U.K. SCOUT CONTRACT USHERS IN THE END OF UK ARMOURED VEHICLE MANUFACTURING
By Julian Nettlefold
Over the whole process of the FRES, FRES SV and now SCOUT selection process whenever the Editor disagreed with the process of a Spanish vehicle winning the selection of the SCOUT Requirement, GDUK employees oft retorted with the comment, “You would say that wouldn’t you, your family firm (GKN) made the Warrior.”
That was a simplistic way of explaining the Editor’s concerns which in fact revolved much more around UK capability to produce and support armoured vehicles and the ability to retain and develop crucial Intellectual Property. The Editor went as far as writing to Lord Mandelson urging him to give a grant to industry to leap frog the current AFV designs and design a UK world-beater. The request fell on stony ground!
The announcement on September 3rd that, ‘More than 1,300 jobs across the UK will be secured thanks to a £3.5bn Ministry of Defence contract to deliver 589 new armoured fighting vehicles that will be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the British Army on the battlefields of the future,’ proved the Editor’s concerns. It masked the reality behind this announcement, and, the dire consequences for the UK Armoured Vehicle industry and its myriad of SME sub-contractors and UK Armoured Vehicle Intellectual property – in short the UK industry will soon cease to exist in its present form, retaining just an ability to support the current fleet over the next twenty years.
The ability to manufacture armoured vehicles has already ended with the closure of the UK’s only dedicated plant, the BAE tank factory in Scotswood Road, Newcastle on the banks of the Tyne. The other blow was the failure of the UK’s largest Armoured Vehicle Support Facility, DSG, failing to win anything on the Scout order. It is ironic that this announcement came on the Centenary of World War One and the invention of the tank by the British. The British Army Terrier Combat Engineer Vehicle manufactured by BAE Systems at the Newcastle facility is likely to be the last armoured vehicle made in the UK.
Scout Contract Announcement
Let’s get the good news out of the way and look at the new contract announcement
The announcement regarding the Scout contract was made during the NATO Summit held in Wales last week to reinforce the UK’s commitment to increased defence spending. Was there also a tinge of regional job creation prior to the Scottish referendum vote? It did not succeed as the Editor saw no glaring editorial in the Scottish media announcing that, ‘key defence contract secures high tech jobs in Scotland.’
This was reinforced by a Reuters announcement on September 11th that the head of one of Britain’s largest defense suppliers, France’s Thales, has voiced concerns over jobs and investment if Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom.
Speaking to Reuters as polls showed a surge in support for Scottish independence, nine days away from a referendum, Thales Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy said a ‘yes’ vote would create uncertainty over investments on both sides of the border.
In any event the result was a resounding No Thanks! for an independent Scotland.
It was believed to be one of outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Sir Peter Wall’s main aim was to push the Scout contract through before any purdah in contracts before the election and before he left the Army, he has succeeded. To ensure that this contract reaches fruition without any delays GD and the MoD has to ensure that the weapon system, CTAI, is mature and accurate enough to be a proven weapon system to ensure the protection required for British troops on the battlefield. Although good news for British industry it is a shame to see the bulk of this vehicle manufactured in Spain, thus destroying the UK’s armoured vehicle industry, which appeared to be a policy move under the last administration to reduce capacity in Europe at the costs of British jobs and technology. It will be int