LONDON — Lockheed Martin UK and the Ministry of Defence agreed to substantial contract amendments to insert additional technology and capabilities while a deal to sustain and upgrade the British Army's Warrior infantry fighting vehicle was rebaselined in 2014, company executives have confirmed.
Publication earlier this month of the annual examination of major British defense projects by the government's National Audit Office (NAO) revealed for the first that "slower than expected progress" by prime contractor Lockheed Martin had led to a rebaselining of the demonstration phase of the program.
What wasn't in the government spending watchdog's report though was the fact that the MoD and Lockheed Martin also took the opportunity of the reset requirement to improve the capabilities of the key British Army update program.
"There were a number of significant but positive contract amendments. We now have a fully digital architecture in the turret and the hull that will make future proofing of the vehicle easier," said David Cobb, Lockheed Martin's Warrior capability sustainment program head.
The executive said that additional capability is was also being added elsewhere on the platform, including the insertion of technology as it becomes available to better utilize the airburst capability of the new CTAI-developed 40mm cannon being used on Warrior.
The new airburst round, which is not yet qualified, is being developed along with other ammunition types by CTAI, a BAE Systems/Nexter joint venture.
Warrior and the British Army Specialist Vehicle program led by General Dynamics UK, which includes a Lockheed Martin-supplied turret on the Scout variant, are the launch programs for the unique Anglo-French cannon, which uses case telescoped ammunition.
Cobb said the other big change on the Warrior upgrade program is Lockheed Martin's decision to build a wholly new turret rather than continue with the original scheme, which involved cutting off the front of the structure to accommodate the new gun and other systems and reuse the back end.
The Lockheed Martin executive said it turned out that building a completely new turret provided the most effective solution.
With a critical design review targeted for May, Cobb said there was now a chill on further changes for the time being although additional it was possible there would be further technology insertions beyond the review is possible.
Part of the rebaselining effort has also seen Lockheed Martin and the MoD move to try to and further reduce risk derisk the program by pulling forward some production items into the development phase.
"The original 11eleven [demonstration ] vehicles have become 12 and there is an extra turret and some subsystems involved," Cobb said.
The demonstration vehicles, including command post, recovery and other variants, will eventually become operational machines.
The NAO said the contract reset was negotiated within already approved financial and timeline limits.
Cobb said that the rebaselining of the contract will not alter the inservice date of the revamped Warrior, and they expect to complete the rebaselined demonstration phase ahead of schedule.
"The current demonstration contract takes us to March 2018, but we plan to finish ahead of that in November 2017, he told reporters during a briefing at Lockheed Martin's Ampthill, Bedfordshire, site, where the development and subsequent production upgrade is scheduled to take place.
"For all of 2014 and going forward into 2015, we are exactly where we expected to be in the plan," Alan Lines, Lockheed Martin UK's vice president and managing director of missiles and fire control, said. Lines said.
Last year saw a series of firing trials culminating in the first manned tests using the new cannon in December. A Warrior is now on a Scottish firing range for further live firing trials starting in February.
Entry into service is given by the NAO sets entry into service as March 2020 but Lockheed Martin officials said they were unable to confirm that.
Lockheed Martin secured a £642 million (US $964.6 million) contract with the MoD in 2011 to become the prime contractor on the Warrior capability sustainment program.
A modular protection system, improved lethality and , a new level of reliability, and enhanced electronic architecture are among the key elements of a program that could help keep the vehicle in service through to the 2040s, over 50 years after it entered service.
The production option on the contract remains to be signed.
Although the long-term funding for the program is in place, Alan Lines , Lockheed Martin UK's vice president and managing director of missiles and fire control, concedes "nothing is watertight" as defense budgets come under further intense scrutiny the other side of the general election in May.
With analysts and industry executives forecasting a potential bloodbath to capabilities and programs if defense gets hit with a 7-8 percent reduction to help meet expected further austerity measures by an incoming government, nobody is certain how that might impact equipment programs.
For the moment, of the 380 Warrior's due to receive the upgrade about three-quarters of that number will get the full package, including the new turret and cannon. Other Warriors will be used in artillery, repair and recovery roles.
The entire contract, including upgradesing and the government-mandated and supplied cannon, could eventually run to £1.3 billion, according to said the NAO, although that ultimately depends on exactly how many Warrior's eventually get the full upgrade, including a new turret.
Lines said he was more concerned about the impact potential budget cuts could have on new British armored vehicle programs, such as like the armored battlefield support vehicle program and the Challenger II tank update, rather than on the existing Warrior and Scout specialist vehicle deals the company already has under its belt.
Lockheed Martin is under contract to General Dynamics UK to supply the turret for the Scout version of the £3.5 billion specialist vehicle program signed last September.