Otherwise, London has taken a rather stop-and-go approach to new IFVs. The Future Rapid Effects System (FRES)—an increasingly discredited name for a program that has run close to 13 years —has yet to deliver any vehicles, despite having spent at least $475 million and likely much more.
The current version of the program is a tracked vehicle family, with initial emphasis on a reconnaissance vehicle. General Dynamics UK won the contest in early 2010, with an offering based around the Ascod (Austrian-Spanish Cooperation Development) MICV. However, the contract let so far is only for an assessment and development phase. Official statements to date, including that in the mid-May announcement that the U.K. defense ministry's procurement budget was now “balanced,” have also stated that a decision on procurement of Scout or any other variants will be made in 2015, around the time of the next general election. The current development phase for Scout and the common chassis that could become the basis of a future IFV family for the U.K. is estimated to cost between $791 million and $2.4 billion, depending on which set of ministry figures one looks at. Procurement of any vehicles would be extra.
The “honorable exception” for British IFV procurement was the urgent operational requirement (UOR) request that saw delivery of roughly 1,200 mine-protected vehicles in a variety of guises for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, some $2.4 billion has been spent on such vehicles since 2006, with hundreds of millions of dollars extra on sensors, protection systems and counter-IED protection. The future of these vehicles is now central to the future shape, size and equipment of the British Army and other services.
It has been hoped by some optimistic officers that the UOR vehicles would be used for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then disposed of, with new IFVs being bought for new roles. This school of thought said that vehicles such as the Force Protection/General Dynamics Mastiff and Ridgeback were only capable of “protected mobility” missions, whereas the army requires “fighting vehicles.” Even in times when budgets were not as pressured, this was a vain hope—most taxpayers cannot see any real difference between the roles and missions that the UOR vehicles were bought for, and many future roles that might crop up.
So the planning now is for the army to absorb the overwhelming number of the UOR vehicles. This is complicated by the fact that no one has fully budgeted for this process, which could end up costing more than $3.2 billion to “buy” the vehicles. (Believe it or not, they are not “owned” by the defense ministry, but rather by the treasury.) It will take well over $1.6 billion to bring them up to a standard where they can be allowed to operate in the U.K. and Europe.
The natural conclusion from the fact that the UOR vehicles will become part of the established British army is that there will be a smaller requirement for “new” IFVs, if at all. Older plans had talked about needs for 1,200-1,600 8 X 8 wheeled IFVs, with a new tracked vehicle fleet adding some 800-1,400 other IFVs. Few observers now believe this will occur.