Snatch and the Trials of Truth

Between the issues of the Technology Demonstration Programme contracts at the end of 2004 to the infamous Trials of Truth in 2007, the MoD and Army were trying to deliver the transformation work stream whilst maintaining operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and dealing with an increasing number of Urgent Operational Requirements.

The workload became increasingly unsustainable.

Whilst this was happening, despite the best intentions of the Army, the entire concept of medium weight rapid intervention came under sustained questioning as Iraq and Afghanistan stagnated, and with it, arguably, the whole reason for FRES.

To steal a phrase from the Goodfellas, this is the bad time.

2005

Thales completed deliveries of the last 250 Battlegroup Thermal Imaging (BGTI) systems for Warrior in January. The total contract value was £210 million which also included 15 years support.

A reworking of the Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV) statement of requirement resulted in a recommendation to convert the existing Snatch vehicles to Snatch Mk2 and order 100 Vector vehicles.

In recognition of the need to maintain Warrior capability, the MoD embarked upon the Warrior Lethality Improvement Programme (WLIP) in May. The initial plan envisaged an upgrade to 449 IFV’s and the conversion of 125 vehicles into the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle (ABSV), essentially, a de-turreted IFV used for certain FV432 roles like mortar carrier and ambulance.

The controversy surrounding the Panther Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV) deepened as it became clear that the Iveco vehicle had been pushed by the MoD at a late stage, despite not being initially entered by any of the bidders, and continued confusion about the amount of locally manufactured content. Although the £166 million contract did include some logistic support elements it was being unfavourably compared to a Swedish purchase of the RG-32M vehicle from Land Systems OMC. Using published costs from the Swedish ministry of defence, the equivalent contract value would have been less than £75 million for a vehicle that many argued had much better protection against mines and IED’s. RG-31 was a proven vehicle, the RG-32 simply an evolution of it.

At the 5th Annual Future Combat Vehicle Conference at RUSI on June 8th, Brigadier Bill Moore, Director Equipment Capability (Ground Manoeuvre) provided description of the various UOR’s and capability enhancement in progress and an update on the Medium Weight Capability and FRES.

He confirmed that thinking on C-130 transportability had changed:

A400M and C-17 will dictate the weight and size limits for FRES. We estimate only seven to seventeen C130’s will be in service by the in service date for FRES

At the same event, General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, said:

Many of the platforms in service are often twice as old as the young soldiers manning them. This has to change and FRES means to do that.

Because Boeing were involved with the US FCS programme they also had eyes on FRES. Dennis Muilenburg, programme manager for FCS at Boeing, said;

We could use the experience harnessed from FCS to benefit the FRES programme. We believe there is too much useful information from FCS for it not to be used in FRES

The LANCER Consortium TRACER vehicle made a brief re-appearance in the UK to demonstrate the joint Horstman and L3 Electronically Controlled Active Suspension System (ECASS). ECASS was a advanced development that smoothed bumps and controlled roll at speed using suspension actuators acted both as motors and generators, compensating by adding or removing energy. Energy storage was handled by a combined battery/capacitor unit that also had the beneficial side effect of reducing the heat build-up normally associated with conventional shock absorbers and springs.

It was thought this technology would play some part in the FRES mobility demonstrator.

The General Dynamics 8 x 8 Advanced Hybrid Electric Drive (AHED) test vehicle was also demonstrated in the UK in June. AHED used a hybrid electric power system an in hub motors. A month later, General Dynamics were awarded an 18 month Wheeled Chassis Technology Demonstrator Programme contract by Atkins, the Systems House. AHED had a 500hp diesel engine and large battery system that powered in hub electric motors.

BAE established a Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) capture team at Farnborough in summer to ensure all elements of the BAE organisation could be bought into proposals for future FRES Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) contracts. Thales and BAE teamed up for the Electronic Architecture TDP.

General Dynamics UK had been awarded a chassis TDP earlier in the year and BAE was hoping for the same.

BAE then proposed the Swedish SEP (Splitterskyddad Enhets Plattform) or Modular Armoured Tactical System) programme might be exploited for FRES. At this point, the tracked and 6×6 platforms were being tested after being funded by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). With BAE by now in ownership of Hägglunds, the synergies seemed obvious.

Tracked SEP weighed 17 tonnes, had a payload of 6.5 tonnes and maximum speed of 85 km/h. It also featured an advanced hybrid electric drive and a modular payload system that was common to both the tracked and wheeled chassis.

During a parliamentary debate on the 28th of June 2005, Don Touhig (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Veterans), Ministry of Defence; Islwyn, Labour) revealed a number of interesting facts about FRES in response to a question from Ann Winterton MP, reproduced in full below;

It might be helpful if I clarify what FRES is. I shall outline the drivers for the requirement, and give details of the progress that we have made in an immensely complex and demanding programme. The underlying requirement for FRES stems from two strategic requirements. First, we need to replace some of our current armoured vehicles, such as the Saxon, the FV 430 and the CVR(T), and, secondly, we need to develop a medium-weight capability so that we have a balanced force of heavy, medium and light brigades.

FRES will also be rapidly deployable by air at battle group level—in other words, a battalion or regiment-sized force. The strategic defence review and its new chapter identified the need to enhance our expeditionary capability, but since then our thinking has developed further. The 2003 and 2004 defence White Papers clearly explain our vision to develop a highly effective medium-weight capability. As a result of the review, the Army will be rebalanced, reducing the emphasis on heavy armoured forces and increasing the emphasis on light and medium forces.

By ensuring that each deployable brigade is fully manned and has its own integral enablers and logistics, the Army will be better equipped and structured to conduct all types of operations. FRES is at the heart of the Army’s equipment programme and it will have wide uses, not only in the medium forces, but also as a key support role for our heavy forces.

Whether for short intervention operations or enduring peace support, we often need forces with greater firepower, protection and mobility than that of light forces, but with deployability and agility that cannot be achieved by heavy forces. By providing this capability, FRES will underpin the rebalancing of the Army and the development of a truly effective medium-weight force.

In a nutshell, FRES will be a family of medium-weight armoured vehicles of around 20 tonnes, enabled by communications, information and surveillance systems, with the growth potential to develop over time. It will be the central pillar of the Army’s capable and deployable balanced force, which will have a wide operational role, from warfighting to peacekeeping.

To help the hon. Lady, I can say that the issue of whether the vehicle is wheeled or tracked is under consideration as part of the assessment phase we are going through at this time.

FRES will fill a wide range of combat and support roles. Those roles will range from a vehicle to provide protected mobility for infantry, through command and control vehicles, to a new scout vehicle for reconnaissance tasks. These medium-weight armoured vehicles will mean that FRES will be significantly lighter than our current heavy armoured forces based on the Challenger 2 and the Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicle, but I should make it clear that FRES will not replace Challenger 2, Warrior or the AS 90 guns in our heavy forces.

FRES will take full advantage of investment in our communications and information systems network. We intend that it should be network capable; it will not provide the network, but it will contribute to it. It will make full use of network-enabled capability. By this I mean that it will provide the coherent integration of sensors, decision makers and weapons systems through communications and information systems. That will enable FRES to perform roles such as command and control, dissemination of intelligence and situational awareness and control of firepower.

FRES is a complex and demanding programme. The requirement is broad and covers a wide range of military capability. We will need to take a pragmatic view of how to balance some of the individual requirements, such as combining high levels of protection and low weight, or large capacity and small size. The programme will need to interface with a range of existing and planned equipment if we are to deliver the full benefits.

Beyond the equipment programme, the Army will also need to consider the programme’s wider implications, such as the impact it will have on doctrine and how the Army trains. Given this complexity, we are approaching the programme with a careful, rigorous and objective assessment of the technical options. We will consider industrial issues and the acquisition strategy, as well as the broader implications for the Army of bringing FRES into service and, of course, the risk.

As part of the current assessment phase, which began last year, the FRES integrated project team assisted by Atkins, an independent systems house, is investigating those and other issues to ensure that FRES is cost-effective, value for money and successfully delivered. Until we make the main investment decision, time, cost and performance parameters will not be set. We will take that decision only when we are confident that the programme is mature enough to provide accurate answers to the issues that I have outlined.

The hon. Lady asked whether the 2010 date for the introduction of FRES was purely a coincidence, and from the Government’s point of view, it is. She also asked whether FRES is affordable. Affordability is a key factor in the assessment phase. Costs will not be formally approved until the main investment decision point. We currently expect FRES to have an approximate total procurement cost of £14 billion. The hon. Lady also made some important points about the use of FRES in urban areas, and the lessons that we have learned in recent conflicts will be taken into account throughout the assessment and planning stage.

To take the project forward, we have identified a series of planning assumptions that provide a basis for the planning of FRES and for interacting programmes. As new information emerges from the assessment phase, those assumptions may evolve, but under our current assumptions, we expect FRES to deliver about 3,500 vehicles, with the first variants entering service early in the next decade.

The assessment phase is now well under way, with technology risks being addressed through rigorous systems engineering work and a number of technology demonstrator programmes. So far two such programmes have been placed: a contract for capacity and stowage has been placed with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and a contract for defensive aid suites is with Akers Krutbruk. Another five contracts—two for the chassis concept, two for the electronic architecture and one for electric armour are currently being negotiated.

In parallel, the systems engineering work has developed a number of fleet options, which are now being assessed in more depth. The acquisition strategy will be critical to the successful delivery of FRES. Industrial capacity for armoured vehicle design, integration, manufacture and assembly is clearly key to the programme.

In the context of defence industrial policy, we will need to consider a wide range of issues, including employment. We must also assess the importance of retaining a UK industrial capacity and capability which, at a minimum, allows us to maintain and upgrade current and future equipment. The Defence Procurement Agency is currently considering how we can achieve that while delivering value for money.

As the hon. Lady suggested, another issue to consider is the scope for co-operation with other nations, including in the context of the European Defence Agency’s initiatives. We are clear, however, that current FRES timelines must be maintained. No decisions on co-operation between FRES and other nations’ armoured vehicle programmes have yet been made, nor do we expect to make any before the main investment decision point. I should also reassure the hon. Lady that FRES will not be dependent on the European satellite navigation system, Galileo, which is a civil programme under civil control.

FRES is a key programme for the Army and for defence and it is vital to fully achieving our vision of a rapidly deployable medium-weight capability. Its complexity means that we would be rash to rush into decisions before we have fully investigated all the issues. By following best practice, which is enshrined in the smart acquisition initiative, the programme is moving forward and it has considerable momentum. It remains a cornerstone of our future equipment programme.

Since the assessment phase started last year, a huge amount has been achieved. Atkins, the systems house, has been appointed and integrated into the FRES team. The system’s engineering process has begun to narrow down the options, and the development of an acquisition strategy has begun. The technology demonstrator programmes are under way and more will start soon. A wide range of firms were informally engaged through a highly successful industry day in January.

FRES will be an important enhancement to our defence capability, and I hope that, as debate continues, we will be able to share our plans and ideas with people such as the hon. Lady. She has taken a considerable interest in the matter, and, again, I thank her for raising the issue today.

Some important points from that;

  • The rapid deployed by air element was only at Battalion or Battlegroup level, not as many have subsequently claimed, whole brigades, for which the UK simply does not possess the air transport fleet for,
  • Confirmed of the bulging out of the medium weight capability at the expense of light and heavy forces,
  • FRES would be ‘significantly lighter’ than the current heavy forces and Challenger, Warrior and AS90, which was taken to mean sub 20 tonnes
  • An in-service date of 2010 at a cost of £14 billion.
  • 3,500 vehicles, taken together with the projected costs, a programme of significant international and industry interest

The MoD issued a tender for an improved protection system for CVR(T) in August that described a requirement for mine blast protection (MBP) and ballistic protection (BP), 128 vehicles would be fitted with MBP and 158 with BP.

This followed the earlier UOR for similar protection kits supplied by Permali.

An update from GOC (MND(SE)) in August raised concerns about the use of IED’s and the inability of current vehicles and ECM to cope.

The threat from IEDs is worrying, with our electronic counter measures unable to defend against the [redaction] and the use of [redaction] and (in the most recent attack) shaped charges able to penetrate armoured vehicles up to and including [redaction].. This technology has now been used across MND(SE) and indeed further north having first been seen in Maysan

Clearly, in theatre commanders were concerned about equipment issues in response to IED’s

By October, the total UK fleet of Scimitars consisted of 328 vehicles and the Spartan fleet stood at 478 vehicles.

The MoD awarded a £80m contract to BAE to upgrade 500 FV432 APCs to a common standard, the Mk3.

Rafael showed at DSEi an FV432 with reactive armour and a 30mm Remote Weapon System.

Improvements were to include an armour package, air conditioning, counter IED ECM systems, protected commander’s weapon mount and a series of automotive upgrades that were reportedly said to have transformed the vehicle.

The US adopted the Cougar Hardened Engineer Vehicle (HEV) design with some modification for use in Iraq, renamed to the Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicles (JERRV) and Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV).

Force Protection received a series of orders from the US DoD, totalling approximately $87 million for the delivery of 122 Cougar JERRV. There were a number of configurations of JERRV including a 4×4 and 6×6 with subsequent orders numbering in the hundreds. With the earlier Buffalo, they went on transform counter-IED operations in Iraq.



BAe RG31′s and others were also obtained by US forces when it became obvious that Force Protection could not ramp up production fast enough to meet the burgeoning demand for MRAP’s.

Blackwater Security continued to use their Alvis 4’s purchased from the MoD in and around Baghdad. (The image on the right is from much later, circa 2009, and also shows a Saxon in use)

By the end of 2005, BAE had been awarded the second Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) chassis concept Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) contract to investigate the potential for SEP to increase in weight to 28 tonnes, despite the earlier confirmation that FRES would be around 20 tonnes. The Integrated Survivability Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) contract was awarded to Thales and an Electric Armour TDP to Lockheed Martin. BAE also won the Gap Crossing and Electronic Architecture TDP’s.

The original intent was that the 40mm CTAS would be central to the Warrior Fightability and Lethality Improvement Programme (WFLIP) but in 2005, the MoD announced a competition, as they do, despite the significant investment in the CTAS since the early nineties. The competition originally specified a minimum calibre of 35mm but this was subsequently changed to 30mm to allow other guns to compete.

Competing bidders included General Dynamics with a version of their Mk46 turret, as fitted to the proposed USMC Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and now used in naval applications, Selex offered a Mk 44 Bushmaster in the Oto Melara HITFIST turret, Lockheed Martin/Rheinmetall, a modification of the existing Warrior turret and CTAI/BAE, the 40mm CTAS in MTIP-2, obviously.

The FRES year was rounded off with the publication of the Defence Industrial Strategy.

Chapter 3;

The most likely solution (for FRES) will be a team in which national and international companies co-operate to deliver the FRES platforms, including the required sub-systems, led by a systems integrator with the highest level of systems engineering, skills, resources and capabilities based in the UK. We expect to see a significant evolution of BAE Systems Land Systems both to deliver AFV availability and upgrades through life, and to bring advanced land systems’ technologies, skills and processes into the UK. If successful in their evolution, BAE Systems will be well placed for the forthcoming FRES programme”

This was closely followed by the AFV Partnering Agreement between BAE and the MoD that was designed to improve value for money and ensure the UK’s access to intellectual property in the AFV domain.

BAE invested its own funds to develop the 8×8 version of SEP and Atkins published their annual report with a whole page devoted to FRES.

The key decision for FRES in 2005 was the earlier aspiration for C-130 transportability, perhaps a direct result of close alignment with the US Future Combat System, was no longer sensible given UK plans for A-400M and C-17. There may also have been a realisation about technology risk associated with weight reduction.

2006

A FRES fleet review took place in January that concluded no off the shelf vehicle would meet the FRES requirement and that the earliest in service date would be 2015 to 2018 if the Army’s survivability and growth requirements were to be realised. It also concluded that whilst the US Stryker could be obtained for the Utility Variant, it offered insufficient protection, lacked growth potential and the UK would be unable to make any modifications.

It was discounted.

The In Service Date had slipped again which meant the legacy fleet would have to be upgraded, again.

Another paper described how Vector had been reduced from 153 to around 80 for reasons of affordability.

BAE then made plans to establish a Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) at their Leicester site and Platform Development Centre in Newcastle in order to meet the requirements of 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 end up being 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 was 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.

In March, the MoD awarded a £15 million support contract to BAE for the upgraded FV432 Bulldogs.

Improvements were to include an armour package, air conditioning, counter IED ECM systems, protected commander’s weapon mount and a series of automotive upgrades that were reportedly said to have transformed the vehicle.

Also in 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 C-130 but well within that of the FLA/A400M.

This is interesting because it confirmed what Brigadier Bill Moore said at RUSI in June 2005, 9 months earlier.

Defense Review published an article about the success of the Force Protection 4×4 Cougar JERRV operated by the USMC, highlighting the resistance of the vehicle to IED attack.

It included this widely distributed image of one that had been attacked by an IED and lived to tell the tale.

4 years after the cancellation of the MINDER programme, 3 years after the invasion of Iraq and a year after the Mounted Countermine Capability programme was effectively cancelled, the MoD decided to have another go. This was a joint UK Canadian programme called the Mounted Countermine Capability Concept Demonstrator or MC3D. Pearson Engineering were awarded a 2 year contract from the MoD for the Mounted Countermine Capability Concept Demonstrator (MC3D). Canada also announced the EROC (Expedient Route-Opening Capability) programme that consisted of the Husky mine detector vehicle, and the Buffalo and Cougar mine protected vehicles. For $29.6 million (Canadian) EROC consisted of six Husky’s, five Cougars, five Buffalo’s and 2 years logistics support.

General Dynamics and BAE, who were both in the middle of their FRES Chassis Technology Demonstrator contracts, 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.

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.

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.

The Medium Weight Capability strategic intent was defined as:

MWCap is an effects-based military capability made up of Joint Force Elements and optimised for Focused Intervention, Power Projection and Peace Support Operations.

MWCap will be air portable at small scale for rapid deployment within 7 days to the core regions. At Medium Scale, MWCap may act as the first echelon of a larger force.

MWCap will deliver greater lethality, protected mobility and endurance than Lighter Forces, without the deployment, logistic and support limitations of Heavy Forces.

It is important to understand that despite many claiming FRES was about delivering Brigades by air, it was not.

Air portability rapid reaction was only at ‘Small Scale’

The Medium Weight Capability would also provide manoeuvre support to armoured brigades and the whole would be delivered over four steps that included a whole raft of joint capabilities, C-17, BCIP, Watchkeeper and the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft.

This was joined up thinking across the whole of defence.

The FRES requirement was now likely to be met by up to three vehicle families with commonality at the subsystem level.

FRES Family

The FRES family was envisaged as three vehicle types:

  • Utility; wheeled 8×8, 25 to 30 tonnes
  • Specialist (Recce), tracked, 20 to 25 tonnes
  • Specialist (Heavy), tracked, 30 to 40 tonnes

The air deployability requirement was now A400M transport for the smaller variants at a range of 2,000nm and a target of carriage of the larger variants over the same distance.

The variants roles for the FRES concept continued to evolve but initial thinking was based on the following assumptions;

Utility Variant

  • Protect Mobility Close Support
  • Command and Control Close Support
  • Light Armoured Support Infantry
  • Indirect Fire Control Forward Observation Officer Mechanised Infantry
  • Falcon Wide Area Service Provision (WASP)
  • Falcon Command Post Support (CPS)
  • Falcon Management Installation (MI)
  • Communication Reacher
  • Communications Battle Group Enhanced
  • Command and Control
  • Electronic Warfare Sensor
  • Electronic Warfare Workstation
  • Medical Close Support
  • CBRN Reconnaissance and Survey
  • Equipment Support Utility
  • Route Denial Mine System

Scout Variant

  • Scout
  • Ground Based Surveillance
  • Indirect Fire Control and Formation Reconnaissance Forward Observation Officer
  • Equipment Support Formation Reconnaissance
  • Formation Reconnaissance Medical
  • Formation Reconnaissance ATGW (Overwatch)
  • Formation Reconnaissance Command and Control
  • Engineer Reconnaissance
  • Protected Mobility Formation Reconnaissance Support Troop
  • Formation Reconnaissance Light Armoured Support (Cargo)

Heavy Variant

  • Direct Fire
  • Equipment Support Direct Fire Repair and Recovery
  • Manoeuvre Support Armoured Engineer Tractor
  • Manoeuvre Support Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers
  • Manoeuvre Support Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridgelayer

The total vehicle count was to be 3,775 over 16 roles with an estimated price tag of £14.2 Billion.

For Project VECTOR, the Rest of World PPV, a commercial off the shelf solution was recommended and that some of these were already in service with other nations. The decision on VECTOR was one of speed. With plans advanced for HQ ARRC to deploy to Afghanistan and a likely shift of focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, obtained suitable vehicles was a high priority.

In the House of Lords, on the 12th of June, Lord Astor of Hever asked the government:

When they expect to bring into service further patrol vehicles armoured to provide protection against improvised explosive devices.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson) replied:

My Lords, I am sure the House will wish to join me in expressing our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the soldiers killed and injured in Afghanistan yesterday. We do not comment on the level of protection of specific vehicles, for obvious reasons. Protected patrol vehicles are only one of a range of vehicles available to commanders to allow them to balance mobility, protection and profile based on the threat, the terrain and the task. PPVs offer a level of protection commensurate with their weight, size and role, together with good mobility and a low profile.

Lord Astor also asked about US equipment, referencing the RG-31, Lord Drayson again:

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.

The issue of protected mobility gained increasing public notice during the summer with work done by Dr Richard North and the Telegraph journalist, Christopher Booker, being particularly prominent.

Writing in the Telegraph on the 18th June, Christopher Booker wrote:

One reason why British troops continue to be killed and injured in southern Iraq is that they are expected to patrol in lightly-armoured Land Rovers which give them no protection against roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Meanwhile their American counterparts walk away unscathed, even when their RG31 armoured patrol vehicles are hit by the same explosives, because these are designed to protect them against precisely the same dangers. Yet the Ministry of Defence has not seen fit to equip the British Army with the RG31, even though it is built by a British-owned company.

Whilst the MoD had been prevaricating about whether to upgrade Snatch to Snatch 2 and purchase Vectors, the USA, Canada and the UN had all purchased RG-31’s and deployed them to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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.

The US in the meantime, in addition to RG-31 mentioned above, had deployed many Cougar and Buffalo vehicles for both protected mobility and counter EOD roles.

On the 21st of June, the Defence Main Board received presentations on FRES and the Medium Weight Capability.

On the 26th of June, Des Brown announced a review of armoured vehicles in Iraq:

As I have already said to the House, it is open for commanders to deploy vehicles that have heavier protection than the Snatch Land Rover … Other vehicles are available to them; there is a choice. However, commanders must be free to make decisions in relation to the operations for which they deploy soldiers. I have already said to the House that I am aware of the issue: I could not but be aware of it following my visit last week and, indeed, my earlier visit. I have asked for a review of what we can do in the long term and immediately. I shall see what we can do immediately to respond to the changing situation, although significant measures other than those in relation to the vehicle’s armour must be taken. We are at the leading edge of some of them, and electronic counter‑measures, in particular

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 the FRES 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.

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

Following a visit to South Africa in June, Brigadier Moore wrote that if a better protected PPV was required, RG-31 had the potential to meet the requirement.

It is now apparent that RG31 … has sufficient stretch potential to take the additional weight associated with protection against […]. In addition, LSSA [Land Systems South Africa] has a rigorous testing regime … and this is fully compliant with DSTL thinking. LSSA is innovative, front running and is at the leading edge of their trade. Should the Army want a heavier and better protected PPV, RG31 would be a strong contender.

This was quite an extraordinary view, especially given the MoD and governments public rejection of the RG-31, both in response to questions from MP’s and Lords, media scrutiny and its rejection for the Future Command and Liaison Vehicle.

In a 7th July memo, Lt Gen Houghton was unequivocal on the requirement for a medium PPV.

Later in the same month, Lord Drayson held a meeting and Major General Applegate during which suitable vehicles to meet the requirement were discussed.

Although 25-30 Bushmasters were available as a loan from Australia, the two other most suitable contenders were the Protector (a variant of the RG-31) and the Iraq Light Armoured Vehicle (ILAV), a somewhat misleading title for what was a version of the Force Protection Cougar. Additional work to determine the best option was then carried out.

Without a doubt, the impetus and energy for this medium weight PPV came from Lord Drayson.

By the end of July, the MoD had selected the Force Protection Cougar to meet the Medium PPV requirements. The business case concluded that the RG-31 Mk2 Protector was immature and that the Bushmaster needed further investigation.

On the 24th of July, the UK announced it had ordered 100 Cougar vehicles from Force Protection. The same announcement also detailed the Vector order from BAE.

From Des Brown in the House of Commons:

I have made clear my determination to ensure the armed forces on operations have the resources they need to do the job. I said I would update the House on developments in two particular areas of operational capability: additional options for armoured vehicles and helicopter support for Afghanistan.

As I told the House on 26 June, I ordered an urgent review of our armoured vehicle fleet, particularly focused on the evolving threat in Iraq, but covering the whole operational picture including Afghanistan, to ensure we were providing commanders with the best options.

That review has now concluded. It has confirmed that there is a growing requirement for a protected vehicle with capabilities between our heavy armour, such as Warrior, and lighter patrol vehicles, such as SNATCH. The review has also identified feasible options to address the gap in the short term. We have now completed a very rapid assessment of those options and have identified three complementary ways forward. Two of these build on, and accelerate, work already ongoing in the Department. The third is new. The necessary funding will come in part from acceleration of existing funding within the defence budget, and in part from substantial new funding from the Treasury.

The first element is an additional buy of around 100 VECTOR, our new Pinzgauer based protected patrol vehicle, for Afghanistan, on top of the 62 already on contract. VECTOR provides good protection and, importantly, increased mobility and capacity compared to SNATCH which makes it very suitable for the rugged terrain and long patrol distances in Afghanistan.

The second element is to provide around 70 additional up-armoured and upgraded FV430 to equip a mechanised infantry battlegroup for Iraq by the spring of 2007, again on top of the 54 we have already ordered. The FV430 will be delivered incrementally with the first vehicles currently expected to be delivered this autumn.

Significantly smaller and lighter than Warrior, the up-armoured FV430 will provide a similar level of protection while being less intimidating and having less impact on local infrastructure—thereby providing commanders with an important additional option. Since it is able to carry out many of the same tasks as Warrior, it will also relieve pressure on heavily committed Warrior vehicles and armoured infantry battlegroups.

The third, new element is the Cougar manufactured by Force Protection Incorporated of Charleston, South Carolina. We judge that this vehicle meets our requirement for a well protected, wheeled patrol vehicle with a less intimidating profile than tracked vehicles like Warrior or FV430. We are arranging to rapidly procure around 100 vehicles through US military sources. We have received excellent co-operation from the US Government, military and industry—an example of the special relationship bringing real benefits for our soldiers on the ground. Once we take possession of the vehicles, we must then customise them with Bowman radios and electronic counter-measures—and then fit additional armour beyond the standard level, to ensure they have the best possible protection. This procurement and enhancement process takes time. But we expect to be able to deliver the vehicles, in batches, with an effective capability in place before the end of the year and continuing through the next six month rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These three vehicles will complement existing Warrior and SNATCH. Warrior will continue to provide the capability to deal with the most demanding threats, but its profile and weight makes it unsuitable for some operations and situations, such as Afghanistan. SNATCH, with a much less intimidating profile, enables troops to interact with locals and promotes a sense of normality and will remain a key tool for building and maintaining consent. The up-armoured FV430, the Cougar medium PPV, and VECTOR fill the requirements for varying degrees of protection, mobility and profile between these two extremes. But I am confident that together these vehicles provide commanders with the right range of options to deal with the situations and threats they face.

After a company-funded prototype was completed early in 2006 the MoD ordered 62 Vector Protected Patrol Vehicles announced above, these being based on the Pinzgauer 6×6 chassis.

 

These were destined for Afghanistan, cost, £35 million.

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

This period was intensely political, the Government was being accused of neglect and plain old lies by a number of MP’s and commentators, parts of the media were simply repeating MoD media ‘lines to take’, all whilst personnel in Iraq were struggling with an evolving threat.

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

In response to a written Parliamentary question, the MoD confirmed that

There is currently no formal UOR for the procurement of either “Buffalo” or “Husky”, which are equipments currently used by US Forces. The requirement for a route clearance capability to support current operations is being assessed by the Equipment Capability Manager and this may lead to a UOR in the future if required.

By the end of the year, Force Protection had received orders for 137 Buffalo’s and the Husky system had been in service in Afghanistan with Canada, and in Iraq and Afghanistan with the USA.

November saw 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 buy 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

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 against EFP IED’s and RPG’s, the Bulldog proved to be a surprisingly good vehicle for the environment.

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

 

The US was also beginning to recognise the Mounted Combat System was would not get below 22 tonnes. This meant C-130 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.

2007

2007 got off to an interesting start.

Channel 4 aired a documentary from Sean Langan called 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.

Later in the month, BAE showed their new 8×8 Integrated Demonstrator, a development of the 6×6 SEP.

SEP 8x8

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.

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

Also at the start of the year, 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 was 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.

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.

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 (GVA) and, Scout.

On the 6th of February 2007, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee released their report on FRES;

The Army’s requirement for armoured vehicles: the FRES programme

Between 2001 and 2003 the MoD commissioned Alvis Vickers to carry out ‘concept work’ on a new programme: the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES). There appears to be little tangible output from this concept work which cost the MoD a combined total of £192 million.

It didn’t improve from there.

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;

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.

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.

The four key requirements for FRES were described as:

Survivability: through the integration of “passive and active armour and other vehicle protection technologies”;

Deployability: it must be able to be transported by an A400M;

Networked enabled capability: it must incorporate Bowman and ISTAR and other advanced digital communication systems (both data and voice) to allow full integration of the vehicles into the wider military network; and

Through-life upgrade potential: It must be capable of being developed and throughout its expected battlefield life of 30 years

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.

As an example of the latter point, Warrior had grown 28% in weight since its introduction and CVR(T), 42%.

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 and 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.

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 non-competitive 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.

Of course, Sir Peter was correct, technically.

The contract to Alvis was for a Concept Phase activity, not an Assessment Phase activity.

However, it is hard not to sympathise with the Committee’s view that this was an evasive answer that showed them little respect.

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.

The report also included a range of written evidence, this from the MoD explained the acquisition strategy and the role of each part of the FRES alliance.

System of Systems Integrator

Will aid the MoD led Alliance by undertaking system engineering, capability level integration, programme management and design services. The SOSI will ensure that coherent system solutions, integration approaches, design techniques, support and documentation are in place across all FRES variants. And that the vehicles will be interoperable with all other force elements in the UK ORBAT for both national and coalition operations. The SOSI will be UK based. The SOSI will be responsible for the development of the MoD’s knowhow and control of the FRES operating systems architecture.

Vehicle Designer

This will be the designer of the vehicle that wins the proving trial. The vehicle will already be in production or late-stage development and the winning vehicle designer will implement the vehicle modifications required to meet the UK need. A precondition for entering this competition will be that regardless of the country of origin of the design, exploitation rights and Intellectual Property Right will be available to the UK government led alliance and will facilitate transfer to UK manufacture.

Vehicle Integrator

Will integrate the complex systems into the vehicle chassis. This will include integration of communications, command and control functions, plus the vectronics, sensors, weapons and Defensive Aid System. The Vehicle Integrator will be UK based with all the IP either created in the UK or made freely available for exploitation in the UK.

Vehicle manufacturer

Will manufacture the FRES utility vehicle. In principle this will be in the UK, but early production might use an existing production line ex UK before transfer to the UK. High efficiency and production quality will be essential. The vehicle designer may also be the vehicle manufacturer or the manufacturer may licence the rights to manufacture from the vehicle designer.

The committee published a number of recommendations, mainly, ‘get on with it’

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.

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

Confirmed orders at this point 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 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, arguably, with the equivalent protection of a crisp packet.

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 was getting Mastiff’s into theatre as fast as possible.

It would also seem this was the culmination of the Project DUCKBOARD Type C (FORMAT) Requirement, a vehicle specifically for Royal Engineers Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams.

2007 marked the end of the FRES 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

Lord Drayson had insisted that the MoD stick to the FRES(UV) 2012 In Service Date, despite what Atkins said, and pushed hard to give the Utility Variant some momentum. Given the political situation regarding protected mobility the desire for an off the shelf vehicle was pushed to the front.

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 marked change from the fleet review conclusions that only a bespoke vehicle would meet the requirement as described in evidence to the Select Committee.

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.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected the vehicles that will participate in trials for the utility variant of the Army’s Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) later this summer. The selected designs are BOXER (ARTEC), Piranha (GD UK) and VBCI (Nexter). The outcome of the trials will be announced by the end of November when one or more utility vehicle design will go forward for detailed assessment.

The FRES family of vehicles is vital for the Army of the future. They will have high levels of protection and will also be air-transportable, allowing troops to deploy rapidly across the globe at short notice.

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.”

In addition to the utility vehicle design competition, the Ministry of Defence is also running competitions to select a company which will work with the designer to integrate key systems onto the vehicles, and a company that will have strategic oversight of the entire FRES programme and its links to the existing fleet, known as the system of systems integrator. In a clear sign of the MoD’s commitment to drive the FRES programme forward, contracts for this work will be awarded within 12 months.

The FRES programme will equip the Army with a range of new vehicle types over and above the utility variant. This includes reconnaissance, direct fire, and engineer support vehicles. These will also be open to competition from industry.

The Chassis TDP’s had cost the MoD considerable sums and both General Dynamics and BAE had also invested their own funds in AHED and SEP respectively. Because of the timeliness pressure from Lord Drayson, time into service was to be a significant driver for FRES.

Instead of developing a vehicle, the MoD would now simply buy one off the shelf and modify it to suit.

The replacement for Land Rover and Pinzgauer, as defined by the Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) started in 2003, was discussed in the House of Commons in June.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what plans there are to replace each of the variants of Land Rover used by the armed forces; and whether replacements will be part of the Future Rapid Effects System programme; (2) what consideration has been given to track width of vehicles fulfilling the armed forces Land Rover commitments in the future.

Mr. Ingram: It is intended that in future most of the roles currently fulfilled by Land Rover based vehicles will be undertaken by vehicles procured under the Operational Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) programme, which is separate from the FRES programme, or by vehicles such as the Panther command and liaison vehicle. The OUVS requirement will cover a range of vehicle attributes, including wheel base.

On June 26th, 2007, the BBC reported that Devonport Management Limited (DML) had been awarded a 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.

Concerns were raised by many commentators about the lack of built in mine protection, despite it having 1.6 tonnes of Jankel armouring, 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.

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

Shown below are the Boxer, Piranha and 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, and Boxer was one of the early prototypes.

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.

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.

On the 3rd of September, UK forces moved from Basra Palace to Basra Air Station.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The MoD was 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.

The MoD announced in October an additional order for 140 Mastiff vehicles, most of them destined for Afghanistan.

After a series of reported ‘blazing rows,’ Lord Drayson resigned in November. The press speculated that he had been prevented from applying his considerable commercial experience to the government environment, in effect, the Civil Service had seen him off.

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.

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.

Baroness Taylor of Bolton succeeded him.

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.

A further announcement in December confirmed the purchase of 150 Ridgeback vehicles, designated Medium PPV, Mastiff was a heavy PPV.

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.

SDSR 2010 was not yet on the horizon

Summary

FRES progressed through 2005 but that year for the MoD and British Army was really about understanding the threats to deployed forces in Iraq and trying to realise options to counter them. These threats were different to other parts of Iraq, evolved to counter deployed countermeasures and different enough to create difficult trade-offs for the MoD, for example, the different between conventional explosive IED’s and more sophisticated EFP’s.

Whilst this was happening, some of the technology demonstration contracts started to show interesting solutions, especially the chassis TDP.

In 2006, the FRES concept had clearly moved to a family of three vehicles; Utility, Reconnaissance and Heavy.

Whilst FRES and FCS were very closely related as FRES got into gear before 2005, by the end of 2006, they had diverged, principally in terms of weight. The UK had the option of the Future Large Aircraft (FLA), or A400M, but the USA was heavily invested in C-130 and this option to increase weight for FCS was simply not there.

The increase in weight was a result of two things, first, that hoped for advances in protection technology were looking as if they might not be realised, second, Iraq.

It should not be discounted that both FCS and FRES were rooted in rapid intervention against conventional enemy forces, not protracted counter-insurgency operation. Counter insurgency operation require minimal civilian casualties and presence. This means firepower is difficult to pre-emptively deploy and routes have to be used repeatedly. The upshot of this is that vehicles used in counter insurgency operations have to be much better protected against IED’s.

The realisation that FRES would have to be used in future operations that included counter insurgencies meant that simply, it needed better protection. Without a revolution in protection technologies, better protection meant more weight.

This is why FRES weights rose.

The money spent on many of the FRES TDP’s, especially the chassis, was in effect wasted.

The MoD was no longer interesting in cutting edge rapidly deployable vehicles, they just wanted something quickly and well protected, almost back to the original concept of a ‘big metal box’ and for the Utility Variant, the Multi Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV)

We should also not underestimate the cost to industry of the MoD’s indecision, however understandable it was.

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 reconnaissance vehicle between 20 and 25 tonnes, one of the reasons it was cancelled, it was too heavy, cost £131 million
  • 2006, FRES Reconnaissance aspiring to be a tracked vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes.

On the Utility Vehicle (UV) requirement;

  • 1988, FFLAV, a wheeled utility vehicle between 14 and 19 tonnes, cancelled.
  • 2003, MRAV, a wheeled utility vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes, cancelled because it was too heavy, cost £57 million
  • 2006, FRES aspiring to a wheeled utility vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes.
  • 2006, the Germans and Dutch placed a production order for MRAV Boxer, a wheeled utility vehicle between 25 and 30 tonnes

The cost to get to these conclusions, roughly £200m, or about 130 Boxers if anyone is counting.

This figure does not include money spent on FRES, either.

With casualties mounting in Iraq and 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 time for 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.

Rapid air deployment was still only a relatively modest scale, but it was still a fundamental requirement.

It is here that the future growth issue came in, the MoD and Army wanted something that could grow, but this would surely impact again on its deployability. It was almost as if the Army was planning to introduce a vehicle for rapid effect and then over its lifetime, hobble that rapidity by increasing its weight beyond the carriage limits of the aircraft that would be in service.

Then the 2007 select committee report on FRES was published and it was scathing.

The result of all this was that FRES UV would no longer be a uniquely British designed vehicle, it would be a modification or modest development of an already in-service vehicle.

It was hard to understand what benefits the convoluted Acquisition Strategy had delivered.

By the start of 2007, 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.

The Trials of Truth were to inform a rapid selection, despite VBCI being the only vehicle that could truly lay claim to being in service. The choice was therefore between a vehicle that was in service, one that was about to be in service, or vehicle that would require considerable development (with a surrogate entered into the trials).

With Lord Drayson out of the way after a reported ‘difference of opinions’, the MoD then sat on the decision and the end of 2007 would come without any formal news of FRES Utility Variant, but like smoke under a door, the tracked reconnaissance variant slid into the public domain.

 


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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