Saturday, July 25, 2015

SDSR 2015 - Army projects and requirements






SDSR 2015 – Issues, analysis and recommendations going towards the review

Budget


Army 

Army projects and requirements

Royal Air Force 

Royal Navy 

- will follow



NOTE: the MOD classifies its project by value, as follows:

Category A
£400 million and above
Category A1
£250 million to £400 million
Category B1
£100 million to £250 million
Category C
£20 million to £100 million
Category D
£10 million to £20 million
Category E1
£4.5 million to £10 million
Category F1c
£869,716 to £4.5 million
Category F1d
£347,868 to £869,716
Category G1
£113,057 to £347,868
Category H1b
£10,000 to £113.057



I’ve already written a long post about the Army on the eve of the SDSR 2015, but since that was a rather radical proposal of reorganization meant to make better use (in my opinion) of the 82.000 regulars available, I’ve written this other post to make a summary of the main requirements and projects the army is grappling with. These are the main issues on the table.



Operational Support Vehicles Programme (OSVP)


Over late 2013 and into 2014, the Army has renewed efforts to define the solution to four major requirements belonging to the Operational Support Vehicle Programme (OSVP), part of the wider Operational Support Programme which is the Army’s office for Combat Service Support work, including infrastructure and vehicles.
These requirements unfortunately come from a long story of false starts, cancellations and dreaded changes of acronyms, which have, as always, meant that years have passed with the problem only getting worse and harder to ignore. There is no telling if this new try will finally bring results, or if we are just staring at yet another false start.
The four projects are:

Multi Role Vehicle – Protected (MRV-P) is a Cat A project intended to meet the requirement for a protected deployable platform employed by all Force Elements, at all scales of effort, in a wide range of environments, and on all parts of the battlefield except for the direct fire zone. The MRV-P should bring commonality to the fleet and reduce the logistic footprint for utility vehicles by 2020.

The MRV (P) programme is a new attempt which follows the failure of the operational utility vehicle system (OUVS). The vision is for one vehicle solution for many roles, using plug-and-play communications and flexible seating layouts. Variants expected include:

— Command and communications post vehicle,
— Command and liaison vehicle,
— General purpose vehicle – cargo,
— General purpose vehicle – pax,
— Light gun towing vehicle.

A crew of 2 or 3 is expected, with the back area organized depending on role. In the pax role, there is a desire for six dismounts in the back.
The programme was, according to this 2014 MOD document, expected to reach Initial Gate during 2017 and Main Gate in 2017. There are many off the shelf vehicles which could and will be offered, but cost (at one point, 250.000 pounds per vehicle was envisaged) will be an issue, since the hoped for price seems too low.

As of 2014, a first purchase of MRV(P) vehicles was envisaged in the 800 units range, but the actual requirements are much higher, with the MOD envisaging long-term purchases of some 4000 more vehicles in the various variants. The Army does not seem to dare formulating a precise plan for how to move from the current wide range of vehicles to a full MRV(P) solution or at least, more realistically, a future fleet consisting of less vehicle types. 


Fleets and OSDs. The OSD of Foxhound is absurd, there is no other way to describe it. Either it is a mistake, or it is a financial planning figure as valid as the 2030 OSD for Typhoon: no one believes in it. Dragging on Panther until 2037 is quite on the crazy side as well, since it has notoriously been pretty poorly received.



The current fleet includes some 400 Foxhound in frontline troop carrier role, with much higher protection and cost (and mobility?) than expected for MRV(P). They seem ill suited for direct replacement; as do the Jackals and, to a lesser degree, the WMIK Land Rovers. The 2014 graphic shown by the MOD has an absurd 2024 Out of Service Date for Foxhound which can’t possibly be taken seriously, especially when seen near 2030 for the RWMIK and 2037 (!) for the Panther. 
A more recent (March 2015) FOI puts the Foxhound OSD in 2030, but advances the OSD for Husky to 2024, probably on the assumption that MRV(P) will come online as replacement. 




The 2014 table puts MRV(P) in semi-direct relationship with a number of vehicles which, for various reasons, really shouldn’t be compared, as I think they are too different. The Wolfhound, for example, is a massive machine, very well protected: the MRV(P) aims to have a similar payload (but much less protection). It is a trade off which could well be acceptable, as having a lighter, smaller, more agile vehicle could be advantageous, and anyway acceptable.



The MRV(P) requirements leave the door open to unladen weights approaching the 14 tons, which is twice the weight of Jackal and Foxhound. The base protection level, and probably the base agility, are inferior. Turning circle performance is also going to be worse, unless a “combat” derivative of MRV(P) comes with a lot of difference from other variants, and focus placed on mobility and protection.

It looks likely that an MRV(P) platform will have to be the same base vehicle but coming in Long and Short wheelbase variants: this would preserve much of the logistical commonality, but still enable the production of variants better suited to specific roles. 



The approximate requirements for MRV(P). The MOD hopes for a cheap vehicle: one early RFI mentions a price of 250.000 pounds per unit.

 
Same vehicle, in long and short wheelbase, seem to be the only way the MRV(P) could ever achieve the single-type vehicle objective.





Even so, I suggest that Foxhound should be the very last vehicle on the list of those to replace. Replacing Foxhound and Jackal, two frontline combat machines, with an adapted MRV(P), might be stretching too far the differences with the “cheap” Combat Service Support variants which represent the bulk of the programme.
The MRV(P) should ideally replace Panther (2037, seriously…?), Husky and eventually Wolfhound. For these roles, it is reasonably well placed. Replacing Foxhound seems to me to be a long shot: I could actually see Foxhound replacing Jackal and WMIKs in its open-top, weapon carrier variant, while MRV(P)s replace the rest. Envisaging such an early end of service date for Foxhound is flat out ridiculous, with what the machine can do and with how much it cost, too.
At the moment, there is nothing in sight which delivers greater performances in the same size and weight class, so that my recommendation would be to think about Foxhound as the base for replacing Jackal and WMIKs, with MRV(P) replacing the rest. I suspect that keeping the two things separate will help in ensuring that MRV(P) doesn’t get too expensive trying to be too many and too different things at once; and also ensure that, when the time comes to replace Foxhound, a new vehicle thought for its specific combat role is sought.
Going down to two fleets (plus Land Rovers and Pinzgauers) for where protection is not strictly necessary would already be be a major, major improvement over the fragmented, multi-type fleet of today.


Non-Articulated Vehicle – Protected (NAV-P) is a Cat B project to meet the requirement for a protectable Palletised Load System (PLS). This would replace the ageing and unprotected DROPS fleet, enabling logistic support by a protected fleet to concurrent operations from 2020.

NAV-P is a major component in the renewal of the fleets of trucks which are the backbone of the British Army's logistics.




The truck fleets and the way ahead. Two main projects will be key in the next few years.



The already seen May 2014 MOD document shows how up in the air the replacement for DROPS still was:

 
The DROPS Out of Service Date is... partially false, because DROPS simply doesn't have a numerically adequate replacement at the moment, and several still remain. The road to a replacement is visibly torturous, and desired numbers are likely to never be truly reached. What is clear is that NAV-P is becoming increasingly urgent.



The DROPS hit its Out Of Service date in 2014, as planned and mentioned in the document. At the same time, not all DROPS are gone. An unknown number of DROPS continues to serve and will remain for some more time. Some DROPS can still be seen in use with the reserve, but also with other units, including Falcon squadron in the CBRN role, where the DROPS is still used to carry the decontamination system, and will stay in the role out to 2017, when EPLS should replace it. It is not known how many DROPS are being run-on: in late 2014, the running-on of up to 825 trucks beyond 2014 was envisaged, but there is no telling how the programme has evolved since.

In addition, the EPLS is used. The Enhanced Palletized Load System, based on the MAN SV 15 Ton truck, has been procured as UOR for operations in Afghanistan. Two orders were placed, for 87 new build EPLS trucks and 90 conversions from HX77 trucks already MOD owned respectively. The 2014 document shows “170 EPLS going into core”: that is 7 vehicles less than originally procured, indicating that some must have been written off due to damage. 3 or 4 EPLS were also handed over to New Zealand, which urgently needed them as platforms for the REBS bridging system.
The 2014 document shows a plan to convert a further 175 MAN SV trucks to the EPLS role. I don’t know if a contract has been signed for this, but the indication that Falcon Sqn will receive EPLS in 2017 might be related to this second batch. 




Up-armoured EPLS in Afghanistan, doing its thing





The NAV-P, according to the May 2014 plans, would begin coming online in 2017, and 350 would be procured by 2020/21, giving a combined fleet of some 1045 trucks which would still include at least 350 old DROPS, evidence of the funding difficulties stretching out the replacement process.
Note that the requirement, all-in, is estimated in as many as 1349 vehicles, a number that the Army might simply never achieve.
There once were 1612 Leyland DROPS Medium Mobility Load Carrier (MMLC) and 404 Foden DROPS Improved Medium Mobility Load Carrier (IMMLC).



Light Weight (Air Portable) Recover (LW(AP)RC) is a Cat D project to meet the requirement for a recovery capability that is air portable and that can wade ashore with Commando Forces to provide intimate support to Very High Readiness (VHR) forces by 2016.

This Light Recovery Vehicle is an interesting requirement, which I think actually extends beyond the Paras and Commando: the Light Protected Mobility infantry battalions, mounted on Foxhound, and the Light Cavalry regiments on Jackal could all use a better, lightweight recovery vehicle instead of the 32-tons MAN Wrecker monster. In Afghanistan, a number of Husky vehicles were converted by the REME into recovery vehicles better suited to operate on the line of fire and, crucially, able to follow the Foxhound and other “light” vehicles into narrow urban areas and other challenging places, but a more definitive solution is needed.



Future Protected Battle Field Ambulance (FPBFA) is a Cat C project to meet the requirement for a Protected Mobility (PM) battlefield multi role ambulance. This will enable in-theatre protected movement of casualties, whilst delivering expected clinical care by 2020.


Not mentioned as part of the RFI for the Operational Support Programme, is the nonetheless vital Common Articulated Vehicle – Protected, which is meant to eventually deliver the Future Common Articulated Bulk Capability. A CAV vehicle should begin appearing in 2018 (according to the 2014 document already seen, but not much at all has been heard since) as a much needed replacement for the 99 old Seddon Atkinson Light Equipment Transporters (LET), which have gone out of service by end 2012, without adequate replacement. 99 new 3-axle semi trailers for the LET role have been purchased between 2005 and 2006, but no coherent replacement for the tractor itself was funded. Low cost interim solutions have had to be rolled into service instead: the RAF’s 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron has procured some 20 Iveco Stralis trucks in August 2013, while the army has converted a small number of Oshkosh movers, originally procured as part of the tactical tankers fleet, to use them as Interim LET on operations.
The CAV should also help make up for the 54 Seddon Atkingson 32.000 liters General Support Tankers leaving service.

The CAV will become even more important in the first half of the 2020s, when the Heavy Equipment Transporters PFI contract will end, and the tactical tankers will hit Out of Service Date. Achieving fleet commonality, finally, would be greatly beneficial, logistically speaking.
The HET contract expiry date is 1st July 2024, currently, while the tankers have a 2025 OSD.

The HET fleet comprises 92 Oshkosh Truck Corporation 1070F 8 x 8 tractor units, 3 Tru-Hitch recovery systems, 89 King Trailer GTS 110/7 seven-axle semi-trailers and 20 Broshuis Heavy Duty 45 tons trailers procured as UORs in late 2005.  The Private Financing Initiative sees Fasttrax Ltd supplies the trucks, provides training for drivers and REME maintainers, as well as procure spare parts and support. The company provides drivers and maintainers as Sponsored Reserves, which can be called up for service for periods as long as 9 months. When not deployed on operations or completing peacetime taskings for the MoD, the SRs, who are salaried employees of FTX Logistics Ltd (who operate the HET service on behalf of Fasttrax) are employed on third party work. This work enables them to maintain their driver/operator skills, which, together with the fact that they must pass Military Annual Training Tests (MATTs), ensure that they deploy current and fully prepared for their operational role.
The HET fleet is now assigned to a the sole 19 Tank Transporter Squadron RLC, with 16 Tank Transporter Sqn having disbanded in Germany on July 25, 2014, as part of Army 2020 reductions.

The tankers are instead MOD owned. 357 Oshkosh MTVR tractors are used to tow 200 Close Support Tankers, each with a 20.000 liters capacity; 82 Tactical Aircraft Refuellers, each capable to hold 15.000 liters of fuel and pump it into 2 Chinooks at once, the helicopters on the ground with rotors turning; and 57 18.000 liters Close Support Tankers (Water).
It would be very beneficial, logistically, if these three fleets were replaced with a high commonality solution, if not with the very same tractor unit for all three roles.
As there does not seem to be any revolution in sight in the trucks world, it would probably make perfect sense to carry on with Oshkosh products. In 2009, the MOD almost concluded a deal for additional Oshkosh MTVR tractors for the LET role: that would have been a brilliant solution for the problem, but unfortunately did not obtain funding.

MAN offers heavy tractors which could take on the HET, tanker and LET roles as well. The MAN products are expensive, but would offer even greater commonality by being closely related to the SV fleet already in service. There is the possibility to use MAN trucks for the NAV-P as well, drastically reducing the number of logistic lines that need to be kept going.

The general Support Vehicle truck fleet is not expected to need replacement at least out to 2034, and will probably last beyond that. The MAN SV fleet, as already seen in older posts, consists of:


HX60 4x4, 6-ton payload of which:

107 FALCON communication system prime movers (not originally part of SV requirement, added later)
3934 General Service Cargo Truck
958 Flatbed
84 General Service with Crane
28 General Service with Tail Lift (for RAF use)

New or existing HX60 will be used for the FLAADS(L) air defence missile batteries. 

HX58 6x6, 9-ton payload, Medium Mobility Vehicles, of which:

264 General Service
63 Flatbed
8 General Service, Crane
46 Flatbed, Crane
Unit Support Tanker 230 

SX44 9-tonne 6x6 Improved Medium Mobility, of which:

41 General Service
54 Flatbed
5 Flatbed, crane
81 Unit Support Tanker

The Unit Support Tanker is a field refueling system that replaces the previous Unit Bulk Refueling Equipment. Each UST carries 7000 liters of fuel.

HX77, 8x8, 15-tonne Medium Mobility

464 General Service
328 Flatbed
12 General Service, Crane
119 Flatbed, crane
87 EPLS (UOR, new build not originally part of SV but added later)

NOTE: 90 of the original 923 HX77 trucks have since been converted to Enhanced Palletized Load Systems, to complement and then replace the similar but older DROPS trucks, which cannot be fitted with armor for use in theatre. I don’t know if the trucks were taken from the General Service pot or from the Flatbed pot or a bit from both, but I personally suspect they might have converted some of the Flatbeds: I think it would be the easiest to change.

HX77 trucks are used to carry large, specialized shelters such as the Giraffe ABM radar; the Tactical Map Dissemination Point shelters of the GEOINT system of 42 (Geographic) Regiment Royal Engineers and the Tactical Aerial Reconnaissance Deployable Intelligence System (TARDIS) shelters.
As a UOR connected to EPLS, the MOD also procured 25 Fuel Tank Container systems from WEW of Germany. These are 20 foot container-footprint tanks fitted with the
KPA400B autarkic diesel-driven pump: thanks to it, after unloading the container the system can be operated completely independent of the DROPS/EPLS vehicle.

Finally, the Support Vehicle Fleet includes 288 SX45 8x8 Recovery trucks (“Wreckers”) plus 69 Recovery trailers: they replaced the Foden Heavy Recovery vehicle.

The original contract also included 1098 appliquè armor kits, which can readily be fitted to all trucks but the 161 employed in the Training Fleet. 
For operations in Afghanistan, such armor kits have been improved with further additions on some 324 vehicles, in two different initiatives, the first known as Project Fortress.

The MAN SV trucks can be fitted with the Roush's ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System): this is a system that comes with two frames (one with 8 seats, the other with 6 seats) accommodating a series of two-part vacuum formed ABS seats, plus a 4-point quick release harness. Clearances have been designed in to accommodate a soldier in body armour, a webbing kit and battle helmet. Stowage is provided for a standard Bergen and a clamping arrangement is fitted to secure a weapon.

At least 1100 sets were ordered in August 2008 in a 5 million pounds contract and delivered by 2009 as "Enhanced Seating Kit". The system provides full protection in case of Roll Over of the truck, improving safety. The system apparently receive some kind of modification because the variant now in service is named MK2.


Project TYRO

The increased weight of the army’s vehicles means that the BR90 bridging kit needs an upgrade. Since 2014 the Army is working to define the way forwards for upgrading, or potentially replacing, the BR90 bridging equipment. The main aim of the programme is to put in service new bridging elements in 2022, which will have to last out to 2040 thanks to a greater Military Load Class (Tracked) capability. The minimum MLC(T) required is 100.

The Army wants 33 new sets of Close Support Bridging equipment for the Titan bridgelayer. Each Titan is currently supported by a BR90 Tank Brigde Transporter truck, which means that each system comes with 2x 13.5 meters bridges and 1x 26 m scissor bridge. Trestles enable the combination of bridge sets to overcome gaps of over 60 meters.

The Army also wants 16 General Support Bridge sets. Each GSB is currently composed by a single Automotive Bridge Launch Equipment (ABLE) vehicle capable to lay 32 meters single span bridges. The ABLE is supported by two BR90 Bridging Vehicles carrying bridge elements. With span reinforcements, the bridge can grow to 44 meters, while and span doubling over piers or pontoons enables the bridging of 62-meter gaps. 


Project TYRO recognizes the obsolescente of the carrier vehicles, as well as the by now insufficient MLC class of the bridging elements themselves. It is hoped that the old Alvis Unipower 8x8 Improved Medium Mobility Trucks will be replaced, and if this happens, there might be room to pursue commonality with other truck fleets.

33 CSB sets would confirm the current number of systems. 16 GSB sets are instead quite a few less than the 29 ABLE systems once available.
 



Wide Area Reconnaissance and Surveillance for CBRN 



As we know, the army has temporarily resurrected the small fleet of Fuchs vehicles for CBRN wide area recce and surveillance, but the idea within the army is not to depend from Fuchs for too many more years. 
A programme to determine new means of providing wide area CBRN surveillance is on the cards, with a UAV among the options considered. The Fuchs OSD provvisionally is given as 2020 because of it, but it'll all depend on how this particular workstream progresses.



Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme

Uncertainty continues regarding the exact numbers planned for the Warrior capability sustainment programme. It seems that we are now talking about a total of 380 vehicles, of which only 245 will be IFVs armed with the new turret and the 40mm gun. The other 135 vehicles seem destined to be recovery and repair vehicles, plus artillery observation post vehicles. 
135 supporting vehicles sound like a lot, but Warrior Recovery and Repair variants appear not jut in the Armoured Infantry battalions, but in REME Close Support battalions and a few can be found in the REME dets in tank and AS90 artillery regiments as well. 

The 245 guns figure is indirectly obtained thanks to the recently announced contract for the purchase of 515 CTA 40 guns: we know that 245 are destined to the SCOUT SV, and Jane’s reports that 25 more guns are for trials, tests and development. That leaves only 245 for the Warrior CSP.

This number is highly disappointing, I find, because it appears insufficient for properly equipping and sustaining the 6 armoured infantry battalions which are the core of Army 2020.

Even with the army hoping to mount battalion HQ and Anti-Tank platoon into ABSV vehicles instead of Warrior proper, the number remains insufficient. 14 Warrior IFVs per rifle company, alone, sum up to a requirement for 252 vehicles.
We are already beyond the expected number of upgraded vehicles, and we haven’t even considered the need for a training fleet in BATUS, and a margin of reserve machines to cover for unavailability. Talk about whole fleet management: if these are the numbers, a couple of the six battalions will be “virtual”, because even come the third world war there will not be Warrior vehicles to assign to them.
All battalions will have access to small training fleets, and there will be enough vehicles in storage to fully equip perhaps 4 battalions, in case the army ever needs to deploy two armoured infantry brigades as part of its one-shot, three-brigade, Divisional effort. 






The Warrior upgraded with the CSP will be a powerful and excellent IFV, but the number of vehicles to be up-gunned is a source of concerns, as is the ABSV programme, the other key element of the modernization of armoured infantry battalions.
 



If it is a case of "extreme whole fleet management", it makes little sense, however, to have purchased the right number of FRES Scout vehicles to fully equip the units mounted on them: if the armoured infantry, which is the core of the brigade, is without vehicles, what use can the recce vehicles on their own have?
If it must be a Whole Fleet Management exercise which enables the fielding of a maximum of two brigades at once, then Scout numbers should have followed the same philosophy, and the saved money used to fund a proper missile-launching Overwatch vehicle variant. Or ABSV. Because things about ABSV remain far from clear, as we’ll see later.

Another mystery yet to be cleared is that of the Artillery Observation Post variant (FV-514). The WCSP does not include mission-specific upgrades for this variant, which is by now obsolescent and which has to literally be transformed from an old school vehicle for the observation of the fall of artillery shots into a Joint Fires Control platform capable to direct precision air strikes as well as artillery and mortar fire. The FV-514 has a turret, but the 30 mm gun is a dummy. It is not clear if under WCSP it will get the new turret, but without gun, or at least a "make up" to make its existing turret indistinguishable from that of upgraded Warriors IFVs. It is obvious that if it keeps the dummy Rarden gun and the current turret shape, it will stick out like a sore thumb among the upgraded and much different Warriors.  

The new turret and gun are completely different from the originals. In this image, the modular add-on armour package (or at least part of it) can also be seen.

The Royal Artillery is responsible for developing and funding a new, up to date mission package of sensors and communications that will enable the direction of artillery fire and air support from under armour.
The RA has been experimenting at least since 2010 / 11, but it is not at all clear if it has the money to fund the upgrade.
If the upgrade can’t be embodied into the WCSP production phase, it will have to follow it, and this means, at best, that it would happen in the 2020s, and it would come into service near 2030, way too late.
Worse, if the RA package of upgrades can’t be funded at all, the FV-514 risks being close to useless.
Moreover, since one of the FRES Scout variants is equipped for Joint Fires Control, I’m left to wonder on the whole sense of trying to develop a Joint Fires variant of Warrior, too. Why not just purchase more Scout Joint Fires? 



The WCSP is not the end, for the Artillery Observation variant. The CSP will add the electronics changes and the modular armor package common to all variants, but the key to getting any value out of FV514 will be a further role-specific upgrade. The Royal Artillery has long been working on it, but its current status is not clear.





The organization of the Armoured Infantry Battalion of Army 2020 is a bit of a mystery, due to the shortage of Warriors-with-gun. It seems that the Army hopes to compensate using ABSV, but until that becomes available (if it does become available, I sadly have to remark) the battalions are making do with the old FV432 Bulldog. 
We also know that the armoured infantry section is going down from 10 to 9 men, which actually means from 7 to 6 dismounts, since the others are the Warrior IFV’s crew.
The Warrior loses a dismount seat in the upgrade, as new blast-protected seating and situational awareness troop compartment screen take away precious space.

Armoured Infantry Battalions apparently won’t employ the L129A1 sharpshooter, either: it seems that the Army will assign the L86 LSW as sharpshooter weapon instead. The justification is that 7.62x51 hit power is less needed in Armoured Infantry role due to the Warrior’s own cannon and 7.62mm coax.



Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle

Much needed, desperately sought by the army, still in search of security. We don’t yet know if and when the ABSV programme will actually start. The army hoped to hit Initial Gate this year, but the latest MOD major projects summary, up to date to around middle 2014, talks of ABSV as “an aspiration”.
Awful word which does not provide any kind of certainty.

The ABSV, most likely to be obtained by removing the turret from surplus Warriors and rebuilding them into support variants, is a key programme, but one which struggles horribly in getting out of the mud. It is meant to provide new C2, ambulance, APC, Mortar and ATGW variants. BAE has showcased a Warrior configured as 81 mm mortar carrier as an example of what ABSV could and should be, but the way forwards is uncertain.
The Army’s hope for a proper ATGW vehicle might also be frustrated once more, even if the ABSV programme goes ahead. There are high chances of it being just an APC with internal arrangements for the carriage of dismounted Javelin missile teams. 



BAE showcased a mortar carrier Warrior variant as a demonstrator for ABSV
 
The army has been working on ABSV for years, trying to getting it funded. Alvis, when it still existed produced a few prototypes under an earlier contract. We were in the early 2000. ABSV eventually became a part of Warrior CSP under the Labour government, and now has been split away from it once more, to become its own programme. What matters, however, is that it finally progresses into acquisition.




The army at one point hoped to start introducing ABSV in 2018. It is desperately needed to replace ancient FV432s which, despite the MK3 upgrade in the early 2000s, really do need to retire.
The insufficient number of Warriors receiving the IFV fit adds urgency to the development of ABSV to better complement them, and fill the holes in the ranks.



Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme

The CR2 LEP appears to be another victim of stealth cuts. At one point expected to hit Initial Gate this year, it has more recently been described as “in concept phase”. This suggests that initial gate has been quietly pushed to the right by at least another year.

Complete uncertainty reigns about whether the 227 tanks remaining in active service will all be upgraded or if there will be further reductions. The extent of the upgrades is also not clear, but they will be mostly about electronic, sights and communications. Unfortunately, replacement of the rifled gun is absolutely out of the question, and a new engine also seems out of reach. 

Up to 75 Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles remain active. These are employed not just within tank regiments, but in REME Armoured Close Support battalions and in the AS90 artillery regiments as well as in the armoured engineers regiments. 

Even so, i think that the British Army might want to consider spending a bit less on supporting vehicles and a bit more on combat vehicles: 75 CHARRV, several dozens of Warrior repair and Warrior recovery and some 38 Recovery and 50 Repair FRES SV units sound like a lot, especially as the frontline fleets themselves keep shrinking. Recovery and Repair vehicles are true force multipliers within armoured formations, it is true, but to effectively have 1 recovery/repair vehicle for every 5-some combat vehicles sounds a bit excessive: 

75 CHARRV for 227 Challenger 2, 33 Trojan, 33 Titan, 89 AS90 = 5.09 combat vehicles per recovery vehicle 

88 Recovery and Repair FRES SV against 501 "combat" FRES SV = 5.69 combat vehicles per support vehicle

Possibly some 80 Recovery / Repair Warrior variants against 300 IFVs and Joint Fires Control vehicles = 3.75 combat vehicles per each support vehicle. This rate is particularly ridiculous but is likely connected to the Army's hope of replacing FV432 (which has its own repair variant, at the moment!) with ABSV on Warrior hull. The final rate of support vehicles to combat Warriors + ABSVs will be different. 

As we have seen before, besides, the abundance of Repair and Recovery vehicles in the Heavy fleets is somewhat countered by the current absence of a numerically and technically adequate fleet of Light Recovery vehicles thought for the fleets of Jackal, Foxhound, Husky. The MAN Wrecker is a huge 8x8 truck, at one time oversized and under protected for the job of recovering damaged Jackals or Foxhound in tight and dangerous places. 
 



Apache Capability Sustainment Programme

The Apache CSP is intended to deliver a fleet of 50 helicopters, renewed and uplifted to the latest equipment standard, the Block III, known by the US Army as AH-64E “Guardian”.
The Army’s favored option for obtaining the final result is to have its existing Apaches torn apart and rebuilt into brand new airframes, complete with new and updated systems where applicable. This is the same thing that is happening to hundreds of US Army Apache helicopters, which get dismantled and reassembled into new airframes built in South Korea and shipped to the US for assembly.
The remanufacturing approach allows the re-use of components still valid, considerably reducing costs.

The Army is said to have recommended going with Boeing as it can offer the lowest price, but the MOD and government are not going to take a final decision before March 2016, as AgustaWestland is lobbying to obtain a contract which allows it to do the work in Yeovilton.

The US Army is remanufacturing 634 of its Apaches, and will also purchase 56 wholly new helicopters, but not before 2019/2020. The production line, was the UK to decide to buy wholly new machines, will be open at least out to 2026.

An area for uncertainty is represented by the unique british bits in the Apache AH1, and how some of those might or might not find their way into remanufactured or new helicopters assembled by Boeing. Communications, such as the Bowman radio, will certainly be required, but the MOD might also want to carry on with the british HIDAS self-protection system, and this would already pose a greater challenge.
All Apache helicopters are now manufactured with folding rotors, which were unique to the british AH1, years ago. But the british army would like to include a series of naval features which, despite the US Army’s increasingly frequent deployments shipboard in the Pacific, aren’t at all standard on the Apache.
At the end of 2013, the UK MOD signed a contract with AgustaWestland to develop and fit an emergency floatation gear to the AH1, which also received a degree of corrosion protection and wet-sealing to better resist the aggression of the marine environment.
These features, as well as others which are very desirable but not yet available, such as a naval-rate rotor brake and an I-band transponder, might not be easy to incorporate.
Uk and US are at least working together on a new cockpit escape system which, unlike the original one, will work safely even in the event of a crash into the water.

Another question mark is the engine: the british Apache AH1 uses the RTM 322, but its original power advantage over the American engines is no more, and Rolls Royce has also now sold its participation in this specific engine, which is now effectively French owned. On the other hand, the RTM 322 is still used on the Merlins.

An AW deal would cost more, but would keep the work in the UK. In itself, it is not an undesirable proposition, but it depends on what the higher price means: if it means having less helicopters, or having to cut something else, then the contract should definitely go to Boeing.



Special Forces Light Helicopter, and others  

The little known 657 Sqn AAC operates Lynx AH9A in support of the Special Forces. The Lynx AH9A is expected to remain in service out to 2018, but the future of the unit beyond that date is far from clear. At one point, the MOD almost signed a contract modification deal with AgustaWestland which would have converted 4 of the army helicopters already on order into SF Light Assault Helicopters, and added 4 more on the production line. The deal, however, eventually silently died and failed to materialize. 


The 9A uses the same engines as the Wildcat. It is lighter and somewhat roomier, which makes it more effective in light utility role. It is fitted with an MX-10 EO turret, and an M3M heavy machine gun.
 




There is a clear requirement for 8 – 10 light or medium machines for Special Forces support. Already before the publication of the SDSR 2010 there were rumors of 10 special forces helicopters being included: I think a Telegraph article at one point said that 10 NH-90 helicopters would be ordered.
That was not to be, but the problem remains to be solved. At a minimum, a last minute addition of 8 Wildcat in LAH configuration will be needed.

Some 21 Lynx AH9A remain, also used by 9 AAC Regiment. The Lynx AH7 will be entirely gone by the end of July, truly closing an era: only six remain in use, for assistance in Wildcat training.

The last few Gazelles are also planned to bow out of service by 2018, and a replacement is not in sight. Homeland work in Northern Ireland, though, might require a little investment. In May 2014, the army has added an MX-10 EO/IR turret to a Squirrel helicopter, currently used for training but destined to be replaced by the new Rotary Wing UKMFTS solution in 2018: this might provide a hint of what could be used in home security role after Gazelle.

Joint Helicopter Command has also voiced its interest in “surrogate training helicopters”, cheap-to-fly machines that, if procured, would be equipped with cockpits able to “simulate” Apache (and maybe Wildcat too), to enable low-cost, effective training of crews. This is intended to generate savings by reducing actual flying hours of the very expensive Apache.
It is not clear if and how this idea will be funded, however.



Watchkeeper

Full Operational Capability is expected in 2017, when de-icing and operations from austere, unpaved airstrips are to become available, with the release of Equipment Standard 2 (ES 2). Further development of the type is not yet mapped out, but already in 2011 there was interest in the Royal Artillery about the possibility of making Watchkeeper a shooter, adding a couple of pylons capable to employ weapons such as the LMM Martlet missile. This might be one of the future additions.

It will be interesting to see if the British Army and Royal Navy will ever get around to try and put Watchkeeper onto the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. The launch should not be a problem: Watchkeeper is not overly heavy and can be launched from a trailer-mounted catapult which wouldn’t be much more challenging to embark than a Scan Eagle catapult. The problem is the landing, but there might be ways around the issue.



Air Defence

A contract for the CAMM missile batteries in Future Local Area Air Defence System – Land (FLAADS(L)) configuration was reportedly signed in December 2014, but there are no details about what exactly it funds. Replacement of Rapier remains expected “by the end of the decade”. 4 to 5 batteries are expected, one of which is effectively permanently based in the Falklands islands.

The Falklands should see a contract signed next year for the installation of a complete battle management and C4I system which will provide a full, detailed radar air picture to enhance the efficiency of the air defence system.
The british army, for the same task, has the deployable Land Environment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP) system, which achieved full operational capability in December 2014. 





The LEAPP Skykeeper system includes 5 Giraffe ABM radars especially purchased to serve as powerful eyes for the system, and shelter-based elements, deployable also under slung by Chinook. LEAPP however fuses together data coming from other radars and systems, from AWACS in the air to ships at sea. 


The LEAPP shelter, produced by Marshal, mounted on HX60 truck


Inside LEAPP



LEAPP is employed by 49 (Inkerman) independent Royal Artillery battery, as part of Joing Ground Based Air Defence. LEAPP networks together various external sources, receiving data in real time with Link 16. A Link 11 access node is also available, operated by Royal Marines of 29 Commando Royal Artillery: it enables LEAPP to receive the air picture coming from the sensors of RN warships. 
4 control nodes and 3 "air picture" trailers have been purchased. Networked with radars on the ground, in the air and on ships, LEAPP can control virtually everything moving in the air. Integrated with MAMBA and other radar and sensors, it provides a Sense and Warn capability against C-RAM threats as well.

In 2012, the MOD launched the Network Enabled Airspace Defence and Surveillance (NEADS) project, funding the first Workstream, which should eventually fully integrate LEAPP, FLAADS(L) and Starstreak vShorad systems, as well as starting the evaluation of C-RAM effectors. This later requirement might be related to the MOD’s research on laser.
The SDSR should give the go ahead to NEADS Increment 2, which is expected to include “sustainment of the Falklands air defence beyond 2020”, and as we saw, this is progressing. Specific anti-UAV capability is to be assessed (and the MOD is funding some research in this field), and a new C-RAM system was expected to be selected and procured for 2017. It will be interesting to see if NEADS goes ahead, and how, with specific attention to be paid on anti-UAV and C-RAM capability.



Fire Shadow

Who knows if the SDSR can provide an answer about what is going on with the Royal Artillery’s loitering ammunition programme. Silent and unadvertised death, it would look like.



Protected Mobility, UORs and the Utility Vehicle

The Protected Mobility needs of the Army, at the very least out to the middle 2020s, will be covered with the vehicles procured as UOR for Afghanistan and now brought into Core.
These include:

305 Mastiff Troop Carrier vehicles;
127 Mastiff specialist variants (Enhanced Communications, Interim ECM, Interim EOD, Ambulance and Protected Eyes with mast-mounted ROTAS EO/IR sensor, with its Praetorian variant for the RAF Regiment.

An unknown number of Troop Carrier variants of the Mastiff is being converted into additional Enhanced Communications variant as the army adjusts the fleet to its long-term needs. 

118 Ridgback Troop Carrier Vehicles;
51 Ridgback Specialist variants (Command and Ambulance)

Some Troop Carriers are being converted into additional command vehicles.

116 - 125 Wolfhound, including EOD and Military Working Dog variants. Somewhat surprisingly, a number of EOD Wolfhounds are being converted with the Military Working Dog pod.

441 Jackal 1/2/2A
71 Coyote

325 Husky (in Utility, Command, Heavy Weapon and Light Recovery variants)

45 to 60 Warthog will remain in use. They were originally procured in Troop Carrier, Command, Ambulance and Recovery variants, but are now expected to be used as carriers for Desert Hawk III UAV detachments and for the MAMBA artillery locating radar. 

The Army continues to crave a 8x8 armoured “Utility Vehicle” as a replacement for Mastiff and Ridgback in Heavy Protected Mobility infantry battalions by the middle of the 2020s. The programme is expected to formally restart in 2018, and between September 2014 and may 2015, a whole rifle coy from 4 RIFLES has been in France to train on and experience the French VBCI.
The VBCI was dropped from the original FRES UV competition in 2008 because back then it was not certified for above 30 tons weight and had not a quick-change, battlefield removable powerpack. The latest development of VBCI, however, has corrected both defects, and is now seen as a very serious candidate.

I remain quite skeptic on money being available for such a programme, however, and if I were in the Army I would first focus on ABSV and Warrior CSP, to fix armoured infantry before getting caught into another major project.



Virtus and other soldier systems  

Deliveries of the new helmet, vest and load carrying equipment have now begun, but greater purchases will be necessary to re-equip the army. Crucially, in order for VIRTUS to truly be beneficial, it is important that the MOD goes ahead with Pulse 2, which is the development and adoption of new, lighter and more effective armour plates to replace the ones now in use, which are strong but also very heavy. 





The new VIRTUS equipment. The mask is especially meant for use by crews of open-top vehicles such as Jackal.





Even greater potential lays in Pulse 3, with the development of a centralized power infrastructure for the soldier, which will be fundamental to allow adoption of new weapon sights and Situational Awareness computer systems for the soldier.

New Tactical Hearing Protection devices are entering service.

Replacement of the L85A2 weapon is now not expected before 2025 at the earliest. New upgrades and additions are however possible: the army has been experimenting suppressors, for example. The most welcome recent addition has been the Laser Light Module MK3, however, which is very light yet very capable.

Contrary to earlier reports, the 60 mm handheld light mortal is still observed on exercise, so it seems that, at least for now, it remains part of the infantry battalions. It delivers a key array of long-range capabilities to the infantry platoon.

Sharpshooter rifles are a combination of L129A1 in 7.62 mm and L86A2 LSW in 5.56. The latter seem destined, in particular, to armoured infantry units. The LSW is an accurate and effective weapon, but of course employs the lighter round. L129A1 with 12x optics are employed as Sniper No 2 Weapons.

The biggest revolution is anyway expected to eventually come via communications and Dismounted Situational Awareness developments. Key to this will be the sustainment / further evolution / replacement of the Bowman data radio, via Project MORPHEUS, part of the LaTacCis (Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems) effort to renew and develop communication solutions. For now, there is not much to be said, other than the latest iteration of the Bowman system is in use, alongside UOR radio sets which have been brought into core to provide a more complete capability. MORPHEUS is a potentially huge programme, with a potential value of 3 billions or more, and with profound implications for all three services, as the Bowman data radio is employed by troops, vehicles, aircraft, helicopters and ships.