AFV REQUIREMENTS: FLEXIBLE, ADAPATBLE AND AFFORDABLE?
By Yvonne Headington
28 Feb 12. The global market for armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) is being redefined. “We address 40 to 60 markets around the world” said John Gutteridge, BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems Strategy & Business Development Director. “You have to be careful not to get totally focused on what are the requirements, the doctrines and the needs of the West”.
John Gutteridge was speaking during an industry panel discussion at Defence IQ’s International Armoured Vehicles (IAV 2012) conference and exhibition held at Farnborough from 20 to 23 February. “Clearly the US, the UK and the European allies are very important customers for us” Gutteridge said “but so are other parts of the world”. By way of example, Gutteridge highlighted the need to understand what is driving the requirements of new global players such as India and Brazil. While the classic trade-offs of mobility, capacity, lethality and protection are well understood in Western terms, industry has to appreciate that these factors may not work the same way in other markets.
Chris Wilson, Thales’ Strategy Director, ventured that the doctrinal document ‘Future Character of Conflict’, produced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre in February 2010, provides an enduring analysis of the evolving threat. “The five Cs [congested, cluttered, constrained, contested and connected] I think are absolutely appropriate” he said. Wilson, who is currently engaged in producing a study on future land capability requirements over the next 30 years for the European Defence Agency, concluded that “We have absolutely no idea of what the threat that is going to emerge will be…..so you’ve got to be infinitely flexible in what you are doing”. For Wilson future capabilities need to be multi-role, multi-use and modular in order to provide adaptability and agility.
The UK’s FRES (Future Rapid Effect System) programme began as a modular concept but “this hasn’t come to pass” said Wilson “because in the meantime we got involved in a small war”. Consequently the UK now has numerous bespoke vehicles that are unable to interoperate with each other. A decision has yet to be taken on the future of these vehicles procured for Afghanistan under the Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR) process. According to Wilson “…we have really got to go back to basics now and produce base platforms which are modular in their design”.
Mike Capper, Oshkosh’s Director of UK Government Affairs, raised the question of affordability cautioning that: “We are going to have to live within our means”. He gave the example of the current US Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) project, which is intended to replace the Humvee with a vehicle providing improvements in survivability and capacity. Requirements for the price-capped JLTV have been reduced as this programme competes for funding with other AFV programmes.
John Gutteridge echoed the concerns about affordability suggesting that there are only two new programmes – the US Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) and India’s Abhay Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) – that are large enough to offer the potential for a new concept of vehicle. “Almost every other country is adapting something” he said, adding that “the discussion of whether modularity is a good way to go is a bit academic unless you can find a customer who’s got the hundreds of millions of pounds it takes”.
Providing the conference keynote speech UK Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff emphasised the importance of exports, singling out the Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle as having “great export potential”. The UK has ordered around 300 Foxhound from Force Protection (part of General Dynamics since December 2011), which are due to be deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. In addition Peter Luff confirmed that the MoD plans “to spend £5.5 billion on its core armoured vehicle programme over the next decad