Ajax: meet the MOD’s new Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Ajax is a family of Armoured Fighting Vehicles being developed by General Dynamics for the British Army. Here, MOD DCB features writer Paul Elliott looks at the opportunities for the UK defence supply chain to play a role in supporting the programme.
The Ajax programme promises to provide a step-change in the Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) capability being delivered to the British Army.
It includes six variants – Ajax, Ares, Apollo, Athena, Atlas and Argus – which collectively replace the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) platform. Each Ajax variant will be a highly agile, tracked, medium-weight AFV providing British troops with state-of-the-art, best-in-class protection. Ajax will form a central component of the UK’s new Strike Brigades, which were announced in the last Strategic Defence and Spending Review.
Suppliers announced on the Ajax Programme include:
In September 2014 General Dynamics was awarded a £3.5 billion contract to deliver 589 Ajax vehicles to the British Army. In July 2015 the company was awarded a further £390 million contract to provide in-service support for the Ajax fleet until 2024.
This order included scope for 245 turreted Ajax variants, 256 Protected Mobility Recce Support (PMRS) variants and 88 Engineering variants based on the PMRS. The 245 turreted ‘Ajax’ variants consist of 198 Reconnaissance and Strike, 23 Joint Fire Control and 24 Ground Based Surveillance vehicles.
BAE Systems, Nexter Systems & Lockheed Martin
BAE Systems and Nexter Systems produced Ajax’s 40mm Cased Telescoped Cannon (CTC). 515 CTCs will be supplied over a seven-year period. The systems are delivered to the MOD as they are supplied as government-furnished equipment for the two-person turret developed by Lockheed Martin for the Ajax vehicle, and for a different Lockheed Martin turret for installation as part of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP).
Lockheed Martin contracted Rheinmetall to manufacture the turret structures for Ajax, covering production of up to 245 units worth a total of €130 million.
Lockheed Martin also contracted Curtiss-Wright Corporation to provide the Turret Drive Servo System (TDSS) which will provide weapon stabilisation – shipments are expected to continue through to 2021.
Meggitt Defense Systems
Meggitt Defense Systems was awarded a $42.1 million contract by Lockheed Martin to produce 40mm Case-Telescoped linkless Ammunition Handling Systems (AHS), with production deliveries starting in 2016 and continuing to 2021. The Meggitt AHS will be incorporated within the 40mm cannon.
Thales won a £54 million contract from Lockheed Martin to supply 245 DNGS-T3 Stabilised Day/Night Gunnery Sights for the reconnaissance variant of the platform. The DNGS-T3 is a two-axis stabilised sight that uses a thermal (infrared) camera and laser rangefinder and is integrated within the digital architecture of the vehicle. Thales will carry out production from 2016 to 2021. The sight will be integrated onto the turret at Lockheed Martin UK’s facility in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.
Thales also won a £125 million contract from General Dynamics for the supply of Sighting Systems and Ancillary Equipment. The company will supply 245 vehicle sets, each consisting of a Primary Sight, Local Situational Awareness (LSA) camera system and Smoke Dispenser, over a five-year programme between 2016 and 2021. Thales will also supply a further 344 sets of their LSA system for other versions of the platform in the same time period. An initial spares provisioning package is also included within the Thales scope of supply. All equipment will be built at Thales’ optronics facility in Glasgow.
Williams Advanced Engineering
Williams Advanced Engineering was awarded a £17 million contract to design and manufacture the Core Infrastructure Distribution System that will be fitted to the 589 Ajax vehicles. This is the sophisticated power and data backbone of the platform, which will enable the distribution of power and data around the vehicle. Raytheon was selected by General Dynamics to supply the Chassis Power Switch Node for the Ajax platforms. Raytheon’s High Density Power Switch Node is a key component in the platform’s power management and distribution system.
Rolls-Royce is responsible for the new platform’s propulsion and power generation. Rolls-Royce will deliver 589 MTU Series 199 diesel engines for use in Ajax. It will be the first time that MTU engines have been utilised in British Army vehicles. Delivery of the engines will start in 2016, with the last engines delivered in 2022. In addition Rolls-Royce Distributed Generation Systems will supply the vehicle’s auxiliary power unit which will provide electrical power to on-board systems. GKN Aerospace, meanwhile, will manufacture new fuel tanks for the platform. The company will provide rotationally moulded fuel tanks developed at its fuel systems facility in Portsmouth. The fuel tanks will feature the latest self-seal technology and explosion suppression foam for enhanced vehicle and troop protection.
Cook Defence Systems
Cook Defence Systems will manufacture the tracks for the Ajax programme. The company designed the TR40 505FB track system to meet the Army’s requirement for a lightweight, extremely durable and low-maintenance track system for the platform. The track system incorporates technologies proven on the other Cook Defence Systems tracks in service with the British Army and other users worldwide, and is the lightest steel track system available for a vehicle of 42 tonnes.
General Electric’s Intelligent Platforms
General Electric’s Intelligent Platforms business secured orders from General Dynamics valued at £64 million to provide a range of embedded computing sub-systems for Ajax. The scalable, open architecture sub-systems will allow the Ajax variants to be easily upgraded during their lifetime as new requirements and technologies emerge. These sub-systems provide the backbone of the vehicle electronics architecture.
ViaSat was selected by General Dynamics to design and develop the on-board encrypted data storage systems for the vehicles. The ViaSat systems will ensure that mission and communications system data is fully protected, meaning that the ground-based ISTAR platform can securely capture, analyse, store and share over six terabytes of intelligence data.
General Dynamics awarded a contract to Smiths Detection to deliver chemical agent detectors for the new AFVs. The company will supply LCD 3.3 detectors designed to provide crew members with early warning of any chemical warfare attack. The contract is worth almost £6 million and is the result of a two-year development programme.
Kongsberg will deliver Protector remote weapon systems, valued at £61 million. The Protector system will be available on all Ajax platform variants and will be integrated into the advanced electronic architecture inside each vehicle. These systems will be produced in Norway with deliveries commencing in 2016.
Saab will supply Mobile Camouflage Systems for Ajax. Saab’s camouflage systems are force protection solutions designed to decrease an enemy’s ability to detect and engage. The contract will see Saab deliver the camouflage systems for the first batch of Ajax vehicles to be delivered by General Dynamics to the MOD from 2017. The Saab deliveries are planned to continue through to 2022.
Ajax will be equipped with high-performance LED lights designed by Oxley Group with advanced protection against electromagnetic interference. Oxley has secured an order worth more than £1 million from General Dynamics European Land Systems, a sub-contractor on the programme, to supply ultra-compact low-profile dual-mode interior lights and map ‘task’ lights for the vehicles.
Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group & XPI Simulation
Driver training for the Ajax programme will be provided on static and full-motion simulators developed and provided by a team supported by Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and led by XPI Simulation. This contract will provide 28 sets of equipment with the first being delivered in 2017. XPI Simulation as lead contractor is providing the software and the motion base while Marshall is providing the replica driver modules. The training establishment and first squadron will be equipped by mid-2019 to allow conversion to begin with a brigade ready to deploy from the end of 2020.
The MOD is making a substantial forward investment in its Ajax AFV platform. Clearly, there are opportunities for all types for businesses keen to be part of the platform’s supply chain.