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The United Kingdom’s Ajax armored cavalry program is true competition of the United States’ F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in terms of issues it has come to face.
Currently, General Dynamics’ land systems operation in Spain has already built half of the hulls for the program, even though the future of the Ajax is a complete mystery.
The company signed a deal with the British government in 2014 worth $7.6 billion for 589 vehicles. Currently, 20% of the fleet are entirely built and were delivered or pending delivery.
A further 30 vehicles are undergoing assembly, integration and test (AIT) in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and half of the hulls are simply built.
Twenty-five vehicles were delivered to the British Army by June 2021, but have yet to be accepted into service due to a number of issues related to noise and vibration.
Based on the General Dynamics European Land Systems ASCOD infantry fighting vehicle, developed for the Spanish and Austrian militaries, the Ajax family includes a turreted reconnaissance vehicle, the ARES armored personnel carrier, and various support platforms.
The problems with noise and vibration have pitched Ajax and are a significant issue, since the procurement is comparable with the decision to cancel the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft in 2010.
The United Kingdom’s procurement minister Jeremy Quin made two statements to Parliament regarding the problems with the Ajax family in a little over two months.
Ajax vehicles should have been in service by now, but Quin told Parliament recently that until a long-term solution was found it was “not possible to determine a realistic timescale for declaration of initial operating capability or the later introduction of Ajax vehicles into operational service with the Army.”
So far, more than half of the program funds have been swallowed up, and there’s still a plethora of issues.
At one point the Ministry of Defense halted trials work, and the UK’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace put into question whether the program should continue at all, unless some solutions were figured out.
The trials are still halted by the UK MoD, but some resumed under the General Dynamics staff, and not the British military.
Work is now ongoing to figure out fixes to the issues, and another vehicle is being added that will be tested by the producer. Following the authorization of a MoD safety panel, a second ARES armored personnel carrier variant of the Ajax is being added to the small fleet of vehicles now gathering data in an effort to resolve the problems.
Currently, the vehicle’s future is in question, but assembly work and limited testing is on-going, it is unclear if it will ever see any form of actual operation as part of the British Army. Deliveries should have begun by 2017 and be completed by 2020, but that is far in the past now, and no actual operation has been achieved.
It is yet to be seen if it will actually be deployed in the British military and become a money pit similar to the F-35 fighter jet program, or the UK may yet escape the swamp.