FRES GOES DOWN TO THE WIRE
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
28 Mar 08. It has to be said that the Army has handled the FRES and associated projects lamentably, with in-fighting between the Cavalry and the Infantry causing the Royal Navy to steal the bulk of the budget for CVF. This was shown last week in the decisions made by Maj. General Alan Macklin to down-select to one the CTA canon after strong lobbying by the cavalry for a common gun for FRES Scout and Warrior. The MoD appears to have missed the point that the infantry requires a gun to provide covering fire for its troops whilst the Recce Troop will only fire its gun on very few occasions, as firing gives the vehicle position away. We await the reports of barrel wear and lack of new barrels after the first deployment of a CTA-mounted Warrior, let alone the cost of the ammunition! We understand that part of the reason was to shout the agreement from the rooftops at the Emirates Stadium during the recent Sarkozy State Visit. Unfortunately for the Anglo-French defence pundits, Mrs Sarkozy hogged the headlines, leaving the ‘auld alliance’ of Scotland and France to take second place. At least this time they got further than Derby – it took 363 years! The choice of the Emirates was a good touch, obviously prompted by a Scots wish to hold the event in a venue which had very little English connections! Even the team, Arsenal has five French players and a French manager, sponsored by a Middle East airline! (See: BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.10 ISSUE 04, 20 Mar 2008, BONJOUR CTAI!).
Back to our old friend FRES! In our piece discussing the resignation of Lord Drayson, (See: BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.9 ISSUE 21, 07 Nov 2007, LORD DRAYSON RESIGNS WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT) we said that, ‘Whilst we suggested last week that the Boxer vehicle was finding favour, sources suggest that the French VBCI has better growth potential as it can accommodate 2.5 tonnes of extra payload without the required OWS. A high-level Ministerial Defence meeting is taking place in Paris on November 7th with an announcement expected on defence after that.’
We also suggested later that Ministers who resign with their prize Programmes unfinished cause a huge hiatus in finalising the Programme.
Sources suggest that this is exactly what happened. Lord Drayson, as we said in our piece, was due in France on November 7th to meet his opposite number and then go to NEXTER when the choice of VBCI would be announced after he had assumed that the IAB would confirm the IPT’s vehicle choice after the Trails of Truth. What caused the IAB to change its mind is unknown, but this hiatus completely derailed the Programme.
Lord Drayson had already appointed the SOSI who would draw the contract together after the integrator, rumoured to be Lockheed Martin was appointed at the end of November. Hence the decision to only offer the SOSI a four month contract on signature – better than nothing!
NEXTER had never expressed a desire to be the Vehicle Integrator (VI) in FRES and thus had not put firm costings into the MoD for Through Life Support, Integration, spares and Logistic Support, training and crucially U.K. content; all that was the job of the VI.
So, without the appointment of a VI, GDUK put together a very comprehensive offer which included GDUK being the integrator and the supplier of the vehicle together with the required long-term 27 years Support Programme. In addition GDUK put together a very comprehensive U.K. Supply Chain. NEXTER were given little time to respond with their own costings and had to use the rule of thumb to cost the VI’s costings, which were obviously on the safe side. In addition there was the matter of the required BOWMAN installation, run by GDUK.
Thus, our sources suggest that, in the absence of a comprehensive U.K. work package from NEXTER and what we believe to be better pricing from GDUK, the recommendation made by the IPT to the IAB was for a choice of GDUK as not only the ve