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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

26 Nov 07. As a number of organisations and reporters gear up for the much-expected announcement on FRES, the answer looks like that it won’t be this week or even next month. Sources suggest that given Baroness Taylor’s appointment that she is looking again at FRES and the IAB slated for this week was cancelled.

Most Ministers require time to accustom themselves with the Ministry and current projects and to that end the Major Project Review is expected to be announced this week. But, FRES was Lord Drayson’s prize project and thus needs to be examined closely particularly with the political implications of the reported deal with the French on the third carrier and other issues. Sources suggest that any FRES money slated for 07 will be used for UORs and the Project will rumble on into 2008 in much of its current form.

The Right Honourable Baroness Ann Taylor of Bolton was appointed Minister for Defence Equipment and Support today, Wednesday 7 November 2007.

Winifred Ann Taylor, Baroness Taylor of Bolton, was born on 2 July 1947 in Lancashire. She contested the Bolton West seat in the 1974 general election. As member for Bolton West between October 1974-83, she then contested the Bolton North East seat in the 1983 general election. She went on to become Labour Member for Dewsbury from 1987-2005. She was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Fred Mulley, who was Secretary of State for Education and Science 1975-76 and Secretary of State for Defence 1976-77.

It is interesting to note that baroness Taylor PPS to Fred Mulley, possibly the worst Defence Secretary in living memory whose photograph appeared all over the dailies when he fell asleep during a parade sitting next to the Queen! Thus she requires some grounding in defence issues.

We suggested in BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.9 ISSUE 27, 05 July 2007, ‘FRES GOES EUROPEAN?’ ‘Sources continue to support the stories that NEXTER is well placed to win FRES. BAE is keeping remarkably coy about its role in FRES and whether it will be concentrating on the Integrator or SOSI role. Certainly the company would be well placed to work with NEXTER on the Integrator role to bring its vehicle technology and systems into VBCI. But, is a wider development being put in place whereby NEXTER, which will eventually be looking for partners/takeover if the new French Government starts the promised disposals of State Holdings in Industry, would form part of a new Pan-European Land Systems Company involving BAE’s UK assets, leaving Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei to carve out a deal in Germany, with EADS eventually taking control? Whether or not BAE chooses to keep Hägglunds post-SEP and CV90 is debatable in the long-term. Could a Hägglunds Patria axis form part of a strong Nordic Land Systems body for Saab? Patria has a long association with Hägglunds as its AMV vehicle formed the wheeled solution for SEP in the early days. General Dynamics holds a large share of the European capability through Mowag, Steyr and Santa Barbara, whilst IVECO and Finmeccanica/Oto Melara have a large Italian capability. Rumours abound that Oto Melara and Rheinmetall are in discussions; the outcome of the WLIP Turret requirement could be a catalyst here. Further consolidation could bring the Italian industry into one of the above consortia?’

We followed this up in BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.9 ISSUE 21, 07 Nov 2007, ‘LORD DRAYSON RESIGNS WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT,’ with ‘As we suggested, as did Defense News, Lord Drayson should have been in Paris today and visiting the NEXTER plant on the 12th to discuss the VBCI offering for FRES. Has Lord Drayson’s choice for FRES been overruled by the Treasury? Has the Treasury demanded the purchase of Boxer as £380m was spent? Quite clearly Lord Drayson regarded FRES as his key Programme and had kicked it into being following years of languishing; he was reported to have made enemies with Mike Turner which may have caused his ear

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