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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

03 Aug 07. The continuing success of the ABRO contract to deliver upgraded and improved versions of the venerable FV432 continues apace with the announcement that ABRO Delivers has delivered the 250th FV430 MK3 Power Train Vehicle Upgrade
Defence Minister, Lord Paul Drayson visited ABRO Bovington to celebrate the completion of the 250th FV430 vehicle upgrade.

In our piece (BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.9 ISSUE 21, 24 May 2007), BULLDOG+WLIP+MMPV=FRES/(-CVF)?, we emphasised the success of this contract and the requirements for more of the same. The Iraq War has shown that tracked vehicles survive urban operations better than their wheeled counterparts as the vehicles are better able to navigate the narrow streets of Baghdad and Basra. There have been a number of casualties in wheeled vehicles as an observer is required to direct the driver from the rear of the vehicle. In addition a number of troops have been killed in the Stryker due to vehicles overturning.

The 432 rebuild Requirement has its origins in the poor performance of the Saxon in Bosnia which resulted in two soldiers being killed in an accident. Army Chiefs made it a must to provide a Saxon replacement for Iraq in the fastest time to prevent any further deaths and the 430 Project provided the answer.

Lord Drayson’s reluctance to discuss numbers for FRES may come as a direct result of this contract success as Saxon replacements, estimated at the bulk of the 1342 existing fleet would have been met from FRES, thus as the ABRO 432 increase, the FRES numbers drop! Thus, it is likely, as we have discussed, that the FRES Requirement will be kick started with a buy of 120 vehicles, a Brigade, with standard vehicles. This will then be followed by the Recce Requirement where there is an urgent need to replace the ageing and lightly armoured CVR(T) fleet. The other FRES vehicles will then follow. Lord Drayson said he would ‘surprise us all with the speed of the FRES Requirement, expect a Team Photo of the first deliveries to be splashed over the Dailies, thus he can say that he has delivered FRES on time!

Troops have already benefited from the first batch of newly refurbished armoured vehicles which have been modified and upgraded giving them increased capabilities – including improved cross-country performance, and an increased top speed.

The FV430 series of vehicles first entered service with the British Army in 1962. A contract was placed with BAE Systems Land Systems in 2005 for the upgrade of 500 vehicles to Mk3 standard, which included major upgrades to the engine, drive train and other automotive components which lead to major improvements in vehicle speed compared with unmodified vehicles, increased range, lower emissions and greater reliability and performance in service.

In July last year Ministers announced further upgrades to 117 of the original 500 Mk3 vehicles equip them with upgraded armour and other equipment under Urgent Operational Requirements for service on operations and this variant became known as “the Bulldog”. The majority of these vehicles are now in theatre and commanders and troops report that they are making a valuable contribution to ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another contract for an additional 400 vehicles to be fitted with the upgraded power train is expected to be signed imminently, bringing the total number of upgraded vehicles to 900.

The current programme delivers vehicles with greatly improved performance, including benefits in:-
* Mobility requirements now commensurate with other fighting vehicles within the battle group
* Greater compatibility with other engines and the overcoming of obsolescence issues
* An increase in top speed from 30MPH to 45MPH
* Better manoeuvring and handling – new steering systems which means the vehicles can now turn on their own axis
* High levels of reliability and availability
* Re

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