The British Army’s troubled Ajax armored vehicle is back on track

The British Army’s troubled Ajax armored vehicle program has “turned things around” after more than two years of trying to fix noise and vibration problems, the defense secretary said.

“We think the remedies are in place, we are now going through the normal trials. . . It’s showing great signs and we’ll move on,” said Ben Wallace during a visit to Bovington Camp in Dorset, where he observed some of the vehicles undergoing inspection earlier this week. “I am confident that we have turned the tide on this difficult program.”

The comments are the strongest indication yet that the government plans to stick to the long-delayed program to supply a family of high-tech armored vehicles to replace those still in service with the Army and into the 1960s years were designed.

Wallace added that the first Ajax cars should be operational soon after the test program is completed in about 18 months.

The MoD signed a £5.5 billion fixed-price deal with US defense contractor General Dynamics to purchase 589 of the vehicles in 2014, with deliveries to begin three years later. However, the vehicles were plagued by noise and vibration problems that caused hearing damage to some crews involved in the trials.

A government-commissioned health and safety study on Ajax, published in December 2021, found “serious deficiencies” in the UK defense procurement culture. A fuller independent investigation by Clive Sheldon KC, commissioned by the Department of Defense, into what went wrong is due to report this spring.

Wallace stopped payments to General Dynamics two years ago after the MoD handed over £3.2 billion. The Financial Times previously reported that the contractor told investors it expects those payments to resume by the end of March.

David Williams, the Defense Department’s permanent secretary, told Defense Committee MPs this month that the government would not resume payments until it agreed a new date for the vehicles to be delivered to soldiers. General Dynamics UK declined to comment.

Improvements made to the vehicles to address the noise and vibration issues include new ear muffs with headphones for better communication and re-fitted seats with better damping.

“These aren’t technical solutions, these are mitigations,” said Francis Tusa, editor of Defense Analysis, adding that “none of these solved the problems.” He pointed out that the Department of Defense appeared ready to resume payments to General Dynamics “without a single operational vehicle having been delivered.” The British Army’s troubled Ajax armored vehicle is back on track

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