29 Jun 06. With so much conjecture, rumour and debate swirling around the FRES requirement, it is difficult to find a word to describe the exact position. Indeed BAE reserved judgement on FRES at DVD stating that the company is waiting for the full Requirement to be published whilst GD went ahead with it FRES Industry Day on the Wednesday. As stated above the Minister was rumoured to be making a statement on this at Farnborough, although he may make it on Wednesday in his speech to RUSI: Enabling Acquisition Change.
Whatever the final outcome little snippets obtained during DVD suggest subtle change is on the way, with Atkins looking at existing technology for the drivetrain and APU. BATTLESPACE understands that Atkins is now looking for details of all in-service diesel engines and APUs which may signal a retreat from its much trumpeted Electric Drive thinking. (We understand that some specialists required a description of the acronym APU – Auxiliary Power Unit!)
In another development BATTLESPACE understands that the MoD is looking to extend its current requirement to refit the 430 fleet to another 1100 vehicles. Should this happen the likelihood of FRES surviving in its current form is unlikely.
General Dynamics told BATTLESPACE that it could supply a new Piranha 5 vehicle in 18 months, which would be an armouring upgrade of the existing Piranha 4. When questioned where this vehicle would be built given BAE’s perceived lead role in armoured vehicles, GD said that the company had no objection to the vehicle being built at Newcastle, a move which would solve a number of pressing problems for BAE in the rundown at Newcastle, predicted from 2008 onwards, an election year. With the works so close to Sedgefield, Mr Blair’s constituency, and the run-down nature of the Scottswood area of Newcastle reported in the Times last month, any fillip for the area and BAE’s land Systems business would be welcome from any quarter, even a rival bidder for the business! GD is in the best position to meet a short term requirement given the size of its in-service fleet in Europe and the Mowag expertise in Switzerland on design and development of Piranha, recently ordered by the Irish and Belgian Armed Forces.
Once the 8×8 order is fulfilled and the 430 fleet upgraded, there is little room for the huge numbers predicted by BAE for FRES. The only variant, apart from special variants required, is the CVR(T) replacement which could be met by the resurrection of the Sika TRACER/FSCS vehicle rumoured to being brought back to U.K. by Sika International.