Not so long ago it became known that the promising Ajax armored vehicles, developed by order of the British Army, showed new shortcomings during the tests. Vibrations and noise during movement not only interfere with the work of the crew, but also threaten its health. The Ministry of Defense and the developer of armored vehicles are now trying to get rid of these problems.
In September 2014, the British Department of Defense issued an order to General Dynamics Land Systems UK for the production of almost 600 promising Scout SV / Ajax armored vehicles in a number of modifications for various purposes. Soon, the army handed over the first vehicles of the family for a new stage of testing and development in the army.
As the necessary checks were carried out, official reports and rumors about certain design flaws appeared regularly. For some time, an increased level of vibrations has been mentioned, which negatively affected the operation of the units and the condition of the crew.
At the end of May, information on vibration and noise was confirmed. The British media got hold of the Ajax test report and published the most interesting points of it. According to the report, in 2019-2020. test participants repeatedly noted excessive noise in the habitable compartments when driving. In addition, the crews experienced significant shaking.
Some of the testers steadfastly endured these difficulties, while other fighters had complaints. After riding in a vibrating armored vehicle, they sought medical attention for tinnitus, nausea and joint pain. First of all, the paratroopers who moved in the Ares armored personnel carrier faced problems. According to other reports, the work of the crew and troops on other vehicles of the line has the same features and difficulties.
In September 2020, a special medical commission conducted an additional check. It was found that noise and vibration do have a negative impact on the crew. Moreover, it is not just about discomfort, but about the risk of damage to organs and systems. In order to prevent and eliminate negative consequences, it was recommended to check the health of all participants in the trials.
In order to avoid a negative development of the situation, in November last year, trials involving movement were suspended. Until March 2021, additional research and design work was carried out to correct newly identified design flaws. In parallel, non-riding activities continued. In the spring, sea trials resumed, but in June they were stopped again. According to officials, new tests on the tracks do not start until all problems are fixed.
At the moment, the developer company and army specialists continue to search and correct the causes of negative phenomena. At the same time, various organizational issues are being discussed at the top. In particular, the leadership of the Ministry of Defense has to make excuses before the parliament and form an updated work schedule. The last hearing on Ajax's failures took place just a few days ago.
It is noteworthy that prior to the publication of the test report, the UK Department of Defense did not mention the problems with noise and vibrations on the Ajax. However, after the publication, the existence of such shortcomings was not denied - and they justified themselves by the fact that work was already underway to correct them. In addition, the issue of improving a promising armored vehicle was repeatedly discussed at different levels, and the most interesting statements were made.
Not so long ago, the management of GDLS UK admitted that vibration and noise were noted on the Scout SV / Ajax armored vehicles from the very beginning of testing in 2010. The reasons for their occurrence were called the specifics of the design of the power plant and chassis. At the same time, it is noted that from the very beginning of the work, great attention has been paid to noise issues.
Noise reduction solutions were implemented already at the design stage. At all stages of testing, such parameters were monitored. It was found that in terms of vibration and noise, the promising Ajax / Scout SV platform does not differ from other modern armored vehicles of the British army.
However, in connection with the results of last year's tests and the conclusions of the medical commission, GDLS UK began the process of further improving the technology. It is planned to make changes to the design, but their nature has not yet been specified. Also, the developers are not ready to name the timeline for the completion of such work.
It is noteworthy that vibrations are not the only drawback of the new platform and machines based on it. For example, the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle has not yet received a fire control system with all the necessary functions, and its suspension does not correspond to the loads from a 40-mm automatic cannon. They have been working on solving these problems for several years.
From a technical point of view, the Ajax platform is a deep modernization of the earlier ASCOD machine, created in the early 2000s as part of the Austrian-Spanish cooperation. Different versions of ASCOD entered service with Austria and Spain; less than 400 machines were built for them. New orders from third countries are expected. Curiously, the Austrian and Spanish military did not complain about noise or excessive vibration.
The Ajax chassis is based on a front-engine hull with anti-bullet / anti-fragmentation armor. The machine is equipped with a MTU 8V 199 TE21 diesel engine with a capacity of 816 hp. and automatic transmission RENK HSWL 256B. The undercarriage includes seven road wheels per side with torsion bar suspension.
The architecture of the power plant and the chassis as a whole was taken from the ASCOD project, but the composition of the units was changed in accordance with the wishes of the customer, represented by the British army. Apparently, such changes and improvements were made with some errors, which led to the appearance of excessive vibrations. They probably spread through the hull and other elements, and reach the crew and landing seats, causing unpleasant symptoms.
However, there is still no exact information on this score. Even if GDLS UK and the Ministry of Defense managed to identify the sources of noise and vibrations, they are in no hurry to disclose such information. Accordingly, it is impossible to understand the essence of the problem and assess the scale of measures to correct it.
Hitting the program
According to the 2014 contract, the contractor must in 2017-26. to build and supply to the customer almost 600 armored vehicles of 9 types for various purposes. The total cost of this equipment will exceed 4.6 billion pounds (approx. 6, 3 billion US dollars). A significant part of the order has already been completed, for which more than 2.6 billion pounds have been spent. However, the prospects for an Ajax program are now in question.
Recently, the Ministry of Defense once again announced the need to continue work and correct the identified shortcomings. The Ajax program should not be abandoned, as in this case the money invested and the time spent will be lost. Completion of the project looks like a more profitable solution - despite all the additional costs.
At the same time, the military department is losing its optimism. Past plans were for Ajax machines to reach initial operational readiness in the summer of 2020. According to the results of last year's tests, this period was postponed a year in advance. It was then stated that readiness would be obtained in June (with a 50% probability) or in September (90%). At the moment, even the Minister of Defense openly doubts the possibility of implementing such plans.
However, at the official level, we are only talking about another delay and a possible revision of the program budget. They are not going to abandon the Ajax project. With all its shortcomings, already corrected or recently identified, the promising platform occupies a key place in the current plans to update the materiel of the ground forces. Refusal from this technique will lead to the most serious consequences of an organizational and other nature, and therefore is inappropriate.
Thus, the successful completion of the Ajax program is again postponed indefinitely, and this understandably affects all plans for the rearmament of the UK ground forces. Once again, the overall course of work is negatively affected by design flaws made at the design or construction stage.
Nevertheless, the current problems with vibration and noise - as well as the shortcomings of the OMS or the peculiarities of the interaction of the gun and the suspension - will not affect the overall plans of the Ministry of Defense. The Ajax platform will be finalized and left in the series, thanks to which the rearmament already begun will be completed in the future. However, such successes will be obtained at the cost of changing the timing and cost of the program, which will certainly lead to a new wave of criticism and controversy.