How industry can support Army modernisation to 2025

Royal-Engineer-with-overlooking-NATO-Helicopter-base-at-night_ist-52140836The British Army has a modernisation plan with a timeframe of 2020-25 which recognises the importance of utility and productivity – and importantly, the support of business. Here, MOD DCB features writer Paul Elliott takes a look at the role that business can potentially play in supporting this modernisation.

The current vision for modernisation in the British Army is an interesting one. The Army has refined its ideas, its operating concept and its strategy for change. Chief of the General Staff General Sir Nick Carter said at DSEI 2015 in London that it’s not about ripping up Army 2020; rather it is about the next stage in that vision’s evolution. He’s particularly looking ahead to supporting Army modernisation in the timeframe 2020 to 2025.

It’s important to understand the context in which Army modernisation is being conducted and discussed. General Carter believes the ‘pervasive nature of information’ has led to the ‘character of conflict’ evolving at pace and thereby impacted on the way the Army needs to approach modernisation. He says we are now in a permanent state of competition – there’s much less distinction than there once was between war and peace.

The concepts of ‘home’ and ‘away’ now overlap, with a bearing upon the demographic base that the Army recruits from. General Carter says the UK’s enemies are adept at concealing themselves among the population at large, exploiting weaknesses which they can identify much more easily from the vast quantities of public information available to them. Interestingly, he says no conflict now can have a purely military solution; success is much more likely to be determined by the triumph of the narrative. It is consequently much harder today to set clear policy objectives.

What is clear is that resources are finite and words like utility, productivity and efficiency are firmly part of the modern military lexicon. It all bears heavily upon the way the Army is modernising, with General Carter for one focused on how the Army can fight smarter and run its business differently.

It is this idea of productivity – running the business better and delivering greater capability – that is of interest to the defence supply chain. The UK defence industry is very much at the forefront of General Carter’s mind throughout the process of modernisation in the Army. This is clearly good news for suppliers.

It’s not lost on anyone that modernising the Army comes with the challenge of running the business better and being a smarter customer. General Carter says the Army is involved in an ongoing conversation with industry as it seeks to forge a relationship in which the two parties can best work together. The ambition that was unveiled at DSEI last September is to improve strategic decision-making; maximise the potential of the Army’s portfolio of change – to prioritise it and sequence it effectively; gain and leverage expertise in terms of commercial skills; and help deliver innovative ways of working with industry to deliver military capability more effectively. It’s an ambitious project and it’s one that General Carter believes will give the British Army the potential to do things very differently.

In order to generate greater productivity the plan is for the Army to develop doctrine that provides a framework of mutual understanding with industry, so there can be an understanding of the opportunities on both sides of the relationship. It’s important for industry and the military to share a common language and therefore a common understanding. Collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and industry is both widespread and deep so the prospects for cementing this relationship are good.

For General Carter, fundamentally it should be about improving capability, not simply replacing it. He says industry should be seen as a force multiplier and as part of the ‘team’. This implies a longer-term relationship, which suppliers widely prefer. Work stream security and sustainability are core objectives of all organisations down the defence value chain. Collaboration here is key.

More good news for businesses is that there are opportunities in all capability areas, and the call coming from General Carter is that business change must be the driver. He says the Army will be very clear about cost-informed requirement-setting, with simplicity as a principle. It will be clear about sequencing its modernisation and applying a pipeline approach wherever possible. It will look for business innovation, and innovation is where the UK supply chain has always excelled. It all sounds like a case of ‘watch this space’.

Barely six months have passed since the current concept of Army modernisation was unveiled at DSEI and already there has visibly been movement to push things forward. Heads within industry have turned at the prospect of fresh opportunities for providing equipment and support following the emergence of a new concept called Land Joint Strike. Initial Operational Capability of Land Joint Strike is targeted for 2020-21 and partnership with industry will be a key driver, as the initiative will indeed require new equipment.

AJAX, the armoured cavalry variant of the Scout programme, has been announced as the core equipment capability of Land Joint Strike. The British Army will receive 589 AJAX vehicles, which will come in six variants, including ATHENA for Command and Control and ARES for Reconnaissance Support. The Army sees the platform as being task-organised with a comparable infantry variant, and a competition will shortly be launched under the designation Mechanised Infantry Vehicle. Anticipation is mounting.

To date, the MOD has committed £4.5 billion in contracts with General Dynamics to deliver the AJAX family of vehicles. General Dynamics is turning the former Linde forklift truck factory in Merthyr Tydfil into an assembly, integration and testing centre for AJAX. Further to that, GKN Aerospace has been selected by General Dynamics European Land Systems to manufacture the rotationally moulded fuel tanks for the platform, with deliveries commencing early this year and continuing through to 2023. This is a significant equipment programme for the Army and a strong and varied supply chain is required for its successful delivery.

There is also much importance placed on getting the Army’s approach to Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) correct. The Army Board very much sees this as delivering an open systems architecture that allows information to be exploited as and when it needs to be. Opportunities on the back of this commitment are much more likely to be in software rather than hardware solutions.

In order to run its business differently the Army must maximise the available talent pool, and it is easy to conjecture the role industry could play in reference to skills and expertise. There is a long history of the public sector learning from the private sector, and developing skill sets and driving innovation has long been central to delivering success in industry. A collaborative effort in this respect would have mutual benefits for both Army and industry.

General Carter strongly believes that the British Army is still a ‘reference customer’ and that customers abroad beat a path to the UK’s door to copy what we’re buying, what we’re teaching, and the way that we’re training. This plays to the Army and industry’s mutual strengths. General Carter is excited, and so is industry, for the British Army is committed to modernising its concepts, equipment and capabilities and industry has a central role to play.

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British Armed Forces Re-launches Food Requirement

Are you interested in supplying food to the British Armed Forces in the UK? Do you supply frozen, ambient or chilled foods? Are you a small or medium sized enterprise? Do you operate at either a regional or national level?

The Ministry of Defence is re-launching its food supply solution to meet the needs of the British Armed Forces in the UK and is interested in seeking your views as to how the requirement might be best met.

Please join us at one of our regional engagement sessions at the following dates and locations:

  • Cardiff – Monday 4th April 2016
  • Donnington – Monday 4th April 2016
  • Exeter – Tuesday 5th April 2016
  • Chorley – Tuesday 5th April 2016
  • Reading – Wednesday 6th April 2016
  • Glasgow – Wednesday 6th April 2016
  • Cambridge – Thursday 7th April 2016
  • Lisburn – Thursday 7th April 2016


These sessions will provide you with the opportunity to tell us what you think and for the MOD to give you some more background and details.

To register your interest and book and appointment at your preferred location, please email Alex Potter on by Wednesday 30th March.

The MOD is currently developing its procurement strategy for this requirement and has initially sought views from industry via a Prior Information Notice (PIN) published in the Defence Contracts Bulletin (18th December 2015).

General Dynamics: building dynamic vehicle architectures

General dynamics SV fleetAhead of General Dynamics’ display at the forthcoming Defence Vehicle Dynamics 2013 showcase, MOD DCB caught up with General Dynamics’ Senior Media Relations Manager Andrew Boyle to discuss the company’s presence in the UK armoured fleet. 

General Dynamics can boast a powerful presence in the UK armoured fleet. Included in this presence are vehicles such as the Mastiff, Ridgeback, Buffalo and Wolfhound fleets – which have served on British Army operations – as well as the Foxhound and the Scout Specialist Vehicle programme, which are currently being delivered into the Ministry of Defence.

The Specialist Vehicle (SV) programme will provide medium-weight tracked vehicles that will form the core of the British Army’s Future Force 2020.

General Dynamics’ Senior Media Relations Manager, Andrew Boyle, said: “The SV family so far comprises the Scout Reconnaissance vehicle, a Protected Mobility Recce Support vehicle, plus Repair and Recovery vehicles, while further variants such as Ambulance, Command and Control and Engineering Support vehicles are being assessed.”

Replacing the now ageing CVR(T) family of vehicles, the SV family is expected to have a lifespan of 40 years.

Mr Boyle continued: “Two key technological developments set SV apart. Firstly, a common base platform (CBP) underpins the entire SV family of vehicles. The CBP delivers common components for every SV variant, which delivers savings to the British Army through fewer spares and less costly training of support staff. Only specialised equipment such as turret, sensors and cannon on the Scout variant or crane on the Recovery variant will differ.

“Secondly, growth enablers have been engineered into the platform to ensure through-life exploitation. These improve payload, power and open electronic architecture.”

This open electronic architecture (EA) allows plug and play adoption of new components and systems, meaning the vehicle can be tailored to suit different missions. The SV is the first British Army vehicle to feature a fully open electronic architecture which is compliant to the Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA).

Mr Boyle added: “Generic Vehicle Architecture enables incremental acquisition as it will allow new technologies to be easily introduced into platforms at any time in their lifecycle without the need to wait for a major platform upgrade programme. The incremental acquisition approach should mean current capabilities now rather than much later for the user.

“General Dynamics’ own approach to electronic architectures can deliver fits of greater or lesser complexity, but what they have in common is their modularity and flexibility. Whether running a more basic HUMS system on a light-armoured vehicle or a multi-layer, highly complex ISTAR system on a vehicle such as Scout SV, GD’s EA provides the core infrastructure and operating system that allows easy re-role and upgrade, thanks to its plug and play nature. This saves the user the need to take damaged vehicles out of theatre as sections can be easily removed and replaced.”

Another way in which General Dynamics vehicles can be adapted is through their use of software configuration, which allows the recording of data, enabling specific items to be focused upon and employed in other GVA-compliant devices. Such technology can be found in General Dynamics’ SIE/HUMS systems.

Mr Boyle said: “General Dynamics’ SIE/HUMS solution will provide monitor on-board systems and automatically download data from each vehicle so that operators and fleet managers have accurate information to use in optimising vehicle use and minimising maintenance. The visibility of vehicle-performance data will enable users to improve fleet availability, thereby delivering better Army vehicle fleet management capability.

“The data collected and analysed by the SIE/HUMS will range from engine management system data such as oil and water temperature, speed, distance travelled and performance, to information about shocks and vibration, excessive vehicle speed or high fuel consumption. Once such data is collected, statistical time-based analysis can help users identify potential problems. This data also will enable conditioned-based maintenance where lightly used vehicles receive less work, thereby saving the costs of unnecessary maintenance. As more data is collected, prognostics also will enable better preventative maintenance practices, reducing costs and increasing fleet availability.”

For more information on General Dynamics’ technology, attend its exhibition stand at the Defence Vehicle Dynamics showcase event on 19-20 June at Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire.

Further Information

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