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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

BATTLESPACE Continues its Series on the Contenders for the FRES ‘Trial of Truth.’

14 Feb 07. Whilst the world’s heavyweight defence contractors, BAE, GD, Giat, ARTEC and Iveco, firm up their offers for the UK’s FRES ‘Trials of Truth’ in May, they face being beaten to the line by a specialist engineering company, Patria Vehicles, Part of the Finnish Patria Group. The Editor was hosted at the firm’s Hämeenlinna plant in a visit that concluded with a test drive of the 8×8 version of the company’s AMV (Armoured Modular Vehicle). BATTLESPACE has asked for test drives in all other contenders’ vehicles.

Patria is 73.2% owned by the Finnish Government and 26.8% by EADS and its turnover in 2005 was €317m. The company employs 1800 people in all its segments from avionics thru aerostructures (A380 and NH90), UAVs and C4I to defence equipment, ammunition (In a JV with Eurenco and Namno) and vehicles. The Armoured Vehicle segment employs 400 people and its activities include turret manufacture and installation for CV90, Vetronics and systems fits and AMV production.

It is worth revisiting past issues. In BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.9 ISSUE 2, BAE = SEP = FRES = EUROPE. The general consensus appears to be whether the Government has a wish to procure the best vehicle in the shortest time which will allow the protection required for our troops or whether the FRES requirement is being skewed to give BAE more time to de-risk its SEP solution that will give the company the strategic position in the European Land Systems marketplace.

Certainly a lengthening of the project to 2017 would not only suit BAE, it would suit Atkins (if the company is retained into the next phase) and the IPT. However, we also understand that lengthening of the requirement to a reported ISD of 2017 has caused internal strife within BAE and some top level resignations and departures, as some see 2012 as a target date to keep the teams in place. Ten years is a long time to pay for teams with little or no funding in a unit which is already loss-making.

Further information on the SEP Project suggests that BAE and Hägglunds are now galloping to fulfil a wheeled 8×8 vehicle for the May ‘Trials of Truth.’ The original SEP requirement was for a mainly tracked hybrid drive vehicle with a wheeled option. Given that the world’s armies are now looking at wheeled fleets as they require ten times less maintenance, BAE was caught on the hop. The SEP vehicle not only required a redesign from the hybrid solution via a two small diesel design to a standard diesel fit on an 8×8 chassis. The problems encountered have been aired on these pages but the long and the short of it is that both companies BAE Lands Systems and Hägglunds possess considerable expertise in tracked vehicles but very little in wheeled variants, which is possibly why Patria was part of the original SEP consortium to address wheeled variants. The Swedish FMV has funded SEP with a small amount of PV money from BAE but is belived to have reached the stage of cutting off funding if BAE cannot find another customer. Thus BAE will have to rush an unproven prototype into the May Trials of Truth. Echoes of previous articles on such vehicles as HMT in this context should ring alarm bells at the DPA! BAE has made noises about new customers but, without FRES, there is little hope these will come to fruition; thus FRES is a must for BAE’s UK Land Systems business.

Heikki Hulkonen, Executive Vice President of Patria said, “Hybrid drive technology is in its infancy thus untried, expensive and complex. Diesel drive technology is tried ands tested and allows Armies to concentrate on technology they can trust and is reliable. I wouldn’t like to wade through water in a vehicle generating 600 Volts!”

In BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.9 ISSUE 03, 18 January 2007, FRES – POLITICS OR URGENT REQUIREMENT, we discussed GD’s views of FRES.

General Dynamics

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