Ron5 wrote:And yet the world's armies (except France) are still stocking up on tracked AFV's. In fact, tracked IFV's seem to be the hottest part of the market.
Many nations are still ordering tracked AFVs but these are usually of the heavier types and in smaller quantities. Most NATO armies have already bought significant number of wheeled AFVs, especially those who see themselves as being bound to support NATO on expeditionary operations. The only three NATO countries with substantial current orders for tracked AFVs are Germany and Poland and the United Kingdom.
Wheeled vehicles have taken over the supporting role previously carried out by the M113, AIFV or legacy Russian vehicles. It is the reduced cost to purchase and support wheeled vehicles that has made them popular and often the first purchase when a nations is looking to modernise their land forces. A number of NATO's eastern european nations have now purchased large fleets of wheeled APCs and IFVs as well. Only after these have been delivered have they then looked at a tracked IFV and in most cases the numbers they desire are unaffordable.
Ajax as a platform is not needed by the British Army in its primary role especially in the number currently on order. If we do continue with it we only really need it for the Deep Precision Fire BCT and that is only two Regiments worth, so no more than 175 vehicles of all variants.
For the Heavy BCTs a version of the Boxer is an obvious alternative to the Ajax, or possibly a smaller off the shelf IFV could fulfil the role. I also believe the BCTs do not need a full Recce Regiment as part of their pool of units. I would have a full Squadron as part of the Armoured Regiment, and a Platoon in each Infantry Battalion. Together with the BCT's other ISTAR assets and those attached from "Divisional", level should provide a Heavy BCT with the information on the opposition it requires. Instead I strongly believe that all BCTs should contain three Infantry Battalions.
For our deployable Heavy BCTs we need to minimise the number of HETs we need to deploy AFVs both to a port for embarkation and from the port to the area where they are to form up as units ready for operations. A single Heavy BCT will need nearly all our available HETs to move the it's Challenger 3s and the Challenger based Combat engineering Vehicles.
The argument that the Ajax is critical to the Army and will be the core of its networking capability are only half true. Yes the Ajax is one of the first AFVs designed to incorporate such a capability, but the Challenger 3 will also have the same capabilities. Boxer in all its variants will also have a similar capability and some like the command and Precision Fires may end up with a superior version.
With the current order for 500+ Ajax vehicles the Army is going to look everywhere to find places to shoe horn them into. There will be cases where the Ajax will certainly not the vehicle for a given role but will be asked to do so anyhow. Even if the Ajax is declared combat ready after the latest bout of trials, I would use the delays and problems with the contract to renegotiate. The Army would accept no more than 200 Ajax vehicles covering all necessary variants, at full TES standard for the amount that has already been paid as part of the original contract. So this would also include variants not currently under contract but have been developed by GDUK and its partners, such as combat engineering and overwatch vehicles. This will allow the Deep Precision Fires BCT to be properly equipped to carry out the Recce part of its mission. The balance of the current Ajax programmes funding will be moved to one or more of the Army's multitude of modernisation programmes.
Well there again is my two pence worth.