British Army Medium Weight Capability

In the late Nineties, the British Army concluded it needed to develop and field a Medium Weight Capability that would enable it to arrive quicker than a heavy force, but have greater resilience and combat power than a light force.

The concept of what constituted this Medium Weight Capability has evolved through many iterations since then, chewing through a collection of programme acronyms, occupying many civil servants, industry and service personnel’s time, wasted hundreds of millions of scarce defence Pounds, set the conditions for the decline of the British defence vehicle industry and yet, in 2017, is still some distance from delivery in any tangible form.

This series will examine the history of the British Army’s Medium Weight Capability concept by describing a timeline of relevant conflicts, vehicle programmes like CVR(T), TRACER, MRAV and Ajax, and military thinking from the post-war period to today.

Some are more relevant to the story than others but provide background to aid in understanding the broader history.

At the end, a number of observations on that timeline.

In 115,268 words…

British Army Medium Weight Capability – Table of Contents

Introduction and Notes

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

The Fifties and Sixties

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

The Seventies

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

The Eighties

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

The Nineties

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

TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger

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

Turning Points in the Balkans

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

Change Comes to US and UK Forces

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

FRES Gets into Gear but Iraq Looms Large

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

Snatch and the Trials of Truth

Between 2000 and 2004 the Army experienced significant change. FRES picked up speed but operations in Iraq were about to loom even larger.

FRES Changes Names and Changes Lane

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

FRES Scout to the End of FRES

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

Return to Contingency

As an end to the Afghanistan deployment drew near, Scout continued and attention on Warrior focused.

AJAX to MIV and the Emergence of Strike

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


A few thoughts and opinions.

Appendix A – Ajax

Weights, measures, variants and roles

Appendix B – 40mm Cased Telescoped Weapon System

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

Appendix C – Generic Vehicle Architecture

The essential glue that binds the increasing quantity of vehicle electronics

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Senior Moment
Senior Moment
September 27, 2017 10:33 pm

What an amazing piece of research and information. Thank you.

Lee Dargue [Chief Editor]
Lee Dargue [Chief Editor]
September 27, 2017 10:50 pm

Great Article, Shared with social media outlets.

September 28, 2017 10:00 am

The hardest bit must have been… cutting down!
“In 115,268 words…”

September 29, 2017 2:37 pm

Wrong format. Write a book.

Rocket Banana
September 29, 2017 3:24 pm


I am still in the process of reading and digesting all this but can I suggest some kind of Gantt or Timeline chart instead (or as well as) the current contents.

It might allow you to break the current sections up more but still link them through TIME and SUBJECT?

S O,

Last thing he needs is to put this in a book :-) Hyperlinks and multidimensional / wiki type navigation are perfect for this.

September 29, 2017 7:52 pm

Agree with ” Gantt or Timeline chart instead (or as well as) the current contents.” as a supplement. Should be formated as a landscape A4… there is only so much you can fill in (to such overlapping blocks), but the value add is exactly to help to visualise the time-wise overlapping, using beginning to end views of topics/ projects worthy of inclusion

September 29, 2017 8:53 pm

Wrong tone. Leave.

Silver Fox
Silver Fox
October 4, 2017 10:36 pm

This is an excellent piece of work and whilst it would be inappropriate to say I enjoyed reading it…..I actually did.

From my post in the Army Medical Directorate I led a team dedicated toward ensuring a medical platform emerged out of whichever variant was developed. I was personally engaged with MRAV and FRES and sat on a host of committees over 9+ years where I fought to ensure future medics could deploy fully integrated with the force they were required to support. This approach was entirely consistent with past and current doctrine – medical versions of Mastiff (and other platforms) were developed with our input and deployed for contingent operations.

I retired and shortly after the Army Medical Directorate lost its 2* and the Medical Force Development staff were broken up. I now see that the Ajax family of platforms, as described in your piece, does not include a medical platform. This is truly shocking!

Serving sources tell me that no focus now exists for providing medical expertise into the platform planning process. In its absence the opportunity was taken for savings. Bulldog will continue to be used by medics…oh and the beguiling but incorrect assumption that there will always be helicopters available of course.

Time will tell but I am confident the absence of medical troops equipped and deploying with a comparable platform to the force they serve will come back and haunt future commanders.