Contributor: Andrew Elwell
The £1 billion Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) is one of the largest and most significant projects being pushed through the MoD as it seeks to upgrade and refit the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle with improved lethality systems and an electronic architecture that will future-proof it until 2040.
“Effectively this is about improvements to lethality that will really transform our military capability,” Lt Col Howard Pritchard, Senior Requirements Manager for the DE&S Combat Tracks Group, told Defence IQ. “Warrior CSP is the Army’s key priority.”
The UK government awarded Lockheed Martin the contract last year with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond saying that the new fleet will “give commanders and their soldiers greater flexibility and firepower.”
At an industry day at Lockheed’s Ampthill base last week Peter Pietralski, Business Area Chief Engineer Vehicles, explained how the firm is working towards future-proofing the Warrior out to 2040.
“The key area is in the ability to provide more power generation on the platform itself,” Pietralski explained. “The main engine generator has the ability to provide much more electrical power than is currently required, which provides a good growth path for the future should more equipment be added to the platform.”
In addition, Pietralski also said that the electronic architecture will allow for a certain degree of future-proofing while the new 40mm cannon is a “new generation technology” that “has the potential for significant enhancements to its ammunition system to enable it to meet future threats.”
To make sure armoured vehicles are always future-proofed going forward, they need to be thought of as like “clothes hangers” according to Pritchard – they must be designed from the outset to be interchangeable and modular.
The principal upgrades Warrior is receiving with this £1 billion facelift are improvements to its lethality, electronic architecture and modular armour systems. Of the three, Pietralski said all were important but picked out lethality as being particularly prominent.
“The biggest priority is on the lethality side. We’re incorporating a 40mm cannon that will enable the crew to have a fire and move capability, which is something the current platform can’t achieve.”
Pritchard stressed the importance of this capability, saying that “it’s just something we haven’t been able to do before” and underscored why WSCP is the critical project for the Army.
On the commercial side Lockheed Martin was keen to stress the importance of its supply chain in delivering this contract and announced that it had opened a dedicated new facility at Nuneaton with its engineering partner, MIRA.
Lockheed will need to work closely with its partners as WCSP represents a step-change in the MoD’s reliability requirements. It’s something that is at the forefront of the team’s mind, especially that of Colin Gilding , WCSP programme manager, who said that “reliability is a big part of this programme … it permeates every decision we make.”
Pietralski agrees: “The key challenge for WCSP is to provide a reliable platform … [to] ensure it’s capable, not only for tomorrow but well into 2040.” He explained that Lockheed is implementing rigorous testing procedures at every stage and is looking all the way down to the sub-system level to achieve the reliability required.
“We are integrating a number of new technologies into the existing platform around space, weight, height and power and we are making good progress on these fronts,” said Gilding. “Our focus is to ensure that the technology is mature by the time we reach Critical Design Review, which will be followed by firing trials with men in the loop in 2014.”
The most recent milestone saw Lockheed Martin conduct a System Architecture Design Review this month and it said design work will now continue to further reduce risk.
Lockheed is currently working towards completion of the demonstration phase and the subsequent start of production in 2016. The anticipated in-service date for WCSP is 2018, with the government likely to procure at least 381 vehicles.
£1 billion well spent?
With budgets tight some may question the obligation to spend £1 billion on upgrading an armoured vehicle considering today’s predominantly COIN threat landscape. So why is DE&S investing so much in Warrior?
For Lt Col Pritchard it’s simple: Warrior is “a central pillar for the Army’s future ground manoeuvre capability” because under the new Army 2020 structure the armoured infantry is pivotal.
What about armoured vehicles in general – haven’t they had their day? Pritchard doesn’t think so, far from it.
“We’re in the process of winding up a second counter-insurgency campaign in the space of ten years and that’s bought with it certain challenges in terms of what armoured vehicles need to do for us in that particular environment.
“What we must not lose sight of is that armoured vehicles warfare is still out there and we’ve got to build our requirements around a wider set of scenarios than just being able to do counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan.
“AFV design will change – it already has changed as a result of our operations – but the armoured battlefield I think is certainly here to stay.”
What do you think is the key upgrade on the WSCP? Lethality, electronic architecture or armour? Could the £1 billion be spent better elsewhere? Email your comments and opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org.