2006 to 2010

2006

FRES

A fleet review took place in January that concluded no off the shelf vehicle would meet the FRES requirement.

BAE then made plans to establish a Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) at their Leicester site and Platform Development Centre in Newcastle.

In March, Janes reported a conversation with Brigadier Lamont Kirkland (Director Land Warfare) that described how the experience of US and British forces in Iraq had led to a major shift in thinking on FRES.

The MoD and industry alike were talking 17 to 22 tonnes for FRES for four years, only in the last four months had those involved with the programme taken a collective leap in sitting levels of protection

The new baseline weight was 25-30 tonnes, beyond the capability of the C130 but well within that of the A400M.

This is interesting because it confirmed what Brigadier Bill Moore said at RUSI in June 2005, 9 months earlier. At the 11th European AFV Symposium, held at the Defence Academy Shrivenham, Lieutenant Colonel A M Roxburgh (SO1 Mounted Close Combat of the Directorate of Equipment Capability (Ground Manoeuvre)) confirmed again that C130 transportability had been dropped.

Multiple sources had by now confirmed weights had risen.

The FRES requirement was now likely to be met by up to three vehicle families with commonality at the subsystem level. The Utility Variant would be an 8 x 8 wheeled chassis, weighing between 25 and 30 tonnes. Joining the wheeled 8×8 would be two tracked platforms, one between 20 and 25 tonnes and the other between 30 and 40 tonnes.

FRES Family

General Dynamics and BAE, who were both in the middle of their FRES Chassis Technology Demonstrator contracts, had also recognised the new reality.

The General Dynamics AHED 8×8 had completed the second phase of its Chassis Technology Demonstrator programme at 18 tonnes and was preparing for the final stage at an increased weight of 20 tonnes, still short of the baseline suggested by Brigadier Lamont Kirkland.

General Dynamics and BAE must have been ecstatic that the MoD had just pulled the rug from underneath AHED and SEP.

Janes went on to confirm;

Before the invasion of Iraq – and more specifically the coalition stabilisation mission that followed and which continues today – the future of the UK’s armoured capability was expected to centre around a medium-weight force of rapidly deployable vehicles. Now, however, the reality of operations in a largely urban environment against an asymmetric threat has forced a complete re-evaluation of the degree of acceptable risk to an armoured vehicle’s survivability.

Clearly, this was a significant point in the history of FRES.

The vehicles had shifted up several tonnes but doctrinally, it seemed there was little change except for a change to the 17 variant proposal, it was now 16, having dropped the air defence version. FRES vehicles would now also be used in the Armoured Brigades, figures of 56% for an Armoured Brigade and 77% for a Medium Brigade were the working targets.

FRES would also be required to take part in complex extended counter-insurgency operations in addition to the rapid deployment nip the problem in the bud mission that it was intended to ne.

It is at this point that the FRES concept started to fall apart, a vehicle cannot be light enough to rapidly deploy and yet protected enough for counter-insurgency operations in urban terrain, yet this was exactly the new objective.

At Eurosatory in July, BAE showcased SEP, progress was being made on the three 6×6 wheeled and one tracked test rigs with additional FRES funding as part of the Chassis Technology Demonstrator Programme.

Writing in a RUSI paper, a Frost and Sullivan analyst argued that this increase in ‘weight’ to increase protection was incorrect and instead, information superiority would provide greater protection;

The US-derived idea that ‘heavier is better’ for stabilisation missions is based on a false premise: it is not that heavier forces are indispensable, but rather that adaptable armour kits and better ISTAR capability to locate and track the enemy will allow for lighter, more easily deployable and adaptable systems without significantly raising the risk profile of a deployed force. Leveraging such information superiority will provide greater force protection as battlefield commanders will be better positioned to dictate terms of engagement to opposing forces, mitigating the effects of lighter armour configurations. This reinforces the view that MoD should look to developing its communications and new ISTAR concept instead of investing in costly bespoke AFVs in the 25–30 tonne range.

Another RUSI paper, this time from Atkins, argued, unsurprisingly, for the MoD’s vision;

The programme to procure and deliver FRES is about ‘the art of the possible’ and ‘coherence at pace’. There is now real and demonstrable momentum behind this critical programme. The UK MoD is investing today in driving a challenging FRES programme of emerging technology that will give the Army the operational edge needed to confront tomorrow’s threat – ultimately, our servicemen and women deserve no less.

General Dynamics opened a FRES UK Joint Programme Office, David Gould and Dr Sandy Wilson presiding.

The Medium Weight Capability Vision was re-defined;

FRES Stages

BAE completed work on its Systems Integration Laboratories at Leicester by September for 3D visualisation, Combat and Electronics

November bought another big FRES announcement and further information from the National Audit Office. The acquisition strategy for FRES would be built around three tiers, a Systems of Systems Integrator, Platform Designer, and a Vehicle Integrator or Manufacturer, each one being subject to open competition.

The current planning assumption is to deliver 3,775 vehicles. The original requirement was for 1,757 vehicles but this was increased in 2004 under an equipment programme option when the Total Fleet Requirement had been established

When questioned by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in December 2006, Sir Peter Spencer responded to a question about the value of TRACER and MRAV;

Because the project teams that were available at Abbey Wood would have drawn on the documents and the information which was learned from that work and used it as part of the foundation evidence as they built up their fund of knowledge as to what the requirement was and what sort of technologies were going to be needed to meet it.

One might have reasonably thought that £200m would by a lot of information and documentation but as things would pan out, evidently that was nonsense.

In fact, in the MoD’s official response to the select committee it fessed up;

At this stage, specific pull-through from TRACER and MRAV has been limited

This response also included the immortal line;

Lessons have been learned

By the end of 2006, the world of FRES had been turned completely upside down. The convoluted acquisition strategy was proving its critics right, the two chassis demonstrators had just had the rug pulled from underneath them and the MoD had split from the FRES/FCS vision of c130 deployability. A400 AND C17 deployability was the new target and clearly, SEP and AHED were dead men walking.

We should also not underestimate the cost to industry of the MoD’s indecision.

Just to be clear;

For the Specialist Vehicle (SV) requirement;

  • 1988, FFLAV, a tracked vehicle between 20 and 25 tonnes, cancelled.
  • 1992, VERDI-2 demonstrated a tracked recce vehicle in the 25 tonne bracket, no further work carried out.
  • 2001/2 TRACER, a tracked vehicle between 20 and 25 tonnes, cancelled because it was too heavy.
  • 2006, FRES aspiring to a tracked vehicle between 25 to 30 tonnes.

On the Utility Vehicle (UV) requirement;

  • 1988, FFLAV, a wheeled vehicle between 14 and 19 tonnes, cancelled.
  • 2003, MRAV, a wheeled vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes, cancelled because it was too heavy.
  • 2006, FRES aspiring to a wheeled vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes.

No, I am not joking.

File under, you couldn’t make it up.

The cost to get to these conclusions, £200m.

You’re welcome.

Not FRES

Doubts about the viability of BOWMAN on Challenger 2 and Warrior emerged in February and later in the month it was announced that 12th Mechanised Brigade would deploy to TELIC 6 in May without. It would be fitted to Saxon and Land Rover though.

The last of the 108 BvS10 Vikings for the Royal Marines were delivered in February (71 troop carriers, 31 command and 6 repair and recovery), these being core to the new Commando 21 organisation. Thales delivered a number of their STAG (Surveillance, Targeting, Acquisition and Gunnery) fire-control gunner’s sights to the Warrior Manned Turret Integration Programme (MTIP) in March. This version was stabilised in two axis, unlike those fitted to Battlegroup Thermal Imaging (BGTI) system as being fitted on Warrior and CVR(T) Scimitar.

ABRO were awarded a contract from the MoD for the Light Forces Tactical Mobility Platform (LFTMP) Capability Demonstrator which was essentially, a de turreted Sabre fitted with a flat load bed and a number of systems relocated, not to be confused with Streaker.

Although this document is not necessarily about the protected mobility fleet the influence on FRES of Snatch Land Rovers in Iraq cannot be ignored.

Casualties from various forms of IED’s had started to mount towards the end of 2005 and in the summer of 2006 the issue was becoming highly political.

A letter writer to the Telegraph asked;

In how many more missions will our troops have to go in vehicles that were essentially designed for Northern Ireland? How many more deaths will there be before the government is held to account for not providing the money for equipment that is fit for the role? The ‘Snatch Land Rover’ may have been armoured in the context of Northern Ireland, but it certainly is not in the context of Iraq and Afghanistan.

After a company-funded prototype was completed early in 2006 the MoD ordered 62 Vector Protected Patrol Vehicles, these being based on the Pinzgauer 6×6 chassis. These were destined for Afghanistan, cost, £35 million.

Vector

Meanwhile in Iraq, over a quarter of all combat related fatalities were of personnel travelling in Snatch Land Rovers

In a House of Lords debate in June, Lord Drayson (PUS Defence Procurement) responded to allegations that the MoD was delinquent in its duty of care to soldiers in Iraq;

My Lords, I do not accept that Snatch Land Rovers are not appropriate for the role. We must recognise the difference between protection and survivability. It is important that we have the trade-offs that we need for mobility. The Snatch Land Rover provides us with the mobility and level of protection that we need. We had 14 RG-31s in Bosnia, which we took out of service some time ago due to difficulties with maintenance. We have looked at the RG-31 alongside a number of alternatives for our current fleet and concluded that the size and profile did not meet our needs. Size is important in the urban environment. The RG-31 cannot access areas that Snatch Land Rovers can get to.

A declassified (as part of the Iraq enquiry) memo sent on the 7th July 2006 confirmed the requirement for a Medium Protected Patrol Vehicle, less than a month after Lord Drayson was adamant that Snatch was ‘the answer’.

This called for vehicles to be in place by November, in time for the next roulement.

Another declassified document set out the issue and was clear that ministers could no longer claim they had not received requests for additional protected mobility vehicles.

The Defence Select Committee published their 13th Report in August, Operations in Iraq.

At its Basra Palace base, we met the UK’s 20 Armoured Brigade. We were shown the equipment used on patrol, particularly the Snatch Land Rover. We heard that Snatch were very good vehicles, but they were old and could often break down. Many had previously been used in Northern Ireland. They were fast and manoeuvrable but not well armoured and were particularly vulnerable to Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack. Similar concerns were voiced by UK troops at the Shaibah Logistics Base

A supine and ignorant media continued to follow the line fed to it by Senior Officers and Press Officers that the Snatch was the ideal patrol vehicle for Afghanistan and Iraq, the groundswell of fact was such that this state of illusion would not last long.

After evaluating the ADI Bushmaster, RG31 and other vehicles, the MoD announced an order for 100 US Force Protection Cougars, eventually to be known as Mastiff.

Saxon was withdrawn from Basra.

The Tempest Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV) were deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, supporting a range of EOD related tasks.

Towards the end of the year, the British Army had deployed the first batch of the FV432 Mk 3 Bulldog vehicles to Iraq, upgraded under an Urgent Operational Requirement. Bulldog included a broad range of automotive and protection improvements, plus air conditioning. Simple, quick and well protected again EFP IED’s and RPG’s, the Bulldog proved to be a surprisingly good vehicle for the environment.

Bulldog in Iraq

Given the general unsuitability of the Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle for operations in Iraq a number of Bulldogs were fitted with Remote Weapon Stations from the Panther programme.

What characterised this period was an intense politicisation of the issue.

The government was under fire for not resourcing overseas operations, casualties were sadly rising and into that mix was thrown an Army that was paralysed by a changing threat environment that jarred with the accepted wisdom of ‘soft hat’ Northern Ireland style counter-insurgency that we had been lecturing US officers about for many years.

The MoD was simply too slow to react to entirely predictable events and flat-footed by a procurement process that initially point blank refused they were wrong. The new Chief of the General Staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, openly called for more resources but Iraq and FRES were separate issues altogether.

The US were also beginning to recognise the Mounted Combat System was would not get below 22 tonnes. This meant C130 deployability was out, unless it was de-fuelled, stripped down and put together at the destination, a process estimated to take between 4 to 8 hours.

Stork PWV (part of the ARTEC consortium) submitted their best and final offer to the Dutch defence ministry for the supply of 200 Boxer 8×8 armoured vehicles in five variants to start delivery in 2010. Janes reported the VAT inclusive ceiling figure was 503 million Euros. The ARTEC consortium comprised Krauss Maffei Wegmann (36%), Rheinmetall Landsysteme (14%) and Stork (50%). As part of a wider series of changes and equipment orders the German and Dutch governments placed a production order for their Boxer vehicles.

The 872 million Euro order covered 472 vehicles, roughly £1.5m each.

Casualties mounting in Iraq, Afghanistan about to get a whole lot more difficult, looming budget cuts, changing requirements, open disagreement between Atkins and the MoD and an all round general confusion about what FRES and the medium weight capability actually meant would contribute to a less than vintage year on Planet FRES. Medium weight no longer meant what it used to, but despite the change in vehicle weight and rising casualties in Iraq, FRES marched on

2007

FRES

At the start of 2007, a number of companies were lining up to respond to the FRES System of systems integrator (SOSI) requirement; BAE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SAIC and Thales.

The contract request for the Utility Vehicle integrator were issued in January 2007 with both the System of systems integrator (SOSI) and vehicle designer contracts planned to be awarded later in the year.

Janes reported on the acquisition strategy;

These competitions will result in the selection of one or more UV designs and one or two UV integrators. These selections will inform the generation of one or two UV Provider Teams to bid for the UV Demonstration Phase. There will not be a separate manufacturer competition for the UV programme. The winning party of the UV integrator competition will lead the provider teams and generate “robust” propositions for the demonstration phase while the winning UV designs will conduct ‘trials of truth’ due to take place by the end of the second quarter of 2007.

It was envisaged that the initial order would comprise 120 vehicles with a total of 2,000 vehicles required in total.

On the 21st of February 2007 the Defence Select Committee released their verdict on the MoD’s medium weight vehicle programme after many months of taking evidence

A sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay

The report detailed much of the FRES background and this interesting statement from Lieutenant General Andrew Figgures CBE, Deputy Chief of Staff (Equipment Capability)

The impression that the Army’s current armoured vehicle fleet lacks sufficient capability for expeditionary operations was reinforced by General Figgures who told us that recent operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan had demonstrated that the Army needs a medium force “in order that we can fight as we would wish to fight

The report also provided a handy fleet size reference chart;

Vehicle Fleet

General Figgures confirmed that Mastiff and Vector were not considered long-term solutions.

…are not armoured fighting vehicles, they are a means of conveying people from A to B [with reduced risk] so they would not do what we require from FRES. They would not be able to carry out offensive action in the way that we would anticipate.

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

Nearly a decade later, Mastiff is still in service, he was correct about Vector though.

It was this kind of thinking that led to accusations that the Army was condemning its soldiers to suffer with inadequate equipment whilst protecting funding for FRES, the oft-discussed ‘this war’ versus ‘a war’ dilemma.

The Chief of Defence Procurement, Sir Peter Spencer, was emphatic that FRES and the Protected Mobility vehicles were very different;

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

Finally, it reconfirmed the Army’s stance that NO off the shelf vehicle available would meet the FRES requirement, for any variant. The main reason cited was upgradeability over the expected 30 year lifecycle of the vehicles, specifically, 10-15% additional weight growth. An interesting position given a) the age of the vehicles currently in service, b) none of them were specifically designed to be massively upgradeable and c) the difference between in service weights and current weights of the same vehicles.

There was still a great hope that FRES would be a significant export success, despite the preponderance of other similar vehicles on the market. Intellectual Property issues were of great concern because of this, the MoD was insisting that all IP would be retained by the UK.

There was a great deal of confusion over the In Service Date and it is here that the Systems House actually demonstrated the value of having some measure of independence from the MoD. Atkins submitted evidence to the committee that was crystal clear, FRES could be in service by 2018 but the assertion by the Army and others that 2012 would be a more realistic date was not supported by evidence.

The Chief of Defence Procurement went on record as stating the committee should not be taking Atkins view at face value.

The MoD asked Atkins a question and when the answer was not to its liking, it ignored it and made up its own answer.

In addition to the Utility Vehicle, there were two other variants, both now due to enter service after UV.

The Reconnaissance vehicle would carry out ‘Scout Ground Based Surveillance, Indirect Fire Control and Formation Reconnaissance’ roles.

The Heavy variant; ‘Direct Fire and Indirect Fire Support roles; Manoeuvre Support covers the earth moving, obstacle breaching and bridge laying roles. As with the Utility and Reconnaissance families, the heavy family vehicles will have its own repair and recovery capability and a driver training vehicle’

Neither variant had even entered Assessment Phase, all eyes were on Utility Variant.

Cost to date, £120 million.

In evidence to the committee, the professional head of defence procurement did not know about the Alvis pre-assessment contract;

That predates my involvement. I have no recollection of an assessment phase contract being given to Alvis Vickers but I will certainly go away and look up the detail and if I am wrong I will send you a note

It is surprising that the man in charge could only draw from such a narrow knowledge base, the committee also thought the same;

Q52 Mr Jones: Can I say, Sir Peter, I find it absolutely remarkable that you can come here today in charge of this programme and say that you did not know about a non-competitive contract let to Alvis Vickers. I know about it; industry knows well about it.
Sir Peter Spencer: You called it an assessment phase contract and I challenged the fact it was an assessment phase contract.
Q53 Mr Jones: That is changing it. Are you aware of any non-competitive work given to Alvis Vickers in 2002?
Sir Peter Spencer: I am aware there was noncompetitive work done before the initial gate.
Q54 Mr Jones: What was that?
Sir Peter Spencer: It was simply pre initial gate phase work.
Q55 Mr Jones: What was involved in that?
Sir Peter Spencer: To set out what the options would be.
Q56 Mr Jones:A minute ago you told us you did not know about it. Now you are trying to describe what went on.
Sir Peter Spencer: I am sorry, I do not mean to be pedantic but you asked me about an assessment phase contract; it was not an assessment phase contract.
Q57 Mr Hancock: What was it then?
Sir Peter Spencer: For the third time, it was a pre initial gate concept phase contract.
Q58 Mr Hancock: What did you get out of that?
Sir Peter Spencer: You get a broad understanding as to the sort of capability, the sort of aspirations that the customer has, the sort of technology which needs to be matured in order to move towards a solution. It is a perfectly normal part of the cycle. It is unexceptional.
Q59 Mr Jones: Sir Peter, that is not true, I am sorry. If you are sitting here today and telling us that that was just part of this entire process, that is not the case. Alvis Vickers were livid when you severed that contract because they were under the impression that FRES was going to be a non-competitive process and that work was part of what they thought was the start of the actual process. I understand and they can supply the information to us if you want that something like £14 to £20 million was spent in that phase. What happened to that work? It is no good coming here trying to wriggle out of it and say to this Committee firstly that you did not know what was going on and the next thing trying to explain what went on.
Sir Peter Spencer: Chairman, do I have to be on the receiving end of quite so much provocation? We could have quite a sensible and illuminating discussion.
Q60 Mr Jones: We could if you answered the questions but you do not.
Sir Peter Spencer: It is the way they are framed, I am afraid, which is extremely provocative.
Q61 Mr Jones: I am sorry, but you cannot come to this Committee if I ask you a question and say to me firstly it did not exist and then in the next breath, when you start trying to wriggle out of it, try to say to me that you were completely aware of this.
Sir Peter Spencer: I am not trying to wriggle out of anything.

Oh yes you were Sir Peter.

Totally inadequate, evasive, obviously ill prepared and yet riddled with arrogant double speak, it is exactly this kind of barely concealed contempt for the Committee that gives civil servants a bad name and if any soldier sweating it out in Basrah in the back of a Snatch would have heard that, pretty sure they would not be too impressed either.

It also seemed that the underpinning FRES requirement had changed, from General Figgures;

I am in danger of repeating what he said but FRES is required as a replacement armoured vehicle in the armoured brigades and to equip the medium weight brigades, now known as the three mechanised brigades. It is required to enable the armoured brigades to fight conventional wars, rather as we saw in Telic 1, and it is required to enable the mechanised brigades to both support the armoured brigades with what we in the Army would say a manoeuvre support brigade, and also to be deployed in peace-keeping and peace enforcement operations. So there is a balance of capability between those two and the tactics, techniques and procedures which are used in those instances are subtly different because of the rules of engagement and so on and so forth.

Confusion, it would seem, was still the norm for FRES.

Medium Weight Brigade = Mechanised Brigade.

Again, it was clear that FRES vehicles would be required to cover the full span of operations.

General Dannatt was rightly making noises about insufficient resources, the media was all over the poor treatment of wounded, the Army was trying to extricate itself from Iraq whilst building up force levels in Afghanistan and all three services were trying to transform across the network enabled domain.

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

Lord Drayson had insisted that the MoD stick to the 2012 In Service Date, despite what Atkins said, and to his credit, pushed hard to give the Utility Variant some momentum. He understood full well that replacing CVR(T) was much less of a priority than protected mobility, especially in the political climate. Instead of a completely bespoke vehicle which would not be in service by the new target date of 2012 the new position was a modified military off the shelf vehicle, an evolution of existing designs. This was a change from the fleet review conclusion that only a bespoke vehicle would meet the requirement.

The market was assessed, all 8×8 vehicle manufacturers invited to provide information and three vehicles selected to go forward to the so-called ‘Trials of Truth’ in summer.

The Patria AMV and Iveco Freccia were assessed but not selected to go forward to the trials.

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

Defence Minister Lord Drayson said;

My highest priority is to ensure that our Forces have the equipment they need to achieve success on operations today, tomorrow and in the future. FRES has a vital part to play in the future of the British Army. I signalled my commitment to the FRES programme last year and this announcement provides tangible evidence of progress. The selection of these designs for inclusion in the utility vehicle trials is a part of the competitive acquisition strategy developed to ensure that we deliver the best solution for the Army.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said;

FRES is my highest equipment priority and I am determined that we will make this programme a timely success – it is at the heart of the future Army. I am therefore very encouraged by the significant progress that has been made in identifying the three best candidate vehicles for us to trial this summer and I look forward to maintaining this momentum in the programme to the next decision point by November this year. We need to take this exciting project forward, together with our industrial partners as soon as possible.

BAE were not best pleased, SEP was no doubt a viable contender but not as mature as the other three and unlikely to meet the 2012 ISD, it was out of the running for good.

The Trials of Truth took part and the Armoured Trials and Development Unit at Bovington in 2007.

Shown below are the Boxer, Piranha and VBCI.

 

The FRES Trials of Truth Lineup; Boxer, Piranha, VBCI

With the trials complete, industry waited on the MoD’s decision.

It should be noted that the General Dynamics vehicle was a Piranha Evolution, an interim design, not the Piranha V. It is unusual for something as definitive as the Trials of Truth were branded to accept a proxy for a future vehicle. It was reported that Lord Drayson favoured the VBCI because it would be quickest into service, his position being that an imperfect vehicle sooner is better than a perfect vehicle later. It is probably true that the Snatch Land Rover controversy and the ongoing political dimension of fighting two wars on a shoestring budget played into his focus on speed into service.

Despite what Lord Drayson wanted, the VBCI and Boxer were rejected by the Army, although this would not be made public until the following year.

The so-called Trials of Truth offered a choice between two vehicles that were either on service, or very soon to be in service, and a vehicle that would require considerable development. The Army chose the latter, somewhat to form. Instead of a stand up knock down fight between in service vehicles with the winner taking all, it was, essentially, a sham. The embarrassment of choosing a vehicle that the Army had funded the development but cancelled would have been too much for an embattled MoD to bear. In hindsight, there absolutely was no possibility of Boxer winning and it’s inclusion and subsequent rejection was obviously to prove the Army leadership right in their rejection of it years earlier. VBCI was reportedly rejected because there was no provision for ground running the engine prior to a pack change and did not have enough growth potential.

Many concluded that VBCI and Boxer were a smokescreen, the army wanted the General Dynamics Piranha V and was willing to accept the Evolution as a good enough proxy for the purpose of the trials.

A General Dynamics magazine published in Summer 2007 described the commercial advantages of the Piranha V;

General Dynamics UK is proposing to use the PIRANHA V as the platform for the protected mobility vehicle. The Company will enable the transfer to the UK of both the design authority and manufacturing of the vehicle, so all support and development can be carried out in-country. IPR and knowledge capital will be transferred to the UK for PIRANHA V. It will be an ITAR-free solution, designed and manufactured in the UK.

After a series of reported ‘blazing rows’ Lord Drayson resigned in November.

Lord Drayson had previously prevailed over the Permanent Under Secretary, Bill Jeffries, on the selection of the Thales/Boeing team as preferred bidder for the prized FRES System of Systems Integrator without a formal competition, there was no love lost.

This was another blow for BAE.

Bill Jeffries sided with the Army, Lord Drayson wrote to Des Brown (Secretary of State for Defence), laying out the impasse.

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

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

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

November also saw a low key contract award to BAE and General Dynamics for the FRES Scout Assessment Phase, using CV90 and ASCOD vehicles respectively.

2007 marked the end of the Technology Demonstration Programmes.

  • Hard kill defensive aids system TDP (May 2005 to December 2006) Akers Krutbruk Protection AB
  • Electric armour TDP (January 2006 to June 2007) Lockheed Martin INSYS
  • Integrated survivability TDP (January to December 2006) Thales
  • Chassis concept TDP (August 2005 to March 2007). General Dynamics AHED (Advanced Hybrid Electric Drive)
  • Chassis concept TDP (August 2005 to March 2007) BAE SEP
  • Gap crossing TDP (January 2007 to September 2007) BAE
  • Stowage and capacity TDP (February 2005 to May 2006) Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
  • Electronic Architecture TDP (August 2005 to March 2006) Lockheed Martin UK
  • Electronic Architecture TDP (August 2005 to March 2006) Thales

A fitting end to FRES 2007 is a piece about EU regulation.

The fighting capability of the Army’s new generation of armoured vehicles could be limited by European rules on greenhouse gas emissions.

Responding was the then Shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox MP;

At a time when equipment shortages in Iraq and Afghanistan are leading to the deaths of our brave service personnel, it is preposterous that this Government is pre occupied with whether our military vehicles are compliant with EU environmental regulations. They should be built to protect our forces and to enable them to carry out the tasks asked of them. The Government needs to wake up and realise that we are fighting two wars.

Hard to disagree with the sentiment.

Not FRES 2007

In early 2007 BAE showed their new 8×8 Integrated Demonstrator, a development of the 6×6 SEP. The vehicle has a conventional mechanical driveline but used two diesel engines in the left and right sponsons to provide direct drive to the wheels.

SEP 8x8

This arrangement allowed the driver and commander to sit side by side and provided 13 m³ for the payload.

Task Force Helmand was reinforced with Warriors and armoured infantry in September 2007, by 2009 the toll of Afghanistan was showing and a range of improvement packages were implemented, culminating in the TES(H) upgrade programme.

The Warrior deployment was reported to have delivered a significant tactical advantage.

For the FV432 fleet, a follow on £15m support contract was awarded in 2006 and in 2007, another upgrade, this time, £70m for another 400 vehicles. Other FV430 variants remained in service such as command , mortar carriers, ambulances and recovery. BOWMAN integration was carried out under a separate contract with BAE and General Dynamics.

By May 2007 ARTEC was nearing delivery of the first Boxer vehicles for the German Army by summer 2007.

Confirmed orders were;

  • Germany; total 272 vehicles in three variants. 135 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), 65 command post (CP) variants and 72 armoured ambulances.
  • The Netherlands; total 200 vehicles in five variants; 55 Command Post CP, 58 ambulance, 27 cargo vehicles, 19 cargo/command and control vehicles and 41 engineer group vehicles

The Daily Mail published a story in September 2007 that detailed the cooling modifications added to CVR(T) in Afghanistan.

A pipe to stick up their trousers

It was less than fulsome in its praise.

After deliveries started in 2006 the first 62 Pinzgauer Vector Protected Patrol Vehicles entered service in 2007. An order for an additional 118 vehicles, 12 of which were ambulance variants, was placed with BAE. The Mastiff and Vector purchases were expected to cost approximately “120 million, Mastiff using UOR Treasury funding and Vector coming from Army budgets. In response to the explosively formed penetrator threat the UK Mastiff’s would be fitted with additional side armour to counter the EFP threat.

Pinzgauer Vector and Mastiff British Army vehicles

BAE were awarded a £28 million contract for support services on the Panther vehicle in order to provide better availability and lower costs. The Panther was reported to be a maintenance intensive vehicle with very poor availability.

Channel 4 aired a documentary from Sean Langan, Fighting the Taliban, in which British forces were seen driving Land Rover WMIK’s and the accompanying Estonians their MRAP style vehicles. These vehicles were none other than the Alvis 4’s that were disposed of by the MoD a few years earlier. At one point in the documentary, the Estonian Alvis 4’s can be seen carrying a wounded British soldier to safety.

Estonian Alvis 4 Vehicles in Afghanistan

Dispatches - Fighting the Taliban-01.mp4

Dispatches - Fighting the Taliban-02.mp4

Dispatches - Fighting the Taliban-03.mp4

Dispatches - Fighting the Taliban-04.mp4

Dispatches - Fighting the Taliban-05.mp4

A parliamentary question the Secretary of State for Defence revealed what happened to the Tempest deployment to Afghanistan.

26 Feb 2007 : Column 1032W

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) mine protected vehicles and (b) Chinook helicopters are allocated for use by British forces in Afghanistan; how many of those vehicles are in working order; and if he will make a statement. [111865]

Des Browne: The UK Task Force was provided with Tempest mine protected vehicles to provide protected mobility support to their explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capability in Afghanistan. Despite a strong track record in other operational theatres, they have not proved as effective in Afghanistan and are therefore due to be replaced with a new capability within the next three months. In the interim, the mine route-proving capability of the UK Task Force has not been affected by the lack of Tempest, as other vehicles within the EOD Task Force have been able to complete required tasks.

In addition, while not designated a ‘mine protected vehicle’ the newly procured Mastiff, a wheeled patrol vehicle with a less intimidating profile than our tracked vehicles, offers good protection against a range of threats including mines. We are rapidly procuring around 100 of these vehicles for use in both Iraq and Afghanistan. An effective Mastiff capability is now operational in Iraq, and reports indicate that UK forces there are pleased with them. They will start to be delivered to Afghanistan this spring. I am withholding the precise number of each type of vehicle available, as the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

Following my written statement of 24 July 2006, we have sent two additional CH-47 Chinooks to Afghanistan, making a total of eight, and have increased the number of flying hours. Commanders on the ground have made clear that they have sufficient helicopter assets to conduct current operations. We will continue to keep our helicopter requirements under review to ensure that we have sufficient support to meet current and anticipated tasks. The exact number of helicopters available on any given day will fluctuate subject to routine repair and maintenance work. I am withholding the precise number that are currently in working order as the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

The MoD announced the introduction of the Tellar munitions disposal vehicle, based on the Mowag Duro chassis already in service with the Army, to almost total bewilderment by those that have been reading about two things, the vulnerability of the vehicles in use in the British Army and the capabilities of the US forces in the same theatre, by now using the Husky, Cougar and Buffalo combination.

The vehicle carries all equipment required by the end user to undertake conventional munitions disposal. It has also been fitted as an emergency response vehicle (blue light enabled), and is fitted with a mobile phone, force protection suite, a personal address system, and two Global Positioning Systems (GPS): a Bowman radio GPS, and a commercial GPS. It also comes fitted with a level of riot protection.

Each vehicle weighs 9.5 tonnes and costs around £415,000. 18 vehicles have been bought, with 14 to be deployed on operations, and four held in the UK for training and reserves. Tellar will deploy with the Joint Explosives Ordnance Disposal force on both Operations Herrick and Telic in the near future.

The article stated they will be used by the Royal Engineers for conventional munitions disposal and deploy to both Iraq and Afghanistan. From the Parliamentary Answer the British Army replaced the Tempest mine protected vehicle with Tellar, a vehicle with the equivalent protection of a crisp packet.

Tellar-Duro-base-vehicle

Deploying a vehicle to Iraq and Afghanistan that comes ‘fitted with a level of riot protection’ was a questionable decision to say the least, especially given the MoD were getting Mastiff’s into theatre as fast as possible.

The MoD were also playing up the role of the BVs10 Viking in Afghanistan, the Scotsman publishing an article in June with the headline “Super vehicle Saves Marines Lives’. The article describes how the vehicle shrugs off explosive blasts.

On June 26th 2007, the BBC reported that Devonport Management Limited (DML) had been awarded an MoD contract to supply ‘a Land Rover on steroids’

The MoD later confirmed the order;

The MWMIK will be produced at DML’s Devonport dockyard facility, based on a design from Supacat Ltd. Universal Engineering Ltd will manufacture the chassis, Cummins the engine, and Allison the transmission.

DML has also recently been awarded a separate contract for a number of MEP (Military Enhancement Programme) vehicles. These are 6×6 load carrying all-terrain vehicles based on the same technology as MWMIK

130 were purchased at a total cost of £30 million.

Suapacat-MWMIK

Concerns were raised by many commentators about the lack of built in mine protection (despite having 1.6 tonnes of Jankel mine protection) and the complete absence of any ballistic protection but the MoD defended the vehicle, replaying the mobility = protection theme. Commenting on the £30 million contract, Lord Drayson said;

These vehicles are well armed, swift, and agile. They will boost our capability with some serious firepower. MOD and the Treasury have worked hard to get these powerful vehicles to our troops in quick time, and they will start going out to theatre early next year

This vehicle would go on to become Jackal.

By August, Mastiff vehicles had started to arrive in Afghanistan but the majority of vehicles were still Viking, Land Rover WMIK, Snatch and Vector. Their lack of protection led to some local modification but this was limited. Casualties would continue to mount in Afghanistan, especially as the Taleban shifted to IED’s against vulnerable vehicles such as Vector and Land Rover WMIK. The MoD announced in October an additional order for 140 Mastiff vehicles, most of them destined for Afghanistan. A further announcement in December confirmed the purchase of 150 Ridgeback vehicles.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded a three year £9.48 million research contract to a QinetiQ led consortium for the Vehicle Technology Integration and Demonstrator (VTID) programme. Other members included BAE, Thales, Ultra Electronics, SciSys, SVGC, Williams F1 and York and Sussex universities. VTID was designed to demonstrate a layered protection system for a test bed vehicle, a REME FV432 as it turned out.

Thales VTID

VTID was in addition to the FRES Integrated Survivability Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) and Electric Armour TDP awarded to Thales to Lockheed Martin respectively only a few years earlier. The aim was;

To quantify and demonstrate the utility of integrated survivability (other than physical armour) in respect of mounted close combat platforms, to counter the perceived threats in a range of representative scenarios

And the scope included;

  • Integrated Survivability (IS) & Infrastructure Concepts
  • Mission Modularity
  • Modular Dependability
  • Physical Integration of a range of technologies: LSA and Acoustic Sensors, LWR, RWS, Obscurants, etc
  • Demonstration of IS concepts in different military scenarios

Janes reported the range of technologies likely to be considered;

Visual awareness and sensor suites, disrupters, interceptors, smoke deception systems, active camouflage and electric armour.

Much of the work carried out on the VTID project would find its way into Generic vehicle Architecture and, Scout.

2008

Politics had intervened to get ensure the protected mobility needs of personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan were on the road to being met with a collection of Urgent Operational Requirement (UoR’s) so there was much less haste to get the Utility Vehicle into service.

This allowed the Army to swing focus back (again) to the CVR(T) replacement, Scout

FRES

The first piece of FRES related news for 2008 was the announcement of the contract award for the System of Systems Integrator to Boeing and Thales after being named as preferred bidder the year before;

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) today announced the award of a contract to Thales UK in partnership with The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] for the System of Systems Integrator (SOSI) role on the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) program. The initial six-month contract, valued at £4 million (US$8 million), defines the framework for the SOSI’s ongoing role in the subsequent phases of this key program, which will provide the British Army with a new family of medium-weight, network-enabled armored vehicles. The role of the SOSI is to drive the successful delivery of a coherent FRES capability. The Thales UK-Boeing SOSI team will be integrated into the MoD’s FRES project team to form an Integrated Customer Team that will manage the delivery of FRES. The SOSI will provide expertise in the following areas:

Program management, System-of-systems engineering and integration, Through-life capability and technology management, Alliance development and supply chain management, Development of MoD’s SOSI competence

The Defence Select Committee published their Defence Equipment 2008 report on March 11th. In evidence to the committee the MoD made this statement on FRES;

Real progress has been made on FRES. Implementation of the FRES competitive Acquisition Strategy is being driven hard to ensure we deliver, as early as possible, a FRES capability that meets the Army’s needs through life

Further evidence to the committee raised the same issues of upgradeability through life;

Q187 Mr Holloway: Notwithstanding your comments about adapting it through its life, you arebuying something now against a range of threats as yet unknown which tries to do absolutely everything. Surely, given the gigantic cost of this I still do not understand why you would not be better getting the best available thing at the time in specific numbers?

Lieutenant General Applegate: What we have done is to identify what we believe is the best available developmental vehicle in the market place that has a future. The alternative is to buy something that is basically a cul-de-sac and goes nowhere; it cannot be upgraded and cannot meet the threats over time.

We believe that we have now identified that particular preferred design for the utility vehicle and we are confident that in conducting what is an aggressive programme to deal with some of the technological risks to produce something as early as we know the Army wishes which will provide a level of capability that is far in excess of what we have today in order to meet those threats and, importantly, that it would have growth. If we bought something now literally off the shelf effectively we would have to shoe-horn in, as we do on UORs at the moment, a series of subcomponents in a very poor fashion and it would have very limited life, so it would be a bad decision.

The Army is quite convinced about that, and there is a decision as to whether you literally buy off the shelf, assuming there is the ability to ramp up production, or have something that gives the Army confidence will grow through life. We must have that confidence if we are to grow. One of the things we have noted with the current range of vehicles is that we tend to have them for a long time and increase their capability over time. We also have tended to increase their weight, their demand for power, the levels of protection and the other elements we put on them.

To try to do that with an off-the-shelf system at the moment would be a recipe for disaster

Given that both VBCI and Boxer were practically off the shelf and Piranha V was ‘developmental’ the writing was on the wall for VBCI and Boxer. Two months later in early May came the announcement everyone had been anticipating, the General Dynamics Piranha V was selected as preferred bidder for the FRES Utility Vehicle.

Piranha V

Preferred bidder was not a contract award though, the MoD and General Dynamics now entered into a period of negotiation covering many issues but especially, intellectual property.

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

FRES linkages

Meanwhile, in the USA, a seismic shift was about to take place in the Future Combat System (FCS) programme. After being restructured in 2007 in response to the requirements of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new Defense Secretary (Robert Gates) was about to mark the card of the FCS. Delivering a speech in Colorado in May, Robert Gates vented his frustration with the US military;

I have noticed too much of a tendency toward what might be called ‘next-war-itis’ — the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict. It is true that we would be hard-pressed to launch a major conventional ground operation elsewhere in the world at this time — but where would we sensibly do that?

Smaller, irregular forces — insurgents, guerrillas, terrorists — will find ways, as they always have, to frustrate and neutralize the advantages of larger, regular militaries, and even nation-states will try to exploit our perceived vulnerabilities in an asymmetric way, rather than play to our inherent strengths. There have been 150-plus attacks so far on MRAPs and all but six soldiers have survived,” Gates, these vehicles are saving lives.

That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.

FCS was no longer flavour of the month.

Although FCS and FRES had diverged, this and continued accusations that the Army was not funding protected mobility vehicles because they were preserving funding for the next war and FRES meant the implications were again, obvious. The accusations were made by many, putting shiny new vehicles over ‘protecting our boys’ was a common media theme. This was toxic to the Government and that could only mean one thing.

Baroness Taylor took time out to open Cambrai House for Thales, a building that housed their FRES team, in July. Thales and Boeing forming the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) System of Systems Integrator (SOSI) team. Although the initial study contracts for Specialist Vehicle had been let to General Dynamics and BAE in 2007, these were extended in September 2007.

In response to impending budget issues at the MoD, a number of articles speculated that FRES was under threat.

A study contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin by Atkins, the FRES Systems House, in October for FRES Specialist Vehicle turret and mission systems.

The study, to be delivered by January 2009, will develop performance, cost, time and risk information during integration of a concept turret and mission systems for the FRES Scout Vehicle (SV). Lockheed Martin’s principal sub-contractors will be SciSys and Ultra Electronics. The main emphasis of the study is to help MoD refine the FRES SV user and systems requirements, cost estimates and schedule to delivery. Trade studies will be performed in order to develop and assess options for integrating the mission systems into a combat-effective, affordable and low-risk Scout turret concept

Building on Defence Strategic Guidance, the Defence Doctrine Development Centre produced the Future Land Operational Concept (FLOC) later in the year, it defined the Medium Weight Capability;

b. Medium Capability. Land forces will be required to achieve early effect across a range of complex, and frequently occurring, scenarios. This requirement will necessitate an increase in Land forces flexibility and the development of forces capable of rapid deployment, yet with integral firepower and levels of protection that are matched to the likely threat. These are described as ‘medium forces’ in this paper and they are characterised, in part, by their air deployability. Medium forces will need higher levels of mobility and protection than currently available to ‘light’ forces as well as greater deployability and agility than ‘heavy’ forces. The acquisition of an integrated suite of modern platforms, and the streamlining of some existing capabilities, will increase current Land forces capability to respond to crises.

The Joint Medium Weight Capability (JtMWCap) concept highlights how this capability can be progressed; exploiting the capabilities of wider joint assets and scaled for rapid deployment, recovery and re-allocation. The Land core of JtMWCap must be capable of strategic movement by air and sustained ground manoeuvre, exploiting the advantages of firepower, mobility, increased levels of FP and access to wide area and specific ISTAR. Additional support from battlefield helicopters, joint fires, robust, networked Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) and optimised logistics should allow a reduced expeditionary overhead, and connectivity with allies.

JtMWCap Land forces should be designed primarily for rapid intervention potentially within urban terrain, with the adaptability to meet other Land Priorities and be directly applicable to major combat operations

This is a very interesting document that showed how the original intent for FRES had progressed.

As Defence Strategic Guidance had informed the Future Land Operational Concept, the Future Land Operational Concept would be used to inform Future Army Structure (Next Steps), in early 2009.

In November, Quentin Davies confirmed to the House of Commons that the FRES Assessment Phase would cost £618 million

Future Rapid Effects System: the estimated cost for the assessment phase as set out in the Ministry of Defence Major Projects Report 2007 is £618 million. The cost of this programme will not be fixed until the main investment decision is taken.

The National Audit published their annual tale of woe on the 18th of December, otherwise known as the Major Projects Report. The cost of the FRES Assessment Phase had risen by £206 million to £319 million, due to the Specialist roles now being included in the Assessment Phase.

Then came shocking news.

Preferred bidder status was withdrawn from General Dynamics in December with the MoD citing an inability to come to an agreement with General Dynamics on commercial and intellectual property issues.

In a series of wider changes the System of Systems Integrator was removed from the programme.

General Dynamics, Boeing, Thales and BAE (who were still hoping for FRES UV Systems Integrator) all had a an unpleasant Christmas present.

The government has wasted time and money on a solution which required General Dynamics to concede something that they were never going to give

Liam Fox

Yet this is incorrect, the General Dynamics magazine quote above, and a number of public statements made it clear that they would.

In a December 11th statement to the House of Commons, John Hutton, the new Secretary of State for Defence, said;

We undertook to inform Parliament about the major decisions emerging from our examination of the equipment programme as soon as we were able to do so. The following are the key conclusions.

In May 2008 we announced the provisional selection of Piranha V, offered by General Dynamics (UK) Ltd, as the preferred design for the FRES utility vehicle. Following a period of intensive negotiations with General Dynamics to address a number of commercial issues, it became clear to both parties that it would not be possible to reach agreement on the commercial conditions required to enable further progress on the basis of the current procurement strategy. I have therefore decided that we should withdraw General Dynamics (UK)’s provisional preferred bidder status.

Our examination of the equipment programme has, separately, considered the balance of investment and priority in the army’s armoured vehicle programme. We have concluded that, in the context of current operations, and bearing in mind the considerable recent investment in protected mobility, the highest priority should now be accorded to delivering the warrior capability sustainment programme and the FRES scout vehicle as quickly as possible. Against that background, we have decided to restructure the FRES programme, giving priority to FRES scout over the FRES utility vehicle. Whilst this will mean a delay to the programme, we recognise the importance of the utility vehicle and are now looking at the best way to take this procurement forward. General Dynamics (UK) will have an opportunity to compete in any future utility vehicle competition.

And that was 2008 for FRES.

Not FRES

Vector was not having a good deployment to Afghanistan

It continued to struggle with the heat and weight of its armour, the legendary Pinzgauer mobility had been compromised to such a degree that it was restricted to good roads and tracks. Robbed of its mobility it had to rely on its upgraded protection, which on many occasions proved completely and utterly inadequate against IED’s. Introduced with much fanfare it was proving to be a total, embarrassing and dangerous failure, acquiring the ‘coffin on wheels’ nickname.

A small number of ADI Bushmasters were purchased, reportedly for SF use in Afghanistan, a vehicle with excellent mine/IED protection, much in contrast to Vector.

Bushmaster

Following experience in Afghanistan, the MoD embarked on an Environmental Mitigation programme for just over 100 CVR(T) vehicles.

In April 2008 the MoD announced that the CTA International 40mm CTWS had been selected for both the Warrior and FRES Scout

40mm-cta

At the June Eurosatory show BAE showed their self funded MTIP 2 turret on a Warrior chassis. The MTIP 2 turret was a brand new design with a fully stabilised 40mm CTWS applique armour package that provided the same protection level as the hull .

Warrior-MTIP-Turret

The first batch of 151 Ridgebacks were delivered to the UK in August following a contract award to Force Protection that also included the Wolfhound Tactical Support Vehicle and development of the Mastiff 2 which although focussed on improving Mastiff’s poor mobility.It also included better seating and drivers vision equipment.

Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in October to develop the concept of a two-person turret for FRES Scout.

The additional protected mobility contracts were formally announced on the 29th of October 2008.

Defence Secretary John Hutton has announced a package worth £700 million today, which will pay for some 700 new armoured vehicles to further improve the safety and protection of troops on operations in Afghanistan.

The Protected Mobility Package announced by Mr Hutton today, Wednesday 29 October 2008, includes provision of £350 million for 400 brand new armoured support trucks which will be used to accompany patrols and carry essential supplies such as water and ammunition. The three distinct categories of Tactical Support Vehicles (TSV) are:

Wolfhound: TSV (Heavy). Heavy armoured support trucks – supporting and re-supplying Mastiffs in the highest threat areas. These vehicles will have the highest levels of mine blast protection;

Husky: TSV (Medium). Medium armoured support trucks – carrying out the support roles in lower threat areas and where heavy vehicles, like Mastiff, cannot be used;

Coyote: TSV (Light). Light armoured support vehicles – supporting Jackals across the harsh terrain of Afghanistan.

Other vehicles which will be paid for out of the £700 million include:

Over 100 brand new cross-country vehicles called Warthog which, with greater protection levels, will replace Vikings in Afghanistan, and over 100 more Jackals, the extremely agile all-terrain vehicles which include high-levels of off-road mobility and firepower.

£96 million from the package will also be used to develop a specialist route clearance system known as Talisman, which will provide a new high-tech way of dealing with the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) threat. Among the Talisman vehicles to be developed will be the Buffalo mine-protected vehicle and the Engineer Excavator.

In addition, new vehicles, and upgrades and modifications were also announced today. 30 base Cougar vehicles will be purchased, a mixture of 4x4s and 6x6s, which will be modified to boost our training fleets for Mastiff and Ridgback.

The new Panther vehicle has been modified and upgraded to prepare for its arrival in Afghanistan and a new variant of the Snatch has been developed, known as the Snatch-Vixen, which, especially designed for Afghanistan, has been given extra power and payload which enhances the mobility and protection of the vehicle.

Today’s announcement builds on previous measures that are already making a difference in Iraq and Afghanistan including the introduction of the hugely successful Mastiff with its superior levels of protection and the Jackal with its impressive firepower and speed, allowing troops to get off the tracks and roads and strike hard at the enemy from all directions.

Mastiff’s smaller brother Ridgback, due to arrive on operations early in the new year, will also add to these measures, delivering protection levels close to that of the Mastiff in a package that gives better access to urban areas.

£500 million of the funding for the Protected Mobility Package has been allocated from the Treasury Reserve while Defence will fund a part of the package in acknowledgement of the longer term benefit to core defence capability these vehicles offer beyond our current commitments

This was a typical MoD news announcement that announced the same things it had already announced but it was a welcome, if belated, recognition that vehicle protection was high on the priority list and the blind defence of Snatch, Vector and WMIK Land Rovers was simply no longer in any way tenable.

Preparations were well under way for withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year but in Afghanistan, Viking was proving to be predictably vulnerable to IED’s, despit ethe gushing praise heaped upon it when first deployed. The larger ST Kinetics Bronco was in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Mastiff was transforming mobility.

The Swedish Ministry of Defence cancelled the SEP programme; after the UK decided to not bring it into the trials of truth, the Swedes decided they could not fund it alone.

The Defence Support Group was formed in April that brought together ABRO and DARA into a single new defence Trading Fund.

The same people trying to bring FRES into service were the same people managing the UOR vehicles. There is only so much people can do and we should recognise the intense activity and dedication of those breaking their backs to get the vehicles into theatre, military and civilian.

Stork sold their Boxer interests to Rheinmetall.

By the end of 2008 FRES had changed lanes. The embarrassment of the UV competition was hastily being airbrushed away as focus on delivering the numerous protected mobility UOR’s for Afghanistan took centre political stage. Meanwhile, the FRES concept had evolved again as detailed in the Future Land Operating Concept and SV Scout was back on the menu

2009

FRES

The FRES programme got off to a cracking (not) start as the Defence Select Committee published its Defence Equipment 2009 report in February.

The FRES programme has been a fiasco.

In February 2007 we concluded that the MoD’s attempts to meet its medium-weight vehicle requirement had been a sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay. Two years later the story is, incredibly, even worse. We find it extraordinary that, some seven months after announcing General Dynamics UK as the provisional preferred bidder for the FRES Utility Vehicle, the MoD has announced that priority is now to be given to the FRES Scout Vehicle. Whilst we recognise that the MoD’s equipment requirements need to reflect changing threats, that is no excuse for the MoD’s behaviour in this programme; they have wasted their and industry’s time and money. The FRES Utility Vehicle programme was, from the outset, poorly conceived and managed. The MoD must work out what its requirements are for medium-weight armoured vehicles and identify lessons from the saga of the FRES Utility Vehicle programme.

The report repeated what the committee said of FRES in 2007

The MoD’s attempts to meet its medium-weight vehicle requirement have been a sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay. It is high time the MoD decided where its priorities lay

On FRES UV and the collapse of the contract negotiations after General Dynamics was awarded preferred bidder status with the Piranha V, the report made clear the MoD’s position on intellectual property and design rights;

General Dynamics always made clear that they had a different concept than we did as to the role they wanted to play. We made clear that their concept was not ours and their concept was not the basis on which we were going to let the contract. They decided however to bid, making it quite clear that they had a different concept. The basic different concept, as you say, related to the fact that they wished to continue to have the intellectual property and they wished to be responsible, if they got the design contract, for the development and manufacturing, or at least to have a share in that.

What we did was we gave them provisional preferred bidder status, and we made it clear to them that we were making it provisional because confirmation of their status was entirely contingent on our agreeing on commercial terms that would be acceptable to us.

Having postponed the commercial discussions, because that is the way the company wanted to play it (and we saw no reason why we should not play it that way, and everybody was being completely honest and transparent with everybody else) we then tried, in good faith, to see if we could reach agreement with them commercially in the course of the summer, and we failed to do that. Both sides, with no ill-will, in total transparency and with good faith decided then that we did not have a basis on which we could proceed commercially. That is the position we found ourselves in last month

The members of committee were rightly aghast at this world class buffoonery but the exchange about chassis commonality and the shifting threat landscape had greater significance for FRES.

General Figgures said;

capability (which I plan) is a relative notion; you cannot stand still in time because the enemy has a vote in this… the fact that our original view with respect to FRES was that perhaps it had to be proof against kinetic energy rounds in preference to chemical and improvised explosive devices. Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated that we have got to shift that balance

The evidence session also had this statement;

I have discussed the matter with Mr Wilson, the Chief Executive of General Dynamics and with Lord Levene, the Chairman of General Dynamics

The same Lord Levene that was a former Chief of Defence procurement and appointed Secretary of State for Defence, publishing the Report on Defence Reform in 2011

In March, it was announced that FRES Specialist Vehicles would be obtained in a single programme.

The all new and improved FRES Specialist Vehicle programme comprised five blocks of vehicles and sixteen variants with an expected final quantity of between 1,200 and 1,300.

FRES Common Base Platform

Recce Block 1 would comprise 589 vehicles in four roles and three variants;

  • Scout, envisaged as a block of 270 vehicles
  • Equipment Support Recovery
  • Equipment Support Repair
  • Protected Mobility Recce Support

Recce Block 2 comprising 141 vehicles in three roles and one variant;

  • Joint Fire Control
  • Engineer Reconnaissance
  • Formation Recce Command and Control

There was also a Light Armoured Support (Cargo) variant but this was later removed.

Recce Block 3 comprising 280 vehicles in six roles and four variants

  • Route Denial Mine System, a scatterable anti tank mine system
  • Formation Recce (Overwatch), much like CVR(T) Striker
  • Formation Recce Command and Control, additional purchases of the vehicle in Block 2
  • Ground Based Surveillance
  • Medium Formation Recce Unit Aid Post
  • Medium Formation Recce Ambulance

Medium Armour (previously Direct Fire) comprising three roles and two variants;

  • Direct Fire likely armed with 120mm smoothbore main gun
  • Equipment Support Direct Fire Repair
  • Equipment Support Direct Fire Recovery

The separate Manoeuvre Support Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) requirement would most likely be met with Terrier.

The first vehicles were expected to enter service in 2015.

General Dynamics proposed a further development of the ASCOD 2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) to meet the FRES Specialist Vehicle (SV) requirement and BAE, an improved CV90. Both of course, made various claims about the suitability of their respective products.

The MoD responded to the Defence Select Committee’s scathing Equipment Report in May.

On the accusation that the MoD could not hit water if it fell out of a boat, it said this;

We do not accept this conclusion

And went on to state;

Defence has invested significantly in Protected Mobility (PM) in the recent past, however the PM package has never been designed as a substitute for the Utility Vehicle (UV) programme; indeed, it has been designed to cater for the specific operational requirements of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the capability delivered falls significantly short of the stated UV requirement to deliver the medium component of the Balanced Force through the FRES programme.

In May 2008 we announced the provisional selection of Piranha V, offered by General Dynamics (UK) Ltd, as the preferred design for the FRES UV. Following a period of intensive negotiations with General Dynamics to address a number of commercial issues, it became clear to both parties that it would not be possible to reach agreement on the commercial conditions required to enable further progress on the basis of the current procurement strategy. It was therefore decided that we should withdraw General Dynamics (UK)’s provisional preferred bidder status.

Our examination of the Equipment Programme, in 2008, separately considered the balance of investment and priority in the Army’s armoured vehicle programme. We have concluded that, in the context of current operations, and bearing in mind the considerable recent investment in Protected Mobility, the highest priority should now be accorded to delivering the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme and the FRES Scout vehicle as quickly as possible. Against that background, we have decided to restructure the FRES programme, giving priority to FRES Scout.

We are now considering how best to take forward the procurement of the Utility Vehicle, but General Dynamics (UK) will have an opportunity to compete in any future Utility Vehicle competition.

The cost of the FRES UV programme until the end of February 2009 was £133m. This investment in the UV programme will serve to progress and de-risk the early stages of the SV programme. The Department can confirm that we have identified lessons that will be applied to all elements of the FRES programme as it moves forward. We are now considering how and when to reset the competition.

This was the first time the £133 million figure was released.

Money spent so far; £133 million on FRES UV and £57 million on MRAV

Total = £191 million

News from the USA in June was official cancellation of the Future Combat System (FCS), confirming an earlier announcement in April by US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. This was a clear break from the ‘go fast go home’ medium weight philosophy, operations in Afghanistan and Iraq having put paid to that vision.

The Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton MP, in a speech at the Royal Society of Arts in London in the same month, echoed Robert Gates thinking about changing priorities.

But we will need to go further. We must be ready to consider deep and wide-ranging changes to our Armed Forces – changes that will help our own people prosecute these kinds of campaigns even more effectively and safely in the future. Earlier this month we saw real leadership from President Obama and Secretary Gates in their ambition to set the US military policy on a new course, rebalancing and reprioritising investment effort on a huge scale. We need to see a similar readjustment here in the UK in the years ahead. A rebalancing of investment in technology, equipment and people to meet the challenge of irregular warfare. If a country like the US, with all its vast resources and military strength has decided to prioritise, I believe the UK must do the same.

If the FCS/FRES concept of substituting protection derived from mass, for speed, electronic countermeasures and networked precision was killed by Iraq and Afghanistan, this was the official wake.

The difference between the all-powerful network in the FCS vision and the Network Enabled FRES concept was brought into sharp focus by the creaky BOWMAN communications system, effectively failing to live up to pretty much most of the promises made of it.

Following the design rights and intellectual property issues exposed by FRES UV and subsequently ridiculed by the Defence Select Committee, the MoD announced a new approach to design rights and intellectual property in April. At the RUSI Land Warfare Conference on the 23rd of June, Quentin Davies MP, Permanent Secretary and Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said of the armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) sector strategy;

From now on, we will be insisting from the outset that we have the rights to all design information and access to relevant design knowledge for the purpose of upgrading, supporting or inserting technology in the future into the vehicles we are buying in order to maintain the appropriate degree of sovereignty over industrial skills, capabilities, capacities and technology to ensure operational independence. We should take a slightly less protectionist and slightly more international position. We need of course those capabilities, but we don’t necessarily need all of them in this country and we’ll be prepared to look at them in the EU and NATO and, on a case by case basis and if there’s a justification for it, even outside those areas.

This was the MoD’s all new ‘cake and eat’ strategy on AFV’s.

This also signalled two things;

  • The future of the British armoured vehicle industry would pivot on FRES SV and Warrior CSP contracts.
  • A warning shot to BAE.

And so came about what seemed like a buy anything but BAE policy in armoured fighting vehicles resulting in the drawn-out demise of the legacy of Alvis, GKN, Sankey and Vickers.

At the September DSEi show in London General Dynamics UK Vice President, Steve Rowbotham, told reporters;

ASCOD 2 has leapfrogged past its nearest rival.

He also revealed that initial chassis production would be carried out in Spain followed by a transfer to the UK. The Common Base Platform was being developed by taking the ASCOD technology test bed PT5 and integrating a range of new automotive components.

BAE made similar claims, pointing out the combat provenance of CV90 and the fact that it could point to a completed vehicle, not a video of an old ASCOD and some nice graphics.

Coherence with the Warrior MTIP turret was also emphasised.

BAE also focussed on the intellectual property issue that had scuppered the Utility Variant competition, campaign director Arne Berglund said;

We will use a tried and tested model to ensure the UK MoD has access to the information it needs to ensure operational sovereignty

At the same time, BAE stated that initial production would take place at the production facility in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden with some integration work carried out in the UK.

The competition result was due to be announced early in 2010 and represented the first £2 Billion phase of Specialist Vehicles, Recce Block 1.

November was the bid submission month for FRES Specialist Vehicles, neatly coinciding with a leak of Bernard Gray’s report on defence acquisition and procurement reform. The leaks did not paint a pretty picture.

2009 marked a low point in relations between the Army and the government. Helicopter availability and personnel caps in Afghanistan were poisonous issues that bled out into the public domain. None of this helped the case for FRES and to make matters worse, the National Audit Office Major Equipment Report started the budget ‘black hole’ ball rolling.

Not FRES

France and the UK agreed a common certification process for the 40mm CTWS in March.

In response to the long overdue requirement to replace the Snatch, specifically the Snatch Vixen, the Light Protected Vehicle Competition was launched with a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire issued in June. Bids had to be in by the end of July, the MoD were not messing about although the scoping studies had been in progress for some time.

The requirement was described as;

Mastiff levels of protection in a 7-tonne vehicle, with a footprint roughly the same as a Land Rover

Prospective competitors included;

  • Supacat with a new design,
  • Force Protection with a new design,
  • Creation/Babcock with Zephyr,
  • Renault/Land Rover with Sherpa,
  • Oskosh with Sandcat,
  • Iveco with a development of the LMV,
  • BAE with RG32,
  • General Dynamics with Eagle.

A joint Supacat and Babcock press release in April confirmed their relationship;

Supacat Ltd, the designer of the widely acclaimed ‘Jackal’ weapons-mounted 4×4 patrol vehicle and Babcock the leading engineering support specialists have formed an industry alliance to deliver around 110 Jackal 2 (the enhanced, latest iteration of the original Jackal design), and more than 70 of the new 6×6 ‘Coyote’ Tactical Support Vehicle (Light) (TSV(L)). Supacat as the vehicle designer has been awarded the prime contract supported by Babcock as the vehicle manufacturer for whom the contract is worth around £55 million. This contract is in response to the MoD’s latest Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) and is a part of the £700 million Protected Mobility Package announced by the MoD late last year. The vast majority of both vehicle types are scheduled for delivery in 2009 to support operations in Afghanistan. Within the alliance, Supacat, as the design authority will be responsible for design, development, prototyping, integration and overall programme management. Babcock will take responsibility for detailed production planning, purchasing and manufacture at their Devonport dockyard facility. A single project office, located at Dunkeswell in Devon, will provide overall control.

Also in April, Supacat conducted live fire trials with Jackal ISTAR equipped with a Kongsberg M151 Protector remote weapon station. This vehicle was not in response to a specific requirement but a logical development of the Jackal and recognition that Jackal might provide some basis for a lightweight CVR(T) Scimitar replacement.

The MoD was also progressing with the Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) and Lockheed Martin showed off their unusual looking but reportedly very capable Adaptive Vehicle Architecture (AVA) vehicle at the Defence Vehicle Dynamics show. These were targeted at both the medium (4×4) and large (6×6) requirement and were both built by Babcock. Both vehicles were based on a reinforced HMT Chassis, Lockheed Martin having purchased the intellectual property for HMT a few years earlier.

Lockheed Martin AVA-1

The Jackal 3 was unveiled at the show, having a protected cab.

Jackal 3 Mock Up (Image Credit - Plain Military)

The Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle was also unveiled.

The MoD announced a further £74 million order of 110 Jackal 2’s and 70 Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle (Light). An order for 200 International MXT vehicles was confirmed in a £200 million contract in May and after a £20 million upgrade, the first Panthers were deployed to Afghanistan. This Theatre Entry Standard (Helmand) was for 67 vehicles only, the remainder of the 401 strong Panther fleet not being deployed.

In November, Lockheed Martin and the MoD’s Defence Support Group signed a partnering agreement in support of their Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) and Future Rapid Effects (FRES) bids.

Lockheed Martin and BAE submitted their bids for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project in November.

By the end of the year the first of the 115 ST Kinetics Bronco/Warthog protected mobility vehicles started to be delivered. Variants included a troop carrier, command, ambulance and repair & recovery. Warthog increased the standard 16 tonne Bronco Gross Vehicle Weight to 19 tonnes, additional armour from Permalli, air conditioning from Gallay, Platt MR550 weapons mount and a full suite of BOWMAN communications and ECM equipment making up the difference.

Warthog All Terrain Protected Mobility Vehicle

In Jan 2009 with General Richards as CIC (Land), OPERATION ENTIRETY was being pushed to the fore. By August, with General Richards now Chief of the General Staff, OPERATION ENTIRETY went forward in a major fashion. Afghanistan demanded all the services engage fully to ensure success.

Casualties from IED’s in Afghanistan continued, new vehicles and improvements to existing vehicles tried to counter the threat and of course, politicians were blamed for a lack of funding but this narrative, whilst having some truth, is flawed at a most basic level because the Army’s choice of vehicles, Viking, Vector, Snatch and Jackal particularly were all vulnerable to the most common threat, the IED.

Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision – The 30 Tonne Tank

Just to prove that the MoD still had a sense of humour the Future Protected Vehicle capability vision was launched in 2009.

Whilst Future Rapid Effects System was still in the future, and Future Familiy of Light Armoured Vehicles firmly in the past, the MoD decided to look into the future again, initiaing the Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision.

After the FRES and FCS vision of a 20 tonne tank, reality had entered the world of fantasy fleets and instead of C130 transportable armoured vehicles the MoD was now spending money on A400M transportable armoured vehicles.

Readers at this point may well have to go and have a lie down before progressing.

£700 million on protected mobility UOR’s, several hundred million on CVR(T), Saxon and Warrior upgrades, £133 million on FRES UV, £57 million on MRAV and £131 million on TRACER and the MoD looking at the tank of the future again, with scarce MoD funds.

The MoD is nothing if not predictable.

We are looking for highly innovative ways of delivering the same capability as our current Main Battle Tanks, but in a significantly lighter package that is more easily transportable, fuel efficient and less reliant on the supporting military infrastructure. A potential solution is the use of Hybrid Electric Drive Technologies that can significantly enhance mobility over demanding terrain with the benefits of good fuel efficiency and high reliability. Creative ideas that will provide the overall systems architecture that will host all military vehicle functions should also be included. We will award a number of contracts to demonstrate proof of principle of innovative technologies and applications of technology that will improve the mobility and overall effectiveness of the Future Protected Vehicle.

Delving into some of the documents at the DSTL Event Call (click here) the headline scope was;

An Electric 30 tonne Armoured Fighting Vehicle with the ‘punch’of a current Main Battle Tank

An electric 30 tonne vehicle which will embody the effectiveness and survivability currently associated with a Main Battle Tank but with high tactical mobility, reduced logistic footprint and strategic mobility of a rapidly deployable, air portable system

It will employ a modular, open architecture approach to underpin a future generation of mission configurable platform

A ‘Troop Carrier’ variant capable of carrying a fully equipped eight man section is to be the main demonstration focus

  • An electric 30 tonne vehicle which will embody the effectiveness and survivability currently associated with a Main Battle Tank (MBT) but with high tactical mobility, reduced logistic footprint and strategic mobility of a rapidly deployable, air portable system.
  • It will employ a modular, open architecture approach to underpin a future generation of mission configurable platforms
  • A ‘Troop Carrier’ variant capable of carrying a fully equipped eight man section is to be the main demonstration focus
  • Enhance survivability and other performance aspects, through adjustable ride height (2 meters of suspension travel is the target)
  • Test Bed Demonstrator within 4 years
  • Experimental Operational Capability: ~2013

C130 transportability was still a key requirement, despite the A400 and C17 being in service or planned to be in service.

Timeline below;

Future Protected Vehicle

It is pretty much the same medium weight graph as seen in the US Future Combat System (FCS) and UK Future Rapid Effects System (FRES).

Bizarely, it was FRES, again.

Transportability was also very similar, just with a different aircraft.

Future Protected Vehicle Air Transportability

This was a little confusing because other documents in the initial call detailed C130 requirements and three time 30 tonnes does not into a C17 go.

A few interesting images and concepts appeared over the next couple of years as the programme progressed.

It really was a sci-fi vision, just like FRES and FCS, cost of the study was reported as £30 million.

2010

FRES

At the Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry during January evidence of of a shocking lack of equipment in the 2003 invasion of Iraq was heard.

From a Guardian article;

John Hutton, who described delays in providing the army with a new armoured vehicle as a “procurement shambles”

He sharply criticised the delayed Future Rapid Effect System project, designed to provide new armoured vehicles. “I think it’s hard to imagine a worse procurement shambles,” he said.

“That, I think, is a pretty grim episode and in my view makes the case for a very urgent shake-upof the equipment procurement function of the MoD absolutely essential … Ten years into it, we still haven’t got a single vehicle.”

That was a bit rich given much of the confusion and early problems with FRES were under a Labour government, but hard to disagree with the general premise.

BAE and General Dynamics promoted their respective entries for FRES SV at the beginning of the year.

General Dynamics offered a modification of the Austrian-Spanish Cooperative Development (ASCOD) vehicle which was in service with Spain and Austria, as the Pizarro and Ulan respectively.

BAe offered a shortened CV90, claimed to be fully developed and available in the flesh, although to what extent readiness extended under the skin was not clear. The basic vehicle was to be constructed at Hagglunds in Sweden and shipped to Newcastle for final assembly and integration. This was later proven to be a political miscalculation, although using the existing CV90 production line made perfect financial sense.

FRES Scout Contenders

 

Outwardly there was little to distinguish the two, both used already in service infantry fighting vehicles of nineties origin as the base platform and both were equipped with the mandated 40mm CTA cannon, a range of C4ISTAR, protection and various automotive upgrades. The new Generic Vehicle Architecture was to form the backbone of the sensor and electronic system for both vehicles.

The critical difference between the two is obvious from the images above, one was real, the other a proposal, a repeat of the FRES UV Trials of truth fiasco.

Neither designs featured a telescopic sensor mast like TRACER, both were conventionally powered and protected; no hybrid engines, electric armour, active hydrogas suspension or segmented band tracks. This was a significant step back from both the TRACER and initial FRES visions because the MoD, smarting from relentless criticism, facing an impending budget crisis and continuing pressures of ongoing operations knew full well they would have to trade ambition for realism.

Getting something into service was critical for the credibility of the project and the department and fitted for but not with the Gucci stuff was the de facto position.

FRES SV represented a real paucity of ambition

On the flip side, the reality is that new vehicles were desperately needed and maybe 80% was good enough. Many pointed to the inability and unwillingness to trade capability for time and cost led to the demise of TRACER.

It was and is a fair point.

Both solutions offered uplifts across the lethality and especially protection domains, would be equipped with the latest (albeit off the shelf) sensor systems and offered great potential for future upgrades through Generic Vehicle Architecture.

Neither was a poor design, far from it, both being solid, well designed machines.

The main issue that most commentators remarked on was the sheer size and weight of both proposals. It is difficult to envisage a force comprising 30-40 tonne vehicles being rapid to deploy, mobile on the battlefield without significant combat engineer manoeuvre support or being stealthy in support of the reconnaissance mission as defined by UK doctrine.

Go back to Cyprus or the Falkland Islands, the Balkans and even Afghanistan and Iraq; could the proposed Scout really take the place of CVR(T)?

It was a question being asked by many.

BAE announced their investment a £4.5 million in a Turret Test Rig for both Warrior and FRES programmes in February.

The £4.5m Turret Test Rig (TTR) will mimic the field testing of turrets for Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) Scout and Warrior vehicles by subjecting them to tests under extremes of temperatures. The tests are expected to take a turret through a 20-year lifespan in 12-18 months.

Further development and qualification of the 40mm CTA weapon was agreed by France and the UK in February. Incidentally, the same announcement mentioned 245 Scout vehicles, down from 270 in the original bid materials.

At the end of February the Investment Approvals Board met to decide between General Dynamics and BAE for the FRES SV Recce Block 1 development contract.

The pressure was on to make a decision before the upcoming election announcement after which there is traditionally a six week period of purdah on major contracts.

As usual with closely guarded secrets the MoD was in full on leaky sieve mode with a number of outlets reporting a win for General Dynamics.

BAE tried to sweeten the deal on jobs and fabrication location, Sweden to Newcastle being the new offer. BAE also issued a press release stating that their integrated demonstrator had completed testing at 40.4 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight, it was a real vehicle, not CGI.

March saw the announcement that General Dynamics had been selected for FRES SV Recce Block 1, or more specifically, selected as preferred bidder.

General Dynamics issued this press release;

General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited has been selected by the Ministry of Defence to provide the next generation of armoured fighting vehicles to the British Army. The MoD has chosen General Dynamics’ ASCOD SV tracked vehicle as the winning design for the demonstration phase of the Specialist Vehicle competition, providing both the Scout variant and the Common Base Platform for up to 580 SV vehicles. ASCOD SV is the latest generation of a proven European design which has been significantly redesigned by General Dynamics’ UK engineering team, and will provide unparalleled military capability for the British Army over the 30 years of the vehicles’ life.

“The General Dynamics UK team won this competition to provide the British Army with its next generation of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) because it is the best vehicle for the British troops,” commented Dr. Sandy Wilson, President and Managing Director of General Dynamics UK. “We offered the best integrated solution, the best growth potential over the 30-year life of the vehicle, the best value for money for the British taxpayer and the best deal for the UK Industrial base.

The ASCOD SV programme is British to its bootstraps, delivering a Military off the Shelf vehicle with British design by British engineers to the British Army while safeguarding or creating 10,600 jobs for British workers.”

British troops using the ASCOD SV will have the best protection available in this vehicle class, both as it is delivered and as it grows to meet future threats. The vehicle will be immediately capable of delivering load- carrying growth potential of up to 42 tonnes thanks to a modern, proven drivetrain. This means that ASCOD SV is capable now of being equipped to meet future threats likely to appear over its entire 30 year life, without the need to upgrade its engine or transmission during that time. Finally, 80% of ASCOD SV’s full rate production will be based in the UK, securing or creating over 10,600 jobs for British workers.

These new jobs will be secured or created over the duration of the SV programme in South Wales where General Dynamics UK is based, Scotland, the North of England, the North West, the East and West Midlands, and the East and South of England. General Dynamics UK has sub-contracted Lockheed Martin UK INSYS to produce the turret of the Scout variant of ASCOD SV, and will transfer full rate production of the entire ASCOD SV programme to DSG in Donnington, ensuring 80% of ASCOD SV production happens in the UK.

Lord Peter Levene, Chairman of General Dynamics UK Limited said: “We are delighted that the MoD has selected ASCOD SV for its SV programme, a decision we believe will sustain the British tank industry for future generations. We are confident that the decision will, most importantly, provide the best protection for British soldiers, as well as provide both the greatest long-term value and the best military capability for the UK Government and the MoD. We look forward to delivering this contract in partnership with the MoD for the benefit of Britain’s armed forces.”

Based on a proven European design, it is the latest-generation vehicle developed specifically for SV by a team of General Dynamics UK’s engineers in Britain and Europe. It is a low-risk choice for SV, with excellent weight and growth potential.

The vehicle offers one common-base platform which can meet the range of SV roles. Its turret is designed by Lockheed Martin UK INSYS, specifically for the British Army’s scout role. ASCOD SV also offers high value to the UK Defence Industrial Base. Its Intellectual Property will be based in the UK, part of the sovereign capability available to the British Government. By value, 80% of the vehicle manufacture will be completed in the UK, with 70% of the supply chain companies UK-based.

Overall, ASCOD SV will create or safeguard more than 10,500 jobs in the UK.

There was still ambiguity on intellectual property, ‘based in the UK’ is not the same thing as ‘owned by the MoD’

It also made the ‘British to It’s Bootstraps’ claim;

70% of the supply chain would be UK based and 80% by value would be completed in the UK.

Bold claims, but very careful wording.

Industrial issues aside, at least the project now had some clarity, contract award would follow, based on a clear understanding of the relevant issues and BAE could now get on with sadly closing its UK vehicle manufacturing base. On July 1st the Leicester Mercury published a story describing a loss of jobs at the BAE Braunceton Frith, Leicester site. Quoting a BAE official, it said;

We don’t see any short to medium-term opportunities for design and manufacturing. Design is the majority of what Leicester does

In other Leicester news, HJ Hall announced job cuts following an Army sock contract going to China

Quentin Davies said;

the MoD must buy the best equipment regardless of where it was made

It emerged that General Dynamics would use a turret provided by Lockheed Martin, the actual design based on the Rheinmetall LANCE medium calibre turret (another one of those British Bootstraps) although Lockheed Martin insisted 75% of the turret would be manufactured in the UK, on what basis that 75% was measured was not clear, volume, value or something else.

 

A Freedom of Information Act request the Times newspaper revealed the MoD had spent £68 million on FRES SV to this point.

With the election out of the way the MoD and General Dynamics announced successful negotiations in June and the award of a £500 million contract for the Demonstration and Manufacture phase of FRES SV Recce Block 1.

Seven prototypes would be built with first testing completed by the end of 2013.

A Telegraph article on the 9th of October quoted the eponymous ‘Senior MoD Official’;

FRES is dead in the water. It’s a dead duck. It is the definition of everything that is wrong with the MoD’s procurement process

This was followed by ‘The Annual Kick the MoD in the Teeth Report” from the National Audit Office, published on the 10th of October.

For FRES, it revealed that the actual/forecast cost for FRES UV had risen to £162 million with no explanation of why.

Not FRES

The first of the production Boxers were by now in service with the German armed forces and the Dutch were starting to build their production facility near Eindhoven.

Following publication of the 2008 Defence Strategic Guidance, the 2009 Future Army Structure (Next Steps) stated the most likely future operations were not large scale state on state but enduring medium scale interventions that would be complex, crowded and with ambiguous goals.

As Future Army Structures (Next Steps) matured in early 2010, the proposed light, medium and heavy structure gave way to the concept of six Ground Manoeuvre Brigades, each with an identical modular structure. These brigades would be supported by three Support Brigades and a high readiness Air Assault Brigade.

Although FAS(Next Steps) made perfect sense it did not address the resource issue, indeed, when fully implemented it would have required a 10% uplift in personnel.

It was thus, utterly unrealistic.

This was obvious to all and by March General Richards instructed the Army to come up with a new plan that both recognised financial reality and paid attention to the newly published Future Character of Conflict from the Defence Doctrine and Development Centre at Shrivenham.

From this, ‘Transformational Army Structure’ or TAS was created;

Driven by globalisation, the world is rapidly and irreversibly changing. So too is the character of conflict: the Cold War is emphatically in the past. However, Defence has not changed apace. It must therefore transform in order to remain relevant and thus continue to secure UK national interests. The Army has conducted a detailed study, drawing on lessons from contemporary operations and the deductions from Defence’s thorough examination of the Future Character of Conflict. Based on this, we have designed a relevant, adaptable and cost effective Future Force, which will continue to evolve as the demands of operations change over time and is designed to meet future threats and challenges. This work is known as Transformational Army Structures (TAS). The key word is transformational; the Army will continue to evolve

Whilst TAS focuses on the Army’s deployable component, the broader study encompasses all elements of the Force, including the Territorial Army, our Reserves and those which support the deployable component from ‘the home base’. Furthermore, it is fully integrated with a number of other detailed studies focused on Equipment, Doctrine, Infrastructure and Personnel. This note focuses on the deployable structure, that which we must protect.

Multi-role Brigades (MRBs). The MRBs form the core of TAS. They would be structured and equipped to prevail against the hybrid threats we will face on contemporary operations: the most likely form of conflict and, for the Army, the most demanding. Engineer and logistic assets, enhanced intelligence and surveillance capabilities, precision fire support and light role infantry equipped with protected mobility would be grouped with armoured and mechanised units. This breadth of capability will ensure that the brigades have maximum utility, sustainability and in-built agility; and the quantity of manpower contained within the MRBs will ensure resilience.

Five brigades will be required to guarantee that the UK can sustain persistent modulated engagement when the operational imperative demands that we must do so; this may range from a number of concurrent small scale pre-conflict capacity building operations to a single brigade level intervention operation. The MRBs will be held at varying degrees of readiness within a training cycle, thus providing both the high readiness contingent forces (see EEF below) and the ability, when required, to sustain persistent engagement. They have the capability both to deter, coerce, and fight, and to deliver training teams, Defence diplomacy, and support to UK operations.

Early Effects Force (EEF). In order to deliver forces held at high readiness for contingent operations, TAS proposes gathering together relevant forces including a divisional headquarters, 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Military Assistance and Stabilisation Group (MASG) and one of the MRBs. Held within the ‘Response Force’, this would provide Defence with a broad range of contingent capabilities able of meeting its concurrency assumptions. Grouping the MASG with specialist light forces and an adaptable MRB would deliver better coherence of the hard and soft effects required to conduct effective prevention, intervention and post-conflict resolution.

1 and 3 Div HQs both deployable

MRB allocated to High Readiness Contingency at appropriate point of readiness cycle

HQ 16 AA Bde and a battle group allocated to High Readiness Contingency; remainder in readiness cycle

Forces would be selected from the Army EEF, 3 Cdo Bde and SF to meet NSC Posture 2 concurrency requirements: 2 x non-enduring, complex interventions, a non-enduring simple intervention and an enduring stabilisation op.

The Military Assistance and Stabilisation Group (MASG). Understanding regional dynamics over time, coupled with the ability to grow relationships and develop indigenous security infrastructure, will be key to preventing conflict; it will also increase UK influence globally and potentially stimulate defence exports. Rapidly rebuilding security in a country will be critical to early and sustained conflict resolution. Specialist capabilities are required to deliver these effects through joint and cross government organisations.

For a minimal investment of a few hundred service personnel, integrated with personnel from civilian agencies and departments, the MASG would provide this: a cross-governmental centre of excellence, the delivery arm of the Stabilisation Unit and a deployable Provincial Reconstruction Team. It would provide specialist teams that could deploy independently or be integrated into deployed battle groups and brigades, focused on delivering both civil and military capacity building. Whilst geared primarily for overseas operations, it could and should be used in response to emergencies at home, thus increasing our resilience.

Other Elements of the Force Structure. Some other elements of the Army’s force structure would reside within the ‘Committed Force'[5]. The Army would continue to deliver forces to secure our overseas territories, provide military aid to the civil authorities (MACA) in the UK and conduct high-profile State Ceremonial and Public Duties. Opportunities to link the latter 2 tasks in order to find efficiencies are being examined, remaining cognisant of the fragile security environment in N Ireland[6] where the MACA battalions would most likely be employed.

TAS bought the 6 plus 3 plus 1 Brigade model of FAS (Next Steps) down to 5 Multi Role Brigades and 1 Air Assault Brigade, instead of 3 support brigades, a single Joint Theatre Enabling Command instead. TAS was much more in line with the Future Character of Conflict work that suggested future operations would be more like Afghanistan than the Gulf War; congested, cluttered, contested and connected.

In February/March, alongside FRES, the MoD was also considering the future of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project (WCSP), a competition between BAE and Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin proposed an upgrade of the existing Warrior turret and BAE, their MTIP 2 design, releasing a video showing it in action.

BAE Systems - Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) Upgrade [480p]

In March, the MoD Investment Approvals Board recommended a year long delay to WCSP.

Another order for 140 Supacat Jackal 2A’s (an enhanced version of the Jackal 2) and an additional 28 Wolfhound Tactical Support Vehicle (Heavy) was announced in June. The contract with Supacat was for £45 million and bought the total numbers of Jackals in service to over 400.

The Light Protected Patrol Vehicle contenders continued with their media displays, by now, the competition had been whittled down to the Supacat SPV400 and Force Protection Ocelot.

SPV400 for UK LPPV programme

Ocelot light protected patrol vehicle

The bid submission deadline for the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle was the end of June.

June also saw a number of reports that BAE (after losing the FRES SV contract) and the MoD were negotiating the restart of the CVR(T) production, at least for hulls.

DefenceIQ reported;

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and BAE Systems are negotiating the re-started hull production for the British Army’s Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) fleet. The heavy wear and tear, corrosion and fatigue on the CVR(T)s deployed in Afghanistan has prompted the move, which has raised concerns among British Army equipment managers that the fleet of CVR(T) derivatives could soon be rendered combat ineffective. There are 1,100 CVR(T)s still in use. The CVR(T) is currently the mainstay of the Royal Armoured Corps’ reconnaissance regiments.

There are reportedly also concerns among senior army officers that the scout variant of the recently selected General Dynamics ASCOD Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) vehicle will not be ready by the planned 2015 in-service date to replace the CVR(T).

It is still not clear how many hulls are involved, but all the 100 or so vehicles deployed in Afghanistan are expected to pass through the rebuilding process.

Army sources indicate that they expect “a couple of hundred” CVR(T)s to remain in service beyond 2016 for use in air-portable and amphibious rapid-reaction units where the requirement is for a vehicle weighing less than 10 tonnes.

After FFLAV, TRACER and FRES, this was incredible news.

The bittersweet irony of new build CVR(T)’s and old ones being retained for units that needed them for rapid deployment must have been appreciated by all, especially BAE, the official loser of the FRES SV contract. It was revealed later that CVR(T) Mark 2 would use new build hulls and a wide range of other improvements in almost every area, Scimitar Mk2 would also mate a Scimitar turret to a Spartan Mk2 hull. Pretty much every component was replaced or upgraded, mobility, protection, power provision and maintainability all improved.

125 German Boxer vehicles received a protection upgrade in the form of Schroth inflatable restraint system, airbags in other words; read more here

Navistar announced an additional £33 million order from the MoD in September for 89 Husky Tactical Support Vehicle (Medium).

September brought success for Force Protection with its Ocelot vehicle in the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) competition. The MoD announcement confirmed their status as preferred bidder and in November an £180 million order was placed for 200 Ocelots, to be called Foxhounds.

7 years after the first IED death in a Snatch in Iraq the replacement for Snatch was announced.

A number of additional Mastiffs and Wolfhounds were also purchased during the year.

RUSI published a paper written by Grahame Birchall in October that compared and contrasted the French success with their transformation programmes and medium weight vehicles compared to FRES. It is a fascinating paper and anyone interested in the subject should take the time to read it, click here

Briefly, Grahame distilled the the French secret as;

  • Be soldier centric
  • Take decisions you know to be right without endless studies that confirm what you just know
  • Sign off by the users, procurer and manufacturer at each stage
  • Avoid the ‘big idea’

He also drew attention to the fact that NEXTER was involved at every stage and that it had a detailed view across the wider subject, not just vehicles.

General Richards succeeded AVM Jock Stirrup as CDS in October.

The pre SDSR silly season was by now in full swing; leaks, counter leaks and inter service backstabbing reached new lows, sadly.

Multi Role Brigades survived contact with SDSR 2010 but not unscathed, they would now be self supporting instead of using the Joint Theatre Enabling Command, also force reductions across the board became the chosen position.

Although SDSR confirmed its commitment to FRES the concept of the Medium Weight Capability was dead in the water.

The original FRES vision of a bulging medium joined by a smaller heavy and light capability was gone. The future was modular, the future was enduring and the future was certainly not the quick in quick out medium weight intervention vision.

The Medium Weight Concept had changed beyond all recognition and in any sane world FRES would have been cancelled long ago with it. Military forces the world over are accused of preparing to fight the next war by planning for the last, FRES was born from a concept of doing the Gulf War better, when the next war showed up it was completely different so the Army went to war with what it had. The modular brigade concept was now planning for another Afghanistan, enduring operations replacing rapid intervention

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Sixties and Seventies

The Eighties

The Nineties

A Trip Across the Sava River

FCS and the Birth of FRES

2000 to 2005

2006 to 2010

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

2011 to 2014

Generic Vehicle Architecture

2015 to Today

 

 

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