Saturday, May 26, 2012

CEC dead, FRES SV delayed?

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). 

FRES as it was. Now Block 1 is more likely to number around 400 vehicles, and not nearly 600. Block 2 seems to have been expanded to include the Ambulance (and Medical Treatment?) variants, once planned for Block 3. Block 3 is unheard of, and the shifting of the Ambulance variant to Block 2 might be an unofficial death sentence for Block 3. This was to include a missile overwatch vehicle to replace Striker, a CounterMobility vehicle to replace Shielder, an higher-echelon command post and possibly a wide-area ground surveillance vehicle. Confirmed as DEAD are the Medium Armour section, and ipso-facto the Maneuver Support section as well, even though the Army apparently still hopes to procure medium bridgelayers (Warrior-based as shown at DSEI , or REBS bridges on tactical trucks, possibly).

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...?
 

12 comments:

  1. Gabriele

    "Now it looks like we'll see the SV frozen, and the UV brought back into focus... holy hell, make up your goddamn minds!"

    Like you I am not only astounded by this news but deeply angered by it. Surely the Government and the MOD must become a laughing stock throughout the world, if this report proves to be true . How many times has the FRES programme been altered now? I've lost count. I shall have more to say on this matter when I've calmed down a bit and when I find the time. Rather busy right now.

    In the meantime can you tell me whether the Challenger CSP will inclue an upgrade to another 120 mm gun (smoothbore), a change promised for so long.

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  2. Gabriele

    Am still seething over this news. DefenseNews is usually a fairly accurate reporter of information and this report will no doubt be correct in essence.

    One or two points that strike me immediately. One is the question of whether the CVR)T) family will survive until 2020. They are surely on their last legs now. Perhaps it will mean more purchases of the Scimitar2 and associated vehicles from BAE?

    I really was hoping for some of the vehicles in Block 3, particularly the missile overwatch vehicle to replace Striker (I was hoping that the Exactor (NLOS Spike) might be fitted to FRES SV to fill this role) and a Counter Mobility vehicle to replace Shielder. The Medium Armour Fire Support vehicle would have been extremely useful too.

    Really, though, all this is beyond belief!

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    1. I'm hoping for this to be a budget option, not a decision. Really, imposing a delay on production and messing around some more would be absurd. Once the new structure of the Army is decided and we have an idea of the numbers needed, the programme must progress and stick to those numbers.
      What the hell!

      As to the Challenger CSP, i really don't know. My feeling is that the gun is likely to stay, with a new ammunition being designed for it. The reason being that, according to what i've heard, the change of the gun and ammunition to smoothbore would pretty much require a new turret, since all current ammunition storage spaces would be useless: single-piece ammo won't fit. The cost of the changes risks being dementially high.

      As to CVR(T) my guess is that, if there is a delay, the vehicles are retained as they are. Old or not.
      Delaying FRES SV while spending money on new CVR(T)2 would be twice as stupid.

      On Block 3, we sure do agree. But i guess we'll have to wait and see. And make do with what's available in the meantime. SPIKE NLOS could still be adopted, mounted on a cheaper, simpler vehicle: the Israelis have mounted a system on a Sandcat 4x4 armored jeep, and it is likely that a Foxhound variant could be developed, if ever.

      As to the Future Mobility Enhancement / Counter Mobility systems, they are covered by a separate program, of which practically nothing is known.
      Again, the systems could come online one day, on cheaper platforms, such as MAN flatbed trucks. Or even on the FRES SV Common Base Platform, why not: it should not be complex to mate the counter mobility payload to the CBP once both are validated.

      I just don't think there will be a RECCE Block 3 vehicle buy as once envisaged.

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  3. Gabriele

    Thanks for the prompt reply. I've calmed down bit now but am still angry. As you say:

    "Can't the Army start one armor program and complete it, for once? FRES UV was priority, 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!" Madness, isn't it?

    With your usual common sense you have suggested that all this might be a budget option and not a decision. I sincerely hope so.

    Yes, I had thought about options such as putting counter mobility systems on to trucks, just as the old Ranger mine projector was put on to Stalwart. Would be cheaper, as you say.

    Thanks for putting things rather more into perspective.

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    1. My pleasure.

      I'm trying to see the good things and the hopes, more than the bad things. It makes, after all, me angry just as it does you angry.
      And maybe more, indeed.

      Delete
  4. CEC might have been dropped due to the price or due to problems involved in integrating it into the RN systems. It seems that it needs to be deeply integrated into the radars/combat systems. The USN have reportedly been trying to make it have a more open architecture and easier to integrate, but maybe this isn't going very well?

    The main reason for going with CEC seems to be interoperability with the USN. But if we accept that the RN can't afford or adapt CEC then there are other options that would still bring CEC type features to a RN task group, that from the available public data should be cheaper.

    The Tactical Component Network is one such solution, that at one time was suggested as a option for a next generation CEC. And from reports the USN have been testing it on some deployed ships. It is also used by the US Missile defense agency. And seems to be a mostly a software based soultion that uses drivers to integrate with the existing ships systems.

    There is also the UK's Land Environment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP). Which while there isn't mush public data on it. It would need CEC like features if its going to be used to integrate the land version of Future Local Anti-Air Defence System and the various deployed radars via a radar agnostic innterface. So maybe that could be adapted by the navy.

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  5. Gabriele

    Have finally found some time to add another point to the discussion.

    I wrote previously: "One is the question of whether the CVR)T) family will survive until 2020. They are surely on their last legs now. Perhaps it will mean more purchases of the Scimitar 2 and associated vehicles from BAE?"

    I take the point in your reply: "Delaying FRES SV while spending money on new CVR(T)2 would be twice as stupid." I suppose I was thinking of an article on the CVR(T) family that I read in a military magazine, in which the author (I think he is the editor of Jane's Logistics , so should know his stuff) said that BAE officials were confident of selling more of the Scimitar 2 family to the British Army.

    It seems rather fanciful perhaps but I was wondering whether the evolving plan is to use the Scimitar 2 variants to update the CVR(T) family and ultimately to quietly ease out the FRES SV plans. An alternative would be to aim the new BAE CV 21 17-tonne reconnassance vehicle at the British Army requirement (although a BAE official has apparently denied this idea, saying that the vehicle is essentially for export markets).

    Like you I think it would be stupid plan (the FRES SV plans are so far advanced) but nothing would surprise me in the drive to save money!

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    1. Problem is that it is kind of questionable if there are any real savings to start with.

      The CV21 is not at all more mature than FRES SV is. Realistically, it is less mature. So it is not much of an option for the moment: we do not really know what it would cost.

      And the CVR(T)2... even costing less, what does it provide for the long term?
      I don't think it can drag on forever. It is an improvement on CVR(T), but it still does not meet long-term requirements.

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  6. Agree with all of the points in your reply. Thanks very much.
    Must now get down to reading your article on the Australian Army's reorganization.

    Incidentally, is there any indication of how successful or otherwise the Australian changes are proving? No, sorry. Daft question! I suppose it is very early days yet.

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    1. It's still a bit early to judge their success. Besides, their involvement in Afghanistan is about to end, during the next year, so we might not have the proof of war to validate their new force structure.
      I think it's pretty sound, but of course, this is not saying much.

      They are having problems with their own defence budget, though. That sure is not helping.

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  7. Gabriele

    Could this option / production delay / whatever it is possibly be driven by the A'stan draw down plans? ie "Let's see what we can actually manage to bring back from Afghanistan, and what state it is in when it arrives back in the UK, and then we'll make a decision on how many and when we need FRES?"

    I know it's not long term thinking, but who in the world is thinking long term right now given the financial crisis.

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    1. Not really, because what comes back from Afghanistan could, at most, fit the role of FRES UV (i'm thinking mainly to Ridgback and Mastiff), as an army officer has said to the defence committee [he said that Mastiff is a 70% solution, due to its mobility being far inferior to what the Army hopes to achieve, and other defects, but that's the role that Afghan stuff can fill] but not that of FRES SV, particularly the Scout.

      There is nothing in Stan' comparable to the Scout, nothing that would be adequate for the reccce-by-force role.
      While the third squadron of the Recce regiments of the future is already expected to use an "UOR to core" 4x4 vehicle coming back from Afghanistan that should be the Jackal.

      So, no. For what has been said this far, i don't think it can be read in this way.

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