In the latest ongoing saga regarding the British Army’s plagued Ajax armoured vehicle draws yet more parliamentary scrutiny, it appears as though further delays will likely lead to the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to be used to cover these capability gaps.

As Warrior is both an ageing platform in its current guise (due to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) scrapping the Capability Sustainment Programme this year) and an infantry fighting vehicle, not a purposefully designed reconnaissance vehicle, this will in fact leave a significant capability gap for the British Army’s armoured reconnaissance regiments. 


This article is the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines.

Robert Clark is a Defence Policy Associate at the Henry Jackson Society. He is the author of ‘The British Army’s Ajax: Fit for Purpose?’. Prior to this he served in the British military for 13 years. 

Andrew Kileen was a Research Assistant at the Henry Jackson Society. Prior to this he studied War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton.


Initially chosen over the BAE CV90 in 2010 for the contract to replace the ageing CVR(T), Ajax was to be an unparalleled 4th generation ISTAR asset that could track its enemy’s digital and electronic footprints – in effect, a computer on wheels. Ajax’s development, however, has been fraught with issues. Stemming from a simultaneous design and manufacture process the project is now four years behind schedule, and is set to run over its £5.5 billion budget. In turn the delays leave current frontline units dangerously ill-protected in their 1970s CVR(T)s, or now as it appears, the replacement to Warrior – a vehicle designed to rapidly transport infantry into the heart of battle. 

AJAX Armoured Fighting Vehicle Prototype

Since June, the Ajax programme has remained paused, as the trials conducted by the Royal Armoured Corps have been suspended for the second time since 2020 due to repeated reports of service personnel testing Ajax receiving vibration and hearing injuries. Health and safety mitigations have since been put in place; they include restricting the vehicles top speed to 20mph, reversing over a height no greater than 20cm and restricting crew’s time inside the vehicle to 90 minutes. Despite these mitigations, at least 112 service personnel have been adversely affected by crewing the vehicle. Since the second suspension in trials, the Minister for Defence Procurement, MP Jeremy Quin, has ordered an independent investigation into the injuries continuing to be caused by the mechanical faults of the vehicles. That investigation is set to conclude shortly; the preliminary prognosis not good, as Jeremy Quin announced to Parliament on Monday that Warrior may be required to plug the gap due to the ongoing delays. 

‘Ajax’.

With Ajax now facing serious prolonged fiscal and technical issues, the MoD has to consider an off the shelf alternative that can fill the role of Ajax, should the project be scrapped. These options include the previously declined CV90, the already-cancelled Warrior CSP, and the Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV).

The CV90 is a tried and tested platform that is used by many other western militaries, including Norway, who use an existing recce variant. Not only does this platform benefit from multi-national development, but it has also proven itself capable of exercising regularly in the freezing temperatures of Scandinavia as well as seeing combat in the heat of Afghanistan.

Scrapped in this spring’s defence review for costings, the WCSP saw the revival and digitisation of the Warrior IFV. Although the project faced many delays and went over budget, most issues stemmed from the MoD, not the platform or supplier. With 759 Warriors already in operation by the MoD it is a relatively quick and painless transition. However, parts such as the hulls will require refabricating in the not too distant future, incurring additional cost to the upgrade due to their age.

AJAX Scout vehicle during cold weather system trialling at Tame Ranges in Sweden.

As for the Boxer CRV, this platform is currently employed in the Australian Army. Though it has a smaller main armament (30mm cannon) it has 4th generation ISTAR capabilities and excellent survivability features. As Boxer is already a part of the redesigned Brigade Combat Teams, integrating the CRV variant would theoretically standardise the spare parts required.  One of the only drawbacks is that the British Army is only receiving one Boxer vehicle per week for its existing order. If the Boxer CRV was chosen and produced domestically, the production capacity would have to be expanded, yet this would still be cheaper than establishing a manufacturing base for an entirely new platform. 

Ultimately, once the ongoing Ajax investigation led by Jeremy Quin is concluded, then the MoD must make a decision and stick to it. Lurching from suspended trails, to medical reviews for injured soldiers, to plugging ageing and soon-to-be mothballed platforms to fill the continued delays, is to go from a failed procurement policy to a failed defence capability policy. The Warrior, in its current IFV role, is unsuitable for the role envisaged for Ajax. As a short-term fix, to cover the lack of capability in aging CVR(T) and delayed Ajax, is one thing. To not announce a fresh policy or direction regarding the platform for this specific capability is operational negligence, and will ultimately weaken the combat effectiveness of the British Army. 

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Robert Stevenson
Robert Stevenson
2 months ago

Not sure what you mean by warrior upgrade had nothing to do with the vehicle or manufacturer, it was the mod fault. GKN design and put into production the warrior in 8 years. Lockheed Martin were awarded the contract in March 2011, 10 years ago to upgrade turret and electronic and other modifications, if they hadn’t wasted time trying to cram 40mm cannon in to a 30mm turret as BAe said was not possible in 2011 the army would be driving around in the new Warrior no cxl needed. Lockheed undercut Bae to win but was unable to deliver on… Read more »

Gareth Michael
Gareth Michael
2 months ago

Interesting that the very same 40mm turret found on one of the Boxer variants (Samson) is the WCSP turret (export version). And whilst the Samson variant carries more dismounts, wheels over tracks is a lower capability off-road – Boxer can’t keep up with CR2 or proposed CR3.

Andy
Andy
2 months ago
Reply to  Gareth Michael

Boxer is designed to keep up with Leopard 2 fully ladened cross country, if you believe Artec

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Andy

Not sure I do, wheels +mud + weight = mobility is not an equation that has ever really been a reality.

Andy a
Andy a
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

British army disagree, the wheeled tests about 5 years ago show the latest wheeled vehicles are as mobile as 1970 tracked, independent suspension and computer controlled have brought far more capability

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago
Reply to  Andy a

This looks like an interesting piece of kit to have onboard.

“Rheinmetall unveiled a Mission Master unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) with an MBDA Brimstone missile”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/land-forces/latest/dsei-2021-rheinmetall-integrates-brimstone-into-mission-master-ugv

robi
robi
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan
AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Andy

“Boxer is designed to keep up with Leopard 2 fully ladened cross country, if you believe Artec”

There are no miracles with current engineering.

Paul.P
Paul.P
1 month ago

Afternoon Robert, to your knowledge did BAE voice an opinion on the viability of a Warrior sustainment program in which the Rarden turret was replaced by a more modern 30mm cannon system.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul.P
Robert Stevenson
Robert Stevenson
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Paul sorry for the delayed response as Dan response below the BAe upgrade had a new design turret for CTAI 40mm, were Lockheed Martin bid used the existing Warrior turret allowing them to undercut BAe

What someone at the MOD procurement should have asked why LM could use the old turret and BAe could not.

The answer to that questions is anybody but BAe as they believe too much reliance on them.

Paul.P
Paul.P
1 month ago

No worries Robert. Thx for the info. Very interesting. I read somewhere that it was the decision to rearrange the CT40 cannon feed into the existing Warrior turret that was at the root of the failure of the sustainment project. I believe the CT40 feed works fine of you leave it as it is in the Nexter turret. The French have it in service. I wonder if we have cancelled the wrong vehicle. Maybe we should resurrect the Warrior program with a new turret, cancel Ajax and buy Boxers for the reconnaissance role.

Dan
Dan
1 month ago

Quick correction the CTAI 40mm Turret was MANDATED by the MoD. The Lockheed Martin bid vehicle concept had a 30mm ATK Turret.

Johan
Johan
2 months ago

Does make you wonder if Ajax needs dumping and just build New Warriors. i mean the program is cocked anyway and Ajax will be the new Tommy Cooker

Steve R
Steve R
2 months ago
Reply to  Johan

Ajax shouldbe dumped.

No more than 90 minutes, going no faster than 20mph and not going over 20cm bumps in the ground… might as well equip the army with mobility scooters!

Why not scrap it altogether right now and buy CV90, or Puma? Something off the shelf, no modifications required, and stop throwing good money after bad.

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

the bit that really gets me with Ajax is that they can’t make the sides perpendicular to each other – pretty critical if you are constructing a box both for strength and general quality.

so many things are poor about this – its a real indictment of failure

pete wait
pete wait
2 months ago
Reply to  Johan

Cost of making new jigs for warrior is pointless when CV90 is still in production!

Pmichael
Pmichael
2 months ago

One of those situations which could only be solved with a big solution.

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago

Has anyone taken a Warrior & done a bare minimum overhaul/update on it? If a cheap simple SLEP can keep it viable for another decade, then do it. Do not let the Generals/MoD gold plate it. Otherwise, Warrior was ruined by Blair/Brown not ordering some Warrior 2000, like many thought they would. That would have kept Warrior development going & we might have a new Warrior 2020 coming off the production line now. Ajax is too heavy. It will be hard to transport & even if you could get it to theatre, it is probably too heavy for the primitive… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

We used to do a Base Overhaul (BOH) on every ‘A’ Vehicle about once every 7 or so years at an army (REME) base workshop (later ABRO). The vehicle was fully stripped, hull welds checked, and the vehicle rebuilt with almost entirely new parts, and fully resprayed. Major upgrades were done at the same time, except those that had to be done by the OEM at their factory. Then (about 2002/3) we introduced the more economical but hardly less effective BIR (Base Inspection & Repair) to supersede BOH. Does this really not happen any more? Good point about Warrior 2020… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Warrior 2000 existed as a prototype vehicle. Had it been ordered, then a follow on Warrior 2020 might have been possible.

Paul T
Paul T
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Doesn’t Kuwait operate a version of Warrior with different Armament?.

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

I understand Kuwait got a better version , but that was between British Army deliveries and before the Warrior 2000 prototype.

Challenger
Challenger
2 months ago

Please just show some bottle and ditch Ajax in favour of either the CV90 or Boxer CRV, either of which would go a long way to getting things back on track (pun intended!).

david white
david white
2 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

Yes Ditch Ajax Warrior CV90 such a Good Platform and well tested

Tim
Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  david white

Why would we buy cv90 the thing is ancient it’s only about 9 years newer than warrior they just need to fix the problems with Ajax

Jacko
Jacko
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Not quite ancient,the MK IV is about as modern as you are going to get.

Andy a
Andy a
1 month ago
Reply to  Challenger

Just standardise on 1000 boxer oncluding the version with cannon, brimstone, could buy the 155mm for mobile artillery!!
Voila new mobile British army

Patrick
Patrick
2 months ago

What a complete shambles! A team of interns and a Jane’s catalogue would do a better job.

Harry Nelson
Harry Nelson
2 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

Wouldn’t even need a Jane’s catalogue, seems the previous lot probabl;y used an Argos one…..

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago

The Aussies have got this as right as you can I think lets create a land defence industrial park and build a factory like the Aussies have for Boxer and their MRAP’s and do the same for tracks, but smaller. to make this work we need to standardise on platforms, so here goes Heavy Armour (all variants inc IFV) – Challenger 4 (whatever that becomes) Strike – Boxer Light – HMT (or other) MRAP – HX3 / HMT (or other) The good news is that the challenger upgrade gives us a bit of space to create this capability as for… Read more »

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
2 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Hi Pacman27, I agree with your main point of standardising the armoured vehicle fleet. However, an army being cut back to 72,000 isn’t going to need 1,000 AFV per year. Simple sums suggests that if you have say 4,000 AFV (a guestimate merely to illustrate the point) to equip such a small army. If each vehicle has a life of 20 years say, then with a delivery rate of 200 AFV per year would ensure your entire fleet is replaced every 20 years with an average vehicle age of 10years or so… For AFV that is a small production run,… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Maybe we need more not less. From my point of view a 72k army needs to be highly mechanised with those vehicles providing a massive amount of supporting fires. From my point of view a 72k army is 10 self sustaining brigades of 7.2k people split into 3 core capabilities that mean we can have 1 of each brigade type at high readiness at all times. 3 x Heavy Armour Brigades 3 x Strike Brigades 3 x Specialist Infantry (Para, Gurkha, Rangers) 1 x HQ The above is based upon a battalion size of 600 made up of 5 companies… Read more »

Josh P
Josh P
2 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Hi Pacman, I’m not sure you’ve got the Army structure quite right. An army of 72000 isn’t made up of purely combat brigades in armoured vehicles – all of the capabilities within 6XX, all the units which support divisional HQs, the deep warfare regiments from MI, RA, SIGS, all of the schools and training establishments, all of the seats at DE&S, MOD Main, STRATCOM…UK SF, aviation, etc. etc. etc. Sorry if I’ve misunderstood you.

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago
Reply to  Josh P

Hi josh – you are quite right – the problem here is our governments ambitions don’t meet their resourcing. the key to my proposal is that in general each capability is a division of 3 brigades each rotating in and out of theatre, when not in theatre they are supporting the in theatre brigade. so essentially each group in theatre as all the logistics it need with a division have around 50-60% of its people in support roles. Additionally each division would have a reserve logistics brigade that would also be tasked with this. 72k people is too small a… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago
Reply to  Josh P

interestingly 16 x 4.5k personnel (average size of a United States BCT) is 72k.

So perhaps the Army has already decided on a structure based around BCT sized organisations

Graham
Graham
2 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

The army decided on a mix of BCTs and use that (very American) term, published this Spring. 3 Div will field 2 x Heavy BCTs, 1x Deep Recce/Strike BCT and an Info Manouevre Group (IMG). 1Div will field 2 x Light BCTs (one of which is Lt Mech and the other is Light Inf) plus an IMG plus a Security Force Assistance Brigade to support indigenous troops. 6 Div will field 77 Bde doing Info Manouevre, and a Ranger Regt of 4 bus. Additionally there will be a Combat Avn BCT and 16 AA Brigade. I hope that’s enough for… Read more »

Graham
Graham
2 months ago
Reply to  Josh P

Josh, you are right. I was an army officer for 34 years. The yardstick was that 70% of the army was in the Field Force ie the deployable part of the army. Then delete those Permanently Committed Forces ie those on Public Duties, in Cyprus, on small overseas training missions. You have probably got 45,000 of your 72,500 that you can structure into either regional brigades or BCTs of all types, not all of which require lots of AFVs ie 16 AA Bde and the combat aviation brigade.

Reaper
Reaper
2 months ago
Reply to  Josh P

Yep, we decently don’t have 72k combat troops. Lucky if we have 10k

Mike
Mike
2 months ago

Warrior is still a good platform, reliable, and with a fair weapons fit. It was trialled a few years ago as an intermediate armour platform in CR2 Regiments and it did fine. Using it as a light tank with a crew of three, and no dismounts in the back is also great. So much room for extra kit, and creature comforts.

david white
david white
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Yes Well Said

Ian M
Ian M
2 months ago

Did you know? Sharon down the chippy says that this Ajax ‘tank’ is proper rubbish! She days it can’t go in mud or even faster than 20 kilometres an hour, whatever they are!….Facts, facts, facts are the currency that should be used here.

grizzler
grizzler
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian M

She’s not just a pretty face this Sharon by the sounds of it.Insightful, knowledgeable and does ya tea…what more could you ask.

Ian M
Ian M
2 months ago
Reply to  grizzler

Insightful maybe, knowledgeable possibly but about potato based fried sticks and battered marine fauna…. Not AFV’s🤔

Charles Verrier
Charles Verrier
2 months ago

It’s exhausting – again and again the MoD insists the UK is a special unique snowflake that has to have custom made hardware that only it can use. The defence budget is then pissed away on R&D that inevitably leads to cost-cutting on numbers or capability down the road when the thing goes into service. At least some of this is down to treating defence as a jobs-creation programme first and national security effort second. Look at how every defence announcement starts with how many jobs it creates…and then almost as an afterthought – ‘Oh yes, and the Armed Forces… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago

“Tiger instead of Challenger”

Are you sure about that? Tigers were very unreliable in WW2 😉

Charles Verrier
Charles Verrier
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Ah yes – getting my large fierce cats confused – I of course mean Leopard

Graham
Graham
1 month ago

I think CR2 was a good tank and better protected than earlier Leo2s. I doubt Leo2s would have been much cheaper.

the_marquis
the_marquis
2 months ago

Anything to be said for ditching Ajax and buying a batch of CV90s configured for the armoured tracked recce role to replace Scimitar, and another batch of CV90s configured as IFVs to replace Warrior, then stick them altogether in the Armoured Infantry Brigades? And then buy the Boxer CRV to provide wheeled recce vehicles for the Strike Brigades, where they would work with Boxer MIVs? So we’d have two families of tracked fighting vehicles in the armoured brigades (Challenger and CV90), and one family of wheeled fighting vehicles in the strike brigades (Boxer), or, in new money, Challenger and CV90… Read more »

Rob Collinson
Rob Collinson
1 month ago
Reply to  the_marquis

Well said. What an expensive waste of money, which will be obsolete by the time they eventually enter service. Shades of the Nimrod upgrade debacle. They are more than ‘dropping the ball’ on this procurement. More bungled MoD procurement. Why is the taxpayer paying for the redesign? It is a failure of the design and manufacture. Not a penny should be handed over to General Dynamics until they have rectified these significant errors, at their own expense. It is their fault. Grow a backbone MoD. Kick them to the curb!!

Jacko
Jacko
1 month ago
Reply to  the_marquis

So BAE are sitting on a family of proven combat vehicle’s which virtually mirrors the Army requirement and can be tweaked to what we want and we waste £b’s on a design that doesn’t work! Just because anyone but BAE😡

Pmichael
Pmichael
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacko

Well, BAE did that joint-venture with Rheinmetall so the MoD could just buy German engineering without feeling bad like they did with the Boxer and the Challenger 3 upgrade, so the door is open for just buying something straight from Rheinmetall.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago

I’m not seeing how they are getting over this, vibration to the point of causing health problems and injury after 90 mins or travels over 20mps. means something major is broken within the design.

Ian M
Ian M
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Hi Jonathan, have you ever actually driven / travelled as crew in a tracked AFV? ALL tracked vehicles vibrate like a bastard and are noisy compared to other types of vehicle at speed. I have done 1000’s miles in a variety of platforms since the early 70’s and continue to do so. I don’t have hearing loss, white finger or other muscular skeletal problems that have been laid at the door of the Ajax programme. If the Daily Mail ect. told you the sky was green, would you believe them? I despair.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian M

Actual I have a couple of times ( not as much as you but had experience of a few tracked vehicles) , and it’s not me that’s put all the restrictions in place and documented the harm it’s the people managing the programme. The key here is have you driven been in Ajax ? Unless you have and been in the development programme for this vehicle you have no idea what level of harm it’s causing the crews. Yes every tracked vehicle as with all large plant is intrinsically stressful on the crew especially over longer term. But that’s not… Read more »

Ian M
Ian M
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Hi Jonathan, all I am able to say is that I speak from experience. I haven’t dismissed any documentary evidence, I have insights that I try to share on this forum without compromising security. I deal in facts, straightforward, good old facts. I try to disabuse some of the more excitable posters and those with axes to grind, using, where I can………..guess what? Facts.
cheers

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian M

So your take is the mitigation’s and pause around the noise /vibration issue causing occupational injury are over the top and that it’s not appropriate ? It’s interesting as that means there may be other drivers ( pun intended) to the delay and that the reported harm is not more than would be expected from any other similar vehicle. I ask because if I’d have had 112 reported occupational injuries during a trail in a programme I was running I’d be in the shit without a paddle and heading to to a career ending event. So I’m really interested in… Read more »

Gfor
Gfor
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian M

Ian, because you haven’t suffered any of those issues does that mean no one has?
In addition the MoD no longer has a derogation to break the law concerning subjecting staff to excessive whole body vibration (WBV) under the Control of Vibration at Work Act.
I can tell you that there are a good many current and former MoD employees who are damaged due to problems with platforms that were used ‘to get the job done’.

peter Wait
peter Wait
4 days ago
Reply to  Ian M

I have seen it marshalled out of ADTU Bovington, the track makes a lot of clanking noise when it goes over the front drive sprockets and you can hear excessive vibration noise, the last road wheel was being dragged back by the track and springing forward. The noise of the vehicle is louder than a CR2 at the same speed. It uses outdated torsion bar suspension and rotary dampers which you would only fit to a modern vehicle to boost profits. Hydro-gas performs much better allowing greater fire on the move accuracy and comfort. The CTA40 is reported to be… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P
1 month ago

So does anyone know where things stand with this affair? Is / are the causes of the issues understood? Are they in the public domain?

Martin
Martin
1 month ago

Why don’t they just build the ASCOD? The Austrians Spanish have been using them for nearly two decades and without any problems. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it. Why take a perfectly good design and change everything?

Tomartyr
Tomartyr
1 month ago

Replace it with boxer, and perhaps if it’s really that important build a tracked vehicle that accepts boxer modules.
The important thing is that we start adopting more modular equipment so that platform and capability aren’t so linked.