Yesterday’s announcement by Lockheed Martin UK that the company plans to reduce the current 900 strong workforce at its Ampthill, Bedfordshire armoured fighting vehicles business by up to 158 personnel came as little surprise following the decision announced within the ‘Defence Command Paper’ that the MOD would now not to proceed with the planned Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) and that instead, this well proven and highly successful armoured fighting vehicle capability would, when Boxer, a wheeled as opposed to tracked armoured fighting vehicle replacement comes into full service with the Army later in the decade, be scrapped.
The announcement by Lockheed Martin in regard of Ampthill workforce reduction followed a detailed review by the company of capacity and current workload and will affect direct and indirect employees.
Losing Warrior CSP is undoubtedly a massive blow to the company and its highly talented workforce. The loss of jobs at Ampthill could have been much worse but for the effort to ensure some of those working on the programme could be moved to alternative work.
The blow for those whose jobs will be lost at the highly invested (£23 million has been invested to create a centre of excellence in various armoured fighting vehicle capabilities) Ampthill plant is made all the worse in the knowledge that the impact of the MOD decision to abandon Warrior CSP will also have very serious consequences across the UK supply chain with hundreds more jobs likely to be lost.
Lockheed Martin UK will of course move on from this questionable and unfortunate decision in regard of Warrior CSP. This is a very well-developed highly efficient and competitive business that has dedicated teams that will work hard to position the company for future growth opportunities.
In the meantime, large scale support business at the Ampthill site where the highly skilled workforce are engaged on the General Dynamics built AJAX tracked reconnaissance vehicle for the Army (589 vehicles to be built across six variants – 245 of which will be the turreted variant) continues unaffected.
This work together with classified special projects and mission support work is hugely important but it is also worth noting that the company is likely to be well placed on a number of other potential programmes, including space, undersea and other new technologies in which Lockheed Martin is already highly invested in the UK along with other envisaged potential requirements that the UK government is planning to invest in as part of the overall review strategy to ready the nations for a wider defence and security based role.
To that end Lockheed Martin UK will continue to build in alignment with UK Government technology and prosperity agenda requirements and it will continue to invest in its future. Ampthill remains a very important part of its forward strategy.
In respect of the General Dynamics UK developed AJAX, the programme as I understand it includes six variants: AJAX, ARES, APOLLO, ATHENA, ATLAS and ARGUS. Each platform design variant has been designed as highly-agile, tracked, network-enabled medium- weight armoured fighting vehicle capability and each will play a role in the Army’s deployable intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. The first batch of AAJAX vehicles has already been delivered to the MOD.
Lockheed Martin UK was awarded a $1bn contract by General Dynamics to deliver 245 turrets, training solutions and other important requirements for the AJAX reconnaissance variant. The technology-leading turret solution that the company is building at Ampthill is designed to contribute significantly to the ISTAR, survivability and lethal combat capabilities provided by AJAX capability. The Lockheed Martin designed turret for the AJAX capability is fitted with the same CTAI cannon planned to have been fitted to Warrior CSP.
The design, manufacture, integration and testing of all 245 turrets is taking place at the Ampthill site. We are working with our supply chain, which includes a number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK to deliver the requirement.
In respect of the wheeled as opposed to tracked Boxer mechanised infantry vehicle/armoured personnel carrier capability that will ultimately replace Warrior. This is by no mean a like for like replacement capability and questions will continue to be asked in regard of (in Warrior) the loss of tracked capability in favour of wheeled. Equally so will questions be asked in relation to firepower capability of Boxer and whether this needs to be enhanced. Whatever the decision may be, Lockheed Martin will be ready to support.
CHW (London – 13th April 2021)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785