The Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle has always been somewhat of a controversial vehicle.
The requirement for a Ferret replacement was articulated in the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) and after that was cancelled in favour of MRAV and TRACER the leftover command and liaison requirement was left dangling. It would emerge in 2001 as the Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV)
November 2003 saw the contract award to Alvis Vickers for 401 UK specific Iveco Lince LMV vehicles at a cost of £166 million.
We are pleased to announce that the Ministry of Defence has today signed a contract worth £166 million (including VAT) with Alvis Vickers Ltd, for the manufacture of the Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV).
The FCLV will perform the command and liaison role and replace the ageing and disparate vehicle fleet within the manoeuvre support brigades comprising elements of the 430 Series, Saxon, Land Rover and Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) fleets. From its planned in-service date of 2006, the FCLV will provide levels of crew protection and mobility commensurate with their roles in an increasingly extended ground manoeuvre area. It will offer protection against small arms, blast and anti-personnel mines.
The contract was for 401 vehicles into two versions, 326 Group 2 with a self defence weapon and target acquisition and surveillance system and 75 fitted for but not with. The remote weapon system was to be be an AEI Ordnance Enforcer.
Planned In service date was 2007 although it would not enter service until 2008, the delays resulting in issues discovered during trials.
The competition was very controversial because the shortlisted vehicles did not actually include the Panther (Iveco LMV). The original vehicles considered were the RG32M from Vickers, Hunting Engineering with the ACMAT VRBL Ranger, Alvis Scarab, Iveco with their Puma and NP Aerospace with an armoured Land Rover
It was originally claimed that the vehicles would be manufactured in the UK but this proved to be not the case as only modifications to the base vehicle were made in the UK. Many thought the RG32M would be the certain winner but the Iveco was inserted into the bid process after final shortlisting has closed with the final three vehicles being the LMV, RG32 and ACMAT VLRB Ranger.
The MoD even awarded a £1.5m risk reduction contract to Hunting Engineering, Alvis and Vickers in 2001 with no LMV in sight.
It is interesting to speculate on the relative contribution to casualty rates in Iraq if the Panther was in fact not selected but the much cheaper and survivable RG32, for example, was. It was also reported that one of the acquisition members of staff at the MoD subsequently went to work for Iveco in a repeat of the familiar revolving doors scenario between industry and the MoD.
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 in 2006.
BAe were awarded a £28 million contract in 2007 for support services on the Panther vehicle, to provide better availability and lower costs. The Panther is reported to be a maintenance intensive vehicle with very poor availability.
Panther was not planned to go to Afghanistan but the embarrassment would have been too great so after an extensive TES package costing £20 million for 67 vehicles it was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. This package included an additional roof hatch, ECM equipment, rear view camera a new engine intake and additional armour.
On face value it looks like Panther was selected in a controversial process, has sub optimal reliability, protection and mobility, fulfills its core role with issues, is far too small inside and cost a fortune.
If you really want to be depressed, scan down the diagram below and look at the OSD
Surely this is some mistake?