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05 Jan 06. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that BAE SYSTEMS lobbied hard for the announcement that it had been selected as the Prime Systems Integrator for the FRES contract as part of the Defence Industrial Strategy announced last month. However, the Government is belived to have decided to take a two-stage approach to the award. First it must be satisfied that BAE can manage the existing fleet and then award FRES at the same time as allowing ABRO to pass into BAE’s hands.

The text of the DIS strategy hints at this. BAE has been successful in the past in securing Support Contracts for such systems as Nimrod and Typhoon prior to the manufacturing award, thus assuring the contract goes ahead and the company is the contractor. Lord Drayson hinted that the assembly of the basic FRES hulls could be done in Europe, thus confirming that Hägglunds and SEP would be the chosen system with the hulls manufactured in Sweden. The MoD is belived to already own one SEP demonstrator that is being trialled at Bovingdon. This would cement the Government-to-Government agreement with Sweden and assure that BAE is in prime position to supply systems to both the U.K. and Sweden. Systems Integration would be carried out at either Telford or Newcastle. Part of the reason for this move would be explained by the lack of engineering skills in the AlvisVickers Company when BAE acquired the company. On closer examination of the skills and future contracts, both were found wanting with the latter resulting in Trevor Harrison’s removal (again!) from the top post and the fact that all plasma cutting machines had been sold from Telford, thus the company could not build another Warrior.

Hence the importance of the ABRO/BAE alliance that has recently been cemented by the contract award for 400 430 engine upgrades, awarded to BAE but carried out by ABRO.

The DIS stated:
‘There are two separate but linked areas involved in the Sustainment of our AFV capability. The first is improving the through-life management and in-service capability linked to industrial transformation, and the second is the management of FRES. In addition, we need to understand the linkages between these two distinct intertwined standards.

BAE Systems Land Systems is the DA for 95% of the vehicles in the current fleet. Recognising this reality, we intend to pursue initiatives to change the relationship between us in order that the demands of current operations, routine support and future upgrades are met more cost-effectively. We also seek improved reliability and the reduced deployed footprint necessary to enable the directed logistical approach which is central to the Future Army Structure (FAS).

It goes on…’We have determined that there is no strategic need to own ABRO, but we also recognise that ABRO provides us with a core capability in the repair and overhaul of the armoured fleet, which must be retained in the UK. WE judge that until strategies have matured, any change in ownership of ABRO represents an unacceptable level of risk.’

Where does this leave U.S. companies and the FCS agreements between U.S. and U.K. championed by FCS leader General Cartwright? (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.7 ISSUE 46, November 2005, IS FRES GOING EUROPEAN?) It looks very much as if with the cancellation of TRACER/FSCS and the ITAR denial that the U.K. has turned its back on any U.S. large involvement in FRES, leaving companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and GD to handle key technologies where required.

This was made apparent by the announcement of more TDP’s yesterday. Four new contracts to help inform decisions on which technologies will be used for the Army’s next generation of armoured fighting vehicles have been awarded by Atkins, the FRES Systems House, Minister for Defence Procurement Lord Drayson announced today.

BAE Systems have been awarded two contracts. The first is for a Chassis Concept Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP). This work will demonstrate th

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