British Defence Chiefs Question The Future of New Ajax Scout Vehicle
- After 12 years, armoured Ajax scout vehicles will no longer serve the British Army.
- In 2010, the MoD selected General Dynamics UK to manufacture Ajax scout vehicles.
- The scout vehicles faced technical and physical issues which hindered their use.
- Some significant members of the Ministry of Defence criticised the Ajax project.
- However, the MoD claims the program provided jobs to thousands across the UK.
Creation of Project Ajax
The Ajax, formerly known as the Scout SV (Specialist Vehicle) is a group of armoured fighting vehicles developed in the 1990s by famous European military weapon contractors Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug and Santa Bárbara Sistemas. General Dynamics UK, who later bought both companies, manufactures them for the British Army.
In 2010, the relevant authorities selected General Dynamics UK to manufacture the Ajax for the British Army. BAE Systems’ CV90, Europe’s largest defence contractor and the seventh-largest defence contractor worldwide, was the runner-up during the selection process.
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General Dynamics UK intended to deliver the first batch of Ajax in 2017, hoping that they would be fully operational by July 2020. But unfortunately, production and technical issues delayed the process. For example, although the Ajax gives unparalleled protection to soldiers, it has a tendency to vibrate dangerously.
Features of the Ajax Project
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) ordered 598 armoured vehicles. However, they will never serve the British Army. Even though the Ajax cost around £ 5.5 billion, defence chiefs have reason to believe that they will not deploy.
Costing taxpayers around 3.2 billion, it is the biggest waste of resources in the British Military’s history. The Minister of Defence had intended Ajax to replace Scimitar Armoured Reconnaissance vehicles, which had served the British Army since the early 1970s. A change was long due.
At the time, The Ministry of Defence said that the entire Ajax project supported about 4,000 jobs across more than 230 suppliers all over the UK. One of their spokespersons said, “We are investing £41 billion in equipment and support over the next ten years.”
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The representative added, “We continue to work closely with General Dynamics for the successful delivery of Ajax. We are preparing to move to the next phase of testing the vehicle under simulated battlefield conditions. While working to agree on a new timetable for Ajax’s introduction into service.”
Failure of the Ajax Project
During trials however the Ajax injured hundreds of soldiers, with some sources putting the figure around 300. As a result, the Army had to provide medical assistance to those injured. The bill added up. Hence, the Government’s Defence Equipment Plan ordered the company to fix the technical faults.
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The design plan for digitised vehicles has remained active for 12 years. In all these years of experimenting and trials, the company has only successfully delivered 26 Ajax. But unfortunately, they can only perform training exercises.
The Defence Equipment Plan reported, “Testing is now underway. To verify the effectiveness of modifications to mitigate noise and vibration issues to a safe and acceptable level.”
They added, “Until a suitable suite of design modifications has been identified, tested, and demonstrated. It is impossible to determine a realistic timescale for introducing Ajax vehicles into operational service with the Army.”
Col. Phil Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, explained how the Combat Vehicle 90 should replace Ajax. However, he showed an extreme amount of disappointment in the project.
Col. Ingram said, “The program has been a fiasco and should close. But, unfortunately, many of the program decision makers have remained deaf to bad news that would have exposed the fiasco the program has become.”
Lord West, the former Head of the Navy, said, “The Ajax program, no matter how much one dresses it up, has been a complete and utter disaster. It has been a real shambles.” Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, also showed concern over this project. He termed this project a “complete mess.”
The Ministry of Defence stated, “We continue to work closely with General Dynamics for the successful delivery of Ajax.” However, up till now, General Dynamics has refused to comment on the situation.