The next five years would see a number of important events and opportunities occur in the story.
2000 to 2003
Despite TRACER and MRAV delivering tangible and viable vehicles they would both be cancelled in this period, to be replaced with FRES.
The reason was simple, the prevailing military
fashion thinking changed and they were no longer suitable for the transformational ways of doing business.
The poster child for the new way of waging war was the US Future Combat System (FCS)
We dropped TRACER and MRAV like hot potatoes in favour of the shiny new baubles promised by FCS, thus was born FRES.
It is as simple as that.
In February 2000, the estimated cost of the UK’s participation in TRACER was revised to £90 million, with costs split 3 ways between the UK, USA and competing consortia. An affordability review was planned for early 2001 after which a number other options were to be considered. Rumours surfaced that the US was about to terminate the programme and in the same month Mr Quentin Davies MP tabled a Parliamentary Question about the consequences of the US withdrawing. In response to the question, the estimated cost rose to £130 million, up from £118 million a couple of years before and £40m different from a parliamentary answer given only months before.
In April 2001, a statement to the House of Parliament revealed that the future of the US FSCS was in doubt, describing how the new Future Combat System (FCS) vision as envisioned by General Shinseki in 1999 would need funding and some programmes would be cut to make room for it, one of these was the follow-on engineering development phase of FSCS/TRACER.
At the DSEi show in London in September 2001, a SIKA representative said;
Rumours that the project had stalled completely and was about to be overtaken by FRES are grossly overdone, the project continues to meet its milestone development phases and we have already started cutting metal on the first prototype.
In 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 information gained would be used to inform FCS and FRES respectively, both programmes were to effectively absorb TRACER and FSCS.
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Tracer programme.
Dr. Moonie: The UK and the US have taken a joint decision to bring the Tracer programme to a close in July 2002 when the current assessment phase comes to an end. In keeping with the principles of Smart Acquisition, this illustrates our willingness to take the right decision early in a programme in response to changing priorities. The Tracer programme has successfully developed a pool of key technologies that can now be utilised in future programmes such as the Future Rapid Effects System which will play a key role in meeting the Land Commander’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance needs.
TRACER and FSCS were no more although that the development programme would see out its contracted funding and allow the consortia show the fruits of their considerable labours.
Total cost to the UK was confirmed at £131 million
TRACER technology demonstrations took place towards the end of the programme in June and July 2002 involving the prototype vehicles from each consortium.
The composite image above show the LANCER TRACER demonstration vehicle, sharp eyed readers will note two slightly different turrets. The image top left is at United Defense in the US, they produced the chassis and shipped it to the UK for fitting of the sensor and turret systems. The others show a dummy turret.
There are not many images of the LANCER tracer with its final turret and sensor design.
The SIKA demonstrator is shown below.
They were widely regarded as impressive vehicles and included many advanced concepts such as a hybrid electrical drive that provided a limited silent capability, band tracks from Soucy, 5m mast mounted elevating sensors, unmanned turrets, open electronic architectures, single crew pod and the ‘just off the drawing board’ 40mm Cased Telescopic Ammunition (CTA) cannon from CTAI.
They were only demonstrators of course, and many of the technologies were nowhere near mature enough for deployment but they showed considerable promise and innovation.
Both vehicles were the culmination of a great deal of detailed analysis and study, make no mistake, both the US and UK put a great deal of time and effort into the TRACER/FSCS requirement before building the demonstrators.
The Combined Analysis Plan (CAP), for example, consisted 21 individual study areas and these were closely integrated with current thinking on unmanned aerial vehicles. This analysis extended to asking questions about UAV survivability and operability in poor weather, sensor fidelity in falling snow, the impacts of operating in hot and high environments, integration with stand off weapons and the optimal height for the sensor mast.
No stones were left un-turned.
The multi spectral sensor system combined thermal imaging, radar, acoustic and forward looking infra red, fusing them into a single picture, much like VERDI-2 Warrior had sought to demonstrate a decade earlier. The system also had a laser rangefinder/designator, automatic target recognition with weapon cueing and the individual crew stations were designed by aircraft avionic manufacturers. It’s high speed Firewire databus made those on CVR(T) and the M3 look steam driven. The single crew pod allowed protection to be concentrated and thus, dimensions reduced and overall weight lowered.
Even surround sound technologies were used to present realistic external audio to the crew, that was how smart it was.
Human factors were another area of significant research and modelling, especially when looking at the issues of unmanned turrets, a single crew pod and 3 man crews. Workload reduction and ensuring the tidal wave of data from the extensive sensor systems did not overwhelm the crew to the point of ineffectiveness were considered. Duplication of workstation functionality allowed, in extremis, the vehicle commander to drive or driver to fire the weapon.
Even with all the technology it was still recognised that maintaining situational awareness for the crew would be a challenge.
TRACER provided a glimpse into the future but although the vehicles were reportedly very impressive, the impression I get from reading what sparse materials are available on the subject is that the massive leaps forward were probably too much for a single programme to sustain. Every aspect was a huge advance; armour, propulsion, weapons, ergonomics and above all, the sensors and sensor fusion. FSCS was also criticised because it sought to reduce the overall personnel numbers in US Cavalry organisations, especially dismounted personnel, and it was feared that technology was driving doctrine, not the other way around, perhaps a fair criticism.
With the US gone, the UK had a choice, it could well have stayed with the programme and comments about it being unaffordable without US participation are only partly true but before it had chance to complete, the UK was already in love with its own version of FCS, The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES).
And that was the end of TRACER.
The Dutch company Stork joined MRAV in 2001 for the Pantser Wiel Voertuig requirement.
The vehicle was named Boxer in 2002.
During these early stages there was still discussion about using both 6×6 and 8×8 variants although that would give way eventually to only the 8×8.
UK planning assumption were for four variants (armoured personnel carrier, command vehicle, communications vehicle and ambulance) across a total order of 775 vehicles. A great deal of British design expertise went into MRAV and equally, the concept of operations.
The UK withdrew from MRAV in July 2003 to pursue FRES citing the weight of MRAV as far too heavy for the medium weight rapidly deployed FRES concept.
Might be worth remembering this as you read on, MRAV was too heavy.
Announcing the decision on the 17th July 2003, Adam Ingram said;
Mr Adam Ingram (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence; East Kilbride, Labour)
We regularly re-visit existing plans for capability enhancements to ensure they remain tailored to the security environment in which we need to operate. As such, we judge that the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) is not ideally suited to the type of operations envisaged under the Strategic Defence Review New Chapter and other developing policy work.
This, coupled with recent operational experience in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Afghanistan and latterly Iraq, has demonstrated the need for rapid deployability in expeditionary operations.
MRAV is not considered able to meet this capability requirement which will be pursued through the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES). FRES will be a very significant component of the long-term transformation of the land battle through its contribution to network-enabled capability. We have written to the German and Dutch Governments to inform them of our decision to withdraw from the MRAV collaborative project.
Lord Bach, the Defence Procurement Minister, said;
The SDR (Strategic Defence Review) New Chapter, and our experience on recent overseas operations, have shown the need for lighter armored vehicles that can be quickly sent by air to a trouble spot when a crisis breaks
Germany and the Netherlands were left as the none too chuffed sole partners in the MRAV programme
Rheinmetall Germany an alternative in the form of the NAMV but this did not progress.
Despite the offer from Rheinmetall, Germany and the Netherlands stayed the course and the first prototype was delivered in December 2003.
Cost of the UK participation in MRAV alone was reported as £48 million in 2003, although this would risk in subsequent reporting, as it often does.
The combined cost of TRACER and MRAV combined would be confirmed by the MoD in 2007 as being £188 million.
FRES first emerged in 2001 with the MoD requesting information from suppliers on how they could contribute to a medium weight force.
BAE, Alvis Hagglunds and Vickers responded.
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 year later, in July 2002, the MoD requested a joint approach from BAE and Alvis with BAE providing the systems engineering and Alvis the 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 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 were spending money on FRES contracts whilst TRACER (£131m) was still running AND, MRAV (£57m) was being funded.
Now some might say this is the Army not being sure where its collective arse and elbow were but this would be unfair.
By summer of 2003, the 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 2003, 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.
This was a significant milestone for FRES.
What the Army first saw as a relatively simple vehicle, in the words of General Michael Walkder;
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.
June 2003 and an evidence session 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;
- Confirmation that FRES was not a 70 tonne Main Battle Tank in a 20-tonne format,
- The scale of the technical challenge and uncertainty in achieving technology goals,
- Close alignment with US and Swedish programmes,
- Back onto C-130.
In October 2003 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 C130 carriage restriction.
As detailed requirement work started, FRES and FCS got closer.
Many of the FRES requirements were simply walked over from FCS.
Operations in Iraq
CVR(T), FV432 and Warrior went to war, again, with 1(UK) Armoured Division.
These images show the early stages of Operation TELIC.
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.
Legacy Vehicle Developments
Although the privately funded development work commenced in 1998, GKN and Alvis, following its purchase of the GKN armoured vehicle business, presented the Warrior 2000 as a contender for a Swiss infantry fighting 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 inproved CVR(T) range.
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.
CVR(T) was used to reinforce security at Heathrow Airport in February 2003.
The continuing issue of European force integration would influence FRES and other programmes, aspirations of the European Rapid Reaction Force dovetailing neatly with the prevailing military logic of a rapidly deployed force for good putting out international fires.
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’
Late 2003 saw the contract award for Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV) to Alvis Vickers. The contract was for 401 vehicles into 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 will be an AEI Ordnance Enforcer. In service date was planned to be 2007.
In June 2003 Lockheed Martin and SIKA were awarded a $4.75 million contract to further mature the Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) mission equipment from TRACER.
It is important to consider protected mobility in the story of FRES and beyond because it would have such a great impact.
One of the sales engineers from Alvis and former soldier who was involved with the Alvis 4/8 programme, had by this time left and set up a company in the USA called Seafire, working 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 although based on a US Mack truck running gear to a South African base design.
More pictures here
The official name was Tempest 4×4 12TON Mine Protected Vehicle.
In February 2003 TSG announced the delivery of the final Tempest MPV to the MoD and soon after were deployed to Iraq in support of initial operations around Basra, specifically against the mine (not IED) threat, but were withdrawn soon after.
The Alvis 4/8′s were finally withdrawn from UK service in the Balkans in 2003.
208 Snatch Mk1 Protected Vehicles were deployed to Iraq from Belfast in November 2003.
November 2003 saw the US DoD order ten Buffalo protected clearance vehicles from TSG/Force Protection for $6.6 million after extensive evaluation in the preceding few years. 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 air base.
With FRES fresh out of the starting blocks after a confusing and contradictory start, there was further business in Iraq to deal with.
Stryker Deploys to Iraq
In October 2003 the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division US Army were getting Stryker ready to go to war in the Sunni Triangle .
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.
A year into the occupation a Pentagon report indicated that over half of US casualties were a result of RPG’s against lightweight vehicles (and also some of the heavier ones) so the new Interim Combat Vehicle was to be deployed.
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 is the 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.
Given the tactic of volley firing cheap and effective RPG’s the slat armour was sometimes ineffective. Because the wheels need space to turn the potential for additional armour, like that fitted to Warriors for example, is more limited. Stability also suffers. The mobile gun system would come in for a lot of criticism, especially in the human factors domain, but equally, crews would repeatedly testify that when the gun slewed, contact stopped. Crews were also fulsome in their praise for the vehicles mobility and low audio signature, providing distinct tactical advantages in many operations.
It is therefore difficult to separate the subjective from the objective and a resistance to change from transformative zeal.
Also worth repeating, the underpinning scenario analysis for FCS were mostly based on high intensity state on state combat, not prolonged insurgencies where enemy combatants would lash you with multiple RPG’s one minute and then get to the weekly shopping the next.
Many commented that Stryker was the right vehicle for an operation other than Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
The UK in Iraq and Afghanistan
Whilst the MoD, Army and HM Government were making plans for the future, there was also business at hand for the British Army in the Middle East.
The combat phase of Operation TELIC was clearly a major success, by 2004, the transition to Stability Operations had started.
Wikipedia has a good summary of Operation TELIC (Iraq) in 2004;
A further rotation of ground troops occurred in November 2003, with 19 Light Brigade relieved by 20th Armoured Brigade; 20th Armoured Brigade in its turn being relieved by 1 Mechanised Brigade. In April 2004, 20th Armoured Brigade turned over its responsibilities to 1 Mechanised Brigade and Lieutenant General John McColl was appointed deputy commander of occupation ground forces. By July 2004 the British area saw its fifth commander when Major General Bill Rollo took over. At the end of 2004 General Rollo was succeeded by Major General Jonathan Riley and in November of that year 4 Armoured Brigade rotated to replace 1 Mechanised Brigade.
2003 had seen 63 fatalities but with only a very small number associated with IED’s. The first recorded casualty as a result of an IED was in 2004, Fusilier Gordon Gentle of the Royal Highland Fusiliers whilst a passenger in a Snatch Land Rover.
A lessons learned study 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 take away is that different terrain favours different vehicles.
2004 also saw the first recorded use of an explosively formed projectile IED, against a Warrior in late May.
Saxon and Snatch Land Rovers were deployed to Iraq in 2003 and would not be withdrawn until a few years later.
Saxons would also see service in Kabul where they deployed in support of ISAF, mostly at Camp Souter/Kabul Airport area.
After withdrawal from service, the Alvis 4′s were disposed of due to reliability and safety concerns, lack of spares and road worthiness issues.
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.
The Snatch controversy, that was to have such a fundamental impact on FRES, was on its way.
Ongoing operations in Iraq did not stop development programmes or upgrades to existing vehicles being planned and delivered.
WARRIOR and CVR(T)
From 2004, a Chobham appliqué armour package was installed on Warriors destined for service in Iraq. A range of additional modifications were 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.
CTA were 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.
CTA had been working on turret integration since 2003 and had demonstrated early models of both turrets on Warrior, 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.
In related news, OCCAR placed a contract with ARTEC in 2004 for the continuing development of MRAV and the Finns purchased just under 60 CV90’s for about £200 million.
Back to FRES
In 2004, Major General Dick Applegate was appointed Senior Responsible Owner Capability Manager for Battlefield Manoeuvre, Major General Applegate was a Royal Artillery Officer. Another Gunner, Brigadier Bill Moore was DEC(GM) between 2004 and 2007. The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) was a Royal Marine and the driving force behind NEC followed by a REME officer.
On April 4th, 2004 the Initial Gate Business Case was approved by the MoD, the FRES rocket had lifted off.
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 middle man between the MoD and industry and for the IAP, the MoD expected a bill for £120 million, or 40 Boxers
Atkins were also tasked to let the competitive Technology Demonstrator Programme contracts to industry as part of a FRES Integrated Technology Acquisition Plan (ITAP).
BAE Systems created a dedicated FRES team in September 2004.
The MoD stated that because Atkins were 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 on 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.
Even at this early stage, and before, questions were being asked about the validity of the whole concept.
Lord Atlee posed a question in the House of Lords in January 2004;
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.
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
Responding to the general confusion about FRES, General Sir Mike Jackson authored a RUSI paper to explain the Medium Weight Capability (MWCap), It now had its own acronym.
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 of what was happening in the Middle East.
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.
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.
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, a number of mergers and disbandments.
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 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 Commando Brigades. This retained the traditional three level split but emphasised the medium weight.
On the 16th of December, the Public Accounts Committee published Ministry of Defence: Operation TELIC — United Kingdom military operations in Iraq
In December 2004, a number of ITT’s were issued to industry by Atkins for ten Technology Demonstrator Programmes;
- Chassis Concept(includes self-digging & suspension)
- Electronic Architecture (includes C4I, vetronics, HUMS, integrated image handling, local SA & SIL)
- Integrated Survivability
- Capacity and Stowage
- Hard Kill DAS
- Regenerative NBC
- Band Track
- Gap Crossing
Between the issue of the Technology Demonstration Programme contracts at the end of 2004 to the infamous Trials of Truth in 2007, the MoD and Army were trying to deliver the transformation workstream whilst maintaining operations in Iraq and Afghanistan whilst dealing with an increasing number of Urgent Operational Requirements.
The workload became increasingly untenable.
Whilst this was happening, despite the intentions of the Army, the entire concept of medium weight rapid intervention crumbled, and with it, the reason for FRES.
At RUSI on June 8th, Brigadier Bill Moore, Director Equipment Capability (Ground Manoeuvre), announced that FRES C130 Hercules restriction had been dropped.
A400M and C-17 will dictate the weight and size limits for FRES. We estimate only seven to seventeen C130’s will be in service by the in service date for FRES
The requirement was now A400M transport for the smaller variants at a range of 2,000nm and a target of carriage of the larger variants over the same distance. The total vehicle count was to be 3,775 over 16 roles with an estimated price tag of £14.2 Billion. It was also announced that the reconnaissance and direct fire variants would be tracked.
General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, also said during the RUSI event;
Many of the platforms in service are often twice as old as the young soldiers manning them. This has to change and FRES means to do that
Because Boeing were involved with the US FCS programme they also had eyes on FRES. Dennis Muilenburg, programme manager for FCS at Boeing, said;
We could use the experience harnessed from FCS to benefit the FRES programme. We believe there is too much useful information from FCS for it not to be used in FRES
The LANCER Consortium TRACER vehicle made a brief re-appearance in the UK to demonstrate the joint Horstman and L3 Electronically Controlled Active Suspension System (ECASS). ECASS was a advanced development that smoothed bumps and controlled roll at speed using suspension actuators acted both as motors and generators, compensating by adding or removing energy. Energy storage was handled by a combined battery/capacitor unit that also had the beneficial side effect of reducing the heat build up normally associated with conventional shock absorbers and springs.
It was thought this technology would play some part in the FRES mobility demonstrator.
The General Dynamics 8 x 8 Advanced Hybrid Electric Drive (AHED) test vehicle was also demonstrated in the UK in June. AHED used a hybrid electric power system an in hub motors. A month later, General Dynamics were awarded an 18 month Wheeled Chassis Technology Demonstrator Programme contract by Atkins, the Systems House. AHED had a 500hp diesel engine and large battery system that powered in hub electric motors.
BAE established a Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) capture team at Farnborough in Summer to ensure all elements of the BAE organisation could be bought into proposals for future FRES Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) contracts. Thales and BAE teamed up for the Electronic Architecture TDP. General Dynamics UK had been awarded a chassis TDP earlier in the year and BAE was hoping for the same. BAE then proposed the Swedish SEP (Splitterskyddad Enhets Plattform) or Modular Armoured Tactical System) programme might be exploited for FRES. At this point, the tracked and 6×6 platforms were being tested after being funded by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). With BAE by now in ownership of Hägglunds, the synergies seemed obvious.
Tracked SEP weighed 17 tonnes, had a payload of 6.5 tonnes and maximum speed of 85 km/h. It also featured an advanced hybrid electric drive and a modular payload system that was common to both the tracked and wheeled chassis.
By the end of 2005, BAE had been awarded the second Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) chassis concept Technology Demonstrator Programme(TDP) contract to investigate the potential for SEP to increase in weight to 28 tonnes. The Integrated Survivability Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) contract was awarded to Thales and an Electric Armour TDP to Lockheed Martin. BAE also won the Gap Crossing and Electronic Architecture TDP’s.
The FRES year was rounded off with the publication of the Defence Industrial Strategy.
The most likely solution (for FRES) will be a team in which national and international companies co-operate to deliver the FRES platforms, including the required sub-systems, led by a systems integrator with the highest level of systems engineering, skills, resources and capabilities based in the UK. We expect to see a significant evolution of BAE Systems Land Systems both to deliver AFV availability and upgrades through life, and to bring advanced land systems’ technologies, skills and processes into the UK. If successful in their evolution, BAE Systems will be well placed for the forthcoming FRES programme”
This was closely followed by the AFV Partnering Agreement between BAE and the MoD that was designed to improve value for money and ensure the UK’s access to intellectual property in the AFV domain.
BAE invested its own funds to develop the 8×8 version of SEP and Atkins published their annual report with a whole page devoted to FRES.
The variants roles for the FRES concept continued to evolve but initial thinking was based on the following assumptions;
- Comms/EW (Falcon and Reacher),
- Comms/EW (Soothsayer),
- Protected Mobility,
- Protected Mobility (Enhanced),
- Command and Control,
- Light Armoured Support,
- Equipment Support,
- Driver training,
- Ground Based Surveillance,
- Engineer Reconnaissance,
- Format Reconnaissance Overwatch,
- Indirect Fire Control,
- Indirect Fire Support,
- Direct Fire,
- CBRN Reconnaissance and Survey,
- Remotely Delivered Mine System,
- Armoured Engineer Tractor,
- Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers and,
- Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge.
This list would continue to evolve, although in general, that evolution would result in a much reduced number of roles and variants.
Thales completed deliveries of the last 250 Battlegroup Thermal Imaging (BGTI) systems for Warrior in January. The total contract value was £210 million which also included 15 years support.
In recognition of the need to maintain Warrior capability, the MoD embarked upon the Warrior Lethality Improvement Programme (WLIP) in May. The initial plan envisaged an upgrade to 449 IFV’s and the conversion of 125 vehicles into the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle (ABSV), essentially, a de-turreted IFV used for certain FV432 roles like mortar carrier.
The MoD issued a tender for an improved protection system for CVR(T) in August that described a requirement for mine blast protection (MBP) and ballistic protection (BP), 128 vehicles would be fitted with MBP and 158 with BP. This followed the earlier UOR for similar protection kits supplied by Permali.
By October, the total UK fleet of Scimitars consisted of 328 vehicles and the Spartan fleet stood at 478 vehicles.
Rafael showed at DSEi an FV432 with reactive armour an a 30mm Remote Weapon System.
November, the MoD awarded an £80m contract to BAE to upgrade 500 FV432 APCs to a common standard. Improvements were to include an armour package, air conditioning, counter IED ECM systems, protected commanders weapon mount and a series of automotive upgrades that are reportedly said to have transformed the vehicle.
The US adopted the Cougar Hardened Engineer Vehicle (HEV) design with some modification for use in Iraq, renamed to the Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicles (JERRV) and Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV).
Force Protection received a series of orders from the US DoD, totalling approximately $87 million for the delivery of 122 Cougar JERRV. There were a number of configurations of JERRV including a 4×4 and 6×6 with subsequent orders numbering in the hundreds. With the earlier Buffalo, they went on transform counter-IED operations in Iraq. BAe RG31′s and others were also obtained by US forces when it became obvious that Force Protection could not ramp up production fast enough to meet the burgeoning demand for MRAP’s.
Blackwater Security continued to use their Alvis 4’s purchased from the MoD in and around Baghdad. (the image on the right is from much later, circa 2009, and also shows a Saxon is use)
An update from GOC (MND(SE)) in August raised concerns about the use of IED’s and the inability of current vehicles and ECM to cope.
The threat from IEDs is worrying, with our electronic counter measures unable to defend against the [redaction] and the use of [redaction] and
(in the most recent attack) shaped charges able to penetrate armoured vehicles up to and including [redaction].. This technology has now been used across MND(SE) and indeed further north having first been seen in Maysan
Clearly, in theatre commanders were concerned about equipment issues in response to IED’s
During a parliamentary debate on the 28th of June 2005, Dan Touhig (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Veterans), Ministry of Defence; Islwyn, Labour) revealed a number of interesting facts about FRES in response to a question from Ann Winterton MP, reproduced in full below;
It might be helpful if I clarify what FRES is. I shall outline the drivers for the requirement, and give details of the progress that we have made in an immensely complex and demanding programme. The underlying requirement for FRES stems from two strategic requirements. First, we need to replace some of our current armoured vehicles, such as the Saxon, the FV 430 and the CVR(T), and, secondly, we need to develop a medium-weight capability so that we have a balanced force of heavy, medium and light brigades.
FRES will also be rapidly deployable by air at battle group level—in other words, a battalion or regiment-sized force. The strategic defence review and its new chapter identified the need to enhance our expeditionary capability, but since then our thinking has developed further. The 2003 and 2004 defence White Papers clearly explain our vision to develop a highly effective medium-weight capability. As a result of the review, the Army will be rebalanced, reducing the emphasis on heavy armoured forces and increasing the emphasis on light and medium forces.
By ensuring that each deployable brigade is fully manned and has its own integral enablers and logistics, the Army will be better equipped and structured to conduct all types of operations. FRES is at the heart of the Army’s equipment programme and it will have wide uses, not only in the medium forces, but also as a key support role for our heavy forces.
Whether for short intervention operations or enduring peace support, we often need forces with greater firepower, protection and mobility than that of light forces, but with deployability and agility that cannot be achieved by heavy forces. By providing this capability, FRES will underpin the rebalancing of the Army and the development of a truly effective medium-weight force.
In a nutshell, FRES will be a family of medium-weight armoured vehicles of around 20 tonnes, enabled by communications, information and surveillance systems, with the growth potential to develop over time. It will be the central pillar of the Army’s capable and deployable balanced force, which will have a wide operational role, from warfighting to peacekeeping.
To help the hon. Lady, I can say that the issue of whether the vehicle is wheeled or tracked is under consideration as part of the assessment phase we are going through at this time.
FRES will fill a wide range of combat and support roles. Those roles will range from a vehicle to provide protected mobility for infantry, through command and control vehicles, to a new scout vehicle for reconnaissance tasks. These medium-weight armoured vehicles will mean that FRES will be significantly lighter than our current heavy armoured forces based on the Challenger 2 and the Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicle, but I should make it clear that FRES will not replace Challenger 2, Warrior or the AS 90 guns in our heavy forces.
FRES will take full advantage of investment in our communications and information systems network. We intend that it should be network capable; it will not provide the network, but it will contribute to it. It will make full use of network-enabled capability. By this I mean that it will provide the coherent integration of sensors, decision makers and weapons systems through communications and information systems. That will enable FRES to perform roles such as command and control, dissemination of intelligence and situational awareness and control of firepower.
FRES is a complex and demanding programme. The requirement is broad and covers a wide range of military capability. We will need to take a pragmatic view of how to balance some of the individual requirements, such as combining high levels of protection and low weight, or large capacity and small size. The programme will need to interface with a range of existing and planned equipment if we are to deliver the full benefits.
Beyond the equipment programme, the Army will also need to consider the programme’s wider implications, such as the impact it will have on doctrine and how the Army trains. Given this complexity, we are approaching the programme with a careful, rigorous and objective assessment of the technical options. We will consider industrial issues and the acquisition strategy, as well as the broader implications for the Army of bringing FRES into service and, of course, the risk.
As part of the current assessment phase, which began last year, the FRES integrated project team assisted by Atkins, an independent systems house, is investigating those and other issues to ensure that FRES is cost-effective, value for money and successfully delivered. Until we make the main investment decision, time, cost and performance parameters will not be set. We will take that decision only when we are confident that the programme is mature enough to provide accurate answers to the issues that I have outlined.
The hon. Lady asked whether the 2010 date for the introduction of FRES was purely a coincidence, and from the Government’s point of view, it is. She also asked whether FRES is affordable. Affordability is a key factor in the assessment phase. Costs will not be formally approved until the main investment decision point. We currently expect FRES to have an approximate total procurement cost of £14 billion. The hon. Lady also made some important points about the use of FRES in urban areas, and the lessons that we have learned in recent conflicts will be taken into account throughout the assessment and planning stage.
To take the project forward, we have identified a series of planning assumptions that provide a basis for the planning of FRES and for interacting programmes. As new information emerges from the assessment phase, those assumptions may evolve, but under our current assumptions, we expect FRES to deliver about 3,500 vehicles, with the first variants entering service early in the next decade.
The assessment phase is now well under way, with technology risks being addressed through rigorous systems engineering work and a number of technology demonstrator programmes. So far two such programmes have been placed: a contract for capacity and stowage has been placed with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and a contract for defensive aid suites is with Akers Krutbruk. Another five contracts—two for the chassis concept, two for the electronic architecture and one for electric armour are currently being negotiated.
In parallel, the systems engineering work has developed a number of fleet options, which are now being assessed in more depth. The acquisition strategy will be critical to the successful delivery of FRES. Industrial capacity for armoured vehicle design, integration, manufacture and assembly is clearly key to the programme.
In the context of defence industrial policy, we will need to consider a wide range of issues, including employment. We must also assess the importance of retaining a UK industrial capacity and capability which, at a minimum, allows us to maintain and upgrade current and future equipment. The Defence Procurement Agency is currently considering how we can achieve that while delivering value for money.
As the hon. Lady suggested, another issue to consider is the scope for co-operation with other nations, including in the context of the European Defence Agency’s initiatives. We are clear, however, that current FRES timelines must be maintained. No decisions on co-operation between FRES and other nations’ armoured vehicle programmes have yet been made, nor do we expect to make any before the main investment decision point. I should also reassure the hon. Lady that FRES will not be dependent on the European satellite navigation system, Galileo, which is a civil programme under civil control.
FRES is a key programme for the Army and for defence and it is vital to fully achieving our vision of a rapidly deployable medium-weight capability. Its complexity means that we would be rash to rush into decisions before we have fully investigated all the issues. By following best practice, which is enshrined in the smart acquisition initiative, the programme is moving forward and it has considerable momentum. It remains a cornerstone of our future equipment programme.
Since the assessment phase started last year, a huge amount has been achieved. Atkins, the systems house, has been appointed and integrated into the FRES team. The system’s engineering process has begun to narrow down the options, and the development of an acquisition strategy has begun. The technology demonstrator programmes are under way and more will start soon. A wide range of firms were informally engaged through a highly successful industry day in January.
FRES will be an important enhancement to our defence capability, and I hope that, as debate continues, we will be able to share our plans and ideas with people such as the hon. Lady. She has taken a considerable interest in the matter, and, again, I thank her for raising the issue today.
Some important points from that;
- The rapid deployed by air element was only at Battalion or Battlegroup level, not as many have subsequently claimed, whole brigades, for which the UK simply does not possess the air transport fleet for,
- Confirmed of the bulging out of the medium weight capability at the expense of light and heavy forces,
- FRES would be ‘significantly lighter’ than the current heavy forces and Challenger, Warrior and AS90,
- An in service date of 2010 at a cost of £14 billion.
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