'Our armoured vehicle support is better than ever'
09 July 2012
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems' Mike Sweeney outlines the organisational changes designed to improve the calibre of the vehicles and support offered to the armed forces…
A reorganisation at BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems has witnessed a major change in the vehicles business, which has been split into two parts: programmes and support services, led respectively by David Bond and Alan Lines. The move is the latest in a series which has seen BAE Systems' UK vehicles support business consolidated into a site in Telford. This has involved the advanced Systems Integration Facility moving from Leicester and the aluminium fabrication equipment from Wolverhampton to give the site capabilities from concept through to test track.
The company has made these major changes at the same time as delivering upgrades for several British Army vehicles, including Warrior and Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)). Both programmes have recently received Chief of Defence Materiel awards.
In the case of CVR(T), the upgrade to five variants of the family included tougher new aluminium hulls based upon the Spartan infantry carrier variant. The hulls incorporate a range of design changes to improve mine blast and ballistic protection, and vehicle maintainability, while also reducing support costs and minimising weight growth. There is now new mine-blast protection seating in every position in every variant.
For Scimitar Mk2, the greater internal volume of the new hull allows fitment of a driver's blast attenuation seat, while also providing an additional escape route through the new rear door. Repositioned foot controls reduce the likelihood of lower limb injuries, while stiffer torsion bars restore ride height of the heavier vehicle, improving cross-country mobility and stand-off distance from mines and improvised explosive devices. The latest power distribution system, including a new rotary base junction, provides improved power management between chassis and turret, and will enable further systems upgrades in the future. Moreover, BAE Systems is already working on a low-cost stabilised turret for export customers. In addition to these benefits, Lines explains that: "The new hulls can save money over the future life of the vehicle by eliminating extensive maintenance needed to cope with corrosion and cracking on the old units."
More than 2,000 CVR(T)s remain in service, with some 15 nations, and BAE Systems is re-entering the market for their support and upgrade. Overseas users of CVR(T) have been in discussion with the company on the modernisation and enhancements packages it launched at DSEI in 2011. This is an affordable, quick and effective route to providing capability growth to the vehicles when the cost of procuring new platforms is becoming increasingly prohibitive. "We are offering a range of reliability, protection, mobility, firepower and stealth upgrade packages tailored to individual customer requirements," Lines continues. "Many of these are based on work already carried out to the UK's demanding requirements so customers will have the benefits of our original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and upgrade experience and solutions that are proven in UK service on operations in Europe and the Middle East."
One change in the business is delivering improvements in cost-effectiveness and speed of response. Vehicles Support Services is helping its suppliers to become more than just build-to-print outfits. For instance, Tinsley Bridge in Sheffield played a role in developing the new torsion bars on CVR(T) and Warrior in under five months. "We came up with a new, tougher spring steel called ExtraliteTM
for both vehicles, which fitted the tight space envelope but restored the ride height of the new, heavier vehicles to the original specification," states Managing Director Mark Webber.
Such read-across between programmes is a major advantage of having a support one-stop-shop, maintains Lines. "The Warrior aluminium hulls have a lot in common with CVR(T)'s and we could adopt a similar 'spend-to-save' approach to replacing them with the same added benefits of improved protection and reduced maintenance."
Meanwhile, more than 70 British Army Warriors are also now better protected and more mobile thanks to a fast-paced £30m package of upgrades developed and delivered by Telford in early 2011. BAE Systems had previously developed and produced more than 70 Urgent Operational Requirement modifications for Warrior to prepare them for operations in Kosovo, Iraq and now Afghanistan.
These were designed mainly to enhance protection to the vehicle crews in the face of rapidly changing threats and to better meet harsh local environmental conditions. One unwanted but inevitable by-product was weight growth from the original 25 tonnes to close to 40 tonnes. The 30 or so new upgrades, known as Theatre Entry Standard – Herrick (TES(H)), further improved crew protection and restored vehicle mobility, which had been reduced as a result of the weight increases.
TES(H) includes a modular armour system to allow quick and easy fitment of 'mix and match' armour packages to meet changing ballistic threats. Enhanced seating and armour also improves mine protection. Uprated suspension and increased ride height restores cross-country mobility. Lower-ratio final drive increases low-speed mobility and climbing performance. Motorsport derived carbon-fibre brakes, provide significantly reduced stopping distance.
Telford continues to support and upgrade British Army vehicles. While BAE Systems sees no change there, it is aiming to add foreign customers to its portfolio. "Telford has changed significantly over the last 12 months and will keep evolving to meet current and future customer requirements, particularly in these times of tight budgets," Lines states. "Already, our combination of facilities in one place and established relationships with key suppliers gives huge synergies over the whole product life cycle and means we can design and deliver support solutions more quickly and effectively than we did before."