DEVELOPMENTS IN FRES/WFLIP SYSTEMS ANNOUCED AT AUSA AND IN UK
By Julian Nettlefold
08 Oct 08. Given that a number of key MoD and British Army officials attended AUSA, much of the talk was about FRES and its associated projects. We covered the main FRES UV issues in our last issue. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.10 ISSUE 40, 09 Oct 2008, R.I.P. FRES UV? BONJOUR UOR? BACK TO BRITISH BULLDOGS?). One feedback on this article came from areader who said that the Bulldog, although having performed well in Iraq was struggling in the high altitudes of Afghanistan, thus this resolution to the problem may not suit without the addition of a turbo charger or engine enhancement.
BATTLESPACE interviewed Jim Case of ATK Armament Systems who gave us an update on the current new developments of the Bushmaster cannon. He said that General Dynamics will soon be in a position to offer a risk mitigated solution for the Super 40mm ammunition round and ATK for the Mk44 Bushmaster gun which would suit the U.K. MoD’s current WFLIP Requirement and for FRES Scout.
He said that General Dynamics is working on a common case for the 30 and 40mm ammunition whist ATK has designed a solution to stretch the receiver by an inch to accommodate the 40mm round, thus giving the breech commonality for 30 and 40mm. Thus to change the system from 30 to 40mm would require a new feeder system and barrel which could be changed in a short time. All funding has been sourced internally by both Companies.
The shelved Advanced Light Armament for Cavalry Vehicles (ALACV) requirement had expressed a desire for the Mk 44 to be the design philosophy for the gun and, of course, the FCS Requirement mandated 30mm, which was unlikely to change at this late stage of the Program. The USMC is committed to the MK 44 on the EFV as is the USA on the Hercules C-130 ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ version.
With all of NATO and the Rest of Europe going 30mm apart from a few exceptions, the U.K. going for 40mm would cause an hiatus in the common logistics supply chain and would leave the U.K. out on a limb when wanting to ‘borrow’ rounds from its allies as it has done in Afghanistan. Some officials at the DEC see the CTA compact round as a solution for the logistician as it takes up less space. However, this advantage is immediately nullified by the ‘oneness’ of the U.K. which would require its own logistical chain.
The 40mm Requirement was believed to have come from the cavalry wishing a heavier gun to defeat Russian BMP 2 APCs, thus the joint 30/40 breech common case solution would satisfy the cavalry’s desires.
However, there is believed to be wider aspirations following what some see as flawed Market Research for BAE from a subject matter specialist. Sources suggest that this Research suggested a strong export market for CTA which would pay handsome dividends for the UK MoD and BAE for their large investment. Given BAE’s strong position on BAE there were always suggestions that BAE Land Systems were pushing for a change in the mandated 30mm MK 44 to the CTAI 40mm for FCS. However, some see it as unlikely that the U.S. DoD would choose a system junked 15 years ago! If BAE got 40mm mandated this would put it in a prime position for the next generation of light cannon, a worthy prize, but unattainable in the short to medium term without some country breaking ranks and placing a large order which would justify the building of an expensive production line and filling plant. The current financial hiatus in the U.K. puts a large order out of the question for the moment allowing CTA to slip with CTAI desperate for orders and funds to stay in business without being subsidised by BAE in particular.
Meanwhile, ATK continues to sell the MK 44 with over 3000 systems sold to date with new customers expected to be Japan, Turkey, Thailand, Singapore and Algeria with the MSI mount as sold to the Royal Navy. The inclusion of Japan as a strong potential must be a blow for CTAI which saw the Jap