LONDON – Lockheed Martin British executives responsible for modernizing the British Army's Warrior infantry fighting vehicle have admitted that the program is at risk of being scrapped or scaled down in an upcoming government overhaul.
Warrior Capability Sustainment Program (WCSP) director Keren Wilkins told reporters at an online briefing on Feb. 18 that the project was under threat, although the British military still saw the vehicle as a major requirement.
“We are vulnerable. I'm worried, 'said Wilkins. "We spoke to the military, they told us that WCSP is the only option that meets all their requirements to provide an infantry fighting vehicle with the capacity for a full section (of troops) in the rear, the main weapon being a turret. of 40 mm, extra armored protection and other great features. "
The UK government is preparing to publish a highly anticipated analysis of its defense, security, foreign policy and international development programs. The review is expected to mainly affect military programs.
Lockheed Martin is in the final stages of negotiation with the Department of Defense for a contract to begin production of a deal to update the near-obsolete Warrior vehicle with a comprehensive set of updates, including a new cannon, enhanced protection and open digital architecture.
The company presented its business proposals for WSCP production to the Department of Defense investment approval committee on December 21 last year.
Defense Secretary Jeremy Quin confirmed to parliament on Feb. 1 that the business case for WCSP is being considered through the government's approval process.
“All decisions are subject to the ongoing Integrated Review,” he warned.
The review is touted here as the most fundamental transformation of the UK defense industry in decades as the military moves from conventional equipment programs to cyber, aerospace, unmanned and other advanced technologies.
Ben Barry, senior land war fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the Department of Defense faces difficult choices regarding its armored vehicle programs, namely the update of the Challenger 2 tank, the introduction of the armored personnel vehicle Boxer and the armored reconnaissance of Ajax. vehicle.
Achieving the necessary capacity improvements with the necessary speed & # 39; will likely require difficult choices about which of the Army's current four armored vehicles modernization programs to follow. And the programs endorsed by the review can change numbers and roles, ”he said.
The long-delayed review is now expected to be released around the second week of March, followed soon after by a defense white paper detailing program and capacity changes.
The Warrior update program, signed by Lockheed Martin in 2011 and now years behind schedule, has long been in the firing line when it comes to potential capacity cuts, according to analysts.
Wilkens said the company was aware that the program was "at risk" and that Lockheed Martin was active on social media to ensure the benefits of Warrior were well understood.
About 2,000 jobs at Lockheed Martin UK and its supply chain, which is 80 percent British, are at risk, as well as the future of a center of excellence in tower design, the company has spent approximately £ 200 million ($ 280 million) on the development at Ampthill, Southern England, over the past decade.
A KPMG report commissioned by Lockheed Martin said upgrade work for an expected 275 vehicles could bring about £ 1 billion or $ 1.4 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy over the next eight years.
Aside from Warrior, the Ampthill site also produces turrets for the General Dynamics UK Ajax armored reconnaissance vehicles being assembled for the British Army at a factory in South Wales.
Wilken said interest in the export market is expected to grow once the dome is up and running.
A £ 16 billion ($ 22 billion) market for mid-caliber turrets is forecast for the next 10 years, she said.
Lockheed Martin UK is seeking to harness all of its WSCP skills and is engaged in conceptual work on future tower developments, including what the company calls an unmanned urban combat vehicle.
Company officials said future development while preserving the British gun turret's capacity is unlikely to survive with the abolition of the WSCP.
Part of the drive to highlight the economic and operational benefits of the program included an announcement on Feb. 18 that the vehicle had recently completed 80 percent of major field tests and was on track to complete the testing work in the next two or three months To round.
Subject to WCSP avoiding the chop, it was expected to update up to 275 vehicles.
Wilkins admitted, however, that numbers may be reduced.
“There is a lot of speculation about the figures. … I wouldn't be surprised if the number of WSCPs is reduced. … The first hurdle, however, is to ensure that the program survives, ”she said.
A decision to completely fire the Warrior would have a significant impact on military capabilities, Barry argued.
“If the army were to drop Warrior and not replace it with another IFV that could keep up with the tanks and alongside tanks, an armored warfare as successfully practiced on Desert Storm and Operation Telic in Iraq would be impossible. Urban warfare and high-quality peace-support operations such as Bosnia would be much more difficult, ”said Barry.
"The result would be a further loss of credibility and influence with the United States and NATO," said the analyst.
. (tagsToTranslate) Warrior upgrade (t) defense spending (t) UK defense rating (t) integrated rating (t) Lockheed Martin UK (t) infantry fighting vehicle