The article is published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
WARSAW, (BM) – The General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) UK company presents the latest research and development works under the program of a new family of Ajax military combat vehicles. GDLS demonstrated these effects at the International Armored Vehicle (IAV) virtual conference, which takes place on January 26-February 11, 2021.
In addition to the information presented to the public during the e-conference as mentioned earlier, GDLS UK has recently also made available on its website a wide range of data on Ajax vehicles, including 3D multimedia presentations. The Ajax program (formerly known as Scout SV – Special Vehicle) led by the British Army concerns the acquisition of next-generation tracked combat vehicles. Ultimately, the new vehicles acquired under this program are to replace the currently used Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) family known under the abbreviation CVR (T).
The contract that starts the central part of this Future Rapid Effect Systems (FRES) program concluded at the end of 2014 between the UK Ministry of Defense and GDLS UK. Under this contract, with a total value of approximately GBP 4.5 billion, comprehensive research and development will be carried out, followed by serial production and deliveries of new British light combat vehicles, which were initially planned for 2017-2024. However, in practice, deliveries are made with an unavoidable delay from 2019 and will last until 2025.
GDLS delivered the first six prototype vehicles in the reconnaissance surveillance vehicle and armored personnel carrier (Ares) versions in February 2019 for a research and testing cycle. Also, training materials and simulators for car drivers had provided to the British Armored Training Center in Bovington and the Ministry of Defense Center in Lyneham. Last year several military trials were carried out to allow the introduction of vehicles into line service and the commencement of withdrawing the previously used cars from the CVR (T) family.
The new vehicle’s base will be the ASCOD infantry fighting vehicle chassis (developed and offered by General Dynamics). Ultimately, the British Ministry of Defense plans to acquire 589 examples of these vehicles, including six different specialized versions. The creation of so many variants of this car based on one platform was possible thanks to this structure’s modularity, which allows the use of selected designs in the form of tower chosen systems or sets of specialist equipment.
Among them, the following variants mentioned: Ajax combat vehicle (245 copies, of which 198 in the reconnaissance and combat version and 47 in the guidance and fire control version), Athena command vehicle (112 copies), reconnaissance surveillance vehicle and Ares armored personnel carrier (93 copies), Argus technical reconnaissance vehicles (51 copies), Apollo specialized support vehicle (50 copies) and Atlas technical support vehicles (38 copies), what is worth emphasizing, as many as three of the six versions of these vehicles and nearly 1/4 of the total number represent various specialist variants used for field repairs and evacuation of damaged cars.
The Ares family vehicles’ chassis is universal for all versions and provides elemental ballistic resistance by the STANAG 4569 level 4 standard, i.e., against bullets from the 14.5 mm multi-caliber machine gun. The crew’s survivability is additionally strengthened by seats suspended from the fuselage roof, a warning system against radiation with a laser beam, and a reserve of ammunition stored outside the crew compartment. The drive is an 810 HP MTU Friedrichshafen diesel engine with a 6F / 5R transmission system and an advanced suspension system using torsion bars, which allows it, with a maximum weight of 42 tons, to develop a top speed of up to 70 km / h and range up to 500 km.
The vehicle’s crew in the Ajax version consists of three soldiers (driver, commander, and gunner) with an optional fourth, additional crew member. In the Ares and Argus versions, it is two soldiers (commander-armament operator and driver), and optionally four soldiers. For the rest of Apollo, Athena, and Atlas, it is five, four, and three soldiers. The Ajax reconnaissance combat vehicle version is equipped with a new operating turret system (developed by Lockheed Martin UK) with a 40mm CTAI CT40 automatic cannon (powered by telescopic ammunition), and a coupled 7.62mm tank machine gun. All other vehicle versions are armed with a Kongsberg Protector remotely controlled armament module with a 12.7 mm large-caliber machine gun. The circumferential smoke grenade launchers located on the turret or the hull are also responsible for all these vehicles’ self-protection.
Additionally, all specialized versions, except Ajax combat vehicles and Ares wheeled APCs, are equipped with a dedicated unique equipment set. In the Apollo technical assistance vehicle, it is a five-ton retractable crane capable of lifting its power unit. In turn, in the case of the Argus specialized reconnaissance vehicle, it is a movable blade with the possibility of recoil and a unique system for marking designated routes. The Atlas technical support vehicle is equipped with a main winch with a capacity of 300 kN and an auxiliary winch with a total of 8 kN. The Athena command vehicle is only equipped with an auxiliary propulsion unit (APU) for powering additional command and communication systems installed inside.
According to the manufacturer’s declaration, the Ajax platform’s central role is to provide accurate and up-to-date information supporting decision-making at all levels of command. Vehicles of this type are to carry out ISTAR activities for the armored and mechanized units of the British land forces, which are to become “eyes” and “ears.” The panoramic central viewfinder provides advanced imaging technology in all weather conditions. This system is optionally replaced by a selected remotely controlled weapon module (which, at least in theory, should open the way for ATGM launcher integration on the vehicle, considering that Spike or Javelin interact with Kongsberg modules). High survivability, mobility, and firepower allow for safe and effective reconnaissance.
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