26 Sep 03. Sources close to BATTLESPACE have suggested that Procurement Supremo CDP Sir Peter Spencer has torn up the preliminary agreement reached with BAE Systems and AlvisVickers with regard to the next stage of the FRES requirement. An announcement with regard to the Project Definition Phase worth in excess of £70m was expected next month. After extensive discussions on both sides of the Atlantic it is believed that CDP and DEC (DBE) Brigadier Ian Rodley have decided to take the US model and to commission a study paper from a systems house rather than a manufacturing company. SAIC is believed to be the lead contender for the project with QinetiQ and IBM also being mentioned. The outcome of the study will be watched with interest given SAIC’s involvement with Boeing as LSI for the US FCS system. Could this lead to a government-to-government agreement to dovetail some elements of FCS into FRES as indicated by Boeing during the Paris Air Show? (See, ‘BATTLESPACE PARIS NEWS 2003, DAY 3 JUNE 18TH 2001’, BOEING HOPES FOR GOVERNMENT AGREEMENT ON FCS/FRES). In any event both BAE Systems and Alvis expect to be involved in the manufacture and UK integration of the vehicles with GD (UK) also being involved in the communications element. Sources also suggest that after he leaves post in January, Brigadier Rodley may be joining SAIC.
Hugh Colver, Communications Director for BAE Systems, told BATTLESPACE that BAE and its partners in FRES, AlvisVickers and Thales were poised to meet any engineering challenges coming out of the studies initiated by the MoD.
Any delay in the introduction of FRES, coupled to the cancellation of MRAV, which would have at least given the APC element to a new fleet of vehicles, leaves the possibility of an interim buy or lease of vehicles given the current age of the UK fleet in particular the CVR(T) and FV430 series. Could this mean a lease via General Dynamics of a fleet of Stryker or Piranha vehicles? FRES is now reckoned to be valued at £6bn and given the cost of the war in Iraq and the budget squeezes mentioned here, the future size of the requirement is still in the air. (See, ‘BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.5 ISSUE 34, August 29th 2003’, BIG DEFENCE CUTS EXPECTED – ROYAL NAVY TO TAKE THE BRUNT?).
Any contractor taking the LSI role would have to demonstrate the ability to cover 30% of the value of the project in capital terms.