UK funds four new technologies for FRES vehicles

LONDON, England, 4 Jan. 2006. The U.K. Ministry of Defence has awarded four new contracts to help inform decisions on which technologies will be used for the Army's next generation of armoured fighting vehicles, the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES).

LONDON, England, 4 Jan. 2006. The U.K. Ministry of Defence has awarded four new contracts to help inform decisions on which technologies will be used for the Army's next generation of armoured fighting vehicles, the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES).

The contracts are managed by Atkins, the FRES Systems House, Minister for Defence Procurement Lord Drayson announced today. Winners include BAE Systems, Thales UK, and Lockheed Martin UK.

The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) will provide the British Army with a family of medium-weight, network-enabled, air-deployable armoured vehicles to meet up to 16 battlespace roles. FRES will be the central pillar of a capable and highly deployable medium force which will be able to project power rapidly world-wide, complementing the UK's existing heavy and light forces. Current estimates indicate a potential requirement of over 3,500 vehicles.

BAE Systems have been awarded two contracts. The first is for a Chassis Concept Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP). This work will demonstrate the readiness of an alternative electric drive technology, and explain the challenges of applying this technology across the range of FRES roles.

The BAE Systems Chassis Concept TDP will build on work done on the successful Swedish SEP programme. SEP is a family of modular vehicles, utilising emerging technology and allowing different role modules to be configured with either a wheeled or tracked chassis. The purpose of the TDP is to examine the ability of the electric drive system, developed for SEP to meet the requirements of some or all of the envisaged FRES roles.

The second BAE Systems contract will look at potential light bridging concepts based on two designs; a stretched version of current technology and a new design using hybrid materials.

The BAE Systems Gap Crossing approach is based upon the company's world-beating bridging technology and light bridging concepts. Supported by QinetiQ, the TDP will focus on a new light-weight assault bridge based on 2 designs: a stretched version of current technology and a new design using hybrid materials. Both designs aim to provide better bridge packaging for air transportability together with fast under-armour deployment, recovery and re-deployment.

In the third contract, Thales UK, teamed with Boeing, has been selected to lead the Integrated Survivability (IS) programme. This project will define Integrated Survivability concepts for the full range of FRES roles.

The fourth contract has been awarded to Lockheed Martin UK, which has been awarded a contract to determine the principles for integrating an Electric Armour TDP into FRES.

Electric Armour is a type of electric force-field that can defend armored vehicles from rocket propelled grenade (RPG) strikes. It was created by researchers at the U.K. Ministry of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

When danger threatens, an outer skin of metal plates can rapidly be electrified to several thousand volts. When hit by an RPG or other shaped charge warhead, the incoming copper jet has to pass through the electrified layers, where it has to endure the passage of many thousands of amperes of current.

A recently demonstrated system mounted on an armoured troop carrier consisted of bulletproof metal plating, insulation, power distribution lines, and storage capacitors. The system weighs a mere couple of tonnes, but had a protective effect equal to carrying an extra 10-20 tonnes of steel armour. For more information, see www.dstl.gov.uk/pr/press/pr2002/01-07-02.htm.

"The four TDPs placed by Atkins, along with others already awarded, will help ensure we get the right technology in these new vehicles that will be at the centre of the Army's future capability," said Lord Drayson. For more information, see www.mod.uk/dpa/IPT/FRES.

By Ben Ames, Senior Editor

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