The recent UK National Audit Office (NAO) Report on defence projects Red Flagged the Ajax armoured vehicle programme as unachievable in its current form. That has sparked debate in the bazaars about the future of Ajax and whether the UK MoD cancelled the wrong vehicle programme? Admittedly what Ajax had in its favour was that it was fully funded and Warrior WCSP was not, thus it was easier to cancel.
House of Commons Defence Committee
In view of this, the House of Commons Defence Committee has noted recent reports about the AJAX programme and will hold a one-off evidence session with General Dynamics and the Minister for Defence Procurement on Tuesday 20 July at 3.00pm. In advance of the session, the Committee is seeking short submissions on current progress with the AJAX programme and the concerns that have been raised. The Editor has submitted a submission.
The Committee particularly welcomes evidence on the following points:
- What are cost implications for the programme?
- How will the current concerns impact on the delivery of the Army’s force structure envisaged in the Defence White Paper?
- Whether the current concerns mean that the AJAX programme should be ended and alternative options sought?
- What has been the impact of the current concerns on General Dynamics, the connected supply chain and the workforce?
What are cost implications for the Ajax programme?
The final cost implications will only be known once the source of the vibration is found and what is required to fix the problem. Then a decision should be taken whether to continue with the Programme or scrap it. In our view Ajax is a major redesign of the base ASCOD vehicle which has taken the gross weight from 28 to 38 tonnes. Adding 10 tonnes to a drivetrain which is designed for 28 tonnes will automatically create vibration issues when driven. Rubber tracks may solve the problem, but this requires a major redesign as rubber tracks require wider wheels. A solution could be a new unmanned turret with a 30mm canon, as being developed by Lockheed Martin at Ampthill and a lighter optics package which currently weighs 7 tonnes. The technology is available to provide a new C4ISR system on Ajax at much reduced weight with the same power and resolution to conduct Recce at long ranges.
How will the current concerns impact on the delivery of the Army’s force structure envisaged in the Defence White Paper?
The current Scimitar fleet is ageing rapidly, and many have already been sold overseas. As stated below CV21 would be a quick fix to fill this gap or resurrecting Warrior WCSP. The Scout SV requirement was flawed from the very start. The initial procurement required the resurrection of the canceled TRACER/FSCS joint UK/US Programme.
In 1992, Staff Target (Land) 4061, more commonly known as TRACER, Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement was to be the new CVR(T) replacement. TRACER envisaged an in-service date of 2004, by then, CVR(T) would have been in service thirty years and the design, over 40 years old. It is important to note that TRACER was placed in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) tower) inside the MoD. TRACER/FSCS was scrapped in 2005 and then the Government took the £5 billion in FRES money for the CVF carrier project which meant that the British Army had an old and rapidly ageing fleet of vehicles when the Scout SV Requirement was issued and won by GDUK in 2010.*
Another hindrance to the procurement process was the siphoning off of the £5 billion FRES Budget by the then Labour Government to suit jobs in Scotland and Gordon’ Brown’s constituency in particular. Atkins were given a £360 million contract, seen by some insiders ‘as a reason to kill FRES.’ It did and all the FRES Money was wasted as well as causing contract delays until 2010. If contracts are killed, key personnel move to companies where there is lucrative defence work, thus enabling promotion and bonuses. The FRES cancellation caused a massive brain drain of industry expertise and at the same time DE&S lost key subject matter experts. Those officers involved in FRES either retired, left the Army or gained promotion to another post. The lack of cohesion between customer and supplier was outlined in a previous NAO Report, causing contract delays and cost increases.
Scout SV then suffered from lobbying from other sections of the British Army, particularly the cavalry which saw Scout SV as a means to introduce a light tank into the British Army inventory as the policy regarding the continued deployment of Heavy Armour on the battlefield was under discussion. Scout SV rapidly evolved to become a light tank with a 40mm CTA Turret rather than a 30mm Bushmaster turret which was proposed by both GDUK and Lockheed Martin in their original submissions. However, given the Recce requirements to carry out ISR missions at long range, Scout SV was required to have a comprehensive, and thus heavy, C4ISR package. TRACER/FSCS had an unmanned CT40 turret as one of the solutions. What the MoD had not envisaged in using a manned CT40 turret was the problems of gas egress and obturation encountered when CT40 was fired from the Lockheed turrets. Not only did this cause dangerous fumes for the crews, the gas degraded the germanium on the optics. This required a major redesign of the turret incurring more costs and obvious delays to the Programme. The Scout SV selection process came down to ASCOD from GD Santa Barbara or the BAE Haaglunds CV90 which was far more mature vehicle with a larger user group of countries.
At the time of the contest, I wrote to the Times expressing concerns for the huge cost of Scout SV when the British Army already had 749 Warriors in service. Some of those could have been converted to the Recce role as had already been done for the Artillery Observation variant.
There is no difference between Warrior, ASCOD and CV90, they were all conceived in the 1980-90 timeframe to replace the ageing M113 fleets around the world with better protection and improved mobility. They are all basically the same size, weight and size with the same power-to-weight ratio. Indeed, for the Tracer Requirement, GKN Defence offered a Warrior with one wheel station removed to make it smaller; this design failed due to harmonics issues.
The ASCOD was selected, I understand due to the jobs and UK content offering from GDUK, along with the claims that the engine compartment offered a better growth potential should more weight be required. However, if a new engine is installed this has obvious implications for the drive train. One solution could be changing the suspension system from torsion bars to hydrogas to improve the ride. This is the case as Ajax has grown from 28 tonnes to 38-44 tonnes.
BATTLESPACE understands that the turret had to be strengthened and the turret ring increased to take into account the wobble problems encountered by the 20,000 lbs recoil from the CT40 canon which meant that the second round could not get on target and firing on the move proved problematical; thus weight was added.
Whether the current concerns mean that the AJAX programme should be ended and alternative options sought?
The current harmonics problems suggest that the increase in weight from 28 tonnes to an estimated 38 to 42 tonnes has had a detrimental effect on the drivetrain and suspension system and subsequent vibration issues. If the Millbrook Trials can locate the source of the harmonics and propose a solution that should be the time to look at whether it is cost effective to fix the problem and the time this will take and whether GDUK or the MoD is responsible. Given that the CT40 canon is GFE and is seen as one of the problems for the increase in weight in particular, there will undoubtedly be a blame game between GDELS and the MoD as to who foots the bill.
In my view a purchase of CV90 would take too long and too costly given that there is no current budget for any procurement. The MoD should look at resurrecting Warrior WCSP with the new Urbanfighter unmanned turret, already under development by Lockheed Martin at Ampthill, with a 30mm canon and a lighter optics package. A recce vehicle does not require a 40mm canon, British Army doctrine is for Light Recce not Heavy Recce, as practiced by the German Army in particular, thus a recce vehicle does not engage enemy armoured vehicles unless in an emergency.
The new Warrior would have the new hull as developed by BAE Systems and turned down by the MoD with an MTU engine and Renk transmission as on Ajax or the QinetiQ Ex Drive.
Lockheed Martin 2020 Brief
Lockheed Martin demonstrated that the WCSP design is low risk; it’s mature and reliable and meets the Armoured Infantry’s mission ahead of the manufacture contract award. Lockheed Martin’s production line at Ampthill (Bedfordshire) and its established supply chain are ready to begin manufacture of Next-gen Warrior.
WCSP update and benefits to the UK:
The benefits of WCSP stretch far beyond the battlefield – there are huge prosperity and economic benefits to the UK:
1) The economic and prosperity benefits of the WCSP programme
o UK Prosperity – Independent analysis by KPMG has estimated that, between 2021 and 2029, a WCSP manufacturing contract would contribute over £1bin in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy, generate at its peak 1,951 jobs, and support up to £276.2m in tax payments.
o UK Sovereign Capability – LMUK has made significant investment over ten years to develop the UK’s only sovereign capability for turret design, manufacture and support. This could have wider impacts on the UK ambitions for a Land Sector strategy.
o The UK will retain its only world-class turret design and manufacturing capability that ensures future security of supply and technological advantage for the UK; the skills, infrastructure and industrial know-how will be available in future times of need
o Export opportunities – according to the KPMG report, the medium calibre turret market could be worth an estimated £16 billion over the next 10 years. The skills base and IP that will allow the UK to export its AFV capability to the benefit of the wider UK economy depends on the award of the WCSP Manufacture contract
2) The impact of the WCSP programme on jobs
o The WCSP contract currently supports 1,300 jobs across a nationwide supply chain of 260 companies.
o Around 2,000 high value jobs will be created and sustained as a result of the manufacture contract
o If a manufacture contract is not awarded, there is a serious risk to loss of jobs both at Lockheed Martin and across the UK supply chain which makes up 80% of the WCSP solution
3) How the WCSP programme addresses the MOD’s modernisation agenda
o Equips the British Army for the modern battlespace to meet 21st Century defence needs
o Provides the only capability that allows soldiers safely to enter and operate in the most demanding close combat and high threat environments, including support of the Challenger main battle tanks
o Significant upgrade compared to the legacy Warrior 1 with enhanced firepower fightability, survivability & situational awareness
o The upgraded Warrior vehicles, including their open architectures and digital turrets, will also provide a digital backbone for the armed forces, enabling the delivery of multi-domain integration, human-machine teaming, and additional capabilities such as cyber, electronic warfare, and long-range and novel weapons
UK Turret Capability – Growing into the future
At a Warrior briefing last year, both Keren Wilkins and Peter Pietralski, Engineering Director and Vehicles Chief Engineer stressed the huge ten year investment that Lockheed Martin has made in the Ampthill facility to create a UK Turret Centre of excellence which, once WCSP and Ajax were on track for full production would create new opportunities for exports of other turret systems. The British Army’s Future Land Systems policy relies on having such technology in the UK to develop new turret systems with new Boxer variants being slated as one possibility once the WCSP Manufacture contract is awarded. Peter Pietralski said that Lockheed had developed new modular turret designs based on the WCSP design and also had in development an unmanned WCSP turret which the company had developed following remote firings of the exiting WCSP 40mm turret. The new turret was based on 40mm CTA but other calibers were under consideration for potential markets valued at £16bn over 10 years. These new turret designs would accommodate such new capabilities as APS, CV-UAS systems, Air Defence and be future proofed for current and future threats.
“As the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Armoured Fighting Vehicle Turret design, manufacture and integration we are always looking ahead; modernisation is at the forefront of our thinking, maximising asset utility and enabling joint operations. This isn’t just about taking steps in modular designs, but also how to leap into future paradigms. Our 40mm turrets for WCSP and AJAX are market leaders, providing soldiers with a huge increase in fighting power and built with the most modern and sophisticated systems. Its only through taking a holistic through life view of interoperability and supportability that organisations can begin to think about future proofing and providing the necessary design margin to enable future customer requirements such as Project Morpheus – the next generation communication system.” Peter Pietralski said.
The WCSP turret is already equipped with the latest situational awareness, fightability and survivability technologies. The recent achievement of reaching 80% of its reliability growth trials is a significant milestone, not only demonstrating the capability, but also the reliability needed by the British Army. Platform acceptance and reliability trials are key to demonstrating maturity and that the product really will deliver when needed – WCSP is considerably the furthest through trials compared to its counterpart programmes.
What Next? – An Unmanned Urbanfighter Turret
The modular design base of Warrior CSP’s Generic Vehicle Architecture means it is easily adapted to provide full operating capability in either a manned or unmanned configuration. For example, in WCSP the video data from the sensors provides full situational awareness and enables the system to be operated by the crew with the hatches closed. Similarly, for an unmanned turret, this video data is displayed within the vehicle hull. Weapon systems, communications, and other functions can be operated from within the safety of the vehicle hull without any detriment to performance. Indeed, the platform has already demonstrated this ability during WCSP unmanned trials at the beginning of its Design Acceptance trials.
The Unmanned Urbanfighter Turret can provide an enhanced capability for other platforms, both for UK vehicles and the wider export market seeking to leverage that WCSP maturity. The modular armour of the turret can be readily customised to reduce overall turret mass for lighter, smaller vehicles, extending the potential market opportunities. Its systems can be operated either by a Commander and Gunner in the turret (as in WCSP), or alternatively their screens, controls and other interfaces can be located within the hull of the armoured vehicle platform or even remotely. This provides greater protection for the crew and greater flexibility in the operation of the vehicle.
Interoperability with the other key international forces will see new technology maximised such as the incorporation of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) launchers, Air/Land Integration between ground vehicles, Attack Helicopters and Aircraft, the launch and control of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), Active Protection Systems, Counter UAS, Air Defence and many other capabilities. The WCSP proven architecture can play a full role in ‘Any Sensor, Any Shooter’ networks cooperative with other assets across the battlefield. As a result, the turret is future proofed and is designed to be developed and enhanced through life to overmatch the evolving threat.
The Unmanned Urbanfighter Turret would support and maximise return on the UK’s investment. The Turret Centre of Excellence, built by Lockheed Martin at its Ampthill site over the last 10 years, has seen significant company and MoD investment. Through the development of the AJAX and WCSP turrets, Lockheed Martin have created the UK’s leading dedicated turret development facilities along with a highly skilled, experienced workforce and dynamic supply chain to deliver and support the UK’s requirements for the next generation of systems. The Turret Centre of Excellence is a hard-earned national asset and a key component in the MoD’s Land Industrial Strategy.
Based on this Sovereign UK developed technology and capability, an Unmanned Urbanfighter Turret will provide significant export opportunities and support ~2,000 jobs within the UK both at Lockheed Martin and drawing on its 250+ established supply chain, for the next decade and beyond. The benefit to the UK Exchequer of a single export programme could be the equivalent to the cost of the entire WCSP programme – meaning export not only generates more UK jobs for this UK product – but it also generates economic benefits for the country. UK jobs, UK product, UK prosperity.
Keren Wilkins said that a lot hangs on the WCSP decision and the development of Ampthill as a UK turret centre of excellence and that any decision would be made at corporate level. She stressed that WCSP was central to development of this capability and that the UK market may not be seen as being as attractive as it once was for Lockheed Martin Land Systems. Any long-term site development decision would be made at a corporate level depending on the outcome of the Integrated Review.
Another solution would be to develop BAE System’s CVR(T) Mk 3 or CV21 (combat vehicle for the 21st Century). This is a Stormer APC upgraded hull with a new turret such as the Rafael Samson with as 30mm canon. The weight was kept the same 6.5 Tonnes but using the CVR(T) MK2 Aluminium and welding techniques the protection levels were improved.
Both vehicles are mature and no new training would be required. In addition, selection of either vehicle would ensure that the UK supply chain remains fully operational to supply future conflicts onshore.
What has been the impact of the current concerns on General Dynamics, the connected supply chain and the workforce?
When General Dynamics proposed the then Scout SV Programme they mounted a comprehensive PR campaign praising the vehicle and GDUK’s promise to provide 10,000 jobs, many in Wales. and that the project would be ‘British to Its Bootstraps.’ When GDUK won the contract award, the final amount of new jobs was just over 1000 and the effect on the UK supply chain was devastating. It soon became apparent that GD European Land Systems (GDELS) who took over management of the project had no interest in UK suppliers for the Ajax Programme as it would take time and money to re-qualify UK components for Ajax. GDELS thus relied on the original suppliers in Europe shutting out new UK suppliers. This process led in particular to the final demise of GKN Land and subsequent job losses, who bid the wheels contract for Ajax but were told that their bid was non-compliant. Now that the Warrior WCSP contract has been cancelled, this in effect could mean the total demise of the UK-based tracked vehicle supply chain, when legacy vehicles such as CVR(T), Warrior and FV430 Series vehicles exit service to be replaced by Boxer and Ajax as the Boxer and Ajax supply chains are being driven, by the same process, from parts supplied from Germany and the rest of Europe. This means that for any UORs required for future wars, the UK MoD will have to rely on a European Supply Chain to support the armoured vehicle industry. The effect on jobs is as yet unknown but it will be in the thousands with a total loss of future R&D.
We await developments with interest as to whether Ajax will survive this debacle and what lies ahead for the British Army’s armoured vehicle programmes.