At a pre-DSEI briefing held by the Lockheed Martin (UK) Ampthill team, the creation of a UK Turret Centre Of Excellence was announced.
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.