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Call for Evidence

Progress in delivering the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability

Context

The British Army’s current fleet of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) is characterised by increasing age and creeping obsolescence. Vehicles such as the FV430 series armoured personnel carrier have been in service since the 1960s (albeit with a number of life extension upgrades). On a recent visit by the Committee, Army personnel from all ranks expressed concerns about the age of the armoured vehicle fleet. The main armoured infantry vehicle (Warrior) was introduced in the late 1980s, while the Army’s main battle tank (the Challenger 2) has been in service for around 20 years and has yet to receive any significant capability upgrades, leaving it outmatched by potential adversaries such as the Russian ‘Armata’ tank. The Army faces a challenge in determining the shape of its armoured forces, whether they should be configured to deploy heavy forces against peer adversaries in Europe, or medium-weight forces which are capable of expeditionary operations such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades.

The Army also needs to procure lightly armoured vehicles (the Multi-Role Vehicle Protected - MRVP) to replace light vehicles which were proven to be lethally inadequate in Afghanistan and to consider the replacement of the AS-90 self-propelled gun. With the exception of protected vehicles required for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan[1] and a small number of specialist engineering vehicles the Army has not received a new armoured vehicle since the turn of the century.

[1] Over £3 billion was spent on these vehicles via the Urgent Operational Requirements process. The majority are now being disposed of via the Land Environment Fleet Optimisation Plan.

To address these issues, the Ministry of Defence has in place a series of programmes which have encountered a number of difficulties:

  • The Ajax programme (£5.3 billion), designed to replace the Army’s armoured reconnaissance vehicles. In May 2020 it emerged that the delivery of the first batch of Ajax vehicles was to be delayed as they were found not to be ready to be accepted into service. The Army expects to procure some 600 of these vehicles by the mid-2020s.
  • The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (£800 million) has been running since 2011 but, despite having spent over 50% of the allocated budget, has yet to place a manufacturing contract. The programme has experienced significant technical problems, with a current in-service date of 2024 (originally planned for 2017);
  • The Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (budget to be determined) aims to extend the tank’s service life until 2035. This programme has been revised to increase its scope, including upgrades to improve its lethality and survivability in the face of emerging peer threats;
  • The Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (£2.8 billion) is a programme to introduce a new high-mobility medium-weight infantry vehicle in the form of the Boxer eight-wheeled vehicle. This will replace the aged FV430 fleet of vehicles and is key to delivery of the Army’s Strike Brigade concept; and,
  • Multi Role Vehicle- Protected (budget to be determined) is a UK requirement to replace the Landrover and existing protected vehicle fleets with a common platform. This programme is currently on hold, partly as a result of the US Army’s review of the requirements for its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) programme which is expected to inform the UK’s decision on which vehicle to procure.

Individually each of these programmes is important as collectively they represent the replacement or enhancement of the majority of the Army’s fighting vehicles. They also contribute to the fulfilment of the Army’s current vision for its future and the ability to deploy an armoured division as part of the MOD’s Joint Force 2025 objective and represent a significant overall investment in the Army’s equipment plan. The Committee has previously noted that any repeat of past failures will “seriously impair, if not fatally undermine” the Army’s ability to deploy the warfighting division as envisaged in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the Army’s new Strike Brigades.

Questions to be addressed by the inquiry

  1. Does the Army have a clear understanding of how it will employ its armoured vehicles in future operations?
  2. Given the delays to its programmes, will the Army be able to field the Strike Brigades and an armoured division as envisaged by the 2015 SDSR?
  3. How much has the Army spent on procuring armoured vehicles over the last 20 years? How many vehicles has it procured with this funding?
  4. What other capabilities has the Army sacrificed in order to fund overruns in its core armoured vehicles programmes?
  5. How flexible can the Army be in adapting its current armoured vehicle plans to the results of the Integrated Review?
  6. By 2025 will the Army be able to match the potential threat posed by peer adversaries?
  7. Is the Army still confident that the Warrior CSP can deliver an effective vehicle capability for the foreseeable future?
  8. To what extent does poor contractor performance explain the delays to the Warrior and Ajax programmes?
  9. Should the UK have a land vehicles industrial strategy, and if so what benefits would this bring?
  10. What sovereign capability for the design and production of armoured vehicles does the UK retain?
  11. Does it make sense to upgrade the Challenger 2 when newer, more capable vehicles may be available from our NATO allies?
  12. What other key gaps are emerging within the Army’s armoured vehicle capability?
  13. Has the Army learned from previous failures such as FRES to ensure new vehicles are acquired effectively?

The deadline for written submissions is 5pm on Friday 18 September 2020.

This call for written evidence has now closed.

Go back to Progress in delivering the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability Inquiry