THE MARK OF THE BEAST
By Yvonne Headington
20 Nov 09. The official opening of Thales’ new vehicle integration facility in Llangennech, Carmarthenshire on 19 Nov 09 was marked by a viewing of the Warthog all-terrain armoured vehicle – dubbed ‘the beast’.
Opening the facility, the Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan (First Minister for Wales) said “I know Thales UK considered various options for this new facility but I am delighted to say that the Welsh site fitted the bill and met all their requirements to deliver the Warthog programme – from a well trained local workforce to excellent access to the motorway network.”
The Warthog Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) contract was awarded to Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) in December 2008. The contract is worth some £150m for the supply of over 100 (believed to be 115) vehicles for deployment in Afghanistan in 2010. Under a £20m subcontract from ST Kinetics, Thales is undertaking installation of UK-specific equipment to bring the vehicles up to Operational standard.
Warthog is a development of STK’s Bronco All Terrain Tracked Carrier (ATTC), a robust articulated platform with a payload of more than 5 tons. The platform’s design delivers a high degree of mobility across a wide range of terrain and climate. First fielded in 2001, Bronco is currently in service with the Armed Forces of Singapore.
Warthog is due to replace BAE Systems’ BvS10 Viking fully amphibious armoured all-terrain vehicles. STK’s Bronco design was chosen to meet the Warthog requirement in preference BAE Systems’ Viking 2 upgrade, offering greater range, protection, payload and internal volume. In line with the MoD’s Military Off-The-Shelf (MOTS) requirement, Bronco’s adaptation to Warthog standard has involved minimal design changes. These include an up-rated suspension, automotive cooling system, dust filtration, crew air-conditioning and electrical system. Twelve UK Armed Forces trainers have begun operation and maintenance training in Singapore to allow them to start bringing vehicles into service shortly after delivery.
Warthog will be the first project to pass through the new Thales facility in West Wales. Formerly known as MoD Llangennech, part of the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency, the site has been redeveloped and named Stradey Park Business Centre. Thales has invested more than £1.5m in the facility which includes 130,000 square feet of vehicle integration space, over 70,000 square feet of warehousing, two 40 tonne and three 20 tonne gantry cranes, a vehicle test track and office facilities. The investment will initially sustain 30 high-skilled jobs and has been supported by the Welsh Assembly through the Single Investment Fund.
Base vehicles delivered to the plant are subject to initial inspection before the installation of Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) equipment. Wire cutters and smoke grenade launchers are then fitted, followed by vehicle protection enhancement (appliqué and bar armour). A paint finish is then applied. After shake-down testing, the vehicle is cleaned and inspected in advance of final delivery.
Commenting on the Warthog programme, Brigadier Ian Simpson (Head of Combat Wheels Group at Defence Equipment and Support) said: “Warthog has proven itself to be a very capable vehicle in its preliminary tests and trials. I am impressed by the high standards of engineering applied to this vehicle and the quality of the support package offered by Singapore Technologies Kinetics, which will give our troops with higher levels of protection and mobility.”
Paul Wathen (Communications Manager, Land and Joint Systems Division, Thales) confirmed that the Company is looking at future potential business for the Llangennech facility, including upgrades and electronic architecture demonstration. However, there is “no specific programme lined-up” at the moment.
Warthog will come in four variants – a troop carrier, an ambulance, a command vehicle and a repair and recovery ve