FRES and other misadventures in strategy

Discussion in 'Strategic Defence & Spending Review (SDSR)' started by Gassing_Badgers, Oct 15, 2010.

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  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...
    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. 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.

    The exercise in managing Pa Broon's iheritance crisis is due next week, but suspect it might be a long wait for anything strategic! ;-)

    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, 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. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    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–-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
  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. 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. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    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

    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. 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. 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.