28 Feb 02. The Sika Team, consisting of Lockheed Martin and BAE SYSTEMS unveiled its impressive demonstration vehicle during AUSA, based on the TRACER/FSCS requirement. The LANCER team had already unveiled its chassis last week, (See Military Vehicles Web site page www.battle-technology.com).
The Sika system will be undergoing trials in the USA at Fort Carson, Colorado in June, whilst the Lancer system will start trials at Larkhill in the UK in April. The Sika system is being assembled in the USA whilst LANCER is being integrated at the BAE SYSTEMS in Leicester with support from partners UDLP and Raytheon Systems Limited and Raytheon in the USA.
Both teams had seen the potential of merging the TRACER/FSCS technology into the UK’s Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) and FCS. Not least of all being the capitalising the huge $140m investment made in the system by the US and UK Governments and the partners.
It appears certainly from the US perspective that the FSCS element of FSCS/TRACER is dead and that elements of the FSCS chassis and systems will be used as a ‘technology pull through’ into FCS and FRES. The FRES requirement document is currently being written by Major General Peter Gilchrist’s team and is due out at the end of April. A down select is expected in October possibly following the US lead of appointing a PSI. The system should be in place by 2007 to replace the ageing 30-year old CVR(T) fleet. The likelihood now is that both teams will be disbanded following the completion of trials in July, with BAE submitting a single bid. Is this really the right way for the UK to proceed, having expended a huge amount of tax payers money, $140m, and man hours developing a system which could be easily extended into a family of vehicles to meet the FRES and part of the FCS requirement. It is also likely that the chassis development carried out by the teams has pushed armoured technology as far as it can go for the foreseeable future, and further enhancements would be limited.
Whilst it has always been a specialty of the UK to invite new bids for a system which potentially already exists, (an example being MRAV where Piranha already existed); would not it be better now to bite the bullet and extend the TRACER/FSCS funding beyond the proposed ‘bridge funding’ into March ‘03 and go for a full development of FRES in the UK for ‘07 and subsume Future Scout into FCS. This may overcome any UK Government resistance to funding new programmes. After all one only has to look at the shambles of MRAV which may produce a satisfactory solution for Europe, already being talked down to 380 vehicles in the UK for a monstrous 30 tonne APC, which cannot be airportable and which one general reported, “Offered the best target for any tank man of the 21st Century!”
The cancellation of TRACER in the UK will free up £1bn of money in the short term which has been allocated to the programme to shore up the creaking MoD finances. Thus FRES becomes a new project with a new budget!