FRES PUT ON HOLD – NEW REQUIREMENT ISSUED IN SEPTEMBER?
06 Aug 03. The UK MoD has shelved the current FRES requirement and funding to the FRES facility at Telford which employs 70 people from BAE Systems and Alvis has been stopped. Sources suggest that once a new strategy has been put in place by the MoD a new requirement could be issued as September at the very earliest. The Treasury has indicated a preference to issue an international competition for tenders worth up to £4bn
The Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) represents the future of Army AFV fleet from December 2009, when the first variants enter service, to 2025 when, subject to the success of the technology insertion plan, they may provide the replacement for the current Heavy Force comprising the Challenger II and Warrior fleets. Initially replacing the frankly obsolescent FV430, CVR(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked)) and Saxon fleets the FRES has been given priority in Army plans behind that of Bowman and Digitization Stage 2 (DS2). Outlining the Customer view of FRES he identified the vehicle programme as underpinning the UK’s plans for a Network Enabled Capability. As General Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, speaking at a Defence Event Management/Royal United Services Institute conference on 25 June, said “Around FRES much of the future Army will be built.”
Comment: The driving force behind FRES is an urgent requirement to replace the ageing AFV fleet. Sources suggest that a separate requirement may be issued for a Saxon replacement to Alvis, thus kicking off part of the requirement. Technology requirements for the main fleet include electric drive and possibly electric armour. The Treasury is right to consider a tender to international companies as the US in particular has spent billions on AFV technology through its Tracer/FSCS development with the Uk and FCS. It is believed that elements of FCS may appear in FRES but FRES will not become a licensed FCS deal government-t-government with the US as indicated by Boeing at Paris (see BATTLESPACE PARIS NEWS 2003 DAY 3 JUNE 18TH 2001). AlvisVickers is indicating a strong preference for a Hägglunds vehicle following its Swedish contract whilst BAE Systems is pushing hard for the LSI contract. General Dynamics (UK) shouldn’t be ruled out as a strong contender for LSI using Alvis as the company’s parent in the US is heavily involved in FCS and in the UK the company is already starting the conversion of 18000 vehicles for the BOWMAN requirement. In any event as BOWMAN is a vital part of FRES, GD must have some major involvement. FRES must be right from the start, which is why some sources suggest that AlvisVickers capital base and technical know how was too narrow to prime such a large requirement.