Third Time’s the Charm? BAE Unveils FRES-U Build Team
In the wake of BAE Systems’ SEP vehicle’s elimination from the Future Rapid Effects System-Utility next-generation armored personnel carrier finals (Nexter’s VBCI, GD MOWAG’s Piranha V, ARTEC’s Boxer) and their loss of the Systems of Systems Integrator role to a Boeing-Thales partnership, Defense News recently quoted BAE Systems Land Systems Managing Director Andrew Davies as saying that the firm “must win the last piece of the FRES utility program – the integration-and-build contract – or consider shutting the Newcastle plant.” That may well be a calculated overstatement, but the firm who had built over 95% of the UK’s armored vehicle fleet has definitely fallen short of its own and others’ expectations thus far.
While the BAE Hagglunds CV90 tracked vehicle is reportedly on offer for the FRES Reconnaissance and specialty slot, the integration and build portion of the GBP 15-17 billion FRES program would appear to be BAE’s main focus at the moment. The firm has just unveiled its team, which consists of:
BAE Systems Land Systems Lead for the delivery of the FRES-Utility Vehicle family program. If their team’s bid wins, they would transition offshore manufacturing to the UK from France, Switzerland, or Holland/Germany, and carry out final assembly, integration and test of the vehicles at the Newcastle plant. Its Leicester site would lead engineering work, with support activity at Telford. The firm would go on act as the UK vehicle design authority throughout the vehicles’ life, in an alliance structure headed by the UK MoD.
BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte) has already worked on electronic architecture for FRES. It would harness its expertise in training system integration, crew station design, electronic architecture and Bowman communications system integration, at sites including Dunfermline and Frimley.
SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) would bring proven program management, and complex systems engineering, including unique tools and processes to the team. SAIC plays a significant role in the US Future Combat System program and would bring similar expertise to bear for FRES.
GE Aviation would provide detailed knowledge of vehicle health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS), which monitor vehicle systems and can predict failures before they occur. This will be a major element of any through-life support approach, and comes to GE via its recent $4.8 billion acquisition of the UK firm Smiths Aerospace. GE would also supply integrated computing, vehicle power management, crew station displays and controls, and software management. The work would be performed by the Systems division of GE Aviation in Cheltenham and Eastleigh.
QinetiQ, from its Farnborough operation, would bring to bear expertise in survivability trades, ergonomics, whole-life costing, and assessment and management of emerging technologies. To date its work on FRES includes electronic architecture, local situation awareness, electric armor, and long gap crossing technology demonstrator programs.
SELEX S&AS, a Finmeccanica company, would provide its expertise in the provision of integrated situation awareness, surveillance, target acquisition and survivability. This, together with the understanding gained from its investment in armoured fighting vehicle electronic architecture development, would be drawn from its facilities at Basildon, Luton, Edinburgh and Southampton.
Cranfield University is based at the Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham, and has been active within the FRES project since its inception. Areas of focus have included electronics architecture, systems engineering support, military requirements, trials support and planning. They would analyze supportability trade-offs during final design, an important role given the through-life, fixed-price maintenance arrangement contemplated by the UK Ministry of Defence. They would also look at how the FRES Utility vehicle integrates with other FRES roles and the wider force, which could be a politically charged job given the issues that have confronted wheeled APCs in places like Afghanistan, even as the type has shown some success in Iraq.
BAE Systems’ release notes that their Land Systems group is in the middle of a GBP 60 million transformation of its vehicle engineering, manufacturing, support, training and supply operations, “primarily to ensure timely delivery of the FRES program.”
The support and supply improvements will still be required even if BAE loses, of course, but a third strike would deal a substantial blow to the firm’s growing ambitions in the land systems sector.
- QinetiQ (Nov 21/07) – QinetiQ is part of UK industry team for FRES bid