LONDON — Royal Marine Viking all-terrain tracked vehicles have been withdrawn from service by the British Ministry of Defence until funds can be found to reset and repair the machines after their return from Afghanistan.
Defence Procurement Minister Peter Luff confirmed June 21 in a written response to Parliament that in their present state, the vehicles are unsafe and have been withdrawn until they can be regenerated.
The vehicles are meant to be a key part of the Royal Marines’ rapid-reaction capabilities.
Three days earlier, Luff said in response to another parliamentary question that while it remained the government’s intention to equip the Marines with an amphibious protected vehicle, capability funds for the program had not been committed by the MoD.
“The Ministry of Defence plans to review uncommitted projects, such as the Viking regeneration program, regularly to decide when it is necessary to commit funding. Those deemed a priority will benefit from the 8 billion pound of headroom that is available in the equipment budget over the next 10 years,” Luff said.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond recently announced the MoD had balanced its budget. A program involving the significant reset of about 100 Vikings by supplier BAE System has been on the shelf for several months awaiting a move by the MoD.
The regeneration — it would be undertaken by the Swedish arm of BAE, which designs and builds the Viking — could include some new hulls and other significant resets in a program which is expected to cost between 30 million and 40 million pounds once MoD provides funding.
In Afghanistan, the Vikings were operating at payloads beyond the original design parameters of the vehicle as a result of additional armor protection and other upgrades.
Luff said when added armor and different upgrades were removed, it showed the machines had “experienced accelerated mechanical fatigue, compromising the structural integrity and safe operation of the vehicle.”
The BvS10 Vikings saw extensive use by the Marines and the British Army in Afghanistan ahead of their replacement in 2010 by the heavier Warthog machine, supplied by Singapore’s ST Kinetics as part of an urgent operational requirement.
An announcement on whether the Warthogs will be taken into the Army’s long-term core equipment plans is awaited.
Decisions are also due soon on other bespoke armored vehicle fleets purchased for Afghanistan under Britain’s urgent operational requirements scheme funded by the Treasury.