Defence and Security Accelerator launch autonomous underwater competition
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched a new competition seeking proposals to develop an autonomous large underwater vehicle. Intended to develop the Royal Navy’s understanding of the advantages and operational boundaries of an autonomously operating underwater system, the competition will ‘shape cutting edge capabilities’ and form part of ‘a strategy of exploration and analysis’. £2.5m has been made available to fund one proposal in a two-stage process. consisting of an initial research, design and re-fit stage and a subsequent testing and trialing stage. The winning bidder will be asked to design, refit an existing platform and trial the utility of extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles, otherwise known as XLUUVs. Members interested in submitting proposals must work to a deadline of 11 June 2019.
A second DASA competition to deliver semi-autonomous forward reconnaissance systems to the Army has also been launched. Comprising both ground-ground and air-air systems, MOD is seeking innovative proposals with a single operator in mind working inside an existing mobile platform (either ground or air). A demonstration must be provided at Army Warfighting Experiment which will take place in March 2020. A single phase competition, £1.8M funding is available over 8 months, to support between three and five bids.
Army to upgrade on two-thirds of Challenger 2 fleet
It was widely reported this week that the Army is set to reduce its operational Challenger 2 main battle tank fleet from 227 to 148 vehicles as part of their planned life extension. Citing senior defence sources, the remaining 79 vehicles in the UK inventory will be mothballed and used for spares. The UK Ministry of Defence responded to the report by stating, "No final decision on the number of tanks to be upgraded has been made." The ministry added, "We are committed to significantly upgrading our Challenger 2 tanks, ensuring we have the best weaponry and armour." The fleet was cut by 40% in 2010 as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and now operates three tank regiments with 56 tanks each and a further 59 held for training and reserve.
CMA launches investigation into proposed BAE Systems/Rheinmetall joint venture
The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an enquiry into Rheinmetall’s proposed acquisition of a majority stake in BAE Systems’ UK-based combat vehicles business line. Plans to transfer 55% of the ownership of the Telford-based division to the UK division of Germany’s Rheinmetall under the proposed establishment of the Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land joint venture were first revealed in January. However, on 15 April the CMA announced that it was launching its enquiry into the deal to ensure that the merger will allow for a required level of competition in the UK market. A decision on the enquiry will be made by 13 June.
- EU Defence Policy: Asked whether the Government has plans to continue to participate in EU defence policy, as a signatory to EU Council agreements after the UK has left the EU, Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster replied that “The UK will be leaving the EU's common security and defence structures, and our future relationship with those structures will be as a third country. The UK will pursue a distinctive, independent, and sovereign foreign and defence policy that meets British interests and promotes our values. The Political Declaration negotiated with the EU recognises the shared threats and values of the UK and the EU and provides a framework for an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible future relationship. There is value in the UK and EU continuing to work closely together and our future partnership should offer us both the means to combine efforts to the greatest effect. Such a partnership must also respect the sovereignty of the UK and the decision-making autonomy of the EU.”
- Armoured Fighting Vehicle Procurement: Asked whether he has plans to upgrade the Army’s armoured fighting vehicle fleet, Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew replied that “The Army is undergoing an ambitious vehicle capability upgrade across several of its key AFV platforms. This includes purchasing 589 new Ajax armoured vehicles - the biggest single order for UK military vehicles for three decades - the first of which was delivered to the Army earlier this year. The Ministry of Defence is also making significant investments into the Army's existing armoured vehicle platforms to enhance the lethality and survivability capability of the Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior vehicles. These programmes enable the British Army to maintain its warfighting edge through an AFV fleet with advanced combat and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities that will maintain their relevance to 2040 and beyond.”
- Armoured Fighting Vehicle Procurement: Asked what recent discussions have been had in NATO on upgrading AFV Fleets, Mr Andrew further replied that “MOD Ministers routinely discuss the full range of defence and security issues with our NATO partners and interoperability is used within the decision-making criteria for upgrade programmes of our AFVs. NATO is the cornerstone of UK defence and as such the UK remains fully committed to the alliance.”
- Optionally Manned Aircraft: Asked what plans MOD has, if any, to purchase and deploy optionally manned aircraft for the armed services, Defence Minister for the Lords, Earl Howe replied that “The UK has no formal plans to purchase optionally manned aircraft. Air programmes, such as the Combat Air Acquisition Programme (CAAP) which aims to replace Typhoon's capabilities from 2040 onwards, are assessing the potential benefits of such solutions across a range of applications.”
- High Energy Laser Weapons: Asked what steps they are taking to encourage the development of high energy laser weapons systems, Earl Howe answered that “The MOD Strategic Programmes team has established a Novel Weapons team to build on the work carried out by Defence Science and Technology. It is preparing MOD for the introduction of capabilities, including High Energy Lasers. A range of Capability Demonstration Programmes will be undertaken to accelerate the introduction of Directed Energy Weapons by approximately 10 years and further inform the Armed Forces of their utility.”
Join NDI at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham on 26th June for our second Meet the Buyer event of 2019. Focusing on buyers and opportunities in the maritime domain, this event will be a great opportunity to meet, connect with and present to decision makers across the defence industry working on Army programmes. Buyers confirmed so far include both BAE Systems and Rolls Royce. In the evening we will be holding our Annual Black Tie dinner to celebrate the achievements of our members over the past 12 months.Book here to secure your place today!