The MOD have announced that it has moved a step closer to securing a solution to the longstanding Mechanised Infantry Vehicles (MIV) programme, which aims to equip the Army with a new eight-wheeled utility vehicle. This is a hugely significant decision for the Army, and it is speculated that MOD could ultimately order as many as 500 vehicles at a cost of up to £2bn. It is also a very important deal for UK industry. Today's announcement suggests the MOD is honing in on Artec's Boxer vehicle as the solution, which has raised concerns that production will be done abroad.
The request for information that has been lodged with the pan-European defence co-operation group OCCAR and is aimed at helping the MOD cost the purchase of Boxer ahead of the main gate investment decision. OCCAR has already placed orders for several hundred Boxer vehicles for the German and Dutch militaries; clearly, the ability to move quickly on bringing Boxer into service is attractive to the Army, which is long overdue its new utility vehicle capability.
However, this decision should not be at the long term cost of UK industry capability to build, develop and supply armoured vehicles in this country. The government must ensure that, if selected, Artec - a joint venture between German engineering firms Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall - delivers on the promise to site a significant percentage of the work in the UK. NDI welcomed Artec's announcement in February that it plans to build and assemble the UK Boxer fleet at Pearson Engineering in Newcastle. With BAE Systems and Thales UK also part of the consortium, Artec estimate this will secure or create at least 1,000 jobs, with 60% of Boxer’s value creation and 100% of final assembly sited in the UK.
The MOD is, of course, facing a significant funding gap for new equipment. The Modernising Defence Review, scheduled to conclude in the summer, will rebaseline the UK's defence capabilities with the aim of making this both affordable and effective in the face of the security threats the UK faces. I hope that the progress being made on the MIV programme shows that the Army can exepect to emerge from this process with new guarantees around delivery of the equipment they need to do the difficult and often dangerous jobs we expect of them.