BABCOCK BUILDS ITS VEHICLE EXPERTISE
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE meets Roger Gillespie, Babcock’s Equipment Solutions Managing Director at the Supacat Jackal Drive Day on the announcement of the alliance between Babcock and Supacat.
“Vehicle building is not synonymous with Babcock’s field of expertise. How did you establish this business and how do you intend to take it forward?” The Editor asked.
“When Babcock acquired DML Group in 2007 its military vehicles business was an element of the company that we knew little about, and one we were happy to discover. DML originally moved in to the military vehicles area with the manufacture of the Supacat HMT vehicle. Supacat’s vehicle design had been recognised by the MoD and, as a well established and trusted defence prime contractor managing the vehicle production, we were able to provide the delivery assurances the MoD needed. We started the project with our Frazer-Nash subsidiary developing engineering refinements on the vehicle with a view to productionizing the vehicle and building a production line when numbers increased. Our first large order for 35 6×6 HMT vehicles for the Lockheed Martin Soothsayer requirement were built in bays without using a production line.”
“How did you establish an engineering expertise when the basis of your business was naval support work?”
“Engineering support, whether it be marine or land, requires a variety of disciplines. We have significant expertise in complex project management, and a wealth of engineering competencies within the company providing transferrable skills from among both our white collar and blue collar workforce, which can be readily applied to military vehicle development and production. Our expertise in refurbishment of naval systems, including the upgrade and support of the Mk. 8 naval 4.5 inch gun, as well as a number of key electronic upgrades, upgrade of the earlier deck-mounted Seawolf systems and a comprehensive upgrade of the Raytheon Phalanx system, are just some examples. We have also developed lean manufacturing experience on a number of programmes.
“We have been involved in military vehicle production for five or six years now, and have proven expertise in this field, particularly with the highly successful production of the Jackal vehicles in response to the first UOR delivered to the troops in Afghanistan during last year. Our capability and experience in this field is now beginning to be widely recognised.”
“How did you develop the relationship with the MoD SUV IPT?”
“Developing the close and open relationship we have with the SUV IPT has been key. Babcock is trusted to deliver, and all the programmes we’ve been involved in have delivered excellent quality, to time and cost. The relationship was demonstrated in the successful delivery of over 200 Jackals in 15 months in response to the previous UOR. The SUV IPT’s challenge to us was ‘prove it’ – and we did. So we have built up a relationship of trust, founded on performance and reliability. Babcock’s capability, reputation and financial clout alongside Supacat’s excellent design and development expertise gives the MoD confidence in a long-term relationship between the three parties. On a large programme like Jackal we are able to give the MoD comfort that the project will be managed on a basis where engineering requirements and enhancements can be easily absorbed into the programme following experience in theatre.”
“When did the Jackal programme ramp up to require the installation of a production line?”
“Previous production volumes required were low, but the initial order of 130 Jackals and 24 HMT 6×6 vehicles in 2007, and the possibility of follow-on orders, brought a step-change in scale and requirements. That’s when we built a new state-of-the art production line and applied lean principles to provide the effective and efficient ‘pulse-line’ production required to meet the demanding delivery schedule of one ve