WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY GENERAL DYNAMICS LAND SYSTEMS–UK
General Dynamics Land Systems-UK (GDLS-UK) is a UK-based Prime Contractor that is responsible for the delivery of the AJAX programme - the British Army’s most sophisticated armoured vehicle, a transformational reconnaissance platform and the first of a new generation of Digital Platforms, able to respond rapidly to changes in threat and new technologies. We have also delivered a range of other vehicles, including the Foxhound protected patrol vehicle - designed, developed and delivered in the UK within 36 months and currently in service with the British Army.
We are strongly supported in the delivery of AJAX and other vehicle programmes by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which has extensive experience in delivering military vehicle programmes worldwide, including the Abrams main battle tank and Stryker 8x8 Family of Vehicles.
GDLS-UK has invested significantly in the UK, having established the country’s largest active Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) manufacturing facility in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. We also have a nearby engineering development facility, with over 300 systems and software engineers supported by a range of unique Systems Integration Laboratories, which are focused on developing the AJAX digital systems and, for the future, keeping the capability safe, secure and stable through-life. We are also engaged with a range of studies, experimentation and research into future capabilities, including the use of robotic vehicles.
The AJAX contract is for 589 vehicles across six variants, along with advanced training systems and logistic support. As of 24 August 2020, the AJAX programme has completed the build of 157 hulls (over a quarter of the contracted fleet of 589 vehicles), 45 of the 289 turrets, and 60 vehicles, including the first vehicle to undergo full Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) in Merthyr Tydfil. All of the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) vehicles are now built and the MoD has accepted 17 vehicles, delivering 12 vehicles into service with the British Army.
Introduction to General Dynamics Land Systems–UK
About General Dynamics UK
General Dynamics UK (GDUK) works in partnership with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) providing some of the Nation’s primary land capabilities including, amongst others, Bowman, the British Armed Forces tactical communications programme, and AJAX, the replacement for the British Army’s reconnaissance vehicle fleet. The company also delivers avionics equipment used in rotary and fixed wing platforms, highly integrated mission and video management systems, flexible airframe stores management systems, data link processing and video and data recorders for UK and international customers.
General Dynamics United Kingdom (General Dynamics UK) has two primary lines of business:
General Dynamics (NYSE: GD) is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, USA.
*About General Dynamics Land Systems–UK
The AJAX Programme is delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems–UK, which is primarily based in South Wales at Merthyr Tydfil and Oakdale. It is part of the General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) business unit within the General Dynamics Corporation, which has a long pedigree and worldwide experience in delivering tracked and wheeled military vehicles, alongside specialist knowledge in complex, scalable Electronic Architectures. It delivers, amongst others, the Abrams main battle tank, LAV (Light Armoured Vehicle) and Stryker 8x8 Family of Vehicles, and the Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush–Protected (MRAP) Family of Vehicles.
Question 8. To what extent does poor contractor performance explain the delays to the Warrior and Ajax programmes?
As Prime Contractor responsible for the delivery of AJAX, the following response relates to this programme only.
AJAX, formerly known as Scout Specialist Vehicle (SV), has a contract value of £4.6bn for the design and development, production and support of 589 vehicles across six variants. AJAX will deliver a fleet of armoured vehicles to provide a modern reconnaissance capability to the British Army, replacing the fleet of CVR(T) currently in-service. AJAX is a transformational capability based on a modern, digital architecture and is the first of such ‘Digital Platforms’ to enter service. The AJAX capability will support British Army modernisation as part of the STRIKE Brigade concept. The final design provides the most capable armoured vehicle in service, with a comprehensive electronic architecture, exceptional levels of survivability and lethality, and high levels of mobility.
Deliveries of the first vehicles to the British Army for training commenced in December 2018, with full production now in progress for all six variants at our facility in Merthyr Tydfil. Deliveries of operational vehicles commenced in July 2020. In parallel with deliveries, advanced training systems are being installed at various British Army training sites, and the required logistic support, including spares, is being delivered to enable the full Initial Operating Capability (IOC) to be achieved in 2020. Verification / Validation and Reliability Growth Trials also continue in parallel with fielding.
GDLS-UK has invested significantly in facilities and people in South Wales to deliver the programme. We have invested more than £32 million in our two South Wales facilities and employ 850 highly-skilled people. The AJAX programme supports more than 4,100 direct jobs across the UK with more than 230 UK-based suppliers in the supply chain.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the challenges in meeting the original programme aspirations. These have had an impact on every stage of the programme, from early development work through to transition into service, and are grouped into 4 areas as follows:
The following outlines recent AJAX Programme successes that demonstrate our ongoing delivery towards AJAX IOC:
Production and Deliveries
As of 24 August 2020, the AJAX programme has completed the build of 157 hulls (over a quarter of the contracted fleet of 589 vehicles), 45 turrets, and 60 vehicles, including the first vehicle to undergo full Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) in UK at Merthyr Tydfil. The MoD has accepted 17 vehicles, putting 12 vehicles into service with the British Army. All IOC vehicles are now built and are entering MoD General Acceptance Testing (GAT) on a rolling basis.
Figure 1: As of 24 August 2020, GDLS-UK has completed 60 vehicles and 45 turrets - The MoD has accepted 17 vehicles, putting 12 vehicles into service with the British Army.
Training Systems and Training
GDLS-UK has delivered all training products to deliver IOC, including Desktop Trainers, Crew Turret Trainers, Small Arms Drill Trainers, and Full-Motion Driver Training Simulators.
GDLS-UK has delivered the support package for IOC, to include technical publications, initial spares and contractor logistic support.
As of 24 August 2020, GDLS-UK continues to execute the Verification and Validation of the AJAX design. GDLS-UK has completed more than 65 battlefield missions (BFM) as part of ongoing Reliability Growth Trials (RGT). This includes:
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the challenges in meeting the original programme aspirations. These have had an impact on every stage of the programme, from early development work through to transition into service. The factors can be grouped into 4 main themes as follows:
The requirements for AJAX, as an output of the former Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) programme, were complex, and represented the leading edge of armoured vehicles technologies, particularly in survivability, lethality (with a new 40mm cannon) and the advanced digital architecture for systems integration and processing information as a reconnaissance platform. The prior Assessment Phase had reviewed this requirement set, although not all aspects had been fully assessed from a system level perspective. With over 1,000 individual requirements, there were some inevitable technical challenges as the development progressed and the whole system was designed and tested. This required timely joint decision making to agree the priorities needed to achieve a balanced and producible system level design. The pace of this joint decision making did not always match the programme schedule, especially given the concurrency of the development and production phases, and some issues were not fully resolved until the programme was Recast in 2019. Some additional requirements, such as the updated C4I system called BCIP 5.6, were also added during Recast. Overall, the time taken to jointly agree the necessary choices in requirements hierarchy in order to reach a balanced design at system level took longer than anticipated. The impact was a delay in reaching a balanced design for production. Recent progress since Recast has ensured that the key requirements are now agreed and are being met to ensure the delivery of a best-in-class capability. The final design achieves a highly capable advanced digital platform with the highest levels of survivability, mobility and lethality.
The lethality system for AJAX was based on the new CT40 Cannon, issued to the programme by the MoD as Government Furnished Equipment (GFE). The CT40 cannon was jointly developed by the UK and France through a Joint Venture (JV), CTA International, but was a development item at the time of the AJAX demonstration contract award (2010) and subsequently the production contract award (2014), and was not fully characterised. The Interface Control Document issued to GDLS-UK for the contract did not fully represent the 40mm Cannon’s performance characteristics, leading to the need for design change. In addition to these design issues, the CT40 was issued to GDLS-UK significantly later than planned in the joint programme schedule, and at a different configuration to that in the contract documents, resulting in substantial redesign and consequential programme delays of around 18 months. A stable and defined build standard was not realised until the contract was Recast in 2019. Furthermore, there remains some outstanding characterisation issues with aspects of the CT40 cannon performance.
AJAX is the first major armoured vehicles programme to be delivered in the UK since Challenger 2 in the early 1990s and consequently there is a degree of learning across the Governmental and industrial armoured vehicles ‘enterprise’, as the skills and expertise in armoured vehicles procurement, design, development and delivery have been reconstituted. The absence of a long-term strategy for armoured vehicles procurement led to a decline in the Nation’s core capabilities for armoured vehicles, and presented challenges in attracting skilled leaders into this market. The impact of this break in armoured vehicles activity within UK falls into three categories: facilities, people, and interdependencies.
GDLS-UK has sought to manage the impact of COVID-19 on AJAX operations to maintain programme schedule. However, COVID-19 has impacted at a critical time in the programme, causing a slowdown in the rate of production, installation of training equipment and trials activities as the safety of staff and suppliers was protected. The increased dislocation and friction associated with remote working across the industry and MoD team has also led to some additional delays given the degree of co-dependency in the AJAX programme. GDLS-UK has continued working on this critical programme throughout the pandemic, whilst ensuring our staff and visitors remain safe and the regional Welsh Government policy is followed, however it has increased day-to-day challenges on the programme and has significantly impacted the programme schedule.
Impacts to Schedule
The recent COVID-19 impacts are yet to be fully understood. The combined impacts of the other factors amount to around 20 months, dominated by the 18 month delay incurred through the GFE Cannon. The AJAX programme was Recast in May 2019 to reflect these issues, adjusting the contracted IOC from November 2018 to August 2020. The date for the completion of the programme remained unchanged at December 2024. Currently there are some delays in reaching the British Army’s full IOC; however, we believe we can achieve IOC by the end of this year.
9. Should the UK have a land vehicles industrial strategy, and if so what benefits would this bring?
GDUK made a submission to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee for their “Defence Industrial Policy: Procurement and Prosperity” inquiry last year. It said the following, which is still relevant today:
“The Defence Land Sector does not have a specific Defence Industrial Strategy like Maritime and Air. General Dynamics UK is concerned that the lack of such a Land sector Defence Industrial Strategy threatens the long-term sustainability of unique national capabilities that both the British Army and General Dynamics UK have invested in – such as the Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) facility in Merthyr Tydfil, where production of AJAX comes to an end in 2024.
This is likely to have a negative impact on the UK’s Prosperity, particularly in the more vulnerable parts of the Union. General Dynamics UK would support a collaborative approach between the Ministry of Defence (MoD), British Army, politicians and Industry to develop such a Land Sector Defence Industrial Strategy to ensure a resilient National Defence Industry bringing Prosperity and Security to the UK.
A lack of a Defence Industrial Strategy has led to c.70% by value of the MoD’s recent AFV procurement decisions being given, often without any competition, to overseas companies who have invested little or zero in the UK. This had led to these companies promising the establishment of additional parallel facilities, which are themselves not sustainable for the long-term; and has reduced the opportunities for General Dynamics UK, a company that has been based in the UK for more than 50 years, to compete for future business and keep these national facilities sustainable for the long-term.”
Why a Land vehicles industrial strategy
A Land industrial strategy would better ensure a sustainable UK-based Land industrial capability that would:
Other existing segment strategies, for example in Combat Air, Maritime and Complex Weapons, have found this approach has better positioned industry to reach into other markets and generate exports in particular.
Without an industrial strategy that supports the land sector, we risk the return to the historical ‘feast and famine’ scenario, described earlier. Specifically, the concerns are that either:
Within GDLS-UK alone, we have a highly-skilled team of 850 people and associated facilities for the design, delivery and support of armoured vehicles, with the specialist engineering skills associated with modern armoured vehicles design, including key areas such as software, survivability and systems integration. Furthermore, GDLS-UK has selected and managed a supply chain that is now mature and supports this armoured vehicles programme. Without a clear, transparent and stable plan for future armoured vehicles procurement and through-life sustainment, this UK team will disperse into other industries and could be lost to the armoured vehicles defence sector permanently.
Why a Land vehicles industrial strategy now
The UK used to have a have a thriving armoured vehicles industrial capability, which produced the world’s first tank used on the battlefield, the British Mark I, and later with Alvis and Vickers producing other iconic military vehicles, including the CVR(T) series tracked vehicles, which included Scimitar - the predecessor of AJAX. However, over the last 30 years the British Army has delivered very few significant armoured vehicles programmes, largely relying on importing overseas military vehicles for Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) and with no strategy for how to maintain a UK indigenous industrial capability. As a result, the UK’s armoured vehicles industrial capability almost completely disappeared.
However, over the last 5-10 years there have been some significant changes that have led to a revitalisation of the UK armoured vehicles industry:
10. What sovereign capability for the design and production of armoured vehicles does the UK retain?
Following the MoD’s public commitments to the AJAX, Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme, Mechanised Infantry Vehicle and Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme over the last few years, industry has invested significantly in the UK for the design, development and production of armoured vehicles.
We recognise that GDLS-UK is but one part of a broader design and production landscape across UK and the other prime contractor s/ OEMs are better qualified to comment on their own contribution to sovereign capability. For General Dynamics’ part we do operate the most up-to-date digital armoured vehicles design and production capabilities, by dint of the cutting-edge nature of the AJAX programme. These are outlined below, with emphasis on their crucial importance to sustaining through-life fighting capabilities. Specifically, GDLS-UK provides the full life-cycle of armoured vehicles capabilities, based in the UK, which provide the current sovereign capabilities for the design and production of armoured vehicles, including:
- Armoured Vehicles Design and System Integration Laboratory: our Centre of Excellence for AFV Design and Development, based in Oakdale in South Wales, is an engineering hub with a large team of highly-skilled engineers across all disciplines relevant for the modern digital armoured vehicles, including system engineering, software, survivability, lethality, and other unique armoured vehicles engineering skills. This design capability is enabled by a modern purpose built Systems Integration Laboratory, which is unique to modern digital armoured vehicles and essential for the system level design, validation, and through-life sustainment.
Figure 2: GDLS-UK AFV Design facilities at Oakdale, inc System Integration Laboratories (SILs) –
Part of the £32M+ investment made by the General Dynamics Corporation in our South Wales AFV capabilities.
- Armoured Vehicles Production: at Merthyr Tydfil, we are able to undertake the Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) of armoured vehicles, with a site that has been designed to handle all armoured vehicles up to the weight of a Main Battle Tank, like Challenger 2, and includes a recently commissioned test track with ancillary capabilities, along with space for further expansion.
Figure 3: GDLS-UK armoured vehicles Assembly, Integration and Test facilities at Merthyr Tydfil –
Part of the £32M+ investment made by the General Dynamics Corporation in our South Wales AFV capabilities.
- Armoured Vehicles Tactical Communications: at our GDUK Mission System’s Oakdale facility in South Wales, we develop and deliver the Bowman system that provides secure radio, telephone, intercom and tactical internet services to more than 18,000 platforms, including all Land vehicles (including armoured vehicles), helicopters, naval vessels, landing craft and fixed HQ buildings. We are also working on the next generation Evolve-to-Open (EvO) and Morpheus systems that will be integrated onto armoured vehicles in the future.
- Through-Life Capability Management: this covers both traditional Sustainment (spares and repairs etc) and the through-life Capability Growth that digital armoured vehicles facilitate, as described in our response to Question 9, with their digital architectures. We are talking to the British Army about a long-term partnership where industry can reduce the cost of the fleet Sustainment of their vehicles and use the savings to re-invest in new digital armoured vehicles Capability Growth to meet the demands of a changing threat or advances in technology.
- Supply Chain Development: GDLS-UK has built a strategic supplier team for armoured vehicles manufacture to select and manage the key suppliers needed for the AJAX armoured vehicles programme. This has resulted in the development of a mature supplier base to support the programme. A strong UK supply chain has been developed by GDLS-UK for AJAX across 5 tiers, which provides the range of capabilities that are needed to create modern, digital armoured vehicles. Through this supply chain expertise, the AJAX programme currently supports 4,100 direct jobs across more than 230 UK-based companies, with UK programme content at 65-70% of total contract spend.
Figure 4: GDLS-UK contribution to UK Prosperity –
AJAX: 65-70% UK content, supporting 4,100 UK Jobs and more than 230 UK businesses.
To support all of the above, we have invested heavily in growing a strong team capable of delivering armoured vehicles, including through ‘growing our own’ via graduate and apprenticeship schemes, as well as utilising the skills base from adjoining engineering industries. A sustainable Land vehicle industrial strategy will also encourage industry to further invest in the graduates and apprenticeships needed to sustain a viable armoured vehicles industry.
12. What other key gaps are emerging within the Army’s armoured vehicle capability?
The British Army is best placed to advise on any key gaps that are emerging within its armoured vehicle capability. However, GDLS-UK are well placed to support the Army with spiral development of the AJAX platform to meet emerging capability gaps, due to the open digital architecture on AJAX. We also note that many other customers, and especially the US Army as the reference army for NATO and Western allies, are developing some key capabilities aligned with their armoured vehicle programmes. These are identified as follows:
Figure 5: Stryker A1 IM-SHORAD shown at AUSA 2019.
Figure 6: AJAX-based Bridge Layer shown at DSEI 2019.