FRES Gets into Gear but Iraq Looms Large

Although the previous section looked across the broad span of FCS and FRES, this section will take a more linear timeline approach in order to examine how activity from around 2001 to early 2008 was so closely intertwined, any other approach would make digesting what happened rather difficult.

So while it might seem dense, and jumps from one subject to another, I can’t think of a better way of presenting the information.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) committed the UK to an interventionist foreign policy,

The British are, by instinct, an internationalist people. We believe that as well as defending our rights, we should discharge our responsibilities in the world. We do not want to stand idly by and watch humanitarian disasters or the aggression of dictators go unchecked. We want to give a lead, we want to be a force for good.

It recognised a change in the security environment

On the positive side, the collapse of Communism and the emergence of democratic states throughout Eastern Europe and in Russia means that there is today no direct military threat to the United Kingdom or Western Europe…The end of the Cold War has transformed our security environment. The world does not live in the shadow of World War. There is no longer a direct threat to Western Europe or the United Kingdom as we used to know it, and we face no significant military threat to any of our Overseas Territories

And that forces would need to be more joint, exploit technology and more be expeditionary.

Our future military capability will therefore be built around a pool of powerful and versatile units from all three Services which would be available for operations at short notice. They will be known as Joint Rapid Reaction Forces. From these we will put together the best force packages – with real punch and protection – for particular circumstances. To make this work, we will also need to improve our strategic transport, operational logistics and medical services, and our deployable command and control arrangements. Our aim is for the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces to be operational in 2001

Although it is well accepted that the 1998 SDR was a foreign policy led document that failed to win the backing of the Treasury, it set in train a series of projects and programmes that would include FRES, the Future Rapid Effect System.

2001

In 2001, after a competition between Avimo, Hunting Engineering and Thales, a £230m contract was awarded to Thales for the Battle Group Thermal Imaging (BGTI) programme for thermal imaging sighting systems on 455 Warrior and 146 Scimitar. The contract was split into two groups, Group 1 and Group 2.

  • Group 1 was for Scimitar and Warrior Section and Command IFV’s, both thermal imaging and navigation. 350 were fitted to Warrior and 146 on Scimitar.
  • Group 2, was for 100 Warrior Repair and Recovery variants and excluded the navigation elements.

One of the key requirements for BGTI was integration with BOWMAN and the ability to hand-off target information to Challenger 2.

The legacy fleet was having to be being maintained beyond its intended point because of the failure of two attempts to replace it.

FRES first emerged in 2001 with the MoD requesting information from suppliers on how they could contribute to a medium weight force.

BAE, Alvis Hägglunds and Vickers responded.

After the poor performance of the Chubby systems in the snow, mud and close terrain of the Balkans, the MoD initiated the Mine Detection, Neutralisation and Route Marking (MINDER) programme. It was reported to have a value of up to £100m and would comprise two variants; MINDER RP (Route Proving) and the reconnaissance version, MINDER Recce. MINDER RP was to be a mine protected vehicle that carried a sensor suite to detect mines and IED’s, a means of neutralising them and marking a safe lane. MINDER RECCE would be fitted to the army’s Future Engineer versions of reconnaissance vehicles such as MRAV and TRACER.

10 Minder RP and 50 Minder Recce were the likely order quantities.

In response to a written Parliamentary question the Chief of the Defence Procurement Agency, Robert Walmsley stated that contracts had been awarded to Ultra Electronics and Hunting Engineering for the Competitive Assessment Phase (CAP) of MINDER. Each contract was worth £6 million and a bid was also received from BAE Systems, which was not successful in the detailed tender assessment process. Total expected costs had risen to £344 million and initial capability was expected to be in 2005 with incremental growth up to 2010.

BAe had previously partnered with Mechem (part of state-owned Denel) from South Africa for their bid and included a development of Chubby, GIAT Industries of France were also on the shortlist. The rejection of BAE is interesting because their proposal was the only one that had partnered with a South African company and the only one that had a mature and in service start point, the Chubby.

It is also interesting to ponder why the UK did not partner with Canada or the US on their similar programmes.

In March, the MoD gifted it’s Chubby systems to the HALO Trust.

The MINDER Competitive Assessment Phase continued with a demonstration of a four sensor detection system. The Hunting Engineering consortium included Thompson Missile Electronics, RTS Advanced Robotics, DERA and Redifon and it is clear that the resultant concepts envisaged some form of articulated arm for disruption of devices. As part of the MINDER programme, Pearson Engineering developed the PEROCC, the Pearson Engineering Route Opening and Clearance Capability, a heavily modified commercial wheeled loader.

The 9/11 attacks occurred on the 11th of September 2001. Special Forces and light forces from the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines took part in the initial operations, supported by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, the collective activity called Operation VERITAS.

In early October 2001, a statement was made to Parliament that in a joint US/UK decision, TRACER would come to a close at the end of the assessment phase in July 2002.

The first Hansard entry for FRES was on the 26th October 2001.

Mr Desmond Swayne (New Forest West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) if he will identify the components which make up the Future Rapid Effects System

(2) if he will make a statement on the Army’s future light armoured capability.

Dr Lewis Moonie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence; Kirkcaldy, Labour/Co-operative) The Army’s light-armoured vehicle capability will be provided within the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES). The exact components of FRES have yet to be decided, but it is likely to include such platforms as an armoured personnel carrier, guided weapons platform, command vehicle, reconnaissance platform, ambulance and repair and recovery vehicle. FRES will draw heavily on a number of technologies developed through the TRACER programme.

A Parliamentary Answer revealed the extent of technology research underway for mine detection as part of the MINDER programme.

Mr James Gray; To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on new technology to detect and remove landmines; and if he will make a statement.

Dr Lewis Moonie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence); The Ministry of Defence’s on-going generic mine detection research programme is currently assessing the following technologies:

Ground penetrating radar

Metal detection

Polarised thermal imaging

Ultra-wide-band radar

Quadrupole resonance

This research has resulted in the demonstration last year of an integrated three-sensor portable mine detector and a four-sensor vehicle mounted mine detection system.

Research is also under way on a Portable Humanitarian Mine Detector. A pre-production demonstrator system will be completed by July 2002 for assessment by humanitarian de-mining organisations.

The Ministry of Defence and QinetiQ have also developed a pyrotechnic torch for destroying anti- personnel and anti-tank mines with minimal collateral damage and improved safety of deployment. Current procurement action for this system is aimed at delivering 2000 units into military service by early 2002.

The Defence Procurement Agency placed contracts in October with Ultra Electronics Ltd. of High Wycombe, Bucks and Hunting Engineering Ltd. (now Insys Ltd.) of Ampthill, Bedfordshire for the Competitive Assessment Phase of the Mine Detection, Neutralisation and Route Marking System (MINDER) Programme, with an initial capability to enter service by 2005.

Progress has also been made to improve the effectiveness of minefield breaching operations, and techniques have been developed to improve ploughing efficiency and survivability. Investigations into individual mine neutralisation are also taking place.

It is probably fair to say that amongst the Western nations at this time, the UK was in no way behind, looking at advanced concepts with MINDER, funding research into a variety of detection technologies and leveraging South African experience through sensible partnerships, all whilst developing operational concepts in the Balkans, even though we had rejected the Chubby system.

The requirement for a Ferret replacement was articulated in the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) and after that was cancelled in favour of MRAV and TRACER the leftover command and liaison requirement was left dangling. It would emerge in 2001 as the Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV).

2002

In 2002 there were still approximately 1,500 FV430 series vehicles still in service with the British Army, 30 years after entering service. It was struggling to meet European safety legislation and well overdue for replacement. BAE self-funded a series of demonstrator programmes to develop the life extension theme, a complete replacement being still firmly in the ‘future’

The first firing demonstration of the CTAS on a Warrior was in January 2002, in the ‘Xena’ turret, shown below.

CTA 40 Xena Turret

After entering service in 1995, the Snatch Land Rover Mk1 had seen service in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. By 2002, it was approaching the end of is service life and a replacement programme had started under Project DUCKBOARD.

A draft statement of user requirement in January stated:

The current NI [Northern Ireland] patrol vehicles are essential for troop deployment, patrolling urban and rural areas and for administrative tasks. They were procured to counter the threat from low and high velocity small arms, Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), anti‑armour weapons, petrol bombs and general hand‑held catapulted missiles. In order to afford the troops on the ground an acceptable level of protection, mobility and capacity to counter the threat two vehicles are currently in service, Tavern in the high risk areas and Snatch in the lower risk areas.

Work continued on a Protected Patrol Vehicle to replace Snatch and Tavern. Tavern was a heavier protected patrol vehicle based on a GMC cash collection truck with additional protection installed by Penman Engineering.

Recognising the geopolitical change as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the New Labour government initiated discussions and consultations on a ‘new chapter’ for the 1998 Strategic Defence Review in February 2002.

Following the appalling events of 11 September, the Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Ministry of Defence would look again at how we organise our defence. This will not be a new Strategic Defence Review, but a “New Chapter” building on the review. We need to ensure we have the right concepts, forces and capabilities to meet the additional challenges we might face from international terrorism.

TRACER completed in July but MRAV carried on.

Also in July, the MoD requested a new joint approach for FRES from BAE and Alvis, with BAE providing the systems engineering and Alvis the vehicle domain expertise. A few months later, the MoD awarded a non-competitive contract to Alvis to develop plans for the Assessment Phase of a future FRES programme.

The target in-service date was to be 2009, 7 years away.

General Dynamics were also invited to contribute BOWMAN integration information to assist with developing the Assessment Phase requirements.

By the middle of 2002, the MoD was spending money on FRES contracts whilst TRACER (£131m) was still (just) running AND, MRAV (£57m) was being funded.

One of the sales engineers from Alvis and a former soldier who was involved with the Alvis 4/8 programme had by this time left Alvis and set up a company in the USA called Seafire. Seafire worked with the Technical Solutions Group to market their products in the UK and Europe. Although still in service, the Alvis 4’s were proving increasingly difficult to support and so a replacement programme was launched.

For the Alvis 4 replacement, Seafire proposed the Lion Mine Protected vehicle and partnered with Supacat who acted as the technical prime and integrator for UK specific requirements and safety compliance.

The name Tempest was chosen to avoid confusion with a number of other MoD projects and eventually, 8 vehicles were obtained for a total contract price of £2.7 million.

An older version of the Royal Engineers website claimed that the Tempest MPV was based on a Peterbilt 330 tractor unit with a Marmon Herrington 4 wheel drive running gear but other sources indicate that it was a custom designed unit based on a US Mack truck running gear to a South African base design.

Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle 01

More pictures here. As can be seen from these images, the Supacat MP-V was claimed to be proven against detonation of a single TMRP-6 mine underneath the personnel capsule, single TM57 mine under the vehicle centreline and two stacked TM57 mines under a wheel.

The official name was Tempest 4×4 12TON Mine Protected Vehicle.

Note, this was a mine protected vehicle, not IED, a subtle but important difference.

The Strategic Defence Review – New Chapter was published in July 2002.

Rapidly deployability at distance was re-emphasised:

We must retain the ability rapidly to deploy significant, credible forces overseas. It is much better to engage our enemies in their backyard than in ours, at a time and place of our choosing and not theirs. But opportunities to engage terrorist groups may be only fleeting, so we need the kind of rapidly deployable intervention forces which were the key feature of the SDR.

FRES was covered early in the new document.

But it also requires the ability to deploy and redeploy rapidly, and it has potential implications for the mix of forces that are used. For instance, some theatres and scenarios, like Afghanistan, may point towards the use of rapidly deployable light forces rather than armoured or mechanised forces and artillery: and we are examining ways of providing such forces with improved mobility and firepower. Operations in Afghanistan have again demonstrated the key role played by support helicopters. And, as part of our move towards more rapidly deployable forces, we are also pursuing the concept of a Future Rapid Effect System, a family of air-transportable medium-weight armoured vehicles. We will also be accelerating the introduction of additional temporary deployed accommodation for our troops, and further improving its hot weather capability.

MINDER was cancelled in the Assessment Phase due to ‘technical solutions not proving adequate performance’

After several tens of millions of pounds had been spent and a number of years in assessment, the Army was left with nothing except a handful of Tempest Mine Protected Vehicles used by the Royal Engineers and a small number of the Alvis 4’s still deployed to the Balkans.

Major General Rob Fulton, the Capability Manager for Information Superiority, had his plan for the delivery of Network Enabled Capabilities (NEC) endorsed in October. This may seem insignificant, but it was not as NEC was about to be embedded in the majority of the MoD’s major equipment programmes, and FRES was not exempt.

By the end of 2002, UK forces in Afghanistan were concentrated in the Kabul area, acting mainly in their ISAF mandated peacekeeping and training role.

2003

CVR(T) was used to reinforce security at Heathrow Airport in February 2003.

Heathrow CVR(T) Armoured Vehicles in 2003

Also in February, TSG announced the delivery of the final Tempest MPV and the Alvis 4/8′s were finally withdrawn from UK service in the Balkans.

The Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) concept was launched that would replace Land Rovers, Pinzgauer and RB44 vehicles.

In March, after a build-up period, CVR(T), FV432 and Warrior went to war, again, with 1(UK) Armoured Division.

British Army Vehicles in Iraq 2003

Scimitars of C Squadron Queen’s Dragoon Guards were planned to support the amphibious landings and some were embarked on the USS Rushmore but after a beach recce confirmed the presence of mines this was aborted and the Scimitars were disembarked at Kuwait. They would later support operations after driving in. Warriors continued to demonstrate their value in many engagements and the venerable FV432 also played its part.

Despite the 1998 SDR and 2002 New Chapter, the Army went to Iraq with what were its Cold War legacy vehicles, exactly the same vehicles, save for selected improvements, as they did in 1991 in exactly the same location.

It should also be noted that the timescale assumptions as envisaged by SDR were breached for Op TELIC.

Soon after the final delivery of the Tempest MPV they were deployed to Iraq in support of initial operations around Basra, specifically against the mine (not IED) threat, but were withdrawn soon after.

In June, the Defence Main Board considered a paper from the then MoD Finance Director proposing guidance for investment priorities given MoD budget shortfalls. Priorities were suggested to included network-enabled capability, deployable ISTAR, Combat identification, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical protection capabilities and logistics.

FRES was not on the priority list.

By summer of 2003, the initial FRES contract with Alvis had been terminated after the Investment Approvals Board decided to not approve the investment strategy. The Investment Approvals Board replaced the Equipment Approvals Committee in early 2002, perhaps they were still getting their feet under the table.

In June, Lockheed Martin and SIKA were awarded a $4.75 million contract from the US DoD to further mature the Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) mission equipment from TRACER. Some of the TRACER work was pulled through into the FCS project and during the early phase, the demonstrators proposed as an interim FCS solution.

Major General Rob Fulton was appointed to the new post of 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.

The Army first saw FRES as a relatively simple vehicle, to repeat, in the words of General Michael Walker;

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

And General Dannatt;

We were not aiming for a highly technical solution, merely something that could meet most of our requirements in a timely fashion.

If both the Generals were hoping for a simple solution they were going to be very disappointed now that the Network Enabled Capability team was on the case.

An evidence session in June at the House of Commons for the Defence Select Committee provided some revealing information.

Lord Bach: Well, as to the question of whether it is a long way off or not, this is a new generation of capability that we hope to bring in. We are well equipped, we think, at the heavy end and at the light end too, but it is the medium-weight area where FRES fits in and we are moving as fast as we feel we can to initial gate approval and we hope to be able to tell you pretty soon and I will be able to make an announcement soon as to when we will. There will be some pretty cutting-edge technology with FRES when we decide exactly what it is we want out of this process and with that cutting-edge technology it is absolutely crucial that the design, the technology reaches a certain stage of maturity before we try and apply it to what will be a very expensive and a very important programme which will last for many, many years. I think it is more important that we get it right than that we rush it in, but we hope there will not be any capability gap. The General will be able to tell you whether there is a risk of a capability gap or not, but we think we have got this about right. General?

Exit stage left, General Fulton;

Lieutenant General Fulton: I do not know about the risk.

And later in questions;

Lieutenant General Fulton: You cannot go out into the world anywhere and buy FRES. The requirement for FRES is very demanding. What we are seeking to do is to put a medium-weight capability into the field which means getting many of the vehicles down to a C-130 load. We are talking of the order of 17 tonnes. This is not going to be a main battle tank in 17 tonnes because the laws of physics do not allow that. This is a medium-weight force, but the technology to which the Minister has referred is very demanding and, frankly, I do not know whether it will work because in order to get down there we are dependent, for example, on electric drive, so will that work? We are dependent on some pretty interesting technologies for protection and survivability where in order to get a level of survivability that is acceptable on the battlefield, there will be some interesting questions on situation awareness, manned and unmanned turrets, for example. What gives me confidence that we are not dragging our feet is the very, very close link that we have with the American FCS programme which is asking precisely the same questions at precisely the same time, and there are other countries doing the same, for example, Sweden’s SEP programme is also looking at that, so we, in conjunction with the American and the Swedes, clearly have an interest in producing something that is very, very similar.

Some interesting points to pick out of that;

  • The scale of the technical challenge and uncertainty in achieving technology goals,
  • Close alignment with US and Swedish programmes,
  • Confirmation that FRES was not a 70 tonne Main Battle Tank in a 20-tonne format, but…
  • C-130 carriage as a minimum, not Future Large Aircraft as originally

By mid-July, the UK had formally withdrawn from the MRAV programme, citing weight and deployability as the main reasons and that FRES would go forward instead.

The Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV) requirement (to replace Snatch and Tavern) was progressing within the MoD. A July stakeholder workshop considered PPV would now cover three requirements:

  • Northern Ireland
  • Light forces when deployed on peacekeeping operations
  • Protected mobility for RE/RLC EOD teams

Options considered included extending the lives of existing Snatch Land Rovers, military/commercial off the shelf vehicles and up-armouring existing vehicles such as the Pinzgauer.

By August, the threat from IED’s, especially remote control IED’s was increasing.

A forces and resources review carried out in September articulated a need for light protected mobility vehicles:

The threat posed to CF [Coalition Forces] within Basra City from IED, RPG and small arms attacks is currently being countered by the use of stripped‑down Land Rovers with top cover sentries. This necessarily carries a risk to the top cover vehicles from attack, particularly from IEDs. Force protection will be improved by the provision of up‑armoured 4×4 vehicles that meet the broad definitions below Replacing the full complement of this in the UK Bde [brigade] would require of the order of 420 vehicles. The minimum quantity to provide essential protected movement in Basra and Maysan is 228. Any lower number will be put to good use in accordance with priorities. The requirement is for: an agile wheeled vehicle capable of swift acceleration and speed in excess of 60 mph, a high degree of protection against small arms fire and blast devices, a cupola to allow top cover protection to deter attackers, particularly those deploying anti‑armour weapons and small arms, grills to give windows protection against thrown objects, both to enhance routine protection and to enable its use in public order situations where a Warrior  [AFV] may be too threatening or unable to manoeuvre in small streets.

The PPV Working Group met again in September to discuss the requirement.

A footnote to the minutes stated:

Due to the limited Tavern fleet and the expected high cost of procuring similar vehicles, the PPV protection requirement must be realistic in order to permit a timely and cost effective solution to the UOR

Options considered included Snatch/Tavern, Land Rover Wolf/Pinzgauer with applique armour, refurbish existing vehicles awaiting disposal and purchase new. Because of the demanding timelines, Snatch was considered the best option although it was recognised a new vehicle purchase would be relatively low risk for the medium to long term.

Snatch Land Rover or soft skinned Land Rover, as simple as that.

In October, Adam Ingram again made the differences between FRES and FCS clear in a House of Commons debate;

I mentioned the new FRES project, an exciting and important project for the Army. However, that is not to detract from the battle-winning qualities of our heavy armour. Operation Telic served to underline the crucial role that main battle tanks still possess, but that punch comes at a price in terms of deployability. We regard medium-weight forces combining ease of deployment with more firepower as an important force element for the future.

And a similar answer in response to a Written Question soon after;

In seeking a better balance in our deployable land forces, we plan to shift from the current mix of light and heavy forces representing the two extremes of deployability and combat power to a more graduated and balanced structure of light, medium and heavy forces, together with a greater emphasis on enabling capabilities such as logistics, engineers and intelligence. The introduction of the air-transportable, medium-weight Future Rapid Effects System family of vehicles is one part of this re-balancing.

Between this point and the formal launch of the assessment phase, there seems to have been some divergence between elements in the Army, the MoD Directors Equipment Capability and the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre at Shrivenham.

This divergence was illustrated by the difference between the US FCS vision and FRES.

Initially, it was travelling in the same broad direction but with details yet to be defined, certainly, the UK vision was simpler and did not have the C-130 carriage restriction.

As detailed requirement work started, FRES and FCS got closer.

Many of the FRES requirements were simply walked over from FCS.

November saw the contract award to Alvis Vickers for 401 UK specific Iveco Lince LMV vehicles at a cost of £166 million.

We are pleased to announce that the Ministry of Defence has today signed a contract worth £166 million (including VAT) with Alvis Vickers Ltd, for the manufacture of the Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV). The FCLV will perform the command and liaison role and replace the ageing and disparate vehicle fleet within the manoeuvre support brigades comprising elements of the 430 Series, Saxon, Land Rover and Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) fleets. From its planned in-service date of 2006, the FCLV will provide levels of crew protection and mobility commensurate with their roles in an increasingly extended ground manoeuvre area. It will offer protection against small arms, blast and anti-personnel mines.

The contract was for 401 vehicles in two versions, 326 Group 2 with a self-defence weapon and target acquisition and surveillance system and 75 fitted for but not with. The remote weapon system was to be an AEI Ordnance Enforcer.

Planned In service date was 2007 although it would not enter service until 2008, the delays resulting in issues discovered during trials.

The competition was very controversial because the shortlisted vehicles did not actually include the Panther (Iveco LMV). The original vehicles considered were the RG32M from Vickers, Hunting Engineering with the ACMAT VRBL Ranger, Alvis Scarab, Iveco with their Puma and NP Aerospace with an armoured Land Rover

208 Snatch Mk1 Protected Vehicles were deployed to Iraq from Belfast in November.

Snatch Land Rovers Belfast 2003

Saxon vehicles were also deployed to Iraq.

Saxon and Snatch Iraq 2004

Saxons would also see service in Kabul where they deployed in support of ISAF, mostly at Camp Souter/Kabul Airport area.

Saxon ISAF

November saw the US DoD ten Buffalo protected clearance vehicles from TSG/Force Protection for $6.6 million after extensive evaluation in the preceding few years deployed. The Buffalo was a heavy, extremely well protected and durable vehicle, designed to go into harm’s way and neutralise IED’s. The articulated claw was used to move materials and disrupt devices. The US Army then quickly deployed four Buffalo’s to Bagram in Afghanistan to assist with clearance operations at the airbase.

US forces also quickly deployed their Buffalo vehicles to Iraq and November also saw their first Stryker deployment.

The US Army had been getting ready to deploy Stryker’s to Iraq. First was the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The official line, pushed out through various media channels was;

These units demonstrate in miniature the new American formula for war: Precise information, shared through electronic communications enables pre-emptive action. The Stryker force’s superior awareness of the situation is meant to make up for its lighter arms and armor.

A lot was riding on this first deployment; somewhat unfairly putting the whole FCS concept onto the shoulders of a single Brigade. It was also lost on many people that Stryker was still at that time the ‘interim’ solution, the Objective Force was not envisaged to be ready for many years hence.

There were plenty of critics, an analyst from the Institute for Defense Analyses was less than impressed;

Look, the technology is not necessarily a bad thing but it’s totally irrelevant to the fight we’re fighting now. No high-tech sensor can distinguish a friendly civilian or sullen neutral from a guerrilla, not, at least, until the bad guy whips out his rocket-propelled grenade and slams a shot right through the Stryker vehicle’s light armor at the 11 U.S. soldiers inside.

Before deployment, the vehicles were retrofitted with ‘Interim Slat Armour’ to protect against RPG warheads. Despite a number of fatal rollovers and accidents the initial operations seemed to confirm the efficacy of the slat armour. Also notable was an 800km road march north to FOB Pacesetter, their operational base location and another subsequent 500km move to Mosul. Operations in Mosul showed that the additional width and generally less than brilliant turning radius made operations in urban areas difficult.

It is therefore difficult to separate the subjective from the objective and a resistance to change from transformative zeal, so analysis from these first deployments is subject to that caveat. Also worth repeating, the underpinning scenario analysis for FCS was mostly based on a high-intensity state on state combat, not prolonged insurgencies.

Although not specifically aimed at any one vehicle the Manned Turret Integration Programme (MTIP) was a technology demonstrator working on the integration of the 40mm CTWS and a number of different sensors. A demonstration contract was placed with Cased Telescoped Ammunition International (CTAI) to complete risk reduction demonstrations on a manned turret, feed systems and other sub-systems.

CTA was required to demonstrate the CTWS in a manned turret fitted to a Warrior by the end of 2006. The French Délégation Général pour l’Armement (DGA) also placed a contract with CTA for an unmanned turret called TOUTATIS, again, to be trialled on Warrior.

MTIP and TOUTATIS, shown below, left and right.

MTIP and TOTATIS

CTA demonstrated early models of both turrets on Warrior, the manned turret in 2003, the manned turret providing Level IV protection at a weight of 3.8 tonnes and the unmanned turret providing Level III protection but at the much lower weight of 1.5 tonnes. The unmanned turret also had all the ammunition within the turret and a simpler feed mechanism, carrying capacity was 68 rounds, compared to 42 for the manned turret.

Delivering Security in a Changing World – Defence White Paper was published by the government in December.

It repeated many of the same arguments found in SDR new Chapter but included more information on medium weight forces:

UK land forces currently consist of a mix of heavy and light capabilities.  The former offer firepower, integral tactical mobility and protection necessary to carry out ground manoeuvre warfare but require a considerable effort to deploy and support on operations.  Light forces in contrast can deploy rapidly anywhere in the world but lack much of the firepower, mobility and protection to conduct decisive operations against an enemy equipped with armour and mechanised forces.  To increase our flexibility in responding to crises, a new set of medium weight forces will be developed, offering a high level of deployability (including by air), together with much greater levels of mobility and protection than are currently available to light forces.

It also described significant changes to Army structures.

Medium weight forces will not, however, remove the requirement for heavier armoured forces, the attributes and advantages of which were demonstrated in the conflict in Iraq.  Heavy forces will continue to be held for operations where the greater protection and combat power offered by Challenger 2, Warrior and AS 90 is required.  Moving to a more graduated and balanced structure of light, medium and heavy forces will over time lead to a reduced requirement for main battle tanks, other heavy armoured fighting vehicles and heavy artillery, offset by a new requirement for medium-weight forces based on the Future Rapid Effects System family of vehicles.  We judge that we can reduce the size of our armoured forces now.  We intend to create a new light brigade and reduce the number of armoured brigades from three to two.  This new brigade will both enhance our existing intervention capability and enable the Army to meet more easily the roulement demands posed by enduring peace support tasks through the availability of an additional pool of combat forces as well as key logistics and other specialist enablers.  Plans for future Army forces structures are still evolving – further details will be announced in 2004.

The White Paper also described a reduced ambition for operations at scale from SDR but the key reduction would not come until a year later.

Network Centric Capability (NCC) and Effects Based Operations (EBO) also got a thorough airing, more on this later.

After their earlier withdrawal from service, the Alvis 4′s were sent for disposal. 9 went to the Estonian armed forces, 4 to a US Security company (Blackwater) and 1 to Singapore. Total sale value for all 14, £448,000.

By the end of 2003, the Taleban had regrouped and started offensive operations in Afghanistan.

2004

By the beginning of 2004, a number of important elements to the FRES story were coming together.

First; the British Armed forces had firmly embraced the emerging military transformational thinking, Effects Based Operations, Network Centric Warfare, Agile Forces and Directed Logistics. Implementation was still yet to be fully realised though. Network Enabled Capability emerged as the British version of Network Centric Warfare, clearly emphasising that the network would be an enabler of the other three concepts. In essence, NEC is a tactical internet, the glue that binds the others. Effects Based Operations, after a shaky start, was renamed Effects Based Approach to Operations in 2006.

Second; with a deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Snatch controversy was about to break

Third; budget pressures within the MoD would influence choices on FRES and vehicles for Iraq.

Fourth; continued confusion about what FRES actually was would surface and the Directorate of Equipment Capability (Ground Manoeuvre) effectively ignoring the Army, who wanted a simple and fast solution for FRES would lead to yet more problems.

Even at this early stage, questions were being asked about FRES.

Lord Atlee posed a question in the House of Lords in January:

My noble friend Lord Vivian referred to FRES—future rapid effect system. Our AFV programme seems to be subject to constant revision. Is FRES a platform or a concept? If it is a platform—a vehicle on the drawing board—is it tracked or wheeled? Is it conventionally driven or electrically driven?

The confusion continued:

Mr Andrew Robathan (Blaby, Conservative). To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) whether his Department classifies the Future Rapid Effects System programme as (a) a system and (b) a vehicle;

(2) whether the winner of the Future Rapid Effects System Systems House competition will be disqualified from playing a major role on the industrial side of the programme;

(3) whether the proposed Systems House approach is the preferred way forward for the Future Rapid Effects System programme.

Mr Adam Ingram (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence; East Kilbride, Labour)

The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) will provide a family of network-capable armoured vehicles that will form a key part of network enabled capability. We expect to make an announcement on the assessment phase for the FRES programme shortly.

Andrew Robathan MP and Lord Atlee were not alone.

Meanwhile, the business case for to modify the existing Snatch 1 vehicles already in theatre with more suitable environmental capabilities was approved at a cost of £2.2m, these were referred to as ‘Snatch 1.5’

Project DUCKBOARD also progressed in parallel to the UOR Snatch modifications, although expected quantities were reduced. The Rest of World PPV being defined would eventually go on to become Vector.

From March, the security situation in Iraq deteriorated rapidly.

On April 4th, 2004 the Initial Gate Business Case was approved by the MoD, the FRES rocket had lifted off. Ten days later, Main Gate Approval for Snatch 2 was sought. 312 Snatch 2 were planned to be obtained, 208 to replace the Snatch 1.5 in Iraq.

The value of this was £13m with funding drawn directly from the DUCKBOARD budget line.

Option D, considered but not taken due to cost and timescale to delivery issues, was for a COTS vehicle.

It should also be noted that Snatch 2 protection was ‘Standard equivalent to current SNATCH’

The In-Service Date was planned to be December 2004, with 80 delivered to Iraq.

May saw the first recorded use of an explosively formed projectile (EFP) IED against UK forces, used against a Warrior in the Maysan province.

On 5th May 2004, the Minister for the Armed Forces announced a two-year Initial Assessment Phase (IAP) contract for the FRES Utility vehicle programme. The Systems House was to be Atkins, confirmed in August 2004, with the MoD stating that an external and independent project management team would provide significant benefits in understanding the programme risks and recommending an appropriate acquisition strategy.

Essentially, Atkins would be the middleman between the MoD and industry and for the IAP, the MoD expected a bill for £120 million, or 40 Boxers

Atkins was also tasked to let the competitive Technology Demonstrator Programme contracts to industry as part of a FRES Integrated Technology Acquisition Plan (ITAP).

The MoD stated that because Atkins was outside the normal military vehicles supply chain their independence and engineering rigour would keep the MoD honest but almost immediately after they were appointed anecdotal evidence emerged about the issues this lack of domain knowledge would cause. One example described an Atkins project manager phoning the BAE switchboard and asking for advice on what an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was, for example.

Responding to the general confusion about FRES, General Sir Mike Jackson authored RUSI paper to explain the Medium Weight Capability (MWCap).

He started by explaining there was an increasing requirement to intervene quickly to achieve early political and military effect and that the key element of MWCap would be FRES but that whilst there would be a resource shift to the medium weight force, It would not entirely replace light and heavy forces.

Much in the article was made of the contemporary operating environment characterised by a diversity of operational requirements in the same theatre. 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 that General Shinseki was making for FCS. It is also fair to say that he recognised the essential ‘work in progress’ nature of the MWCap and that it is was about much more than a vehicle replacement programme. The paper also mentioned Iraq, twice, but not in the context of enduring operations, reinforcing the criticism levelled at MWCap that it was oblivious to what was happening in the Middle East.

This paved the way for closer alignment between FCS and FRES, its objective;

Conducting informed discussions and information exchanges for national study, evaluation and assessment efforts for the purposes of investigating capability gaps, exploring opportunities for requirements harmonization, improving understanding of Participants’ national LBS programs, and identifying areas of potential cooperation or for use in national LBS programs to enhance Participants’ interoperability.

Writing in the Summer-2004 edition of the RUSI Journal William F Owen described what he saw as one of the main problems of FRES;

Defining or explaining FRES is no easy task. The name itself adds to the confusion. What is an ‘Effects System’? The name comes from the ill-defined and unhelpful concept of separating capability or effect from platform.

William F Owen made the point that FRES was clearly a vehicle, or platform, not a concept. Unfortunately, during this period, thinking of platforms, or solutionising, was thought to be the same as shitting in the Queen’s slippers!

Industry must be left to describe how it would deliver the effect, the MoD was simply to articulate what that effect was.

FFLAV was about a family of different vehicles that pretty much split into two programmes, TRACER and MRAV. Logically, TRACER was a replacement for CVR(T) and MRAV a replacement for FV432/Saxon. FRES bought those two vehicle replacements back into a single programme, it was, of course, a family of vehicle whatever the ‘effects mafia’ would like to say otherwise, Specialist and Utility vehicles.

In response to a Written Question, the Governments confirmed the acquisition costs of FRES would be £6 billion, with through life costs estimated at £49 billion.

In evidence to the Defence Select Committee Nick Prest, the then Chairman of Alvis, made somewhat of a large understatement;

in the armoured vehicle area I think it is fair to say that the MoD has had particular difficulty in formulating its requirements, launching procurement programmes and then sticking to them

In mid-2004, the projected In Service Date for FRES was 2009.

The Operation in Iraq – Lessons for the Future, issued by MOD in December 2003, made over 430 specific observations and recommendations, none of which highlighted the need for a medium weight force with the ability to deploy it rapidly. It did, however, confirm the battle-winning value of heavy armour operating with both armoured infantry and light roles forces (TEL.0.301), that long-range ATGW (beyond 2km) were of proven value and that the Swingfire OSD should be reviewed (TEL.0.304)

5.5 Smaller reconnaissance vehicles in the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) fleet were also highly valued. The improved levels of ballistic protection fitted to these vehicles successfully reduced the risk from small arms and mines. Their utility in this operation reinforced the requirement for maximum mobility, whilst maintaining stealth in order to carry out successful reconnaissance missions. The increased armour protection improved the utility of this equipment in the light armour role. In the reconnaissance role these vehicles proved highly effective, with crews able to locate targets and coordinate air support to attack them.

5.6 The Swingfire anti-tank guided weapon system, which is fitted to some UK reconnaissance vehicles, was also of great utility during the combat phase. It was the longest range, integral weapon system available to reconnaissance units and was used in approximately half of their attacks despite representing only a quarter of their main weaponry.

One of the key lessons was:

The fleet of smaller reconnaissance vehicles provided a valuable capability that underscored the philosophy of reconnaissance using stealth

This was in contrast to 1991 where the wide open terrain favoured reconnaissance by strength, the obvious takeaway is that different terrain favours different vehicles.

In June, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Overseas Security Advisor prohibited UK police personnel not to travel in Snatch Land Rover’s in Iraq.

BAE Systems created a dedicated FRES team in September.

The Project DUCKBOARD delivery strategy was delivered in October. It recommended that three separate strands should be pursued, but managed under a single scrutiny mechanism.

  • Type A: Continuing the conversion of Snatch 1.5 to Snatch 2,
  • Type B: Vector, or rest of world PPV,
  • Type C: Format, a vehicle to replace Zimmer (Tempest), specifically for Royal Engineers use.

On the 16th of December, the Public Accounts Committee published Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC — United Kingdom military operations in Iraq

Geoff Hoon announced the creation of the ‘Future Army Structure’ on December 16th, 2004.

The announcement started with all the usual fluff about being ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow, being seen as the best in the world and, God forbid, the term warfighting crept into the official lexicon.

The major changes described were the cessation of the Arms Plot, a reduction of 4 infantry battalions to 36 and a number of mergers and disbandments.

He said:

These plans will make the Army more robust and resilient, able to deploy, support and sustain the enduring expeditionary operations that are essential for a more complex and uncertain world. The move to larger, multi-battalion regiments that these changes bring about is the only sustainable way in which to structure the infantry for the long term. We must consider these changes to the infantry in the wider context of the need to rebalance the Army, and the opportunity it affords to reallocate manpower to those areas that we need to develop. The Army has always evolved to meet current and future challenges. I am convinced – and so is the Army – that this transformation is the right course. The future Army structure will deliver an Army fit for the challenges of the future.

The Army was to restructure whilst still deployed on multiple operations.

The announcement also confirmed a number of equipment projects would go forward or be sustained:

Tens of billions of pounds worth of new hardware will be procured to help the military to continue to perform so outstandingly. Incoming systems include: Skynet 5, Cormorant and Falcon communications systems, the Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft, the Astute class submarine, the Type 45 Destroyer, the FRES family of armoured vehicles, and the large CVF aircraft carriers.

The Army was to have a structure based on two Heavy Brigades (CR2 and Warrior), 3 Medium Brigades (FRES) and 1 Light Brigade (Boot Combat High) plus Air Assault and Naval Service Commando Brigades.

Following an exchange of letters in 2003 between the Prime Minister and President of the UK and USA aimed at improving defence cooperation a formal Memorandum of Understanding was signed by both parties in December 2004 concerning collaboration on Land Battlespace Systems.

In December 2004, a number of ITT’s were issued to industry by Atkins for ten Technology Demonstrator Programmes:

  1. Chassis Concept (includes self-digging & suspension)
  2. Electronic Architecture (includes C4I, vetronics, HUMS, integrated image handling, local SA & SIL)
  3. E-Armour
  4. Integrated Survivability
  5. Capacity and Stowage
  6. Hard Kill DAS
  7. Regenerative NBC
  8. Band Track
  9. E-drive
  10. Gap Crossing

From 2004, a Chobham appliqué armour package was installed on Warriors destined for service in Iraq. A range of additional modifications was also made, Enhanced Protection Bar Armour, BOWMAN, Remote Controlled IED Electronic Countermeasure (RCIED ECM) system, Improved Drivers Vision Hatch and of course, much-improved air conditioning.

A requirement was recognised for Warrior Armoured Battlefield Support Variant, essentially a de-turreted Warrior IFV used for a number of support roles such as mortar carrier and ambulance. ABSV was to be used in the heavyweight force and would therefore not have any impact on FRES and the Medium Weight Capability. The Warrior mid-life improvement programme was also being studied in 2004.

Although not specifically aimed at any one vehicle the Manned Turret Integration Programme (MTIP) was a technology demonstrator working on the integration of the 40mm CTWS and a number of different sensors. A demonstration contract was placed with Cased Telescoped Ammunition International (CTAI) to complete risk reduction demonstrations on a manned turret, feed systems and other sub-systems.

In MRAV related news, OCCAR placed a contract with ARTEC in 2004 for the continuing development of MRAV

The Finns purchased just under 60 CV90’s for about £200 million.

Summary

2001 to 2004 saw a significant change for the British Army.

Between 2001 and 2003, the UK had withdrawn from MRAV and cancelled TRACER.

The cost to the taxpayer was:

  • MRAV, £57 million
  • TRACER , £131 million

Military transformation was well underway with Effects Based Operations, Network Centric Warfare, Agile Forces and Directed Logistics being seen as key pillars of the future. Joint procurement, the Defence Procurement Agency still relatively new, SDR New Chapter, Delivery Security in a Changing World, the result Future Army Structure, budget reductions and operations in Iraq all competed with FRES.

The Army was reorganised to take into account the Medium Weight Capability that would be equipped with FRES before FRES was delivered. Expected In-Service Date changed, but the original estimate of 2009 was seen as increasingly unlikely.

The original intent for a relatively simple set of vehicles to meet the FRES requirement had been discarded as Network Enabled Capability (NEC) and the need for future-proofing gained an ascendency. That, together with a closer alignment with the US Future Combat System expanded the ambition for FRES.

FRES was now a complex programme, technology demonstrator contracts were let and Atkins appointed as the systems integrator.

The legacy fleet, yet again, was asked to go into combat and had been upgraded by various degrees.

Lessons from the Balkans had resulted in the MINDER programme but this was cancelled, the Alvis 4/8’ sold to Estonia and Blackwater, and the Chubby mine detection vehicle systems gifted to the HALO Trust. Project DUCKBOARD, the effort to replace the Snatch Land Rover went through several iterations with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in 3 separate programmes to replace it; Snatch 2, Vector and a vehicle specifically for the Royal Engineers called ‘Format’

The £166 million Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV) contract was let although the Panther would not come into service until 2008.

Security in Iraq deteriorated, IED’s were beginning to be a significant issue.

Meanwhile, the first Boxer prototype had been delivered and Stryker had deployed to Iraq with US forces.


British Army Medium Weight Capability – Table of Contents

Introduction and Notes

What this document is, sources and acknowledgements, and what this document is not

The Fifties and Sixties

Saladin and Saracen enter service, early work on their replacement commences and completes. The FV432 enters service, and the BMP-1 does likewise, work on Warrior gains pace.

The Seventies

CVR(T) and CVR(W) enter service, and the rapid deployment concept cuts its teeth with the C-130

The Eighties

CVR(T) continues to be developed and sees action in in the Falkland Islands and Warrior enters service. Oh, and Saxon.

The Nineties

A decade of major change; the end of the Cold War, operations in the Gulf and the Balkans. The microprocessor and communications revolution. VERDI, FFLAV, WASAD and the rise of the acronym in defence. ASCOD, CV90 and others developed. Protected mobility becomes a requirement, again, and finally, interesting materials development make an appearance in the defence vehicle world.

TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger

Three vehicle development projects that would have importance to the ongoing story of developing a medium weight capability.

Turning Points in the Balkans

Important milestones in the development of medium weight capabilities, a trip across the Sava and WWIII averted at an airport.

Change Comes to US and UK Forces

The Future Combat System, the UK follows suit, FRES and being a force for good.

FRES Gets into Gear but Iraq Looms Large

2001 to 2004, TRACER and MRAV continue but the new kid on the block called FRES is starting to take over whilst the shadow of Iraq falls on the project.

Snatch and the Trials of Truth

Between 2005 and 2007 the Army experienced significant change. FRES picked up speed but operations in Iraq overshadowed the medium weight concept.

FRES Changes Names and Changes Lane

2008 to 2009, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance the needs of operations with the desire to transform and bring FRES to fruition at the same time.

FRES Scout to the End of FRES

2010 to 2011, putting the embarrassment of FRES UV behind it, the Army switches to FRES SV, a replacement for CVR(T)

Return to Contingency

2012 to 2014, as an end to the Afghanistan deployment drew near, Scout continued and attention turned to Warrior.

AJAX to MIV and the Emergence of Strike

2015 to 2017, a new medium weight capability vision emerges, and this requires a new vehicle, the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV), but before that, Multi Role Vehicle (MRV).

Observations

A few thoughts and opinions.

Appendix A – Ajax

Weights, measures, variants and roles

Appendix B – 40mm Cased Telescoped Weapon System

A revolution in medium calibre weapons, but can we afford it?

Appendix C – Generic Vehicle Architecture

The essential glue that binds the increasing quantity of vehicle electronics



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