The Ministry of Defence is paying for the ongoing noise and vibration tests and trials on the General Dynamics Ajax vehicle programme after soldiers were injured by the vehicle due to defects.

The information comes from a response to a Parliamentary written question.

John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether his Department is paying for ongoing safety tests for the Ajax programme following vibration linked concerns raised in recent trials.”

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded:

“The Ministry of Defence is paying for the ongoing Millbrook noise and vibration tests and trials on the Ajax programme.”

I wrote yesterday that the Ministry of Defence have confirmed that “there may be a requirement for Warrior to be used in some reconnaissance roles” until the troubled Ajax armoured vehicle is brought into service.

Warrior could ‘be used in some roles’ until Ajax enters service

The Ministry of Defence previously stated that while they would no longer upgrade Warrior, the armoured fighting vehicle would remain in service until replaced by Boxer. A total of £430m had been spent on the Warrior upgrade programme. You can read more about Warrior upgrades here.

You can read more about that here.

The Ministry of Defence recently ruled out purchasing an alternative to Ajax as it “remains committed” to the troubled armoured vehicle. Trials of the British Army’s new Ajax armoured vehicles were recently halted for a second time after concerns were again raised over noise.

The Ministrty of Defence confirmed that following renewed concerns on the impacts of noise, “all Ajax trials have been suspended and will only resume when we are assured that mitigations are fully effective.”

Last month, Defence Minister Jeremy Quin visited the Millbrook Proving Ground where independent testing has been conducted on Ajax. He commented:

“This long-running troubled programme requires ongoing intense work by our industrial partners and ourselves to ensure its delivery. In achieving this, the safety of our personnel will always come first.”

Earlier in the year we reported that trials of Ajax armoured vehicles were halted at the end of last year to March this year due to excessive vibration and noise, leaving crews suffering from nausea, swollen joints and tinnitus.

General Dynamics UK said at the time that it is working with the Army on the issues.

“Recent trials have confirmed many of the required capabilities across the AJAX Family of Vehicles, including operations across the full range of speed and reverse step obstacle climb. A small number of remaining issues are being reviewed and closed out in partnership with the British Army and Ministry of Defence ahead of Initial Operating Capability.”

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Andrew Thorne
Andrew Thorne
6 days ago

They should just stop this bloated programme. It doesn’t work, it will never work and general dynamics should be blackballed in the future for any new programmes. It really angers me that we can waste £5.5 billion in this way. Yes track and trace was even worse but why do we asa country allow expensive consultants to sell us this cr*p. Someone in the MoD, high up, needs firing.

RobW
RobW
6 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Thorne

Are you saying it is [email protected] due to the noise and vibration issues or for other reasons? If it’s just the former then why cannot they be fixed?

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago
Reply to  RobW

They cannot be fixed because the platform is inherently poor. I don’t know why we can’t manage a quite simple AFV, but that is a question for another time. The Ajax was meant to be under twenty tonnes IIRC, now it’s double that. It can’t fire if it’s driving at over 20 mph, and it can’t reverse over obstacles. There are undoubtedly other problems that simply have not been discovered and/or released yet. In other words, “fixing it” would mean starting all over.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
6 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Eclipse, Ajax is a far from simple AFV. No AFV nowadays is simple.

I don’t recall a brief that said Ajax had to be under 20t – the base was either Pizarro (26.3t) or Ulan (28t), so it was never going to be less than that.

Ajax can’t be fixed without dramatic and time-consuming changes (see my reply to Andrew) – I agree with you.

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

perhaps simple was a bad word to use, but relative to building something like QE and something we are hoping to achieve like Tempest they are much more “simple”, no?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Less complex than a carrier or Tempest – certainly.

Jack
Jack
4 days ago
Reply to  RobW

They have turned a 19 tonne vehicle into a 40 tonne vehicle, it will always be flawed.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
6 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Thorne

It is awkward that the MoD took delivery of a number of ARES vehicles from 2017 and seemingly had no complaint. Are the ARES vehicles OK then? Many mistakes made with this project: a presumably bizarre MoD Requirements document that mooted a large, heavy vehicle; adding the Strike role to the remit for a recce vehicle downstream; unrealistic delivery timeline; not properly considering alternatives to the GD Bid; poor and non-continuous management by MoD and GD; over-developing the ASCOD platform (growing it from 26 tonne Pizarro to 42 tonnes Ajax); lack of early and effective risk reduction; lack of sensible… Read more »

Andrew Thorne
Andrew Thorne
5 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Totally agree with you on the above. I would add we should tell general dynamics they are blacklisted as a company unless they pay damages for this debable. if they don’t pay damages then just ignore any bids they put forward for future programmes. An utterly useless waste of time for everyone involved to continue this nonsense.

LongTime
LongTime
5 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Thorne

Cutting GD out altogether would probably mean the army losing technical support for Foxhound and Bowman,
if they wanted to be really harsh, we could lose the software support for Merlin, Wildcat and Eurofighter avionics, which essentially means they stay on the ground.

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  LongTime

Agreed these Firms are all interlinked via suppliers and tech, prime example BAEs and the MRA4 program. they wanted more money to make it work. MOD said no. end result was Harrier/MRA4 and the Invincible class lost manufacturers support, just gets out of control.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
6 days ago

Can comprehend issues adding advanced electronics to a platform. However, ‘naively’ considered too much vibration / noise likely down to poor mechanical tolerances, which would be the manufacturer’s responsibility for the most part.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
6 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

This may all sound a bit silly, but are they going to try bigger wheels, thicker tracks, stronger suspension, stronger engine, even stretch the design as bit to spread the load…? Is it all really rocket science? Surely by now they must know what’s causing all the issues?! Chop the program or get on and fix it!
My 5c from couch here in Sydney… Lol 😁

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

I’m assuming there’s also disagreement over who’s going to pay for all of this. MoD don’t want to, for reasons stated by Gavin, but GD also know that the U.K. doesn’t have time to go to another company and get it redone so is probably trying to use that to their advantage. This would be very expensive no matter how easy it should be.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
6 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

But this is basic car design stuff…..there are an awful lot of freelance car designer who could parameterise this and develop fixes for nothing like the money spent. JLR would actually be a good place to start as they do have good tech for making heavy vehicles ride well over roughy ground at speed. At least they know how to measure it! I say that having owned everything from a Discovery I (dreadful – then LandRover had no clue) to a Range Rover through the to a Discovery4 (the best beat for dragging thing around and cruising with the family… Read more »

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago

If you see my comment above this one I myself struggle to understand how it’s possible to mess up the RIDE of all things on a military vehicle.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
6 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

It is because the whole thing has been cyclically modified as the weight has grown?

So the design is not holistic but itsabitsa……

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
6 days ago

This is certainly not basic car design stuff. A modern AFV is a very unique and complex piece of kit.

I don’t think JLR has experience with 42 tonne tracked vehicles with a turret and cannon – sadly neither has the very new company of GDUK operating out of a forklift truck factory in Wales with staff inexperienced at AFV assembly – and totally reliant on good hulls being built in Spain.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
6 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Calculating how suspension and engine components work together and particularly noise/vibration is generated is actually pretty basic stuff these days. I ran it past an experienced tracked automotive engineer before I posted and he was dismissive that it was a real problem to understand. It might be more of a problem to engineer out given that the project is mow mired in the Sunk Cost Fallacy. What is probably needed is a full redesign. And it might be cheaper to do that than to continue messing about with the present mess. But I suspect that as there is a signed… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

From what I’ve been told there are problems with the basic chassis, ie the bit manufactured in Spain. Apparently the jig they are using to build the hull, must be made from rubber, as they have found the hull isn’t square. This clearly makes the problem of track alignment even worse and will cause noise and vibration issues. From the info I’ve got, at least 1 in 4 hulls coming from Spain have quality issues. I have also heard that there is a problem with the crew headsets. The mics are picking up the ambient noise and amplifying it and… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
5 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Noise cancellation circuits have been around for a while too……

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  DaveyB

ASCOD was sold with a up to 48 tons, all the drive train was upgraded @ GD. BUT if you take let say a 2 ton Transit van and upgrade in to take 10 tons, you van is going to drive like a truck not a van. the Hulls are very poor and lack bracing, but have you ever seen a straight anything built-in Spain….

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
5 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

No idea! but that likely puts me in the same category as the MOD/GS:- ‘with friends like these we don’t need enemies’. Russians can put their feet up for the foreseeable, it would appear. Facetious, I know. But by the time you add in all the other equipment faux pas over the past couple of decades, the Army Brass deserve it. The UK taxpayer does not, of course. I’m already wincing over the coming fate of our poor, faithful Challenger – God help it. And still the General Staff hallucinate over their Shining Technological Future. I just want a Competent… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Has anyone asked why it will take a further 9 years to get all the Challys upgraded?

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

issues are vibration through the driving controls, which causes White Knuckle. like holding a jackhammer all day. vibrations from the FLAT panels create a drumming effect and the Track Chatter, AJAX has a very different sound when running, it’s like it has baggy tracks. the problem is the design was fine until it collected all the additional weight but was Rated up to 48 tons. do think GD was using the UK as a testbed for the Proposed $54bn US Army contract to replace Bradleys. the only defence is they are a prototype post production and the Shadow defence Secretary… Read more »

Ron
Ron
6 days ago

I would like to have some explaination for this situation with Ajax. God the Uk has been building tanks for 100 years, we invented the dammed thing so surly we should know how to do it by now. Even Layland could build a good tank (Chieftain) and that says something as we all know Layland. Not only that but BAE is involved with a nice little family of light tracked stuff in the CV-90. Proven kit that is still undergoing upgrades and development. I’m not a fan of BAE for everything but in this case we could have got the… Read more »

Pmichael
Pmichael
6 days ago
Reply to  Ron

Calling the Chieftain a good tank is rich.

Marked
Marked
6 days ago
Reply to  Pmichael

It was a good tank! It was exceptional for its day in a lot of areas, its engine was the only failing.

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago
Reply to  Marked

Why does that description remind me of a certain ship class…

Daniel
Daniel
6 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

The difference being that luckily the British Army had more than 6 Chieftains…

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago
Reply to  Daniel

I can see HMG beginning to come to its senses with defence but it’s only here and there for now. Hopefully, we get a properly armed Type 83, with 128-144 VLS and at least 8-10 of them. And they would certainly need AShM unlike the current ones. A destroyer that is to be taken seriously by Russia and more importantly China would need to be 1.5-2 times the size of Type 45 (Renhai comes in at 13,000 tonnes).

Marked
Marked
5 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

I can’t see them coming to their senses. British army not fit to fight its way out of a wet paper bag and set to lose more numbers while it’s armoured branch resembles something from a carry on film. Raf have a handful of combat aircraft that will be stretched to cover all the missions required of them. Not that they have the weapons to do them all anyway! Air lift is about to lose 20% of its capability. Aggressor squadrons are going with no replacement, bye bye in cockpit training. Awacs will be such a small fleet that one… Read more »

eclipse
eclipse
5 days ago
Reply to  Marked

How is it possible to achieve such a poor result with a $60-70b budget?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  Marked

…all these cuts and yet the Government is spending more on defence now than a year or two ago. We are getting very little bang for the buck.

Johan
Johan
1 day ago
Reply to  Marked

OK there are various reasons for the cuts, RAF- loses the T1s-Tran-1 typhoons E3s these aircraft offer very little to the RAF due to limitations in their capabilities and cannot be upgraded in a cost-effective manner. HERC fleet was a stop-gap plain and simple and RAF doesn’t want it anymore. 2nd hand value is still high. RN- ships that cannot be upgraded to the modern standard which requires spare capacity and power. need to be retired /sold/scrapped or given away. Army- is the Problem they are a mess but the MOD employs so-called Military experts, and in a modern changing… Read more »

Marked
Marked
5 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Same could be said of the challenger 2, albeit less of a reliability issue and more a performance issue.

Amazing how we keep building motorised vehicles and make such a pigs ear off the actual motor part!

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
6 days ago
Reply to  Pmichael

It was the only western tank the Soviets were really scared of. No other tank in 1966 sported a 120mm gun and had such a well sloped turret, very thick armour frontally, a NBC pack and good comms.
Sure it had its faults, mostly with the reliability of the Powerpack, but REME was very good at swapping out packs and keeping most of the fleet on the road.

LongTime
LongTime
5 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

So Graham in summary good tank, good gun, terrible fuel economy, bad engine but by some sort of luck relatively easy to swap out.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  LongTime

Chieftain fuel economy was OK – regular diesel engine. We had 900 Chieftains back in the day and the only weak part was engine reliability which wasn’t abysmal just not as good as contemporaries. Everything else was very good. One of the first tanks with a stabilised gun for firing on the move (trialled in late mark Centurions).
Well liked by the crews, on the whole. Chieftain variants were good too.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  Ron

We used to have 5 good British AFV manufacturers – Alvis, GKN, RO plc, Vickers Defence Systems, VSEL. They have all disappeared along with their experienced staff and factories – subsumed into BAE, who didn’t get the contract to build.
Instead the contract went to a company that was invented for the purpose (GD UK), who operate out of a factory that has only ever made fork lift trucks, with staff who mostly have no experience of building AFVs.

maurice10
maurice10
6 days ago

Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) is a critical part of vehicle design. Gone are the days when drivers put up with appaling squeaks and rattles and a ride that shattered the bones. The current problems with Ajax are unforgivable as the basic chassis/suspension configuration is a known science? One fact is clear, the new vehicle has fundamental problems that may not have a cheap or fast solution? I suspect a complete redesign of the track and suspension is underway, which inevitably will push the ISD back a few years, and this has been accepted by the MOD but not announced.… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
6 days ago
Reply to  maurice10

I agree that NVH is a critical part of car design and has its place in AFV design.

From what I have heard in Open Source material:

Re-working just track and suspension won’t work. The main problem as regards vibration is poor build quality of the hulls from the Spanish factory, for many reasons, including that jigs were not used when they should have been.

Much of the noise is inherent due to poor vehicle design but also due to poor headphones which supposedly amplify engine noise and feed it into the crewmans ears – very bizarre.

Pete
Pete
5 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

There’s probably two parts to the Hull problem. 1. Hull not being square is one issue. 2. Not having robust tolerance and poor acceptance criteria may be allowing 1 to occur. ‘2’ should ideally be managed by GDUK with GDSpain. Irrespective MOD should also have such criteria with GDUK. If the Hull’s are out of spec due to build quality then it should be a straightforward defects / warranty issue. If design tolerance is too loose then may be claimable under a latent defects action. If issue is result of the client demanding more and more stuff being bolted on… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  Pete

All good points Pete. We have had an interim announcement on using WR in the short term as a recce vehicle (would that be better than carrying on with Scimitar for a year or two?
I wonder when the big announcement on Ajax is to be made – either details of the re-work programme or a programme cancellation announcement.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
5 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham, I kinda wished I hadn’t started to read this article – I’ve already blow a gasket on a couple of the other Ajax articles today. As an engieer I find stunning that the hull build was not properly jigged up. Call themselves engineers GD should be ashamed and sued. As for noise reducing headphones, I used to fly a home build years ago and my old headphones worked just fine. They were 10 years old when I got them with the plane… The point is from what I have read so far is that the problems should have… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Hi CR, the assembly shop staff in South Wales were fairly stunned to see that tapped holes and bosses were not in the right place from one hull to another for surface mounting of components, so clearly jigs were not used for that or even a ‘dressmakers template’. The fact that armour sheet was often of different sizes on left and right of the centreline shows QA was non-existent and points to poor or inadequate jigs for heavy fabrication. It is astonishing. MoD has cut back its QA staff dramatically over the years – they used to have people fulltime… Read more »

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
5 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham, That is shockingly bad, GD should be sued for that alone..! Mind you I am not surprised – disgusted, but not surprised. It’s not only the MoD that has cut back on QA. I need calipers to walk and have noticed a huge decline in quality over that last 10 or 15 years. On one occassion the supplier even made a caliper for the wrong LEG..! The NHS staff only noticed the order had been wrongly fulfilled when they handed it to me to try on… I hope they didn’t pay for it, because the order form was… Read more »

Steve R
Steve R
6 days ago

This needs to be a wake up call. Ditch Ajax, stop throwing good money after bad and just buy 600 Pumas or CV90S off the shelf!

eclipse
eclipse
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

CV90 seems to be a little old considering it would be 30 years old by the time it was delivered. However the Pumas seem quite modern and while I’m not certain of the direct comparison, i don’t know whether it would have any jarring disadvantages in a 1v1 with an Ajax that is working.

BB85
BB85
5 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

The only thing original on the CV90 is the hull, the chassis, engine, digital architecture and turret are all brand new

eclipse
eclipse
5 days ago
Reply to  BB85

Oh, I see. Are either of them better / worse than ajax?

Joe16
Joe16
5 days ago

I guess it’s all going to come down to who asked for all that extra weight in armour and gubbins, and how clear GD were in saying that it may be too much for a chassis that was designed for half the final weight…
I know that this largely decends into a game of top trumps that it’s hard to conclusively “win”, was Ajax the right base choice for us? I have never really looked that hard at the programme, but I understand there are a couple of other contenders which were really quite competitive?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
5 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

I have only ever heard of BAE’s CV90 as an alternative to the GD Ajax. When I scored the FBRV bids for RAM, there were around 11 or 12 bids from Industry.

Richard Wakefield
Richard Wakefield
5 days ago

Do the MOD not have commercial contracts! Paying for something that is faulty clearly is a breach of contract and the manufacturer should pay the bill!

Reaper
Reaper
5 days ago

Please say they redesigned the suspension system due to all the extra weight… or is this a shitty spanish quality issue?

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
5 days ago

The funny thing is, we all know that the issue is the hull. It is not fit for the weight it is now being asked to carry. The plus side of this debacle is that most of the design work and effort is the integration of all the different systems which don’t appear to be an issue. In very, very simplistic terms, we need to design a new hull capable of taking 50 tonnes, build it to a high spec and tolerance, and then just take all the bits from the “knackered” ones and fit them into the new hulls..… Read more »

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
5 days ago
Reply to  Mark Forsyth

Hi Mark, Hope you are doing well mate. The hull should be the easy bit. I know armour is heavy and some types of armour require specialist skills to put together, but it is not as if it hasn’t been done before. According to a post by Graham Moore above the hulls are so bad the armour isn’t even the same from one side of the centreline to the other! Bosses aren’t in the same place vehicle to vehicle! The Welsh factory should have sent them back to Spain. This could have happened if MoD took an interest in QA… Read more »

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
4 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Great to hear from you. You can find me on LinkedIn, is you want to connect. Regards

andy
andy
5 days ago

seems to me they may as well have kept and upgraded warrior and not bothered with this.. more annoying if a company wasted this amount of money someone would be held to account and fired through some sort of enquiry but yet the MOD just carry on wasting more taxpayers money, and yes things are never right from the start and problems need ironing out, but i can see this needing one hell of a big iron to straighten this problm….

McFeagle
McFeagle
3 days ago

Scrap Ajax , its a lost cause , go for the Boxer and variants , proven kit , being built in the UK , and increase production . Ideally suited for mobile infantry defense of the UK .

Johan
Johan
1 day ago

UKNAO Released this so the upgrades were designed at Oakdale, The ASCOD vehicle was chosen by the UK MoD as the common base platform on which the Ajax would be developed. This selection was the result of the UK’s Specialist Vehicle Programme. Around 300 British engineers at General Dynamics UK’s Oakdale facility began developing the Scout from the ASCOD after being awarded the contract in 2010 The Ajax is planned to include the following upgrades The main weapon will be a 40mm autocannon with “telescoped ammunition” (CT40 cannon). The armour will provide basic ballistic and mine protection, with upgrade add-on packages for improved… Read more »