FRES – NO VOTES HERE
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
02 Aug 07. The cautious approach Lord Drayson took to describing the bones of the FRES Requirement at his Open Day on Tuesday spoke volumes. Firstly he quietly cut the total FRES Requirement from 3700 to 3000 vehicles and then would not confirm the overall value, previously believed to be £12bn (and secure according to BAE!)with an ISD of 2012, now looks less likely. He would not confirm numbers of Utility Vehicles either.
FRES supremo Major-General Dick Applegate stood at Lord Drayson’s side trying to look optimistic when answering journalists’ questions, but his demeanour said it all! Had he had an opportunity to say that ‘FRES was the Project to provide the required protection to the British Army against the current IED threat and its early Procurement would save lives,’ he would have earned brownie points form the Dailies in particular. But, in true non-New Labour style and true to his Service, he stuck to the script, FRES is a Requirement for a Battlefield Utility Vehicle which will support the Armoured and Infantry on the Battlefield. In short it is not an MRAP vehicle designed to protect against mines and IEDs. This is probably why ABRO did not show its 250th Bulldog because that vehicle is designed to defeat these threats and is where the bulk of the Armoured Vehicle Budget is going!
When asked whether as previously touted, that FRES could become the subject of a Government-to-Government Agreement, with France in particular, Lord Drayson said that FRSS did not lend itslef to such an agreement unless another country wanted to join. At the time when a strong French involvement was envisaged for CVF, a quid pro quo was seen for a strong French involvement in FRES, a move which would have suited BAE’s aspirations. But, with Shipco, and the MoD ruling out a strong French involvement, which would have in effect, taken UK shipyard jobs out of the equation, the strong UK-French link on FRES appears to have diminished with NEXTER having contender status. Some sources still think that there is a political agenda for FRES, but this may become apparent later. At this moment in time FRES is a competition to replace the ageing British Army wheeled vehicle fleet.
Thus, for the Public at large, FRES is not a vote winner as MPPV would have been. In addition the location of the main plants for FRES, Newcastle, Munich, Paris and South Wales is hardly conducive to Voter capture!
This is in stark contrast to the CVF, Type 45, Astute spend which not only saves the Government money in the long-run buy the formation of Shipco, it is a Vote Winner for the crucial Scottish Marginals, Gordon Brown’s and Des Browne’s Seats around Rosyth and Glasgow in particular as well as a sop to Portsmouth which is a strong Lib Dem seat and Barrow which is a notorious jobs blackspot. Newcastle has lost two big allies, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson!
In the longer term it looks like the MoD, as they have done before, is keeping the FRES contenders on a string, promising the earth, but delivering little at the end. General Applegate gave a hint to this when he said that one tranche of the FRES Utility Vehicle would be a standard fit with little requirement for complex C4I and software. No doubt this will be the first 120 slated under the Requirement. Lord Drayson said that “He would surprise us all with the speed of the Procurement!”
With regard to the Recce vehicle, we had discussed in previous issues whether BAE had a shoe-in solution for CV90 which would suit its aspirations to keep Hägglunds open and feed Newcastle. However, Lord Drayson said that the Recce requirement for some expected 200 vehicles would be competed in the same manner as the utility vehicle which would open the door to an offering of the Pizzaro vehicle, of which 144 are in service with the Spanish Army and the Austrian Army has an Order giving a total of 191 vehicles.
Lord Drayson stressed that ABRO w