetting, a complete restart of UV whilst spending money bringing the last chickens in the shop Protected Mobility fleet into core.

Where did it all go wrong?

An interesting question that is not really possible to answer properly without being in full possession of the facts, that I am not.

We should be very certain that the many people involved did not wake up one morning and say, let’s screw things up.

Failure has been the result of a myriad of mostly well intentioned decisions made with the information at hand.

All this is nothing but opinion based on open source material but if I was forced to lay the blame and with my finest hindsight goggles it would be in a series of bullet points;

  • Requirements that changed too rapidly for programmes that lasted too long, or an inability to stick to what was wanted
  • Being seduced by the easy allure of transformational technology whilst ignoring or downplaying risk, the infamous conspiracy of optimism
  • An inability to consistently articulate what the programme was meant to deliver in support of changing doctrine
  • An obsession with upgradeability and weight growth that consistently pushed the requirement beyond available vehicles whilst conveniently ignoring that pretty much every vehicle in service had experienced significant weight growth that had been accommodated with new technology
  • Organisational, personnel and programme management deficiencies with a bizarre acquisition strategy that was a self inflicted wound, a result of getting rid of in house expertise in the development establishments.
  • The sadly far too common revolving doors between industry and the MoD and the insidious influence it exerts
  • Tardiness in reacting to a predictable threat in Iraq and Afghanistan led to justified criticism that the Army was protecting the future at the expense of the today which led to political intervention on the ‘protecting our boys’ theme. This intervention resulted in yet more requirements change and a series poor, rushed decisions.
  • Differences of opinion and a general confusion around decision making and the influence of the MoD’s DEC and JDDC on an Army requirement.
  • A fundamental inability to fully grasp that the MoD has champagne tastes and brown ale budgets
  • A crowded equipment programme managed by an MoD unable to prioritise or control over ambition, especially for high cost maritime and air programmes

The net result was an enormous waste of money and time and much more importantly, you could make a reasonable argument that service personnel have suffered due to it.

If that is not a good reason to reflect soberly on what happened then nothing is.

But, that is all in the past, although we should not diminish the historic fact it is important to look forward to what the Army is getting.

First, the Army is not yet confirmed as getting anything.

The contract with General Dynamics is pretty much for development of Recce Block 1 only

Assuming the development contract finalises in good order (which it looks like it will) the MoD will probably place a production contract for a few hundred vehicles with them all being in service by the end of the decade(ish) whose programme cost will be astronomical.

The subsequent blocks remain in doubt and if I was a betting man I would be reluctant putting even 10p on the appearance of anything other than Block 1, who knows though.

If one thing is certain, it is that the original vision of FRES is long gone, what was claimed to be a transformational programme is now anything but, it is just a vehicle replacement.

FRES SV is now a simple replacement for CVR(T).

Gone is the medium weight intervention capability that would be built around FRES and form the bulk of the Army.

FRES Scout of course is certainly more than a modern CVR(T); significantly larger, heavier, better protected, armed and endowed with sensors and communications equipment not possible in the smaller CVR(T).

But the price for this ‘more of everything’ is a significant reduction in mobility and increase in visual signature.

The Army has traded the small and agile CVR(T) for the big beast that is Scout, a clear movement in the mobility, firepower, protection triangular scale towards protection.

All that is fair enough, and who are we to question but that a change has occurred needs to be noted.

If one looks at the deployment history of CVR(T) it is crystal clear that its agility and mobility has been a significant advantage, an advantage that will no longer be available.

Except of course, if CVR(T) Mk2 remains in service, the ultimate irony of the long search for CVR(T) is it may well be, for some users, CVR(T).

I think you could file that in the ‘you could not make it up’ section.

The requirement for a Saxon and FV432 replacement should not be overlooked in the concentration on SV either, there is still that circle to square.

The obvious answer is to pick one of the many 8×8’s on the market, take your pick, the field is open wide.

And yet in our rush to pick an off the shelf design, essentially for both UV and SV, we have lost the confidence in our ability to innovate.

CVR(T) was not an off the shelf design, neither was Warrior or FV432. TRACER, SEP and others showed that industry can still innovate and innovation does not always mean astronomical costs.

Good design is still possible, good designers exist, the skills are there even if the MoD’s confidence is not.

Perhaps the answer is to rediscover our ability to innovate.

 

 

Additional Note

One of the observations in the summary that drew some comment was the description of the interplay between the various tribes organisations within the MoD and their influence upon the overall FRES programme delivery.

As an additional note, the following is a short piece to explain in further detail.

Following the 1998 SDR and Smart Procurement initiative the MoD created a single Equipment Capability Customer (ECC) called Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability), a 3* joint post. Underneath, were four capability portfolios, each with a single manager; strategic deployment, strike, manoeuvre and information superiority. Spread across these four portfolios were fifteen individual 1* Directors of Equipment Capability (DEC).

The Joint Capabilities Board was chaired by the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) with the four Capability Managers, the Director General (Equipment) and Director General (Research and Development)

Director of Equipment Capability Ground  Manoeuvre (DEC(GM)) would normally take the lead on requirements setting after consulting with various stakeholders. Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) then goes and delivers the requirement to the user.
The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) was responsible for equipment capability but did not sit on the Defence Procurement Agency Equipment Approval Committee, a structure designed deliberately to reduce the influence of the services in procurement.

Dysfunctional, you decide?

FRES was no different to many other projects that had to deal with the constantly shifting sands of acquisition reform, smart procurement, IPT’s the move from the Defence Procurement Agency to Defence Equipment and Support and the removal of the development establishments.

The FRES series is not a commentary on the wider MoD ‘buying stuff’ transformation programmes that have come and gone in tune with the political tides but of course it is heavily influenced by it.

The FRES IPT was a largely civilian staffed team with representatives of DEC(GM) and the Army community.

As the Defence Acquisition Change Programme started in 2009 it started to move away from an individual project focus with formation of Programme Boards so FRES had to contend with all of this and with the latest Lord Levene defence reform, will have to contend with more.

This stuff is important because as we saw with TRACER, for the most part it was not in the DEC(GM) pillar, but ISTAR, and that might have been why it was so easy to cancel, stand fast those that think wasting £131m is easy.

An important pillar of Post Cold War British Defence thinking has been to be able to stand side by side with the USA. Nothing wrong with this of course but it does drive behaviours and for FRES, following US defence transformation was fundamental. Whilst the UK was keen on the US Network Connected Warfare concept it adopted a much more cautious approach, Network Enabled Capability (NEC), reflecting the British focus on technology as an enabler, not a replacement for speed, surprise and superior fighting capabilities.

In 2002, Air Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup was Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) and Major General Rob Fulton Director of Equipment Capability (Information Superiority), a Royal Marine . It was Major General Fulton that coined the phrase NEC and produced the NEC plan in 2002, it being endorsed by the Joint Capability Board the same year. The next year, after promotion, he was the new Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) and took the view that NEC would be embedded in more or less, every single programme, FRES being no different.

In the same period, the Effects Based Approach to Operations (EBAO) would also be a significant influence on FRES. EBO was another US theory (USAF more accurately and mainly focussed on targeting) that would be developed further for the UK, this time by the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre at Shrivenham, another result of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review.  In 2002, the Director General JDCC was Air Vice Marshal Ian McNicholl and between 2005 and 2007, it was Rear Admiral Chris Parry.

EBO and NEC would bookend FRES

The original Army concept for FRES was relatively simple, first emerging in 2001 but a few years later it was to grow into a monster under the DEC. This divergence was clearly influenced by the US FCS concept and the developing NEC and EBO movements with the Directors Equipment Capability and Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre, both ‘joint’ organisations.

Many of the FRES requirements were simply walked over from FCS, driven by the NEC and EBO activity.

The Army clearly had an eye of risk and operational experience but as FRES evolved in its early phase would it be unfair to point out that Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) was a Royal Marine and the driving force behind NEC followed by a REME officer and the Director’s General of the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre (JDCC) during this period was an Air Vice Marshal and Rear Admiral ? In 2004 Major General Dick Applegate was appointed Senior Responsible Owner Capability Manager for Battlefield Manoeuvre, Major General Applegate was a Royal Artillery Officer. Another Gunner, Brigadier Bill Moore was DEC(GM) between 2004 and 2007. The Director of Battlefield Manoeuvre in 2006, another Gunner. DEC(GM) from 2007 was 2 RTR, for completeness

This is not a finger pointing exercise but worthy of note.

My point is that during the formative phases of FRES between 2001 and 2007, it was influenced by a significant number of other projects, programmes and development organisations, many of them Joint in nature.

Joint infers all three services so this is not a statement saying the RAF or RN ganged up on the Army, clearly that is not the case, but there was a divergence between the initial Army thinking and subsequent requirements as defined by DEC(GM) and heavily influenced by the Joint thinking on NEC, EBO and the increasing importance of ISTAR in doctrinal development. Many observed that the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre had significant effect on the Medium Weight concept and its close alignment to FCS, and by extension, FRES.

In a number of sources, it was clear the actual Army users of FRES felt some disconnect between what it wanted and what it was getting.

At yet it was clear that the UK never bought in completely to the US vision of a Network Controlled Warfare and FCS, this seemingly contradictory position of close alignment with FCS but divergence from its underpinning NCW approach is probably worthy of further study.

Perhaps there was a general confusion on the interplay between them all, there certainly was a great deal of confusion at the time about the Medium Weight Capability.

So that is an expansion of my comments in the summary about the influence on FRES from Joint organisations that did not perhaps possess the background and skillsets to fully understand the implications on  vehicle design of the concept?

 

 

 

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!

202 Comments

  1. Jed

    What a truly excellent piece of defence journalism this history of FRES series has been !

    Also thoroughly franking depressing…. :(

    Let’s hope it gets used as a case study in MoD, staff courses and even MBA’s. !!

  2. Pete Arundel

    “Perhaps the answer is to rediscover our ability to innovate.”

    Please excuse my ironic laughter but I really doubt that is possible. The entire country is geared for short-term gain. Politicians look no further forward than the next election and will compromise their Party’s principles in order to gain power and there are few large companies left that have the ability to invest for the future. The small businesses so beloved of the Conservative party are at the mercy of the banks who aren’t interested in long term investment and certainly won’t speculate on untried, innovative projects. As long as the UK economy is powered by The City and makes a living by moving money around until the next financial scandal hits then, basically, there is no chance of any form of industrial innovation in the UK*

    *Obviously I’m ignoring JCB but equally obviously I’m not going to let reality interfere with my prejudices. If I did they wouldn’t be proper prejudices . . .

  3. Pete Arundel

    Oh, and after my minor rant I should also like to congratulate TD on the excellence of the FRES story.

  4. Chris

    Pete Arundel – innovation is quite possible. Turning innovation into desirable product is the hard part. For my part I have done some of that innovation stuff and I quite like the results (I might be biased) but I have not approached the banks nor any other lender; its all savings funded. The reason was not that the banks are unreasonable profit driven vampires and vultures but that they would be quite sensible to refuse finance on the grounds that the very limited number of budget holding customers have shown no support. Even the most ardent anti-banker couldn’t accuse them of being anything other than sensible…

    The few Users that have been briefed have shown a degree of interest, which suggests the concepts would have utility in the future Army vehicle fleets were they to be bought. Shame those Users hadn’t their own equipment budgets to spend…

  5. monkey

    @Pete Arundel
    As an illustration of your comments HSBC’s chairman Douglas Flint regarding lending to SME’s 7 days ago.
    “It is in the nature of banking that some degree of risk is involved in lending.
    One would not want to see loan officers[HSBC's] discouraging entrepreneurship because of fear of ‘zero tolerance of error’ and future ‘censure.’ ”
    He is the Chairman (quite important) of one of the most important lenders to SME’s in the UK , rather than giving a view on lending policy maybe he should be setting it and giving firm reassurances to these Commercial loan officers that come a F**K UP , they will not Hung ,Drawn and Quartered.

  6. monkey

    @TD
    Future Raped Effects System?
    You got it ! The UK taxpayer has been.
    From a post on the Open Thread re the new Textron Scorpion design process
    http://aerosociety.com/News/Insight-Blog/2358/QA-with-the-Scorpion-King
    Basically from concept to flying prototype meeting a perceived need , and therefore sales , in 23 months. This is a military specification compliant twin jet ground attack aircraft not a green/brown steel box on wheels/tracks. Yes it will have to integrate various end users weapon systems but its ‘open software architecture’ should trim that cost down.

  7. Nick

    Monkey I agree with you there. He’s moaning about an internal Bank process not one related to the regulatory environment.

    The other “slight” flaw in HSBC Chairmen’s (poor) argument is that HSBC and other European banks has been knee deep in criminality or very poor business conduct. The recent list is quite long – Libor rate fixing issue, Exchange rate fixing, Money Laundering (HSBC Mexico), Sanctions busting (Iran), Insurance mis-selling. All of which are either Illegal (the border line between mis-selling and Fraud is a fine one it appears to me) or breach of contract just about everywhere in the world.

    One might argue that the real problem is that no one in any European Bank Board has paid any legal price for failure to perform their fiduciary duties. I would suggest this is quite a big difference loan officers making poor lending decisions. In any case, I don’t recall seeing a long list of Western bankers being carted off to jail or having their assets seized for 2007/08 financial crisis caused by very poor US mortgage lending decisions and the knock-on effects either.

  8. monkey

    @Nick
    There is more to come from the US , during the great Sub-Prime Mortgage Selling Glory Days many lenders locked in the borrowers into their Property insurance , no insurance with us , no lending from us. Many US banks have already made very large, $billions , out of court settlements as test cases have been ruled as this was an ‘un-fair’ practice and if like for like insurance could have been found the difference is owing.
    One very large provider HFC , Household Finance Company (or Household International) has yet to settle and as one of the biggest Sub-Prime players their figure could be very large. I’ll let you look up which UK bank who bought them in 2003. Household International were also a very large issuer of credit cards and PPI has reared it head in the US too.

  9. Frenchie

    Senior officers have explained in what context will be used the Scout, it does not have enough fire power for being a vehicle of contact as may be the Italian Centauro, and it seems to me too big to be used as the German Fennek .
    Moreover, do you know if the variants of FRES UV vehicles will be used by the Adaptable Force ?

  10. A Different Gareth

    “With one eye on politics and one eye on trying to get through the MoD’s confusion about FRES actually was he understood full well that replacing CVR(T) was much less of a priority than protected mobility.”

    Am I bad for laughing at this knowing he is blind in one eye? It became a problem when he was trying to get a racing licence to be able to do Le Mans. He did eventually get one and has competed twice I think. He has since turned his hand to electric vehicle racing.

    For example: Driving the Drayson B12/69EV. 14 minutes of motoring journalist Chris Harris at Elvington looking at and driving Drayson’s electric racing car. Lots of talking. Drving action begins 6 minutes in.

    I think the MoD have a suitable CVR(T) replacement in the shape of the Warthog platform, they just haven’t realised it.

    “TRACER, SEP and others showed that industry can still innovate and innovation does not always mean astronomical costs.

    Good design is still possible, good designers exist, the skills are there even if the MoD’s confidence is not.

    Perhaps the answer is to rediscover our ability to innovate.”

    Chasing innovation risks buyer’s remorse and I think seeking to avoid that risk has damaged the MoD in terms of procurement. Too many projects abandoned, late, expensive, not up to the job, etc. The longer a project takes the more vulnerable it is to mid-term changes which adds more delays and more costs.

    The MoD seemingly doesn’t know what it wants half the time and gets little useful direction from our politicians. A period of reflection might help. Modest proposals and appropriate kit delivered in a timely fashion in suitable numbers to be effective. That would be an innovation in itself.

  11. Pete Arundel

    @Chris – I wasn’t actually having a go at the banks. I was just pointing out that small businesses have no real alternative to the banks. There’s no government investment as such because that is what the government believes the private sector is for.

  12. Chris

    Pete A – I think I might have mentioned it before but in my opinion the biggest act of stupidity verging on government vandalism to befall the MOD was the disbanding of the research establishments. They were where the ideas concepts and structures were invented modelled tested and refined so that the right sort of stuff was developed by industry. And the contracts that were let once the establishments had sorted out the need were not subject to the unhelpful (being polite and restrained) decade-long competitive procurement lark. What Governments choose to ignore is that industry investment only happens when there is a reasonable probability of return on investment; MOD is such a small player now very little cash will be invested in new stuff to meet their champagne tastes.

    ADG – ‘risk’ was the root cause of the closure of the establishments. In the monetarist view that was all-powerful at the time, risk equalled an unknown future cost; a nightmare in budgeting terms, so responsibility for design had to go away. By not designing anything the Gov’t now absolves itself from all risk, which now sits on industry shoulders.

    The result of these is that compared to the first 70 years of the last century, military equipment development in this country has stagnated. We buy in from countries that do still invest in defence (and have exports because of that investment) and wash a very thin, very expensive film of UK Customisation over the top. ASCOD is an extreme example of this. I have no doubt if MOD (or politicians) decide to buy off-the-shelf 8x8s “for the sake of expediency”, a decade-long upgrade programme will be applied before the vehicles would be considered good enough for UK use. No quicker than starting from scratch. Possibly no cheaper. At the end of which some non-UK corporation will have an upgraded product ready to export. Hey ho.

  13. Frenchie

    SuperAV 6×6, equipped with a turret with two LMM missiles, and a mast ISTAR, the MoD saves millions and you have a wonderful vehicle from my point of view, which is more or less equivalent that the future EBRC.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yDp13Q2mSPE#t=0

    http://img.over-blog-kiwi.com/0/54/74/56/20140618/ob_27cc18_la-tourelle-t40-de-nexter-qui-equiper.png

    http://i1105.photobucket.com/albums/h358/buglerbilly/SRATS_Bradley_zpsa8491b11.jpg

    Well, this works perhaps not so easy for an engineer, but it would be a good idea.

  14. Peter Arundel

    ” the biggest act of stupidity verging on government vandalism to befall the MOD was the disbanding of the research establishments.”

    No argument from me there. I decided that after reading “Cold war; Hot Science”

    Of course we still have QinetiQ (stupid fucking name . . .)

  15. Jimboozle

    “What FRES is remains a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, an enigma that wears clown shoes.”

    Brilliant. Just brilliant!

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this series TD, keep them coming!

  16. A Different Gareth

    Chris said: ” I have no doubt if MOD (or politicians) decide to buy off-the-shelf 8x8s “for the sake of expediency”, a decade-long upgrade programme will be applied before the vehicles would be considered good enough for UK use. ”

    How can the fannying about with specs and exquisite solutions be discouraged? They are going to keep doing it and politicians will generally shy away from taking responsibility for the final decision. The only way I can think of is promising that unmolested off the shelf kit would be purchased in relatively big numbers.

  17. Chris

    ADG – I see two relatively focused approaches to procurement and one nightmare.

    1) Nightmare: I won’t bother detailing the nightmare in too much depth because that’s the one MOD uses; that is to pretend to have an open competition but with stupidly complicated specs – the result is the competitors bid the nearest they have on the shelf and promise major modifications to reach compliance. Result: a bespoke design based on ageing platforms. And a lot of time wasted in the la-la-land competitions followed by a mod programme that lasts as long as new development but which is stacked with all the undesirable constraints imposed by use of an existing design as the start point.

    2) Buy stuff & use it: This is evidently an impossibility for MOD. An example – we bought Sincgars radios as part of Bowman but invested in UK specific encryption devices to fit in place of the US standards. This is a tactical radio system dealing in immediate orders reports & returns which presumably has the encryption key changed regularly – had the UK used the US crypto system, what risk that in the time the key is active that either hostile forces or NSA would break the code and learn secrets of value? How much did the UK specific change cost over the years? Second example – UK WAH-64 is almost an Apache as the US use except for a major redesign to fit RTM engines, like the ones in Merlin. Except the installation in Apache is different and so the positioning of ancillaries and mounting hardware is different. So after all that cash to get the aircraft engine commonality with Merlin, the result is there are two different versions of RTM engines to keep in the logistics trail rather than one RTM and one GE engine. Final example – MRAPS. UK had Snatch and Vector in Afghanistan and clearly needed tougher vehicles. The US Cougar MRAP was bought but instead of going to Afghanistan they went to Warwickshire for a complete revision of the armour solution. The resulting vehicle I have no doubt has better protection, but it took months to design/manufacture/test/qualify/sign off the new design when the original as used by US forces would probably have done much the same job. Not only was entry into service delayed by this but the cost of the upgraded truck is eyewatering compared to the vehicle its based on. Nothing off the shelf is ever good enough for MOD.

    3) Rapid custom design: An attempt to recreate the disbanded establishments on a project by project basis; it requires MOD to pick a core design team with which to work in a cooperative embedded manner, a team which would grow as specialist knowledge of different aspects of the design/manufacture need addressing. The intent being a) to get rid of ‘us & them’ politics, 2) to provide full visibility to the customer (because they are working members of the team) rather than quarterly audits, 3) to get the design bang on what the User needs first time round with immediate design input when required, 4) to deliver the right equipment in the shortest time. What it does not require is monstrously complex overweight requirements (technical or commercial) because there would be cooperation. Could you imagine a situation in your own company where every interdepartmental request had to be via technical and commercial requirements against which the other departments would bid for the task? “Type a letter Miss Jones” would become a three month competition not a three second request. Why shouldn’t it be equally sensible to organise project teams as if all are working for the same organisation?

    Personally I favour the last option – the User gets what they need and as quickly as industry can make it, the vaguely collegiate structure of the team would suit both huge corporations and small enterprises alike meaning the best organisations could be engaged no matter how big or small, timescales would be slashed (years cut out just by abandoning the competition dog & pony show), costs would be transparent throughout, and some cracking products would spring up ready for export to the benefit of UK PLC.

  18. Andrew

    Having lived through much of this debacle and lamented frequently the UK’s inability to procure armoured vehicles, it is good to see the full sorry story written up so comprehensively. The only correction I would note is that there is one missing link in the story. FFLAV died principally because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent rethinking of defence policy and downsizing which resulted in the Options For Change programme. The result of this was that obsolete, obsolescent and less effective vehicles such as Saladin, Saracen, Ferret and CVR(W) Fox were removed from service and surplus vehicles were available for redeployment. This in turn led to the LAV Rationalisation exercise, which redistributed the assets available, and the LAV Strategy, which proposed a phased replacement and upgrade plan to the whole of the LAV fleet.

    From memory, the proposed plan, which was approved by APRC, foresaw the following ISDs:

    CVR(T) LEP – 1995-7
    Saxon MLI – 1998
    TRACER – 2004
    MBAV/MRAV – 2005 (replacing FV430 and Saxon)
    Warrior MLI – 2007
    ABSV – 2008 (foresaw use of reroled Warrior)
    FCLV – 2012

    As can be seen from this excellent narrative, the majority of these remain key elements of the programme, albeit under a variety of different names. It is, however, sad to see once again how awry the whole timetable has gone.

  19. Not a Boffin

    “The convoluted acquisition strategy was also starting to show the cracks. The FRES Integrated Project Team (IPT) was operating with the assumption that the MoD Directorate of Equipment Capability, Ground Manoeuvre or DEC(GM) was actually called “Customer 1” and the Army “Customer 2”

    That the Army was designated Customer 2 was deeply symbolic of what FRES had become.”

    Just to clarify – DEC(GM) was an Army post (held by an Army 2*) – not sure what it’s become post-Levene. The requirements were drawn up by serving army officers and “supported” by Operational Analysis from Dstl among others. Exactly the same applied to the Navy where the equivalent 2* was (IIRC) DEC (Precision Strike), a navy rear-admiral with a large naval staff working for him. Same went for the Crabs, although I can’t remember the tally – DEC(Kevin) is probably wrong – DEC(Air Manoeuvre) or somesuch?

    Your text appears to suggest that the Army were in some way remote from this process, which is untrue. The “Customer 2″ designation was (at the time) to distinguish between the operational commands (HQ Land), CINCFLEET and HQ(Strike Command) whose responsibility was the day to day delivery of trained people and materially ready kit. It was the days of centrally managed budgets where Whitehall-based service personnel (Customer 1) ran the acquisition budget and Command-based service personnel ran the operations budget. I’m sure RT has the full gamut of horror stories. Mostly gone now thanks to Levene – hopefully for the better, time will tell.

    However, the point is that contrary to the impression given – that some none-Army organisation was given priority on the programme – it was an Army show all along. In exactly the same way the FE/FSC/T26 saga has been a Navy show over a similar timeframe.

  20. Think Defence

    One thing that I came across when doing the background for this was the disconnect between the joint transformation evangelists (all three services) and people like DRAC for example. It was no doubt an internal fight between the Army and the Army, but one of those protagonists (doctrine development) also had lots of light and dark blue as well, Chris Parry being a notable example. This went back and forth a few times, the original FRES requirement for example, did not specify C130 carriage as an absolute, but it did later, then it didn’t again, now we will be lucky if we get them into an A400

    Designating the Army as Customer 2 was symbolic of this, whatever its intent or organisational meaning, those people in the Army who wanted the vehicles to actually protect their occupants felt like Number 2 in the pecking order.

    A battle they fought, lost and then in a post Iraq/Afghanistan world, won again.

    Regardless, it was a battle between the joint transformation concept ninjas, many of whom with no land operational or vehicle experience, and who had a blind faith in the RMA/FCS stuff despite what they were being told, and the chaps who would be doing the driving. Of course DSTL fell into line, like everyone else who drank the Koolaid as our Amercian chums would say, of course they did.

    So in that respect, the actual user was somewhat remote and alienated from the people writing the requirement and signing the cheques, regardless of uniform colour.

    This comes out loud and clear in the many sources used for this series

  21. Not a Boffin

    Can’t speak for the army, but my experience in town with the Navy was that your Customer 1 desk officer who was writing the requirement, had usually just finished a drive before a quick trip to a course at Shrivenham, thence to MoD MB, so by definition, a recent actual user. Said officer would always include “Customer 2″ representation from Fleet at most if not all meetings, so the current “actual user” was always wound in.

    “Transformation Evangelists or Ninjas” they weren’t – although one DEC(PS) two-star did catch LCS-disease and we were perilously close to a 40kt requirement for FSC at one point.

    There is always a sense of alienation when one does not control the project, so I can understand any perceived frustration at Land, you did get bits of that at Fleet. Hopefully Levene will fix the issue, but it’s “wait out” atm.

  22. Think Defence

    Will go back through my notes and see if I can clarify the post, think it was laid out in more detail in a couple of previous posts.

    There was definitely a struggle between various parties, and the winners at the time were not just green, but a purple organisation.

    It took Iraq/Afghanistan, and as you say, Levene, to start bringing things back to order

  23. Red Trousers

    I mostly side with NaB.

    Minor factual detail, the DECs were all one stars, less DEC SP who oddly was a full Col.

    The thing with FRES was that it was too big. Everyone had a finger in the pie. FRES was a whole system that in theory included A400 M and those green painted ships we have on PFI (can’t recall their name). So everyone got involved. The pointy heads in the Joint Doctrine Centre at Shrivenham were especially dangerous, all mouth and no responsibility.

    The other point about FRES was that the IPT was massively poorly run. I worked alongside half a dozen IPTs in 3 years, and FRES was a standout clusterfuck run by a civvy.

  24. Think Defence

    RT, I agree on the fingers and pies stuff, that was what came out loud and clear so I don’t think either you, me or NaB are wildly different.

    My overall point is, there were many people involved all pulling in different directions, not all of them wearing a green suit. The ‘winners’ changed over the life of the programme but for the important stages, where it all actually went badly wrong, the old fashioned in the Army were overruled by the trendy vicars. Most of those trendy vicars wore Green, the point I think NaB was making, is a fair comment, but most is not all, the point I was making!

    Think we might all be in agreement on the main points, perhaps the wording did come across as finger pointing at bigger boys on the playground.

    I read some amusing stuff about the IPT, but I don’t think they were instrumental in the bigger cockups, where the real money was wasted.

    I do have to say though, the FRES debacle is pretty much on the uniforms, not the suits.

    Sorry guys, but that is the impression I have formed

  25. Simon

    “The thing with FRES was that it was too big. Everyone had a finger in the pie. FRES was a whole system that in theory included A400 M and those green painted ships we have on PFI (can’t recall their name)”

    Interesting. If someone simply defined: large, medium and small (or heavy, medium and light) then there would be no problem. Even I’ve inherently done it whilst reading stuff on this site over the last few years.

    So I therefore conclude that there is a lack of top-down thinking. This means an utter lack of overall strategy. Which would explain a thing or two.

  26. Frenchie

    The problem is that the MoD has asked the question, what weight should have a vehicle to withstand to an anti-tank mine, not that must be the mission of the vehicle.

  27. DavidNiven

    An excellent series TD, it seems we have just come full circle and still can’t decide what we want.

  28. Red Trousers

    Simon,

    It really wasn’t about the wagons, it was about global reach and velocity. FRES was born in the Petersberg Declarations of 1992 after we wellied Saddam in 1991. Tony Blair was messianic about FRES as a concept before 2003. If he had not have been, there’d have been no Sierra Leone intervention.

    What shafted FRES was when Iraq started getting nasty. Protection became the mantra. And with protection comes weight.

    Somewhere on the shelves or more probably digital archives are some extremely good pieces about forward basing, pre-loading, and even pre-funding dual use ports and railways in various bits of Africa. That was always the best bit of FRES. Prevention, and prophylactic preparation. Not spastically heavy behemoths.

  29. Jed

    Simon and Frencie, I think your taking RT’s comment too literally: “The thing with FRES was that it was too big” – as in the programme got too big, not the vehicle !

    Chris – adding own nation crypto to a radio system is actually not a good example. Everyone uses their own crytpo, however to your point the integration of it into the basic radio system was possibly over complicated !

    TD and Andrew – I think Andrew’s comments absolutely back up TD’s assertion that it was senior green uniforms who kept changing stuff and frakking it up, not MOD procurement grey pin stripes. – Can you keep changing doctrine and thus vehicle procurement / fleet strategy to keep up with the Jonses ? If your strategic framework, CONOPS and doctrine are flexible enough you might not have to, and for blips that you dont see coming (which lets face it, there will always be) then a flexible UOR process is the right answer. It keeps on coming back to the Army changing its mind, but perhaps in the context of a government which was unable to layout a strategic framework rather than a series of “re-examinations” of defence which were always budget led and based around cuts. Labour at least had the right idea with SDSR, even if it too was never going to be fully funded.

    only generals and potentially treasury penny pinchers can be blamed for:

    Scenario: Post Balkans, with considerable experience of working in a high mine threat and IED threat what do we deciede:
    1. Keep and buy more Alvis 8 and / or similar vehicles due to the good service and survivability given in the Balkans, or
    2. Decided we will never need this kind of capability again in the future, and thus can rely on Snatch Landrovers as used in Northern Ireland for any peace keeping / peace enforcement activity……..

    Bottom line, reading all of TD’s excellent journalism, it appears “FRES, it was the Army’s fault” might be the headline.

  30. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @RT – “Some extremely good pieces about forward basing…” Any of them published, or publicly available? I ask because a good way back one of our number proposed a strategy for using intense DfID investment to build very strong partnerships with small and potentially friendly States like Sierra Leone that could provide operating bases and safe havens in dangerous corners of the world…seemed like a good idea when I first read it, and getting better all the time (my list now includes British Somaliland and Kurdistan)…be interested to know just how far ideas about this aspect of the FRES concept went…

    GNB

  31. Simon

    RT (and Jed),

    Yep, it looks like I thought “big” meant large. I didn’t. I understood the statement to mean the size of the program/project… and then used size as an example. Bad choice. Sorry.

    My point is that without top-down analysis of what “medium” or “rapid” means then there will only be scope creep.

    In my tiny little mind FRES meant no more than 35 tonnes.

    If this defined “medium” then it would define “medium” for all three services. Similarly if “medium” also implied a maximum physical size then those that were tasked with procuring airlift or sealift could just go about their business regardless of what the army decided to actually fill the “medium” space with. The same is also true for sizing what “medium” (or “rapid”) logistics might imply.

    You have to set the bounds.

  32. Red Trousers

    GNB, re publishing, I very much doubt it. In those days, Restricted was the default template, as it kept things out of FOI. From memory, most of the discussion was at Red.

    But don’t be disappointed. It’s an enormously fun game of Fantasy Forward Basing, which is much more fun than fantasy fleets. The globe is not secret, so the geography open source. I still retain odd facts in my head about transit times from port to port, linear metres of half Brigades when embarked, and the fact that the Sea Crusader had to pay a surcharge to dock at Ploce because she needed a tug escort, and then her ramp did not fit the quayside (ruddy loggies, they should have seen that one coming. Big boat, small port. Who would have guessed it?)

  33. DavidNiven

    @RT

    Ploce death camp! I remember it well, we got pulled back from TSG to help build the airstrip for Grapple Surge.

  34. Red Trousers

    DN,

    I heard about that name, but I was only ever once in Ploce, when the French reinforced UNPF with an extra Battalion as part of the reaction to the Zepa and Gorazde crises in May 95 (we did the same with the D and Ds coming out of role on Igman and getting fighty). I was bag carrying for the Boss who in addition to being the Force Commander was also Colonel of the Legion, and the new Battalion coming in were 3eme REI, who had shipped from Toulon on a ferry.

    They docked and were unloaded in about 20 minutes. They drove past the Boss, every wagon Commander saluting crisply, and the CO watched it all critically. After the last wagon passed, the CO’s driver produced a bottle of champagne and we had a toast “to blood, and the Legion”.

    Bit odd really, but a good day out.

  35. DavidNiven

    @RT

    I think it was about June 95, 24 Airmobile were sent out when we started to get a bit more robust and began bombing Serb positions. We pulled back to build a runway for the RAF Chinooks and Pumas and a few Lynx’s. The French were there with a flight of their Puma’s and their equivalent to the RAF regt. Spent about a month and a half there then went back up to TSG.

  36. Hohum

    I find the idea of FRES being too big (as a programme) curious- it needn’t have been and frankly wasn’t. Unlike FCS in the US* the core of FRES was always the armoured vehicles and after TRACER there was nothing too revolutionary about them. It should not have been beyond the whit of the MoD to acquire a family of AFV’s- in fact they were then winding up doing just that with Warrior at the time and had done it several times prior to that. Having to get them on certain transport types was hardly new either.

    What is interesting though is looking at the fundamentals; FFLAV was so unambitious that it would have been pointless, then TRACER marched in the other direction producing something far too ambitious that involved spending hundreds of millions for a single role vehicle that pushed the bounds of technology. We finally found a good balance with MRAV/UV but that got killed in a manner that looks deliberate and then finally with SV which at least seems to be coming right.

    *This is key, FCS was far broader in scope than FRES ever was, it included a whole host of other bits that were as, if not far more, important than the platforms. FCS was the equivalent of combining Watchkeeper, Bowman/ComBAT and FRES (and a whole host of other bits) into a single project but all with the technological ambition of TRACER and then sitting back to watch the inevitable fireworks. Trying to compare FRES to FCS seemed at the time like delusion and since like excuse making.

  37. Think Defence

    Have a read of the additional note Hohum.

    I think it was not necessarily that it was too big, it was too confused and the wider transformational programmes of BOWMAN BCIP, DII(F), Watchkeeper and loads of others were the equivalent of FCS, just not under a single programme name, they were still there though

    The conclusion I came to was there was not one single reason you could put your finger on but Jointery and Smart Procurement/IPT’s comprising non specialists seems to be rather coincidental.

    Perhaps putting scaleys and drop shorts in charge of ground manoeuvre and the dark and light blue (plus booties) in charge of doctrinal development and network enabled transformation was not the best of ideas :)

    For the avoidance of doubt, that was a joke

    Generally speaking, I put the failure of FRES down to the dedicated following of military fashion, as we know, fashion is a fickle mistress

  38. Hohum

    TD,

    The transformational stuff was there but despite what the Army and MoD would have you believe it simply wasn’t anything like FCS. FCS was a network that happened to include vehicles, vehicles that were bleeding edge technologically like everything else in the programme, alongside UAS, sensors etc. FRES, TRACER aside, was a not especially ambitious vehicle programme- despite all the sound and fury it was not that challenging or interesting aside from the numbers being bandied about (which always suggested to me that nobody had really thought about how much modern AFVs cost).

    And truth be told, if one looks at what was happening more widely at the time its clear that other things were playing out:

    FFLAV was too soon and too unambitious, especially for the late 80s
    TRACER answered this but was essentially a late Cold War project in its conception- a highly ambitious and expensive single role platform (it reminds me of Comanche in the US) designed as a straight replacement in the Cold War recce role
    MRAV was sensible though the Boxer pod configuration is a waste of engineering effort but thats neither here nor there- it would have done the job
    FRES-UV/SV finally got the balance right

  39. Hohum

    TD,

    I am honoured you would ask my opinion! I have to say though they I think you hit the nail on the head with the fashion remark, at least until MRAV. For MRAV and beyond something uglier seems to have been in play, withdrawing from Boxer in 2003 was silly, scuppering contract negotiations with GD for Piranha V seems like wilful vandalism.

    The programme always raised one niggle in the back of my mind- the number of platforms being discussed seemed out of proportion with the amount of money that was realistically likely to be available. That is not a specific answer because I don’t have one and couldn’t without full access to the meeting minutes and studies of the time.

  40. Observer

    You’ll have to ask RT, he did mention he was “in” the FRES project at one time.

    One factor I think has to be considered is “perceived need”. With the huge stock of CVR(T)s and Warriors still available as well as the post Cold War drawdown, there really is no urgency to getting a new vehicle and the timeframe and urgency (lack of) tends to breed procrastination in a time of tight budgets which allows the changing winds of “military fashion” to blow. It’s something like the US’s M2 HMG replacement though not to that extent. Large existing stock, low requirement for change = programs that get nowhere and takes forever.

    Face it, right about now, can we really say FRES is desperately needed with all the CVR(T) and Warrior/Bulldog upgrading? You can terminate the whole project and not much will change.

  41. Ed Zeppelin

    Hohum

    “TRACER answered this but was essentially a late Cold War project in its conception- a highly ambitious and expensive single role platform (it reminds me of Comanche in the US) designed as a straight replacement in the Cold War recce role”

    Comanche cost $7billion dollars, not less than £200million!
    I don’t think that TRACER was that ambitious or that expensive, just a good little hop forward in technology and capability.
    I genuinely find the FRES debacle so depressing that I am just happy for any new vehicle, regardless of how good or suitable it is. CVR(T) is on it’s last legs, and the prospect of going to war against anyone with any clout is frankly terrifying. We always used to laugh at the thought of the PM being briefed that our Armoured vehicles were CBRN proof, so we could go into Syria/Iraq etc without worrying about that. Well, given that every CVR(T) I’ve ever been in has let rain water come gushing in from somewhere, I’m not so sure!

  42. Chris

    Hohum – its all back in the mists of time now but I thought fleet numbers were reasonably stable through the first 15 years of studies – wasn’t it something like 3500 total for FFLAV (all variants) 1700 for TRACER (being just the recce part with 1400 MRAV covering other roles), and 3700 for FRES (all variants)? This looking like one for one (ish) replacement of 1,863 CVR(T)s and 2,536 FV430s. Even in the early years before the reduction of Army size (absolutely capability led and nothing to do with budget restrictions) the numbers looked high.

    I think your criticism of FFLAV ambition is a bit harsh; it was after all supposed to be a family of vehicles; platforms only, not high tech systems. As such the requirement was to get something a bit better than CVR(T) and FV430 made from modern and more supportable components with better protection and to use a modern term better growth capability. A new set of rugged mobile boxes that high tech stuff could be fitted into. This seems to me a perfectly sound strategy – get vehicles designed/built by people that understand vehicles and the high tech wizardry designed/built by experts in that domain. Far better than making vehicle makers do high tech system design or getting Gucci system geeks to design vehicles.

    TRACER was ambitious. Far more than a vehicle programme. It started while I was still at Alvis; the company saw the breadth of requirement and very quickly teamed with RO/BAE (BAE assigned some very bright engineers in the Kingston team; RO had equally smart engineers at Blackburn who if memory is right were the official leads). As with some of the US programmes trying to develop several very different streams of technology concurrently under the same contract with the idea they would each remain entirely compatible with the other streams of development at all times was a pipe dream.

    FRES? Its really hard to offer sound critique at the technical level because the amorphous blob of requirements never stayed the same shape long enough. I thought the early requirements could have generated some interesting products, but after a couple of years it became clear the requirement was changing faster than the designers could track – the final nail in its coffin in my opinion was when MOD essentially admitted it was uncontrollable and Atkins were shovelled in to make something of it – what was it? Ten completely stovepiped competitive studies into specific design areas (electric armour, drivetrain, electronic architecture etc etc) that had no requirement to be compatible with each other – how was that ever going to make a coherent vehicle at studies’ end?

    As for numbers, I don’t see huge fleets of FRES in the inventory. Some. Not lots. Interesting to note FV430 was replaced in the 80s – by Warrior (or MICV80 as it was) which was deliberately designed to fix the MOD’s issues with 432 and family – not adequately mobile, not armed, should be better protected, needs growth capability etc. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/fv430.htm refers.) Result – a bigger heavier vehicle that really filled a different role. And FV430 remained in service because it wasn’t really replaced. Here we are 30 years on still talking about replacing FV430 with bigger armed more mobile vehicles. Similarly the deficiencies of CVR(T) have now been sorted by a better protected better armed more powerful ASCOD/FRES-SV, ending up with a vehicle that really doesn’t fit the role of CVR(T) capability. For the foreseeable future then I expect CVR(T) in some form or other coexisting with ASCOD/FRES-SV doing different tasks that the bigger vehicle doesn’t suit.

  43. DavidNiven

    Can any one really fathom how FRES turned into a disaster?

    How can a simple concept get so royally confused, was it because they were seeing the vehicle as part of a system rather than a means of carrying a system? I thought it would have been simple, find a vehicle to replace CVRT, which they did with TRACER and canned, and find a medium weight vehicle to replace 432 and Saxon which we did with helping to design Boxer.

    I don’t buy into the Iraq and Afghan muddying the waters argument from the Army either, both Saxon and Warrior were designed to take a hit from an AT mine, it was nothing new as the purchase of Panther (which was a requirement from our experience in the Balkans) shows.

  44. monkey

    If I am reading this correctly from the military aspect of control over FRES not one officer in overall charge had a background in Armour? Obviously officers junior to them may of been from an Armoured warfare background (RT for one ) and they would obviously be very intelligent capable leaders in their own right but never have served in such a mission specific role for what they trying to aquire I would think limit their depth of understanding. By all means bringing in an outside perspective could bring something to the party but an Admiral , an Air Vice Marshall? I suspect FRES was being used as a career vehicle not a Fighting vehicle.

  45. Alex

    This starts to look like the kind of big IT project failure that led to the adoption of things like agile and test-driven development. Lots of stakeholders arguing over requirements, a serious lack of feedback from engineering to customer or user to engineering, and a minimum scale so huge it’s very hard to tell if any particular sub-project is on track because it won’t deliver for years. There is a lot here that is familiar from parallel disasters like the NHS National Programme for IT, or indeed the Universal Credit hellfuck, or any number of private sector ones that didn’t make the headlines.

    The IT-world solution has basically been to prototype, prototype, and prototype again – the really religious types argue that the FIRST thing you should do is build a minimal prototype, the so-called minimum viable product or MVP, and see how it works. I’m not sure about that – in this case the problem would have been “build which product?” – but I do think much more prototyping early on would have helped keep the thinking grounded in reality, while also perhaps giving the customer more insight into what could be achieved technologically. The point isn’t just to debug and handle user requests faster, it’s also to refine the requirement itself.

    This would have meant spending money, but you can’t say the way they did it was cheap! So, yes, bring back the research establishments. Or rather, development establishments. (Actually, Chertsey’s title was the MVEE, first E for experimental, right?)

  46. A Different Gareth

    DavidNiven said: “I don’t buy into the Iraq and Afghan muddying the waters argument from the Army either, both Saxon and Warrior were designed to take a hit from an AT mine, it was nothing new as the purchase of Panther (which was a requirement from our experience in the Balkans) shows.”

    I think it is the IED threat rather than anti-tank mines that could explain the water muddying.

    A bit of speculation on my part: Wikipedia describes FRES UV as “The Utility Variant comprises protected mobility, command and control, light armoured support, repair and recovery and medical;”. With the benefit of hindsight the thing that is noticeable by its absence is protected patrol – as in going down the same route day after day and surviving as you might need to do in peacekeeping/occupation duties.

    When SNATCH Landrovers and Pinzgauers were being blown up the MoD were keen to stress that mobility is a form of protection itself. The vehicles kept being blown up. Had the benefits of mobility been negated by the way they were being operated? As a result the candidates for FRES UV have got heavier despite this impacting the mobility and rapid deployability aspects of the programme.

    It seems to me that the leaders of the FRES project would prefer to make the vehicles less mobile but better protected so they can do that extra job. It would be better imo to accept that the protection against IEDs will be best served in a vehicle specifically designed for it. If IEDs have become a major threat you are in an insurgency situation and patrolling regular routes not roaming across the countryside against a peer enemy.

  47. Chris

    TD – did you reference the 2011 NAO report for costs of FRES and associated lack-of-FRES UORs? http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/10121029.pdf It has a higher cost assigned to the UORs than I heard from the Army at about the same time. My “CVR(T) Replacement” total costs mount up as:

    £650m* for FFLAV, MRAV & TRACER (Peter Flach, RUSI paper “Lessons from the Procurement of Armoured Fighting Vehicles”, July 2010)
    £133m for FRES-UV (NAO)
    £142m sunk costs in FRES-SV studies (NAO)
    £500m development contract to get off-the-shelf ASCOD closer to MOD FRES-SV spec

    That’s £1.425bn without inflation – adding an average 2% p.a. inflation rate over half the 30 year period since it all started (half the period because the spend is distributed over time – OK its a crude estimate) gets that nearer £1.9bn at today’s values.

    But NAO also detail consequential UOR costs – removing C2 and Warrior from the table on p.26/27 of the report gives:

    £572m for upgrades to in-service vehicles
    £2.128bn for new UOR vehicles

    That makes a round £2.7bn for UORs just in the armoured vehicle domain since 2002.

    If as NAO suggest the UORs should have been at least partially unnecessary had FRES delivered to its original ISD – pick a proportion; 70%? (The biggest chunks of budget went on Mastiff Ridgeback Wolfhound & Husky which ought to have been dealt with by APC/Cargo utility wagons.) 70% of £2.7bn is very nearly £1.9bn – spooky.

    Total cost of getting this far then give or take a few hundred million: £3.8bn. That’s quite a lot.

    *The £650m figure includes MRAV & TRACER costs, but these too are hard to pin down. The official costs are £131m for TRACER and £57m for MRAV, but Peter Flach notes in his RUSI paper that responses to questions in Parliament defined the spends to be £188m for TRACER and £132m for FRES-UV. Why the difference? Blowed if I know. The £650m figure also included industry R&D money which has to be covered by overheads hence is indirectly paid by HMG through other projects…

  48. Hohum

    EZ,

    TRACER was a revolution in AFV design, not a little hop. And it was single role and pricey for AFVs of the day. It may not have absorbed as much money as Comanche (I never said it did) but it was very similar in being technologically ambitious and designed for specific Cold War role.

    Chris,

    Yes FFLAV was unambitious from a vehicle design perspective, as you outlined excellently in your post. The FRES numbers were stable, that was actually my point, the numbers looked out of proportion with the amount of money realistically likely to be available. At a very rough estimate, for instance, an MRAV or VBCI order around 2006-2010 for 1400 vehicles was likely to come in at £3.5-4 billion. That still leaves the SV element to be paid for- it is not hard to see the entire thing surging past £10 billion in value and ending up at twice the cost of the carrier programme.

  49. Chris

    ADG – agreed; IEDs are a bit of a special case that would be expected in COIN but probably not in peer-peer conflict. Different tools for different jobs makes good sense to me – ever seen what the abomination called the Adjustable Spanner does to hex-headed bolts & nuts? One tool for everything is not the way to go.

  50. Ed Zeppelin

    I think it could have been a good vehicle but hardly a ‘revolution in AFV design’! Some good new technology and ideas on it, but Comanche was packed with untried, cutting edge tech, including stealth elements.

    A lot of people get misty eyed about vehicles that could have been, but I would suggest that unless someone worked on it, or was at Bovington for the trials we will never know much about the practicalities. I have worked with a lot of equipment that sounded good on paper but ended up being complete garbage.

  51. Hohum

    Chris,

    You are putting far too much of the UOR spend under the FRES mess. Husky, Wolfhound, Jackal, Warthog, and Foxhound would all have still been necessary- as mostly likely would a lot of the in-service vehicle mods. Costs down to not buying FRES may be as low £1 billion- all of which came out of money the MoD would never have had anyway.

  52. Hohum

    EZ,

    So was TRACER. Unless you can name another AFV platform now or then in service that uses hybrid propulsion, band-tracks and a CTA cannon alongside a host of advanced sensors and low observability features?

  53. John Hartley

    I still think the A400M weight limit should apply (32 tons if you want reasonable range) as it not only applies to air transport, but also the bridges, mountain tracks & tight urban streets you are likely to find in theatre. You should be able to get reasonable protection on a 32 ton vehicle.

  54. monkey

    From every bodies favourite wiki
    “More modern anti-tank mines are usually more advanced than simple containers full of explosives detonated by remote or the vehicles pressure. The biggest advances were made in the following areas:
    Power of the explosives (explosives such as RDX).
    Shaped charges to increase the armour piercing effect.
    Advanced dispersal systems.
    More advanced or specific detonation triggers”
    Excuse my ignorance on this subject but how than possiblly by size ( I believe the IRA were happy to use 100’s of kilos of fertiliser and diesel buried in a culvert to get the ‘effect’ they wanted ) is an IED more effective than a modern AT mine? I would have thought from the beginning AT mine blast protection would have been incorperated using the latest concepts and known threat sizes. With the experience of the actual combat in Balkans ,GW 1 & 2 , Iraq ‘stabilisation’ and Afghanistan may have shown areas for improvements in existing designs at some point in terms of blast protection redesign a line has to be drawn under it . When you start to run out of alphabet on drawing issue numbers you have to say enough is enough. TD stated in an earlier post that Warrior grew by 60% in weight over its life so designing for future weight increases you would have thought been already be part of the initial concept. The weight and power consumption of the internal electrical systems would be pretty constant based on a Bowman fit , CRT displays ( v later LCD’s ) , Video cameras ( v later CCD ) , internal/external lighting ( v later LED ) , GEN I Night Vision ( v later GEN 4 ) etc.
    How much has kinetic threats developed over this period ? Is a 14.5×114mm become that much more effective. RPG’s have moved on somewhat but slatted/Tarian types armour still stands up well.
    All I can think of is that FRES is a gravy train with sharp sales people pitching the latest concept and technologies bamboozling the chaps working for you and I into the next ‘dream machine’ (also with an eye for dragging this out or being given the credit and accompanying promotion/payrise associated with deliver the ‘best for our boys in green’.)

  55. DavidNiven

    ‘I think it is the IED threat rather than anti-tank mines that could explain the water muddying.’

    If you can take a hit from a 10kg AT mine that has a charge designed to penetrate armour you can take a fairly robust blast from an IED as they are mainly blast weapons and rely on size to do the damage.

  56. Hohum

    DavidNiven,

    Increasingly no they are not. The learning curve for IED manufacturers turned out to be quite swift and EFPs soon made an appearance- they have now spread to Syria.

    Blast also has a whole host of other effects that require space and thus weight to solve if you want to keep your dismounts alive.

  57. Chris

    Hohum – ref UOR proportioning – you seem to suggest here that FRES-UV would not offer adequate protection to perform the sorts of patrols that were the norm in Op Herrick? If FRES hasn’t the protection of Mastiff or Warthog, or the protected cargo capability of Husky or Wolfhound, or the mobility and situational awareness of Jackal, then what does it have? Its vastly expensive and yet already it seems its capabilities will be a step back from the current fairly basic UOR vehicles in the Army inventory. Now that is a bombshell.

    Monkey – the answer here I suspect is that each sort of warhead presents different physical effects, or at least a set of similar effects in very different proportions, such that protection optimised against one threat may be fairly poor against another. Staying away from modern weapon effects, you might consider the ideal armour against APFSDS to be uber-hard material that disrupts the dart and contains the energy without permitting penetration, but against HESH such hard material would spall like supersonic confetti, where a softer more ductile material might stretch and bow under the impact and not spall nearly as much. Like everything else, armour design is an exercise in finding the best compromise for the stated problem. Note here I am not an expert in the field, so if my examples are poor that’s why.

  58. DavidNiven

    Hohum

    The EFP’s are a stand off weapon a kin to an off route mine, with the technology given to the Shia’s in Iraq from the Iranian’s. they will no doubt spread but they require some skill in placing to get the correct stand off distance which did’nt really matter when you are hitting Snatch’s and Humvee’s. The majority of IED’s in Afghan were simple blast weapons. The Afghans began trying to tip our vehicles into the irrigation ditches using IED’s to cause casualties because they had trouble penetrating them.

  59. Observer

    DN/monkey, not necessarily for AT mines. The job of the AT mine is simply to channel vehicles, delay them or take them out of the fight temporarily. This means that the AT mine does not necessarily use EFP as just using blast is enough to cause the vehicle to lose its tracks/wheels or flip over. IEDs on the other hand are designed to kill the people inside rather than the vehicle, which means that EFP would be more likely to be incorporated into the design, though how effective is it is open to debate as pressure detonated mines/IEDs tend to blow beneath wheels/tracks, not below the center of mass.

    OTOH, lots of IEDs still seem to rely on pure blasting power still.

  60. Hohum

    Chris,

    Only Mastiff/Ridgeback really fell under the scope of UV. Jackal and Foxhound are light patrol/recce vehicles outside the cope of FRES (and any core programme I can think of) whilst Husky fell under what is now MRV-P, Wolfhound is a niche heavy protected logistics vehicle/armoured gun tractor and Warthog is a niche very high mobility platform similar to BvS-10.

    If UV is now done right it will provide a vehicle with Ridgeback/Mastiff protection but with 8×8 mobility which the current MRAP platforms can not hope to match.

  61. Hohum

    DN,

    EFPs are spreading very nicely. As I said, blast, especially large blast, opens up whole host of other design issues which require space and weight- which is why the MRAPs look the way they do.

  62. Observer

    “Warthog is a niche very high mobility platform”

    Slight correction, the original Warthog was conceptually purely a cargo hauler, it was never meant to be used the way you guys are using your Bv-206s in amphibious assaults or as a mobile gun platform. You guys are nuts. :) Oh well, if it’s crazy but it works, it ain’t crazy.

    Just don’t try this in a really hot war, you’re more likely to get trashed ATTCs.

  63. guthrie

    It seems to me, not being in the army etc, that there’s two specifications wanted. One is a simple, lighweight transport with some protection against whatever is flying about on the battlefield, and the other being a heavyweight IED surviving vehicle. So why not just settle down and buy both, because by the time you’ve faffed about with different specs and tried to make one ring to rule them all, sorry, one vehicle that can do all jobs, you’ve wasted enough money and time to make and buy two types of vehicle. Sure, you end up wtih a lot in storage, but that’s a political problem. Corporations like to minimise inventory to save money, but war fighting is not amenable to that sort of idea.

  64. Hohum

    Observer,

    That is not a correction. Warthog is the UK in-service name and it was procured by the UK to perform that role, what somebody else originally designed it to do is neither here nor there. And even as a cargo hauler it is still a niche high mobility platform.

  65. monkey

    Some of the existing AT mines were already extremely powerful .
    Russian TM-83 mine in service in 1993, wiki again “Armour penetration is claimed to be 100–400 mm at a range of 50 meters.”
    The early FRES variants were I suspect unable to withstand a hit from this monster , an attitude of acceptable casualties vs overall vehicle performance with performance leading.
    Today with the shadow of all those coffins passing through Wotton Bassett or ex- serviceman suffering from their injuries ,be they physical or mental , has driven the way the protection levels have increased.

  66. Not a Boffin

    Interesting update and of course reminds me that DEC(Kevin) was in fact DEC (Precision Attack), whereas DEC(Dark Blue) was Strategic Deployment, although ISTR the earlier Capability Management strcuture was less readily service identifiable.

    Not sure EBO or NEC are particular drivers in this. The Effects-based element was already firmly embedded – the clue is in the name – and the NEC element was largely in response to the blue on blue incidents on Granby and Telic. The US (as often happens) had just got on and done it with IVIS in most of their armoured vehciles to provide SA. We hadn’t. Are either of them real technical drivers to a vehicle design, or even cost considering much would be provided via DII/ Bowman (snigger)?

    I still think you’re making a bit much of the “joint” influence in the gestation of FRES (or rather how it went wrong). DCDS(EC) is not a specialist – he doesn’t have to be, that’s what his one star capability managers are for and it is they that staff the requirement and the associated approvals submissions. So DEC(Ground manoeuvre) would be a army officer with an armoured or mech background – occasionally light inf – who would be supported by his desk officers who would be recent users and the capability working groups which include officers from the army (armoured, recce or mech units from HQ land) supported by dstl. they derive the requirement, brief it upwards through the approvals chain – it doesn’t tend to get re-written by someone else.

    Similarly, the EAC is not a DPA organisation, it was a MoD centre organsiation (later called the IAB). DCDS EC didn’t get to sit on it, because his boss (VCDS) did, in the same way DG Equipment from the DPA didn’t sit on it because his boss (CDP and CDL – now CDM) sat on it. the otehr members were 2PUS and the Chief Scientific Adviser. Interestingly, VCDS over the period of interest (2005-2013) were respectively a Gunner and the current CDS, Gen Houghton and in fact since 2003, only one CDS has not been an army general, so not without influence.

    I think the real reason FRES has been so difficult is as follows :

    1. Post cold war (and certainly post Granby) all thinking was based on rapid early-entry with an economical force rather than deliberate staging/build up and forcible entry over longer periods.
    2. The Balkans ops had shown that light and/or air-mobile infantry in stabilisation roles tended to need armour.
    3. That led directly to the airportability (C130,later A400M) requirement and the associated vehicle designs to do that. Doctrine and technical risk containable within the requirement, no problem.
    4. Trouble is we then began to take IED hits on Telic and Herrick, which drove a significant protection requirement into all vehicles, exacerbated by the images of Snatch LRs in bits (actually a different requirement). At this point efficient airmobility becomes technically difficult and the scrutiny community will probably have started asking why Warrior can’t meet this latest threat and why a new vehicle is required. You now have a situation where doctrine and technical risk are not in balance with the requirement, which sends the whole system into meltdown, because the acquisition process is not sufficiently agile to cope with this – hence UORs, which fix the immediate need, but complicate the overall picture. The acquisition process has to have some form of scientific rigour applied to it, because of the sums of money involved, but that does mean an inherent inertia is added to the process to deliver it. Incidentally, that technical rigour is usually supplied by the successor organsiations to “The Research Establishments” (Dstl and QuinetiQ) – they’re not a panacea by any means.
    5. Given a requirement that either doesn’t support doctrine or could be delivered by existing kit, you’re going to struggle to get that through the approvals committees, which is I suspect exactly what’s happened. Which funnily enough is why a CVS-sized carrier or a light CAS jet would not get through requirements scrutiny either because they don’t meet the overall requirement or would be inefficient in doing so.

    As long as the requirement looks like a big mobile armoured box, when we already have lots of big mobile armoured boxes (Warrior and some of the into-Core UOR), you’re going to struggle to justify a new armoured box unless there is a compelling safety (it’s going to fall out of the sky, roll over in a storm) or support cost (we have to dismantle and rebuild it after every two sorties/we have to replate sections of the hull every two weeks) argument.

    It may just be that the current requirement doesn’t look sufficiently different from the existing (assumed supportable) systems to justify the expense.

    No-one in the joint arena really had anything against FRES. Doesn’t significantly affect the Navy (the Points aren’t considered navy assets), the RAF get another strategic AT requirement – what’s not to like?

  67. wf

    @guthrie: how true :-)

    Given that the IED capability is not required for General War and the like, buy a brigades’s worth and call it done

  68. Simon

    Can I just add a conclusion of conclusions to this. It is of course only my conclusion…

    You’re too slow.

    The procurement “machine” cannot adapt quickly enough to changing situations and requirements. This has the effect of the “solution” never leaving the drawing board. Hence the introduction of UOR.

    It’s akin to buying the best PC on the market. Tomorrow there will be a better one. It’s sometimes best to simply have something rather than nothing and as many have said Warrior, CVR(T) and the like are still filling the “something” void.

    It also has the effect of the procurement teams having to mitigate (or hedge) against unexpected futures which generates the need for multi-role or adaptable solutions that have no clearly defined spec.

    All of course great if it works. The trouble is it doesn’t.

  69. Think Defence

    NaB, except as I wrote, whilst DEC(GM) during the early important stages were of course Army, they were not Armoured or Infantry, mostly gunners during that period it seems. I don’t want to name names but the evidence is out there, DEC(GM) during the early period of FRES were bizarrely, mostly non inf/armd

    NEC and EBO were absolutely fundamental drivers for Army transformation and FRES was merely a part of that. A lot of what I read also talked of the influence of certain people, neither of them Army, in fact, the two biggest influencers of overal defence doctrine and transformation were various shades of blue. I understand you don’t agree, which is cool by the way, but every source I have read suggest a disconnect between the actual users in the armoured/inf community and the people influencing the requirements who were in fact, joint, and where green, mostly non armoured and infantry.

    Call it creative tension if you want, but tension there was.

    The transformational stuff and doctrine development was not coming from the RAC and Inf, it was coming from the top down, where they met is where the disagreements happened and in that process the initial winners were the visonaries driving close alignment with FCS and implementation of NEC and EBO. It was not until later, when the transformational medium weight stuff was exposed by Iraq/Afghanistan as being an emperor san garments did the whole medium weight C130 stuff go away and the traditionalists who understood the value of heavy metal prevailed.

    What is crystal clear is the initial FRES requirement from the Army was overruled by DEC(GM) and FRES closely aligned to FCS.

    Who was influencing DEC(GM) and how he came to the conclusion that what he should do was ignore DRAC and the armoured community and listen to the transformation chaps (including many in green of course) is worthy of discussion, because that is what happened.

    I am not saying the smoking gun for FRES failure was held by someone else, clearly it was an Army problem, but in this case, the Army was heavily influenced by a number of joint organisations (which included the Army) during the early stages of FRES

    In the end, I suspect it was a very familiar issue of the trendy trumping the old fashioned as careers and post service jobs were at stake, then reality hove into view and the trendy got the boot.

    Maybe I am getting a bit too cynical :)

  70. Chris

    wf, Guthrie – entirely agree – like I said up-thread, different tools for different jobs.

    Simon – entirely agree – I am no fan (evidently) of the ‘all things to all men’ requirement. That’s not to say there should be cast-iron fixed requirements from day one on any given project; I much prefer the pragmatism of a Cardinal Points Spec and User involvement to get to the finished item.

  71. Hohum

    NaB,

    Excellent post, I can’t really argue with that. Most of the people who think of FRES in terms of FCS either don’t understand what FCS was or are making excuses for FRES- it really wasn’t and now isn’t that complicated.

    Something worth remembering; when we withdrew from Boxer in 2003 it then went into a near 5 year period of re-design and was, ironically, only just about ready by the time FRES-UV trials of truth began, first units weren’t delivered until 2009 following a production start in 2008. VBCI only began being delivered in mid-2008 too.

  72. Hohum

    TD,

    FRES was never anything like FCS, either in ambition (with the exception of TRACER in the early days) and especially in scope. If people inside the FRES procurement process thought it was aligned with FCS then they were deluded beyond help. FRES-UV was no more or less complicated than Boxer or VBCI, certainly the former had its issues but was far from impossible and will now be completely delivered before the UK even properly restarts UV.

    There was a real issue with British Army digitalisation which really evolved from the Army being way behind a whole host of countries yet trying to leap-frog them but I fail to see what impact that had on FRES.

  73. Think Defence

    I know Hohum, I think I made the point there was a weird follow but lets not follow thing going on.

    We bought into the concept, but tempered it with a more human centric focus, hence the term ‘enabled’ in NEC

    The fact is, many of the FCS requirements (at least for the vehicle part of FCS) were walked over, to the astonishment of many in the armoured community, or that is how I read it across the many sources I used for this. Of course, we may never know what actually happened, super secret squirrel and all that!

    I could be wrong but have been pretty much emerged in this for a while and you form an impression, maybe it is built up from having a keyhole view so I accept there may be bias but am still of the opinion that there was a joint transformational v traditionalist thing going on in the 2000 – 2007 period and FRES was a result.

  74. Red Trousers

    Mostly agree with NaB, fits my recollection of the early Noughties.

    TD, correct on DEC(GM), but you need to cut a bit of slack. There were only about 10 officers in the DEC (one star, pair of Colonels, a bunch of SO1s and SO2s), and from late 2001 onwards they were completely consumed with UORs. The Mounted Close Combat team was I think 4 in total. They were working literally for 12 hours a day most of the time. FRES was basically put on the back burner.

    That’s not to say the Army were not at fault, they could have argued with DCDS(EC) to up the establishment in DEC(GM), which was a joint organisation. Maybe they did, but it was also the time of lean procurement, and the in vogue thought was that procurement could be done with fewer people.

    I personally think that too much influence was vested in Shrivenham, and that too many people at the western end of the M4 tried to be too precise/clever about choosing a vehicle. Many in green, but also many not.

  75. Hohum

    TD,

    FCS was star wars for the US Army, FRES was a 1990s/early 2000s AFV programme. The NEC element really had no impact on the FRES requirements as far as I can see. What was important was the deployability side but that was nothing new- all new AFV designs had considered just that- will it fit through most railway tunnels, will it crush a bridge, even will it go in a plane with answer depending on the role.

    There are two precise questions that need to be answered to get to bottom of it:

    1) Why specifically did we withdraw from Boxer?
    2) Why did we really scupper the Piranha V contract negotiations with GD and then suddenly decide we didn’t need it after-all?

  76. Think Defence

    RT, you kind of reinforce the point I am making and add an extra sprinkle!

    I wonder if whoever shouted loudest got listened to, those in Shrivenham were a pretty shouty bunch I think and if the poor old DEC(GM) and team were battered with UOR’s from 2001 on then you can see a path of least resistance being allowed to ferment. if the loud are the transformation people with loads of new buzzwords and innovative thinking, backed up with a million powerpoints and a new dictionary, then it would be very difficult to resist.

    A mate of mine if always very keen to point out that no amount of systems of control can beat human nature

    NaB thinks I am trying to shift the blame and point fingers at the dark and light blue, nothing could be further from the truth, but the whole thing has a lot of very interesting dynamics too juicy not to discuss!

  77. Think Defence

    Hohum, if you say that NEC had no effect on FRES then you must be reading different books than me :)

    We withdrew from MRAV because it was too big and too heavy for the FRES vision at the time, pretty simple that one

    Your second question, not so sure

  78. Not a Boffin

    TD

    You sure you’re not mixing up the Capability Mgr (Battlefield Manouevre) who is a 2*, with the DEC(Ground Manouevre) who is a 1*? The equivalent gunners 1* would be DEC(Indirect Battlefield Engagement).

    If DRAC is the Director RAC then they would have been part of the Capability Wkg Groups, including reps from the JDCC, that worked for DEC(GM) and prepared the requirement. There is a difference between being ignored and losing the argument in a working group and they can get properly argumentative.

    This quote is illustrative :

    “What is crystal clear is the initial FRES requirement from the Army was overruled by DEC(GM) and FRES closely aligned to FCS”.

    “The Army” by which I assume you mean DRAC and the armoured community simply did not and never has written the requirement. It was and is owned and written by DEC(GM), supported by their CWG. From scratch. In the same way that “the Navy” did not get to write the requirement for FE/FSC/T26 – it was owned and written from scratch by DEC(Above Water Effects) or “the Air Force” did not get to write the requirement for JCA – it was written by DEC (Deep Target Attack). I know it seems arcane and all down to wiring diagrams, but it is important to understand. The requirement owner is DEC(GM) who is an Army officer who should have an armoured/mech background (subject to clarifying the 2*/1* issue above). The “requirement” has always been written outside the service HQ, even predating the Capability Mgmt organisation which stood up in 99 and going back to the Directorates of Operational Requirements, Sea, Land, Air.

    What you appear to be describing is a situation where DRAC wanted a pure CVR(T)/FV432 replacement purely because those vehicles were ageing and would have written a paper saying “please give me more of the same”. When that was examined against the Defence Planning Scenarios, it was in all probability difficult to justify, in exactly the same way you couldn’t justify a CVS or a Tornado F3 now. Those scenarios are created by a mixture of joint service staff and civil servants and are endorsed across the services. I’m not personally convinced they’re the right tools, but they’re what is used and have been used for the last twenty-plus years.

  79. Red Trousers

    DEC(GM) in the early Noughties was a Gunner, not sure of whether from a tracked or light background. His SO1 Mounted Close Combat was a Life Guard, and at least 2 of the SO2s were RAC. The RM in the IPT at one point was QDG, another time KRH. No shortage of relevant experience there, but I remain firmly of the opinion that the sheer scale of UORs overwhelmed the DEC and allowed people elsewhere to insert their agendas.

    Hohum,

    The NEC requirements for FRES SV were significant. A whole lever arch file. But that had to fit into the wider context of Digitisation which was ongoing. It was not solely FRES, but AFAIK FRES was going to be the first fully digitally driven platform that the Army was going to procure. Right down to the Electronic Architecture, which was a whole study by itself. HUMS, auto-reporting, etc.

  80. Think Defence

    NaB, maybe, but the sources I used were pretty clear in the names in the frame for the DEC(GM), LinkedIn is a wonderful tool, as is Hansard and RUSI Land Warfare Conference Agenda’s with the speakers conveniently described by role.

    DEC(GM) was for the period I looked at, anyone but Inf/Armd, let me go and have another look but it did jump out at me that there was not a great deal of inf/armd representation around the subject space which as I said, seemed indicative of that creative tension between legacy and transformation, always present I guess

    Also of note I think is FRES was pretty close to the SDR98 changes in the procurement landscape.

    Happy to admit to being wrong but you kind of get an overall vibe and that vibe was as described.

  81. Hohum

    TD,

    Unlikely. Everything back then included some discussion of NEC irrespective of it’s relevance to the topic at hand. FRES was a particular victim of this. But when one really looks closely at the project it really was just a vehicle programme. Sure there was to be some space and power for a BMS and some radios but it wasn’t anything like FCS with its network, UGVs, UAVs , unattended ground sensors etc, etc. And they were not pushing the vehicle technology anywhere near as far as the FCS MGVs were either (except for TRACER which was of course joint with the US anyway). Ironically, FRES was a far more sensible programme than FCS.

    FRES was driven by an ill-founded desire for rapid deploy-ability and a misplaced belief in DAS- at least that explains the withdrawal from Boxer (supposedly)- in which case, why the 2008 sudden shift from Piranha V to SV?

    And the real question- the FRES procurement spend was put as high as £16 billion at one point, did that money ever really exist? The answer, I suspect, is no.

  82. Think Defence

    Hohum, did you see my bullet point about champagne tastes and brown ale budgets!

    NaB, are yo gobsmacked by RT confirming my observation that DEC(GM) was a Gunner?

    Have to say fellas, this is a bloody brilliant discussion, really learning a lot, hope any spectators are enjoying as well

  83. Red Trousers

    All, there’s a further angle. Lord Drayson’s industrial strategy, which required all IP to be vested with the MoD. That killed off FRES UV, when GD failed to roll over. I was not close to that decision (was out by then), but you could see a train wreck coming. Personally, I think that it was entirely unrealistic of the MoD, but other senior people (one and two stars or civilian equivalents) were sure that it was achievable, and they were the decision makers.

    The IPT in the mid-Noughties also came up with a mentally stupid procurement policy, with Vehicle Integrators and cross cutting Systems Integrator, and Atkins as the Systems House, nobody in industry knew who the hell was responsible for anything.

  84. Hohum

    RT,

    All evolutionary and increasingly starting to appear commercially even then. But it was not NEC in the sense that FCS was doing it. FRES, Bowman and ComBAT was closer to Stryker, SINCGARS and FBCB2 than to FCS.

  85. Not a Boffin

    I don’t think you’re trying to finger dark/light blue, I just think there’s a bit of a misconception as to who does what.

    RT was involved so will defer to him on the UOR load on the various DEC desks.

    What I am trying to get across though is that “the Army” didn’t write a requirement that was subsequently rejected or hijacked by a bunch of transformational ninja turtles from Shrivers. “The Army” collectively wrote the FRES requirement including airportability and NEC and actually, the logic behind airportability stands up if you assume use of existing host-nation logistics and NEC is a no-brainer for combat ID. It’s just that the CONOPS and threat took a rather unexpected turn that invalidated the extensively staffed requirement.

    I suppose if anything, what did for FRES was the failure to equate stabilisation ops with the threat of huge IED (as opposed to AT mines), leading to unpopular casualty levels. I suspect this wasn’t in any of the extensively developed SAG scenarios, which does make you wonder why we bother with them to the level of detail we do. At this stage you’ve got to a point where the answer is several different vehicle types, some of which don’t need to be new. If your requirement logic and procurement strategy wasn’t set up to deal with that, do not pass go, do not collect £200.

  86. Peter Elliott

    Very fair point. I am assuming that at some point we will procure a wheeled armoured box to fit in the newly calibrated ‘Medium’ weight category of A400 Portable. This will eventully replace the remaining Bulldogs and MRAPs in the Adaptable Force.

    But the eventual tracked Warrrior Replacement needs to be able to go where the MBTs go and survive in the hottest battle spaces. As such a combined order for heavy tracked MBT and IFV on a common chassis will have a lot to recommend it.

    “Then we need to add reactive armour or buy Namers.”

  87. Hohum

    RT,

    The IP thing is interesting but looked very much like it was being used as an excuse. My recollection (quite possibly wrong) was that not only were MoD demanding the IP but they were demanding it on a very small initial vehicle order. The threat as GD saw it was that MoD would order a hundred or so vehicles from them then contract out all further production to the lowest bidder through a competition without GD even getting license payments as they had handed over the IP. The thing, again my possibly incorrect recollection, looked as if it could have been solved by just upping the number of contracted vehicles and extending the contract. An impression that was further reinforced by the sudden declaration that UV wasn’t that urgent after-all and what was needed was SV.

  88. Peter Elliott

    I have noticed before that the Army seems to generate a surplus of Artillary officers that tend to get used to ‘fill in’ all sorts of non Artillary roles.

    It was explained to me once that this is becuase of having to generate large numbers of Captains to populate the various tactical fire control parties that are needed forward of the guns. But this makes a bulge in the career pipline and there are never enough CO jobs for the more talented of these FOO Captains to progress into. So they tend to get farmed out to all sorts of other roles: which their excellence as gunners doesn’t necesssarily leave them equipped to do well.

  89. Red Trousers

    NaB,

    The one thing missing from the FRES CONOPS was having a political plan for the cessation of hostilities. FRES was never envisioned as a occupying force, it was meant to go home.

    We saw that in GW2. All well and good at kicking in the door, but sod all the Army and Northwood could do about no political plan. That’s when the Iraqi insurgents were given space to come up with inventive IEDs, and by then we were stuck there.

    There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with any of the UVs trialled, but none of them originally had any requirement for massive IED protection. The CONOPS was to enter fast, stabilise a situation, hopefully snuff it out and then either hand over to a heavier UK or NATO force or a UN/AU type of organisation for peace enforcement/keeping.

    That’s what the pointy heads should have been doing, working alongside the Cabinet Office, DFID etc and the UN DPKO to define various force postures for post-kinetic effects. Not getting all involved in trade offs between firepower and protection or manoeuvre.

  90. Think Defence

    Tell you what, when I started this I would never have imagined we could blame the drop shorts!

    Expect David Niven and DejaVu are sitting back chuckling although no doubt Obsvr will be here shortly to tell us we are all wedge cu*ts

    All good stuff :)

    RT, was that not the Comprehensive Approach, also being championed mid 2000’s on, again, by a certain Rear Admiral at Shrivenham?

  91. Red Trousers

    PE,

    You may well be correct as a general observation, but the individual you refer to is not here to defend himself. He was no slouch at all: highly respected.

  92. Not a Boffin

    Would also endorse RT comment on IP and mentally stupid procurement processes. It’s what happens when systems engineers are allowed out of their nerd box and into positions with authority.

    Exactly the same happended with QEC, where the systems engineers were writing interminable URDs and SRDs all beautifully devoid of “solutioneering”, which was a capital offence in those days. Only trouble was, the systems engineers then had to deal with the shipbuilders, who took one look at the SRD and said “WTF is this nonsense?”

    The SRD was subsequently rewritten as a “Shipbuild Technical Specification” with a lot of the SE nonsense excised and sensible terms like “cooling system” replacing “heat balancing and storage system”.

  93. Red Trousers

    TD, could have been. I was interested in the national level aspects, and tactical stuff, but tended to zone out on anything coming out of Shrivenham or even Upavon at the time. It was all mostly bollocks.

  94. Hohum

    RT,

    I would put it simply- FRES looked at stabilisation/UN peace keeping with preliminary fast door kicking, not protracted COIN operations.

  95. monkey

    In terms of IP how much of a quantum leap forward was the moving metal box part of the FRES programme for the MoD to demand its handover as the British tax payer had ‘paid’for it. Surely GD would develop the aspect of coordinating the Piranha V with the various systems suppliers to ensure they perform as required by the MoD and are protected by the moving metal box but the moving metal box is all they GD could lay claim too. The Gucci UK systems fit would almost certainly not suit another country so be irrelevant. Sounds like , as someone pointed out on a earlier FRES post we, didn’t have the budget at that point of time and we were backing out of the contract by insisting GD handed over the rights to years of development of the MOWAG/GD designers , the moving metal box.

  96. Think Defence

    OK, last comment on this for a bit.

    Have not named the DEC(GM) because that would not be fair and lets be honest, we are discussing something that in the grand scheme of things was probably not a huge impact anyway, bigger fish to fry when it comes to blame apportionment, if indeed that is what we should be doing, more like learning how to do it better. So banter aside, shall we close this line of discussion?

    On the Systems House, Systems of Systems Integrator and all that jazz, absolutely agree but just as a counterpoint, before being openly contradicted in evidence to the HoC DSC, Atkins went on record saying from the start that FRES in any flavour would not be in service before 2018. Wouldn’t want people talking common sense now would we, hence they were fucked off at the first opportunity

    Who is laughing now

  97. Hohum

    monkey,

    Interesting question. The IP issue was not necessarily about GD doing anything clever but about who controlled the end product. For instance, there is one ex-metal box manufacturer in the UK who thinks it didn’t get to upgrade the metal boxes its predecessor companies had built because it didn’t hold enough of the IP. You also see in the US where the DoD holds the IP it will contract manufacture out to the lowest bidder- irrespective of who designed it.

    To your second point, yes the specific negotiation with GD for Piranha V did look like it had been deliberately scuppered due to the small number of vehicles included in the initial contract (my recollection). Not to mention the sudden shift to SV.

  98. Chris

    RT – ref your comment here http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2014/08/story-fres-summary/comment-page-1/#comment-303369 pointing out the FRES basic concept was to scream in, deal with an emerging threat by neutralising it or by containment until the heavy brigade arrived to take over, thereafter to withdraw/move on. It should have had a name including the terms Rapid and Effect. Funnily enough I thought this was what the requirement was supposed to deliver (even sent a missive to TD stating such). I still struggle with 35-42t ASCOD fitting this role, so much so I can’t help thinking the Rapid Effect capability gap that started all the FRES nightmare in the first place will be a gap still.

  99. Not a Boffin

    “The one thing missing from the FRES CONOPS was having a political plan for the cessation of hostilities. FRES was never envisioned as a occupying force, it was meant to go home.

    We saw that in GW2. All well and good at kicking in the door, but sod all the Army and Northwood could do about no political plan. That’s when the Iraqi insurgents were given space to come up with inventive IEDs, and by then we were stuck there.

    There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with any of the UVs trialled, but none of them originally had any requirement for massive IED protection. The CONOPS was to enter fast, stabilise a situation, hopefully snuff it out and then either hand over to a heavier UK or NATO force or a UN/AU type of organisation for peace enforcement/keeping.”

    Absolutely, although tbh I don’t recall FRES being scaled for something as large (or hot) as Telic or Herrick. It was much more your Balkans / SL / small to medium-scale intervention than knocking over entire nations.

    As you say, as soon as we were pinned in place and started taking casualties, particularly with the Snatch poster-boy, the nearest armoured vehicle programme was always going to be favurite for a requirement change / uparmouring. No-one’s going to listen when you say “the FRES CONOPS / requirement isn’t for that”. Trouble is, if you’ve already got someting that meets the heavier requirement (warrior or UOR) you’re not going to get to spend money on another system either.

    Caught between two stools.

  100. Think Defence

    This diagrams might help here

    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Future-Protected-Vehicle-Goal.jpg

    And don’t forget, the Medium Weight Capability was meant to bulge out of the middle so the plan was for 1 light, 2 heavy and 3 medium weight brigades

    Then we went MRB, then MRB Mk2, and now our current structure in the reaction force.

    All the while, we kept the letter FRES

    Of course the point being, FRES the concept died many years ago, the vehicle programme lives on because to actually cancel FRES would be to invite even more ridicule than currently. So FRES lives on in name to save the MoD’s blushes

  101. Red Trousers

    Chris,

    The really good thing about FRES is that it has been spectacularly successful at being in the future. I recall the first SV URD aiming for an ISD of 2011 (back in 2001), and thinking to myself “that’s not very ambitious”. I think the UV was meant to be 2008 but that never crossed my desk, someone else was dealing with that.

    Basic problem: the Rapid Effects bit got mixed up with “we need to replace all of these thousands of nadgered old wagons left over from the Cold War, and we’re not (1999) fighting anyone anymore so now is a good time to do it”.

    Frankly, if we had bought two Brigade’s worth of ANY 8×8 wagon, a quarter of them with a 105mm smoothbore, and forward dumped them on Gib or Ascension and in the Oman, with rotating maintenance parties, we’d probably have got a Rapid Effects System for less than a billion, even including enablers such as shipping and training.

    Next more minor problem was requiring the CVR(T) recce replacement to have a common chassis with things like the 432 or Saxon replacement. Should have split that off. Now we’re going to get a 40 tonne recce wagon which is going to be cock all use for actual recce.

  102. Hohum

    TD,

    I love diagrams/slides like that:

    Presenter: This is how the world is and why will do what we are proposing
    Questioner: But how do you know the world is like that?
    Presenter: Because the diagram says so

  103. Chris

    RT – as I noted before the chassis (your term) hull (my term) is but one component of the vehicle and in my world families of vehicles have many different sized/shaped hulls, whatever suits the role best.

    On the subject of bigger is better, this: http://www.tankmuseum.org/ixbin/indexplus?_IXSESSION_=jzzy7Wbowxd&_IXDB_=&_IXSPFX_=templates%2Fsummary%2Ftvod%2Fb&_IXFPFX_=templates%2Ffull%2Ftvod%2Ft&_IXMAXHITS_=12&_IXACTION_=summary&_IXMENU_=Vehicles&%3Amus_administration_name=VEH&%3Amus_text_location=BOVTM&B*+in+mus_current_location_building+index+mus_text_location=.&%24+with+mus_catalogue+and+%28B*+in+mus_current_location_building+index+mus_text_location%29=.&_IXtext=tog&bov_main_utility_type= Apologies for the length of link; nothing shorter worked. The vehicle has composite armour (steel & concrete I believe), hybrid drive, a similar gun to Centurion’s original fit (75mm/17pdr), 600hp diesel engine… And was no use at all. The closing statement sums it up just fine: “[the] ideas were wrong; tanks needed to be smaller, agile and more mobile.”

  104. Red Trousers

    Chris, I’ll bow to your better judgement, but I find it difficult to conceive of something like a Chenowth or WMIK sharing too much in common with a CET replacement or a CV.

    To pick up on NaB’s comment up thread, “solutioneering” was always a mortal crime, but frankly a Chenowth or WMIK WAS the solution. Times pass, perhaps both are overtaken by something similar, but at about £100k a pop, you can update the wagons every decade and still be cheaper.

    Was thinking earlier, I made an observation about the 3eme REI somewhere upthread deploying off a ferry at Ploce having sailed from Toulon. Bog standard French ferry, drove on drive off, get 100 miles up country on wheels in about 3 hours. Had their ROE sorted, first rounds into the Serbs in Dobrinja before the Boss and I even got back to the office in Zagreb. Less than 3 days had elapsed since the UN in New York had authorised a change in mission. That’s what FRES should have been about. Rough, ready, rapid, good enough.

  105. Chris

    RT – well yes, there are limits to the stretch between smallest and largest in the family. Thus far in the stuff I’ve done the ones sharing the greatest commonality are between 7 & 17t, with one sort of related that might get over 30t but that’s a logs vehicle not a combat vehicle. Not really RT Beach Buggy to full-on MBT, but outside some of the wackier studies you wouldn’t expect the same base vehicle to cover that breadth of roles.

  106. monkey

    @RT & Chris
    re “rough,ready,rapid,good enough”
    In the invasion of France the Panzer mk I,II and III were used in May 1940 , they were under armoured against the Matilda mk I (there attack at Arras had Rommel on the defensive) and under gunned against the Char B , 75mm QFG . But the fast sweep of the attack overwhelmed the Allies lines . Using possibly inferior equipment ( ie against a better armoured/armed opponent) the right way can still get the job done.

  107. Chris

    monkey – I’ve met Matilda 1 and I’m not too sure that would have held back any form of Blitzkrieg; Matilda 2 though was quite a different beast; a fine machine in its day. I have no doubt the use of sound manoeuvre warfare methods can enable mundanely average equipment to have an impact well beyond its theoretical performance.

  108. Red Trousers

    Am not going to spill any secrets, you can all do your own open-source searching of what your own favoured OPFOR might have in the way of kit.

    Given the whole intention of FRES as a RAPID intervention system, the Petersberg Declarations and the sort of places it might have gone, you’d be hard pushed to come up with more than technicals among most possible opponents, BMP-1s or BTRs in a few cases. T-55/59s or 62s rarely, but both are out ranged by ATGW and neither can fire on the move.

    So we should have cut our cloth accordingly.

  109. mr.fred

    DavidNiven,
    I fear you may be confusing shaped charges (Munroe Effect) with platter charges (EFP, Misnay-Schardin effect).
    The latter is not particularly sensitive to stand-off or much affected by reactive armour.

    All,
    With regards to the concept of FRES, I wonder if you could match the state of FRES to the government of the time. Tony Blair’s government being keen to get involved, Gordon Brown more risk averse, that sort of thing.

    As to the size and nature of the Rapid Effect System, it strikes me that the ‘system’ needs to match the government that sends it. I doubt any government would now risk sending a regular formation in WMIKs and soft skins.

    There’s definitely something valuable going for a relatively cheap and frequently renewed vehicle rather than an expensive, once in a generation, wonder vehicle that does everything for everyone (because chances are that it will be expensive to the point that it will probably end up lasting two generations, won’t be a wonder vehicle and is badly compromised at doing anything for anybody)

    The current SV looks for all the world as if the honest specification read something along the lines of:
    “We want a like-for-like replacement of CVR(T) but with higher protection levels and our new gun.”

  110. Chris

    mr.fred – ref honest spec – sort of agree with minor adjustment – “We want a like-for-like replacement of CVR(T) but with MBT levels of protection and our new gun and an advanced sensor suite and an APU and networked battle management system.”

    As for WMIK, maybe you need to re-watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kbNenAKZZI as in QDG trying to look pleased their CVR(T) were to be replaced by LR WMIK (its on FRES 2012-2014 post too). Whether daft or not, equipping a regiment with old-fashioned WMIK surely means the will to deploy them still exists?

  111. Monty

    Not a Boffin

    I like your post very much. It perfectly sums up the difficult situation surrounding various FRES choices. So much so that I’ve quoted the most salient bits:

    “I think the real reason FRES has been so difficult is as follows :
    1. Post cold war (and certainly post Granby) all thinking was based on rapid early-entry with an economical force rather than deliberate staging/build up and forcible entry over longer periods.
    2. The Balkans ops had shown that light and/or air-mobile infantry in stabilisation roles tended to need armour.
    3. That led directly to the airportability (C130,later A400M) requirement and the associated vehicle designs to do that. Doctrine and technical risk containable within the requirement, no problem.
    4. Trouble is we then began to take IED hits on Telic and Herrick, which drove a significant protection requirement into all vehicles, exacerbated by the images of Snatch LRs in bits (actually a different requirement). At this point efficient airmobility becomes technically difficult and the scrutiny community will probably have started asking why Warrior can’t meet this latest threat and why a new vehicle is required. You now have a situation where doctrine and technical risk are not in balance with the requirement, which sends the whole system into meltdown, because the acquisition process is not sufficiently agile to cope with this – hence UORs, which fix the immediate need, but complicate the overall picture. The acquisition process has to have some form of scientific rigour applied to it, because of the sums of money involved, but that does mean an inherent inertia is added to the process to deliver it. Incidentally, that technical rigour is usually supplied by the successor organsiations to “The Research Establishments” (Dstl and QuinetiQ) – they’re not a panacea by any means.
    5. Given a requirement that either doesn’t support doctrine or could be delivered by existing kit, you’re going to struggle to get that through the approvals committees, which is I suspect exactly what’s happened. Which funnily enough is why a CVS-sized carrier or a light CAS jet would not get through requirements scrutiny either because they don’t meet the overall requirement or would be inefficient in doing so.”

    Your post makes two things very clear.

    – The previous UK structure for procuring equipment was absurdly bureaucratic, inefficient and unnecessarily complicated. Truly it was like an aircraft carrier that needs 5 miles to turn around. Thank Goodness we’ve changed it.
    – That said, had the MoD not changed course due to the new realities of RPGs and IEDs, we could well have ended-up with a fleet of vehicles that subsequently needed to upgraded or, worse still, replaced. The US Army is in the process of upgrading its Stryker fleet with about 1,000 out of 4,000 converted to the double V-hull configuration.

    I also note that the first post-Afghanistan generation of 8×8 vehicles is now reaching production. They all have V-hulls, or protected floors, highly innovative armour (including composite appliqué panels, new types of spall liners, and suspended seating), upgraded drivetrains, better suspension systems, better steering systems, and better situational awareness systems for the crew. Five designs stand out, VBCI+, Piranha 3+, Centauro 2, AMV XP, and Terrex. I would say those that have independent all-round suspensions with double wishbones, 450-500 bhp, and multi-axle steering have established a mobility standard for the category.

    For me, the most worrying error of the FRES debacle was Piranha 5. It is absolutely massive. We over-specified it and ended-up with a behemoth. It hasn’t won any of the several different 8×8 competitions it has been entered in since. It seems terribly top heavy and difficult to drive. Truly a camel designed by a committee. Piranha 3+ isn’t much more than a Stryker / LAV III with a DVH and upgraded armour, but it is a much more compact and manageable vehicle.

    I think Boxer suffers from the same problem as Piranha V. It too is over-specified. My friends in the Bundeswehr tell me that seldom are modules changed once fitted to the basic platform. But the modular structure adds weight and cost to the vehicle without substantially contributing to increased protection.

    I hear all this praise for the innovation of the UK’s lost military R&D assets, but frankly it didn’t contribute much to FRES UV. Instead, we had Qinetic / DSTL telling the MoD and the Army that it was possible to achieve Boxer levels of protection in a 20-tonne vehicle. It wasn’t possible with MRAV back in 2001. It isn’t possible today with FRES UV or UV(W) – as the programme is now called.

    I like what Nexter has done with VBCI+ and Patria with the AMV XP. Either of these vehicles perfectly suits our requirements.

  112. mr.fred

    Chris,
    I think the 2003-2008 phase was after the MBT-level protection. The SV post 2009 was a bit more realistic.
    As for battle management, CVR(T) had that, and could have had better sensors. I don’t know what is supposed to be so advanced about what is on SV. As far as I can tell it’s a bit better optronics and… ?

  113. Chris

    mr.fred – ref what’s so special? I have no idea either. But by all accounts (well the two comments I heard from people that ought to be in the know) the Gucci kit has completely filled the volume that on other ASCOD variants carries 8 dismounts; I mean, there has to be some reason why the thing is so large – it can’t just be for the fun of it.

    This really is where my view and that of Monty’s diverge a bit – its to do with the statement “[Its not] possible to achieve Boxer levels of protection in a 20-tonne vehicle. It wasn’t possible with MRAV back in 2001. It isn’t possible today” – the statement is true(ish) for vehicles of equivalent size. Big vehicles have a lot of outer surface to armour, smaller vehicles have less area. The same armour system will weigh the same per unit area no matter how big or small the vehicle; hence smaller vehicles reach the same protection at less weight. Therefore I am content lighter vehicles could match the Boxer levels of protection by being more compact, and being a bit more deliberate about what should be protected and what could be outside armour.

    Looking then at ASCOD as a 35t base vehicle; its dimensions in each axis are 40% greater than Scorpion/Scimitar, meaning conveniently each face of the armoured box has twice the area of CVR(T). At ASCOD protection levels a Scimitar sized vehicle would have approximately half ASCOD’s weight, about 17 or 18t. That’s doing nothing but reducing size and scaling the mechanical components accordingly. With some other technical choices I think further weight can be cut without significantly increasing risk to the crew. Hence I think a modern CVR(T) sized vehicle with Scout-SV levels of protection could well be 15t or less. Nothing significantly risky, just keeping size down. Real life wouldn’t be precisely that simple; some protection is due to empty space – the space for hull panels to distort without pushing on suspended structures, the space needed for free movement of suspended seating in blast events etc. But its not so far from the same protection as some would state. In my opinion.

  114. Red Trousers

    Chris,

    Re weight/protection,

    I’ll accept that I’m on the losing/unpopular end of the debate, some people (ex-colleagues and still friends) thinking me dangerously unhinged, but there is still a serious point to be made.

    Very few developing countries (where you might expect there to be trouble that a FRES type of response could be needed) have infrastructures capable of taking much over 5 tonnes MLC. We have been spoilt by 15 years of deserts and “relatively” free mobility.

    I once got the Geo team at HQ LAND to produce a going map for an African country, a Commonwealth nation that we really might want to help out with some rapid intervention if it starts looking dodgy. Silence after the presentation, then COS LAND started asking questions about over-bridging, fuel supplies needed for all of the additional Sappers, how many more linear metres needed on how many more ships. Turned out that we the UK don’t own anything like enough bridging to get more than 100 miles inland if we wanted to drive there with 20 tonne wagons, so the options reduced themselves to a few helicopters and not many soldiers.

    So 40 tonnes is going in the wrong direction, I think. It’s an opinion, I might be wrong, but it’s an opinion I’ve held for over a decade, and not seen a convincing counter to.

  115. The Other Chris

    Does the XP version of the AMV swim or is the Havoc version of the base AMV the only model?

  116. monkey

    @Chris
    Have you read Bryan Perret’s book Iron Fist , he gives a wonderful description of the 4th and 7th RTR attacking the flank of Rommel’s tank regiment and the supporting Totenkopf SS motorised infantry. The 37mm antitank guns and the same on the Panzer III failed to penatrate the Matildas I frontal armour ,just setting fire to the external stowage but they still trundled on shooting up the column. Rommel sped off to find a nearby 88mm battery and accompanying 105mm howitzers to open fire over open sites with HE to turn them back. They retreated after heavy losses . Rommel’s force was crippled and in his report back Guderian greatly exaggerated the force that attacked.

  117. Red Trousers

    Observer,

    Both. We were doing an exercise at country scale. This particular country is big, and has a great variety of terrain, from swamp to jungle to savannah, which is why it was picked.

    It was absolutely a fascinating exercise. We had three teams presenting options, a difficult scenario based on the 1960s Biafra conflict, and MOD observers. One team based on 19 Bde were using the current ORBAT (2003), one team based on the Lead Parachute Battle Group, and I led a made up formation based on a nominal future FRES Battlegroup of wheeled APCs and ATGW platforms (they were Piranha 3s). I think I was expected to be a cheerleader for the future, but with nothing to lose having a couple of months before put in my papers, I thought I’d expose the weaknesses as I saw them.

    The main issue was into theatre deployment. I was able to demonstrate that we could forward base at Ascension and get to theatre in less than 7 days, but that movement to the operating area would require two additional Sapper squadrons, and two additional RLC Close Support Squadrons. Still, that was more useful than the LPBG who could get into position in 3 days but who had no ability to travel about to conduct a protected convoy movement, or 19 Bde who could only deploy in 2 weeks and who had bigger intra-theatre movement issues than a FRES BG, and less intrinsic firepower.

  118. mr.fred

    RT,
    One answer might be more bridging assets? Added benefit for the civilian population is they get nice, sturdy bridges left behind.
    Not that I would be averse to such light vehicles (sub 5 tonne) provided that they are able to provide a mobility benefit. That they would be airportable, and in numbers and with a lighter logistics trail would be a strong benefit.

    If one wanted a protected capability, one might look to the Matilda 1, since it’s been mentioned, and how it achieved such high levels of protection in a relatively light chassis – a tandem crew layout, engine to the rear and automotive drive train out to the sides. I rather like the idea of a foxhound reversed with a low profile pod in place of the usual troop carrier. It would be lighter than the regular vehicle, but possibly a bit harder to drive unless you could re-arrange the steering. It would also be resistant to IEDs and doubtlessly small arms. You might even be able to arrange the protection to defeat heavy machine gun over some arcs. You could also add stand-off armour like bar armour without going outside the envelope of the normal vehicle. Plus lots of stowage, provided that you had the spare weight. Might be a bit short of personnel for dismounted work though.
    The rest of the time, should you be happy with WMIK-style vehicle, you could have that along with a troop-carrying vehicle. That would be a complex risk analysis though, determining whether you are going to have larger, protected vehicles, or smaller vehicles that would minimise losses should one be destroyed.

    Overall, as I see it, if you want to get in the face of a determined enemy, you need a heavy vehicle (40t and up) while the rest of the time you could really do with something lighter (20t and down) with really light stuff for austere conditions (less than 10t, down to 5t). I’m not sure I see a useful niche for the mediums (20-40t)
    It would be my guess that it would be best to start at the light end of each weight band, having an operational vehicle at the lighter weight that can be up armoured, within the limits of the drivetrain which would be specified to cope with the upper end of the band, as appropriate to the mission. The down side to that is I would expect a resistance to going out with anything but the maximum armour fit. And then it would be up-armoured.

    In keeping the weight down, anything bar the heavies would end up being a bit more specialised so that there would be no light IFV. The closest would have to be a cavalry vehicle with a small number of dismounts (2-4) in addition to the three crew. This in addition to APCs (full section dismounts, infantry weapons mounted only) and gun tanks (no dismounts, large calibre weapon, low profile hull)

    Doubtless Chris has such things in his vehicle menagerie, but we can’t be sure as he’s not going to show them off in public.

  119. DavidNiven

    Bloody hell a mention at TD towers! I’m sure Obsvr is itching to jump to the defence of the drop shorts, but the white lanyard in the corner of his eye is preventing him ;-)

    mr.fred

    You’re probably right with the reactive armour, although I was basing the stand off on our French off route mine we used in the 90’s. It was based on an EFP warhead had limits to range (like everything) and minimum standoff to allow the projectile to fully form before striking the vehicle. From my distant memory I believe the penetrative capability of the warhead is based amongst other things on the diameter of the plate forming the projectile, the off route mine was a substantial bit of kit, about the size of a small bin and you would be lucky to get more than one in your bergen.

    It’s good to get the views of the likes of RT, NAB and Hohum on this subject, although I am still none the wiser as to why the project has turned into such a fiasco.

  120. Chris

    monkey – not read it, but then I read little these days (other than stuff on the screen). In any case I find pictures photos or real life much better than words for getting complex ideas across.

    RT – 5t or thereabouts? Difficult. Or I should say difficult at the protection level MOD considers the minimum acceptable. If you don’t want protection at all perhaps an off-the-shelf offroader painted matt drab offers all you want, and probably a fraction of the cost of a bespoke solution. But that does me out of a good line of business, so…

    Perhaps a word or two why I pitched at the 13t to 14t category:

    Firstly I understand a significant proportion of the UK’s temporary bridging capability has a 13t limit (whatever that equates to as MLC)? A 14t GVW vehicle might well weigh less based on payload, fuel used and a host of other variables; but if the bullets were flying and the vehicle was maxed out at 14t, I’m guessing the commander would take the risk and run the bridge a tonne overweight (hoping there is a bit of headroom in the classification). I would also guess the commander of a fully laden 42t FRES would not chance crossing a 13t limit bridge.

    Then there is ground pressure. The tracked vehicles (according to Gov’t approved sums) have a ground pressure marginally greater than 9t CVR(T) but not as much as Stormer, much less than Warrior or FV430. The wheeled vehicles have ground pressure slightly lower than unarmoured Supacat HMT 4×4 (unarmoured version of Jackal) and again using sums as defined by Gov’t scientists a ground pressure 60% that of Ferret (see what big tyres can do?) and 70% that of unarmoured HMMWV. These are light on their feet.

    For stability I left a broad track between wheel centres, so overall vehicle width is of lorry proportion; but around the world nearly every delivery truck is that width (most commercial trucks in use in the third world started out delivering goods in the more developed parts of the globe) so access ought not be so difficult. Narrower vehicles are possible (the afore-mentioned HMT being one example) and the concepts could squeeze in a bit but that would compromise some of the features of the existing designs.

    So these possibly wouldn’t suit your run into unnamed African territory; some might struggle in rubber plantations. But they are not as clumpy as might be expected (if the sums can be believed). And as noted before the current set of concepts based on common subsystems/components are examples of what’s possible – other concepts of quite different form could be generated to suit different requirements.

    Not quite 5t RTmobiles, but for reasonable armour protection still quite agile and light-footed.

  121. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Observer – My money is on Nigeria, not least because I don’t think either of the Congos are in the Commonwealth…but then Ascension might be equally convenient for South Africa, so a possible post-majority rule civil war might have been the McGuffin…

    GNB

  122. Red Trousers

    Mr Fred, not sure why you’d want to turn a Landrover into something with protection against HMG and reverse all of the engineering. It was good enough when it was a Landrover, seems to have become all pansy now it’s made by some Italians and is given a growly cat name. Still a bloody Rover.

  123. Chris

    mr.fred – ref “but we can’t be sure as he’s not going to show them off in public” – not until 1) the prototypes are well on the way to completion, or 2) the designs have been bought by a rich corporation and they allow limited publication, or 3) I get thoroughly hacked off with the whole game and write off the past 4 years effort (and savings) in disgust…

  124. Red Trousers

    Chris,

    I always valued visibility (from, not of) and sound much more than any protection. It works better that way for staying alive. A surrounding roll bar and ladder type frame is also good for the Commander to be able to jump around and get different vantage points from when approaching corners or crests. A ten metre curly wurly lead on your headset is better than any armour.

  125. Observer

    DN, who knows. The more important question would be “Where do you go from here?”

    mr fred, I don’t think the bridging assets that RT mentions are the kind you leave behind. If he was talking about rapid deployment, it’s probably going to be something like an AVLB, which would also involve huge tradeoffs in an 8×8 force. For example, RT’s <5 ton vehicles can use existing bridges, but cannot create new ones, but once you lug an AVLB along, you can create new bridges to a limited extent, but your force can't use existing bridges any more without leaving the AVLB behind.

    Heli-portable bridging? Or simply design your vehicles to be amphibious?

    I have a preference for the later, much easier to have an intrinsic capability in the vehicles rather than add layers more logistics and infrastructure. Provided you don't go overboard on the TES and kill the amphibious nature of the vehicle. There seems to be a bit of neglect in using waterways as supply routes that can't be mined. I love to see how someone can plant a 40kg IED in the middle of a river. Won't make terrain constraints go away, but it would help alleviate the problem somewhat.

    And I hate using bridges. Automatic choke points those things. One guy with a HMG or RPG at the other end and you get a circus.

  126. DavidNiven

    @Chris

    ‘Firstly I understand a significant proportion of the UK’s temporary bridging capability has a 13t limit (whatever that equates to as MLC)’

    REBS has an MLC of 50 and MGB and general support bridges range from MLC 60 – 70 (depending on configuration) along with the close support bridges No12 etc which have an MLC of 70. The MLC given are for tracked vehicles generally it goes up to an MLC of 100 for wheeled vehicles.

    MLC 70 is basically Challenger 2 and MLC 100 is a fully loaded tank transporter.

    I’m starting to understand why we are at the two ends of the spectrum in terms of vehicle design :-)

  127. Red Trousers

    Bridges are LIM hogs on ships. Bridging generally requires lots of wagons to move them, all of which require logistics and are more bodies in theatre. Bridges canalise you (and note how many Afghanistan casualties were in the area of canals and ISAF bridges in the Green Zone).

    I had the pleasure of working in 1 Div as an SO3 when we had a Sapper DCOS, a very smart man. His view was that for every tonne of bridging you carried about, you needed a tonne of wagon, and for every bridge, 4 Sappers (3 to put it there, one to organise it). So every class 40 would be a total of 40 tonnes of wagon(s), and 4 extra men.

    We had in 1 Div a total of 38 AVLB, and another 600 metres of GSB. That was in Germany. I think you could divide that by 10 if you wanted to be expeditionary.

    Builds up. Not what you want with FRES.

  128. Monty

    @Chris,

    I very much agree that a smaller vehicle can have excellent armour protection in a 20 tonne package. In referring to MRAV, i was implicitly including a number of other requirements that meant it needed to be a larger rather than smaller metal box on wheels.

    In many ways, your concept is well articulated by the Foxhound LPPV. At 7.5 tonnes it still provides excellent mine and RPG protection. I think the basic platform could be easily enlarged with an extra axle to accommodate 8 instead of 4 dismounts. By the same token, I think it would also be possible to develop a tracked version of Foxhound, also weighing less than 10 tonnes. This could be ideal for covert recce.

    @TheOtherChris

    AMV XP can be amphibious or not. The level of armour is user customisable. The basic vehicle weight can be as little as 14 tonnes and can be increased to encompass greater levels of protection as required. The basic vehicle weight of 14 tonnes allows a cargo load (personnel, weapons turret etc.) of a further 14 tonnes for an all-up combat weight of 28 tonnes. The more you increase the basic vehicle weight (by adding armour) the more you reduce the cargo load capacity.

    Havoc is an adaptation of the basic AMV platform by Lockheed-Martin in the USA. It uses the amphibious equipment of the AMV, but LM have added various unique bits and pieces as requested by the USMC.

    I have to say that what Patria has done with the AMV XP is impressive. The y’ve taken what was already a very good platform and improved it across every critical dimension. Vehicle mobility was already class of the field with double wishbone suspension all-round.. The ability to customise the armour is equally clever. The drivetrain combines extraordinary power with economy. The AMV XP makes the Piranha 3+ look antiquated. It should come as no surprise that AMV XP should be launched at DSEI. I’d love to see JC Bamford build it in the UK.
    ___________

    For all vehicles, I think it is worth noting that a number of new armour solutions are appearing, offering much greater levels of protection for only a marginal increase in weight. The Army is very tight-lipped about the level of protection on the FRES SV and while it may not be ultimately as good as Challenger 2, it is certain that it sets new standards in the 40 tonne weight class.

  129. Observer

    RT, cannibalize the US’s MPC program and get an amphibious FRES? Might save a lot of trouble if your vehicles could just swim across any water body without being limited to land axis, and if the trouble was in Europe, I did mention half jokingly that you could just swim across the Channel without needing to wait for a ship. :)

    Added advantage in that you can skip the step of needing a port and just unload into the surf at the nearest beach to the trouble spot and drive up, which could save a lot of time, or bypass ports choked with unloading stores. I’m thinking African coastline for this.

    Unfortunately, most of the FRES candidates are not amphibious.

  130. mr.fred

    RT,
    As noted, you might be happy with WMIKs (be it on a Foxhound, a LMV, a Jackal or whatever) My thoughts were what is the art of the possible for a 5t vehicle. Foxhound as it stands in service being 5.5t empty, as nearly as I can figure it, so you’d need to make it smaller to get it below the 5t mark.
    That 5t limit isn’t going to get you anything particularly protected otherwise.

    While curly cable has advantages, wouldn’t a PRR linked into the intercom be less cumbersome?

    Observer,
    If you aren’t leaving the bridges behind, how is your logistic support going to catch up to your main force?
    I’m ever skeptical about amphibious vehicles because they are somewhat reliant on finding somewhere to get into the water and somewhere to get out. Nice if you can get it, but it does require a certain volume to weight ratio that is at odds with efficient armouring. Although if you have an armoured core and you can make the stowage water-tight that might be a way.

  131. Observer

    mr fred, I don’t think AVLBs are the bridges you are thinking of. :)

    I’m not sure about your protocol, but I don’t think AVLBs are simply left there. Might be wrong, don’t hobnob with vehicle bridging engineers too much. Assembled bridges, yes, those are left in place. Mobile bridges? No idea.

  132. Chris

    RT – ref sound & vision – understood; not entirely compatible with the concept of armour (see Jackal as example).
    Ref bridging – each vehicle to be supplied with a couple of Inflate-A-Bridges(TM)? Or planks, plastic bags and a few gallons of unmixed foam potting-compound (the stuff that foams up to a few hundred times the liquid volume and sets solid)? Maybe not.

    DN – ref bridging – I stand corrected; however this: https://democracy.buckscc.gov.uk/documents/s8240/T05.09%20Spreadsheet.pdf shows 14 weak bridges around where I used to live; those 14 being ones to have limit classification amended at whichever council meeting this was. I read from that example that a large number of bridges in a fairly affluent part of the home counties struggle at 18t and a good few at 7.5t – these will be wheeled vehicle limits; at least one of the canal bridges near Aylesbury had a sign stating “No Track Laying Vehicles” on its approaches as the hump of the bridge would focus all the vehicle weight on one balance point. So with use of the Army’s temporary bridging the new medium weight forces can move forward across obstructions in combat zones, but they couldn’t invade the commuter belt of one of the world’s better-off nations using the normal road infrastructure… I suppose this really backs up RT’s contention that the established infrastructure (even of this country) could constrain deployment of even relatively light vehicles.

    Monty – I don’t share your optimism that Foxhound could go tracked, the mechanical differences required I think would be unlikely to fit within the skateboard structure (the bit where all the mechanical stuff fits under the armoured box). But I agree the protection in Foxhound (and quite possibly the competing Supacat SPV400) is pretty decent.

  133. Deja Vu

    TD thanks for the reference truly honoured. Although as a weekend warrior I did not have as pronounced a ‘the CRA is a rank’ up chip on my shoulder as some.

    I think we shall need a summary of the summary.

    From Byzantine beurocracy through a rehash of preferences/prejudices to a discussion on bridging. With a few meanders along the way.

    Regarding bridging, AVLB provides tactical mobility to Armoured Forces, the launcher is based on the in service MBT and is therefore heavy and expensive. Yes they need to be recovered so they can be reused in the manoeuvre battle.

    Mr Fred, the bridges you are thinking of are the General Support Bridge launched on ABLE and REBS a UOR purchase. http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/02/uk-military-bridging-equipment-br90-and-rebs/

    However whilst not as heavy they are also expensive and need to be recovered. They are also not suitable for long term MSR use let alone civilian traffic.

    Infrastructure bridging using the Bailey Bridge principles will be required to provide a medium term solution with level approaches.

    As regards amphibians if we are returning to the land of the two rivers, C130, Tornado, Chinook – no one expects the Spanish Inquisition- shouldn’t the M3 rigs start trundling down the Autobahn heading south east to save on shipping space.

  134. DavidNiven

    Chris,

    ‘I read from that example that a large number of bridges in a fairly affluent part of the home counties struggle at 18t and a good few at 7.5t’

    We’d still need bridging as the MAN SV 6t has a loaded MLC of 19. So our recce could cross but we’d have trouble supplying them.

    ‘I suppose this really backs up RT’s contention that the established infrastructure (even of this country) could constrain deployment of even relatively light vehicles.’

    Thats why you have bridging assets, so you are not constrained. In an assault would you use the existing bridge? (known location, over watch etc) or would you cross at a location of your choosing, existing infrastructure is for use by the following formations. Bridging, Fascine’s and hydraulics are the enablers of maneuver in the type environment we are talking.

  135. John Hartley

    Perhaps we should just stop faffing & get a licence to build the ST Kinetics Bionix II in the UK. 30mm Bushmaster gun. Designed to be compact enough to get through the narrow tracks in rubber plantations. Amphibious, so less of a worry about the strength of local bridges.

  136. Peter Arundel

    @Monty – I don’t think that a stretched Foxhound would provide any more usable space for dismounts. Part of it’s protection comes from the fact that the crew sit within the wheelbase. If it hits a mine nobody is sitting over a wheel. Add another axle (assuming it goes at the back like a typical three axle truck) and you get a longer vehicle with more space inside but not much, if any, of that space will be within the wheelbase. You’d have more space for kit but no more for people. I also have doubts about such a vehicle’s off-road abilities. Putting the extra axle in the centre (like a Saracen) for better off-road performance and you compromise the blast protection.

  137. Chris

    Pete A – I tend to agree with the configuration of Foxhound (and Supacat’s SPV400) where the armoured box extends over the wheels; Saracen was a very good solution in that the wheels were widely spaced which meant the seating was not over the wheels but alongside – much better. It does make for a wider vehicle though.

  138. A Different Gareth

    Does the Foxhound rear narrow as it does primarily for better blast protection or to enable the passenger module to be tipped over for ease of maintenance?

  139. Chris

    ADG – this image: http://ukmamsoba.org/images/obb083112_0066.png suggests the pod in its tipped position would not have been hampered had the gradient change of the armour been omitted. I always thought it was a blast relief measure anyway, but I hadn’t considered the point you raised so I checked. It must be said though that if the pod needed to be tipped further then its the cut-back armour that would allow that.

  140. mr.fred

    The cut-out at the back is probably there to permit the wheel to pass without imparting too much impulse to the body, in the event of a explosion under the wheel.

  141. mr.fred

    Going back to the bridging bit, I was looking at TD’s bridging series. If the general support bridges are supposed to be picked up and taken with the group, then how does that square with RT’s scenario where the FRES battle group runs out of bridging assets?

  142. DavidNiven

    mr.fred

    ‘RT’s scenario where the FRES battle group runs out of bridging assets?’

    The battle group should not run out of bridging assets in theory. This is why I am not concerned about the UV variant of FRES weighing between 25-30t, in the medium weight category we have REBS and the General Support Bridge (ABLE), coupled with the fact that there is a kit to launch REBS from a Stryker vehicle under armour, so we could use either Terrier or the chosen UV to launch the bridge and have the MAN REBS vehicle recover it to allow the GSB to be built and the assault bridge to keep up with the battle group.

    It may be worth our while to develop a pier and linking system fro the REBS so as to allow larger crossing similar to the No 10.

    With Terrier, REBS and ABLE coupled with fascines and trackway we are nearly just as capable in the medium weight category as we are in the heavy, and if we invest a little money in a REBS pier and linking system we will be just as capable.

  143. mr.fred

    It seems to me that you have a choice with bridging. Either you run out of bridges by leaving them behind, or you run out of logistics because they cannot follow you.
    Or possibly you have your logistics convoys travelling around in big lumps with its own bridging support.

  144. Observer

    mr fred, if they launch and recover, you won’t ever run out of bridging (the hauling vehicle crosses the bridge and picks it up from the other side). The big problem to that is when you do it for every stream and river you encounter, you’ll get to your objective. By sometime next month.

    One of the reasons why I lean towards amphibious vehicles. You can simply stop faffing around with bridging and just drive across, though you still need to avoid ravines and valleys. Another reason is that bridging is limited to the bridge length while amphibious vehicles can simply swim across even a lake.

    Recommend against the Bionix, for one, the prep time to turn it amphibious is horrible, for another, you guys will think it is designed not for the 90% percentile, but the 10% one. :) One of the reasons I heard about Warthog having initial problems that people were hem and hawing around was basically that the seats were too small. Bionix is heaps worse. If you want a replacement, I’d have to recommend the Terrex instead. Lots more legroom so you won’t have to amputate, faster land/water transition, more space = more room for later upgrades, and frankly I just like the side mounted equipment racks. :) Bigger profile though.

  145. A Different Gareth

    Chris,

    I guess they narrowed the body at the rear to improve protection and then took advantage of it to enable easier maintenance.

    Just to complicate matters, before posting that comment I was looking at pictures of Foxhound and it was only then that I noticed there are two versions.

    The one in the picture you linked to is an early one with just one big step up in the waistline at the rear. That one I am convinced needs that step in the bodywork to tip the module over.

    The ones that got to Afghanistan had two smaller steps up in the waistline – one underneath the side door and one before the rear axle. The newer, narrower v middle makes me less certain that it needs the step to enable tipping over of the module but once the level of protection over the rear axle was settled and internal layout of the kit made to fit it’d be daft to then change it.

  146. ArmChairCivvy

    Still to read thru the comments, but here is the obvious trade secret to “success”:

    “t reported the total spent to date on FRES UV, FRES SV, TRACER, MRAV, Terrier and Warrior CSP was £718 million, with not a single in service vehicle to show for it.”

    Instead of changing the name between prgrms, keep it! Then you will only get one prgrm cost attributed against your unit costs… Not 2,3,4…
    (Terrier, if anyone wondered; was restarted from scratch)

  147. Mike W

    @David Niven

    “in the medium weight category we have REBS and the General Support Bridge (ABLE), coupled with the fact that there is a kit to launch REBS from a Stryker vehicle under armour, so we could use either Terrier or the chosen UV to launch the bridge and have the MAN REBS vehicle recover it”

    I did not not know that the REBS system was staying for certain. Remember that it was obtained as a UOR and only about a dozen systems were purchased (I think). More money would need to be spent there then, to obtain the number of bridges needed, or would it? Good system, though, I understand.

    What about a towed bridge on a trailer? I know that they are used by the U.S. Marines but would they be of much use to a fast-moving battlegroup or recce fomation/unit?

  148. Pete Arundel

    “One of the reasons why I lean towards amphibious vehicles. You can simply stop faffing around with bridging and just drive across,”

    LOL! Yeah, every river has a shallow, sloping, firm entry and exit point and every canal a handy slipway.

    I truly believe amphibious capability is generally worthless. To achieve it you need large, lightly protected vehicles or extra equipment such as floatation screens. Entry and exit points need careful surveying at the least and, often, preparation to ensure your vehicles can get in and out.
    Ever wondered why the only tracked, amphibious vehicle in the british army was for many years the CET? And why it had a rocket launched grapnel? There is a place for amphibous vehicles and that’s with the Royal Marines. For the army the capability is too limited and involves too many compromises in vehicle design especially with regard to protection.

  149. Observer

    PE, I’m well aware of the need for route recce, it’s not a capability you can use all the time, but when it is useful, it is very useful. Technology has advanced a bit from the times of the M-113 and even the old Bionix, the new 8×8 converts simply by extending the trim vane, though it is arguable if quick converting is “new”, IIRC, the old amphibious AMX-10 didn’t need much prep time too, the weakness of that one was finicky, trublesome water jets.

    BTW I suspect the protection for those new 8x8s is tougher than your CVR(T), comparable to the Warrior, same weight class as the Warrior but with a steel frame instead of aluminium, so saying that there is a compromise to protection opens almost the whole of your vehicle fleet to the same criticism (sans CR2).

    Honestly, a lot of the western amphibious vehicles are not the best they can be, so it’s no surprise that they get underrated. Even the USMC’s AAV71 is not really outstanding (I think it’s terrible, but that is partly due to its’ age.). If something can give Warrior level performance and the ability to swim, why not? It’s not like you lost anything going for it.

  150. Red Trousers

    Re bridging and FRES.

    Part of the FRES concept was an equation to do with deployability and scale. The various scales were normally a Squadron size deployment, BG, and at the top a Brigade size deployment, with an equally scaled radius of operations of 50, 100, and 200 miles.

    Those advocating lots of bridging for 40 tonne monsters might like to think about how much bridging might be required. It is logarithmic as FRES vehicle mass and radius of operations increase. It quickly gets to the point where you’d be deploying a Sapper Brigade just to support a FRES BG. And that completely undermines the FRES concept, because you’d need 4 times more strategic deployment assets, and three times as long.

    It was never set as such (sadly :( ) but I always thought a 5 tonne vehicle limit should have been set for FRES wagons.

  151. Chris

    RT – my thoughts run along the same lines; to my mind having to build infrastructure as you go along to enable the advance to contact doesn’t seem all that rapid a reaction. Or a light footprint; how many RAF transport assets are used to bring in the bridging, fascines, construction equipment, MHE and associated personnel for the degree of construction envisaged?

    But 5t is awful small. Either light armour of Ferret variety or unarmoured vehicles to white-van/light lorry size? Or shades in between. Note that the unarmoured version of Jackal is around 7t fully laden – all that high mobility stuff adds weight, and Army types will load stuff (ammo, water, ammo, rations, fuel and ammo) onto the platform until it screams ‘no more!’ Bearing in mind the basis of the requirement was rapid effect, that suggests engaging opposition forces not watching them – the unarmoured RT patented recce beach-buggy would not survive long in a toe-to-toe slogging match… So, within the 5t limit what balance of the familiar protection mobility firepower characteristics did you envision?

  152. DavidNiven

    Mike W,

    ‘I did not not know that the REBS system was staying for certain’

    I am not sure either, but the costs of bringing such as system into core would be very small. REBS could be used with 3 Cdo to give them an assault bridge capability, but I would deploy from the Terrier rather than the flat rack as that part is not reliable enough to use in the assault role although its good enough to use as a TBT/recovery vehicle. We could always purchase some Pearson Bridge Launch mechanism to deploy our in service No 12’s.

    ‘What about a towed bridge on a trailer?’

    That would be fine for the follow up but I have my reservations about using it in the assault phase, but then again it depends on your situation and threat.

    @RT

    why would you need more bridging than what we use now?

  153. Pete Arundel

    “If something can give Warrior level performance and the ability to swim, why not? It’s not like you lost anything going for it.”

    Yes you have. you can’t get something for nothing. In order to float, a vehicle must weigh less than the water it displaces (obviously . . .) so, in order to make, for example, Warrior float it would have to displace more water than it does now. This can be achieved in three ways; Add floats, add a collapsible flotation screen or make the vehicle itself bigger. Of course if you make it bigger and retain the armour protection then it will get heavier as there is a larger area to be armoured to Warrior standards. More weight means a bigger engine. A bigger engine means more weight so the hull will have to be bigger again to allow it to float. I suspect that a hypothetical amphibious Warrior would be huge (Chris might be able to do the calculations . . . :-) ) just look at the AAV7 or, even more extreme, it’s LVT-5 predecessor to see lightly protected and how big a 30 ton vehicle has to be made in order for it to float.

  154. Observer

    Chris, when I did literature once upon a time in high school, there was this thing called a character study. It was insightful and also applicable to history in the sense that if you knew the basic driving motivations of a person, you can give a good guessimate on his possible actions and in terms of military, tactics.

    I’m betting that his light strike vehicles will contain scout snipers with 7.62mm sniper rifles for anti-personnel work and use indirect fire for the heavy stuff. :)

    Armour and weapons? Not much.

    @PE, the problem is not that you are getting something for nothing, the problem is that you neglected the field for such a long time that advances have passed you by. There is no longer a need for flotation devices and I’m not talking about a hypothetical but practical, in service vehicles that are out there already. Just by bringing the vehicles up to date will get you “something for nothing”, but is in reality “catching up to the neglect”.

  155. ArmChairCivvy

    “explosive mass12 kg armour penetration 100 mm at a 30 m distance” wanted to put this one here as over the recent years the IED builders are made out to be of some kind of genius ilk. [reading the discussion on the 12th, on this thread]
    – They are simply copying stuff that has been on the kit list of some European armies for the last quarter century

  156. Mike W

    David Niven

    Thanks very much for the reply. All sensible stuff.

    The idea of using a Pearson Bridge launching system seems a good one and, if finances allowed, it could be fitted to a vehicle like the Warrior ABSV.

  157. ArmChairCivvy

    RE: Mike W’s “What about a towed bridge on a trailer? I know that they are used by the U.S. Marines but would they be of much use to a fast-moving battlegroup or recce fomation/unit?” there is a half-way house.

    You use trucks for the same version of the bridge that the MBT would recover (the truck can go back, to get another one and thus keep the supply route open). They are rather big though (from Leopard to a truck):
    http://static.commercialmotor.com/big-lorry-blog/Armysisu1.jpg

  158. monkey

    @RT&Observer
    regarding crossing natural obstacles, is it not part of reconnaissance to investigate crossing points be they natural or man made and report back their suitability. The reconnaissance being photographic interpretation of natural (animal) or man made routes combined with any geographical / historical knowledge (ie someone who knows the landscape) first then after selection ,visual inspection for confirmation as to what crossing can handle what traffic and for how long with/without sapper support ( route degradation due to traffic) .
    Wellington in India found an unguarded ford known only to the locals on crossing managed to flank a much larger Majahratt force approx 5 times his own force and rout them . In the Normandy campaign reccon found and unguarded bridge on a road which divided to complete German battle sectors , the road was the boundary and each German generals staff assumed the other hand responsibility so left it unprotected.

  159. Observer

    monkey, yes, which is why my comment on the importance of route recce.

    Route degradation, not so much, that is more the engineer’s job, ours was more a one shot to get a decent force behind enemy lines.

    They had this thing called a penetrometer which was basically a spike connected to a spring loaded gauge that you shoved into the soil until it could not go any further and take the readings off the gauge. The shore measurements were ok. Unfortunately, someone had to go wading up to hip level to get the string of readings from the water to the shore. :)

  160. Observer

    @monkey

    Fricking wildlife! Those things are more dangerous than live firing!

    Nothing more exciting than taking a dive behind cover during an exercise only to find you’re sharing space with a black cobra. Balls shrinking moment.

  161. Pete Arundel

    “the problem is not that you are getting something for nothing, the problem is that you neglected the field for such a long time that advances have passed you by”

    Sorry, observer, but, to quote Montgomery Scot, “Ye cannae change the laws of physics”. In order to swim a 30 ton amphibious vehicle will be bigger and more lightly protected than one that cannot swim. It has to displace more than it’s weight in water. Technology cannot change that one, simple fact. Armour plate may no longer be simple welded steel but it’s still heavy and it still doesn’t float.

    Can you point at any amphibious vehicle that has anything other than the lightest of armour protection? I doubt there’s one that can keep out anything greater than 14.5mm AP without applique armour packs and I bet it can’t swim with those armour packs installed.

    Happy to be proven wrong, of course ;-)

    Mind you, even if such a vehicle exists, I still maintain that the capability is almost useless as no vehicle commander who wants to keep his job would, when faced with a river to cross, “stop faffing about and just drive across” since the chances of getting up the opposite bank are so slim.

  162. Observer

    Pete, looks like your arguments hinge on 2 aspects. The technical and the tactical. I’ll cover them one at a time.

    Technical-

    Pete, which part of the point that I was talking about existing in service vehicles passed you by? Go compare the statistic of any of the USMC’s contenders for the MPC project with Warrior. All of them are narrower and shorter than Warrior, though they compensate for it by being about a meter longer.

    “I doubt there’s one that can keep out anything greater than 14.5mm AP”

    You are still thinking of the old M-113. Which once upon a time we also used with flotation devices to cross water bodies too though the prep time for that was really bad. Technology has passed 1970s tech behind.

    Just go check up the US’s MPC project and all its associated PR.

    Tactics-

    While you talk about “no commander” etc etc, there are photos and video evidence that the Warthogs in Afghanistan are being used in exactly this manner, though theirs is a wading capability rather than a swim capability. Not to mention that my unit personally have been involved in “wet gap” practice.

    https://britisharmy.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/amoccct-2012-089-1611.jpg?w=717&h=536

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJgQ11d6Gp8 -Fast forward to 2:36. Another at 3:02, though that one doesn’t look like it turned out too well. The TES modifications screwed up the buoyancy of the vehicle.

    Crossing sites, while not everywhere, are not ultra rare either, terrain depending.

    It’s also hard to believe someone who keeps screaming “It can’t be done! It can’t be done!” when your unit has been involved in doing the things he states cannot be done. It’s also strange when someone says “There is no accessibility!” yet does not bat an eyelid when mention of M3 rigs come into play. IIRC, to get that into use requires both an ingress and egress route too? Yet somehow it passes while amphibious vehicles suddenly get jammed.

  163. Pete Arundel

    “Go compare the statistic of any of the USMC’s contenders for the MPC project with Warrior. All of them are narrower and shorter than Warrior, though they compensate for it by being about a meter longer”

    Well I went and had a look (wikipedia) and none of them seem to have turrets so I’m not sure about them being shorter than a warrior. They look impressive!

    “You are still thinking of the old M-113. Which once upon a time we also used with flotation ”

    I wasn’t, actually. Anyway, I thought the M113 was amphibious with little preparation ie it just needed the trim vane lowering.

    “While you talk about “no commander” etc etc, there are photos and video evidence that the Warthogs in Afghanistan are being used in exactly this manner, though theirs is a wading capability rather than a swim capability. Not to mention that my unit personally have been involved in “wet gap” practice.”

    Well this sort of makes my point. Wading is very different to swimming since your tracks (or wheels) are in contact with the ground at all times. Trying to get up a river bank with three quarters of your vehicle afloat and only a small portion of your track length able to make contact with the bank is a recipe for getting stuck. I would imagine wheels are at an even greater disadvantage.
    As for wet gap practice, were you sent out and told to cross a river and given no further instructions as to where or were you sent to a known good crossing point?
    I’m not arguing that amphibious vehicles are useless just that for the vast amount of situations they will encounter in service the facility to swim is redundant and the compromises in their design, especially protection, aren’t worth it. When it is used is when the crossing point or beach is well surveyed and positively identified as suitable. In most cases such a suitable exit will be chopped up by the first vehicles that use it and become increasingly difficult for following vehicles . What you can’t do with any amphibious vehicle is arrive at your water obstacle and “just drive over”

    “It’s also hard to believe someone who keeps screaming “It can’t be done! It can’t be done!” when your unit has been involved in doing the things he states cannot be done.”

    Think I’ve already covered this. . .

    ” It’s also strange when someone says “There is no accessibility!” yet does not bat an eyelid when mention of M3 rigs come into play. IIRC”

    Not me, sport. Never mentioned any vehicle by name except Warrior as a control.

    “to get that [M3] into use requires both an ingress and egress route too? Yet somehow it passes while amphibious vehicles suddenly get jammed.”

    Who uses them? What other vehicles do they have on hand?

  164. Observer

    M3 rigs are basically rolling pontoon bridges, they drive into the water and unfold.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M3_Amphibious_Rig

    You guys use it as well. They drive into the water, unfold, and either join together to form a bridge across or are simply used as ferries and MBTs drive on them, they sail to the other side, unload and come back for another load.
    No other vehicles, they are independent units, though groups of them can combine to form a bridge.

    “As for wet gap practice, were you sent out and told to cross a river and given no further instructions as to where or were you sent to a known good crossing point?”

    Yes and no. Procedure is to send recce units ahead first and ask them to find a point if there is too much vegetation. If the terrain is like the one in Afghanistan like the film above, there usually is no need as most of the bank is accessible. The other usage is to bypass choke points like bridges. Instead of taking a bridge and getting cannalized as RT mentioned, some units prefer to swim across beside the bridge to avoid demo traps and IEDs. Areas near bridges usually tend to be landscaped to some extent.

    “compromises in their design, especially protection”

    Prove it. Most of the MPC designs quote 30mm resistance from the front, 14.5 from the side, similar to Warrior, so why do you keep claiming loss of protection? They are even steel framed as opposed to Warrior’s aluminium frame which may even give it slightly better resistance.

  165. Pete Arundel

    “Prove it. Most of the MPC designs quote 30mm resistance from the front, 14.5 from the side, similar to Warrior, so why do you keep claiming loss of protection?”

    Well I can’t since the only sources I have access to are public.

  166. monkey

    @Observer & Pete Arundel
    Regarding amphibious ability of you APC/AFV an aspect to consider is the OPFOR’s position or even your own if faced with an OPFOR so equipped. The defensive/offensive commander has to consider the value of water obstacles to their campaign in terms of as defensive obstacle. If advancing it could protect a flank or provide an obstacle to drive an retreating enemy up against or if on the defensive similarly protect a flank and provide an obstacle for the enemy difficult to cross. Any army has limited bridging/ferry capability as discussed above and manmade/natural crossing points create choke points for arty / bombers to mess up. If an OPFOR is primarily equipped with amphibious kit such as the Russian BMP/BTR series the water obstacle needs a lot more attention to cover all the possible ingress/egress points ( the unit can swim 100m’s up or down stream to get out) . This then dilutes the commanders forces available for the task in hand which would give an offensive/counter offensive more chance of success.
    By having at least some amphibious capability you give the OPFOR commander the same headache.

  167. Observer

    monkey, exactly. Even if there is a loss of protection (not true, but I can let a hypothetical pass), the strategic and tactical advantages seriously outweigh the possible disadvantages. Your force becomes much harder to cannalize and pin down, the enemy has to honor a potential water axis threat, and your logistics become much simpler.

  168. ArmChairCivvy

    I think that “By having at least some amphibious capability you give the OPFOR commander the same headache” hits the nail on the head, leaving specialists like the RM aside(from consideration).

    The biggest value is for recce missions: in fact, with their recce wagons being amphibious, the Soviets saw river systems to be preferable to following roads.

    But an even bigger headache is formed if you can muster a combined arms team : say MTLB for infantry/ command/ arty observation and 122mm arty pieces “in tow” – not towed, but on the same chassis and light enough to swim, too.
    – I ca’t think of any amphibious load carriers (a la Stalwart), so such team would be on an Arnheim mission – to be relieved quickly by the main force. Unlike in Arnheim, they can also retreat: swim back!

  169. monkey

    @Observer
    on protection all can withstand being sprayed up with 7.62 NATO mg fire your most likely threat on any given encounter with infantry or infantry portable ATGW , the Russians get round those by opting for point defence like Athena. Above 7.62 NATO you are looking at vehicle mounted and he is probably as lightly armoured as you. Again the Russians get round this by fitting 14.7/30/76mm depending on variant and vehicle mounted ATGW. This fit out gives the OPFOR a lot to think about as well as being outnumbered locally on a concentrated attack on their dispersed defences.
    You have to take a risk with the lead element securing the opposite bank whilst your limited bridging/ferrying (and vulnerable) are positioned to get your heavy kit over the water. If it happens on a MBT Squad pretty much anything’s f**ded anyway but another MBT squad who can slug it out with APFSDS .

  170. Observer

    monkey, my point about defence was a rebuttal to the claimed assertion that an amphibious vehicle has weaker protection simply because it is amphibious. My point was that you cannot simply assert without looking at specific actual examples. Think the Patria already claims 14.7mm resistance from the sides, 30mm from the front, which would make it fairly decently protected. I’m not even going to go into the American EFV. It works but costs a bomb.

    Pete was working on the principle of “everybody knows”, which in this case, “common wisdom” fell short of developments. Amphibious 25 ton AFVs with decent protection are viable. It’s just how invested are you into amphibious vehicles. And your advance party is also a good example of how amphibious vehicles were also used in the past, advance party to cross the river and guard the bridging party in a combined arms group.

  171. Chris

    Obs – setting aside all pro- and anti- arguments, in one basic fact Pete is absolutely right – if your armour ends up heavier than a tonne per cubic metre it sinks. That is absolute physics. Some vessels achieve less displacement by foils and motion; the average lump of armour is not going to either be shaped for such hydroplaning or be fast enough to make a difference. So far no-one outside Hollywood’s special effects teams have made hovertanks. So, as armourplate tends to be heavy, you need to carry a lot of air to keep the average density down. But then, in the same way nature abhors a vacuum, the Army abhors empty space in its vehicles – if there’s a space something should be put in it…

    All of which inevitably means to make a vehicle float (and float with the right attitude) it will need to be bigger than a vehicle not designed to float, where modern design criteria demands minimal wasted internal volume as space under armour is expensive.

    Patria’s AMV can float. Its all-up weight is defined as a range between 16t and 27t – I’m pretty sure if its to float it won’t be much heavier than 16t – a vague wet-finger analysis suggests at about 20t the water level would be up to the glacis plate, and going deeper would be ‘uncomfortable’. New armours are lighter than older tech, but not by orders of magnitude, so the protection will be limited by the maximum safe amphibious weight. In my opinion. If that level of protection (and internal equipment fit and payload limit) is good enough, then motor on.

    The Soviets liked amphibious capability. BTR60/70/80 and BMP1/2 were good amphibians but their armour was about the same as Ferret. Big boxes made of thin material. That was their design choice, to suit their intended use. In the case of the Red Army the light protection of each vehicle was compensated by vast numbers of vehicles – a credible force could reach the objective despite high attrition levels.

  172. Monty

    Observer,

    You are correct. Amphibious 8x8s with decent protection are now viable. The Basic Patria AMV has 14.7 mm protection all round and 30 mm protection across the frontal arc and it can swim. The vehicle weighs around 14 tonnes. With mission configurable appliqué armour panels, you can increase the protection considerably, but the vehicle is no longer swimable. I think it would be certainly worth having an amphibious option available.

    One of the things that makes a mix of protection and flotation possible is that many modern composites utilise polymer / composite laminates with pockets of air in between the various levels. The armour isn’t just solid steel. I need to be careful what I say here, but a typical block of armour that used to weigh 3 tonnes now weighs 1 tonne but offers the same protection. The armour on the FRES SCOUT SV, for example, is astonishing for a vehicle of that weight.

    The real point I think is important to make here is that with wheeled medium weight armour tactics have fundamentally changed. Formations are built around infantry APCs not 8×8 wheeled tanks. The concept is all about delivering large amounts of infantry to where they are needed. If you start using 8×8 formations like heavy armour you will come unstuck very rapidly. For the most part they will seek to move out of contact with the enemy. They’ll try to outflank other units by virtue of their speed and relative quietness. Once you get to the area you wish to secure, troops will dig in and establish standard defensive positions, anti-armour ambushes etc.

    Of course, 8x8s need to be able to defend themselves from other light vehicles. They need to fight when the situation arises. They also need to be able to follow MBTs. With standard infantry versions mounting only 12.7mm HMGs they won’t be able to contribute much to the fight. I note that the US Army is now contemplating fitting 30 mm cannons to its Strykers. Even so, the basic principle of Battlefiled taxi versus IFV holds true. Discretion is the better part of valour.

    When it comes to heavy duty neutralisation of enemy assets, you will rely on combat aircraft, helicopters, CR2 tank guns, FRES SCOUT SV 40 mm CTA cannons, artillery and dismounted infantry with ATGMs. Your 8x8s will be parked out of the way.

  173. A Different Gareth

    Monty said: “The armour on the FRES SCOUT SV, for example, is astonishing for a vehicle of that weight.”

    The side armour of PMRS looks almost like floatation devices. If it folded in half so it covered only the tracks but was twice as thick I wonder if it would float.

  174. DavidNiven

    Your best solution for FRES SV is to add a snorkeling capability such as the Leapord 2 which can cross obstacles to a depth of 4m. And maybe seriously consider adding it to the Challenger 2, CRAAV , and Terrier.

    The army does not require a large fleet of amphibious vehicles with the associated extra purchase and servicing costs for a capability that is rarely used, plus the Polish Rosomak (AMV) up armoured for Afghan can no longer swim along with other such vehicles that have been up armoured to deal with modern threats, such as the VAB.

    This is why I have no fears over a 25-30(odd) t utility vehicle.

  175. Observer

    Chris, bog standard Terrex floats at 25. Reason is one Monty points out. Modern armour composites.

    Monty, I do get your point, your tactics are infantry based, which is one of the 2 ways to fight, the other is armour based. Both are actually equally valid depending on the situation. If you were going infantry heavy, I’d agree, HMG/GPMG turrets and lots of infantry space. Inversely, if you were going armour heavy, then a 30mm-40mm with less infantry space makes sense. Basically, it all depends on your playbook if you want to rely on armour or infantry. Most armies have a mix. From my observations, a 40mm CTA armed 8×8 won’t surrender much to a similarly armed Warrior.

  176. Observer

    I think we’re running into the differences in tactics similar to Frenchie and the French army’s airlift capabilities. The French seem to put a premium on air deployability, we seem to put a similar premium on amphibious vehicles. Looks like the British has a preference for conventional vehicles.

  177. ArmChairCivvy

    That “The armour isn’t just solid steel. I need to be careful what I say here, but a typical block of armour that used to weigh 3 tonnes now weighs 1 tonne but offers the same protection 2 would be orders of magnitude, unlike what Chris stated? Engine and all the automotive parts & armament unchanged, sure.

    Chris says it is 16t vs. “Patria AMV has 14.7 mm protection all round and 30 mm protection across the frontal arc and it can swim. The vehicle weighs around 14 tonnes” vs. Monty’s 14
    – it does not matter; the predecessor (with conventional armour) was abt 20t
    – and protection has improved… is “best of class” at these weights, and can be improved in the field

    True: “The Soviets liked amphibious capability. BTR60/70/80 and BMP1/2 were good amphibians” for the liked part of it (lots of rivers running South to North to cross). BTR50 was a good amphibian; almost looked like a boat! BTR60 was not
    – the genesis of AMV has something to do that one of those went down with all hands (all conscripts) in calm conditions during a lake crossing… they soon left service

    The swimming in this is between 1 and 2 minutes of elapsed time (an advert obviously, but to me looks like it has been put out by the client!):
    http://www.military.com/video/combat-vehicles/armored-personnel-carriers/marine-corps-havoc-8×8-vehicle/2777785430001/

  178. monkey

    @Observer
    I was coming at the amphibious thing on tactics I will grant you , another string to your bow , and as Monty says if you can field strip the applique off some of your kit as required it can return that functionality. Equally valid is to have them all be able to deep ford using snorkels be they Medium weight to full MBT again for the same tactical reasons above, just to give the OPFOR commander sleepless nights. The snorkelling kits in theatre in limited numbers but trucked/hellied in as required to the water crossing staging area with associated engineers to expedite the fitting.
    The western manufactures I think are playing their cards close to their chest regarding what armour fit for bare to full on wide ass Scout SV can withstand and I suspect the same will come out of the latest generation of armour in now entering production in Russia. (how many eastern European accents do you think you will find in a western armour plant these days? Quite a few. Once it took years to train an operative to loose all trace of an accent or grammatical heritage, nowadays with an open EU why bother )

  179. Pete Arundel

    OK, accepting that a modern 8×8 can have a base armour package capable of defeating 30mm over the frontal arc and 14.5 over the other aspects (i.e. I am wrong . . . savour it, folks, I have no intention of admitting that ever again. well not until the next time) then I wonder how much those eight, big, air filled tyres add to the vehicles buoyancy? I seem to remember that the JGSDF used to have an APC similar to the M113 and it used hollow circular floats bolted to the road wheels in order to make it amphibious. Perhaps comparing Warrior with these vehicles was the wrong tack. I should have compared them with Boxer. ;-)

  180. Chris

    Obs – ref Terrex – all the references I can find refer to Terrex in its ‘baseline’ configuration being able to swim; one reference (http://www.armyrecognition.com/singapore_army_military_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_u/terrex_armoured_personnel_carrier_technical_data_sheet_specifications_description_pictures_uk.html) suggests that baseline weighs 13.5t? That would align more closely with the same wet-finger buoyancy analysis I applied to AMV, which suggests the bulk of Terrex would only displace 18t or so before the water level got uncomfortably near the roof of the vehicle. But I’m in no place to argue – if you’ve swum a 25t Terrex it must be possible.

    Monty – I am quite sure the protection levels you quote are possible in 14t vehicles; I am less confident vehicles with enough air inside to float at 14t would hold that protection level if only because the armoured skin area has to increase the more air is held within. But again, I am in no position to challenge what you state as I have no knowledge, just assessment of public domain information – if that’s what AMV protection is, then it must be possible.

    I also agree with the segregation of people moving (APC) from combat effect (turreted armed vehicles) – I find turrets on top of APCs make very tall lightly armed combat vehicles on one hand, and tall heavy people movers possibly prone to lateral stability issues on the other. Also the mixed role muddies the water as regards the vehicle commander’s priorities – delivery of troops to the necessary location? Or engaging opposition forces? Far better to keep separate vehicles for the two roles.

  181. Chris

    Pete A – ref tyres – while carrying doughnuts of air around has some aid to buoyancy, ultimately they are part of the vehicle volume and its weight, so taken as a whole its only the displacement volume & weight that matter. In any case, if the wheels are fitted with rubber runflat inserts they are probably heavy enough to sink on their own.

  182. Observer

    Chris, that site is wrong, the baseline is already 20+ tons, 13 tons would put it somewhere in the Stryker’s weight range. Way too light for the claimed capabilities and protection. Every other source I’ve seen put it in the 20+ tons weight category minimum. It’s a heavy bugger. STK doesn’t really like to play with aluminium.

    http://www.stengg.com/download/terrex.pdf

    STK’s claim is 1 ton lighter than most sources, I’ll take it as rounding difference or loading difference. First picture on 2nd page of the ad shows it swimming at one of our reservoirs, probably a swim test.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9k7Y3vZvFuA/UvxxKVZuYnI/AAAAAAAAH0k/b9s6EnuQ9Ds/s1600/DSCN6313.JPG

    With a 30mm turret.

    Do get the point on role confusion. Don’t totally agree, but it really is no big loss if you decide to role lock a vehicle, as long as it fits your tactics.

    Chris, I suspect your expectations on amphibious vehicles are off by about 1x the weight value (slightly less). Which is part of my point that there has been massive improvements in the ability to make things float that have been overlooked. I won’t call it an “order of magnitude” miss, that phrase refers to multiples of 10, but lowballing an estimate by 50% does seem a bit steep.

  183. Chris

    Obs – I accept Monty’s point that new armour is lighter for the same protection than old armour, so for a given weight of vehicle the protection is now greater than would have been the case in past decades. I will bow to your better knowledge on the basic weight of the Terrex – after all you are there and in a position to know. But as I noted before in one absolute factor Pete Arundel’s assessment has to stand – water weighs a tonne per cubic metre and no matter what happens to armour technology water doesn’t change its density. My assessment of Terrex came out with a horizontal maximum area of 18 sq.m or there abouts, and the rough estimate involved folding all the wheels/suspension/keel into the wheelarches to get a flat-bottomed box equivalent, then estimating what freeboard there was before water got too close to engine bay louvres for safe swimming. I decided a metre was deep enough, meaning 18t was as heavy as I’d be comfortable with, your knowledge is 20t – 10% heavier in round numbers, or another 100mm lower in the water. I’d consider that reasonable engineering tolerance considering the gross handful type estimation involved.

    Use of aluminium or steel makes almost no difference. Ballistically aluminium armour needs to be three times thicker than steel for equivalent protection, but is three times lighter per unit volume. For the same protection aluminium and steel hulls weigh the same. There are pluses and minuses – the thicker aluminium adds stiffness; inner bulkheads may not need to be three times thicker than the steel counterpart, joints in steel I understand are less of a ballistic weakness than in aluminium, welding bosses/studs/brackets to steel is easier but aluminium armour is soft enough to drill & tap and and and.

    Anyway. My estimates and your knowledge are within kicking distance of each other so no disjoint to argue over. Recommend though that you don’t swim the one with the big turret.

  184. DavidNiven

    Considering how long we expect our vehicles to be in service there is no point in having an amphibious capability as there is no room for growth. All the vehicles that were up armoured by other nations for threats in Afghan lost their amphibious capability, so you pay for the extra equipment for amphibious use and in 5 years time when you meet a new threat you lose it. I don’t think you can add bar armour without losing your amphibious capability can you? And if that is the case, you cannot protect yourself sufficiently (without large costs for an active protection system) from one of the most prolific weapons that we are going to face.

    Only truly amphibious units such as Marines require an amphibious capability.

  185. Chris

    DN – I favour a spread of capabilities (always have done) so while I support heavy armour and the heavy medium-weights about to enter service, I see needs in different circumstances for the smaller vehicles. I know you don’t, but then if I understand correctly you spent time in MBT so that will be your reference point.

  186. DavidNiven

    Chris,

    I understand the Heavy, Medium and Light arguments. I just don’t see anything between 25 – 30t as being a massive constraint on our mobility. My view is from spending time in the RE providing close support to Armoured, mech and light battlegroups.

    Making our medium weight vehicles amphibious is more trouble than it’s worth, and amphibious vehicles are a lot easier to defend against than bridging assets. A half intelligent bloke can make entire stretches of rivers off limits to amphibious vehicles with a little expenditure and some thinking outside the box.

    I can see the merits of snorkeling our heavier tracked armour, but I don’t see the point in restricting your future growth and current design in the medium weight category for an amphibious capability. The money would be better spent and probably cheaper over the lifetime to buy more engineering assets.

  187. Observer

    Interestingly I do see the merits in DN’s statement. If you are anticipating weight margins to balloon beyond a certain point, then it really is bad to put an artificial cap on your growth, especially if you plan for a vehicle life of 50 years +/-.

    It just depends on if you think the capability is worth focusing on. I say yes, there are a lot of benefits that you can get now, though if like DN you are worried about future growth, you might want to give it a pass.

    Personally, I think that loading the Warthogs till they could not swim ruined one of their main features, but since there is a really big question on how many lives that extra armour saved, I really can’t say if it was the right or wrong thing to do.

  188. John Hartley

    Has RT seen the HDT Storm, a search rescue tactical vehicle (SRTV), built for SOCOM? Looks like a stripped down Humvee, but is an all new vehicle.

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