Rebecca McGrane, Executive Programme Director GDLS-UK for AJAX, gave an upbeat assessment of the introduction into service of the Ajax family of vehicles at the IAV event in London on January 21st. The brief was made following news last week in Jane’s that the ISD of the vehicles had been delayed. The total Ajax requirement is for 589 vehicles in six variants. GDLS-UK expects to be delivering eight vehicles a month later this year.
The AJAX programme includes six variants, with more under consideration: AJAX, (Scout/ISTAR), 245 vehicles, ARES (specialist troop transport), 93 vehicles, APOLLO, (Recovery vehicle with crane) 50 vehicles, ATHENA, (Commander’s C4ISTAR vehicle)112 vehicles, ATLAS, (Recovery vehicle) 38 vehicles and ARGUS, (engineer vehicle) 51 vehicles.
The AJAX variant
AJAX will be the medium weight core of the British Army’s deployable Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. It enables the soldier to be at the point of collection of accurate all-weather commander information within a network-enabled digitised platform.
It provides commanders with a survivable and capable Ground Mounted Manned Reconnaissance (GMMR) platform, which gives them the flexibility to perform a range of roles across the spectrum of conflict.
The primary role of AJAX is to provide accurate and timely information to support decision making at all levels. It integrates a range of leading edge technologies to provide an optimised survivable, lethal and agile ISTAR platform.
The panoramic Primary Sight provides advanced all-weather imaging technology capability, which allows the AJAX variant to find, engage and target at far greater ranges than the current UK Ministry of Defence core legacy platforms.
A sophisticated, neatly packaged Electronic Architecture makes it the first fully-digitised land platform that is able to seamlessly integrate both current and future open system ISTAR and communication products.
Enhanced and modular survivability technologies ensure it will survive both current and future threats. Lethality is provided by the 40mm cannon integrated into a revolutionary, user-defined, fightable turret. Where the operation dictates, a fully stabilised Remote Weapons Station can be fitted to the turret instead of the Primary Sight.
Progress so far
* In December 2012, the programme passed its first major design point, the Preliminary Design Review (PDR). PDR is where the preliminary design of the AJAX family of vehicles was reviewed along with a review of the overall system maturity, risks and mitigations to confirm delivery planning enroute to Main Gate
* The Common Base Platform Critical Design Review (CDR) was completed in late 2013
* The overall PMRS variant CDR for the PMRS variant was completed in June 2014
* A rolling programme of CDR’s for all variants took place throughout 2014 and 2015
* The Mobile Test Rig (MTR) – the precursor to a prototype SV – has been put through an extensive series of trials. These included cold weather and Operational and Tactical (O&T) mobility trials, as well as Accelerated Life Testing (ALT). It has been providing significant chassis and driveline de-risking since June 2012
* First pre-production prototype, a PMRS variant was unveiled at DVD 2014
* On 3 September 2014, General Dynamics UK was awarded £3.5 billion to deliver 589 SCOUT SV platforms to the British Army
* On 23 July 2015, General Dynamics UK was awarded a £390 million extended in-service support contract for the AJAX fleet
* In July 2015, the Company announced that it will open a new Armoured Fighting Vehicle Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) facility in South Wales
* On 15 September 2015, the SCOUT SV programme was renamed AJAX
* In September 2015, the first turreted AJAX prototype was unveiled at DSEI.
Rebecca McGrane confirmed that the first production vehicles are complete, which includes all variants, including the turreted AJAX platform. Ajax is in various stages of delivery, either delivered, in Government Acceptance Testing or pending Government Acceptance Testing. The Installation of the first training assets at MoD Lyneham and Bovington, have been achieved and GD is preparing the British Army for Initial Operating Capability (IOC) this year, this includes Crew Turret Trainers and Full-Motion Driving Training Simulators.
Early Battlefield Missions as part of Reliability Growth Trials are ongoing, with more than 14,000km completed on two ARES platforms. In addition, GD continues successful AJAX trials including Cold Weather Trials in the far north of Sweden.
Reliability Growth Trials include full crew clearance for live firing of the Ajax CT40mm canon.
AJAX spiral acquisition ‘capability drop’
Steve Bingley, Chief Engineer at GDLS-UK in South Wales gave an upbeat brief on Ajax and its future evolution at IAV on January 21st. He described AJAX as the first fully-digital AFV which gives the following advantages
- ‘Open’ AFV Electronic Architecture, but also Stable, Secure and Safe
- Growth in response to Threat and Technology advances • Novel approach to AFV Through-Life Capability Management (TLCM) – regular incremental upgrades
Open digital architecture – an enabler for ‘Prototype Warfare’
The expensive Mid Life Upgrade programmes of the past are being scrapped in favour of a continuous digital evolution programme.
Points to Consider
“How do we take the advantage offered by this next generation of Digital AFVs to keep our fleets updated and battle-winning?” Steve Bingley said.
Points to consider:
- Technology Push vs User Pull
- Speed: User need to Industry solution in weeks / months
- Innovation: (non-defence?) Small-and Medium-Enterprises
- Role of Prime Systems Integrator
- MoD funding and industry investment
- UK Prosperity: sustains STEM jobs
Open digital architecture – unlocking the ‘disruptive’ opportunity
Pilot Phase – Intro
Aim: to ‘pilot’ a first AJAX spiral acquisition ‘capability drop’ with the Army, learn the lessons and make this normal business
Context: Digital AFVs imply a different ‘business model’ between Army and
Industry – now need to turn theory into practice
Strand 1: AWE19 Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) demo in April 2020
Strand 2: first AJAX spiral acquisition cycle of experimentation Summer 2020
The new Programme to be launched by GDLS-UK is a web based service which allows SMEs to submit upgrade solutions for Ajax which can then be evaluated at the GDSELS battlelab and a contract placed with the SME to take it to the next stage. GDLS-UK will have monthly updates on the system via their web site and regular Innovation Days with new potential suppliers. Competitors will be downselected in 3rd Quarter of 2020. (See: Features GDLS Gives Ajax Update at IAV By Julian Nettlefold)
How do you get involved?
Open digital architecture –Get Involved!
Tim Ripley of Jane’s wrote that deliveries of production standard Ajax armoured vehicles to the British Army have been delayed, missing a key target to allow soldiers to start training to use their new vehicles.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to Jane’s on 15 January that a target for the manufacturer, General Dynamics Land Systems-UK (GDLS-UK), to deliver the first squadron set of vehicles by the end of 2019, had been missed.
The ministry told Jane’s in March 2019 that the first squadron would begin receiving vehicles, comprised of a mix of all six variants, in mid-2019 and the first turret variant fitted with the CTA International 40 mm cannon would be delivered between July and September 2019. It was then intended that the Household Cavalry Regiment would begin training on the vehicles for a year before the declaration of an initial operational capability (IOC) in mid-2020.
To date only six Ares basic troop carrying vehicles, known as the mobility reconnaissance support variant, have been delivered to the British Army Armour Centre at Bovington in Dorset, according to an MoD source. “The seventh Ares vehicle has entered the final stages of testing and will be delivered to the Household Cavalry Regiment in the coming months,” said the source. “No 40 mm turreted Ajax has yet been delivered to the army.”
The first Ajax squadron is expected to require 20-25 Ajax family vehicles, including a mobility reconnaissance support, turreted reconnaissance, command, engineer, recovery, and repair variants before it can declare IOC.
An MoD spokesperson told Jane’s on 15 January, “our target for Ajax initial operating capability remains July 2020”. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.22 ISSUE 03, 20 January 2020, Ajax deliveries delayed).
Well-informed sources at IAV parried the slightly gloomy Jane’s assessment by stating that the main delays were caused by the finalisation of the Safety Case to the MoD, although other sources suggest that on cause of the delay was build standard problems with the Spanish vehicles being delivered from GD Santa Barbara Sistemas and some weight issues with the vehicle reported to now weigh in at 42 tonnes from the design stated 38 tonnes.
In conclusion, over the years BATTLESPACE has reported extensively on various UK AFV Programmes from Tracer thru FRES to Ajax. The same story repeats itself over these programmes, delay and weight increase to meet new threats.
However, whatever the doomsters predict, Ajax is late but will enter service to give the British Army a highly advanced digitised vehicle fleet capable of meeting today’s threats on the battlefield in the 2024 timeframe following the completion of the demonstration phase in 2021.