LONDON — Negotiations are underway on a production contract to update the British Army’s fleet of Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, according to the Ministry of Defence official running the program.
“We are now talking about how we go forward on production,” Marcus Bruton, the MoD’s Warrior upgrade director said during an interview at the DSEI show Sept. 10.
Bruton said the two sides were probably 18 months away from a contract allowing Lockheed Martin and its supply chain to start upgrading the Warrior.
The effort to progress the long running Warrior capability sustainment development program into the manufacturing phase has come on the back of Lockheed Martin successfully achieving 20 battlefield mission assessments – a key milestone in the reliability growth test program now underway.
The MoD said in March it would open manufacturing contract negotiations once it was satisfied with progress on reliability trials.
In late August Lockheed Martin achieved that milestone. The company said that in cooperation with the British Army Armoured Trials and Development Unit, it had fired thousands of rounds from the new CTAI developed 40 mm cannon, driven more than 5,000 kms, and achieved the battlefield mission assessments with flying colors.
Lockheed Martin Warrior program Director Lee Fellows said he is expecting a deal towards the back end of next year. The company is keen to get the production contract signed and sealed but “we need to get it right, so it will take as long as it needs to,” he added. “Getting it done at pace and quality aequally important.”
Quantities, the mix of variants and affordability are among the items due to be discussed.
Discussions on how to overcome issues of design authority ownership is also part of the build up to a production contract, said the officials. BAE holds the design authority on the existing legacy Warrior, but Lockheed Martin holds the approval for the extensive upgrade — particularly the new turret.
“The expectation is there will be a collaboration with BAE. We are talking with them already, that’s part of the negotiations,” said Fellows.
Neither executive will comment on what sort of upgrade numbers the British Army is looking at. Roughly 740 vehicles were delivered to the British Army starting 1988 but a number were lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. A number of vehicles have been earmarked for battlefield support duties that don’t require a new turret.
At one time the number of hulls to be updated was in the region of 380, but suppliers at a company briefing in March said that as the British Army downsized and budgets became more challenging the figure slipped to around 265 or lower.
The Lockheed Martin executive said that the next 18 months or so will bring further reliability growth trials, but that the major risks have been removed and testing had not unearthed any significant problems.
The update is considered one of the Army’s top priorities alongside other vehicle programs, including the Challenger 2 tank upgrade and procurement of the Boxer mechanized infantry vehicle from German company Artec.
Lockheed Martin was awarded a development deal to upgrade Warrior vehicles back in 2011, but the program has been dogged with problems slowing down progress towards a production deal by several years.
The update program includes a new turret fitted with the CTAI cannon, electronic architecture, a modular protection systems and other enhancements.
It’s a much needed update. The current vehicle’s inability to fire on the move is just one of a number of shortcomings deemed to make the Warrior obsolete by current battlefield standards.