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Pressure mounts on Welsh-built Ajax tank programme

10 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
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The ill-fated Ajax armoured vehicle programme continues to come under fire amid health fears and doubts that major design flaws can be rectified.

Excessive vibration and noise could be harming Soldiers involved Ajax trials who have experienced tinnitus, nausea, and swollen joints, some requiring steroid treatment to reverse the damage.

The vehicle is assembled by General Dynamics Land Systems UK (GDLSUK) in Merthyr Tydfil, which employs a staff of 700 and is coming under increasing pressure to find a solution for the problems.

Earlier this week, Minister for Defence (MoD) Procurement Jeremy Quin confirmed that 310 personnel would be offered assessments for hearing loss and joint problems.

He said: “The health of our service personnel is our top priority. The Army continues to identify and monitor the hearing of all personnel exposed to noise on Ajax, with additional testing put in place where required. The Army is also in the process of identifying any health effects in those potentially exposed to vibration.”

However, he admits concerns over the vibration and noise are not new, and that an Army Safety Notice introduced restrictions on use back in December 2018 and identified that a design upgrade was needed in the long term.

Obstacles

According to GDLSUK and the MoD, the fully digital vehicles were intended to be “the British Army’s most sophisticated armoured vehicle,” and would “transform the way we operate and fight.” Instead, it has been beset by problems.

Due to the problems with excessive vibration and the resulting high levels of noise, the army placed an operation limit inside the tank of one hour 30 minutes and restricted its speed to 20 miles per hour, less than half its top speed.

The vehicles are unable to reverse over obstacles more than 20 cm high, and mechanical issues with the turret and guns are ongoing.

Defence experts state that the armour protection added to the hull has more than doubled the weight to over 40 tonnes, further reducing the vehicle’s manoeuvrability.

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Damning

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a contract for 589 of the Ajax armoured vehicles in 2014 and has already spent nearly £3.5bn but so far only 14 vehicles have been delivered.

In March, the programme was the subject of a damning report by the Defence Select Committee which stated there was little to show for the billions already spent.

The report stated: “The Ajax programme, which is now also seriously delayed, is yet another example of chronic mismanagement by the Ministry of Defence and its shaky procurement apparatus.

“This is particularly worrying, as Ajax is fundamental to the establishment and deployment of the Army’s new Strike Brigades, which are intended to be a key part of its future order of battle.

“Some commentators have raised doubts about the suitability of the Ajax vehicle in a reconnaissance role, specifically regarding its weight and size and ability to deploy rapidly as they were ‘anything but stealthy and agile’.”

Responding to Mr Quin’s statement to MPs that he could give no deadline for the issues to be sorted out, Labour shadow defence minister, John Healey MP said:

“Ministers admitted that their own plans to reorganise the British Army to counter emerging threats, cannot be implemented without first delivering Ajax. Yet Ajax is on end-of-life watch.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

A very expensive pig’s ear from start to finish, business as usual for the Ministry of Disasters.

A tip for tinnitus suffers…steroids used to treat ear infections make tinnitus worse, and no mention in the side effects list !

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
16 days ago

This reminds me of the story about an early version of the SA-80 assault rifle. Soldiers described it as “a simulation of a civil servant.” Why? Because “It doesn’t work and it can’t be fired.”

Geoff Horton-Jones
Geoff Horton-Jones
16 days ago

You Tube shows us that tanks are vulnerable to drone launched air strikes .
That is why we in Wales have no plans to include them in our armed forces equipment profile

hdavies15
hdavies15
16 days ago

Basic defects should have been identified and sorted at prototype stage at latest. QA is now a box ticking exercise of the worst kind with all the faults piling up until a near final stage when the brown stuff hits the fan and all stakeholders duck and dive for cover in a big blame game.

And who wanted these toys in the first place ? As GHJ points out a squad of drones would be far more effective in recon and even delivering some well aimed shots at targets if that level of violence was necessary.

John Davies
John Davies
16 days ago

So heaven knows how much has been squandered on a vehicle that may damage the enemy but will certainly damage its crews. Completely outstanding. Of course, if this machine is ever used in a real battle situation, all the limits on speed, occupancy time, etc will be dumped. Then, with crews exhausted by vibration, noise and discomfort, how effective will they be at operating its complex systems? Not to worry. It appears that because of that self-same vibration, many of the vehicle’s complex systems won’t be in working order anyway. Electronic failures, no gun stabilisation, can’t fire on the move,… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by John Davies

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