FRES and other misadventures in strategy

#1
Right, as much as I enjoy watching the current ding-dong punchup surrounding CVF, I feel the need to relate this to another topic by meandering off on something I know a little bit more about.

...that being the f*ck up previously know as FRES.

In much the same manner as those that are questioning the utility of the proposed CVF buy, I would question the logic that went into this programme, which I would contend was based on either of the following*:

a) We all got swept up in the medium-weight, network centric orgy of the previous decade, and indulged our fantasies in an unproven doctrine based upon powerpoint slides and Playstation graphics...
or
b) The senior leadership of the Army got fed up with looking out of the window at an increasingly beat-up AFV fleet, and attempted to build an infallible case for their replacement based on a) above, which they never really believed in.


Either way, by not being able to articulate exactly what we wanted, we have ended up with a fiasco that could have been more easily sorted if we had just bought a COTS item back when we were considering FFLAV/MRAV/TRACER in the 90s.

What worries me most is how little thought actually goes into some of our equipment strategy, and how much of this is based on either axiom and myth handed down from generation to generation, or far-fetched fantasies whose basic premise could have been scotched by even the most basic of history lessons.

Lets take the whole FRES SV/CVR(T) debate for instance. I recently read an HQ DRAC paper in which it was confidently claimed that the British Army would continue to practice 'recce by stealth' in the future, and that our equipment would be development on this premise. I had hoped that I might have seen references to studies or historical perspectives that have demonstrated the benefits to a modern manouvre army of this doctrine, as opposed to the US doctrine which advocates a more robust approach to recce**.
I was disappointed. In fact, can anyone actually think of an example in which current FR doctrine has been used effectively against a modern opponent? One only has to look at the equipment tables of a post-1944 Armd Recce regiment to see that medium tanks had supplanted many of their light brethren and armoured cars - and it han only be assumed that this was learnt the hard way...

Anyway, back to my point, which is...who is actually thinking hard about how we do stuff beyond the endless position papers written in a matter of weeks by hordes of over-worked SO2s? How many senior officers are actually doing any kind of the intellectual PT which they should be paid to do, instead of spinning PR and regurgitating briefs written for them by their staff?



* - there is a 3rd option, as espoused by Booker, North et al, in that FRES was based on the need to intregrate ourselves further into the EU :)
** - actually, the US approach to 'FIND' is more comprehensive, of which armored (sic) cavalry Squadrons equipped with Abrams and Bradley are but a part


mods - feel free to move this to the RAC forum if you feel this has too much of a mechnaical slant on it! :)
 
#2
A new government came along in 1997 and, rather than slashing the military to the bone as expected, announced that they had a new use for them as mobile stampers and slappers around the world. Since they had not a clue about defence matters, they listened to the military brass about how to go about this new 'defence' doctrine/policy. Military brass promptly saw a way to get all sorts of new shiny kit that they had been after for years - all they had to do was 'sell' or spin the need to their political masters. Hence CVF and FRES to name just two.

There is no doubt that the Army needs some new armoured vehicles to replace some pretty old tat: FV430 series, CVR(T) and the utterly useless Saxon - although that was the newest bit of kit!!! Hej presto! Along comes a sooper-dooper air transportable rapid effects armoured vehicle. Like the CVF, FRES had more spin than substance.

Then along came some wee little wars that needed some attention. And just like all the wars that have gone before, instead of jack-o-all-trades vehicles, different types for different roles are needed. How many new types have appeared in the last decade that were NEVER supposed to be needed???? And, of course, we realised the technology to go light with the same protection simply doesn't exist.

Project FRES is dead. Son of Project FRES exists. But at least the Army has had the foresight and common sense to recognise that Project FRES is a non-starter and thus retains only two things from the original project: the 4 letters F.R.E.S and the desire for a new armoured vehicle. Everything else about the project, is out - thankfully!
 
#3
Badgers

I think we ended up in the state we are in because we saw the world as we wanted it to be rather than as it actually is and built equipment to meet the threats in this imaginary world.

Until the Strategic part of SDSR is sorted and cohearent we will continue to be flogged powerpoint engineered dreams and continue to use the kit we have.

My 2 cents is Recce by stealth is the recieved wisdom in DRAC and until you get some Cavalry officers to think about what they do we will continue to refight malaya.

Heavy may not be fashionable, but it beats wearing an IED
 
#4
Badgers

I think we ended up in the state we are in because we saw the world as we wanted it to be rather than as it actually is and built equipment to meet the threats in this imaginary world.
Exactly. And if I may hark back to my old pal Guderian, he saw things as they had been, as they were, and as were yet to come.

Until the Strategic part of SDSR is sorted and cohearent we will continue to be flogged powerpoint engineered dreams and continue to use the kit we have.
The exercise in managing Pa Broon's iheritance crisis is due next week, but suspect it might be a long wait for anything strategic! ;-)

My 2 cents is Recce by stealth is the recieved wisdom in DRAC and until you get some Cavalry officers to think about what they do we will continue to refight malaya.
If we can't even agree the difference between a BRF and and a Bde Recce Sqn, I doubt anything will chnage soon! Besides, there's a war on dontcha' know...with the gunners.

Heavy may not be fashionable, but it beats wearing an IED
Heavy, medium or light....we won't have any means of getting it anywhere soon anyway! :-(


Good to hear from you btw...have the ill winds of Mordor reached the shire yet?
 
#5
GB, couldn't agree more. Whitecity, FRES does not exist as a name anymore. Part of what was FRES is know known as Specialist Vehicle (SV) which will hopefully get a more catchier name (eg less similar to MAN SV, SV-R) once the Army Board have a bit more time to concentrate on the more important issues. The manufacturers' (GDUK) designation of the first in the series is SCOUT, so doubtless we will have something original like "STUCK" for the REME variant, "SHELL" for the Joint Fires Variant and "SPELL" for the AGC variant.....I'll let the forum decide on the rest in the series.
 
#6
At the end of the FRES Scout development stage we will have comfortably spent over a billion pounds with nothing but a handful of prototypes and some wicked PowerPoints

In this article

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/03/fres-scout-–-spot-the-difference/

There is a comment from the FRES Desk Officer at the MoD who says

The fundamental problem at the time was the political direction from the Strategic Defence Review – written by the MOD but signed off politically without an understanding of what we were letting ourselves in for.

Back then, in the light of Gulf War I, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, we had cobbled together as rapid interventions as we could manage, and felt pleased with ourselves and our ‘agility’. In retrospect, we were falling for the oldest error in the book – that of planning to fight the last war again.

The fundamental mathematical problem that if you protect a vehicle to war-fighting standards then you don’t fit it into an aircraft (at least, not within a sensible budget and with no aircraft that we own) rapidly hit home, and it became a battle between the visionaries who overtly wished to compete with the US, and the progamtics, led by DRAC, who wanted to make sure that we kept some armoured troops alive to fight the battle.

Then the scale of the necessary FRES buy became apparent through the AV Rationalisation process. The number of vehicles we would need to buy to make the project work had shot up by over 400%, and we were looking to backload the second 10 years of the procurement budget with billions of non-existent money.

After that there was little hope for a coherent programme
Some more on the subject

CVR(T) – What are we losing? | Think Defence

What Does a CVR(T) Replacement Look Like – Part 1 | Think Defence

What Does a CVR(T) Replacement Look Like

Why FRES UV Still Matters | Think Defence
 
#7
Very Interesting and informative thread. Thanks.
 
#8
I recall a sketch some years ago by, I think, Bird & Fortune re FRES. The "Sir Humphrey" character explained it thus:

FRES = Future Rapid Effects System. Neither politicians nor generals know what it means, which is good.

Future = will never happen

Rapid =within 20 years, subject to "F" above

Effects = no one's decided what it's supposed to do yet

System = we can bolt on anything from radios to missiles in a "system", and spend years & billions trying and failing to integrate the various bits. See "E", "R" AND "F" ABOVE.

Other countries, as noted in this thread, manage to recce using MBTs. Why can't we?
 
#9
See that's why I like ARRSE information and humour. BS baffles Brains.
 
#10
Perhaps a glance at history could point the way forward?

In the 1930's we'd progressed as far as the Vickers light tank, and the multi-turreted "Independent".
The B vehicle fleet was made up of products from a dozen manufacturers, all similar but different, all needing spares.

Most of that fleet was left in the dunes at Dunkirk.

In the course of WW2 Britain managed to produce a whole range of infantry and cruiser tanks, in umpteen marks,which were found wanting, before settling on Churchills or (American) Shermans, and towards the end had Comets and Centurions.

The last 2 soldiered on for decades, until the Chieftain came along, followed decades later by Challenger 1 & 2.

The post WW2 B fleet eventually standardised to Bedfords, Aec's and Fodens-- all firms that subsequently went bust.As did Commer, Austin, Scammel etc etc.

Now we seem to have again a diversity of vehicle types and manufacturers, and FRES and its ilk seemed to want to increase that diversity? Surely that's a road to disaster and financial ruin?

Is it not possible to have, eg, a single heavily armoured tracked chassis that can be fitted out as tank/apc/gun/etc?
Or a series of trucks in varying sizes from 1 maker? (probably done, now, with M.A.N)

The Israelis have the Namer apc, based on a Merkava chassis; the Russians seem to keep their choice to tracks or wheels, with chassis for each in similar roles; even the Jordanians have tinkered with turning old Cents into apc's by bunging the engine up front and putting a ramp on the back? I'm sure Britain can do better, or, if not, buy off the shelf abroad.
 
#11
At the end of the FRES Scout development stage we will have comfortably spent over a billion pounds with nothing but a handful of prototypes and some wicked PowerPoints

In this article

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/03/fres-scout-–-spot-the-difference/

There is a comment from the FRES Desk Officer at the MoD who says



Some more on the subject

CVR(T) – What are we losing? | Think Defence

What Does a CVR(T) Replacement Look Like – Part 1 | Think Defence

What Does a CVR(T) Replacement Look Like

Why FRES UV Still Matters | Think Defence
To play Devil's Advocate here, I don't agree with the comment on Think Defence either, for several reasons:

1) That the SV is a 40 tonne vehicle gets dragged up pretty often. That might be true with the 'assymetric' TES package (armour etc), but on a like-for like comparison with CVR(T), it is probably near 25 tonnes.

2) Planning a future vehicle around C-130 lift capability is short sighted in the least. If its battlefield lift-ability you want, see comments below

3) To reference the Falklands experience only serves to further cloud the Scout debate by confusing already woolly heads with the CVR(T) is a light tank/medium armour. If the effect we want to achieve in this case is to provide light forces with intimate fire support, then there are better platforms to do it than our primary FR capability

I actually think we got it reasonably right with SV - more by luck than judgement perhaps - but we could have done it a hell of a lot earlier!
 
#12
It would seem to all come back to what is it used for and the confusion around that fundamentally simple question

Jackal/Coyote seems to have thrown a spanner in the works but it would seem that the concept of a small(ish) armoured vehicle still has merit and so does recce by CR2

Another comment

I am now retired from the Army and embarking on my second career, but I spent most of my 22 years serving in CVR(T) and most of what has been written here has been discussed by the men that did crew them and still do!

It is a fantastic piece of equipment, years ahead of its time when designed and that very fact that there is literally nothing that can do what it does, on the market today, marks it as still being a unique and valued capability, that as was written in the article, we loose at our peril.

In the Falklands, it was 10 years old, relegated to secondary roles for fear it would not be able to traverse the terrain, well it did and in the post op reports, they wanted a Sqn, if not a Regt down there.

In Granby it was written off again because “it wouldn’t keep up” with Challenger/Warrior. Well not only did it, but it was proved that both in the Close and Formation Recce role, the need for the manned platform to FIND the enemy, FIX him and if it went pear shaped could stand up for itself till the big boys arrived, was as valuable as ever and the platform of choice?

CVR(T)

In the Balkans, during the winter of ’93-’94, the only vehicle that could move over roads with inches of black ice, offer protection against IDF and traverse the steep, snowy terrain to get the job done was CVR(T).

During Telic 1 it was engaging and holding its own in fights with T55 while it’s human crew made the decisions to use Arty, Air or other ground units to out manoeuvre the enemy.

On Herrick with Mine blast Protection, ballistic protection and bar armour, not only does it mean the crew walk away from mine strikes and RPG strikes, I’ve seen it first hand, but in some cases the vehicle not only survives, but continues to fight! (But the extra protection does push it to 11 tonnes!)

Why is CVR(T) so good at what it does?

It has the perfect balance of Armour/Protection/Firepower but it is its size and weight that means it can go anywhere and do anything.

I for one, along with many other will shed a tear when it finally backs into the hanger for the last time

Perhaps we should realise there is no 'one answer' and we were onto something with the VERDI Warrior many moons ago

Its a fascinating debate though
 
#13
Just a thought on the SV aspect alone... actually from this very site, in the thread about the Jackal, and I remember a commenter who was from a FR regiment, commenting that for his money the Jackal was actually a better vehicle. Granted, this experience is based on Afghanistan alone, but the points he made about even greater manoeuvrability than CVR(T), and having a GPMG/40AGL gave greater firepower than the RARDEN, and had greater ease of maintenance. I also imagine that if we ARE to talk of recce by stealth, then a wheeled platform is intrinsically quieter and therefore less obvious than tracked.

From a personal view I would add that i'm not sure quite how brilliantly Jackal would do in a high intensity state on state conflict, or on boggy ground like the Falklands. But then, in the post above the referencing how and where CVR(T) has been used in the past, a lot of its greatest successes have been when used as light armoured close support to the infantry in difficult to reach places - perhaps there is a call for a 10-15 ton vehicle with a 35/40mm cannon that can do that kind of close support with a little more in the protection side of the triangle than Scimitar.
 
#14
Spanner said:
GB, couldn't agree more. Whitecity, FRES does not exist as a name anymore. Part of what was FRES is know known as Specialist Vehicle (SV) which will hopefully get a more catchier name (eg less similar to MAN SV, SV-R) once the Army Board have a bit more time to concentrate on the more important issues. The manufacturers' (GDUK) designation of the first in the series is SCOUT, so doubtless we will have something original like "STUCK" for the REME variant, "SHELL" for the Joint Fires Variant and "SPELL" for the AGC variant.....I'll let the forum decide on the rest in the series.
So even the name FRES has gone. Good. It only lasted as long as it did so that Generals didn't have to admit they'd got it all wrong in the first place!!!
 
#15
So even the name FRES has gone. Good. It only lasted as long as it did so that Generals didn't have to admit they'd got it all wrong in the first place!!!
Was it CGS himself who was quoted as saying something like:

"It is clear that that 'Go First, Go Fast, Go Home,' only has a limited shalf life"

i.e. nice soundbite, but a load of old bollocks in the real world. Unfortunately, it seemed to take Uncle Sam to drop the FCS programme for anyone over here to realise the emperor had been naked all along.
 
#16
Suprised nobody mentioned Ocelot. Forgive my non-tankie ignorance but isn't it's payload modular? If Jackal is almost but not quite surely designing a suitable recce module for it might fill the CVR(T) shaped hole we'll end up with?
 
#17
Interesting that the French have stuck with the armoured car concept, driven perhaps by extended operations in Africa and their new idea is one armed with the 40mm CTA
 
#18
Suprised nobody mentioned Ocelot. Forgive my non-tankie ignorance but isn't it's payload modular? If Jackal is almost but not quite surely designing a suitable recce module for it might fill the CVR(T) shaped hole we'll end up with?
That's the idea, but I don't think they have physically demonstrated the modular concept yet, except on paper.

I can concievably imagine an Ocelot variant taking on the roles of all current WMIK variants, including Jackal. But lets not forget, WMIK and Jackal were originally supposed to be just heavy weapons platforms rather than recce vehicles (notwithstanding the use of cut-down landies in recce pl of light-role Bns).

More later...ned to drop kids off at pool (in the literal, rather than euphemistic sense!)
 
#19
Interesting that the French have stuck with the armoured car concept, driven perhaps by extended operations in Africa and their new idea is one armed with the 40mm CTA
Certainly, in an African context, the old SADF found the Eland (local Panhard AML 90mm/60mm) pretty useful, even against T54/55 types.
 
#20
Certainly, in an African context, the old SADF found the Eland (local Panhard AML 90mm/60mm) pretty useful, even against T54/55 types.
Certainly, they were very useful - but they were also quite vulnerable to mine attack. In this case, the SADF figured the benefit of firepower outweighed the risk in protection - and they were probably right.

Those who lambast the UK MoD for 'inadequate' kit would do well to note that such trade-offs have always existed.


This leads us off down a little side-road, which is worth exploring. Recce platforms are often used in COIN (or other assymetric) operations. Given that assymetric warfare often places particular threat requirements (mine/IED) on equipment - and that form follows function - is this compatible with the roles of a recce platform?
 

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