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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor BATTLESPACE

12 Jan 07. The Editor incurred the wrath of BAE Land Systems last year by suggesting that its wish to control the FRES project may indeed be slipping away from the Company a move which may portend the closure of the Newcastle Plant after the current order book is fulfilled. Sources now suggest that the lobbying campaign from Stirling Square coupled to delays in the Programme and the SEP becoming mature, that it has emerged as the front runner for FRES.

Whatever the outcome of FRES may be and this will not be clear for some time, it is likely that following the new broom at the helm of UDLP that some form of rationalisation within BAE Land Systems will be required. The first move may be to move M777 production to the USA with other closures following. Supremo Andrew Davies is fighting the Land Systems Mafia which for years in guises of GKN, Alvis, Vickers, AlvisVickers, BAE, Royal Ordnance, GEC Land Systems and United Scientific has been very successful at justifying their existence at plants all over the U.K. in a way similar to Giat in France and the various German companies.

However, the Defence Industrial Strategy could read as ‘European Defence Industrial Strategy,’ with the U.K., as usual leading the way in slimming down the Industry. Many readers commenting on the DIS said that as long as you were BAE you were ok! Procurement Minister Lord Drayson would not answer the Editor’s question at Farnborough about job losses at SMEs resulting from the DIS, but, loss of capability in major companies always leads to losses at the supplier base

The FRES Adjournment Debate in the House in 2005 was seen by many observers as FRES becoming a European Project and any delays, however painful for capability and troop protection would suit the politicians. Hence the move to buy the Mastiff vehicles and the possibility of as many as 1000 further vehicles from GPV Corp. in the USA has been suggested. This would give the troops the protection they require in Iraq and Afghanistan and also allow FRES to proceed according to the politicians and BAE’s strategy on land vehicles.

The SEP project is being mainly funded by the Swedish FMV, which, given the small budget involved, requires Hägglunds to be very cost-competitive, hence the Swedish taxpayer is paying for improvements and upgrades to SEP which will flow through, eventually, to a very competitive vehicle for FRES and other country’s requirements. There is even a rumour that SEP could undertake some of the FCS requirement in the USA. Certainly Mike Turner was very bullish on the prospects for SEP at his Taranis briefing late last year. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.8 ISSUE 49, 07 December 2006 DIRTY, DANGEROUS, DULL AND DEEP – THE MoD LAUNCHES NEW UAV INITIATIVE). Once SEP has been matured and in production in Sweden, with the UK plants providing support and Technology insertions for the U.K. FRES Programme, the vehicle would be the ideal replacement vehicle for all CV90 customers, Switzerland, Finland and Holland. Other countries such as Pakistan re believed to be looking at the vehicle.

Given the problems in using hybrid drive for a vehicle weighing over 17 tonnes as we reported last year, it is understood that the SEP vehicle offered for FRES will be conventionally powered by diesel with a ’Fitted For’ option for hybrid drive, a conversion that would require the QinetiQ hybrid systems to be slotted in a later Upgrade Programme. An 8×8 wheeled option is also under development and the final chassis would be common to both wheels and tracks. This would ensure BAE’s place in the European structure rivalling a possible Franco-German axis including Giat, Rheinmetall and KMW, which could be absorbed into EADS with Patria, where EADS already hold 30%. This leaves GD’s large European Land Systems businesses of Mowag, Santa Barbara and others as a stand-alone supplying its unique range of vehicles. However, with r

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