FRES LOOKS TO EUROPE – U.S. COMPANIES TO BE SIDELINED?
09 Feb 05. Indications from a number of sources suggest that the UK’s FRES programme is looking to Europe not the U.S. for its solutions thus watering down reports we have covered over the last few months of the possibility of a European/U.S. Technology Transfer deal involving some elements of the U.S. FCS project. The emergence of Giat in France on two of the Technology Demonstrator Programmes (TDPs) indicates the re-emergence of this once sleepy French giant so often written off by pundits in the past. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.7 ISSUE 3
21st January 2005, FRES – THE MEDIA WAR BEGINS)
One observer told BATTLESPACE that the U.K. has to be wary of entering into partnerships with the U.S. on FCS as they have deeper pockets and greater R&D capability. Also the U.K. was badly bruised by the U.S. cancellation of the TRACER/FSCS requirement in mid-stream which cost the U.K. taxpayer a great deal of money. Major-General Peter Gilchrist spearheaded this teaming and when he moved into the position of MGO he was determined that the U.K. should not fall into the same trap with FRES, preferring a home-grown approach.
Having said this, the DPA is not taking such a rigid approach to FRES and rightly sees that U.S. companies, General Dynamics in particular have a lot to offer the FCS project. Sir Robert Hayman-Joyce, Chairman of Raytheon U.K. told BATTLESPACE recently that it would not be impossible for U.S. companies such as Raytheon to overcome the ITAR regulations using their U.K. subsidiaries to build on this technology. Raytheon, in particular, believes it has a lot to offer FRES as it was a partner in the BAE SYSTEMS Lancer team. The company will be showing new EO Technology at the AUSA Winter meeting in Florida.
Another U.S. company wishing to obtain a seat on the FRES table is DRS Technologies. DRS is now the largest supplier of EO systems to the U.S. Army and through a number of strategic acquisitions has built up a significant business in this area and related computing capability. DRS was partnered with Avimo in its BGTI bid and some observers suggested that the technology offered then by the team was superior to the winners Thales. In addition DRS’s approach is more flexible than some other companies as it is not hamstrung by large FCS contracts and ITAR requirements. The company has already established a strong UK base through its Lynwood subsidiary supplying the Scorpion Computers for BOWMAN and the Platform BISA and a significant naval consoles business. Bolting on EO capability would not be an impossible task given the company’s strengths.
General Dynamics is in the envious position as a must in all or part of the FRES programme. The company controls the communications backbone, BOWMAN and related CIP programmes vital to the success of FRES and it is unlikely that GD and /or GDLS will not be presnt in some form in the final shakeout. However, not to be thwarted by its failure to win the hand of AlvisVickers in the final moments, GD is pressing ahead with its wish to prime FRES fighting head to head with BAE Systems, Thales and Giat. Thales has yet to set out its FRES stall but some sources suggest that discussions with BAE are taking place whilst a down-select for Giat in the TDP phase, to be announced in Marchg may see a Giat/Thales team merge. Giat and BAE are also teamed for the armament TDP offering the 40mm CTA caseless ammunintion system expected to be procured for the U.K.’s Warruior fleet in 20012.
Although a strong player in Europe, in 2003, General Dynamics created a new business unit called General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems, based in Vienna, Austria, GDLS has limited strength in the UK market which the AlvisVickers acquisition would have provided The unit is composed of the three European land combat systems companies owned by General Dynamics: MOWAG AG, of Kreuzlingen, Switzerland; Gener