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07 Jun 07. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected the vehicles that will participate in trials for the utility variant of the Army’s Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) later this summer. The selected designs are BOXER (ARTEC), Piranha (GD UK) and VBCI (Nexter). The outcome of the trials will be announced by the end of November when one or more utility vehicle design will go forward for detailed assessment.

The FRES family of vehicles is vital for the Army of the future. They
will high levels of protection and will also be air-transportable,
allowing troops to deploy rapidly across the globe at short notice.

Defence Minister Lord Drayson said: “My highest priority is to ensure that our Forces have the equipment they need to achieve success on operations today, tomorrow and in the future. FRES has a vital part to play in the future of the British Army. I signalled my commitment to the FRES programme last year and this announcement provides tangible evidence of progress. The selection of these designs for inclusion in the utility vehicle trials is a part of the competitive acquisition strategy developed to ensure that we deliver the best solution for the Army.”

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said:

“FRES is my highest equipment priority and I am determined that we
will make this programme a timely success – it is at the heart of the
future Army. I am therefore very encouraged by the significant
progress that has been made in identifying the three best candidate
vehicles for us to trial this summer and I look forward to
maintaining this momentum in the programme to the next decision point
by November this year. We need to take this exciting project forward,
together with our industrial partners as soon as possible.”

In addition to the utility vehicle design competition, the Ministry
of Defence is also running competitions to select a company which
will work with the designer to integrate key systems onto the
vehicles, and a company that will have strategic oversight of the
entire FRES programme and its links to the existing fleet, known as
the system of systems integrator. In a clear sign of the MoD’s
commitment to drive the FRES programme forward, contracts for this
work will be awarded within 12 months.

The FRES programme will equip the Army with a range of new vehicle
types over and above the utility variant. This includes
reconnaissance, direct fire, and engineer support vehicles. These
will also be open to competition from industry.
Comment: One surprise omission to the list for the Trials of Truth is the Patria AMV vehicle which has won a number of contracts recenlty. The choice of Boxer comes as no surprise but it would ironic if the U.K. chose this vehicle as the U.K. withdrew from this Programme due to the weight and size of the vehicle. BATTLESPACE has long seen VBCI as a prime contender and GD Piranha has knocked BAE SEP off the podium. With SEP now out of the running, where will BAE go? Sources suggest that talks have been taking place with Nexter or could it ironically re-enter the Boxer Programme? No doubt they will be watching the trails with interest. Whilst the Iveco vehicle was suitable fore the job it was seen as an ageing design. There is certainly a ‘European’ element to this choice as we suggested in previous issues and it may be that as was suggested in Anne Winterton’s Adjournment Debate on FRES in 2003 that the final choice will be for a common European chassis i.e. Boxer, VBCI or Piranha, all of whom have won European contracts. The fact that SEP has been left out of the running will place BAE Systems in a problematic spot with regard to the Swedish funding for the project. The Swedes had stated that they required another customer to continue funding, now that the U.K. has dropped the SEP, this may jeopardise the whole SEP Programme. It is likely that Lord Drayson was listening to Sir Richard at yesterday’s RUSI conference where, in a last

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