FRES Vehicle a Shambles

Former British Secretary of State for Defense John Hutton says it is "hard to imagine a worse procurement shambles" than the British Army's Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) armored vehicle program.

Hutton, appearing before the Iraq Inquiry Jan. 25, says the FRES program was a "pretty grim episode," underscoring the need for a "shake-up" of how the Defense Ministry goes about procuring equipment.

Hutton was referring in particular to the FRES Utility vehicle procurement debacle. The ministry shelved the procurement at the end of 2008 and shifted focus to the so-called specialist vehicles (SV) element of the FRES program, for which it is now nearing a selection. It also has tried to incorporate failings of the utility vehicle project in managing the SV procurement.

The government-commissioned inquiry is being used to identify lessons from British involvement in the Iraq war and its aftermath.

Problems with FRES -- meant to produce a family of armored fighting vehicles -- included the inability to "settle on the specification," along with a "lack of clarity" as to what was required, Hutton says.

The ministry is aiming to select a preferred bidder for the specialist vehicles element of the program in the next couple of months, known as "Recce Block 1." BAE Systems and General Dynamics are competing for the program.

The ministry's Investment Approval Board was expected to meet to consider the FRES SV recommendation this week, with its choice then being submitted for ministerial approval.

Around 600 vehicles will be purchased in the first phase of the SV program, worth a total of $3.2 billion.

Along with the SV procurement, the ministry also is nearing a decision on the choice of a manufacturer for its Warrior armored vehicle upgrade program. Taken together, the two programs will shape the future of Britain's land systems sector.

-- Aviation Week

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