Drayson responds to FRES criticism

Discussion in 'Tanks, planes & ships' started by Richard_North, Jun 14, 2007.

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  1. http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/DefencePolicyAndBusiness/DefenceNewsDaily.htm

    Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, has responded to criticism of his recent announcement on the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) on a comment website. The full text of Lord Drayson's response reads:

    "Your recent post on the FRES utility vehicle, titled, ‘Not fit for purpose’, was long on assertion and short on fact.

    "You claim that the three candidate vehicle designs the MoD has selected have already been rejected by the Army as “lacking development potential”. That is simply not true. We have always been clear that a current Off-The-Shelf vehicle would not meet out needs. But the vehicles we have chosen are not Off-The-Shelf vehicles. They are designs which are currently in development to provide new models within existing families of vehicles. I am sure you agree that it would make no sense to invent a new vehicle from scratch. The designs we will look at in the trials this summer take proven vehicles, and evolve them to the next level to have the capacity, mobility, ability to upgrade through life, and, above all, the level of protection the Army need. That is why the Army and procurement officials chose them. And that is why I approved it.

    "Yes, the Boxer was a programme the MoD pulled out of when it was known as the MRAV programme. We took that decision in 2002 in light of the requirement at the time. We have since reviewed the FRES requirement in light of recent operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Force protection in theatre now has a higher priority than strategic deployability – I don’t think anyone would argue with that view. When the situation changes our procurement process must be capable of responding to that change. It would make no sense to have excluded Boxer from consideration for FRES because of a decision taken against a fundamentally different requirement. The priority is to get the best solution for the Army, and that is why Boxer will take part in the trials.

    "The level of protection is the top priority for FRES, but it remains a requirement that it be deployable by the A400M. Yes, it will not be transportable by C130. But the balance of our air transport fleet when FRES enters service will be the larger, more capable A400M and C17. It would make no sense to compromise on the armour (and therefore weight) of the FRES vehicle, so that it can deploy on what by that point will only represent a minority of our strategic airlift capability. I’m not going to go into the details of the protection FRES will have in a public forum. I’m not prepared to endanger soldiers lives in that manner. But to suggest that we are ignoring the threats we face in Iraq and Afghanistan today when we set the requirement for our future vehicles is wrong. And the idea that taking into account the full range of threats FRES will be less well protected than the patrol vehicles you list (such as the Mastiff) is also wrong.

    "Finally, let’s all be clear that FRES is neither a protected patrol vehicle nor a replacement for Warrior. We have introduced the new Mastiff and Vector vehicles, which are operating very successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan as Protected Patrol Vehicles. The Mastiff demonstrates that we can respond effectively and rapidly to requirements: the first of the 108 vehicles was specified, procured, built and delivered in 23 weeks. And they are on operations and saving lives. We are also looking at the longer term requirement for a Future Medium Protected Patrol Vehicle. You suggest that there remains a requirement for the ‘heavy’ capability provided by Warrior and that we should be looking at upgrading the existing vehicles. I agree. That’s why there is a separate, funded programme to sustain and upgrade the capability provided by this vehicle – the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme. FRES will not be funded at the expense of making the necessary upgrades to the Army’s existing vehicles."

    Part I of the response here
  2. "But the balance of our air transport fleet when FRES enters service will be the larger, more capable A400M and C17."

    Is Milord Drayson taking some sort of illicit substance?

    Any ideas when the A400M will enter service if at all? The first machine is still to fly, and the first airframe is to be tested to destruction this year.

  3. This has always puzzled me ... one vehicle per aircraft, and then you have the troops, logisitics and support elements. How many aircraft would it take, and how long, to deliver a useable force?
  4. Thanks for the post, it makes interesting reading.

    You state that FRES will not be optimised for high end war fighting or COIN operations, and therefore (I presume) cannot operate in either. That's is the point I think, the Army (I) don't want a vehicle optimised for a specific role or theatre. It needs to be a jack of all trades and let's be honest here, serve as a direct replacement for the FV430 series.

    The key to all of this will be the platforms growth potential; in terms of GVW, power budget, internal volume and electronic architecture.

    I hope I haven't misunderstood you, but I believe all the Army want's is a vehicle that works, that is better than its predeccessor and now. Can't be too hard can it?
  5. HMG/MoD are right to ditch the FRES science fiction concept in favour of a (semi) off the shelf purchase of the types under consideration. 'Science fiction' FRES is completely inappropriate for the conflicts that 'we' have chosen to fight. The only thing that puzzles me is why they have retained the 'FRES' moniker.

    In that sense Richard, I feel your original criticism is simply criticism for criticism's sake - unless you have some vested interest in the original FRES project...

    It makes a pleasant change for a minister to actually respond with sound and logical rebuttals - the A400 element notwithstanding!
  6. FRES is cr@p.

    "The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) is the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) programme to provide the British Army with a family of medium-weight, network-enabled, air-deployable armoured vehicles to meet up to 16 battlespace roles. The key drivers for FRES are the need for:

    * An armoured Rapid Effect land capability
    * Wide operational utility
    * Maximum interoperability with other parts of deployed forces, other components and allies
    * Addressing the obsolescence of existing fleets"

    Armoured rapid effect is a contradiction in terms, and what lies at the heart of the cr@pness of the whole idea. As Dilbert Drayson has pointed out in 'his' reply, the reqt is for 'A400' liftable. This means that the FRES vehicle is too small/light to be properly armoured. With toys like the RPG 18 out there, and EFPs abounding, it is neither a light rapidly deployable unarmoured fish, or a shock and awe inspiring armoured behemoth of a fowl. It is an expensive 'super-snatch', vulnerable to any anti-armour device, but too bulky/slow to really chuck around the battlefield.

    One should also note that rapid effect suggests deploying, let's say, at least a Company or Squadron sized group of these babies (any smaller, and it's 'FRHS' - Future Rapid Hostage System'). Factor in the log tail, and see how many A400 lifts we're talking if they are to get where they're going faster than the Current Rapid Arrival Plan (Cr@P) system of chucking heavy stuff on boats and sailing it to a POD in theatre...

    It's an example of trying to wish that irritating old thing called reality away. Thus are soldiers killed.
  7. Vehciles are measured in something called LIMS (I think - Line Equivalent Metres?) If a vehicle is 15 LIMS and a plane is 30 LIMS then.. you get what I mean.

    Form an exercise I was involved in a few years ago, we worked out that it would take around 6 months to deploy a mechanized brigade entirely by air. Alongside all the other stuff that is flying into theatre. When a ship can carry thousands of LIMS and takes 21 days to sail to theatre ....once again you get the idea.

    In short, the weight of the vehicle is almost irrelevant. To really achieve rapid deployment, the key is how many ships you have and how fast they go. US fast ship programme anyone....

    As an aside it costs around $800 to fly 1 ton of ammunition to Iraq and $10 to ship it (Jane's)... maths again.
  8. God post. But 'network-enabled'...HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

    2 points on that one:

    How much and how?
  9. It does make a change ... I think it is very healthy and welcome.

    As to the criticisms, the overall projected budget for "FRES" is £16 billion. I think we should be asking what that money is for and, more particularly, why the decisions have been made. I would be quite content, in the end, to accept that the right decision has been made (if it has), but as long as public money is being spent, I think it must also be justified publicly.

    Overall, though, I am confused as to what role the supposed medium Brigades are supposed to play. It may be crystal clear to you military geniuses, but us down in the weeds are a little confused.
  10. There lies the crux of the problemas they are all committed to current operations. I don't think that entered the decision making process when the FRES KURs were being drafted!
  11. Thanx CS - I didn't even want to go there, but since you've picked up on it:

    a) My response to that implied benefit is 'so what?' - we can network enable almost any vehicle, if the money is available - for example, civvy logistics companys can do so for under £200 per vehicle in terms of tracking, monitoring and communicating via commercially available GPS based solutions.

    b) However, given our track record and the bollocks that is Defence/Public Sector IT & IS, it won't work anyway.

    c) Wasn't Bowman meant to provide this functionality for any platform anyway?? (see point (b) above)

    d) If it's a 'rapid effects' system, implying some sort of spearhead type deployment, network enabling is low on the operational requirements list, as it's likely to be operating in a discrete force package in which situational awareness/passage of info is adequate anyway... Network enabling's real benefit is in large, chaotic, geographically dispersed multi-unit and multi-formation environments, where it significantly reduces confusion and the decision cycle - if it's properly implemented.

    So, there's another reason to dump FRES now, before Network Enabling triples its cost to deliver functionality 'not wanted on voyage'...
  12. 'Official' costs previously announced for the science-fiction FRES now dropped...

    Rather deft increase in cost from 6 to 14 billion in purchase cost in the 8 months elapsed between statements.

    Here's what one of the bidders assumed:

    This is NOT the costings/budget for the 'new' off the shelf FRES now envisioned. Shortly, you can expect an announcement of huge savings over the medium term by the MoD given the revision of the FRES contract. :D

    They're cheaper!
  13. Now I really am confused....

    Can I return the compliment ... I picked this up from the Financial Times - I don't think it's been published on ARRSE before:

    UK left dependent on overseas design for armoured vehicle needs

    By Nick Prest
    Published: April 2 2007 03:00 | Last updated: April 2 2007 03:00
    From Mr Nick Prest.

    Sir, As chief executive of Alvis until its acquisition by BAE Systems in 2004 I was able to observe the Ministry of Defence procurement programme for armoured vehicles ("Armed and in danger of more delays", March 26) from a close and sometimes painful perspective.

    Planning for what is now called the Future Rapid Effects System (Fres) actually started in the late 1980s with the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) programme, intended to replace vehicles put into service in the 1960s and 1970s.

    Unfortunately the bungled approach, described in your article, to a number of armoured vehicle replacement programmes and, at least until recently, Fres, means that this effort is not much further forward today, almost 20 years after it was first considered. Approaching half of the total armoured strength of the British Army still comprises vehicles that are 40 years old on average and which, despite belated spending to upgrade them, are fundamentally not "fit for purpose", to use the latest Whitehall jargon.

    Industry gave strong advice to the MoD in relation to several proposed vehicle programmes. In the case of Fres, industry said it would be impossible to achieve the aims of the programme within the 18-tonne limit then prescribed and that a weight of at least 25 tonnes would be needed. In each project the customer did the opposite of what industry urged.

    Tracer (the Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement) was persisted with until cancelled as unaffordable. MRAV (the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle) was cancelled as being "too heavy", in favour of the lighter Fres concept. Now the utility version of Fres is conceived to be a vehicle weighing at least 25 tonnes to provide the necessary degree of protection and may end up looking very like MRAV (with which the Germans and Dutch sensibly persisted).

    These mishandled programmes have left the British Army "under-armoured" in Iraq and Afghanistan and emergency buys from overseas suppliers have been needed to put vehicles into the field with an adequate degree of, in particular, mine protection.

    The breadth of the user community in the army makes it harder to specify equipment requirements than in the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force. But the army has not helped itself. The British Army prides itself on getting the job done, whatever the tools at its disposal. Also the army equips the man, whereas the RAF mans the equipment, with the Royal Navy somewhere in between. Those who run the army are outstanding soldiers and leaders but they are not technocrats and their natural orientation is towards people issues. The army needs a stronger technocratic component at more senior levels in order to improve future decision-making on complex equipment programmes.

    The effects on industry have also been malign. For several decades after the second world war the UK was a leader in armoured vehicle exports, particularly of light and medium vehicles. Exports of some 5,000 Saladin, Scorpion and Warrior vehicles were made to some 50 countries with a value exceeding £6bn in today's money.

    Had the £200m-plus which has until now been largely wasted on Tracer, MRAV and Fres been put into a well-conceived and executed domestic development project the UK could now have a vehicle programme with strong export prospects as well as a much more advanced Fres solution. As it is, it seems likely that the Fres utility vehicle will be an adapted off-the-shelf purchase of an existing overseas design. The lack of export potential inherent in this means that the UK industry will in future be more dependent on UK MoD business for survival and retention of intellectual capability.

    It is at least an economic loss, and perhaps a disgrace, that a country with a relatively large defence budget, a world-class army, and a strong science and technology base, should have got itself into a position where it is now completely dependent on adopting an overseas design in order to meet the Fres requirement in an acceptable timescale. It is to be hoped that Lord Drayson's defence industrial strategy improves the handling of these matters in the future.

    Nick Prest,
    Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 2JN
  14. You only had to read the stories about incorporating complex and unproven concepts such as electrically charged armour, drive via in-hub electric hub motors and all manner of exotic bollox to know that this was a project capable getting wholly out of control a la Nimrod.

    Always possible that going back to a short list of some real world-ish "now" vehicles (even if they do not quite fit the bill) but with development potential might actually deliver something in the forseeable future rather than, eerrrrr, something promised to be very wonderful but that never quite gets delivered and costs a huge amount in the process.

    Reminded me of two things:

    1. The saying: "Make a wish with one hand, cr@p into the other and see which fills up first"

    2. the Germans pratting about with ever more complex tank developments whilst the Russians were churning out T34, T34, T34, T34............
  15. OK. I'll take an infamous quote from a bearded former foreign minister in Serbia, "Nemoj da mesas babe i zabe". This translates literaly as, "don't mix grandmothers and frogs!" Or rather more suitable translated as, "apples and pears!"

    Yes, the (old) paper-weight FRES comes at an absurd cost. Now apply the same technological gizmos to a heavy-weight Warrior/Bradley replacement and you can treble the numbers. Horribly expensive is only a relative term.

    I'm afraid I don't have the time to go into the explanations and the 'proofs', but believe me, don't be seduced by big numbers and think that's as far as it goes!