Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Equipment Plan and major projects report 2014

The new report by the NAO has been published, and reports about the shifting of some large sums of money within the 10 year plan. The spending profile 2014 - 2024 has shrunk by 1.4 billion compared to the 2013 - 2023 variant, but it is hard to estimate the actual impact of this change, especially since the Equipment Plan does not actually details projected acquisitions, but provides merely an indication of how much money will go towards the main spending areas.
Internal adjustements have been made, shifting several billions from the Equipment Support to the Equipment Procurement voice, betting on efficiencies and savings in support costs which have for now been achieved only in small part. The MOD will need to achieve savings of 6 billion pounds in equipment support budget in order to deliver the reworked acquisition spending profile without having to bite into the Contingency fund and to protect the Headroom money which is needed in the next strategic defence review to launch new programmes.

The NAO correctly cautions that there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future. We do not know if all the savings can be achieved and we have no certainty that cost in ongoing programmes won't grow above the forecasts. However, there is room for some optimism on this front, since the more prudent approach of the last few years has largely limited shocks and kept cost figures largely stable. This year's report, uniquely, actually documents a decrease of over 300 millions in costs, although this is not considering the cost growth reported in the past report stemming from the renegotiation of the Queen Elizabeth class contract.

The main danger to the equipment programme, and to defence in general, is anyway the new spending review and the new SDSR. The equipment plan, like all other manpower, capability and infrastructure targets of Future Force 2020, is completely dependent on the funding profile the MOD will be granted in the new parliament beginning May 2015.
The promised, but not confirmed budget flat in real terms with 1% boost to the sole equipment spending is absolutely crucial to enable a "steady as she goes" future for defence. And even if such an arrangement is granted, depending on the base budget figure over which the Flat line is calculated, negative differences of up to 15 billions are possible.
Any other cut would rapidly make the situation dramatic, and throw once more into disarray force structures, plans and equipment procurement, very possibly causing further damage by introducing cost growth in programmes affected by delays, reductions and descoping of various kind.

So, while the 2014 documents are all in all positive under many points of view, the future is at huge risk. I cannot stress enough the fact that for defence, in this year, the biggest and most important battles of all will be to obtain a budget as close to the assumption of Flat in Real Terms + 1% for equipment as possible. Whatever politicians will say in the coming months about defence will have absolutely no relevance at all until we don't get an indication of wheter they are committed to sticking to this indication they gave the MOD to plan upon or not.

There has been some media reporting about the 2% of GDP target for defence spending, and on the fact that it "might" be missed. Let me make it absolutely clear: as of now, there is no "might". The UK will soon fall well below the 2% point if the current budget trend stands. For how things are looking right now, a Flat budget is the best possible outcome in reach (and sadly it is actually widely expected that the MOD will not be given even just this minimum comfort), and it would still bring down the UK's defence spending to around 1.8% of GDP. It could fall down even further, and RUSI has already indicated that a landslide down to 1.5% is more than possible.
This is despite the UK being among the most vocal advocates for the agreement reached at the Cardiff NATO summit next year to pursue the 2% spending target across all european NATO countries in the next decade. Tell me what kind of ridicule it will be, in a few months time, to do exactly the opposite. Yet, it is what is bound to happen, especially since UK's GDP has been growing, and to maintain 2% spending it would actually take an increase to the budget.
Don't you worry though, the International Aid spending target of 0.7% of GDP, enshrined in law for some demented reason, is due to be met, by pouring yet more money into it. Doesn't that make you feel better...?

Defence spending has to stay at least stable, so that FF2020 can at least be pursued. Any reduction will bring yet more crippling damage into forces which have already been badly wrecked in several areas, causing a definitive loss of strategic weight and throwing everything into disarray again, before the 2010 cuts and reorganizations even have a chance to be completed. It will be another axe blow while the previous blade hasn't yet pulled out entirely from the wound.

"We trained very hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up in teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating an illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation."

This quote, traditionally dated all the way back to the times of Rome, is a perfect resume of what has been going on for too long in the british armed forces, where force structures and programmes have been messed up with again, and again, and again, for years. Every time, the SDR of the day has tried to sell the mess and dress up the cuts as a reorganisation for efficiency. As "doing more with less".
I can only beg whoever will form the next government to stop this state of things, and protect stability.

A look at the programmes

A summary of the most interesting bits about the status of individual programmes. 

Good news for the Astute class SSN, which seems to have finally turned the corner and got on the right course. The last big technical hurdle, the demonstration of the Top Speed requirement, has now been completed with success, the NAO reports. Up to last year's report, it was feared that at least the first 3 boats in the class would not be able to achieve the required Top Speed, although it was said that the trials were ongoing. As of March 2014, according to the NAO report, the requirement has been met.

Funding has been secured for a third "payload bay", which should actually mean a third CHALFONT dry deck shelter is being brought into service for use on the Astute class SSNs.

HMS Astute seen with CHALFONT installed

The purchase of a second Manoeuvring Training Room has been delayed to come in time with the delivery of the 4th boat, but the report assures that this will have no impact on current training requirements.
Important progress has been obtained by securing the Spearfish torpedo upgrade; the Astute Capability Sustainment Programme (not detailed, but presumably will retrofit some capabilities present at build from Boat 4 onto the earlier boats and is also expected to include new anti-torpedo countermeasures and other improvements); the integrated Communications and Radar Electronic Support Measures (CESM and RESM for Boat 4 onwards) and the Naval Extremely / Super High Frequency satcom system.

Excellent news, overall.

Complex Weapons are also treated in the NAO report, but there are no real answers about Fire Shadow, while other info, more up to date, is actually coming from other sources. DefenseNews has reported that the MOD has signed, just before Christmas, a 228 million pounds contract for the procurement of the Land variant of FLAADS, the new local area air defence system based on the CAMM / Sea Ceptor missile.
This early contract signature secures the replacement for Rapier althouth MBDA is still 6 months away from completing the work mandated by the earlier 36 million, 18-months demonstration phase deal.
Signing the contract earlier than planned might result in an earlier entry into service.

This development follows another report by DefenseNews which details how the MOD is seeking bids for the installation of a battle management, command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (BMC4I) system to deploy in defence of the Falklands Islands.
A contract should be signed in summer 2016 and the project is reportedly fully funded. The BMC4I is similar to the LEAPP system which is due to achieve operationally deployable status this year with the British Army. LEAPP is a mobile system operated by 49 independent Battery Royal Artillery as part of Joint Ground Based Air Defence. Under LEAPP, 4 "control nodes" in truck-mounted shelters have been procured, along with 3 "air picture trailers" and a single Link 11 access node, which is a specific requirement of the Royal Marines as it allows LEAPP to receive air picture data from warships via Link 11.
LEAPP provides land forces commanders with a full picture of what is moving in the air. Data is obtained by external sources, including Rapier batteries' search radars and Giraffe ABM radars (5 purchased) procured specifically to support LEAPP. Further information is obtained via air sources such as AWACS, via Data Link 16.

The Falklands system is expected to be very much similar, but the MOD has opened a competition for it, instead of ordering an additional LEAPP set. The Falklands system, though, will, like LEAPP, include a Giraffe ABM radar. The "shooting end" of the system will be a battery of FLAADS(L) missiles replacing the old and by now way too limited Rapier.

Inside a LEAPP node

Brimstone 2 is scheduled for live firing trials from Tornado GR4s at China Lake in the US later this year, ahead of achieving operational capability by November.

The first Type 23 frigate should have been re-armed with Sea Ceptor and should have fired the first missiles in trials by November 2016, which suggests that soon enough this year we will know which ship entering refit will be the first to get the new system.

FASGW is expected to deliver both Sea Venom (Heavy) and Martlet (Light) by October 2020. The Royal Navy looks set to have a gap of at least 2 years in the ability to fire anti-ship missiles from helicopters, as the Lynx HM8 and the Sea Skua missile should both be gone by 2018.

SPEAR 3 development continues, and the weapon should be operable before the the F-35 achieved entry in service. Whether this includes the weapon being integrated on the F-35 or not, it is not clear.

Fire Shadow's status is even more of a mystery. Asked about the matter, MBDA replied on Twitter that they remain engaged with the british army to determine the way forwards for the system.

Earlier news reports suggested that on the SPEAR 1 front, the evolution of Paveway IV, a go ahead for the bunker-buster variant should be officialized soon. As always, details are not provided, but it seems that when this variant becomes available, the RAF will withdraw from service the Paveway II and III series. I'm not entirely comfortable with remaining with only 500 lbs weapons, especially in the bunker buster role (i'm curious to learn if the 500 lbs special warhead of the Paveway IV really matches the performance of the 4 times heavier Paveway III Blu-109), but that seems to be the way things are headed.

A curious piece of news is mentioned in the Queen Elizabeth class part of the report where it is mentioned that the carrier is not fully funded to deliver the helicopter carrying role in support of littoral manoeuvre and currently has design and safety clearances limited in relation to amphibious helicopter support capability.
Sincerely, i have no idea what this is supposed to mean, and what is the current status of play: remember that, although published yesterday, the NAO report is a still image of the situation dating back several months.
Reading the book published in July in occasion of HMS Queen Elizabeth's naming ceremony, though, it becomes possible to make some guesses: the publication quotes rear admiral Fleet Air Arm Russ Harding, who is also Chief Naval Staff (Aviation and Carriers) as he explains what is being added to enable the carriers to undertake their littoral manoeuvre role. He said that a study had just been completed on how to modify the six spot deck arrangement planned for the deck layout to a 10 spot layout to enable enhanced helicopter assault operations. He also noticed that Ship / Helicopter Operating Limits (SHOL) have to be determined and written down, clearances will have to be obtained for Apache and Chinook, clearances will also have to be obtained for the Embarked Forces's and helicopter's ammunition stowage and that increasing accommodations and support spaces for embarked forces is something that is on the cards for the 1st docking period of Queen Elizabeth.
Some of these activities evidently haven't a funding line at the moment, but this will hopefully soon change, if it hasn't already from when the NAO was compiling its report.

Regarding the F-35B, the NAO report says that Main Gate 4 was passed in January. Main Gate 4 is a 2.75 billion programme to procure the aircraft needed for the first squadron (thought to be 14 airplanes, the first 4 of which have been ordered as part of LRIP 8) plus all supporting elements, including "facilities" to enable RAF Marham to stand up as Main Operating Base and initial support out to 2020. 
In absence of details it is difficult to evaluate this price figure and what it means for unitary cost of the aircraft. It really would be necessary to know exactly what "facilities" are included in the order. The UK has in fact opened a laboratory for F-35 software capability evaluation and development; while an Integrated Training Centre is planned to be built in Marham, which will require simulators, training aids and all associated F-35 specific elements. The UK is also planning to stand up a maintenance line inside a hangar in Marham, and a facility for application and maintenance of the stealth coating and its verification in another. The equipment for all these infrastructure elements is going to have a big pricetag.
The building of 3 vertical landing pads has been contracted, and Marham's runway is planned for a resurfacing as well, while existing hardened aircraft shelters will be prepared for the F-35 age. These other items, however, are probably included in infrastructure spending, not in F-35 spending.

Entry in service for the F-35B is planned for end december 2018. The UK has contributed 144 million to the assessment phase (down from a planned 150) and has budgeted a 1874 million contribution to development. In addition, just shy of a billion pounds has been budgeted for the first 4 aircraft and their activities in demonstration.
The 2749 million budget for Main Gate 4 brings the budget for demonstration and manufacture at 5622 million.

Typhoon progress includes ongoing work to integrate Storm Shadow and the capability to change target in flight, prior to launch. Meteor integration work is also progressing, and the first trial fits of Brimstone have been made.
In the RAF 2015 publication, the commander of the Typhoon force suggests that the next priority is getting funding to integrate RAPTOR, or a reconnaissance pod offering similar tactical imagery capability, to ensure that when Tornado goes out of service, the impact on capability is limited to numbers, instead of complete gaps.
On the other hand, funding for adding Conformal Fuel Tanks isn't likely to appear anytime soon.
AESA radar development is finally under contract, but there isn't, for now, a funded plan for retrofitting the radar to the Tranche 3A.

On MARS, it is confirmed that the Solid Support Ship requirement is on the White Board as it is not an item in the core budget. This means that its progress is inexorably tied to the billion pounds of Headroom money that the Navy is supposed to get from 2015.
The tanker programme seems to be going well, with the blocks for Tidespring already over 90% done in South Korea and first steel cut for the second ship, Tiderace. 

FRES SV coverage pre-dates the signing of the production contract, so information is pretty much outdated. A recent House of Lords written answer instead has specified that the FRES SV contract includes an initial support contract for 2 years, associated training systems and appliquè armour packages. General Dynamics has already awarded a 20 million contract to XPI Simulation to deliver 28 high fidelity simulators as driver training aids for all FRES SV variants.
Negotiations are still ongoing to see if production of the vehicles can be moved into the UK from Spain, where at least the first 100 vehicles out of 589 vehicles will be built.

Warrior CSP and ABSV continue to be difficult to understand. The NAO report seems to pre-date a reported formal separation of WCSP and ABSV in budget planning. ABSV was to hit Initial Gate in the third quarter of 2013, but the Army has been reviewing the ABSV requirement and approach to finally try and address the need to replace FV430 by harmonizing WCSP, FRES SV and ABSV.

The NAO quotes numbers that are weird and now most likely outdated anyway. According to the NAO, from an affordable fleet of 565 Warrior vehicles, 445 would be picked for undergoing upgrades under WCSP. 65 of those 445 vehicles would have been converted in APCs and Ambulances under ABSV, while the remaining 380 would consist of, probably, of around 250 Section vehicles with turret and 40mm gun, with the balance made up by Recovery and Repair vehicles.
This number would be completely insufficient to equip the planned six armoured infantry battalions. Considering also the need for a permanent training fleet, including a good number of vehicles to assign to BATUS, these numbers would probably only enable the fielding of 4 battalions. Two would be "virtual", in the sense that, even in a major emergency, there would be no vehicles for them. This seems weird, especially considering that FRES SV numbers appear to have been carefully calculated on the requirement instead. I think the numbers might be wrong / quoted in a not correct way.

WCSP should include the basic upgrades to the recovery and repair variants, so i'm guessing that 445, 380 and 65 might be "correct" numbers in the sense that 380 Section vehicles and 65 recovery / repair look more or less adequate for equipping the six battalions planned, and the sum gives the 445 total reported for CSP.
The NAO also quotes the "affordable fleet" as counting 565 vehicles. I've been guessing that the difference of 120 vehicles between this figure and the 445 could be the ABSV fleet, especially now that ABSV is being separated from WCSP. I think the long lasting confusion is due to the fact that recovery and repair variants were originally part of the ABSV branch of the WCSP programme, although i might be wrong, while now ABSV is pretty much a different thing, as it is supposed to complement FRES SV in replacing (finally) the FV430.
In particular, the huge number of command vehicles included in FRES SV has long made me guess that they will replace FV430s in this role across not just in cavalry regiments, but in tank, armoured infantry and other tracked units.
FRES SV does not include an ambulance variant, so ABSV will have to make up for this. A mortar carrier is also required, and possibly some APCs. The Army has also suggested it is considering an ABSV anti-tank missile variant. This would require more ABSV conversions but reduce the requirement for Warrior CSP turreted vehicles in exchange (currently the AT platoons employ Javelin teams carried in Warrior Section Vehicles).
The budget, as always, will be the main factor in determining ABSV's future. 


  1. Thanks for another very insightful post Gabriele.

    What concerns me is that Bernard Gray had promised the end of the culture of misplaced optimisim - the blind faith that savings could always be found somewhere downstream. Yet the report gives a clear warning that this isn't the case and it could easily consume the MoD's hard won contingency budget.

    That's even before we touch on SDSR 2015.

    The report was clearly written before the latest developments on T26 and the current review that's not due before March. And the confirmation that MARS SSS still isn't in the core budget is another serious concern.

    The good news is that things aren't nearly as totally screwed as they were in 2010. But how could they be?

    1. It is hard to judge on the issue of overoptimism, also because i don't have access to all the data. However, the last two/three years have been pretty stable across the programmes, which is good. And the MOD has been consistently underspending (which is both good and bad) in the last few years.

      However, this is due in no small part to the fact that the major programmes ongoing have almost all entered their advanced / final phases, where greater stability is to be expected. Good or bad management will be revealed by the new large contracts (FRES SV, Marshal, and hopefully, soon enough, Type 26 and Warrior CSP) and by how well they will stick to cost and schedule.
      I'm moderately optimist. There will be cost growth and delays here and there, but if the MOD was given a stable budget outlook and could bring things forwards at the measured pace introduced in the last while, i feel things should work out good enough. The Contingency budget held centrally is not the only line of defence against cost growth: individual programmes have built-in margins of their own which can help absorb cost increases, if they are reasonable.

      The last decade was an exceptionally bad period due in no small part to labour funding the iraqi war from within the defence budget for several years, by messing up numbers, imposing delays, shifting stuff, all to achieve short term "savings" which inexorably became cost growth in the longer term.
      If dramatic shocks to the system are avoided, things should stick to a more reasonable trend, in theory.

  2. I searched the document and cant find 65 for ABSV--where does that come from

    1. Search better into the Appendices and Programme Summary pdf from the NAO.

  3. Gaby

    I think what you have said about ABSV makes sense. The NAO figures suggest that the 65 vehicles would have been converted to APCs and ambulances under the ABSV part of the WCSP programme, while the Recovery and Repair vehicles would have been a large section (130 approx.) of the 380 vehicles remaining under WCSP.

    Your suggestion that the WCSP figure of 445 might consist of 380 section vehicles (about right for six Armoured Infantry battalions), while the remaining 65 would be Recovery and Repair seems right to me.

    Given that the affordable fleet is quoted as 565 Warrior vehicles, that leaves 120 vehicles and they would be the ones for the ABSV programme and would include presumably ambulance, mortar and personnel carrier variants. Have I got your views right now?

    I am interested in the news that the Army is possibly considering an ABSV anti-tank missile variant. What do you think that might be? Could a Javelin system be mounted on the hull, or could it be an Exactor (long-range like the old Swingfire)? I hope that it is not simply another dismount vehicle.

    1. My belief / hope is that by separating the programmes, the Army will try to reassess the numbers to have around 380 turreted warriors, plus the needed repair and recovery, and use the rest of the fleet for ABSV. The numbers would be insufficient, otherwise.

      I don't know much about the ATGW carrier. It has been mentioned, but it is by no means sure it would be affordable. There are options in easy reach, though. The Boeing AVENGER turret, for example, that can be installed on a hummer, today has been turned into a multi-role system which can launch even Hellfire. The options exist: whether they are pursued is another matter.

  4. Gaby

    Thanks for that useful reply.

  5. ABSV numbers have to fill up the medical regiments in the RF right>

  6. Is there any mention of upgraiding the type 45s with harpoons? There seems to be alot of feet dragging going on there.

    1. There was talk of the RN withdrawing funding for Harpoon in 2018, this could be why they are dragging their feet..

  7. F-35 is notable for the absence of any narrative beyond the 14 airframes for the first squadron- something that has been the case for nearly two years now.

    1. Not surprising. It is being acquired with successive Main Gate authorizations. The next one, MG 5, is quite further down the line.

  8. Could the Warrior numbers possibly be explained as:
    380 to receive the new 40mm cannon in the CSP
    65 to be converted to ABSV for APC and ambulance role
    120 to carry on unconverted as repair & recovery vehicles
    565 is then the total number of Warrior vehicles.
    Does that make any sense?

    1. I've been investigating the matter, but i have no 100% certainties. I'm told that 380 includes the Warriors with gun AND the Recovery and Repair variants, and a number of Artillery Observation vehicles too. There can only be around 300 with the gun, possibly less, i'm told. ABSV is possibly funded for 65 vehicles, with the Army hoping to obtain funding for more. A complete replacement of FV430 vehicles at the moment does not seem achievable: a number of roles, including ambulances in the armoured Medical Regiments, would be left out for replacement with wheeled FRES UV later on.

      Again, i can't say i'm 100% sure, however. Couldn't independently verify the sources for this information.

  9. Always love your update articles. You must spend hours piecing it all together for us. Thanks.

    On the Astute front, do you have any educated guess as to what the top speed is supposed to be ? The last 4 classes have been listed at 28+ kts, this is obviously bollox ;)

    And its supposed to be one of Astutes "features"


    1. It is really hard to say, any guess is a literal shot in the dark. But i would hope the actual values are north of 30 knots.

  10. Its hard to remember a time when there has not been a threat to this country. Its just that today the threat is a bit more determined and crazy- by this I mean Putin and ISIS.

    To consider more defence cuts shows a complete disregard for caution in the circumstances in which we have huge gaps in our armoury.

  11. Have you seen the PASCAT Landing Craft for sale on a military / commercial sales brokerage Gabby?, it does not say how much for but its interesting none the less, does that mean its less likely the RM will get something like that now?. As always your blogs are the best about UK forces on the net.

    1. It has been on sale for a while. the Fast Landing Craft Requirement is dead at least out to 2020. Effectively, Force Protection Craft does seem to be just as dead, consideiring the silence about it. All silent, stealth cuts.

  12. Gaby

    Just had a look at the Shephard website. At the end of an article on the Warrior upgrade, there are some worrying figures quoted.

    Apparently numbers have been almost halved from the original plan and now read 380 vehicles fitted with modified electrical and survivability systems and a mere 250 to be also fitted with the turret. If those figures are accurate, then that number of turreted vehicles can surely not be enough to equip three armoured infantry brigades (six armoured infantry battalions). Would you say we were short of money?

    1. Saw that, been following CSP for a while. That seems to be the number. More or less 4 battalions plus a training allocation. The other two effectively will exist only on paper, because there will never be the vehicles to equip all six at once.

      I don't even know what to say anymore.

  13. Gaby

    Thanks for the reply. What do you think the remaining 130 vehicles (the difference between 380 and 250) will be? Just Recovery and Repair vehicles? Or other variants? Or will some continue as Rarden 30mm versions?

    And have you heard anything about ABSV? Any other variants there? I wouldn't blame you if had no ideas at all. You have analyzed the situation brilliantly so far on the given information but that information keeps on changing, doesn't it? Yet one more example of stealth cuts and salami slicing?

    1. Have to assume the remaining vehicles to be recovery, repair and artillery observation. Seems too many to me, though. 300 and 80 keep looking far better and more desirable to me, especially since Artillery Observation variant will be next to useless anyway unless the Royal Artillery can fund a separate programme to actually fit them with the modern kit needed for that very specific role, since this is not a WCSP feature. If there is a requirement for more Joint Fires direction vehicles, they'd better just add more FRES SV Joint Fires (there are 23 on order).

      Regarding ABSV, Army hopes for first deliveries in 2021 (but it is just that, a hope) and IOC in 2023. Variants considered: APC, Ambulance, Mortar, Anti Tank missile, Command. The first two variants are semi-sure (65 of those have a funding line already, according to the NAO) but all the rest is yet to be funded and confirmed. Command post, again, puzzles me. Integrating all the electronics of a modern command vehicle into a Warrior hull without the turret promises trouble, in my opinion. Drop it out of ABSV and purchase more FRES SV command, if really needed. But with 112 on order, i'd think a fair share of requirement should be covered already...

  14. Gaby

    Many thanks for your lucid and helpful reply

  15. Gaby

    Have you seen the article in Shephard Defence about "Two modes for UK Scout"? Interesting?

    1. Relatively old news; it was already known that there would be a Peace Support fit with RWS available.
      No idea why you'd ever want to remove the primary recce sensor, however. Just doesn't seem smart to me.

  16. Gaby,

    Many thanks for that.

  17. Gaby

    Sorry to trouble you yet again with this matter but I am becoming increasingly confused. It looks as if you were right after all in your original article.

    On their website Lockheed Martin UK say that they are upgrading 380 of the Warrior vehicles with new mission systems and fully digital turrets. Last year, they were also awarded a contract for over £650 million to manufacture 245 turrets for the Scout SV vehicle.

    I think I was confusing the two, and thinking (when I saw an earlier news extract from the company) that the 245 referred to the number of Warrior turreted vehicles. Now it turns out that there are to be 380 Warrior full turret updates. Is that right? If so, it makes for much better reading, with an adequate number for each Armoured Infantry battalion.

    1. No, i'm afraid LM's wording on that one is just unlucky. 380 vehicles in total will get the base upgrades, and a part, thought to be around 250, will have the turret. Too few, but that is the number i keep hearing.

  18. Gaby

    Well, thanks for that.

  19. Gaby

    Just by chance, I have been on the MBDA site. There is no mention there of the Fire shadow loitering munition. It has been there until quite recently, unless I have imagined it. Does that spell the end for the project, do you feel? If it is, it is a pity, because I thought that would be just the weapon the British Army would need in in certain types of campaign such as Afghanistan.

  20. Gaby

    I've probably put this in entirely the wrong thread. It's just that I could not find any other from your list dealing specifically with mine warfare.

    I've been glancing at your Tweets and was dismayed by the news that the British Army is now withdrawing the Barmine. Does this mean that the Army is fast approaching the time when it will never be able to lay another minefield? Believe me, they will have to sooner or later.

    Have you heard of any replacement for the Barmine or the Shielder/Volcano system? Is the capability being allowed to disappear without replacement perhaps? I'm not even sure that the MLRS system can lay mines any more.

    Would appreciate a reply from you if you are not too busy. Thanks.

    1. As of now, i don't know of any replacement for SHIELDER. There used to be a Counter Mobility study related to FRES, of course, but i fear it has gone to hell and i don't know if there's anything left.

      As for Barmine, the note about the withdrawal of all variants is on SOLDIER magazine. I can't access the actual document as it is on the army closed network, of course. As of now, i'm not aware of any procurement meant to replace Barmine. So, it is actually quite worrisome.

  21. Gaby

    Many thanks for the reply. Yes, I am concerned too!


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