The Nineties

To say the nineties were a somewhat busy period in the story would be a significant disservice to the word busy.

Replacement programmes came and went, operations in the Gulf and the Balkans tested the legacy fleet, and all this took place across an arc of extraordinary political change, industrial consolidation, military thinking and advances in technology.

The EIghties

At the end of the eighties, the British Army had in service three distinct families of non-Main Battle Tank armoured vehicles which were, in age order:

  1. FV432 – in service 1963
  2. CVR(T) – in service 1972
  3. Warrior – in service 1986

In addition, there were a number of specialist vehicles like the FV180 Combat Engineer Tractor (in service since 1976). And let’s not forget the Saxon. CVR(T) was getting on in years and thoughts had now turned to its replacement. FV432 was even older and had never been completely replaced by Warrior, as originally intended.

For intents and purposes, the British Army was still very much configured to counter an invasion of Western Europe from the Warsaw Pact nations.

The British Army was still in a Cold War configuration.

The end of the Cold War arguably started with the 1985 death of Konstantin Chernenko and the appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev as the General Secretary of the Soviet Union Communist Party. What followed was a cascade of agreements, revolutions, recognition of nation states and the smashing of concrete walls.

Advances in vehicle electronics, communications technology, sensors and computing equipment would all be harnessed for military vehicles, despite the technology drivers being largely civilian in origin. The microelectronics revolution was moving into gear.

The first SMS text message would not be sent until 1992 but the background work was well under way. First generation analogue mobile networks were in limited service based on the iconic Motorola DynaTAC cell phone, while the much more advanced 2G digital mobile telephone networks were already in development

Desktop computers had gone from the ZX81 in the early eighties to IBM PC Clones, which were widely adopted. The World Wide Web had been invented, the first web search for porn had taken place and Photoshop was at Version 1.

The next ten years would see even more rapid change and military equipment would benefit just as much as plumbers, stock brokers and spotty faced teenagers.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dawning of the end of the Cold War resulted in Options for Change, the title of the 1990 Defence Review, the first carried out since the 1981 Nott Review. In the House of Commons on 25th July 1990 Tom King MP, the then Secretary of State for Defence, said…

In the options for change studies, we have sought to devise a structure for our regular forces appropriate to the new security situation and meeting our essential peacetime operational needs. Our proposals will bring savings and a reduction in the share of GDP taken by defence.

The peace dividend was about to be harvested.

Options for Change precipitated a reduction in armed forces personnel by just under 20%, the formation of ‘British Forces Germany’ (following the disbandment of ‘British Forces of the Rhine’ and a reduction in the number of personnel deployed to Germany) and a whole host of other amalgamations and changes.

The Army suffered the greatest reduction in manpower, going from 160,000 to 120,000 personnel.

Whilst this was happening, Cold War ‘heavy metal’ was to have one last hurrah in the desert.

Operation GRANBY – The Gulf War

In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 a coalition was formed that would see 35,000 British personnel deployed as part of Operation GRANBY. 4th Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Brigade and HQ 1st (UK) Armoured Division, and 5,000 vehicles were all shipped to Saudi Arabia in time for the 1991 kick off.

7th Armoured Brigade consisted of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars in Challenger I, with 1 Stafford’s in Warrior. 4th Armoured Brigade was infantry heavy with 1st Battalion Royal Scots and 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Warrior, with 14th/20th Kings Hussars in their Challengers.

These two brigades would be reinforced by personnel from the Grenadier Guards. Over 250 Warriors of all variants were deployed to the Middle East. The FV432, Warrior and CVR(T) all saw action, as did the Ferret and a few oddballs like the Wessex Saker and Longline Light strike/Fast Attack Vehicles.

Operation GRANBY also resulted in changes to the peacetime establishments. Instead of using FV432s for mortar fire controllers and Milan teams, additional Warriors were provided instead. This was a clear recognition that FV432 was now behind the curve.

An appliqué armour package was fitted to the Warrior vehicles, in theatre, to provide greater protection. The utility of this additional protection was proven when a Warrior Infantry Command Vehicle was hit by a 120mm HESH round fired by a Challenger I of the Scots Dragoon Guards. It resulted in much less damage than one might reasonably expect, and no deaths, although there were some very serious injuries.

A number of Warriors were modified with a turret-mounted Milan firing post. Although it could not be used on the move it did provide much greater mobility and protection for Milan than the FV432s would have.

FV510-Warrrior-Iraq-with-Milan-firing-post

This operational replacement of some FV432/CVR(T) with Warriors enabled other organisational changes that differed from the peacetime norm. Instead of mixing armour and armoured infantry they were now organised independently and were only combined on a mission specific basis.

By the end of January 1991, 1 (UK) Armoured Division was declared operational after much preparation, training and reorganisation.

By the end of February, after 100 hours of fighting, it was all over.

The FV432, Warrior and CVR(T) all saw action, as did the Ferret, M109 and even the Wessek Saker and Longline Light strike/Fast Attack vehicles.

The Longlines were subsequently acquired by the defence consultancy Ricardo who continued to develop the weapons mounting system into the various flavours of WMIK Land Rover, via the Land Rover based Multi-Role Combat Vehicle demonstrator.

GKN and the MoD specified reliability as key criteria during the development of Warrior and this approach would be vindicated. The Warrior fleet achieved a 95% availability during Operation GRANBY.

British Armoured Vehicles in the Gulf War 1991

Also noteworthy was the Vehicle Launched Scatterable Mine System (VLSMS), which was procured as an Urgent Operational Requirement. This project started from a clean sheet of paper. There was no Stormer flatbed in any stage of development, it was not just a case of adding the mine equipment to an already in service flatbed type vehicle.

VLSMS-Vehicle-Launched-Scatterable-Mine-System

The majority of the parts were from a Stormer but the hull, electrical harnesses, pipework, engine installation hardware, stowage arrangement, and GIAT Minotaur system interface were all new. The first VLSMS vehicle was in Kuwait just 14 weeks later.

Let’s pause to consider this achievement…

In those 14 weeks the design was created, the hull designed, the plates drawn, the MVEE Spec 1318 armour stock bought and delivered, the plates plasma cut and edges profiled, the hull jigs and fixtures made, new components ordered and manufactured, the hulls welded/machined/painted, the wiring harnesses designed and hull measured for cable lengths, the harnesses manufactured, the Stormer parts sourced. Fuel tank, fuel pipes, exhaust, stowage bins, headlight housings, and ECS ducting all different to existing Stormer parts designed and manufactured, the vehicle assembled, and the interface electronics designed and manufactured.

The GIAT system arrived in the UK and was mounted on the Stormer flatbed, the vehicle was tested, the mine system was tested and the complete design signed off (interim clearance, I suspect) before the vehicle was shipped.

The six units ordered were delivered at one-week intervals thereafter. It was never used in anger and withdrawn soon after GRANBY. Ultimately, the GIAT system was replaced with Shielder that used a Honeywell Volcano system.

But even so… 14 weeks to design and deploy a brand-new system!

During preparations, it was recognised that the conventional tactics for close reconnaissance that had been developed for use in Europe were less suited to the wide-open desert. Wide open spaces favoured reconnaissance by strength rather than guile. The Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank had better optics than CVR(T), longer ranged firepower, much better protection in the absence of cover and in the terrain, the same mobility. So, as is entirely normal in these situations, units were reorganised into task specific groups. In this case, a Recce Group now consisted of eight Scimitars, four Spartan Milan Compact Turret vehicles, one Samson and a Forward Observation Officer Warrior.

CVR(T) in the Gluf War 1991

At this point CVR(T) was over 20 years old and, although there had been some incremental improvements, the basic design was beginning to show its age, especially in comparison with newer vehicles. The optronics were noted as being particularly poor for the conditions encountered during operations in Iraq.

CVRT-FV101-Scorpion-Iraq-1991-02-740x486

Improvements were needed, badly.

Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV)

Although Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) actually started in the late eighties, and it was preceded by the Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FLAV) even earlier, I have included it in this section for convenience. (some sources also state it was FFLAV 1 and FFLAV 2)

When FLAV failed to deliver anything, the project became FFLAV, the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles programme, which picked up the pace during the early nineties in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Operations in the Gulf had reinforced the problems of reduced mobility, capability and survivability caused by the age and growing obsolescence of the FV432 and CVR(T) vehicle families.

If there was a recognition before the Gulf War that replacements were needed, there was certainly much more of a recognition now, as lessons were assimilated. FFLAV looked across the Army’s vehicle fleet and rightly concluded that there were too many types with overlapping roles, and the equipment in service could be consolidated by using a more coherent approach.

It probably marked the high point of joined-up thinking concerning the Army’s vehicle fleet. One might argue that such thinking has been significantly poorer both in planning and execution since.

Within FFLAV there was also a desire to replace Warrior through the Multi Base Armoured Vehicle study. As a result, FFLAV was thought to have the potential for a total of 7,000 vehicles. To say the market was excited would be rather an understatement and so, in the late eighties and early nineties, a series of partnerships and consortia emerged to offer the MoD a single prime contractor for the entire programme.

Alvis, in conjunction with the Swedish Hägglunds AB, French Panhard and Spanish ENASA proposed a range of wheeled and tracked vehicles ranging from 3.5 tonnes to 24 tonnes. The Panhard VBL, weighing between 3.5 and 4.5 tonnes would satisfy the Observation, Command and Control, Rover, Liaison and Internal Security Roles. Stormer and CVR(T) would be further developed, filling the 8-10 tonnes and 9-13 tonnes weight classifications

From ENASA (Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones S.A.) the 14 to 19 tonnes BMR-600 would be used for Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), Ambulance, Recovery, Repair, Command and Control, and Medium Calibre Weapon Carrier. Incidentally, the Austrian BMR is called Pandur I and the Pandur II is a development, with an extra road wheel. The BMR-600 was first developed in 1972.

Finally, Hägglunds would provide the 20-24 tonnes CV90 for the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), Reconnaissance, Observation, Recovery, Repair, Self-Propelled Mortar, Infantry Fighting Vehicle and Engineer Tractor.

GKN partnered with Mowag of Switzerland to create the GKN Piranha and the proposed Warrior 2000 would be used for the heavier variants. GKN even managed to sell the Piranha to non-UK customers like Saudi Arabia and Oman, for example.

Royal Ordnance PLC, the BAE owned successor to the Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) also suggested they would propose their RO2000 range of vehicles that were available in light SPG, IFV, self-propelled mortar and light tank variants. TThe RO2000, somewhat akin to the 4×4 GKN Simba, was a simple vehicle designed for overseas manufacture.

FFLAV also marks the point at which the MoD and Army publicly recognised that the observation, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements could not be met with a single light weight vehicle family like CVR(T).

It should be noted that FLAV/FFLAV was not a formal programme with specific requirements but more of a study, but the simple fact is this, it was the point (the late eighties) at which the British Army started looking for replacement for CVR(T), FV432 and Warrior, all three of which are still in service.

Legacy Vehicle Developments

Throughout the nineties, a number of manufacturers sought to extend the export potential and utility of what was soon to be called the ‘legacy fleet’, and the MoD continued to spend money on that same fleet.

The MoD awarded a £35m five year contract to British Aerospace to upgrade the Swingfire wire-guided anti-tank missile system in 1990. It was called the Swingfire Improved Guidance (SWIG) programme. SWIG would replace all the analogue electronics with the latest generation digital systems. Most notably, it would change the guidance from command to automatic command, i.e. the operator now only needed to keep the crosshairs on the target and not manually fly the missile.

At the beginning of 1990, the British Army had approximately 500 Saxons in service in the UK (including Northern Ireland) and Germany. In 1991, an additional order was placed for 100 more vehicles.

AT105-Saxon-Internal-Security-01-Image-Credit-Cold-War-Warrior

Scorpion was taken out of service in 1992 due to concerns about the 76mm gun filling the turret with toxic smoke, an April 1992 MoD press release stating;

A study into the problems associated with propellant gases in the turrets of some older AFVs has alerted  us  to  the  potentially  harmful  effects  of  the  build -up  of  residual  gases  during  periods  of sustained firing.  In the interests of soldiers’ health, a ban has been placed on the firing of 76mm and CVR mounted 7.62mm machine guns and restrictions have been placed on the firing of others, except for operational emergencies.  The purchase of Chain Guns to replace 7.62mm GPMGs, the removal from service of 76mm guns and the Light A Vehicle Rationalisation Programme will address this problem in the long term.  Planning is in progress to address the immediate implications of this firing restriction.

Other sources suggest it was related to arms reduction treaty requirements.

That same year, with TRACER in progress, the Army embarked on a vehicle rationalisation exercise that would see Saladin, Ferret, Fox and Scorpion also withdrawn from service. Because some of the Foxes and Scorpions were in good condition it was decided to do some Frankenstein conversions and mate Scorpion hulls with Fox turrets. Sabre was the result.

At the 1993 British Army Equipment Exhibition (BAEE) Vickers showed an unusual vehicle called the Mark Eleven, a hybrid armoured personnel carrier and armoured car armed with a low recoil 105mm L7 gun. After stopping development of the RO2000, Royal Ordnance PLC showed their 120mm Advanced Mortar System (AMS) on on a LAV.

In 1993, the original order for 1,048 Warrior vehicles was reduced to 789, 387 infantry section vehicles and 105 for ATGW teams (MILAN with TRIGAT planned), with the balance on other variants.

By the end of 1994 Sabre conversions had started at Base Ordnance Depot Donnington and by 1995 with 104 vehicles released to service, the programme closed. By the mid-nineties, CVR(T) was an export monster with over 1,800 vehicles sold to 20 nations, on top of the 1,863 brought into service with the British Army.

Meanwhile, in order to enable CVR(T) to soldier on until TRACER came into service, a Life Extension Programme (LEP)was initiated in 1995. The LEP had three main elements. The first was the replacement of the all Jaguar petrol engines with a diesel engine and upgraded TN15E transmission. The second was the installation of additional secure radio equipment and a thermal imaging sight that, unlike the installed OTIS, would allow use on the move. The third comprised of several minor improvements which were to include fitting a GPS, a new 30mm APDS round and replacement of some of the electrical systems.

GKN proposed, and in some cases, proceeded to mock-ups, a number of Warrior variants.

APC; armed with a single man cupola mounted 7.62mm GPMG with additional space from the removal of the turret used for stowage. ATGW; two versions were proposed, one for HOT and the other for TRIGAT. The HOT version had 4 missiles mounted on the Hot Compact Turret and another 14 stored in the hull. Reloading was carried out external to the hull. The TRIGAT version used an elevating mast that allowed reloading under armour. AA; with twin 30mm cannons. Self-propelled Rapier with eight missiles. Two turreted variants, one with a 90mm gun and the other with a 105mm gun. Modular load carrier and MLRS, and other with a stabilised 30mm Bushmaster automatic cannon were also proposed.

As with Stormer and CVR(T) in the eighties, Warrior could have been utilised to a much greater extent across a number variants in the nineties.

As part of its proposal for the FFLAV competition, GKN developed the ‘low profile Warrior’.

This would eventually be more widely known as Warrior Reconnaissance as it developed further. It was shortened by the removal of one set of road wheels, featured a new radar absorbent appliqué panels and the same Delco turret at the Desert Warrior. The standard crew of three was joined by a sensor operator and equipped with an elevating sensor mast multi spectral surveillance system utilising radar, thermal imaging, day/night sights and a laser rangefinder/target designator. The reduction in size and payload over a normal Warrior but retention of the same powerplant improved power to weight ratio significantly. The turret featured a fully stabilised M-242 25mm automatic cannon and TOW missiles in side mounted launchers. Additional communications equipment and an integrated sensor management system completed the specification. Handling was apparently not brilliant but it was nonetheless and interesting development that echoes the much later ASCOD and CV90 proposals for FRES/SV.

GKN started development on Warrior 2000 in 1997.

GKN sold its defence vehicle business to Alvis in 1998.

Warrior 2000 was then presented as a contender for a Swiss Infantry fighting vehicle requirement. It was of all aluminium construction and had a range of improvements including better protection,  digital fire control system, all round camera system, more powerful engine, hydraulic engine deck lift, double pin tracks, reduced thermal and acoustic signature and an electric drive fully stabilised turret fitted with an ATK Bushmaster 30mm automatic cannon. The hull was slightly longer with sloping and smoother upper surfaces to reduce the radar signature. Combat weight was 31 tonnes and it had a range of 500km with a top road speed of 75kph.

Repaircraft also offered an improved CVR(T) range.

After a competition between Perkins, Cummins and Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the Cummins 6BTA was selected and a £32m contract awarded to BAE for the work. Deliveries of the LEP CVR(T) commenced in 1998.

In a separate development, during 1997 the MoD announced that 170 CVR(T) Scimitars would receive an upgraded thermal imaging system for both observation and gun sighting. The candidate chosen was the Thales Sight Periscopic Infrared Equipment (SPIRE). However, the full 170 vehicle aspiration was subsequently reduced to just over 100 and the later batches were to carry the prefix Enhanced or E-SPIRE.

A number of additional Scimitars were also fitted with the SPIRE system under an Urgent Operational Requirement for service in Bosnia as part of SFOR. As part of the SPIRE programme 40 Scimitar were also fitted with a TacNav digital compass and navigation system from KVH. As the decade closed, the remaining CVR(T) vehicles were provided with a new single pin track design called the TR10 from William Cook Defence.

As a result of these many different upgrades, the homogeneous CVR(T) fleet began to fragment, with fleets within fleets becoming the norm.

The Plastic Tank

The Advanced Composite Armoured Vehicle Platform (ACAVP) was often called the ‘plastic tank’ although it was neither simply plastic nor a tank. The aim was to demonstrate how an advanced plastic/glass fibre composite called E-Glass could provide protection comparable to steel and aluminium, but with a reduced infrared and acoustic signature and significantly improved corrosion resistance, especially against salt water. A separate spall liner, common on steel and aluminium vehicles, could also be eliminated.

Composite-Armoured-Vehicle-Platform-ACAVP-08

Development started in 1993 after a two-year feasibility study and progressed through a number of stages until mobility, safety and survivability tests were concluded. Only the hull was composite; all the other components were straight out of the existing vehicle parts bin: for example, the running gear, engine and transmission were from an Alvis Warrior while the turret was from a Fox.

The trials did reveal a few failures in some of the automotive components but, reportedly, the hull exceeded all expectations.

Weighing in at 24 tonnes the monocoque-hulled demonstrator was configured for the recce role with a two man crew pod at the front, mission module in the middle and turret and powerpack at the rear. It had frontal protection against 30mm AP and 14.5mm protection elsewhere.

GKN, Westland Aerospace DRA (DERA), Army Base Repair Organisation (ABRO), the University of Plymouth, Shorts Brothers, Vickers, Alvis, Hexcel Composites, Ciba, Kidde-Graviner, Perkin and Vosper Thorneycroft were all involved at some stage.

Whilst it should be remembered that Russia trialled a fibre glass PT76 and the USA experimented with the Advanced Technology Demonstrator (ATD) – Composite Armored Vehicle (CAV) – the UK’s Advanced Composite Armoured Vehicle Platform (ACAVP) was more ambitious in its use of composite materials for the monocoque hull.

Composite Armoured Vehicle (CAV)

The material chosen was one of the cheapest available. At £3 per kg, E-Glass was considerably cheaper than S2 Glass at £11 per kg, or Kevlar aramid fibre at £20 per kg. One of the design innovations was the stud mounted armour panels that would allow sections to be removed for carriage in a C130. The hull alone was 60mm thick and weighed about six tonnes with the automotive, mission equipment and appliqué armour panels making up the balance.

Composite-Armoured-Vehicle-Platform-ACAVP Build

A 2000 Parliamentary Question provided information on the cost.

HC Deb 06 June 2000 vol 351 cc172-3W 172W

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cost to date of the work carried out to develop the Advanced Composite Armoured Vehicle Platform; what was the total budget provision and completion date for development and trials; and if he will make a statement. [124540]

Dr. Moonie: The total cost to the MOD of the Advanced Composite Armoured Vehicle Platform is expected to be £6 million, which is within the total budget provision when the programme started in 1993. The 173W initial automotive trials have been successful and the development and trials process is expected to be complete in October 2000.

It was only a technology demonstration programme and was concluded in 2001, but it was definitely at the cutting edge of material and fabrication science and proved that a 20%-30% weight reduction was possible. The general conclusion from ACAVP was that although valuable weight savings were possible, carbon fibre composites would provide greater potential due to them being much stiffer, thus reducing the need for additional material density.

QinietiQ-Plastic-Tank-and-inflatable-fascine

Pull through to the TRACER programme was planned but as described in the next couple of sections, FRES killed TRACER and the rest is history.

It is interesting that in the years since, the use of composites has been limited to add-on panels in protected vehicles like the Snatch and Foxhound, rather than what we might consider ‘fighting vehicles’ where steel and aluminium hulls still reign supreme.

The ‘plastic tank’ is currently at the Tank Museum and regularly gets an outing at shows.

It is even in the Guinness Book of World Records

ASCOD and CV90

Although not in UK service during this period, CV90 and ASCOD would go on to be involved with the FRES SV Scout, so it is useful to examine their origins, both in the nineties.

ASCOD

The Austrian Spanish Co-operative Development (ASCOD) was a joint project with Spain and Austria. ASCOD is much like Warrior: a 25-35 tonne engine-forward infantry fighting vehicle with 30mm automatic cannon and seating for dismounted infantry. The partner companies were General Dynamics, Santa Bárbara Sistemas and Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug GmbH (SSF). In Spanish service, it is known as the Pizarro, and in Austria, it is called the Ulan.

The first prototype was completed in 1992 and production commenced four years later, in 1996.

ASCOD

A number of variants of the Pizarro were proposed or developed, including a command vehicle, advanced reconnaissance, recovery, HOT missile carrier and others.

ASCOD Variants

The VCOAV (Vehículo de Observación Avanzada) Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle would be developed in the next decade but in 1996 ASCOD developed the 105mm Light Tank variant. This was fitted with the same turret and 105mm main gun as the South African 8×8 Reumech OMC Rooikat. The ASCOD 105 LTE was subsequently purchased by Thailand, incidentally, Warrior was also trialled with the same turret.

ASCOD and Warrior 105LTE

In 1998 General Dynamics, who by then owned ASCOD, trialled it with the same Low Profile Turret as would be used in the Stryker Advanced Gun System (AGS). This used the M68A1E4 105mm main gun, a slightly modified variant of the M68 as used on the M60 Patton and M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, which itself was a licence built variant of the Royal Ordnance L7 as used on the British Centurion main battle tank.

ASCOD-105

Trials were apparently successful and the data was used to develop the AGS Low Profile Turret further.

CV90

The first CV90 prototype was actually completed in 1988. Testing continued and deliveries commenced for the Swedish Army in 1994.

Like ASCOD, it is available in a number of variants in addition to the Infantry Fighting Vehicle: Forward Observation, Forward Command, Recovery and Air Defence. The CV90-40 Air Defence Variant entered service in 1998. A trial version with the GIAT 105mm TML turret was completed in 1994.

cv90105

The same turret as mounted on GIAT Vextra.

In total, just over 500 vehicles were delivered to the Swedish Army across a number of variants and tranches, for a total value of just under £980 million, including the development of the main variants.

Norway and Switzerland ordered CV90 in the late nineties.

VERDI, WASAD and VERDI-2

VERDI and WASAD were two significant pieces of research work carried out by MVEE and industry, and important to the overall story.

In the late seventies, it was clear that vehicle microelectronics were going to play a major role in armoured combat vehicle development and so their integration with vehicles would require a new approach. MVEE established the Systematic Approach to Vehicle Electronics (SAVE) initiative that defined standards for electrical and electronic distribution, and physical characteristics. The Modular Assembled Vehicle Installation System (MAVIS), or to you and me, a shelf, also defined means by which electronics could be secured and mounted in vehicles.

In 1987, the Vehicle Electronics Research Defence Initiative (VERDI) built on this previous work. It examined how modern vetronics (a portmanteau of the words vehicle and electronics), sensors and communications equipment could be exploited to improve performance and reduce crew numbers.

VERDI was a technology demonstrator using an FV510 Warrior as the base vehicle.

Concluding in 1990, VERDI demonstrated a number of different technologies including data bus multiplexers, navigation, data fusion, positioning, display and engine monitoring. The benefits of mounting sensors on an elevating pneumatic mast from Clark Masts were also assessed.

The demonstrator mast was equipped with a thermal imager and image intensifier. A crew of three was retained for this initial demonstrator but it was clear there was potential to reduce even this.

The Wide Area Surveillance Automated Detection (WASAD) project built on earlier work at the Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) which examined remote vision, vehicles with external cameras (instead of optical periscopes) and unmanned turrets. MVEE had concluded that the available technology of the period was not mature enough for adoption into service. WASAD took another look, with newer technology. It developed a panoramic day/night vision system that included automatic target detection and recognition whilst on the move, connected via voice recognition to the fire control system on a modified Challenger 2.

WASAD had shown the potential of electronic systems integration in combat vehicles while highlighting the need for greater standardization to ease implementation.

VERDI and WASAD had demonstrated huge potential and this resulted in a second phase project starting in 1993, VERDI-2. It was also designed to de-risk some of the systems thought likely to be included with the new Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER).

The VERDI-2 Warrior was designed to test 2-man crew concepts and the ability to manoeuvre using only indirect vision. It had a side by side crew station, each two CRT displays that could show mapping information, GPS data, symbology and other sensor information. VERDI-2 only had a crew of two, both side by side. The sensor package was upgraded, using the automatic threat detection and identification systems from WASAD and this included audio warnings to the crew of potential danger.

The turret was also armed with an early version of the Starstreak High-Velocity Missile, Air Defence Alerting Device (ADAD) and a mock-up of the CTAi 40mm cannon.

A new concept for VERDI-2 was to team the 2-man Warrior with a Troop Leader’s Stormer, communicating in real time to establish a ‘recce team’. This vehicle acted as a communications and data hub and was equipped with additional data networking and processing equipment. VERDI also demonstrated a remote surveillance remote tracked vehicle called HARP that was carried as a demountable payload.

Trials were completed by Household Cavalry, their 1994/5 Journal describing the process, including this amusing comment on the fragility of early vehicle electronics:

The navigation systems fitted included a Global Positioning System, inertial navigation and a digital map, over which tactical overlays could be superimposed. The map showed your position all the time and gave you an 8-figure grid. A most useful piece of kit, it was impossible to get lost but of course, the system did fail on one occasion which meant we went around in a circle and ended up where we started facing the opposite direction which totally confused the boffins monitoring us.

Lt DK Avis concluded:

The trial on Salisbury Plain was a success in as much as it proved a two-man crew can operate effectively for 48 hours in a closed down environment, and it opened our eyes to what is available to the recce soldier of tomorrow. The main question to be answered before TRACER comes off the drawing board is what is the main role of recce? What does it need to do, collect information or destroy enemy light armour or both? Whatever the answers are, it must be smaller and faster. Let’s hope I’m still around to see it!

The choice of Warrior for use as the base vehicle for the VERDI demonstrator seems to suggest an explicit recognition that CVR(T) did not have space or electrical generation capacity for modern sensors and computing equipment.

In other words, CVR(T) was obsolete.

I haven’t forgotten about the Balkans or MRAV and TRACER, they are in subsequent sections.

 

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39 Comments on "The Nineties"

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Chris

Possibly ahead of the game a bit, but the effect on UK defence equipment design capability of the closure of the Establishments through the 90s deserves exploration. Under the rules crafted by Peter Levene, two central commandments formed the modern MOD procurement system: 1) Competition drives down price so all contracts must be competed, and 2) Neither MOD nor UK Gov’t will hold the contractual risk – industry must deliver what it promises and by when it promised it, or all cost overruns were their’s to cover. Two simple rules. Taking them in reverse order, the refusal of MOD to accept any risk on its equipment programmes destroyed the Government Establishment’s raison d’etre overnight. Without taking design responsibility and consequent risk responsibilities, how could the Establishments draw up concepts, or issue design constraints, or produce design prototypes for Industry to take to production? Equally, had the Establishments produced designs, what company would take on their development to production holding all the risk – some of which would be risk that the initial design was seriously flawed? Briefly looking at the ‘compete everything’ commandment, perhaps looking back at the 70s and 80s when the UK was still a manufacturing nation and had dozens of companies eager to take on defence work, the competitive approach might have worked. But the combination of a dramatically reducing volume of defence materiel being procured, allied to a huge increase in the burden of preparing a bid under MOD’s new (very American) procurement process, meant that many small players could not compete with the likes of BAe, GKN, Vickers, GEC , Plessey or Racal – the bids cost too much, and in any case under the new ‘business owns all the risk’ rule, the MOD would only contract with organisations with enough capital to support being sued for contract value. Also happening at this time under Monetarism was the wholesale globalisation of UK business, under which foreign acquisition of UK businesses was welcomed by the Gov’t while at the same time the Gov’t departments were told to buy whatever goods or services they needed from the cheapest source even if from abroad. UK industry collapsed, unable to compete with businesses overseas running in less regulated environments or with vastly cheaper labour or with direct subsidy from their local government. In my opinion looking back I do not see Monetarism as having been in any way good for the country, rather it was selling off the family silver in monstrous proportions. But that’s an argument for other places than here.

The effect the closures had on UK defence equipment design was (again in my opinion) colossal. For some deluded reason the MOD assumed industry would perform all the work previously done by the Establishments – but cheaper! Of course it didn’t. Industry is not a charity; unless there’s high probability of a good return on its investment, it does nothing. With the reduction in defence equipment procurement – 900 Chieftains replaced by 420 Challengers replaced by 399 Challenger 2 of which but 227 remain in service with a plan to reduce front-line numbers to just over 100 – there just isn’t enough carrot to entice industry to invest at anything like the effort of the Establishments. Without a cast-iron contract, or at least a winnable competition for one, there will be no design effort in industry. No surprise then that since the Establishments closed the only genuine new British designed armoured vehicles have been Terrier and Foxhound. Titan and Trojan are highly modified Challenger hulls so arguably are variants not complete new designs. Other than these? Jackal? A very clever and highly mobile design, but its not armoured – blast protected and ballistically shielded, but one molotov cocktail would do for it so no not really armoured. Everything else the UK has brought into service has been MOTS often from foreign suppliers, and most big armour projects are reworked designs from the 80s. Mentioning no Ajax. Like I said; industry won’t invest billions to produce something genuinely new and a step forward in capability if the MOD is only going to buy 80 of the things – worse still if under the competition rule the hugely expensive new Gucci designs are put up against a vastly cheaper rehash of Leo2.

So. No Government funded Establishments means no long-term joined-up state-of-the-art defence equipment design effort.

FRES started when the Establishments were still operating, and its aims were fully within RARDE Chertsey capabilities. When the Establishments shut, the FRES project flew off the rails. Hopefully somewhere in the long FRES write up the barking situation under Atkins will be laid bare – seven research projects called Technology Demonstrations run entirely without knowledge of the other research projects covering different aspects, worse still two subjects of research being performed by competing teams coming up with quite different solutions and dependencies – this was never going to neatly settle into a coherent AFV design! Herding cats! Added to which no-one seemed to have control; the MOD couldn’t explain the requirement and the User had entirely lost faith in what was at one time supposed to be delivering a useful replacement for CVR(T).

This would not have happened had RARDE Chertsey maintained its design role.

Despite ASCOD-FRES-Ajax being way off the mark in many eyes, it is at least something likely to be delivered. For that at least given the idiocies of the FRES studies we ought to be relieved.

I found this perfectly summed up in one simple quote from young William Suttie’s fine book ‘The Tank Factory’, where he is looking back at the 1920s. He states “The decision to focus tank design in industry and run down the experienced and innovative Department of Tank Design (DTD) was a significant factor that resulted in Britain becoming a backwater in tank design until the Chertsey Establishment was established.” Clearly that was a lesson not learned.

Chris

Ref VLSMS work list – you could add “fuel tank, fuel pipes, exhaust, stowage bins, headlight housings, and ECS ducting all different to existing Stormer parts designed and manufactured, ” – it wasn’t just the electrics that couldn’t transfer from the box-body Stormer.

Point of mild interest – post Op Granby there was a ‘things learned’ exercise run by MOD/Army. The only significant and firm criticism of this vehicle was the BV and Radio Rack needed to swap places. We’d put Radio IK next to the Vehicle Commander on the LHS sponson and the BV out of reach on the RHS sponson. The crew were happy to climb over whatever stuff they filled the compartment floor with to get to the radio, but the BV had to be within reach when strapped in. No doubt then which was the most important…

Chris

On VLSMS work list – forgot the engine induction system was all new with fancy cyclone pre-cleaners to try to get the air filters to last longer than a couple of hours. so the list includes “engine induction and air filters,”

Chris

Ref FLAV/FFLAV – I thought the studies were FFLAV & FFLAV2 – I’m sure in the DO at Alvis the work was called FFLAV2

Chris

Ref images of RO2000 family – not at all like GKN Simba in physical form, which is how the sentence reads. Elsewhere on the web I found some type number descriptions:

RO2000 – basic tracked chassis
RO2001 light SPG
RO2002 IFV
RO2003 self-propelled mortar
RO2004 light tank with 105mm gun

The two images appear to be tracked chassis and mortar variant.

Chris

As we’re in the 90s, the text has covered the desert scenario and tactical implications of – as in MBT being better recce wagons than CVR(T) because of wide open flat cover-free obstacle free ground. Also in the 90s was Op Grapple & Op Agricola – in those cases the terrain was considerably different and the advantage/disadvantage balance between LAV and MBT was different. Looking forward to a comparison between the two environments pointing out what was ideal for a given task in one theatre was not necessarily right in the other? We’ve all seen the photo of Col Bob Stewart’s white Warrior on the middle of a very shaky looking bridge, normally supported by a caption that notes the vehicle crew were not sure the bridge would take the weight but there was no alternate route… Big vehicles in an environment of mountain tracks and narrow bridges over deep ravines can be a liability.

Chris

Ref Scorpion 76mm taken out of service – alternative reason that has been postulated was that the arms reduction treaties of late 80s/early 90s set targets for reduction in numbers of direct fire AFVs with guns of bore greater than 75mm. The vast Russian fleet of BMP1 with its 75mm gun was not affected, Scorpion & Saladin with 76mm were in the affected group. Clearly, having large numbers of Scorpions armed with short barrel 76mm, these were first to be decommissioned as the alternative would have been to decommission similar numbers of MBT with 105/120mm guns. Killing Scorpion had the least military effect. The smoke in the turret and its hooks into the then fashionable health & safety duty of care has been seen by some as (pun alert!) a smoke screen to hide some fairly inept treaty negotiations with Russia (as in the negotiators were not adequately knowledgeable about CVR(T) to know they should have argued for a break point of 76mm and above, not 75mm).

Chris

Ref ASCOD variants with bigger guns – isn’t the Brazilian TAM an ASCOD based thing?

DavidNiven

It’s based on the German Marder, and I believe it’s Argentinian in origin.

DavidNiven

Ref the low profile Warrior I can recall an article in Soldier magazine from the period which had an article on the vehicle with the headline ‘short wheel base Warrior’ don’t know if you can dig it up.

Chris

DN – ref TAM – I am corrected. Only goes to show I should check a reference or two before typing.

Forgive my ignorance but what is a M588 (as used on Op GRANBY) it is unknown as an AFV in Wikipedia or Google.

I am as you know preparing a glossary, and learning something new for practically every item. But so far this has defeated me.

Chris

DV – could it be a typo for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M578_light_recovery_vehicle which was built on the same bsic hull as M109?

ArmChairCivvy

Some in consistency in the sums, about the order for
“Warrior vehicles was reduced to 789, 387 infantry section vehicles and 105 for ATGW teams.”
– the rest?

ArmChairCivvy

A typo in “and the same Delco turret at the Desert Warrior”
and,
soon after,
the first mention of Warrior 2000 is missing a zero from it

ArmChairCivvy

Won’t affect the text, but in this one
” a smoke screen to hide some fairly inept treaty negotiations with Russia (as in the negotiators were not adequately knowledgeable about CVR(T) to know they should have argued for a break point of 76mm and above, not 75mm).” the ploy was on the artillery side as 100mm was made the cut-off. That brought the vast number of heavy mortars (possessed by the Russians) under these same limits.
– it also made Finland’s artillery – overnight – the second biggest in western Europe (after the Bundeswehr)

TD, have you noticed that Google is able to “scrape” your photos when the text piece with them is still in “protected” status?
– not that there’s any harm in it; an official trailer of the main film/ its episodes!

Chris

TD – would still ask for an update to VLSMS task list as it wasn’t just hull & electrics that were new design.

Also think “The RO2000 was somewhat like the GKN Simba, a simple vehicle designed for overseas manufacture” would be clearer if instead it read “The RO2000, somewhat akin to the 4×4 GKN Simba, was a simple vehicle designed for overseas manufacture”

Also ref M588 vs. M578 – if M588 is correct then can we have a descriptor (ambulance, recovery, APC, whatever) please?

ArmChairCivvy

Thanks, and I also now see the wisdom of what you proposed at the beginning: deleting the protected comments when each installment is opened up (we discuss many nitty-gritty things, and at least I feel the urge to hug the world – not just the text – at times).

Chris

Still on VLSMS, in the para just under the picture – “electrical harnesses,” better as “electrical harnesses, pipework, engine installation hardware, stowage arrangement,” to align to the para below?

@Ravenser

I think a more detailed mention of CVR(T) in Bosnia is deserving. I like to think that the Bosnia deployments were CVR(T)’s finest hour.
One example springs to mind. ln March 1994 the Government decided to reinforce BRITFOR: D Squadron The Light Dragoons were tasked to deploy under the command of 1 DWR to form BRITBAT 2 During the following days the vehicles were painted white and a whole host of other pre deployment details too numerous to mention were fixed.
The flexibility of CVR(T) was demonstrated by the fact that a full Armoured Recce Squadron was driven from Hohne to Hannover, flown to Split by C130 and was on operations in northern Bosnia less than 7 days after being warned for deployment. Four months later the Light Dragoons RHQ were tasked to deploy and in a similar scenario to that above they were flown out of Hannover and took command in the Maglaj ‘finger’ just eight days later.

Chris

Thanks TD. I just went through the photo shelves and found loads of photos of VLSMS taken in the works and post Granby in MOD sheds (a post-deployment survey to see what broke – answer: very little). Bearing in mind their age the photos are still sharp, high contrast and sound in colour balance – not bad for high-street cheapo processing. Sadly, I suspect there are rules on releasing images taken in what was at the time a secure Gov’t facility, although I think its been bulldozed and turned into another housing estate now. Shame. But the machine can be seen going through some work-up drills in the Kuwaiti desert at the start of this clip:

mr.fred

I can access this page when on different computers. Is that deliberate? I’ve only logged in via one.

@Ravenser

Congratulations on the inclusion of ‘portmanteau’ Cap doffed. VERDI-2 I’m assuming the two-man (person) crew refers just to the turret crew? Including the driver the vehicle crew total is three.

ArmChairCivvy

I thought it was ‘vectronics’?
“vetronics (a portmanteau of the words vehicle and electronics)”

ArmChairCivvy

RE “The VERDI-2 Warrior was designed to test 2-man crew concepts and the ability to manoeuvre using only indirect vision.”

The Isralies are getting there now (with Carmel) but it requires a fighter pilot -like helmet (cueing the weapons, too) and an auto-drive option for the crew to be able to observe/ do some recce, too.
– so a quarter century jump, if you decide to do any x-referencing

mr.fred

Repeated paragraph

Chris

ACC – definitely Vetronics in the UK AFV world…

Not sure whether reference to the MARDI remote/robotic AFV demonstrator is relevant here; it was concurrent with VERDI although lower profile and apparent priority,

Chris

I’ve had a read through the VERDI-2 report in the Household Cavalry Journal. I think the quotes attributed to Lt Avis in the text above may not be his, but those of LCoH Bright? Not that that makes them any less pertinent (often get far better opinion, information and suggestions from troops & NCOs than from their more guarded and politically minded commissioned officers) but the fact these may not be the views of an officer tends to deflate their value in MODland. Although the text will have been approved by Lt Avis and presumably others in his line of command before being put in print.

Chris

Ref the start of VERDI description – should be made clear the initiative was invented and managed by RARDE(Chertsey) – another bit of independent research into the next generation of AFV with no links to current or planned procurement contracts. This is what the Establishments did that industry does not – spend cash to invent the future without concerns of monetary return on investment.

Chris

Equally, at the end of the VERDI-2 description, there ought to be an indication that, had the Establishments still been doing the work they did in the 50s 60s and 70s, they would have honed VERDI into a sound prototype design for the next generation Recce Vehicle, to a point where the design would have been passed to Industry to develop and productionise – just the same process as led to CVR(T) and Warrior and Stormer and all our MBTs from Centurion to Challenger…

Since the Establishments were shut down, and every design is based on 1) an active procurement programme, 2) industry players who can afford multi-million bids and any future legal action where MOD may sue for poor performance, and 3) the industrial corporation finding the cheapest route to requirement compliance most often by rehashing designs already fielded, the leaps forward in technology and ‘state of the art’ of AFVs have ceased. A shuffle forward every now & then. No strategic development plan, just stovepiped projects driven mostly by cost-counters under the cosh from the Treasury. Such is progress.

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