23 Jun 05. Reactions to the various briefings at the recent RUSI Armoured Vehicle conference express more gloom for FRES contractors. Atkins had been expected to release the winners of the TDPs last week but the contractors have been asked to rebid for the third time reflecting growing concern of a tight budget and realistic timescale to build a vehicle by 2012.
BAE seemed satisfied that the budget was still intact but sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that a two-pronged thrust of requiring leverage from the TRACER/FSCS programme into which the UK invested $91m with little to show from it and general budget tightness, is causing concern that industry will ever have the budget required to even break even on the project. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.7 ISSUE 23, 10th June 2005, FRES/MEDIUM FORCE – ITS ALL IN THE NUMBERS)
In addition the urgent requirement to replace the ageing Saxon vehicles which have no ABS system and are based on the defunct Bedford truck may drive the requirement for an interim solution which in itself may cause FRES to disappear in its entirety. The requirement for an overall network architecture, coveted by BAE SYSTEMS, has also disappeared with BOWMAN remaining the bearer.
What will replace Saxon? Vehicles from the Stryker which Sir Michael Jackson is rumoured not to want, the Pandur 8×8 or indeed a 6×6 version of the Panther FCLV. However panther is already believed to be suffering from space constraints as the Command version ahs already lost one seat due to the Bowman fit and the Engineers are rumoured to want a trailer.
The Northern Ireland deployment requires a vehicle with more of a peacekeeping facia so as not to escalate the ‘tanks on the street scenario.’ Thus one vehicle being mooted is a return to the Insys/United Defense/ACMAT solution for FCLV based on the ACMAT vehicle in either 4×4 or 6×6 chassis forms. Insys rejected the idea but a decision will have to be made soon and although another candidate the Pinzgauer armoured version, being built for the New Zealand armed forces may be too small for the role.
The TDPs are purely technology demonstrators (SEE – GD SHOWS THE WAY AHED) and by there very nature have a long way to go to prove chassis and system maturity. GD is working with LockMart on the Chassis/EA bid and BAE is working with the Thales team. GD’s offering based on AHED is for the wheeled version only, whilst BAE’s offering of a conventionally powered version was rejected and they are re-bidding.
The nirvana of electric drive is still in its infancy and as AHED showed is a very complex technology which could suffer mechanical problems on the battlefield or be vulnerable to hits. Certainly members form the RMCS at Shrivenham were sceptical that the system would be mature enough for 2012 so BAE may well be proved right with a conventional fall-back offering of conventionally powered chassis using technology imported from its about to be United Defense segment using technology for the ‘Liteningbolt’ PV vehicle and a UK top hamper