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In today's Financial Times:
Army's £5.5bn armoured vehicle project at risk
A £5.5bn project to build the army a state of the art armoured fighting vehicle may be scrapped after more than a decade, a defence minister has admitted. Delivery of the Ajax vehicle should have started four years ago , but trials have been halted twice after concerns that noise and vibration were damaging crews' hearing. One MP said "it's heavier than a Sherman tank. It's too small. And it's as stealthy as a Ford Transit full of spanners".
Too small? That's a new one. It's already the size of a bus and dwarfs the CVRT it's intended to replace.
There is a growing air of failure around the project. If a defence minister has gone public in doubting its future, then it's probably only a matter of time.
How can anyone mess that up so badly, then keep carrying on with it as if everything's OK?
Nimrod AEW.1. Nimrod Mk.4. To name just 2. National pride.
I grant you the Nimrods, but I doubt that national pride had anything to do with it. I suspect that no-one wants to bring the bad news to those at the top, so they keep their heads down and keep beavering on in the hope that someone, somewhere, will come up with some solution. In the meanwhile, they keep getting paid, and keep their fingers crossed that the inevitable finger of blame will point to someone else (if anyone at all).
The problems are still there - with some additions, it seems: https://www.overtdefense.com/2021/10/26/british-army-vehicle-headsets-under-investigation-for-hearing-risks/
Tony, I think you might find this article from The Economist interesting. Basically saying that England is shifting back towards focusing on Naval as opposed to land power.
Archived to bypass paywall:
Sounds like a fair summary of the situation.
...the armed forces would be designed for “permanent and persistent global engagement”...
Meaning what, exactly?
...America and Britain agreed to help Australia build nuclear submarines to deter China.
Deter China from doing what? Shipping goods to any countries other than the United States and Britain?
the MOD still considers the General Dynamics United Kingdom-designed vehicles as “not fit for purpose and does not meet the contracted specification”....
HS&EP describes Ajax as being far from being a modified Military Off-the-Shelf programme (the Ajax is mechanically based on the Spanish-Austrian ASCOD infantry fighting vehicle), with Ajax in practice “spearheading a range of world-leading technologies” that required significant testing before manufacturing could start. Instead, the developmental decision was made to conduct concurrent demonstration and manufacturing phases for six different vehicles at four build standards or “capability drops”. The review team found that the concurrent nature of the program was not what teams were used to managing, resulting in confusion, disagreement, frustration and in some cases paralysis of decision making across the program, in addition to increasing the amount of potentially exposed personnel due to the Reliability Trials conducted on currently built Drop 1 Ajax vehicles.
At this point, sucking up and dropping would be less embarrassing than going on, and potentially cheaper and faster too.
Ajax has had quite a lot of issues already.
From defensenews.com (extracts):
Responding to questions from Defense News, General Dynamics Land Systems UK has given a breakdown of its progress in producing Ajax at its factories in Wales and Spain as part of a firm-priced deal with the British signed in 2014 to produce 589 vehicles at a cost of up to £5.5 billion (€6.5 billion or U.S. $7.6 billion).
“As of 1 September 2021, 20 percent of the Ajax fleet are built and have been delivered, or are pending delivery, to the British Army; a further 30 vehicles are undergoing assembly, integration and test (AIT) in Merthyr Tydfil [Wales] and 50 per cent of the 589 hulls are built,” said General Dynamics Land Systems UK.
Twenty-five vehicles were delivered to the British Army by June 2021, but have yet to be accepted into service due to a number of issues related to noise and vibration.
Ajax production is continuing, according to the company. All hulls for the Ajax are being fabricated and painted at the General Dynamics European Land Systems site at Trubia in Spain. Other elements of the Ajax build and test program have been initially centered on Spain for the first 100 vehicles but gradually switch to Merthyr Tydfil, where General Dynamics currently employs 350 people.
The problems with noise and vibration have pitched Ajax at the centre of a controversy here, with some issue experts comparing the procurement with the decision to cancel the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft in 2010.
An uncertain future
Procurement minister Jeremy Quin has made two statements to Parliament regarding the problems with the Ajax family in a little over two months. Ajax vehicles should have been in service by now, but Quin told Parliament recently that until a long-term solution was found it was “not possible to determine a realistic timescale for declaration of initial operating capability or the later introduction of Ajax vehicles into operational service with the Army.” In June MoD officials reported the program had swallowed up £3.2 billion of the £5.5 billion set aside for Ajax. At least one Parliamentary Defence Committee member has called for the program’s cancellation. At one point the MoD halted trials work, and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace questioned whether the program had a future unless a solution could be found to the problems. One defense source, who asked not to be named, said that while Wallace was continuing to work with the contractor to fix the problems, safety issues for soldiers had remained a top priority. The defence secretary has continued to put pressure on General Dynamics to fix the problems. While our focus remains on working with General Dynamics for its delivery, the welfare of our personnel comes first,” said the source.
Several hundred personnel have had to undergo possible hearing and vibration injury tests related to the Ajax trials.
Scrambling for fixes
After having been halted, some trials have resumed using General Dynamics UK personnel rather than British Army crews. The MoD, along with General Dynamics, are now ramping up efforts to find a fix for the issues with the addition of another vehicle to the trials program crewed by the contractor.The current trials only relate to the noise and vibration issues, and broader testing of the vehicle remains on hold. Some moves are already being made in addressing the current shortcomings. For one, trials are being planned jointly by the MoD and General Dynamics to validate and verify the efficacy of proposed measures to reduce vibration. In addition, Quin said in his Oct. 18 statement that noise reduction efforts also continue with the
Tony Williams - Military gun and ammunition website: https://www.quarryhs.co.uk