The AJAX AFV will be produced in six models

General Dynamics UK AJAX Series

British Army’s Next-Gen Armoured Fighting Vehicles

AJAX Armoured Fighting Vehicles

The AJAX family is the British Army’s next generation of AFVs (Armoured Fighting Vehicles.) Developed by General Dynamics UK, the AJAX range consists of six mission-specialised models, tasked with ground surveillance, fire control, reconnaissance support, vehicle recovery, vehicle repairs, command and control and battlefield assessment. Initial British Army AJAX deliveries start in 2017 and full operational capability – meaning they can be fully deployed into theatre – is set to be in place by the end of this decade.

AJAX will be the most advanced fighting vehicle ever pressed into British Army service and the ground force’s first all-digital AFV to boot. In General Dynamics UK’s own words: 'AJAX provides a step-change in the Armoured Fighting Vehicle capability being delivered to the British Army.' Incorporating ‘cutting-edge and proven technology’, it will provide ‘an unparalleled balance of protection, weight and agility’ so far as this class of vehicle is concerned.

AJAX Prototype

AJAX Origins

The AJAX AFV family’s roots lie in the 1990s’ FREM (Future Rapid Effect System) programme – the search for a British Army CVR(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked)) vehicles group replacement. Then-named ‘Scout SV’ (‘Specialised Vehicle’), General Dynamics UK’s offering won the contract in March 2010. The following September, its Scout SV demonstrator premiered at 2011’s DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) event in London. In December 2012, two key AJAX development events took place: the Scout SV’s PDR (Preliminary Design Review) process was finished and, in South Wales, General Dynamics UK’s Armoured Fighting Vehicle Design and Engineering Centre opened.

Scout work continued throughout 2013 and, in June 2014, the first pre-production Scout SV was unveiled at that year’s DVD (Defence Vehicle Dynamics) event. Three months later, a £3.5bn billion order for 589 Scouts was placed. A follow-up order, covering in-service fleet support through 2024, was awarded in July 2015.

News of Scout’s rename to ‘AJAX’ broke at DSEI 2015. At the same event, a turreted prototype AJAX made its world debut. Additional AJAX prototypes will be rolled-out during 2016, while AJAX family trials will be ongoing into 2018.

AJAX Unveiling

AJAX AFV

In all, there will be six AJAX AFV models, each one having a specific role. Simply called ‘AJAX’, the main model will be tasked with ground-based surveillance, fire control – i.e. aiming and firing heavy weapons - and other missions. 245 examples are on order for the British Army.

AJAX’s key feature is its 40mm Cased Telescoped Cannon system, co-developed by BAE Systems and Nexter Systems under their combined CTAI (CTA International) group banner. This cannon incorporates novel rotating breech technology, which sees 40mm ammunition loaded-in at a 90-degree angle to save space and increase its rounds storage capacity.

The vehicle’s base turret system, set to provide ‘significant improvements in combat capability, survivability and operational effectiveness for the infantry’, is a Lockheed Martin UK product. Another firm, Germany’s Rheinmetall, is responsible for this turret’s structure and weapon mount. AJAX is designed to be operated by three crew members but can accommodate one more if needs be.

AJAX Models

ARES, ATLAS and APOLLO AFVs

ARES is the AJAX family’s reconnaissance support model, tasked with taking troops safely across operational theatres. 93 ARES vehicles – operation of which is a two-man affair – are on order.

Atlas and Apollo are damaged vehicle recovery and damaged vehicle repair models, respectively. The British Army is getting 38 Atlases and 50 Apollos. Principal Atlas components include an earth anchor and a pair of winches (main and secondary, able to pull 300 and eight kilo newton loads), while Apollo is fitted with a crane/stabilization system and, besides being able to repair vehicles, can also effectively repair itself. Three British Army personnel will operate Atlas – four will operate Apollo.

ATHENA and ARGUS AFVs

ATHENA is a command and control AJAX model – essentially a non-static battlefield headquarters. Operated by two crew members, it is equipped with an information processing/management system. The 589-strong AJAX order includes 112 ATHENA armoured fighting vehicles.

Finally, there’s ARGUS, of which 51 are being made. ARGUS acquires and streams engineering data related to local environmental conditions. In other words, it looks at the state of the battlefield, assesses it and passes that information onto engineering commanders. Two personnel operate this vehicle.

AJAX Vehicle Features

The AJAX Armoured Fighting Vehicles family share many features. AJAX, ARES, APOLLO, ATLAS, ARGUS and ATHENA all have the same basic infrastructure (CBP – Common Base Platform) and the same MTU diesel engine. Rated at 810 horsepower, this engine provides a top speed of 44 miles per hour. An ultimate 42 tonne maximum weight is standard across the range, allowing new technologies to be added as future operational requirements dictate.

Additionally, all AJAX fleet members feature an acoustic detector, a laser warning system, electronic countermeasures and a high-performing power pack. Also common to the AJAX series are modular armour and state-of-the-art electronic architecture.

Army 2020

Army 2020

These features and more give the AJAX range ‘enormous potential to combat future threats and incorporate new technology throughout the lifespan of the platform’, General Dynamics UK says. ‘As a result, AJAX provides the kind of growth capability that the user will need to face the uncertain challenges of Future Force 2020 and beyond.’

Future Force 2020 is a strategy defining the UK Armed Forces’ position and capability from the year 2020 onwards. Army 2020 is the British Army’s component of this, into which AJAX very much fits. The future Army will comprise an Adaptable Force and a Reaction Force, both backed-up by widely-tasked Force Troops. As a result, the British Army will boast increased flexibility and versatility and so undertake a wider scope of operations than it does now, in both the UK and beyond.

AJAX: Key Facts

Role:  Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Length: 25 ft 0 in (7.62 m)
Width: 11 feet 0 in (3.35 m)
Engine: MTU diesel engine, producing 810 horsepower
Maximum speed: 44 mph (71 km/h)
Maximum range unknown
Crew: Two-to-five
Weapons: Cased Telescoped Cannon System
Introduced:  2019-2020

Main AJAX model image copyright/courtesy General Dynamics UK
Scout SV at DVD 2014 photo copyright Andrew Linnett/MoD - used as per Open Government Licence v1.0 (OGL) – courtesy Wikimedia Commons
DSEI 2015 AJAX unveiling images copyright/courtesy General Dynamics UK
AJAX family models graphic copyright/courtesy General Dynamics UK
AJAX prototype image copyright ‘Defence Imagery’ – used as per Open Government Licence v1.0 (OGL) – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

AJAX footage copyright General Dynamics UK – courtesy YouTube

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