Land vehicles

Army Chief Unsurprised By Ajax's 'Early Problems'

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith has described Ajax as the Army's "most sophisticated capability" and "effectively a computer on tracks".

The Chief of the General Staff has said it is unsurprising the Ajax programme has faced "teething problems".

Giving a lecture last week at Mansion House, titled 'Making Military Sense of a Disrupted World', General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said Ajax is "the most sophisticated capability that the Army has fielded ever".

"It's got over three million lines of code in it," Gen Carleton-Smith said.

"It's effectively a computer on tracks so I don't think it's surprising that, in fielding it, we're finding some early problems."

Gen Carleton-Smith's comments came after he was asked whether he could "put our minds at ease concerning the overall effectiveness of our military equipment, procurement processes" – in particular, Ajax.

The Chief of the General Staff stated he "would agree" the UK's procurement "isn't yet sufficiently agile for such a rapidly changing technological landscape".

But, he said the process of procurement is now being re-engineered, as well as "resetting the strategic relationship".

Gen Carleton-Smith added this is not just with the "core defence industrial primes", but some of the smaller companies "incubating the rapidly evolving technology that's going to be absolutely fundamental" to the digital warfare landscape.

He also stated that he has confidence in the future set out by the Integrated Review.

Watch: 'We Need To Get To The Root Cause': Defence Minister Addresses Commons On Ajax

"With respects to the specifics around land ground manoeuvre programmes, I'm much more confident in the conclusion of the Integrated Review that we do now have a defined financial envelope over the full 10-year period," he said.

"Which is not something that any previous review has guaranteed for the Army.

"So, today we are able to go to the market with confidence in order to fix what is already an old and increasingly obsolete land vehicle fleet."

Forces News heard from a defence expert earlier this month that Ajax is "doomed to fail" if the Ministry of Defence ignored the findings of a leaked report.

Then, on 8 June, defence minister Jeremy Quin admitted the programme had "serious issues".

Trials involving the vehicles were "paused as a precautionary measure" after noise and vibrations were reported, with some personnel continuing to receive medical attention.

The Ajax programme's cost has also been called into question.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey asked Mr Quin, during House of Commons Urgent Questions on Defence, "what progress has been made" on the programme.

"£3.5bn paid out, four years late and just 14 vehicles delivered, light tanks that can't fire while moving and vehicle crews made so sick that the testing has been paused," he said.

Cover image: Ajax armoured vehicle (Picture: MOD).