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.
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:
At the same event, General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, said:
Because Boeing were involved with the US FCS programme they also had eyes on FRES. Dennis Muilenburg, programme manager for FCS at Boeing, said;
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;
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.
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.
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.
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 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;
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:
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.
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;
- 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
- 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)
- 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:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson) replied:
Lord Astor also asked about US equipment, referencing the RG-31, Lord Drayson again:
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:
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;
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:
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;
Another RUSI paper, this time from Atkins, argued, unsurprisingly, for the MoD’s vision;
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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;
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;
This response also included the immortal line;
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 got off to an interesting start.
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.
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;
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;
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;
It didn’t improve from there.
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.
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;
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;
It is surprising that the man in charge could only draw from such a narrow knowledge base, the committee also thought the same;
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;
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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;
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;
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;
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.
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.
Responding was the then Shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox MP;
SDSR 2010 was not yet on the horizon
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
What this document is, sources and acknowledgements, and what this document is not
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.
CVR(T) and CVR(W) enter service, and the rapid deployment concept cuts its teeth with the C-130
CVR(T) continues to be developed and sees action in in the Falkland Islands and Warrior enters service. Oh, and Saxon.
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.
Three vehicle development projects that would have importance to the ongoing story of developing a medium weight capability.
Important milestones in the development of medium weight capabilities, a trip across the Sava and WWIII averted at an airport.
The Future Combat System, the UK follows suit, FRES and being a force for good.
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.
Between 2005 and 2007 the Army experienced significant change. FRES picked up speed but operations in Iraq overshadowed the medium weight concept.
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.
2010 to 2011, putting the embarrassment of FRES UV behind it, the Army switches to FRES SV, a replacement for CVR(T)
2012 to 2014, as an end to the Afghanistan deployment drew near, Scout continued and attention turned to Warrior.
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).
A few thoughts and opinions.
Weights, measures, variants and roles
A revolution in medium calibre weapons, but can we afford it?
The essential glue that binds the increasing quantity of vehicle electronics