A look at the journey to where we are…

In the immediate post war period, the British Army, the research & development establishments and industry introduced a medium weight capability centred on the Saladin and Saracen. Together with the Ferret armoured car and other light vehicles this capability was used extensively in the various conflicts characterised by the ‘retreat from Empire’.

A significant feature of these vehicles was a high degree of commonality across variants and standardisation in components like engines and weapons, born both from the wartime experience and post war financial reality.

Their replacements, CVR(T) and FV432, recognised the growing importance of the threat from the Warsaw Pact and the need to defend western Europe in a combat environment that would likely involve chemical and nuclear weapons.

Both also utilised the same disciplined approach of commonality across multiple variants.

Meanwhile, the security situation in Northern Ireland in the seventies gave Saracen a new lease of life and the subject of ‘protected mobility’ against the RPG and IED threats started to loom large. At the same time, and in a very different conflict, mine protected vehicles in southern Africa were starting to rapidly evolve.

CVR(T) reflected a concept of operations that emphasised mobility at both a strategic and tactical level with emerging concepts such as long range overwatch with anti-tank guided missiles and the RARDEN cannon that was specifically for the anti-APC role.

Although CVR(W) was withdrawn in the early nineties, both FV432 and CVR(T) have endured, they are still in service and will be for some time. CVR(T) was also a significant export success.

Towards the end of the seventies, new concepts emerged for combined arms manoeuvre as a result of a recognition that a wholly defensive approach to an advancing Warsaw Pact force was a quick way to nuclear war. Warrior and the Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle concept was the result of this thinking, spurred on by the emergence of the BMP-1.

A new industrial approach from the Conservative government in the early eighties, with privatisation and a general reduction in defence budgets going hand in hand.

The 1982 Falklands Conflict proved the value of light armour, again.

The nineties ushered in huge political, societal and technological changes.

A revolution in microelectronics had provided military planners with a tantalising glimpse into the future, and an appreciation of the realities of a post-Cold War political environment.

The Gulf War in 1991 did two things with respect of Army vehicles, it proved the value of the legacy fleet, and, exposed the deficiencies of the legacy fleet. CVR(T), Warrior and even FV432 performed well in the Gulf, validating the decisions made by requirements setters, designers and manufacturers, but the conditions exposed some limitations.

Peace dividend budget reductions were being realised, limiting the ability of planners to implement the lessons they had learned, or to make provision for an uncertain future. Reductions in Warrior quantities meant the FV432 would have to stay in service in secondary roles, alongside Warrior.

Improvements were needed though CVR(T) and FV432 could not last forever, however redoubtable they were. The FFLAV study had a broad scope and after this, the British Army narrowed its focus and settled on two programmes, TRACER and MRAV to replace CVR(T) and FV432 respectively.

In the background, the establishments and successors continued to innovate, VERDI and ACAVP specifically were especially ambitious.

With a series of ongoing incremental improvements to the legacy fleet ongoing, TRACER and MRAV both explored industrial partnerships and international development programmes. The end of the Cold War led to significant industrial consolidation and international collaboration was seen all across NATO as the only way to proceed, armoured vehicles being no different to ships, missiles or combat aircraft in this regards.

The undisputed media stars of the Gulf War were those grainy images of laser guided bombs destroying target. No matter the reality of ground warfare and the enduring usefulness of heavy weapons, the future was clear; smart weapons and communication networks. The technology used, although much less well used than many think, had clear potential to enable the required transformation.

The transformation would be enabled by technology.

And so a number of US programmes and studies began to coalesce around the transformational theme, the revolution in military affairs, Joint Vision 2010, Force XXI and Army After Next.

Underpinning them all was a recognition of the power of networking, information dominance, modern sensors and the desirability to intervene rapidly with enough force to be decisive, thus preventing the need for hugely expensive deployments at large scale.

Whilst TRACER might have been too ambitious, the underlying concepts were sound, as were those of MRAV. Both had a great deal of UK time, expertise, operational analysis, and taxpayers cash invested in them.

Despite TRACER and MRAV starting after the end of the Cold War they were still seen as belonging to that era and if they were on shaky ground before, for various reasons, operations in the Balkans towards the end of the nineties sealed their fate.

In its search for a replacement for CVR(T), FV432 and Saxon, the UK had chewed through an alphabet of programme acronyms (FLAV, FFLAV, MBAV, MRAV, TRACER), many years, and millions of Pounds (about 190 at last count), all whilst failing to deliver a single vehicle to Tommy Atkins.

As a result, the legacy fleet continued to be deployed on operations, mostly to good effect it must be said. Their underlying design principles had proven to be sound, their engineering likewise, and through a series of incremental improvements kept relevant to contemporary operating environments. No doubt though, they were beginning to show their age and every failed attempt at replacement compounded the problem.

And this is where the story of FRES, the Medium Weight Capability and Strike Brigades really starts.

Arguably, the UK and USA drew very different lessons from their deployment in the Balkans but the US lessons would prove to be more influential.

In respect of vehicles, the UK learned three things from UNPROFOR and IFOR/SFOR:

  • CVR(T) was able to be very quickly deployed and enjoyed significant tactical mobility which compensated for its lack of protection, especially when operating as a combined arms team,
  • Warrior had an imposing presence, excellent protection (especially with its new applique panels) and high levels of reliability,
  • Protection against mines was of increasing importance, although it might be argued this thinking was confined to specialised tasks such as casualty evacuation and route proving.

KFOR delivered the same lessons but the initial deployment was also a masterclass in airborne insertion of a light force reinforced with light armour i.e. CVR(T)

So if the Balkans taught the UK anything, it was that the overall concepts underlying their armour fleet were sound, despite them getting long in the tooth and needing replacement and being used in a context that was the opposite of what they were designed for.

Arguably though, what the UK failed to appreciate from its Balkan’s deployments was the need for a reduced footprint force that could deploy rapidly yet still have enough combat power to make a difference. Why, simply because the Balkans were on Germany’s doorstep where the majority of UK forces were based.

This proximity, coupled with the logistics strength of the British Army, allowed it to deploy a relatively heavy force without breaking too much of a sweat.

For the USA, things were very different.

Despite the Gulf War and UNPROFOR showing the continued relevance of traditional heavyweight armoured forces, the US experience, first with IFOR and the Sava River crossing and second, Task Force Hawk, made them look flat footed, flabby and lacking in any kind of strategic or logistical agility.

This only added fuel to the USAF v US Army fire that had been simmering since the Gulf War.

It was also obvious that the US Army was fighting an intense budget war in Washington, the USAF was riding a wave of change coming after its star performances in the Gulf War and the Balkans. The Army knew full well it needed something big or it would find itself on the road to irrelevance, or perhaps more importantly, budget irrelevance.

The USAF lost no opportunity to remind the US Army about the embarrassment of Task Force Hawk either.

Meanwhile, the USAF and USN were getting into their precision effects stride, the US Army knew it had to do better or get left behind in the battle for relevance, and with that relevance, funding

The US Army knew it had to do something or face a rout in the post-Cold War era peace dividend.

‘Transformation’ was in the wind.

Experience in the Balkans was not THE single driver for US Army transformation but it was certainly important.

The conclusions drawn were if you want to have effect, you have to be there.

Waiting at a river or building up a force of 5,000 personnel for 24 helicopters was not compatible with being there.

Transformation proponents characterised the US Army as either ‘too fat to fly or too light to fight’, a phrase that would be repeated endlessly through the period.

And so was born the Future Combat System (FCS), and where FCS went, FRES was sure to follow.

FCS had the goal of deploying a combat brigade anywhere globally in 96 hours, a division in 120 hours, and five divisions in 30 days. In addition, those deployed forces would possess a step change in lethality, connectivity, responsiveness and logistics footprint reduction. The Future Combat System was a breathtakingly ambitious programme that would accept nothing less than revolution. New technology, new organisation, new doctrine and a new training regime; every part of the US Army’s approach to fighting and winning was to be ‘transformed’

Its $200 billion price tag was equally ambitious.

It would be wrong to characterise FCS as the brainchild of one man but instead, it was the culmination of thinking over many years from many organisations and many people.

What would be its undoing, however, was that every single (bar one) scenario used to inform the requirement was based on high-intensity state on state conflict, nothing like Iraq and Afghanistan operations that would characterise the following decade. There was also the widespread assumption that rapidly deployed forces would always have the political cover to enable that rapid response, and that combat would be decisive, extended deployment over years were not seen as likely.

This was the ‘go fast, go hard, go home’ mantra, another endlessly repeated phrase.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks against the US mainland in 2001, the US Army proposed a large-scale invasion of Afghanistan but it was a CIA plan for Special Forces combined with a powerful air component that was chosen.

The Army was in danger of becoming a dinosaur.

That these Special Forces were largely US Army was irrelevant, the perception was the big fat Army was incapable of deploying in response to such a powerful strategic shock. Compounding the problem was the perception that it was US Marines that were first into action around Kandahar. Again, this was not actually the case, initial operations were conducted mostly by the Rangers and 101st Airborne but it was the follow on 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit that appeared to be at the forefront.

Marines, in a landlocked country, the outrage!

Then came Operation Anaconda, again, where was big Army?

It would be most unfair to characterise the British transformation journey during the same period as slavish forelock tugging US Army aping because there were significant differences.

The fact remains though, the direction of travel was the same.

In the nineties that British transformation journey started with the term digitisation, essentially, taking advantage of advances in microelectronics.

As the nineties concluded the main challenges for the UK were largely the same as those experienced US forces, namely;

  • A change in the post-Cold War political landscape and expectations of being able to intervene in regional crisis, reinforced by the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the ‘Force for Good’ foreign policy of the Tony Blair Labour Government,
  • Reductions in the defence vote, from between 5% and 5.5% of GDP in the early eighties to around 3% by the mid-nineties, with further reductions envisaged,
  • Changes in the nature of war informed and influenced by technology.

Where the UK differed to some degree from the US was its experience with out of the area/expeditionary operations, since 1945 the Army had been continually deployed overseas on a range of operations. The nineties also saw the bruising Front Line First and Options for Change reviews that saw Army personnel reduced by 25% and with SDR 98, an additional set of civil resilience and humanitarian relief demands. The Falklands conflict in 1982 underscored the requirement for greater cooperation and coordination between the services and operations in the Balkans merely confirmed that need. The success of British operations in the Gulf in 1991 served to confirm new equipment like Warrior, MLRS and Challenger Main Battle Tanks would still constitute the core of heavyweight combat power but this success hid a number of emerging structural, command and technology cracks.

Despite the creation of Permanent Joint Force Headquarters in 1994, operations in the Balkans showed yet again, difficulties with coordination across the services. Joint, expeditionary and the 1998 SDR went hand in hand.

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SDR also ushered in a great deal of change in the MoD back office.

Following the 1998 SDR and Smart Procurement initiative, the MoD created a single Equipment Capability Customer (ECC) called Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability), a 3* joint post. Underneath, were four capability portfolios, each with a single manager; strategic deployment, strike, manoeuvre and information superiority. Spread across these four portfolios were fifteen individual 1* Directors of Equipment Capability (DEC).

The Joint Capabilities Board was chaired by the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) with the four Capability Managers, the Director General (Equipment) and Director General (Research and Development). Director of Equipment Capability Ground Manoeuvre (DEC(GM)) would normally take the lead on requirements setting after consulting with various stakeholders. Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) then delivers the requirement to the user. The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) was responsible for equipment capability but did not sit on the Defence Procurement Agency Equipment Approval Committee.

The language might have been different as were much of the outputs, but fundamentally, the defence reform broad brush was the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

FRES was no different to many other projects that had to deal with the constantly shifting sands of acquisition reform, smart procurement, integrated project teams, the move from the Defence Procurement Agency to Defence Equipment and Support and the removal of the development establishments.

An important pillar of Post-Cold War British Defence thinking has been to be able to stand side by side with the USA. Nothing wrong with this of course but it does drive behaviours and for FRES, following US defence transformation was fundamental.

Whilst the UK was keen on the US Network Connected Warfare concept it adopted a much more cautious approach, Network Enabled Capability (NEC), reflecting the British focus on technology as an enabler, not a replacement for speed, surprise and superior fighting capabilities.

It is widely thought that the UK also insisted on C-130 limits but in these early stages there was a recognition that the A400M was probably going to be ordered and so it was recognised that A400M would be the minimum requirement, C-130 being desirable. In May 2003, the partner nations signed the development and production agreement for A400M, Atlas was on his way.

C-130 limits and their attendant complications would come later in the FRES programme.

So by the early the millennium UK military transformation was well underway with Effects Based Operations, Network Centric Warfare, Agile Forces and Directed Logistics being seen as key pillars of the future. Joint procurement, the Defence Procurement Agency still relatively new, SDR New Chapter, Delivering Security in a Changing World, the result Future Army Structure, budget reductions and operations in Iraq all competed with FRES.

The Army was reorganised to take into account the Medium Weight Capability that would be equipped with FRES before FRES was delivered. Expected In Service Date changed, but the original estimate of 2009 was seen as increasingly unlikely.

The original intent for a relatively simple set of vehicles to meet the FRES requirement had been discarded as Network Enabled Capability (NEC) and the need for future proofing gained an ascendency. That, together with a closer alignment with the US Future Combat System expanded the ambition for FRES.

FRES was now a complex programme, technology demonstrator contracts were let and Atkins appointed as the systems integrator.

The legacy fleet, yet again, was asked to go into combat and had been upgraded by various degrees.

Lessons from the Balkans had resulted in the MINDER programme but this was cancelled, the Alvis 4/8’ sold to Estonia and Blackwater, and the Chubby mine detection vehicle systems gifted to the HALO Trust. Project DUCKBOARD, the effort to replace the Snatch Land Rover went through several iterations with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in 3 separate programmes to replace it; Snatch 2, Vector and a vehicle specifically for the Royal Engineers called ‘Format’

The £166 million Future Command and Liaison Vehicle (FCLV) contract was let although the Panther would not come into service until 2008.

Security in Iraq deteriorated, IED’s were beginning to be a significant issue.

Meanwhile, the first Boxer prototype had been delivered and Stryker had deployed to Iraq with US forces.

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. Counterinsurgency operation requires minimal civilian casualties and maximum 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 counterinsurgency 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 reconnaissance 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-around 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.

By the end of 2008 FRES had changed lanes. The embarrassment of the UV competition was hastily being airbrushed away as focus on delivering the numerous protected mobility UOR’s for Afghanistan took centre political stage. Instead of defaulting to the runner-up vehicles in the UV Trials, either VBCI or Boxer, the MoD chose to simply defer the whole project and switch to Scout.

The MoD decided to defer the OUVS requirement for a couple of years, kicking the replacement for Pinzgauer and Land Rover into the long grass as Husky, Wolfhound, Coyote and Warthog joined Mastiff, Ridgeback and Jackal in Afghanistan.

Talisman was entering service as well, despite the gap since MINDER was cancelled and US/Canadian forces had been operating similar equipment for many years.

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Meanwhile, the FRES concept had evolved again as detailed in the Future Land Operating Concept, FRES SV Scout was back on the menu and the original FCS/FRES concepts were well and truly skewered by protracted operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CVR(T) was increasingly showing its age and given the FRES UV was never likely to be in service in Afghanistan by the time the UK completed its deployment, there was much less of a rush for UV so it was back burnered, like OUVS.

Lessons were learned though, rest assured of that.

Both BAE and General Dynamics extolled the virtues of their respective Scout offerings, versions of the CV90 and ASCOD vehicles respectively. Both were eighties designs, only slightly younger than Warrior and both were nowhere near as ambitious as TRACER or the FRES TDP’s. It is also worth noting that Alvis proposed CV90 for the reconnaissance requirement in FFLAV.

After the FRES UV debacle, the MoD was in no mood for risk.

As the year closed, BAE and Innov8 showed off the results of their Future Protected Vehicle Capability Vision studies but given the MoD’s all-around aversion to technology risk, it was hard to see any of them progressing beyond the conceptual stage.

FRES as a term also started to disappear from MoD and industry releases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was looking like anyone but BAE, had been realised.

But what of the medium weight capability vision?

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

With an end in sight to the UK’s engagement in Afghanistan and a recognition that enduring stabilisation operations were unlikely to part of the British Army’s future, the British Army shifted considerably in its thinking. The SDSR mandated structure went and in like with force reductions, a new model, Army 2020, emerged.

Making extensive use of the UOR vehicles, the new structure would focus on contingency operations.

SV Scout and Warrior CSP continued, at varying paces through their assessment phases and the long-dead OUVS programme re-emerged as MRV-P.

Lockheed Martin and the MoD came around to BAE’s way of thinking that a new turret design for Warrior would be needed.

One thing was certain, FRES was long gone, and so was the medium weight concept.

At a maximum weight of 42 tonnes, SV was stretching the definition of ‘medium’

Despite the lack of complete design review completion, the production order for SV Scout was placed in 2014, at a much-reduced quantity and scope of variants than had first been envisaged.

To summarise the contract values

Assessment Phase; £600.53m (including initial support)

Demonstration and Manufacture Phase; £3,500m

These costs do not include any concept phase work.

That is roughly £7m each, averaged out over the different variants

It must also be noted that some elements are supplied externally to the programme as government furnished equipment, the CTA40 cannon for example, which would only increase the unit cost.

It was planned to enter limited service 2017; 16 years after first Hansard entry for FRES, 29 years after FFLAV and 44 years after the CVR(T) also came into service.

As SV Scout completed its assessment phase despite having been awarded a manufacturing contract, the British Army returned to the idea of a medium weight capability.

Warrior continued on its troubled upgrade journey, SV Scout became Ajax, OUVS became MRV-P and the British Army announced the creation of the STRIKE Brigade concept.

The British Army was much enamoured of the French operation in Mali and the strategic deployability of VBCI and Caesar.

The two STRIKE Brigades were to be created by re-rolling one Infantry Brigade and one Armoured Infantry Brigade. The statement from David Cameron did not detail what was the comparison for a ‘much lower logistic footprint or how a tracked vehicle could self-deploy thousands of kilometres.

In addition to Ajax, the Strike Brigade would need the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV), envisaged to be an 8×8 wheeled combat vehicle, probably chosen from either VBCI, Boxer, Piranha V or AMV.

MIV has yet to be purchased and the Strike Experimentation Group continues to evolve the concept.

Is it important to understand the back story before moving to judgement, yes, it is.


British Army Medium Weight Capability – Table of Contents

Introduction and Notes

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

The Fifties and Sixties

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

The Seventies

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

The Eighties

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

The Nineties

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

TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger

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

Turning Points in the Balkans

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

Change Comes to US and UK Forces

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

FRES Gets into Gear but Iraq Looms Large

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

Snatch and the Trials of Truth

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

FRES Changes Names and Changes Lane

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

FRES Scout to the End of FRES

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

Return to Contingency

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

AJAX to MIV and the Emergence of Strike

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


A summation of the story.


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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