FRES SCOUT NOT READY IN TIME FOR AFGHAN OPERATIONS
By Julian Nettlefold
Understanding FRES – what it was, what it is and what it will be – is a bit like wrestling with jelly for somebody who is not an Army vehicle anorak. (Linda Gilroy)
10 Dec 09. The House of Commons Defence Committee conducted a very full interrogation of General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, Dr Andrew Tyler and Mr Guy Lester on December 1st regarding all aspects of Defence procurement.
FRES was a major topic of the process which revealed some interesting comments and replies.
Q111 Mr Crausby: Some questions on FRES. Quentin Davies in a speech on the 22 October said about FRES that, “The project was an example of pursuing perfect specification, perfect planning and perfect integration. It turned out to be a perfect disaster”. He went on to say, “I will not dwell on a sad story. I have now stopped the FRES programme”. So where are we on FRES? Is there no future in our rapid effect system?
General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue: What he stopped was the FRES Utility Vehicle programme; and he stopped it because the priority changed to FRES Scout. The competition is ongoing. There is a selection process going on at the moment. I would be very disappointed if we do not get FRES Scout out on contract February/March next year.
Q112 Mr Jenkin: What is the point of putting the word “FRES” in front of Scout?
General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue: It is the Future Rapid Effect System, the Scout bit of it as opposed to the indirect fire bit or the engineer vehicle, but it is a family of vehicles – a Future Rapid Effect System.
Q113 Mr Crausby: He seemed to express complete no confidence in what has been a ten-year programme. We have been asking questions for some time and the response we have got is that, “It’s all on track. It’s all going to continue”, but it looks to be in absolute chaos to me.
General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue: As I say, it is really good news. The FRES Scout programme will be on contract – and that is the recce vehicle – in January, February, possibly March, spring next year, which is what I think Mr Davies said the last time he spoke about it.
Q114 Mr Crausby: What about FRES UV?
General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue: We need to come back to that. The priority at the moment was the recce vehicle. We will need to come back to FRES UV because while Mantis, Ridgeback and all the UORs we have been buying for Afghanistan are good – extremely good for Afghanistan – they are not armoured fighting vehicles; they are not good for contingent operations anywhere else; so we will need to come back to it.
Q115 Mr Crausby: What about FRES SV?
General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue: That is the Scout Vehicle – SV. Scout is one of the specialist vehicles in the SV class.
Q116 Mr Crausby: So it is just one of the specialist vehicles. How many specialist vehicles will —–
Dr Tyler: With the SV what we are doing is we are buying essentially two things. We are buying what we call the common based platform which, as its name suggests, is the basic tracked platform which will then be used for a lot of different other types of specialist vehicle in the future. The first of the specialist types of vehicle that we are procuring is the Scout Vehicle which is the one with the turret and the gun on it – that was the Army’s top priority – and the sensors.
General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue: Your comment about it not being a very satisfactory programme was valid. I do not believe it is valid any more and, as I say, will be on contract with the most important variant for the Army at the beginning of next year, in a matter of months.
Q154 Chairman: The point I am making is that the reason it was not called a “family of vehicles” but was called a Future Rapid Effects System was that right from the beginning of the concept it involved, surely, all the ISTAR assets and everything else that you are now talking about.
Dr Tyler: As I say, I am not trying to suggest that we had not thoug