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GDLS pitches Ajax IFV for LAND 400 Phase 3

General Dynamics Land Systems UK is pitching its Ajax family of Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) for LAND 400 Phase 3 as a state-of-the-art capability which has passed stringent UK trials and is now entering UK service.

GDLS international business development manager for Australia Nick Luck said Ajax was the most advanced armoured fighting vehicle now available.

“What makes them that is principally the digital architecture,” he said at LAND FORCES this week.

“We have a mature solution and we have all of the variants required for the Australian Defence Force.”

Ajax features generic vehicle architecture (GVA) which allows common interfaces for all the sensor systems, communications and extra screens to be plugged in without requiring re-engineering of the vehicle every time it was upgraded.

Mr Luck said GVA was becoming an international standard and Ajax drove the GVA for NATO and the UK.

“Australia has lifted the UK requirement and they have added some aspirational additions to drive the Australian GVA,” he said.

“To support that there is a million lines of code on this vehicle that allows all the sensors and all the digital systems to fuse so you get a common operating picture.”

Under LAND 400 Phase 3, the Army will replace its large fleet of elderly M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers with modern IFVs in a range of variants.

The government released the Request for Tender shortly before LAND FORCES. It’s expected there will be a shortlist of two contenders who will undergo comprehensive trials.

German firm Rheinmetall won LAND 400 Phase 2 with its Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle and its Lynx IFV is regarded as a top contender for Phase 3.

The UK is buying 589 Ajax vehicles in six separate variants. Initial operating capability is planned for late 2020 or early 2021.

“It is a low risk solution for RMA (risk mitigation activity) in 2020,” Mr Luck said.

Ajax weighs 38 tonnes in IFV configuration and features a 30mm Bushmaster gun, using the same ammunition as the Rheinmetall gun on the CRV.

Although UK vehicles feature a Kongsberg remote weapon system (RWS), the Phase 3 requirement is for a RWS from Australian company EOS. Similarly the Rafael Spike LR2, chosen for Phase 2, has been mandated for Phase 3.

Power is by a MTU 119 diesel, a more powerful version of the engine which powers Boxer. Both are V8 variants of the engine in the Army’s current M113 APCs.

Ajax derives from the ASCOD (Austrian Spanish Cooperative Development) AFV but now shares little in common following rigorous UK trials.

“It has gone through all the blast and ballistic testing. It is going through reliability trials. It’s almost at the end of that,” Mr Luck said.

“The testing scenario that they used is very similar to what the Australian Government requires. We are very confident we are going to meet all their requirements.”

Mr Luck said GDLS’s plan for assembly in Australia was to recreate its UK plant, in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in an unspecified location in Australia.

In the UK, the Ajax program directly employs 4,100 people across the country.

“It is a live activity. The people who set that system up are still working for GD so they will be our brains trust in establishing down here. It is not starting from scratch,” he said.