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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

12 May 07. The Daily Telegraph reported that Defence ministers have bowed to criticism from MPs and industry and admitted that the award of a £16bn contract for much-needed new vehicles for the Army has taken far too long. The Government promised yesterday that the programme was being accelerated, but rejected claims that political considerations were getting in the way of the Army’s urgent need for the vehicles. In February, a report from the House of Commons defence committee said that the contract for new armoured vehicles, called Future Rapid Effect System (FRES), had been a “sorry story of indecision, constantly changing requirements, and delay.” The committee said that six years after the MoD identified a need for the new vehicles, which would have been invaluable in Iraq and Afghanistan, FRES remained little more than “a concept”. FRES is arguably the UK’s most important military contract and certainly one of the largest. Some of the world’s leading defence companies, including BAE Systems, Boeing and Thales, will compete for it. Firms have already spent millions drawing up plans, and the MoD is having to buy other armoured vehicles as a stop-gap.

Yesterday, in a rare admission of fault, the Government said in a statement: “We accept that the FRES concept phase took too long, primarily due to not adopting early the most appropriate procurement strategy and not adopting early a process to refine and stabilise the requirement. We also accept many of the recommendations made. “The Government said “real progress” was now being made. However, yesterday’s response by the Government still failed to set an in-service date for the vehicles. One defence company source said this was “very disappointing”. The Army wants the new vehicles as soon as possible. However, the Government has indicated that they may not be ready until 2012 at the earliest.

About time, the MoD has at last taken the blame for the FRES mess! However, sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that a way forward could have been pursued by BAE Systems to get the MoD out of this hole. The possibility was discussed of making an unsolicited bid for the utility and recce variants using existing systems ‘fitted for not with’ which could then be upgraded at a later date with advanced systems. This would have given the Army the protection they required for the battlefield and with Bowman still under development the ability to use the data systems on the battlefield is limited in any event.

Maj. General Bill Rollo was believed to be pro this development as it would give his troops better protection in Iraq, however it was believed to have been overruled by the then FRES supreme Brigadier Ian Rodley.

The utility variant could have been fielded using an advanced Piranha V designation for which BAE had a licence, but, our source suggested that history was repeating itself. In the 1990s GKN Defence stated the development of Warrior 2000. Warrior 2000 was a version of the Warrior which was developed for the Swiss Army requirement. The first prototype was completed in 1998. Improvements included all-welded aluminium hull, increased passive appliqué armour protection, digital fire control system, more powerful engine and a Delco or Land Systems Hägglunds E30 direct electric drive turret with ATK Bushmaster II Mk 44 30mm cannon.

CV90 from Hägglunds was the competitive bid. But with GKN and Hägglunds being from the same Alvis stable, and the Swiss preferring the Warrior 2000, alarm bells rung at Alvis Headquarters as if Warrior won the bid, this would set a trend for Holland to follow resulting in a loss of jobs at Hägglunds and huge redundancies resulting, costing a fortune to Alvis and hence its balance sheet. Thus the Alvis management put its weight and pricing policies behind CV90 which became the winner. This move essentially destroyed the UK’s ability to manufacture and devel

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