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FRES – FRAZZLED?

FRES – FRAZZLED?
By Julian Nettlefold

27 Feb 10. The news of the CTA Qualification process starting in ‘early 2011’dovetails into other FRES Scout rumours circulating that BAE Systems will receive and order for a small number of FRES Scout vehicles rumoured from 6 to 12 to take the system through the process up to and including 2014. This won’t suit Haglunds which is already struggling to keep its plant open without the Swedish order. It will be another nail in the coffin for BAE’s Land Systems business which reported horrendous figures earlier in the month.

The U.K. MoD Investment Approvals Board (IAB) met on Thursday February 25, with the key item on the agenda being the selection of contractors to supply the British Army with the FRES SV program and the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) upgrade Programme with a total value believed to be over £5 billion, following DE&S recommendations put up on February 9th.

However, during AUSA reports emerged from a number of sources that the FRES SV, far from the £2 billion reported, would only result in a Study Contract worth between £1-200 million for 6-18 chassis with an ISD of between 2018-2020.

BAE Systems has offered its Swedish-built CV90 whilst General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin have offered the General Dynamics UK’s ASCOD SV vehicle fitted with a Lockheed Martin UK turret.

For the WCSP BAE is competing head-to-head against Lockheed Martin UK, although the Government-owned Defence Support Group (DSG), headed by Archie Hughes has a key role in both bids.

Defense News reported that the recommendations remain for the moment a closely held secret by the MoD. Although the Sunday Express newspaper here recently quoted sources saying General Dynamics had secured the FRES SV bid, that has not been confirmed.

Defence Procurement Minister Quentin Davies told Parliament earlier this week that he would announce winners of the FRES and Warrior bids “once the assessment is complete and the investment decision approved.”
If approved by the IAB, the recommendations will then pass to various government departments for signing off. (See Parliamentary Questions)
To help smooth the approvals process, the Treasury, unusually, embedded officials in the project teams leading the DE&S procurement effort.
Davies has previously said he will announce the decision next month. Failure to meet that timetable could see at least one of the programs delayed or eventually canceled. The U.K. government has been racing to select contractors for the two programs ahead of a general election being called, most likely for early May.

A roughly six-week period of purdah, when no new or controversial equipment purchases or other initiatives can be announced by the government, comes into force during the pre-election period, thus the 25th was the last time the FRS//WCSP decision could be discussed pre-Election.

There was a deafening silence on the floor at AUSA on Friday 26th with neither GD nor BAE commenting on a result. Lockheed had had a visit from a high-ranking British Army general who ‘remained tight-lipped on the subject.’

With all three major political parties saying they will hold a strategic defense review immediately following the election, that could further delay progress on the vehicle programs.

GD has made good play of its ASCOD offering and has a very good chance of winning as its vehicle is newer and does not need re-engineering to carry the extra weight. The BAE CV90 needs a strengthen gearbox which would put its ISD over 18 months after GDs. Lockheed Martin’s turret has received accolades from the UK MoD and, crucially is engineered for both Bushmaster 44 30/40mm canon and CTA.

The other benefit GD has is that its overhead process is much lower than GD. Numerous efforts have been made b the MoD to bring down BAE’s overhead levels, which are built into every contract, but the Company has been slow to respond given the large amount of UOR work.

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