Thursday, September 1, 2011

Future Force 2020 - Armour

·         2) Delving in the numbers 
                  3) Future Force 2020 - Royal Artillery

4) Future Force 2020 – Armour 

Tank Regiments – on paper

 Following 1990’s Options for Change (“Options”) the Army was to have eight armoured regiments. As they re-equipped with Challenger 2 they would be reduced to three squadrons each, taking on a Type 38 establishment. Under the 1998 Strategic Defense Review (SDR), this was changed to six armoured regiments, but each was to have four squadrons. While two of the former armoured regiments were re-roled, the change in size still meant that the Army would have 24 tank squadrons. The regiments had a paper wartime establishment of 58 tanks.
Afterwards, with the “Delivering Security in a Changing World” 2003, the tank regiments went down to five as one was re-rolled to Formation RECCE regiment and a share of Challenger II tanks were put into Long Term Storage. A total of 7 Tank Squadrons were cut, (4 from the regiment re-rolled, one each from 3 of the remaining regiments), bringing down the force to two Type 58 Regiments and three Type 44 regiments.
The three Type 44 Regiments entroduced the “Interim Medium Armour Squadron”, which replaced the lost Challenger squadrons with 14 Scimitars and was to serve to “work-up” towards the adoption of the FRES Medium Armor element.

Whole Fleet Management and the four fleets

It is all about efficiency, better use of resources and everything if you read the MOD and governmnt’s position about WFM, but I will spare you the fairy tale and go to the solid facts. WFM management is about ordering less vehicles (which can even be fine, so long as the numbers are enough to cover at least the minimum requirements) and is about using them as little as possible, to save further money.

As a result of WFM, the practice of issuing units with their full establishment of vehicles has ceased. Units now hold a reduced fleet of vehicles (active fleet) sufficient for low level collective training, these holdings are augmented from training fleets (active fleets – Unit Holdings – Basic Unit Fleets) for higher level training. Operational deployments utilise vehicles from the operational pool (stored fleet) which is held in a Controlled Humidity Environment (CHE) to avoid vehicle degradation.

CHE is the process of dehumidification (the removal of moisture from the air in order to stop the degradation of equipment) of a shed housing a number of vehicles (Closed CHE) or a single vehicle (Open CHE). To assist in the maintenance of equipment a Battery Management System (BMS) is used in conjunction with CHE to keep batteries fully charged through a trickle feed. The idea is that the vehicles are “frozen” in time, and conserved, ready for use, to be issued as and when required to the units.

There are 2 Theatre Fleet Support Units based in Ashchurch (Gloucestershire) and Ayrshire Barracks (Mönchengladbach Germany) which provide support for the stored fleet in Controlled Humidity Environment (CHE) sheds. There are a number of additional locations which provide storage to the fleet, they are:

  • Arbroath
  • Chivenor
  • Donnington
  • Stafford
  • Stirling

Basically, the deposit in Germany supports British Forces in the area, and will have to be transferred back in the UK by 2020. Expect the Point class Ro-Ro ships to do the hard work sailing from German ports and into the UK!

There is thus a Training Fleet, an Active Fleet within the regiments/battalions, a series of “Basic Unit Fleets” of ready-to-roll vehicles to bring out for big exercises and deployments and bring the associated unit up in strength, and then there’s the Long Term Storage Fleet.

The Land Training Fleet is established in Warminster, initially created to support Conversion Training levels 3 & 4 on Salisbury Plain the LTF(W) and then expanded with the addition of the Operational Training Equipment Pack (OTEP) which covers the UOR equipment procured to support ongoing operations and prepare, in “one-stop fashion”, the crews for deployment in Afghanistan with Mastiffs, Warthogs and such.
In reality, the SCOTS DG tank regiment actually run a Defence Driving School, in Germany where they are based, which prepares crews for driving in war conditions, prior to deployment. Experience in Afghanistan suggested the creation of this school, and it is reportedly delivering real advantages: it is to be hoped that the lesson goes to shape the long term Training Fleet approach and fleet.

Interim WFM (IWFM)
IWFM began in September 2005 and is a single-service propriety phase implemented across the Army (Regular and Reserve) that rationalised unit holdings and provided initial sites and conditions for the stored fleet. It achieved Full Operating Capacity in September 2010.

Tri-Service WFM (3WFM)
Ministerial approval for the 3 WFM Main Gate Business Case was received on 14 March 2008 and included the approval for the rationalisation of Unit Holdings across the Navy and RAF. The Stored Fleet when fully established will continue to provide central training and operational pools of vehicles and equipment. 3 WFM was launched in September 2010.

The Joint Asset Management Engineering Solution (JAMES) is part of WFM. JAMES is an Information System (IS) that provides global and near real-time visibility of asset and engineering data, to ensure that the kit needed can be located and made available timely to who needs it. JAMES 1 achieved FOC in Sep 2010, but it continues to evolve, and will now give a “out-of-the-Uk”, deployable access capability (thousands of ruggerized laptops have been recently acquired for this role) thus providing real-time and global visibility of assets with the inclusion of engineering data.

Last, Data Reporting Analysis Corrective Action System (DRACAS) supports Defence Equipment & Support to identify trends in equipment failure and subsequently change and improve designs. DRACAS are mandated to identify savings of £55M per annum on behalf of WFM for Defence. Confirmatory trials in BATUS on air filtration through work initiated by the DRACAS Cell has increased distance between failure of Warrior from 858 km to 5100 km with considerable cost savings in filters, engines and repair cost. More significant is the enhanced operational capability this engineering solution provides.

So, what happens to the Tank Regiments?

For the tank regiments, WFM management effectively means that the two Type 58 and the three Type 44 Regiments actually all have just around 30 tanks each for keeping their squadrons trained. The difference is that the two Type 58 regiments have four squadrons worth of tank trained personnel, the other three regiments have 3 each.

Of the 386 Challenger II tanks and 22 Driver Tank Trainers acquired by the British Army, only one Challenger II was lost, due to a deadly case of Blue on Blue, in which a Challenger hit another Challenger mistaking it for an enemy tank.
The real fate of the 385 tanks is not clearly known, however. In theory, 164 tanks (30 for each regiment plus 14 for A Sqn, 1RTR), plus driver trainers and possibly a share of tanks at BATUS and in the training fleet, should be active, with the rest in different levels of CHE storage.  

As is well known, the Challenger II holding has been hit by a “40% cut” in the SDSR. My own calculation of what this means came to the conclusion that just around 200 tanks (207, I estimate) would remain in service. I’m comforted in this assumption by several articles appeared online which suggest roughly the same, but I continue to wait for a paper about the Tank Regiment reorganization.

The 207 figure was calculated on an holding of 345 tanks, indicated in some MOD sources. Post SDSR, JANES
wrote in an article about the review that all 385 Challenger II tanks remain available to the army, but 38 of them are listed in "Long-term storage" with a further 32 in "Temporary Storage".

Both sources are possibly the most reliable possible (the MOD itself and JANES!), but would appear in contrast: my interpretation is that the MOD figure is relative to the "available" forward fleet, and thus does not count the tanks in Long Term Storage. This would reduce the difference between the two figures to a mere 2 tanks, which could be in Long Term storage without JANES knowing, or which might have been silently written-off: in
April 2006 and August 2007, during Telic ops, 2 Challenger II tanks were penetrated, one by a massive IED exploding underbelly and the second by a RPG-29 Vampire, the fearsome rocket which caused serious losses between Israeli tanks and crews in Lebanon in 2008.

They might well have been put aside without repairing and written-off, explaining the difference. But this is just hypothesis, even if it fits so well to sound like a realistic assessment! 

This is likely to mean that the best force the Tank Regiments will be able to field will be 38 Challengers, a return of the Type 38 which SDR98 sought to avoid due to its force being judged insufficient. In peacetime, each regiment might actually work with as few as 16 tanks, (enough for a single Squadron and HQ element, meaning that squadrons will have to rotate on the vehicles for training) with the rest held in storage.
The recently released MOD report on the fiscal year ended 31 March 2011, it is confirmed that 40% of the Challenger fleet is “no longer in use”, along with 35% of the AS90s, and that the MOD is still trying to decide what to do with the “surplus” vehicles. In practice, it is trying to see how much money can be spared to put at least some of them in storage: CHE has a cost, after all, even if much, much smaller than keeping the vehicle rolling.

This cut is also perhaps the biggest reason why I totally oppose the retention of dedicate Armoured Brigades. What sense would it have, in presence of so little active tanks, and in the condition of having two Regiments at the real strength of two Squadrons for most of the time? Unless this cut is reversed, and we all know it won’t be, the square armoured brigade for the British Army, in the peacetime structure, makes absolutely no sense.

The cut potentially means moving from a Wartime Establishment of:

RHQ:  2 MBT, 6 Sultan, 1 Spartan, 1 1-ton FFR vehicle, 1 Samaritan [ambulance]
HQ Sqn includes:  Recce Troop (8 Scimitar), 1 FV432 ambulance
LAD REME:  1 Challenger ARV, 1 Warrior 512, 1 Spartan

Squadrons [X4](14 MBTs each)

Sqn HQ:  2 MBT, 1 Spartan, 1 1-ton FFR vehicle
Troop (x4) 3 MBT (or 3 Troops of 4 tanks each) 
Admin Trp 1 Samaritan ambulance
REME 1 Challenger ARV, 1 FV432, 1 FV434 (Recovery), 1 Warrior 512

To a possible:

RHQ 2 MBT, 4 FRES C2, 1 FRES Protected Mobility, 1 Panther CLV, 1 FRES Ambulance
HQ Sqn includes Recce Troop (hopefully, but the number of FRES Scout might be too small to allow it)  with 6/8 FRES Scouts, 1 FRES ambulance
LAD REME 1 Challenger ARV, 1 Warrior 512, 1 FRES Protected Mobility

Squadrons [X 3] (12 MBTs each)

Sqn HQ 3 MBT, 1 Spartan, 1 1-ton FFR vehicle
Troop x3 3 MBT
Admin Trp 1 FV432 ambulance
REME 1 ARV, 1 FV434, 1 FV432

Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme

The WCSP should be about to finally start. Liam Fox put it in the list of the projects assured and funded, and Lockheed Martin, the only bidder left after the BAE proposal was refused, will show its WCSP prototype later this month at DSEI, where the contract for the upgrade might be signed as well, since the MOD usually seals agreements during the show, and the programme should now be ready to roll.

The WCSP effort has 4 main sections; WFLIP (Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement Programme) to improve turrets and sensors, and add firepower by changing the turret and gun;  WMPS (Warrior Modular Protection System) to add a modular armoring system that takes note of the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan TES armor fittings and prepares the vehicle, PUMA-like, for easy and rapid installation of additional protection when needed; WEEA (Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture) to add a fully integrated set of modern, expandable electronics and communications gear; and ABSV (Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle), which is apparently targeted at developing “turretless” variants of Warrior (mortar? Ambulance? Command posts…?) which would be extremely useful to allow retirement of a lot of FV43- vehicles in the various roles, while expanding commonality within the formations. Status of ABSV is however practically unknown. Despite being very, very interesting, it is hard to say if it is funded and if it will be pursued further.
I certainly would support going this way, but this does not mean the MOD will.

There is also uncertainty on the numbers of vehicles that will be upgraded. Pre-SDSR, of around  788/9 Warrior IFVs received by the British military between 1987 – 1995, WCSP was to upgrade 643 vehicles with WEEA electronics and WMPS modular armoring upgrades. Within that group, 449 vehicles were to get  WFIP program’s new turret and weapon system as well. This, however, was before the reduction in requirement from 9 to 5 Armoured Infantry Battalions. The requirement for the turret change might go down all the way from 449 to as few as 250. 

Project THOR fitted a great 120 mm breech-loaded mortar from BAE Systems in a turret on the Warrior chassis. It would be a fantastic piece for the Mortar sections in the Armoured Infantry Battalions, but even getting turretless Warriors converted to 81 mm mortar carriers would do. The problem is that this might well not happen.
Hopefully, DSEI will provide some more detail of all the changes to the vehicle, and to the programme.
A separate upgrade programme is expected to start at some point (ideally it would be done together with WCSP, but we’ll see) to upgrade all or a part of the 52 FV514 Warrior Mechanized Artillery Observation Vehicles. As part of WCSP, they will receive  WMPS and WEEA, but their suite of sensors and communications systems for the direction of artillery fire and air attacks will have to be upgraded separately. I’ve covered this in the Royal Artillery article in this series.

FRES SV: what is it all about?

FRES SV is a lot more than just the FRES Scout variant. FRES SV was envisaged as the most complex part of FRES (UV Utility Vehicle had to be a walk in the park, and it turned out being a nightmare!) and had to deliver the tracked special role variants within the programme.
While the September equipment report will hopefully contain some updates and clarity about what FRES SV is now envisaged to cover, in 2010 the programme was still planned as a multi-tier effort, which not many seem to have fully understood.

What we are looking at now, as part of the infamous “500 millions for 7 prototypes” contract signed with General Dynamics, is the RECCE Block 1 tier of vehicles. Planned to have a total consistence of 580/600 vehicles, Block 1 includes:

SCOUT variant – numbers for this variant vary from 245 to 270 depending on sources.
Protected Mobility Variant – APC, to replace Fv430 and Spartan (But NOT Bulldog within the Mechanized Infantry battalions: those were/are to be replaced by FRES UV)
Common Base Platform (CBP)

Possibly the most important of all, the CBP is, very generally speaking, the ASCOD SV hull, with its mechanics and Open Electronic Architecture and wide (1.7 m, expandable to 2.1) turret ring. The Common Base Platform must be prepared, trialed and validated as base for all the variants of the FRES SV family.

What these variants are, and how many vehicles are planned by the army is not well known, but a BAE systems FRES SV bid brief, precedent to the contract award to General Dynamics, contained an invaluable graphic showing the rough nature of the FRES SV requirement, its many variants, and the numbers envisaged. 

FRES SV: numbers and variants, in the Blocks planned.
RECCE Block 1 is to be in fact followed by RECCE Block 2, seen at 141 vehicles in total, roughly, which will deliver 3 heavily customized variants developed on the basic Protected Mobility APC vehicle. One is the Joint Fires Vehicle, destined to the Royal Artillery, and meant to replace the Bulldogs and Spartans APC still used to move Fire Support Teams around the battlefield. The requirement is for transport of a 6-men FST, with all their sensors and target designators and necessary C4I under armor. This vehicle is shaped by an HQ DRA requirement list, and will serve alongside updated FV514 Warrior Mechanized Observation Vehicles, used in Tank and Armoured Infantry formations. The FRES Joint Fires will serve in Mechanized Infantry and Formation Recce regiments.
The C2 command post will be a much needed replacement for the ancient Sultan CVR(T) command post, and for a number of FV430 command and communications variants. Last, the Engineer Reconnaissance will be used in RE regiments to move the Field Engineering Teams with their specialized equipment. To have an idea of what a Engineer Reconnaissance vehicle could be like, it might be interesting to look at the relative proposed Boxer 8x8 variant.

RECCE Block 3 is to include Ambulance, Unit Aid Post, Ground Based Surveillance (shown with mast-mounted sensors, could be used in formation RECCE regiments to provide long range covert observation with radar and EO payloads), Force Recce (Overwatch), which is in practice a replacement for the long-retired Striker CVR(T) Swingfire missile launcher vehicle and which would be armed with long-range missiles (perhaps Brimstone DM and/or LMM), a larger C2 rear echelon command and communications post, and even a Stormer- Shielder replacement, a flatbed FRES SV with a remotely-deployed Area/Access Denial System, which will of course include anti-tank mines, but possibly also Anti-Personnel systems (to make up for the ceased use of landmines), non-lethal barriers and other instruments, depending on the outcome (and budget) of the almost-unknown “Project Guardian” for Future Counter Mobility Capability. As such, RECCE Block 3 contains two of the most interesting variants of the whole FRES. 

The scrapped TRACER overwatch vehicle, armed with Brimstone missiles. A combination of Brimstone and cheaper LMM (useful even against helicopters and drones) would be perfect, in my opinion, for FRES Overwatch. Indeed, if FRES Overwatch inherits the merits of the latest-standard Stormer SP HVM, and is made LMM and Starstreak compatible, it could replace the Stormer SP HVM as well, solving a big problem of future (2020 +) planning, and delivering a vehicle useful in any and all kind of deployment, either with air threat present or absent, with enemy armour or without it. Soldiers in Afghanistan now often use Javelin to take out compounds source of enemy fires: LMM would be perfect for the job, and on 8 km of range instead of 2.5.

Maneuver Support seems set to be fulfilled by Terrier (60 on order) and involves a requirement for around 35 Bridgelayers targeted at supporting FRES sized vehicles. An ASCOD Bridgelayer variant is a possibility, and a Terrier variant has been offered as well, but the Army and BAE seem to have identified a Warrior-based solution as the least expensive. Last year, a Warrior bridgelayer was demonstrated to the Army by BAE, and this would be a possible use of some of the retired hulls.

Last, but not least, comes the fabled “Medium Armor” requirement, which was to take the Common Base Platform, and build a medium tank atop it. The introduction of the “Interim Medium Armour” Squadrons in the Tank Regiments appear to suggest that the original plan was to complement the Challenger squadrons within Tank Regiments with this Medium Weight capability. The presence of dedicated Repair and Recovery variants in the Medium Weight requirement seems to suggest that the Medium Armour was also envisaged to be much heavier, evidently.
On a side, it is appreciable, but on another, I’m personally totally against it. It puts both vehicles in competition, and it condemns one of the two to death, since no one is going to get the Treasury to finance “two main battle tanks at once”. The MBT is the Challenger II, and so things must remain, I’m clear on this point. The whole point of the Medium Armor/Direct Fire is also the better deployability compared to Challenger, so we must be careful not to increase the weight too much without thinking of the consequences.

My proposal is to scrap the Medium Armor concept altogether, and aim squarely at a Direct Fire solution instead, destined to be used in direct support to the infantry. This is all the more indispensable following the massive reduction in Challenger IIs, which make it very hard to think that a deploying brigade could manage to maneuver against enemy armor and, simultaneously, use other Challengers in support of urban ops of the Armoured Infantry battalion.

A US Stryker Infantry Company has a section of 3 Mobile Gun System vehicles, and this is the role I want the Direct Fire variant to cover. At similar sizes with the Warrior, a FRES Direct Fire, heavily armoured with modular add-on kit (on the fashion of the German PUMA, so to remain A400 air portable when the kit is removed and airlifted separatedly) would be an excellent support of protection and firepower to the soldiers. Its mobility in the urban environment would also be better than that of Challenger, and the armament could be equivalent, with the adoption of readily available turrets with 120 mm smoothbore guns. The recent introduction of effective HESH ammunitions for smoothbore barrels, in fact, removes the only credible reason left for pursuing rifled barrels, and while changing the gun and ammunitions on the Chally proved to be a nightmare and remains not feasible, it would be suicidal to develop a new, “sole in the world” rifled-gun fitted solution and aim on it for the future.

The Direct Fire variant would come as part of RECCE Block 2 or 3, use the same Repair and Recovery variants, and be assigned directly to the Armoured Infantry Battalions, in Sections of 3 for each Rifle Company, giving the soldiers the firepower they need with an organic, always available and more easily deployed solution. If FRES UV will one day follow and re-equip the mechanized infantry with wheeled 8x8 vehicles, a wheeled Direct Fire variant will also be required, and they will share the same turret. A very mature design, already available on the market, is the Oto Melara HITFACT turret, which can be readily picked up off the shelf, and is already used on the Centauro 8x8 for Oman and Italy, and is perfectly suited for use on the Common Base Platform as well. A new version, financed by the Italian Army, is introducing further improvements, included an increase in the elevation capability of the gun, an useful feature to have in urban warfare. 

Further small sections of “big guns” Direct Fire could be assigned to the Formation RECCE regiments, forming Armoured RECCE Squadrons with 12 vehicles, 8-9 of which could be FRES Scout with the 40 mm, and 4 would be Direct Fire ones, making available heavy, MBT-equivalent firepower without having to use Challenger II for recce by force. The concern is, in fact, that there simply won’t be enough MBTs for such an approach. A possible RECCE Sqn composition could be 3 Troops of 3 Scouts and 1 Direct Fire each (or two Troops of Scouts and a Troop of “big guns”, depending on operational needs and experiences), giving the formation a firepower never before available, particularly if the Scout will also be able to use its under-armor laser designator to call in strikes from Fire Shadow LM loitering above and from Overwatch FRES vehicles in the rear, armed with long-reach missiles. 

A possible future Brigade RECCE Regiment

With 8 vehicles in each Armoured Infantry Battalion, 12 in each Formation RECCE regiment, and 14 in a Medium Tank Sqn in 1RTR to give 16 Air Assault (Air Mobile, better) brigade a credible punch, some 119 vehicles + some training aids would be needed, against “up to 193” (including Repair and Recovery) as from FRES SV brief. There would be a further balancement as I would reduce the need for Scout vehicles from 12 for each RECCE Sqn to 9. This would make it possible to deliver, from 245 or less FRES Scouts, an establishment of 26 Recce Sqns (intended as 8-9 vehicles formations depending on the unit they are assigned to), enough to equip all 5 Formation Recce Regiments (three squadrons of 9 each, plus D Squadron Household Cavalry for 16 AA Brigade) plus the 5 Tank Regiments and the 5 Armoured Infantry regiments (requirement in active fleet 224 vehicles, of these several would be put in CHE as part of the “infamous” WFM approach).  

AS90 replacement by FRES? 
Between 2020 and 2030 it is also planned that the AS90 howitzer will bow out, with a study starting to analyze the options, and the ASCOD base vehicle is a very attractive solution through the DONAR artillery design. This would give unprecedented commonality, increased range and firepower compared to AS90 (DONAR uses the 155/52 gun and systems of the PZH2000 heavy self propelled howitzer, the top class in the category) for a smaller overall weight and crew requirement, giving a more mobile vehicle and requiring less personnel. Around 90 would be needed.  

FRES Scout: a closer look

Later this month, the first Scout prototype should be shown at DSEI, and hopefully it will be an occasion to learn some more about the vehicle, since many characteristics of the Scout remain a mystery, such as the exact configuration of the sensors suite and the use of the rear troop-carrying space and rear door. The Brochure of the ASCOD Scout (a different thing from the FRES Scout, however!) shows a mast-mounted erectable sensor in the turret, and the commander moved out of the turret (where the gunner remains) and sitting at a large computer console in the back. In the brochure, assuming the image is correct, there appears to be either an error or an omission, as a turret with vision blocks can be noticed atop the rear troop carrying compartment, on the left, while the commander console is on the right. Either the drawing misplaced the turret, or it does not show something else inside the vehicle. Whatever the case, the drawing suggests that there is more exploitable space within the rear compartment.  
Unmanned Ground and Air Vehicles have been more or less officially suggested for carriage within the Scout, but as of now, there is uncertainty.

The BAE CV90 FRES Scout prototype had a JANUS panoramic Electro-Optical sensor on top of the turret. The Selex Galileo JANUS is a stabilised platform supporting an optical head unit with InfraRed (IR) and video cameras with provisions for an Eye-Safe Laser Range Finder (ES-LRF) for more demanding applications. 
The JANUS sphere is quite evident atop the CV90 FRES Scout turret prototype, along with the other sights. Question is: had it the mast fitted, beneath?
The sensor sphere can rotate on the whole 360° of Azimuth and 90° in elevation, allowing to follow even fast air contacts. It can come with an extendable mast reaching 5 meters in height, but it is not clear if this was fitted to the CV90. The Italian Army uses the mast-mounted JANUS on its Lince RECCE jeep (the UK’s Panther CLV base vehicle). 

The CV90 FRES Scout offer by BAE was a complete and working vehicle, while GD's offer is, to this day, still a bit of a paper tiger, albeit a promising one.
The FRES Scout has the rear door. It has been suggested that it will carry UAVs and/or UGVs. It is not clear if a requirement for carrying dismounts exists, nor is it known what exactly will fill the rear space.

Of the winning General Dynamics FRES Scout we know that the sights currently contracted will come from THALES UK. The contract was announced early last July. The primary sight is mainly for the use of the vehicles’ commander. It enables the commander to maintain a 360° view of his surroundings has a thermal imager to identify targets and has a Wide Area Search And Detect (WASAD) capability that automatically detects and tracks potential targets from their thermal signature, alerting the crew to their presence. The primary sight also includes provision for an optional Laser Target Designator (LTD) and the Scout SV demonstration phase will mark the first use of a vehicle-mounted, under-armour LTD by the British Army, which hopefully will be part of the final configuration of the in-service vehicle.

The secondary sight is for the gunner and gives him the ability to detect and identify targets at extended ranges and accurately engage targets at the full range of the main armament. It also includes a high-definition colour TV camera for daylight use, as well as a long-range day optical channel.
Both sights are integrated with a Sensor Processor Unit which, combined with the sights’ stabilisation systems, enables the vehicle’s turret to be rapidly traversed onto the target whilst on the move, providing an unsurpassed hunter-killer capability for vehicles in this class. Both sights have fully digital video outputs, in accordance with the UK MoD’s new Vetronics Infrastructure for Video Over Ethernet (VIVOE) standard, facilitating connection into the vehicles’ electronic architecture for onward distribution.

Much as it has not yet been announced, it is highly likely that there will be a further panoramic sight for the scouting, as CV90 had JANUS. If it will be mast-mounted or not is another question.

Lockheed Martin Insys is responsible for the turret, which is the Modular Turret System Lance MTS of Rheinmetall, in the 2-man variant (the PUMA uses the Lance in its unmanned, remotely-operated variant). In June this year, LM demonstrated successful integration of the Lance with the CTA 40 mm gun system, and did the necessary fire trials, five months ahead of schedule. Three different choices of coaxial machine guns are proposed for the Lance, the 5.56-mm H&K MG4, the Rheinmetall MG and the 7.62-mm FNH Mag 58. The Mag 58 will probably be the solution chosen by the UK, unless they fit in specifically the coaxial variant of the GPMG L7, which anyway should be totally possible and easy.  

The Lance MTS in the Remote variant, as fitted on PUMA.
The turret comes with possibility of linking a missile launcher box starboard: a number of the german Puma IFVs will come in AT variant, armed with a twin launch box for the Israeli Spike LR missile, while the British Army, at least for now, does not have a mounted ATGW requirement. The basic protection is Stanag Level 1, but this can be increased to Level 5+, optronics protection being also available on request, as well as roadside bomb protection. FRES Scout is likely to have protection level 4 as standard (as seeked in the Warrior turret upgrade, after all), with modular add-on armor to reach higher levels when necessary.

Rheinmetall is proposing a series of options such 360° situational awareness, explosive and/or smoke grenade launchers, add-on sensors for speeding the sensor-to-shooter cycle, integrated battle management system, augmented reality, etc. Lance has room for a sniper fire detection system or laser radar receiver for added survivability. The turret's modular architecture allows the integration of an embedded training system.
FRES planned to use active protection systems, too, even if at this stage not much is known about the effective plan. For sure, smoke grenade canisters will be present.  
With a combat weight of between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes depending on configuration, the Lance is aimed at vehicles of over 20 tonnes.

The Ascod 2 SV, the FRES SV vehicle, is motorised with an MTU 600 kW 8V engine coupled to a Renk 256B transmission. The transmission is the same of the German PUMA IFV, and can handle a vehicle weight of 45 tons, ensuring such a large growth margin that the Army hopes to never have to replace the suspension type in the whole 30+ years life envisaged for FRES. The engine itself has built-in growth margin to deliver a maximum of 800 kW. Suspension is of the torsion bar and trailing arm type with seven dual rubber-tired road wheels either side, drive sprocket at the front, idler at the rear and three track-return rollers. The upper part os the suspension is protected with armour plates skirts.

At entry in service, FRES SV will weight 34 tons according to current plans, and will have a 4 tons payload capacity for modular armor additions. The design is rated to 42 tons, and could rise to 45 during service life. At 34 tons, the FRES SV will be heavier than the PUMA in standard A protection level (31.45 tons) and comparably if not better protected. Protection should be against 30 mm AP on the front arc and 14.5 mm AP all around, just as PUMA in A protection level. Mine protection is not disclosed, but probably it is in the region of 10 Kg Anti Tank charges.

The Scout is planned to go from 0 to 40 km per hour in less than 13 seconds, have a maximum speed of 70 km/h, and deliver 40 km/h in reverse. It will be able to turn on itself on the whole 360° in less than 11 seconds.

What ASCOD SV, in this configuration, really had over CV90, is built-in growth capability. There’s a massive growth margin available, something invaluable during service, as the Viking (excellent vehicle, but very soon loaded with armor to its limits in Afghanistan) experience proved.

Another vital component of the ASCOD SV is the Core Infrastructure and Distribution System (CIDS) backbone. All electronics are connected to this ring mounted in the Common Base Platform, without needs for extensive vehicle dismantling. This will make obsolescence removal, addition of electronics and kits, and wiring of the specialized variants such as Joint Fires, extremely easier, and much less expensive.

FRES Scout will have a wide 1.7 meters turret race ring, allowing much more space for kit and soldiers, even when wearing body armour, as is the norm now in Afghanistan. The turret ring could be expanded to 2.1 meter to better accommodate the Direct Fire 120 mm turret.

FRES UV: dead or alive?

As recently as late 2010, FRES UV slipped as part of budget troubles, and was moved to the right all the way to a notional ISD of 2022, meaning that the Mechanized Infantry will have to use the Bulldogs for much longer, at least until the vehicle hits its 70 years (!) of life, or adopt an interim solution, such as retention of UORs, mainly Mastiff 2 and 3, and Ridgback. 

FRES UV is still planned to be a 8x8 AFV, but the truth is that we are far from sure of its survival. Despite being specifically mentioned in the SDSR, FRES UV is a suspected casualty of budget negotiations. In September, it is hoped that the promised document outlining the revised “balanced” and “funded” (Liam Fox docet) equipment procurement 10-years plan will shed some clarity on the status of this fundamental piece of the Army’s future.

The requirement is to equip five battalions of Mechanized infantry, one for each MRB.

A future for the Warthog, a future for 1RTR

Regardless of its success in Afghanistan, Warthog is, to this date, not at all sure of having a place in the post-Afghanistan army. At the same time, 1RTR is in a dangerous position following the loss of the CBRN role to the RAF Regiment. What follows, is my very personal proposal for the future of both platforms, and for giving 16 AA Brigade a bit of a credible, deployable armoured punch. It is purely speculative a proposal.

In Afghanistan, the Warthogs are operated by re-trained Challenger II crews from the tank regiments. Normally, a squadron of Tankies provides the core of the “Warthog Group”, a formation of AFVs available to support, when and where necessary, the infantry by providing protected mobility and firepower. This arrangement, which proves popular, puts Armour as a brigade asset, to be used by who needs it at the moment in time.
It is not a new thing. It follows the model established by the Royal Marines Armour Support Group, a brigade asset of 3rd Commando Brigade, which formed the very first core of the “Viking Group” (then expanded with more vehicles and Tankies from the army re-trained by RM instructors) in Afghanistan. In fact, the Viking was so successful with 3 Cdo Bde on Op Herrick 5 that the incoming forces on Op Herrick 6 requested that the Vikings stay on, creating a problem as the Army has no Viking trained drivers. The solution was the RMASG, an expanded unit that could continue to operate the Viking for future roulements, this led to the drivers of the RMASG having one of the highest operational tempos in the forces, until they have been recently relieved by the Army Warthogs.

RMASG is technically under the overall control of 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines and is the armoured element of 3 Commando Brigade equipped with the Viking armoured vehicle. It supplies armor support to the Commandos, without being tied, Warrior-like, within a battalion structure pre-determined.

This approach, I believe, would be perfect to finally give 16 AA Brigade a share of deployable, air mobile armour, indispensable for the brigade to hope to have a serious impact and capability in most, if not all, scenarios. Some 115 Warthogs have been acquired, in APC, Command and Recovery variants, and they are, together with the Viking, the most capable and the most realistically air deployable armoured vehicles available to the forces.

At this point, you have probably imagined that my proposal is to bring Warthog into the core budget, and use the force of 1 Royal Tank Regiment to give 16 AA Brigade its own Armour Support Group.

16 Air Assault Brigade, shown here with all its parts, including my own proposed modifications (21 Gibraltar AD battery migrated to 12 Regiment, and today's 1RTR "Warthog Group" addition). In this configuration, note, i've essentially brought 16 AA on a "Commandos-style" structure, following the model of 3rd Commando Brigade, which has its own Armour, AD troop, and the Commando Helicopter Force in support. The concept of "Combat Aviation Brigade" i will explain in the next post of the series, along with my proposed MRB generation system and structure.  

 A Sqn, 1 Royal Tank Regiment would retain its Challenger IIs to continue working in Training, Force Development, Demonstrations and Experimentation.
The two Sqns “freed” by Fuchs CBRN role would take on the Warthogs, forming a permanent Warthog group, with each squadron having APCs, Command Vehicles and Recovery vehicles in the LAD section. These two squadrons would be available to deploy, by airlift, when necessary, rapid re-deployments of 16 AA Brigade, supplying some firepower and high mobile protected maneuver capability. A fourth Sqn would then be established, with 12 FRES Direct Fire, to provide the Brigade with its own “tank squadron”, for the most complex jobs.
4 Warthogs can be carried in a C17, while FRES SV will essentially have an air mobility comparable to that of the German PUMA: to move 3 FRES SV at top protection level, it will take at least 4 A400 Atlas cargo planes, three of which will carry the vehicles, and one the basic support personnel, kit, and the modular Theatre Entry Standard additional armour, to install after landing.
It is, in fact, unthinkable to have an immediate need for the full protection level as soon as the vehicle drives out of the plane: that would mean that the airstrip would be under heavy enemy fire, and it would make landing impossible to start with! 

Light Armour for the Light Infantry

This is certainly the most complex requirement, for a lot of different reasons. The vehicles for the Light Role Battalions must remain light, as easily transportable as possible, and cheap too. At the same time, the experience of the modern war, with the battlefield encompassing the whole region, with no “safe” rear echelons, has made the unprotected Land Rover unsuitable to any real warzone use outside of the bases’ perimeters. The MOD itself has been forced to recognize this, by introducing the need for kinetic and mine blast protection in the Operational Utility Vehicle System programme (which should be heard of again next year, unless it is further delayed due to the absence of a working budget), in practice the quest for a replacement for Land Rovers, RB44 and Pinzgauers, involving a “common base chassis with 1 and 2 tons payload variants”. Initially, these vehicles were going to be soft skinned, but now a NATO STANAG 2A protection level is required. This is, by all accounts, pretty mild: we are talking of resistance to the 7.62 x 39 AP from 30 meters (good to resist to AK47) and protection against 6 kg AT mine explosive mass going off under any of the wheels.

Let me express one concept, though: the experience of Afghanistan proves that the Light Role Infantry battalion is not really suited to today’s needs. There are foot patrols, of course (and they are those exposed to the worst dangers, and those which pay the bloody toll most of the time), but protected mobility (either by helicopter moves, or Mastiffs driven by Tankies carrying soldiers around) has proven indispensable.
My conclusion is that the two Light Role Infantry Battalions within each Multi Role Brigade are at least one too much. Reality is that at least one of the two should become a Mechanized Infantry Battalion, on FRES UV or whatever vehicle is chosen. We are allowing budget issues, once more, to warp reality, and we are ignoring clear evidences.

The remaining Light Role infantry within the Brigade would be mainly move by helicopter to carry out vertical maneuvering, and use light but well protected vehicles such as Foxhound. And here comes the problem: Foxhound is not enough, in my vision, and I think in those of most people. We need a light but resistant and agile vehicle, capable to move a whole Section, so we talk of something capable to carry at least 8 dismounts. We should not bother with C130 air mobility since all C130s will be retired by the RAF by 2020, but ideally we’d want an A400 Atlas to be able to carry a couple. And ideally, we’d want it to offer a Level 4 Kinetic and Blast protection to the men inside.

Indicatively, weight should not be higher than 16 to 18 tons, while length should be of around 8 meters at most, due to the A400 constraints (17.71 meters long cargo bay [cargo ramp excluded] and 37 tons maximum payload). Width is not an issue for A400 (4 meters width of the cargo bay), but we must ensure to be able to fit two, side to side, within the cargo bay of C17, (width 5.49). In terms of height, the constraint comes from the A400, having the height of 3.85 meters in the cargo bay, against 3.96 in the lowest point of the C17’s bay.
At 18 tons, the C17 would accommodate 4, and the A400 a pair. I don’t think we can do better than so. It is not terribly expensive either, since 157 were acquired for 94 million pounds. Not cheap, but very competitive a price, no doubt.

One possible solution is already in service, and is the Cougar 4x4, Ridgback for the British Army. Less than 6 meters long, 8 dismounts, excellent protection (does it reach Level 4, though?), and already bought in 157 units. Weight is south of 18 tons, even if at maximum protection level we get real close.
The BAE RG-33L (6x6) is a bit too long (8.5 meters) and would already be too big, arguably.
The awesome RG-35 would be another candidate, but I don’t deem it adequate as the 6x6 (33 tons and 15 dismounts!) is more suited to cover the FRES UV requirement (eventually) in the Mechanized Infantry than go to the light role infantry, and even the 4x4 variant is too big and heavy (2.6 meters wide, in particular, and 21 tons).

The british Ranger vehicle meets and exceed STANAG Level 4 protection, in Kinetic and Blast sector in particular, qualifying for Blast Resistance 4b+, meaning over 10 kg explosive mass resistance. With ERA armor, it is safe from RPG7 as well. However it is quite big (the 6x6 is 7.2 meters long and 2.5 meters wide, and does carry only 6 dismounts and 2 crew). The 6x6 carries arguably too few dismounts, the 8x8 carries 10 + 2, but weights 27 tons and is 8.55 meters long and 2.5 wide. It probably offers the best protection and mobility, but again, it is closer to FRES UV requirements than to what we’d ideally want for the Light Role infantry.

In the end, the Cougar 4x4/Ridgback might still be the solution. The Iveco Lince Light Multirole Vehicle (Panther for the British army) reaches STANAG Level 3 protection at 6.5 tons (expandable to Level 4), and in its Utility variant is in use by the Italian Light Infantry, with a target of buying over 4000 such vehicles. It carries 1 + 4 (1 + 3 in the UK’s Panther due to fitting of RWS, Bowman and Command kit, making it notoriously a tight and uncomfortable fit for dismounts). But for this part of the requirement, notoriously, the UK has Foxhound, which promises to be a step forwards. For carrying a whole section, Italy’s Light Infantry uses the Puma 6x6 (a 4x4 variant exists, but only carries 6 dismounts), a small, Chinook-transportable (the 4x4 fits inside the cargo bay!) AFV. However, its protection level is certainly much lower than STANAG Level 4, in particular against mine blasts.       

Structure of an Italian Light Infantry Coy, with the Puma and Lince LMV.
It is not an easily solved problem.
Foxhound patrol is being acquired in 200 units, 35 of which will be used for training. At least another tranche is envisaged, even if still not certain/in sight.
It will weight around 7.5 tons, will be more than 5 meters long, and at least 2.1 meters wide, carrying 2 + 4 dismounts. Its Utility load-carrying and Special Forces/Fire support variant provide excellent solutions (along with Jackal and Coyote, available in numbers) for SF usage and for equipping RECCE light Sqns and Maneuver Support Companies in the Light Role Infantry.

Ideally, we’d need a 6x6 Foxhound, long 8 meters, weighting maximum 18 tons, and carrying a Section. That would be an excellent solution to the Light Role problem, and it would offer both a "patrol" vehicle for 4 dismounts, and a more conventional wheeled APC for a section for the heavier jobs, on the same mechanics and general design.
And anyway, there would still be the budget issue to tackle, in order for it to work.

The FRES of the past

Lastly, allow me to show you two bits of a past that could have been but wasn't: the FRES of the 80s', a memory of a time when the AFV industry of the UK was still world leading.

Yes, it is the Warrior. And yes, there's a MLRS carrying variant proposed, and an AA gun variant, and even a Rapier SAML variant well visible.
A FRES that was proposed and could have been, but wasn't.



  1. Another excellent post. A couple of points.

    1) The MICV programme was originally planned to acquire 1,900 vehicles, so it is possible that the variants you identified above were included in the number. However, by the time procurement ooh place the order was down to 1,053- which shrank further in the 90s

    2) ASCOD-SV "rear-space": There really is no such thing as the "rear space", simply a large area that stretches from the rear of the engine/transmission bay to the rear of the vehicle with which one can do whoever one likes. In all probability there will be very little space left inside the vehicle by the time it has entered production just due to internal rearrangements.

    3) I agree entirely with your CV90 analysis, the more I look at their offer the more I can see why they lost, GD just seemed to better grasp the CBP concept and offered what looks like a better thought out vehicle.

  2. Hi Gabriele,

    Another great post.

    I have long felt the infantry could do with more fire support. So I agree with you on giving the infantry a section of fire support vehicles per company.
    But it all depends on finding the money. I hope we will find out more soon!


  3. Indeed, i known that MICV was scaled back several times. A real pity, and economically, a measure that did not pay at all.
    Had the army been given a coherent fleet on Warrior mechanics, there would not be a need for FRES SV, but just a bigger upgrade programme for Warrior. There would also be a lot more commonality in the ranks.

    Glad you liked the post, though. I hope the next ones will be good too.


    I definitely like the idea of embedding such heavy fire support and armour protection in Infantry battalions.

    FRES Direct Fire is an option, with the 120/45 smoothbore.
    105 mm rifled and smaller guns, i would personally not consider, unless it is the 76 mm DRACO, because... that one is really phenomenal. C-RAM, anti-air, howitzer out to 22 km, direct fire to 13, good anti-armour at 3 km. It is an everything-doing piece!

    Another option is the AMOS mortar/gun turret. Direct fire is only out to 1800 meters at most, probably, but this would be enough in urban scenarios.
    Less so out on the open.
    But this solution would also replace the Mortar platoon in the Maneuver Support Company, and fill two roles for a single bill, so it is attractive in its own right.

    Ideally, we'd get a modern 120 mm mortar carrier in the Mortar platoon AND the Direct Fire platform.
    But of course costs are to be considered.

    I have hopes that this month will bring around quite a bit of answers, with the FRES Scout prototype and the Lockheed Warrior CSP prototype shown at DSEI and with the fabled 10-years equipment plan document promised.

    We will see! For now thank you for following... i hope the next post will also be interesting.

  4. Hi Gabby,

    Reading with great interest; haven't even finished yet.

    There might be a precursor of the artillery command vehicle upgrades out there: for this picture the original text states that the turret is British made, even though the comms sets in the back are domestically produced (and the mechanics for moving it all around are from an old BMP).
    - can you connect it with any of the new models being worked on?


  5. Interesting image, but i don't think there are real links to the Warrior FV514 upgrade.

  6. Hi Gabriele

    Great stuff as usual. What I find interesting is our (British) fixation with this "anti-armour over watch" crap - just fit the recce vehicle, and / or the MICV with a turret / RWS fitted box launchers for ATGW (as per Bradley, Puma, BMP's etc.)

    If we go this route your saving the cost of extra vehicles, making your fleet more flexible, and in the case of the direct fire support vehicle you take away the need for it to have an ant-armour role (i.e. you dont need a 120mm).

    However, if you do want some form of Anti-armour overwatch, and direct fire support, and updated mortars for indirect fire support, you can achieve them all with one system - the 120mm mortar:

    1. Standard indirect fire support role - but with PGM if required
    2. direct fire support - out to 1800mm with "cheap" mortar rounds
    3. Anti-armour and long range direct fire support, out to 8km with "less cheap" LAHAT gun-launched laser guided ATGW
    4. Indirect anti-armour, with STIRX IR guided HEAT mortar round

    e il gioco è fatto, problemi risolti....... :-)


  7. LOL - not sure how 1,800 meters became 1800 millimetres....

  8. Hey Jed, it is great to hear from you and see you on here. I'm glad you enjoyed this article.

    As to your points, i actually think the Overwatch vehicle would be greatly useful, and armed with a combination of Brimstone and LMM/Starstreak it would have lots of uses.
    I see your point about ATGW on turrets, though, but putting missiles on all Scouts would be unfeasible due to cost and complexity spread over the whole force.

    You'd have to do it in the style of other european armies: in the case of Italy, give each Company of mechanized Infantry (or Squadron in a RECCE formation) a couple of additional vehicles with the ATGW launcher and the Infantry space filled with traditional dismounted ATGW teams.

    An Italian Medium Mechanized Infantry Coy with the Freccia has two Freccia AT in that fashion (two turret-mounted Spike missiles plus 2 dismounted Spike teams in the back) in the Maneuver Support Platoon, which is not even present in UK coys, AND the traditional ATGW section in the Maneuver Support Company at Battalion/regiment level.

    To do things well, you'd still end up buying more vehicles, even if still potentially achieving savings.

    At that point, i guess it would be possible to bin the Direct Fire variant and buy a FRES SV AMOS instead, to give in 3 examples to each infantry coy, and to the Mortar Platoon in the MSC at Regimental level.

    So that would make the Battalion on:

    3 Rifle Coys on 3 Rifle Platoons and 1 Maneuver Support Platoon (with 3 ATGW vehicles and 3 AMOS vehicles)

    1 Maneuver Support Coy in the usual fashion but with AMOS vehicles in the Mortar platoon.

    What are your thoughts about the DRACO, though?
    It would require adding the 76 mm ammunition, but then it gives undirect, guided and/or "dumb" fire to 22 kmn, direct to as many as 15, AT to 3 km, anti-aircraft to 4/5 km and C-RAM effect as well. 3 of those in Maneuver Support Platoons and we solve Direct Fire, C-RAM and SHORAD issues at once, and we also gain organic artillery as a side effect...

    The commonality issue could be "mitigated" by using the naval 76 mm Strales on MHPC as medium gun/CIWS.

    Fantasy, perhaps, but does it not impress you?


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