The Future Rapid Effect System
) is the UK Ministry of Defence’s programme to deliver a fleet of more than 3,000 armoured vehicles
for the British Army
that is rapidly deployable, network-enabled, capable of operating across the spectrum of operations; and protected against the most likely threats. The total FRES fleet is expected to comprise five families of vehicles: Utility, Reconnaissance, Medium Armour, Manoeuvre Support and a family of simpler variants known as the ‘Basic Capability Utility’.
System of Systems Integrator
Due to the complexity of the project a "System of Systems" Integrator (SOSI) was appointed to assist the MoD in selection of the vehicles and cross-vehicle electronic architecture. In October 2007 the FRES SOSI contract was awarded to a joint team of Thales and Boeing.
The SOSI team will act as an independent, honest broker between industry and the MoD to co-ordinate the procurement of more than 3,000 vehicles that are expected to be acquired under FRES.
Six main elements of the SOSI role are: programme management; systems of systems engineering and integration; alliance development and management; development of the MoD's SOSI competence; through-life capability management; and through-life technology management.
The first family of vehicles, known as the Utility Vehicles (UV) are expected to enter service in the 2010s. FRES will replace the Army's Saxon wheeled APC
, tracked FV432
, and some of the CVR(T)
vehicle family. The design is planned to follow the philosophy of "medium weight" forces that balance ease of transportability ("light") with armour
In 1999, Germany and United Kingdom began development of the Boxer Multi Role Armoured Vehicle, which was intended to assume different roles via switchable modules. However, the UK announced it would withdraw from the project in 2003, citing that the Boxer did not fulfill requirements. The British Ministry of Defence decided to pursue a replacement, with a specification that it could be airlifted by Airbus A400M and smaller C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The new "Future Rapid Effect System" project was established on May 5, 2004, with an assessment period of two years.
Since then, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has been researching electrically charged armour, with the view of ultimately integrating it into the FRES design. Plans for FRES vehicles to be carried by C-130 have also been dropped for being unworkable.
Vehicles selected for trials
On June 7
, the Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support
, Lord Drayson
, announced that three vehicles had been selected for trials to determine the utility vehicle design for FRES. These were:
Final design selected
The announcement of the winning design was initially planned for November 2007, but the selection was not announced until May 8 2008
. The winning design provisionally selected for the FRES Utility Vehicle contract was the Piranha V, manufactured by General Dynamics. This decision had been expected, with speculation from February 2008 onwards that General Dynamics was the preferred contractor for the deal.
However, as no production order was announced, various sources "feared that the FRES programme had fallen victim to the UK defence "budget crunch".
The Specialist Vehicles are to cover a range of vehicles including reconnaissance, engineering and battlefield medical, and are expected to be of the tracked (not wheeled like the UVs) variety. Though final competing designs have not yet been announced, the CV90120
have been put forward as potential reconnaissance vehicles, having been awarded assessment-phase contracts.
Response to criticism
In a defence briefing on June 14 2007
, Lord Drayson made it clear that FRES will not be the standard off the shelf version of any of these vehicles:
"They are designs which are currently in development to provide new models within existing families of vehicles. I am sure you agree that it would make no sense to invent a new vehicle from scratch. The designs we will look at in the trials this summer take proven vehicles, and evolve them to the next level to have the capacity, mobility, ability to upgrade through life, and, above all, the level of protection the Army need."
Ensuring that the vehicles will be customised to meet British Army requirements and be supported and upgraded through life will be the role of the "vehicle integrator". A number of companies are bidding for this role, including BAE Systems, which is the design authority for 97 per cent of armoured fighting vehicles in UK service, and General Dynamics.