LONDON — The British Army’s troubled effort to acquire reconnaissance armored vehicles is back on track, with the Ajax program now scheduled to achieve initial operating capability by December 2025, the Defence Ministry said in a statement to Parliament on March 20.
The Ajax vehicle is a key element in the Army’s desire to field a deep reconnaissance strike brigade and two armored brigade combat teams. The platform is to reach full operational capability by September 2029, Defence Procurement Minister Alex Chalk told lawmakers in a written statement.
The General Dynamics UK-made vehicle is years behind schedule. The company and the ministry sought to fix noise and vibration problems that had led to the abandonment of trials and the injury of soldiers on the Ajax and its support variants.
The government defines initial operating capability as the ability to operate and sustain a squadron of 50 vehicles in the field for six months.
An initial £480 million (U.S. $584 million) manufacturing payment to General Dynamics, withheld by the MoD since 2020, is now being handed over to the company as payments for the fixed-price deal resume. Much of that cash was spent manufacturing and assembling Ajax vehicles at a General Dynamics plant in Spain and in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
To date, 143 vehicles were substantially completed, with 416 hulls ready and awaiting further assembly work. About 120 turrets housing a new 40mm cannon are also complete. The turrets are being installed on the Ajax version of the platform.
The Ajax family of vehicles covers six variants built to four different design standards, including engineering and armored personnel, among other specialist types.
“The MoD have developed with General Dynamics a revised schedule for the delivery of vehicles that is, subject to contract amendment, robust, realistic, and achievable,” Chalk told Parliament.
The £5.5 billion program to develop and build 589 Ajax vehicles was agreed by General Dynamics and the MoD in 2014 after the company was downselected ahead of BAE Systems’ CV90 for the assessment phase as far back as 2010.
The original forecast for initial operating capability was set for 2017, but later reset to 2021 as the program ran into problems. The new date is four years behind the previous revised schedule, but is considerably increased in scope, as it doubles the number of vehicles involved in the initial operating capability and the platforms will meet a fresher design standard.
Until recently lawmakers and others were calling for the program to be canceled, with Ajax becoming the poster child for wider procurement problems suffered by the ministry. Those problems appear to be finally behind the vehicle, which is undergoing reliability growth trials after successfully completing user validation assessments.
Parliamentarians were told the growth trials were progressing well and had not generated fundamental design issues.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.