WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY GENERAL DYNAMICS LAND SYSTEMS–UK

 

 

WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY GENERAL DYNAMICS LAND SYSTEMS–UK

 

 

Executive Summary

 

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.

 

Summary

 

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 variantsAJAX 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:  

 

 


Recent Progress

 

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.

 

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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.

 

Logistic Support

 

GDLS-UK has delivered the support package for IOC, to include technical publications, initial spares and contractor logistic support.

 

Trials

 

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:

 

Challenges

 

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 serviceThe factors can be grouped into 4 main themes as follows: 

 

  1. Requirements

 

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 platformThe prior Assessment Phase had reviewed this requirement set, although not all aspects had been fully assessed from a system level perspectiveWith 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 anticipatedThe 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 capabilityThe final design achieves a highly capable advanced digital platform with the highest levels of survivability, mobility and lethality. 

 

  1. The Cannon

 

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 monthsA 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.

 

  1. UK Armoured Vehicle Enterprise

 

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.

 

  1. Facilities and the Core Industrial Base.  The industrial base for armoured vehicles design and manufacture in the UK was reconstituted by GDLS-UK in the early phases of the AJAX programmeA modern, digital Systems Integration Laboratory was built in South Wales to develop the AJAX digital architecture.  Following an agreement reached post the main production contract award, GDLS-UK “on-shored” the bulk of AJAX production to South Wales by transferring knowledge and capabilities from General Dynamics’ armoured vehicles operations in Spain, leading to some early inefficiencies.  A UK supply chain was established through the selection and management of a range of specialist suppliers, which built armoured vehicles skills and expertise within the supply chain.  The final outcome of this substantial investment in time and resources is a fully reconstituted armoured vehicles design and manufacturing capability, supported by a mature supply chain across the UK.

 

  1. People.  Attracting and retaining a team of senior leaders for an armoured vehicles programme across all the disciplines of supply chain, production and engineering in a market without continuous experience of armoured vehicles design and manufacture proved to be a significant challenge for the programme. The lack of an industrial strategy for land vehicles in UK had led to a period without new armoured vehicles being developed or manufactured, resulting in a lack of experienced and skilled people across all disciplines within the UK.  This was particularly evident in engineering disciplines, including the software skills needed for a modern digital platform.  In response, GDLS-UK brought together and developed a strong core team, and also invested in graduate and apprenticeship schemes to build a long term capability in armoured vehicles design and manufacture. 

 

  1. Interdependencies.  The learning curve for armoured vehicles procurement and manufacture applied both to industry and to the MoD.  As a consequence of the lack of armoured vehicles procurement for many years, the MoD’s once world class subject matter expertise in armoured vehicles procurement and technologies had dispersed and the residual capability was significantly stretched in terms of resources and depth of expertise.  The complexity of the AJAX programme, across all Lines of Development, requires a significant degree of collaboration between MoD and industry to achieve success, and there are substantial interdependencies between MoD and industry within the programme.  As covered for the industry side, building an experienced team in the MoD and developing the learning curve following many years without major armoured vehicles programmes proved to be challenging.  This has had an impact on the joint working activity needed to manage the interdependencies, and in jointly managing programme risksThe review process across many strands of work has required multiple iterations over extended periods before reaching conclusions.  Areas such as safety and design assurance have taken substantially longer to conclude than planned, as the joint teams built the skills and expertise, and adapted to modern, digital armoured vehicles and a new safety assurance environment

 

  1. COVID-19

 

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 programmeGDLS-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?

 

Summary

 

GDUK made a submission to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee for their “Defence Industrial Policy: Procurement and Prosperity” inquiry last year[1].  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:

 

  1. Land vehicles design, development and manufacture will be carried out ‘off-shore’ by foreign companies who have not invested in the UK and this will undermine the nascent UK armoured vehicles engineering and industrial skills

 

  1. New UK industrial facilities will be developed by offshore providers and then closed down on a ‘programme by programme’ basis.  Whilst ‘new’ production jobs and facilities are superficially attractive, it is an unsustainable model and means there will be no UK core capability to evolve the digital armoured vehicles capabilities through their full-life or to develop the next generation of armoured vehicles.   

 

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:

  1. Investment. The British Army put in place a funded plan (the so called ‘AFV pipeline’) for procuring significant future armoured vehicles programmes – this included AJAX, the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WR CSP), and the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (CR2 LEP).[2]  On that basis, the General Dynamics Corporation invested more than £32m in our Oakdale development and Merthyr Tydfil production facilities in South Wales, to support AJAX and anticipated future armoured vehicles programmes; Lockheed Martin announced significant investment in their Ampthill facility, to support AJAX and the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme; and BAE Systems announced additional investment to support the Telford facility, to support the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme.  These industrial capabilities are, by any measure, ‘world class’ – the UK now has an industrial capability worth defending again. 

 

  1. Digital Armoured Vehicles.  This next generation of armoured vehicles are very different from what has gone before.  Traditionally, armoured vehicles are procured and, depending on funding and priorities, may receive a mid-life upgrade.  Often this is delayed or de-scoped and the armoured vehicles is left in a state of ‘in-service obsolescence’ with little residual military capability.  Digital armoured vehicles, of which AJAX is in the vanguard, are different.  They are the first to have open, digital architectures that are much easier to upgrade both via the ‘plug and play’ of new hardware and, more often now, through regular software enhancements.  It will be this adaptability to changes in the threat and advances in technology that will make this next generation of armoured vehicles able to deliver what the Chief of the General Staff calls ‘prototype warfare’[3] throughout their long life.  This makes the industrial capabilities that have developed these new Digital armoured vehicles - now more focused around software engineering - world leading.

 

  1. New Technology.  These new Digital Platforms are now more able to take advantage of a range of new technologies available to the Land sector, such as hybrid / electric drives, active protection systems, autonomous robotic vehicles, Manned Unmanned Teaming (a manned AJAX, for example, working cooperatively with one or more semi-autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles and Unmanned Air Vehicles), and Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning algorithms for everything from predicting when an engine might fail to aiding a recce commander interpret a scene by distinguishing enemy targets from civilian vehicles.     

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:

 

  1. Mobile Short Range Air Defence (M-SHORAD): designed to counter helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and unmanned aerial system threats using a combination of radar guided guns, missiles and electronic warfare capabilities.  Directed energy weapons can be added in the future.

Image result for stryker SHORAD AUSA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5: Stryker A1 IM-SHORAD shown at AUSA 2019.

 

  1. Mobile bridging: for genuine medium weight deployability, this is an important manoeuvre support capability for Strike Operations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6: AJAX-based Bridge Layer shown at DSEI 2019.

 

  1. Anti-Tank Guided Weapons (ATGW) Overwatch: a long-standing UK requirement since the in-service CVR(T) Striker and considered but not delivered through the TRACER and FRES programmes.