FRES – POLITICS OR URGENT REQUIREMENT
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
17 Jan 07. BATTLESPACE has received a number of comments from our FRES piece (See BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.9 ISSUE 2, 12 January 2007, BAE = SEP = FRES = EUROPE). The general consensus appears to be whether the Government has a wish to procure the best vehicle in the shortest time which will allow the protection required for our troops or whether the FRES requirement is being skewed to give BAE more time to de-risk its SEP solution that will give the company the strategic position in the European Land Systems marketplace.
Certainly a lengthening of the project to 2017 would not only suit BAE, it would suit Atkins (if the company is retained into the next phase) and the IPT. However, we also understand that lengthening of the requirement to a reported ISD of 2017 has caused internal strife within BAE and some top level resignations and departures, as some see 2012 as a target date to keep the teams in place. Ten years is a long time to pay for teams with little or no funding in a unit which is already loss-making.
The specification produced by Atkins contains some remarkable requirements, some of which we will share with you. One is the requirement to reverse for one hour! The poor driver who is involved in this exercise will have a neck problem for many years! The second is for the vehicle to go from 0-50 in 10 seconds. The current engine cannot meet this requirement and it can only be met by a new MTU developmental engine that is costed at ten times the current version and is not EURO 4 compliant, is it little wonder that Lord Drayson is keen to involve the Formula 1 companies! The third is for the vehicle to operate at 400 metres, could it even get to that height!!
The fact remains, as the Editor put in his submission to the Defence Select Committee, that BAE has never built a wheeled armoured vehicle and the companies it procured to build its Land Systems business, AlvisVickers and VSEL built the last wheeled vehicle the Saladin and Saracen in the 1960s!
The British Army’s experience of introducing armoured vehicles into service has been an unhappy one. Chieftain, 432, CVR(T) and Warrior all had serious reliability issues on introduction into service. Chieftain, even after substantial modification, including a redesigned Power Pack (10A), still only had a 23% probability of achieving a 24 hour battlefield mission without a mission critical failure. When the requirement for Challenger 2 was set at an extremely demanding 80% for turret systems and 85% for automotive systems (against a 48 hour Battlefield Mission), a completely new reliability growth regime and accompanying contractual requirements were required. Vickers was given a £90M contract to build 10 prototypes, in order to demonstrate that they could build a tank to time, performance and cost. However, production tanks still failed to meet the requirement and a programme of Production Reliability Growth Trials was instituted, which involved submitting production tanks to 285 Battlefield Days (34 main armament rounds, 1000 7.62 and 60kms of motoring). This was followed by an In-Service Reliability Demonstration, involving a whole squadron for months. The process was time consuming and expensive, and suffered numerous set backs, but was ultimately successful and is therefore used as a blueprint for reliability growth in armoured vehicles.
On the other hand General Dynamics has the largest range of wheeled vehicles in the world and has the added bonus of owning the Mowag Company which has the most advanced wheeled vehicle Research facility certainly in Europe if not the world. Thus GD is able to deliver in a shorter timescale to the benefit of the battlefield protection and mobility for British Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company is bidding against General Purpose Vehicles of the US for a special requirement for 38 6×6 vehicles with the Steyr Pandur vehicle