The Warrior upgrade is going to happen, and it is presented as a "1 billion" investment, which will safeguard some 600 jobs in the UK.
The winning team is (no surprise) Lockheed Martin, which is also the only bidder left after BAE was turned down months ago. Lockheed leads a team which includes: Ultra Electronics; the Defence Support Group; SCISYS (Electronic architecture); Rheinmetall Defence (suppliers of the FRES Scout turret, they will rework the Warrior turret and change it radically as part of WCSP. BAE had offered a whole new turret along with wider modifications to the hull, which probably would have delivered better overall protection, but at greater cost); Curtiss Wright (they supply the turret-drive servo system to the FRES Scout turret. Their role with Warrior is likely to be the same); Thales UK (optics and Battlegroup Thermal Imaging system); Moog; Meggitt; CTA International (supplying the 40 mm CTA gun); Westwire; TKE; MTL and Caterpillar UK.
The turret will feature appliquè armor for added protection, new, larger hatches for crew wearing personal body armour, electronics (with MOD mandating an as-high as possible commonality with the Scout systems) and new mine-blast protected seats. The driver will also get a mine-proof seat.
PR Newswire reports, interestingly:
The Ministry of Defence has selected Lockheed Martin UK to lead a 642 million pounds ($1 billion) contract as part of the major 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) upgrade of the British Army's Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle.
The remaining 358 millions, according to their article, seem set to finance a different contract, part of the wider WCSP programme, while other interpretations see the remaining money as that going to the other contractors in the team. Hopefully, the first hypothesis is the right one. In that case, in fact, it could regard the Battlefield Armoured Support Vehicle programme, which is (or potentially, was) about modifying "up to 300" (in 2005, of course this number is nowhere near valid now) of the over 780 original Warriors for support roles. In its early hours, BASV included an APC variant, a Command variant and an Ambulance variant.
With the APC now theorically set to be FRES Protected Mobility (in good part because reworked Warriors would not suffice, and new vehicles would have to be acquired anyway on top of them, biting into the sense of the maneuver), and with FRES SV Command Posts and Ambulances planned for the future, the ABSV might change direction of travel: in particular a Warrior bridgelayer/engineer support variant is around since last year, was shown at DSEI this year, and fits perfectly the role once planned for the FRES Maneuver Support vehicle, which could be acquired in some 35 units.
One other requirement that exists, but never seems to gain the spotlight is that of Mortar Carrier. There's no "FRES SV mortar" planned, so a solution to replace the FV430 Mortar carrier before it is 70 years old would definitely be welcome.
At least, the ABSV hypothesis is my hope, since WCSP was expected to cost one billion when 640+ vehicles were to be upgraded and 449 of those were to be "fighting" vehicles, getting the new turret and gun, for an army with 8 Armoured Infantry Battalions plus a Training formation.
Since now we can expect at most between 250 and 340 Warriors to get new turrets, for a total of five battalions plus training formation, and total number of upgraded vehicles has gone down as well, one would hope that costs went down too, and that the same amount of money now covers both paths.
But the MOD announcement, sadly, does not tell a single useful thing, apart perhaps from an interesting "beyond 2040" as new OSD, when, years ago, the upgrade was meant to stretch the service life only out to 2035. But this means little to nothing anyway. After all, back then it was envisaged that, come 2011, the upgraded Warrior would have been in service...!
The real questions, that i still wait to see answered, are:
- How many vehicles get the upgrade
- How the new modular armour kit is designed and what it offers
- What about the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle, which in 2005 became part of the Warrior upgrade? Is it gone? Is it happening? What kind of "support" vehicles are coming out from the otherwise wasted Warrior hulls? Can we get a Mortar Carrier for the Armoured Battalions, PLEASE? What about the Warrior Bridgelayer/engineer platform? How does the bridgelayer variant (eventually) fits into FRES? And so along...
- What kind of provvision has been made to try and synchronize the FV514 Artillery Observation vehicle upgrade (which the RA is desperately trying to obtain funding for) with the WCSP, so that the RA Warriors enter the factory only once, and get their WCSP vehicle electronic and the separately procured Fire Support software and hardware in the same main rework period, to try and minimize costs, unavailabilities and possibility for software troubles?
It wouldn't be wise to soon have to rip the software and electronics apart once more to get the Fire direction kit in place, and risk a "Chinook MK3 fuckup repeat".
- What about engine power, vehicle weight, and all related (possible) mobility issues?
The WCSP contract announcement is something i've long waited and hoped for. But seriously. I hoped in something more substantial and useful to be said. In this format, the announcement is pretty useless.
I'll be ready to analyze all details, as soon as they finally (eventually) come out. For now, cheers. A little but fundamental step forwards is moved.
This might also signal that the 10-years procurement plan document, originally planned for September, is getting closer to release date as well, since Warrior CSP and FRES SV were reportedly the biggest issues left to fix and fit within the budget.
Who lives, sees.
UPDATE - 26 October
According to DefenseNews, the contract with Lockheed Martin will be signed by the end of this month. Lockheed however says that the programme has been quite massively reduced in numbers: from over 640, now it is expected that only around 380 vehicles will be upgraded, and not all of these will be the Fighting variant, with the new turret and gun. The total number of re-turreted vehicles is probably going to be insufficient to cover even the 6 Battalions requirement, but this is being justified on the grounds of the reduced deployment objectives.
Peacetime strenght of the battalions is always partial, with good part of the vehicles in storage. This will also be the destiny of the Warrior.
Besides, apparently the full production of upgraded vehicles is not due until 2018, with 2020 as initial in-service date. Trials should begin in 2013. LM has already validated and test-fired the CTA40 mm installation for their proposal.
The new dates are even worse than what the NAO had guessed, talking in its recent report about armor of 2017 as the new likely date. The delay is likely due to the need for the Army of securing funding for FRES SV, the other top-priority on its list, which is (in theory) going to start delivering in 2015.
The delay means that the programme moves out of the most critical Planning Rounds (2012 and 2013 on top of all) and into the period of 1% real term uplift in the Defence Budget.
However, we have to hope that the Army is doing its calculations well: there's a stated plan for re-opening competition for FRES UV in 2018, aiming for a 2022 ISD. "Around the middle of the decade" it is also planned of taking the first decisions about the Challenger Capability Sustainment Programme, which is going to be a necessity to keep it going effectively as long as the Warrior, or even more.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence
(1) what plans he has to upgrade the Challenger weapons system;
(2) what assessment he has made of the future of the Challenger weapons system.
AnswerPeter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)
The Challenger 2 main battle tank provides the Army’s principal organic precision direct fire capability. The strategic defence and security review set out an enduring requirement for this capability in the future.
The Challenger 2 capability sustainment programme is currently in the concept phase. We expect to take a decision on the assessment phase around the middle of the decade.
Next year, the Operational Utility Vehicle System is also expected to restart, and the Army Air Corps maximum priority in the next few years is to add its own Apache helicopters to the tail of US ones going under the Block III upgrade, to life-extend the system out to, again, 2040.
It is evident that the Army has several high-priority, big-ticket needs that will have to be fit into a limited, already crammed budget literally with blows of hammer.
The production run of Warrior originally delivered:
- 489 FV510 Infantry Section Vehicle (105 of which are platforms for the mobility of ATGW teams, once with Milan, now with Javelin)
- 84 FV511 Infantry Command Vehicles
- 105 FV512 Mechanized Combat Repair Vehicles
- 39 FV513 Mechanized Recovery Vehicle (Repair)
- 52 FV514 Mechanized Artillery Observation Vehicles for the RA
- 19 FV515 Battery Command Vehicles for the RA
It appears that 380 vehicles are to be upgraded, comprising a mix of infantry section support, command and control, repair and recovery and artillery observation vehicles.
A standard armoured infantry battalion of the British Army can be expected to use some 63 Warriors:
- Around 47 FV510 Infantry Section Vehicles (including those kitted for ATGW transport role)
- 9 Infantry Command Vehicles
- 4 FV513
- 3 FV512
That means 56 "gun" vehicles per battalion, for a total of 336 for six battalions. The number of "gun" vehicles re-turreted and upgraded is almost certainly going to be quite lower than this meaning that never will the six remaining battalions ever be all at full strength again.
LM and the UK Mod are trying to secure synergies and perhaps some kind of collaboration on the wider Warrior recap, since Kuwait is also looking to release a requirement for the upgrade of all of its 250 Desert Warrior vehicles.
The idea is not at all new, and is being pursued from some time. Despite the two upgrades being quite different, there is scope for efficiency by bringing the two programmes together, since common areas could be found within the chassis, turret and electronic architecture.
Forces News offers an interesting video regarding Warrior upgrade, with some interesting new LM images and views of the prototype: here.