11/09/2011 Contributor: Andrew Elwell - .defenceiq.com
At a time when budget cuts have been squeezing the defence industry David Cameron boosted the armoured vehicle market by announcing the long-awaited £1 billion upgrade programme for the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), enabling prime contractor Lockheed Martin to support up to 600 jobs in the UK.
The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) is designed to increase the Warrior’s through life capability to 2040 and beyond through a series of upgrades and improvements.
"We are delighted that the MoD has selected us to lead this critical upgrade effort designed to maximize the investment made in Warrior vehicles to extend their lives into the 2040s" said Alan McCormick, Vice President and Managing Director at Lockheed Martin UK's Ampthill business, in a press release. "The WCSP will provide a highly capable vehicle to fulfil the British Army's current and future requirements. It will also bring significant job opportunities for our team of suppliers based here in the UK."
Reacting to today’s threats, while anticipating tomorrow’s
The Warrior IFV is an industry darling following its deployment throughout two decades of British military operations globally, including laudable missions in the First Gulf War and Bosnia.
However, recent technological advancements and tactical shifts, such as the introduction of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan, have left the British IFV stalwart outdated and vulnerable.
The 300 vehicles under the WCSP will be kitted out with a new 40mm cannon and a series of communications enhancements operating from an open electronic architecture system.
Perhaps more importantly though is the planned upgrades to the vehicle’s armour, with each being up-armoured with new modular survivability systems. It’s this obligation to improve the vehicle’s armour that is underpinning the entire upgrade contract.
The Warrior has come under increasing criticism over the last decade after a number of deaths from IEDs in the Middle East. Caught out by rapidly evolving threats and differing warfare landscapes in the past, the UK MoD is keen to future-proof the next generation of Warrior fighting vehicle. That is what this contract is really about: Beyond being a standard upgrade it is intended to cover MoD’s back when the Warrior finds itself in another as yet unknown battlefield, facing another as yet undefined threat.
Implementing a new mounting system will allow the armour ‘modules’ to be easily removed and replaced to match the specific in-theatre threat required at any given time. Not only will this new approach increase the vehicle’s survivability in the short- and medium-term, it will also facilitate its deployment in a number of combat environments and make the next phase of upgrades a far smoother and simpler one in the future.
Making room in the budget for ‘smart’ investments
Speaking to IQPC last week Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, Former Director of the UK Defence Academy and National President of the Royal British Legion, warned of the dangers of only acquiring equipment relevant for today’s battlefield.
“Counter-insurgency is the flavour of the moment … (but we) have to focus on what is the character and future of conflict,” Kiszely said. “Unpredictability and uncertainty must be two of the major factors,” when considering current requirements.
The Warrior’s new modular armour system is addressing both of these unpredictability and uncertainty issues.
The first WCSP vehicles are scheduled to be in service in 2020. At Lockheed’s Ampthill, Bedfordshire base Prime Minister David Cameron announced: “We made difficult decisions in the strategic spending review so we could spend money on important equipment like this. It's a £1 billion investment, 90% of the jobs and the work are going to be done here in the UK. That's good for the economy, it's good for our armed forces but only possible because we made difficult decisions," according to The Telegraph.
Recently installed UK Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said in a statement: "As a key step towards meeting our requirements for Future Force 2020, the upgraded Warriors will give commanders and their soldiers greater flexibility and firepower. Not only is this fantastic news for the Army, it also represents a great boost to British Industry – sustaining jobs, skills and capability within the UK's armoured vehicle sector."
However, the Warrior upgrade isn’t the only armoured vehicle programme that the UK government is investing in. In July last year the UK MoD signed a £500 million contract with General Dynamics UK for seven ‘Scout’ Specialist Vehicles (SV) as part of FRES (Future Rapid Effects System). Once prototype tests have taken place, which are scheduled for no later than 2013, the government will conduct a feasibility study on the programme.
In today’s economic climate where budgets are being cut and acquisition chiefs are left twiddling their thumbs, the UK’s armoured vehicle industry at least seems to be bucking the trend.