FRES – FRANTIC FRIDAY AND THE FRENCH
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
04 Feb 08. FRES UV starts to role? That was the word on the street at the end of January and last week, culminating in the aptly named frantic Friday on the Stock Market, the jungle drums wre beating at their crescendo, but with no concrete finality as to the true situation – the rumour mill at its height!
After copious bouts of hot towels, intermingled with gallons of black coffee topped up with the occasional dram, the Editor was none the wiser by the end of Frantic Friday, so we pulled our story!
The brave scribes at Defense News and the FT put out stories which even then did not seem to stand up to a firm conclusion. We will return to them later.
At the end of January, sources at the IQPC Light Armoured conference suggested that the much awaited FRES UV announcement may be made at the end of February. Sources suggested that the IAB looked at the IPT scrutineers Report which is believed to have recommended the GDUK vehicle but asked for more price information to enable a sound bid to be made by the Systems Integrator Company.
GDUK’s bid is based on a development of the Piranha vehicle, Piranha E, which the company says will be assembled and supported in the UK. Certainly although the French NEXTERR bid is seen as the best upfront in terms of price and delivery, their in-country industry supply chain was found wanting. This has always been an Achilles heel for French bids which always push the industrial participation segment of a UK bid back to France, a move which damages the indigenous U.K. SME Supply Chain and hence the Trade Figures.
Whilst GD’s offering appears to have more risk than the other two, GD point out that Mowag has designed and built either directly or under licence some 9000 vehicles, so the company has the technology to extend the capability of the Piranha IV. In addition GDUK has embedded Piranha expertise as the majoprity of the staff are ex-GKN Defence personnel who built the vehicle under licence for such customers as Oman. Sources suggest that if successful, GDUK could lease the Telford site from the current landlord GKN, replacing BAE as the tenant. BAE is known to want to reduce its sites, currently seven to five.
The MoD is expected to announce that the three finalists for the Integrator role, BAE, GD and Lockheed Martin will then bid the final selection. BAE, which is still struggling with its Terrier Project, is reported to again be threatening to pull out of the UK if it fails, GD has rightly said that if it controls the build and management this would save money, but it may be too much to put a project such as this in the hands of one company, particularly given some of the MoD concerns over the Bowman contract. The problem BAE has is that it has a competing vehicle, SEP, thus it may be difficult for the other two to work with BAE and keep trade secrets? GD has said that given the long-term nature of the management of the legacy fleet that it will work with BAE. The dark horse remains Lockheed Martin which is believed to be smarting from its loss in the SOSI role, which is surprising given Boeing’s key strength in Government-to-Government negotiations with the FCS Team and FRES.
Lockheed Martin has key strengths in Systems Integration in the UK with its Merlin position and Insys strengths. It has proved its worth in the recent role and live shoot of its WLIP Offering and has huge U.S. expertise in Systems Integration at its Owego facility. The company worked with GD on the AHED Programme, thus the two companies have a working relationship, Lockheed could easily be the one to beat here as it has no indigenous vehicle offering. BAE may well be trusted with the Recce and FRES Heavy roles.
Whilst celebrating the win of its coveted SOSI role, the Boeing-Thales Team is believed to be waiting in the wings whilst a contract comes up for signature. One bidder told BATTLESPACE that an internal pap