British Army’s Ajax program moving to its next stage of trials

According to a tweet posted on March 21 by the British Army, positive progress has continued on the next phase of Ajax trials, with the Ministry of Defence confirming the revised in-service dates and resuming payments to General Dynamics for delivery of the programme. With an initial payment of £480 million, withheld since December 2020 due to challenges with noise and vibration, the MOD will resume payments to General Dynamics as the vehicles are scheduled to enter initial operating capability between July and December 2025.
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Reliability Growth Trials of Ajax continue to progress well, testing the durability of the platform and components through a series of battlefield missions (Picture source: British Army)

Assembled predominantly at General Dynamics in Merthyr Tydfil, 589 Ajax vehicles are due to be delivered to the British Army, bolstering the Army’s land-based reconnaissance capability.

Delivering on the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country, the payment will cascade to the UK-wide supply chain of more than 230 companies, supporting more than 4,000 jobs throughout the UK, including hundreds in South Wales. Future payments will be made against the new schedule and its milestones, conditional on the delivery of compliant and deployable Ajax vehicles and the continued progress of the remaining trial activity. This follows the Defence Secretary’s visit to Bovington Camp last month, to see the ongoing trials.

Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “Having worked closely with General Dynamics to address the issues, I am pleased to say that we are making progress and are now on course to see the delivery of a suite of hundreds of battle-ready vehicles for the British Army.”

Reliability Growth Trials continue to progress well, testing the durability of the platform and components through a series of battlefield missions.

Since starting trials, Ajax, Apollo, Atlas and Ares variants have driven over 2,260 kilometres through different terrains, completing a variety of representative battlefield tasks such as operating across a range of speeds and terrains, firing weapon systems, using the vehicle's systems and communications and completing specialist tasks such as vehicle recoveries and repairs using the integrated crane.

Ajax will deliver a step-change in the surveillance capability for the Army, with its suite of cutting-edge sensors, enhanced 40mm cannon, modular armour, and improved cross-country mobility. The programme will provide 589 vehicles that will allow the British Army to operate in all weathers, 24 hours a day.

Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Sharon Nesmith, said: “I am pleased and excited to see Ajax progress through the Reliability and Growth Trials. Ajax is the heart of the Army’s modernisation programme, significantly enhancing our surveillance and strike capability.”

Subject to contract amendment, updated schedules direct that Initial Operating Capability will be achieved between July and December 2025, delivering a trained and deployable squadron that can be sustained on operations for up to six months.

Full Operating Capability will follow between October 2028 and September 2029, when the Army has trained and converted forces to the Ajax platform to deliver Armoured Cavalry capability to the Deep Reconnaissance Strike Brigade and its two Armoured Brigade Combat Teams.

A robust firm price contract remains for the delivery of the 589 vehicles, which will ensure that General Dynamics are incentivised to deliver against agreed outcomes. As such, the whole programme remains within its originally approved budget level and the Department has worked collaboratively and constructively with General Dynamics to achieve this.

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Presentation of the Ajax family by General Dynamics at DVD 2018 in Millbrook, UK (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The Ajax family

The AJAX family of armoured vehicles is a series of tracked vehicles developed by General Dynamics UK for the British Army. The AJAX family consists of six variants:

AJAX - a reconnaissance vehicle with a high level of survivability and mobility.
ARES - an armoured personnel carrier that can transport troops in and out of the battlefield.
APOLLO - an ambulance vehicle designed to provide medical support to troops in the field.
ATHENA - a command and control vehicle with advanced communications equipment and technology.
ATLAS - an engineering vehicle that can clear obstacles and build bridges.
ARGUS - a recovery vehicle that can recover damaged vehicles and equipment.

The AJAX family of vehicles is designed to provide the British Army with a modern, agile, and adaptable fleet of armoured vehicles that can operate in a range of different environments. The vehicles are equipped with a range of advanced technologies, including a state-of-the-art digital architecture that enables rapid communication and information sharing between vehicles and soldiers on the ground.

The AJAX family is also designed to provide enhanced protection for soldiers in the field. The vehicles feature a modular armour system that can be adapted to different threat levels and are equipped with advanced situational awareness technology that helps soldiers to identify and respond to threats quickly and effectively.

Overall, the AJAX family of armoured vehicles represents a significant upgrade to the British Army's armoured vehicle fleet, providing soldiers with the tools they need to operate effectively in modern conflict zones.

Defense News March 2023