Land vehicles

'Jury very much still out' on Ajax despite recently completing successful trials

A former defence minister has told Forces News the "jury is still very much out" on the Ajax armoured vehicle, despite it recently passing 'user validation trials'.

However Mark Francois MP, who sits on the Defence Select Committee, told Forces News "by no means has the vehicle been given a complete and total clean bill of health".

"What slightly concerns me about the trials that have now just concluded is that it was the MOD [Ministry of Defence] marking its own homework," he said.

"And even if we can get Ajax to work properly, and I still reserve judgement to be honest, there's still the issue of what comms system it’s going to use.

"The whole point about Ajax as a highly-digitised vehicle is that it’s going to carry the super-duper comms, digitised system called Morpheus - that’s years away, they haven't even got a proper prototype yet.

"The Morpheus programme is a dog's breakfast.

"The fundamental point is that if our troops have to one day fight in this - the Armed Forces are there to save lives by deterring war, but should deterrence fail and our soldiers have to fight in it - is it really up to scratch?

"Will it protect them in battle? Will it enable them to do what they're there to do? And on that, I think the jury is still very much out."

The MOD said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has "reaffirmed the department's commitment to the Ajax contract" after meeting with the General Dynamics Corporation CEO Phebe Novakovic and President of Land Systems Danny Deep.

General Dynamics UK was contracted to supply the British Army with 589 Ajax vehicles.

The most recent MOD update added that the "vehicles have been tested across 1,530km at speeds up to 60kmph".

After these trials, the vehicle testing programme is set to progress to the "Reliability Growth Trials".

A timeline of the Ajax programme.

A former senior officer recently branded the Ajax project "a complete and utter disaster".

The project is intended to provide a state-of-the-art fighting vehicle for the Army, but after running for 12 years and costing £3.2 billion it has so far failed to deliver a single deployable vehicle.

Originally intended to enter service in 2017, Ajax has been repeatedly delayed, with problems including noise and vibration issues which injured soldiers testing the vehicles.

In March, a Whitehall spending watchdog warned that issues within the Ajax programme were so deep-rooted that they may never be resolved.