FRES Scout to the end of FRES

The Iraq Enquiry was to lay bare some of Army’s dirty laundry, a new government, budget black holes to fill, a defence review, transfer of many areas in Helmand to the US Marine Corps and the realisation that enduring stabilisation operations supported by the Multi Role Brigade were no longer likely, FRES Scout picked up the pace and proved to be resilient against those well-worn ‘difficult choices’.

2010

January

At the Iraq Inquiry during January, evidence of a shocking lack of equipment in the 2003 invasion of Iraq was heard, and an opinion on FRES.

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-up of the equipment procurement function of the MoD absolutely essential … Ten years into it, we still haven’t got a single vehicle.”

The Investment approvals Board (IAB) were due to meet at the end of the month in order to decide between the two competing bidders for Recce Block 1; Scout, Equipment Support Recovery, Equipment Support Repair and Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support.

This first phase, or block, was planned to consist of just under 600 vehicles at an estimated cost of £2 billion.

Alongside FRES SV, the MoD was also considering bids from Lockheed Martin and BAE for the Warrior Capability Support Programme.

The Warrior Capability Support Programme will extend its out of service date to 2035 with new turrets and main armament, better crew conditions, new electronic architecture and modular protection equipping the vehicle for a range of operational circumstances.

Lockheed Martin was proposing an upgrade of the existing Warrior turret and BAE, their advanced MTIP 2 design on which they had been working on for some time. BAE was certain that an upgraded Warrior turret was not a sensible option and would be difficult meet the MoD’s requirements with it in any case.

February

With bids in, the respective manufacturers promoted the value of their respective solutions.

General Dynamics offered a modified version of the Austrian-Spanish Cooperative Development (ASCOD) vehicle which was in service with Spain and Austria as the Pizarro and Ulan respectively, total quantity approximately 230 vehicles between the two nations.

BAE offered a modified CV90, in service with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, total quantity over 1,100 by 2010.

The ambition shown by the FRES Technology Demonstrators was gone.

A reduced risk appetite, the need to replace the ageing CVR(T) and time spent on the abortive Utility Variant (UV) had combined to reduce the MoD’s manoeuvre space. A modified off the shelf solution was the only option it had.

The basic BAE vehicle was to be constructed at Hägglunds 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.

On the 9th of February it was reported that General Dynamics had improved their industrial participation offer.

Britain’s state-owned Defence Support Group has signed an outline deal with General Dynamics UK to assemble its ASCOD SV locally if the armored vehicle builder secures a contract to build specialist vehicles for the British Army’s Future Rapid Effects System.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the British military vehicle maintenance and upgrade specialist could see substantial work taking place at DSG’s Donnington facilities, GD UK said Feb. 9.

If the ASCOD SV is selected, the two sides said, their aim is to transfer assembly, integration and testing for full-rate production of the ASCOD SV from General Dynamics’ European production facilities to Donnington

At the International Armoured Vehicle exhibition in mid-February, BAE revealed their design for Scout.

 

BAE described the advantages of their design:

Nearly half of the armoured reconnaissance vehicles are a Scout variant and the rest are repair, recovery and protected mobility variants.

All will use the same chassis, referred to as a “common base platform.” A scout vehicle needs very high protection levels on the modern battlefield. BAE Systems’ combat-proven CV90 has made improvements in this area (and many others) with each of its six customers. We have fully met, and for certain threats, exceeded the MoD’s extremely challenging survivability requirements in mine blast trials. Trials commenced in 2004, culminating in a qualification test in 2008. Representative tests in 2009 have been successful against the FRES defined threats.

Furthermore, Our FRES SV Scout chassis has been modified from the base vehicle, reducing its physical size and therefore weight to optimise it for the army’s reconnaissance role. This has further increased the weight growth margins existing for CV90 while maintaining total system size and weight, consistent with the FRES reconnaissance requirement.

This evolutionary approach to meet changing threats means it is now the best-protected vehicle in its class, including mine protection comparable with a main battle tank – and yet it can be carried by an A400M.

The FRES Scout variant builds on this pedigree and features a shorter and lower profile chassis plus an electronic architecture, or operating system, specifically developed to meet the needs of the British Army. CV90’s unusually low thermal and noise signatures and ability to perform long periods of silent watch suit it well for the Scout role.

There was surprisingly little information released by General Dynamics and most media reports tended to focus on the ASCOD base vehicle but General Dynamics did release some information, concentrating on future growth.

General Dynamics UK has announced that its ASCOD SV candidate for the FRES Specialist Vehicle programme offers the option of early delivery for the heaviest direct fire variants, as a result of its weight capability and turret design.

Chief Engineer John Abunassar said: “From day one, ASCOD SV offers full operation at 42 tonnes. This means it can carry a 120mm gun easily without compromising armour or performance. Our design for a large turret ring is an advantage for the soldiers inside that opens up the flexible option of an early path to the heaviest FRES SV vehicles.”

ASCOD SV is capable of full operation at 42 tonnes. This performance is based on the technical maturity of the engine and transmission, which enable tremendous through-life growth. This is a significant advantage for the programme, which is founded on a Common Base Platform to satisfy the full FRES SV fleet of 1200-plus vehicles, including the heavy weight Direct Fire and bridge-layer.

The first FRES SV variants include the Scout, for which ASCOD SV has a turret designed to maximise space for soldiers inside. The large turret-ring diameter of 1.7m is wider than older vehicles such as Warrior, and the design increases space further by placing the main ammunition feed under armour outside the turret crew compartment. This gives soldiers considerable room for modern display screens, comfort for long periods inside the turret and ease of movement, even wearing full body armour and future wearable systems. With the need for military electronics ever-expanding on operations, the turret allows significant room for new systems to be fitted without compromising the design of the vehicle.

ASCOD SV is designed to offer the option of an early, low-risk path to a Direct Fire variant. General Dynamics has already fitted earlier variants of ASCOD in Europe for heavy direct fire roles. ASCOD SV’s large turret diameter is designed to be expanded to 2.1m, easily carrying, for example, a 120mm gun on a 1.9m turret ring. The vehicle’s 42-tonne capability allows it to carry such a gun at this higher weight without compromising full performance or its ability to carry the full FRES armour.

The turret design combines with the high power-distribution capability of the General Dynamics open Electronic Architecture, which allows new-generation systems to be plugged in as required and power generation to be expanded.

ASCOD SV is designed to a rating of 42 tonnes. FRES SV must meet today’s need. But it also needs to be the right vehicle for tomorrow. Growth is key in a vehicle that will be around for 30 years. The FRES SV Scout variant will initially weigh about 34 tonnes, but will need to grow to accommodate the addition of new technology and equipment to meet new threats as they emerge over its 30-year life cycle.

ASCOD SV more than meets this requirement. It has been designed to have room to grow to 42 tonnes with only minor component upgrades. It avoids costly major redesigns halfway through a vehicle’s life. This growth is possible thanks to General Dynamics UK’s selection of drivetrain.

Despite its modernity, the Renk 256B transmission is tested and proven, currently helping to drive the new generation of German Puma IFVs. Capable of operating to 45 tonnes it combines with MTU’s 600kW 8V engine to provide unparalleled growth potential for FRES SV.

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 General Vehicle Architecture was also to form the backbone of the sensor and electronic system for both vehicles.

The critical difference between the two that many pointed out was that BAE had invested their own funds in producing a representative prototype based on a vehicle in service in quantity. General Dynamics were offering a concept based on an in-service vehicle, much like their Piranha V proposal in the Trials of Truth, except their Scout design was based on a vehicle in service in only small numbers.

Neither designs featured a telescopic sensor mast like TRACER, both were conventionally powered and driven with no hybrid engine, electric armour, active hydrogas suspension, protected crew pod nor segmented band tracks. This was a significant step back from both the TRACER and initial FRES concepts.

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.

Compared to CVR(T), 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 practice.

Others noted WWII experience was that reconnaissance started out light and stealthy and ended up heavy and well armoured.

Like many subjects, competing ideas often have equal merit.

BAE announced their investment a £4.5 million in a Turret Test Rig for both Warrior and FRES programmes at the end of 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.

The facility is closely modelled on BAE Systems’ Mission Equipment Vibration Table (MEVT) in Minneapolis, built for the US FCS programme. Until now this was unique.

The vibration created by tracked vehicles makes attaining good reliability very challenging, particularly for electronic components. Testing in the field, while necessary, is time-consuming, expensive and inefficient.

Systems modelling and analysis manager Vince Whelan has relocated from Minneapolis where he worked on the MEVT to commission and use the new facility. He explains:

“The TTR will replace a large proportion of field trials with testing under tightly-controlled conditions. We will be able to begin these trials much earlier in the development process so that field trials become a matter of verification rather than investigation. We will also be able to test and iron out any snags in suppliers’ equipment earlier.

“Having the TTR where the design team is based will help us pinpoint – and therefore solve – the source of any problems much more quickly and easily, so that we and the MoD can have confidence in meeting their demanding reliability targets.”

The rig was ordered four months ago and the facility is expected to be commissioned in September this year and will sit alongside the Systems Integration Facility which is already being heavily used for work on FRES and Warrior upgrade.

BAE Systems FRES director Mike Duckworth explains the continued investment in Leicester: “As armoured vehicles become more complex, the value and the battle-winning advantage lies more and more with their sophisticated electronic systems. We are investing in Leicester as part of our business transformation to create a centre of excellence for these new technologies so that we can develop, integrate and bring them into service as efficiently as possible.”

Further development and qualification of the 40mm CTA weapon were 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.

Meanwhile, with the struggle against IED’s in Afghanistan continuing, Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, made the following offer:

Today I told our allies that the United States will be able to offer them more intelligence, training and equipment including jammers, route clearance robots, surveillance systems and ground-penetrating radar

At the MoD and DE&S, the Counter IED Capability Steering Group and C-IED Office were formed to ensure the CIED capability was managed across the whole of defence, coordinating the numerous C-IED projects. Underpinning the C-IED office was a team from the Niteworks partnership that created a MoD Architecture Framework 2 (MoDAF2) compliant decision support tool.

Operation MOSHTARAK commenced with a big counter IED effort. A BBC News at Ten report from Afghanistan showed a harrowing account of joint USA-UK operations that resulted in the death of a Royal Engineers Search Adviser (RESA). The report showed US forces using Husky’s and Cougar JERRV’s to clear the route. When the US Husky contacts a large IED the force has to resort to on foot detection.

As part of Operation MOSHTARAK, the Royal Engineers deployed an explosive clearance system called Python, towed behind the Challenger derived Trojan Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE).

Python was a replacement for the Giant Viper, in fact a mid-life upgrade called Giant Viper Mid Life Upgrade (GVMLI) that replaced the motor unit and other components. Instead of the parachute system in the Giant Viper the Python uses a long strip of Velcro (honestly) to retard and straighten the 228m long explosive filled hose as it deploys. Launched using a rocket motor it deploys across the ground to be breached and when it lands the explosive filled hose detonates, initiating and destroying any mines or IED’s in its path, clearing a safe line approximately 7m wide and 180m long.

March

On the 14th of March, it was reported that following the receipt of informal guidance that BAE had offered the MoD an unsolicited deal on investment and jobs in the UK.

Amid fears that BAE’s share price could be hit today, chief executive Ian King is expected to table the offer after receiving informal guidance that ministers are poised to name General Dynamics as the preferred bidder for the replacement of the current Scout vehicles because its proposals were more attractive and would support more jobs.

Initial BAE plans to cut 500 jobs in Britain and for the manufacture in Sweden of most of the parts for a sophisticated vehicle offering greater firepower than the current generation of Scouts in Afghanistan have been quickly ditched. BAE is now promising to create or sustain 800 jobs in Britain, 500 of them in Newcastle, the home of Britain’s last tank-making facility.

But BAE’s swift reaction to the Scout decision is expected to be welcomed by ministers as an indication that competition for defence contracts can be made to work more effectively. BAE is understood to have been initially told it was in the “box seat” to win the order after spending £50m and five years designing a “big beast” it believes is technically superior to the General Dynamics rival.

The Scout order is part of a bigger armoured vehicle replacement programme that also involves the Warrior. The Warrior upgrade has been delayed because of spending constraints and uncertainty about its firepower but ministers say there is no intention of cancelling the contract for a frontline armoured vehicle.

Alan Garwood, BAE’s business development director, said: “We want the Army to have the best kit and we want to protect vital skills in the UK. To achieve this we are proposing to transfer work to Newcastle. This will create or sustain 800 skilled jobs.

“It would also sustain manufacturing at our Newcastle site until at least 2020. Finally, it would provide a platform for exports from the UK worth hundreds of millions.”

Three days later, BAE also announced that their CV90 based Scout prototype had completed and demonstrated the ability to meet the MoD’s growth requirements by successfully completing mobility tests at 40.4 tonnes.

At this point, many observed, BAE had demonstrated a working solution with a real vehicle and turret, General Dynamics, like with the Trials of Truth and Piranha V, demonstrated only potential, graphics and a surrogate design.

“These trials, in common with every other aspect of our bid, were designed to provide hard evidence to show that we can meet MoD requirements within the timescale our soldiers deserve,” said Chief Engineer Malcolm Robinson. “All along we have taken a rigorous test-based approach with sound engineering to back up our claims, including investing five years and £50m in world-beating turret technology for FRES Scout and the related Warrior upgrade programme to deliver the best solutions for the British Army.”

It wasn’t enough, on the 22nd, General Dynamics released the news that the press had been circulating for weeks.

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 its 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.

At the same time, it was announced that the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project (WCSP) had been deferred for a year. The competition was between BAE and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin proposed an upgrade of the existing Warrior turret and BAE, their MTIP 2 design.

It was also reported that General Dynamics would contract with Lockheed Martin for the Scout turret, who would make use of a Rheinmetall Lance turret.

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 the 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 brought 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.

April

A Freedom of Information request by the times revealed that the cost to date of the FRES programme was £207 million.

The Talisman route clearing system deployed to Afghanistan.

May

General Dynamics released further imagery of their FRES SV Scout design, specifically, Recce Block 1

June

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, bringing the total numbers of Jackals in service to over 400.

The Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) contenders continued with their media displays, by now, the competition had been whittled down to the Supacat SPV400 and Force Protection Ocelot. The bid submission deadline for the Light Protected Patrol Vehicle was the end of June.

June also saw a number of media reports that BAE 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.

The irony of new build CVR(T)’s and old ones being retained for units that needed them for rapid deployment must not have been lost on 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.

An older Think Defence blog post had this interesting comment on the CVR(T) Mk2 story:

I am now retired from the Army and embarking on my second career, but I spent most of my 22 years serving in CVR(T) and most of what has been written here has been discussed by the men that did crew them and still do!

It is a fantastic piece of equipment, years ahead of its time when designed and that very fact that there is literally nothing that can do what it does, on the market today, marks it as still being a unique and valued capability, that as was written in the article, we lose at our peril.

In the Falklands, it was 10 years old, relegated to secondary roles for fear it would not be able to traverse the terrain, well it did and in the post op reports, they wanted a Squadron, if not a Regiment down there.

In Granby it was written off again because “it wouldn’t keep up” with Challenger/Warrior. Well not only did it, but it was proved that both in the Close and Formation Recce role, the need for the manned platform to FIND the enemy, FIX him and if it went pear shaped could stand up for itself till the big boys arrived, was as valuable as ever and the platform of choice?

In the Balkans, during the winter of ’93-’94, the only vehicle that could move over roads with inches of black ice, offer protection against IDF and traverse the steep, snowy terrain to get the job done was CVR(T).

During Telic 1 it was engaging and holding its own in fights with T55 while its human crew made the decisions to use Arty, Air or other ground units to out manoeuvre the enemy.

On Herrick with Mine blast Protection, ballistic protection and bar armour, not only does it mean the crew walk away from mine strikes and RPG strikes, I’ve seen it first hand, but in some cases the vehicle not only survives, but continues to fight! (But the extra protection does push it to 11 tonnes!)

Why is CVR(T) so good at what it does?

It has the perfect balance of Armour/Protection/Firepower but it is its size and weight that means it can go anywhere and do anything.

I for one, along with many other will shed a tear when it finally backs into the hanger for the last time.

Dean, a Think Defence commenter

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

With Talisman newly deployed to Afghanistan, other nations were also stepping up their C-IED capabilities.

The French Army took delivery of the MBDA SOUVIM 2 anti-mine/IED system. Similar in concept to the Husky, SOUVIM2 (Système d’OUVerture d’Itinéraire Miné) was claimed to be able to clear 150km of track per day and consists of two vehicles and three trailers. The first vehicle (designated VDM or Véhicule Détecteur de Mines)) carries magnetic and thermal decoys that trigger heat sensitive, trip wire and tilt-rod activated mines. The vehicle travels at a speed of 25 kmh and uses low pressure tires to reduce the chance of triggering pressure sensitive mines. These are detonated by the heavyweight trailer, towed behind the VDM. The follow-on vehicle is called the VTR (Véhicule Tracteur de Remorques) which tows two additional trailers to tackle residual un-detonated mines to create a safe track up to a width of 3.9 meters. The trailers are designated RDM (Remorques Déclencheuses de Mines)

The US ordered another 76 Niitek Visor 2500 ground penetrating radar sets to be fitted to their existing Husky vehicles. The contract included spares, training and maintenance support at a cost of $106.5 million, roughly £900k each. The complete set was called the Husky Mounted Detection System or HMDS. US Husky’s were primarily used for main supply routes because of its size but the NIITEK VISOR 2500 system was miniaturised and mounted on a Talon unmanned robotic vehicle for use in closer and more difficult terrain. A remote 6×6 vehicle was also used for demining trials in Cambodia. US forces now have 80 systems in theatre and Canada, 21.

In a visit to Afghanistan, David Cameron said:

My biggest duty as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is to our Armed Forces and to make sure that they have all the equipment and all of the protection that they need to do the absolutely vital job that they are doing here in Afghanistan. I’m pleased to announce today that we will be spending an extra £67m on countering the IED threat and actually doubling the number of British teams that are there to counter the threat from those explosive devices.

Speaking at DVD, Peter Luff MP, the new Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology said;

Tackling the IED threat is vital for us to make military progress. C-IED is not just about the bomb disposal expert defusing a bomb, vital and dangerous though that role is. It is about making sure that our soldiers have a range of tools, tactics and techniques available to them.

MoD sponsored research continued, UK scientists from St Andrews University, for example, were developing a laser system that detects minute quantities of ‘indicator molecules’ given off by explosives.

July and August

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

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

The powerful, sophisticated Scout vehicle will provide improved protection against a wide range of threats and bring greater firepower, improved situational awareness, more protection and enhanced mobility.

It will carry three crew members and have mounted both a new type of 40mm cannon and a machine gun. It will replace the Scimitar armoured fighting vehicle.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, who signed the contract, said:

Military commanders have stressed the importance of having a wide range of vehicles from which they can select the most appropriate for specific tasks.

This contract is a major step towards providing an additional fleet of combat vehicles, capable of undertaking operations in the most demanding terrain and fully incorporating lessons from current conflicts.

Work on this phase of the programme will go ahead alongside the wider Strategic Defence and Security Review which will make sure that the capabilities that we are investing in are those best placed to provide the security we need for the future.

The design is derived from modifying the ASCOD SV vehicle, which is already in service with some NATO nations, is well-proven and is suitable for export sales.

Work will continue alongside this programme to update existing armoured reconnaissance vehicles in service in Afghanistan, such as the Scimitar, to maintain their operational capabilities.

The Chief of Defence Materiel, General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, said:

Today’s announcement is the result of months of hard work by a wide range of stakeholders across MOD and General Dynamics UK enabling us to reach this point, ahead of the original plan.

The work that has been done has been, and continues to be, subject to the most careful scrutiny to ensure the decision is the right one for the long-term needs of the Army.

Master-General of the Ordnance, Major General Bill Moore, said:

This is a very good moment for the Army. Scout will provide a much better capability to find and track the enemy, so necessary for the successful prosecution of operations in the 21st century.

Scout will also deliver improved situational awareness, increased firepower, more protection and enhanced mobility, and it will be a key capability for land operations over the next few decades.

The Army will be heavily involved in the project from the start, particularly in the exhaustive trials with prototype vehicles, which are expected to start in 2013. When this phase concludes the MOD will be in a position to place a production contract.

The loss of Scout was a big blow to BAE and the legacy of British armoured vehicle manufacturers; Alvis, GKN and Vickers, mostly gone.

BAE was now able to get on with the sad business of 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 then emerged that General Dynamics would use a turret provided by Lockheed Martin, the actual design based on the Rheinmetall LANCE medium calibre turret although Lockheed Martin insisted 75% of the turret would be manufactured in the UK.

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

On the 15th of July, the MoD released information on Talisman.

The arrival of the new Talisman counter-IED system in Afghanistan is helping 15 Field Support Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment, deal with the menace in less time and more safely. Scattered throughout Helmand province, these indiscriminate weapons kill and maim both ISAF and Afghan forces as well as innocent Afghan civilians. However, the British Armed Forces now have a revolutionary new capability called Talisman which is being used to counter the threat.

Shepard reported that the MoD was looking at options for remote controlled vehicles, especially some of the many Snatch Land Rovers earmarked for disposal. The Snatch Technology Demonstrator could be used for base security and counter IED systems were specifically mentioned. Other bids from BAe and MIRA were also under consideration.

At Eurosatory, KMW showed a Boxer variant with a 30mm cannon armed turret and one with a Skyranger AA turret.

General Dynamics released further video and imagery of SV Scout.

General Dynamics also launched Piranha V, three years after ‘winning’ the Trials of Truth with it. Sweden selected the Patria AMV in a contract for 113 vehicles at a cost of $336 million, approximately $3m each.

September

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

In September, Force Protection won 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.

Designed, developed and built in the UK by Force Protection Europe and Ricardo plc, together with Team Ocelot partners Thales, QinetiQ, Formaplex, DSG and Sula, Ocelot was claimed to be, weight for weight, the best protected and most agile vehicle of its kind

Its turning circle is very small, a vital characteristic for the type of urban terrain these were to be used in. If we go back to the source of much of the Snatch controversy was the need for a small vehicle that could navigate narrow streets in urban areas.

Foxhound was a genuinely innovative ‘clean sheet’ design, its armoured ‘skateboard’ spine held the transmission components and the interchangeable body ‘pods’ are fitted to it. The vehicle can be re-roled or easily repaired by simply swapping these modules and components. Ocelot was also compliant with the MoD’s emerging Generic Vehicle Architecture standard to simplify future systems integration and maintenance.

The initial uses were simply as a Snatch 2A/Snatch Vixen replacement, 200 as a UOR and an additional 200 to follow.

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

Interestingly, FRES as a term had been less and less seen in news releases and in Transformational Army Structure (TAS) there were references to the Early Effects Force as part of the Multi Role Brigade structure.

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. More significantly, it described how FRES had been recast as three separate projects:

The Future Rapid Effect System has been recast from a single programme into three constituent programmes; Specialist Vehicle, Utility Vehicle and Manoeuvre Support. The Future Rapid Effect System funding lines have now been split across the three programmes and in future will be reported separately in the MPR.

Meanwhile, the pre SDSR silly season was by now in full swing; leaks, counter-leaks and inter-service backstabbing plumbed new depths, sadly.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review was published on the 19th of October 2010.

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, and also force reductions across the board became the chosen position.

Although SDSR confirmed its commitment to FRES the concept of the Medium Weight Capability seemed to be 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 operations like Afghanistan and the future was certainly not the quick in quick out medium weight intervention vision from the late nineties.

RUSI also published a paper in October written by Grahame Birchall 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 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 of the wider subject, not just vehicles.

General Richards succeeded AVM Jock Stirrup as CDS in October.

November and December

As the year closed, the Army was coming to terms with SDSR, Wolfhound was coming into service and the Protected Self Loading Dump Truck, likewise.

2011

With the ink still dry on the October 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and most people arguing about Carrier Strike, the Army was coming to terms with the implications of Future Force 2020, especially the graduated response force structures; Deployed Force, High Readiness Force and Lower Readiness Force.

SDSR 2010 had confirmed;

Five multi-role brigades (see box) each comprising reconnaissance forces, tanks, and armoured, mechanised and light infantry, plus supporting units, keeping one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation, and four in support to ensure the ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation;

And;

a new range of medium weight armoured vehicles, including Terrier engineer vehicles and the Scout reconnaissance vehicles and in due course the Future Rapid Effects System Utility Vehicle (FRES UV) which will be the core of the Army’s armoured manoeuvre fleet

In many regards, for the Army, it was business as proposed by FAS(Next Steps), in discussion and development since 2007, except, of course, a reduction of 7,000 personnel and much greater use of the Reserve. This structure confirmed the view that enduring deployment at a medium scale (Brigade strength) would be the norm.

The five Multi-Role Brigade, plus 1 high readiness Brigade and a smaller number of deployable HQ’s pretty much killed off the medium weight intervention force model of which FRES was central.

It is difficult to see how as a programme it could continue, given the underpinning doctrinal sands had completely shifted but it adapted, as it had to. FRES was split into three separate programmes in 2010 and in order to address the infamous ‘budget black hole’ bigger changes were coming.

January

Force Protection revealed an open top WMIK variant of Foxhound.

The various upgrades fitted to Warrior to enable service in Afghanistan increased its weight to just under 40 tonnes and the impact on mobility and reliability was significant. A refresh upgrade programme for 70 vehicles was initiated, designed to restore mobility, improve reliability and implement a number of improvements in various other areas. The £30m contract was awarded to BAE to bring vehicles up to ‘Theatre Entry Standard (Herrick)’, or TES(H)

The resultant vehicle still weighed just under 40 tonnes but new suspension, brakes, air conditioning and other improvements restored mobility and reliability. Additional protection included improved seating for crew and passengers, transparent armour for the turret and a newly designed armour package. Vehicles upgraded to TESH(H) totalled 70 across the major variants; FV511 Infantry Section Vehicle, FV512 Infantry Command Vehicle, FV513 Mechanised Recovery (Repair) Vehicle, FV514 Mechanised Artillery Observation Vehicle and FV515 Battery Command Vehicle, the latter converted to armoured ambulances.

C17 at Brize Norton is loaded with Warrior TES(H)_1. BEEFED UP WARRIOR SAVES LIVES UPON AFGHAN ARRIVAL Newly upgraded warrior vehicles have saved the lives of British soldiers within weeks of arriving in Afghanistan. Warrior is the only tracked infantry vehicle in theatre and so can get to places that wheeled vehicles cannot, enabling the infantry to engage the enemy more effectively in difficult terrain. Just a short time after receiving their modified Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles, troops from the Mercian regiment on patrol in the Durai East region of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province survived a serious IED blast thanks to the vehicle’s improved protection.

TES(H) updates included;

  • A flexible modular armour system that can be adapted to meet changing threats and reduce vehicle weight
  • Enhanced seating design and cushioning to further improve mine protection and comfort
  • An improved driver vision system with an increase from one to three periscopes, providing a wider field of vision and a night-vision capability
  • Increased low-speed mobility and climbing performance, enabling the vehicle to tackle tough terrain and get closer to a target or destination
  • Motorsport-derived carbon fibre brakes, providing significantly reduced stopping distance
  • Improved air conditioning for troop comfort in hot and harsh environments
  • Wire cutters to protect the driver, commander and equipment on the vehicle from obstacles.

The roll-call of British sub-contractors on the programme included Allen Vanguard (Tewkesbury), Astrum, Remown (both Co Durham), Caterpillar Defence Products (Shrewsbury), Dana Spicer (Birmingham), GKN Driveline (Telford), Icon Plymer (Nottingham), MTL (Rotherham) Thales Optronics (Glasgow), Thyssen Krupp (Birmingham), Tinsley Bridge (Sheffield) and W A Lewis (Shrewsbury).

In many ways, Warriors in Afghanistan were deployed as ‘medium armour’ to dominate ground, provide route security and in the infantry support role, acting as main battle tanks without the weight, arguably, the equivalent to FRES Direct Fire.

It is also interesting to note the weight increase.

Warrior came into service as a 24 tonne vehicle and was now serving successfully in Afghanistan, having been continually upgraded over its lifetime, at 40 tonnes, over 60% heavier. Warrior was not selected on the basis of future weight increase potential but here we were, operating in a very hostile environment at a significant weight increase over the original specification.

The most significant change for FRES in January was the removal of Medium Armour and Manoeuvre Support variants from the application for Planning Round 11/12 funding.

FRES as a concept was dead, there was no wake, no funeral, it was just shuffled out the back door.

February

BAE was deselected from the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) in February which left Lockheed Martin as the only horse in a one-horse race, despite this they had not yet been awarded preferred bidder status.

BAE also displayed a Warrior Multi Role Platform that it claimed could make use of the approximately 300 Warrior hulls not earmarked for upgrading as part of WCSP.

Force Protection demonstrated a load carrying flatbed variant of Foxhound.

March

Various subcontract announcements for Scout started to be made.

ViaSat was selected by General Dynamics to design and develop the hardware based encryption for the Scout data system for example:

ViaSat Inc has been selected by General Dynamics UK Ltd. to design and develop the on-board encrypted data storage systems for the Scout Specialist Vehicles (SV), scheduled to begin trials with the British Army in January 2013. The ViaSat systems will ensure that mission and communications system data is fully protected, meaning that the ground-based ISTAR platform can securely capture, analyse, store, and share over six terabytes of intelligence data.

“Data is the most important weapon of the 21st century battlefield,” said Chris McIntosh, CEO of ViaSat UK. “Given Scout’s role as an ISTAR platform, being able to guarantee that sensitive mission and communications data is not at risk in the event of loss or capture is essential. By combining our UK government-accredited hardware encryption technology with experience gained in other highly successful air and ground vehicle projects we can help provide peace of mind for those using the Scout SV that their data is not at risk.”

ViaSat has developed the only hardware based data encryption technology that is CAPS approved by CESG, the accreditation arm of the UK government, for the protection of Top Secret data at rest.[1] By customising this technology it can provide a system suited to the needs of the Scout SV. To help ensure the long-term viability of the platform, the Specialist Vehicle Encryption and Purge Solution will be modular, able to be switched out as needed, and can be upgraded together with the Scout SV open, scalable electronic architecture.

The system also includes purge controls to delete data encryption keys, making data irrecoverable in the event of enemy capture without having to expend extra time and resources on its destruction. The storage system has been designed to form the basis of future Scout SV variants and other vehicle programmes, thus reducing the requirement and risks for UK development expenditure.

Curtiss Wright was contracted to provide the Scout turret servo system.

April to May

The National Audit Office published a special report on the ‘Cost Effective Delivery of an Armoured Vehicle Capability‘ in May 2011, yet more woe for the MoD.

It is worth reproducing the summary in full;

1 Armoured vehicles comprise a range of military platforms including tanks, reconnaissance, engineer and personnel carrying vehicles. They permit military forces to manoeuvre while offering protection from a wide range of threats, and additionally provide platforms for mounting weapons and other military systems. Armoured vehicles are therefore a critical asset when undertaking a wide range of military tasks, from delivering humanitarian aid through to high-intensity war-fighting operations.

2 To acquire armoured vehicles, the Ministry of Defence (the Department) has utilised two acquisition processes to procure all military equipment: For its ‘core’ equipment, intended to generate the defence capabilities required to carry out the military tasks set out by high level Defence Policy, the Department uses its standard acquisition process. This is a comprehensive approach which includes all elements that combine to create military capability, including personnel, training and logistics support. The process also addresses equipment interoperability, which ensures that the various sub-components, such as radios and sensors, operate as expected when integrated into the same equipment. It also covers how the equipment itself operates alongside other vehicles, aircraft, and systems to ensure it can work effectively as part of a wider military force.

For additional equipment – or to modify existing equipment – required in response to conditions on specific operations, not catered for by the standard acquisition process, the Department can use the Urgent Operational Requirements process. This process can deliver equipment rapidly for specific operations, such as Afghanistan. However, the speed at which Urgent Operational Requirements are delivered means this equipment is often introduced before full support in terms of trained personnel and logistics can be put into place and with limited time to consider full interoperability. Such equipment is often specific to a particular need and may not necessarily be as suitable across the whole range of military tasks as equipment purchased through the standard acquisition process.

3 In the period since the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, a number of significant armoured vehicle projects procured through the Department’s standard acquisition process have not been brought to fruition. Figure 1 provides details of a number of these projects where no vehicles have been delivered despite spending £321 million on projects that have been cancelled or suspended. The Department has spent a further £397 million funding on-going, but delayed, projects that are not currently planning to deliver any vehicles before 2013. Since 2003, the Department has also spent approximately £2.8 billion buying and upgrading vehicles, using the Urgent Operational Requirements process, for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It made the point that the UOR process had delivered vehicles that were condition and theatre specific and that might not find utility in other kinds of operations but as per the Multi Role Brigade structure, the Army had formally recognised that Afghanistan was exactly the kind of mission it was most likely to be engaged in and adjusted its whole structure to suit, FAS(Next Generation) and Transformational Army Structure (TAS) specifically.

Figure 1 provided a tabular view of the recent programmes and costs confirming that FRES UV now had a predicted ISD of 2022.

NAO - Figure 1

The total spent to date on FRES UV, FRES SV, TRACER, MRAV, Terrier and Warrior CSP was £718 million. FRES SV, Warrior CSP and Terrier were predicted to require another £9.1 Billion to complete. FRES UV would be on top of that figure. Terrier would have a unit cost of £5.3 million, the actual unit cost of Viking was less than £600k and Titan/Trojan, £5.25 million each.

Ever the masters of restraint, the NAO concluded;

given the expenditure of over £1.1 billion since 1998 without the delivery of its principal armoured vehicles – the Department’s standard acquisition process for armoured vehicles has not been working

It issued a number of key findings across the three themes of Defence Policy and the role of Armoured Vehicles, Acquisition strategy and requirements setting and finally, resource management.

Defence Policy and the Role of Armoured Vehicles;

The delays which have arisen from cancelled or suspended armoured vehicle projects will result in the Armed Forces not being fully equipped with the vehicles identified as top priorities in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, until at least 2024-25

Acquisition Strategy and Requirements Setting;

The Department’s reluctance to compromise in setting technologically demanding requirements under its standard acquisition process has put the timely and cost-effective delivery of equipment at risk

Faced with rapid changes to equipment requirements driven by operational experience, these unwieldy processes have contributed to a number of armoured vehicle projects being delayed or abandoned. This has led the Department to place greater reliance on the Urgent Operational Requirements process to provide equipment for recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Department has shown that it can make effective compromises to rapidly buy equipment specifically for operations. Urgent Operational Requirements are based on the principle that equipment only has to satisfy the current operational need – and be better than what is currently in service – to deliver equipment to the front line quickly; this generates realistic and deliverable requirements.

The Urgent Operational Requirements process is not a substitute for the standard acquisition process, but lessons can be applied from the former to accelerate delivery of equipment through the latter process.

Resource Management;

The Department’s poor resource management has destabilised the standard acquisition process.

The Department’s requirement to identify significant savings in order to live within its means has led to equipment gaps appearing in some areas, such as armoured vehicles

Urgent Operational Requirements have been used to address shortfalls in equipment for current operations

Picking up on the story the Daily Mail resorted to the usual ‘blame the civil servants’ theme;

A well-placed defence source said: ‘These findings and should shame the suits in the MoD who have failed our soldiers, sailors and airmen. ‘In the business world they would have been fired for wasting the money. In this case it appears they have cost lives. It is disgraceful.’

And thus spectacularly failing to hit the real target, it was not the men in suits but the men in uniforms that were mostly to blame.

June to July

Shepard reported how Talisman was fairing on operations including an update on how Snatch Land Rovers were being used as unmanned carriers for IED detecting sensors. The vehicle donor was a Snatch Land Rover, 2 per Talisman team. Part of a £15m contract addition the PANAMA conversions used the MACE2 remote control technology from MIRA. Ten Mini Minewolf MW240’s were also deployed to Afghanistan to support the C-IED effort. Operation of the T-Hawks was transferred to detached Royal Artillery personnel to ensure they were being used to the maximum of their potential.

In July, General Dynamics released a press statement that described how SV was taking shape;

Little over a year since signing the Specialist Vehicle (SV) contract between the UK Ministry of Defence and General Dynamics UK, the first test version of the reconnaissance variant, Scout, has begun to take shape with the successful joining of the Experimental Demonstration Unit (EDU) turret to a “mule” base platform at the first attempt. The first successful combining of turret and base unit last week further proves the vehicle design, the systems integration between the two sections and the teamwork between prime contractor General Dynamics UK and turret design authority Lockheed Martin UK. It also highlights the excellent progress achieved by the Scout SV Industry team at an early stage.

“Mating the turret and base unit at such an early stage of the demonstration phase once again demonstrates our dedication to working towards delivering the Scout SV capability to the British Army as soon as is possible,” commented Dr. Sandy Wilson, president and managing director of General Dynamics UK on witnessing the event. “The fact that it happened at the first attempt only goes to show that the MoD chose the right team to deliver Scout SV.”

The mule base unit, known as PT3, is based on a mature ASCOD vehicle already in service with the Austrian Army. The 1.7 metre race ring, specifically designed by General Dynamics UK for Scout, was integrated onto the vehicle by General Dynamics European Land Systems at its Simmering facility in Austria. The vehicle was then transported to General Dynamics UK’s Pershore facility in Worcestershire, UK, to undergo a series of tests and prepare it to accept the EDU turret. It was then transferred to Lockheed Martin UK’s facility in Ampthill, Bedfordshire last week for the integration of the turret.

In parallel, the first EDU turret was being built at Rheinmetall Landsysteme in Gersthofen, Germany. Rheinmetall Landsysteme designs, develops and manufactures the Scout SV Turret Structure for turret design authority Lockheed Martin UK. Following a successful first build of the turret, the mandated CT40 Cased Telescoped Cannon System was integrated into it and fired for the first time in May, five months ahead of schedule. It was also subsequently transported to Ampthill where it has been undergoing extensive testing and preparation for integration with the PT3 mule base unit.

British troops using the Scout 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 SV is capable 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/

Also in July, the previously commissioned study in the Future Reserves published its first report. This was followed by the announcement most people had foreseen, a further reduction in Army personnel numbers.

Army 2020 would consist of 82,000 regular personnel and 30,000 Army Reserve.

The previous terms of reference for Army 2020 were;

To develop and recommend options, starting from first principles, for the design, structure, capabilities and capacities of an integrated Army of 2020 – that importantly – would be designed to cost and deliver the 20 percent saving required.

In charge of the study to decide how to get from A to B was Lt General Nick Carter, Director General Land Warfare.

Its relevance to FRES was mainly related to final numbers, a smaller force overall would simply need fewer vehicles, a smaller production number would mean those development costs being spread thicker than over a large number, i.e. the final unit cost would rise.

As the Army started to think about what would come after Afghanistan, the issue of mobility was at the fore.

At the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, General Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, commented:

We have got far too used to a post-expeditionary psyche, where we have hard-wired bandwidth and quite sophisticated facilities in places like Camp Bastion. We need to transition our thinking to a more expeditionary psyche, where in the early days of a new campaign, we will be forced to operate without the sophistication we have managed to grow in the Afghan landscape. Like a number of other armies, we have over this period been forced to put some aspect of our war-fighting capability temporarily on hold as we got completely absorbed by the challenges of success in Afghanistan. Combined arms maneuver remain a part of our repertoire, but it has to modernized and coupled with the ability to handle asymmetric threats and irregular threats and also take account of additional dimensions in battlespace, for example cyber. The Army has an excellent suite of equipment at the moment, but it is specific to the Afghanistan challenge, if we look at our forward equipment program, it’s rather a different story. We face a budget which is reducing considerably over the early years of the current decade, after which we will certainly require real-term growth over the latter part of the decade if we are to resource [our plans] for Future Force 2020

At the same conference, Major General Bill Moore, the MoD’s director of battlespace maneuver and master general of the Ordnance said:

While support for operations [in Afghanistan] is the main effort, we need to deliver a coherent Future Force 2020. If we don’t get this right and don’t get the Warrior [capability sustainment program] funded and maintain the other things in our program, the Army will be walking to war from 2015.

August to September

At the September 2011 DSEi show, SV was shown for the first time, at least a representative prototype.

The seven prototypes in the demonstration phase were confirmed as 3 Scout, 1 Protected Mobility Recce Support, 1 Repair and 1 Recovery, plus a Common Base Platform. At the show Major J. Cripps told reporters;

Where we are today is that there is a real awareness that we need ground mounted armed reconnaissance. Scout gives us a significant growth potential with the ability to fit modern sensors systems and modern weapons systems. It is not just an armoured vehicle, it is an ISTAR platform and meets the requirement that we may need to fight for information.

Also reported was that Main Gate 2 would provision for between 400 and 589 vehicles with an option for 200 Common Base Platforms. A number of component announcements were made, Barco for the displays and Thales for the optronics, for example.

CVR(T) Mk2 deployed to Afghanistan.

October to December

A Parliamentary Answer to a written question tabled by Ben Wallace, (MP for Wyre and Preston, ex Scots Guards Officer and former director of QinetiQ ) in October 2011 seemed to indicate a reverse gear on the famous British to its Bootstraps comment made about FRES SV by Dr Sandy Wilson (President and Managing Director of General Dynamics UK)

Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what obligations his Department has placed on General Dynamics to manufacture and assemble the Scout Specialist Vehicle in the UK

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

The Ministry of Defence has placed no contractual obligations on General Dynamics UK (GDUK) to manufacture the Scout Specialist Vehicles (Scout SV) platforms in the UK. GDUK has, however, indicated that a significant proportion of the activity may be conducted in the UK.

In addition, the contract allows for the transfer of the assembly integration and test work on the platforms from off-shore facilities, to the Defence Support Group in the UK. A value for money decision on whether to transfer this work will be taken later in the programme, closer to production. An enabling arrangement for industrial participation has also been put in place with General Dynamics, that will see work being carried out in the UK, or assistance being provided to UK exporters to Spain (assembly of ASCOD, the base vehicle for Scout SV is currently conducted in Spain)

This was evidently different from some of the claims made at the time of contract commencement which was emphatic about UK manufacturing.

This from Bob Ainsworth in March 2010;

General Dynamics UK’s proposed solution contains 73 per cent UK content within the supply chain and the assembly, integration and test facilities at the Defence Support Group Donnington. This ensures the sustainment of UK jobs, UK skills and UK capabilities within the armoured vehicle sector

With the supply chain announcements it was very difficult to see how the claims of industrial benefits to the UK were in any way likely, remember the claim was that it would sustain or create 10,000 jobs.

Lockheed Martin were awarded the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) contract in October.

Demonstration was expected to cost £200 million and manufacture £642 million.

WCSP was designed to extend the service life of Warrior to beyond 2040 by which time it would have been in service over 50 years. The upgrade includes a new turret and 40mm CTA weapon, Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture and Warrior Modular Protection System. The demonstration phase, at a cost of £200m, would upgrade eight section vehicles and three other variants ready for trials between 2013 and 2014. A production phase would follow that would upgrade 380 infantry fighting vehicles and other variants.

Each Multi Role Brigade was to have 1 Battalion equipped with Warrior.

November to December

General Dynamics purchased Force Protection for $360 million in November and a month later, the MoD announced a further order for Foxhound vehicles, bringing the total ordered to 300.

In 2011, in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan the German armed forces did two things, first they upgraded existing vehicles to the ‘Afghanistan A1’ configuration and second, announced that all new vehicles would now come off the production line in this same configuration, starting from vehicle number 41. Most modifications were relatively minor, more storage space, and an improved crew harness with integral airbag, fitting smoke dischargers and increasing the height of the remote weapon station to improve depression angles.

A more significant upgrade was integration of an ECM system and improved belly armour.

VBCI was already in Afghanistan by this point, both vehicles rejected by the MoD in the FRES UV Trials of Truth

Throughout the year, the Army had been struggling with squaring the circle of trying to fit 5 Multi Role Brigades into the personnel reductions described by SDSR and the additional reductions announced in July. In charge of these initial studies was Lt. General Nick Carter.

After SDSR 2010, the Three Month Exercise and a planned exit from Afghanistan on the horizon, It was becoming apparent that the Multi Role Brigade construct was not sustainable.

A representative vehicle was shown towards the end of the year.

Summary

At the end of this period, both Germany and France had deployed their 8×8 combat vehicles to Afghanistan, an echo of what might have been if the UK had stayed the course with MRAV.

It is worth reflecting on the contenders for FRES SV Scout; in reality, both were conservative designs, nothing more than a developed Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the mid-nineties.

Neither had an elevating sensor mast, a feature that was seen as essential to the TRACER concepts and neither had hybrid propulsion or single crew pods. One could be forgiven for characterising them as something similar to Warrior 2000/Warrior Recce just with more up-to-date electronics.

The Assessment Phase contract was for £500 million, this would generate 7 prototypes and mature the designs ready for production. Designs that were developments of an already in production vehicle. None of the sub-systems appeared to be developmental and some of the major components had been developed outside of the FRES programme, the CTA40 for example.

Without a doubt though, every single one of those components was from the top shelf.

After contract award, Scout carried on, the industrial structure started to be put in place by General Dynamics and development of the base vehicle progressed. Despite a few scrapes, it carried on largely unhindered by the bruising SDSR 2010 and Three Month Exercise, a recognition of the importance the Army ascribed to it.

As the US Marine Corps started to take over responsibility for some areas of Helmand and a planned exit from Afghanistan in sight, the Army started to look again at the likelihood of enduring stabilisation operations. The inter-service political battles, so apparent after SDSR 2010, had not gone away and the Army was clearly about to reap yet another peace dividend.

General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin continued their dominance as General Dynamics purchased Force Protection and Lockheed Martin were awarded the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project.

Anyone but BAE had been realised.

But what of the medium weight capability vision?

With FRES shuffled quietly out of the room, Scout as last man standing after Manoeuvre Support and Medium Armour on the shelf, and Utility Variant also in abeyance, it was hard to see what was left of the medium weight capability.

The Army was about to change, again.


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

2001 to 2004, TRACER and MRAV continue but the new kid on the block called FRES is starting to take over whilst the shadow of Iraq falls on the project.

Snatch and the Trials of Truth

Between 2005 and 2007 the Army experienced significant change. FRES picked up speed but operations in Iraq overshadowed the medium weight concept.

FRES Changes Names and Changes Lane

2008 to 2009, 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

2010 to 2011, putting the embarrassment of FRES UV behind it, the Army switches to FRES SV, a replacement for CVR(T)

Return to Contingency

2012 to 2014, as an end to the Afghanistan deployment drew near, Scout continued and attention turned to Warrior.

AJAX to MIV and the Emergence of Strike

2015 to 2017, 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).

Observations

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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