DefenseNews reports that the FRES SV fielding, albeit confirmed in the "balanced" MOD budget, might be delayed to 2020, compared to the dates so far hypothized (from a best case 2015 to a more realistic 2017). Numbers of vehicles to be procured (between 400 and 589) might also be reduced, depending on what kind of Army structure is announced next month (not before Parliament returns from recess, so it'll be 12 June at the earliest).
The article also confirms that the plan to fit Cooperative Engagement Capability system to the Type 45 is dead, and actually adds that CEC has been removed from the list of systems to be fitted to the Type 26 as well. This is a very nasty blow to take: the air defence capability of the vessels would have been massively enhanced by fitting the CEC.
However, this relatively small-ticket program could return at some point in the future if the Royal Navy will feel it is truly needed.
The real question that emerges is about how many other "small" programs have been silently killed off or delayed: i'm thinking about MHPC, which is particularly crucial to the future of the Navy, but also about the Fast Landing Craft and the Force Protection Craft programs, for example.
The only "good news" in the article is that the MOD is continuing to plan for the Challenger II Capability Sustainment Programme (entry in service around 2018, so it should start not later than 2016) and for an "utility vehicle", presumably FRES UV, for entry in service in 2022, with assesment phase to begin likely in 2016.
In 2001, when the solution to the current FRES UV problem was the MRAV Boxer used by the Germans today in Afghanistan, the UV requirement included a baseline 8x8 vehicle with mission modules. One had to be the APC (2 crew, 10 soldiers, 48 hours of supplies), then there were to be an Ambulance/Casualty Evacuation module, and a Medical Treatment module.
The requirement was completed by the Anti-Tank Platoon Vehicle, a modified APC module giving mobility to two Javelin teams (2 missile launchers, 6 men) and carrying 16 missiles.
Today's requirements are unlikely to be different in these general lines.
Over the next 10 years, these 3 programs, of which the Challenger CSP is the smallest and cheapest (particularly if even less tanks are retained in the new army structure...) have to squeeze into a 5.5 billion budget. It is obvious that some real challenges remain, since the FRES SV demonstration, testing and long-lead orders pre-production contract were expected to cost up to 1.4 billion in total, as reported by the NAO in 2011. And that's for FRES SV Block 1: a Block 2 is needed and envisioned, to deliver ambulances, command posts, engineer recce vehicles and Fire Support Teams carriers (replacement for Samaritan, Sultan and Spartan/Bulldog vehicles currently in use. NOTE: the Fire Support Team vehicle is NOT a firing platform. The Fire Support Team is a tactical team of 6 men of the Royal Artillery field regiments. Each team can direct air attacks, mortar and artillery fire. The FRES SV FSTV is meant to provide them with under-armour mobility and under-armour target designation capability).
But challenges or not, one has to wonder if it makes any kind of sense to conclude testing and development of the FRES SV Block 1 vehicles by 2013, then freeze the program instead of going into production, and jumping to FRES UV assesment instead, or perhaps continuing development to prepare for production the ambulance, command post and engineer recce variants of the SV.
Can't the Army start one armor program and complete it, for once? FRES UV was prioritary, by 2008 it had been trialed, the preferred bidder selected, then all was frozen and FRES SV was prioritized. Now it looks like we'll see the SV frozen, and the UV brought back into focus... holy hell, make up your goddamn minds! In a decade, save for UORs and specialized vehicles such as Titan and Trojan, all what over a billion pounds of armor budget expended has only bought the army trials, demonstrations, selections of preferred bidders that went nowhere, delays, hopes, hesitations, cancellations, and 7 FRES SV prototypes.
Now FRES SV is delivering, is ahead of schedule, is working, is confirmed as "vital", and yet you are thinking abount messing up the schedule. Again.
Are you f*****g kidding me...?