U.K. MoD IMPLEMENTS HUGE VEHICLE PROCUREMENT PROGRAMME
By Julian Nettlefold
History suggests that a combination of a war on two fronts and a tight Defence Budget requires a major rethink by the MoD and the Armed Forces alike to create a balance between protecting troops on the ground by providing the best equipment in the fastest time and balancing the books at the same time in order to keep mainstream procurements active. The arrival of 24/7 news coverage on the battlefield also brings any breakdown in this process directly into the living rooms of the general public and the families of those soldiers on the ground. Thus, given this technology, MoDs have to react quickly to bring new equipments into theatre using innovative procurement techniques – the Urgent Operational requirement (UOR) being the benchmark.
The current Operational Environment and threat levels have changed completely, thus the MoD must evolve its equipments to meet this threat, particularly from the IED. Not only has the threat changed but the Army is now working in very harsh combat environments, dust in particular, which require the constant change of equipment usage and sustaining campaigns for the long term. The particular threat is to lines of communications.
Gone are the days of the Armoured Division equipped to fight a war on the European Plains with all it supporting paraphernalia of vehicles. Its day may return in a future war, but current wars are being fought in rough, closed, mountainous and desert terrain scattered with dense urban populations, not the pace for Armoured Divisions. Now the thrust is on highly protected and manoeuvrable wheeled vehicles with some tracked support. One only had to watch the recent Gaza operations to see the Blitzkrieg tactics of packets of Merkava tanks backed up with tracked APCs and armoured bulldozers, supported by F-16s, UAVs and Apache helicopters. The troubled BAE Terrier tracked vehicle to replace the CET is the last vestige of the old guard clinging on for survival, will its days soon end to be replaced by the fast, wheeled and manoeuvrable JCB HMEE, (already in service in the USA and the U.K.) which does not require a Transporter to take it to the front? Indications that most of the Challenger 2 fleet may be mothballed are the first sign of this change.
Throughout last year a sea change in MoD Procurement strategy was becoming apparent to meet the short to medium needs of the forces in theatre, thus the UOR process, rather than the normal process of looking at a ten to twenty year threat assessment became the norm. This sea change proved to be the death knell for the long running and expensive FRES UV Programme as we shall see later on.
The UOR process has been a great success in that it has shortened and cheapened the Procurement Cycle and brought the right equipment into service on time and to budget. The SUV IPT’s performance has been exemplary in buying and fielding hundreds of vehicles. This is in stark contrast to the FRES IPT which has spent an estimated £300 million since the late eighties to field no vehicles!
With soldiers dying on the battlefield and the media conducting a high-level debate about MoD failures, something had to crack and it did. First the MoD embarked on a huge UOR Programme to update and protect existing equipment in field such as Warrior, Challenger 2, CVR(T), FV432 as Bulldog along with many Pinzgauers as Vector, Land Rovers, Panther, Tactical MAN and Oshkosh Support Vehicles and other ‘B’ Vehicles with bar armour, overhead weapon stations and pintle mounts.
This solved half the problems but the front line troops were still facing problems of IEDs and mines so the next stage was to field IED Detectors and a new fleet of mine protected vehicles Mastiff, Cougar, WMIK and later the SNATCH Vixen
DSG Supports the UOR Programme
The MoD’s Defence Support Group (DSG) has been key to the success of the UOR process.
Despite the many challenges involved in