Ajax is the British Army’s new multi-role, fully-digitised armoured fighting vehicle delivering a step-change in versatility and agility. The AJAX platform will be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the British Army on the battlefields of the future. Ajax promises dramatically greater firepower, manoeuvrability and survivability than its predecessor — CVR (T), providing a step-change in the Armoured Fighting Vehicle capability being delivered to the British Army.
AJAX will be a fully digitised, tracked, medium-weight core of the British Army’s deployable ISTAR capability and will providing a full suite of medium-armoured vehicles and capabilities.
The range of AJAX variants will allow the British Army to conduct sustained, expeditionary, full-spectrum and network-enabled operations with a reduced logistics footprint. It can operate in combined-arms and multinational situations across a wide-range of future operating environments. The first British Army squadron will be equipped by mid-2019 to allow conversion to begin with a brigade ready to deploy from the end of 2020.
AJAX is intended to support the British Army’s new Strike Brigades, Armoured Cavalry Regiments, Armoured and Armoured Infantry battlegroups and Combat Suppport elements.
Development of the Ajax vehicles is part of a $5.9bn contract awarded to General Dynamics Land Systems UK in September 2014. In July 2015, it was awarded a further £390 million contract to provide in-service support for the AJAX fleet until 2024.
The British Army has ordered a total of 589 vehicles as part of a £4.5 billion deal. across six variants. 245 will be of the turreted Ajax variant. The first Ajax family vehicles were delivered in 2019 and deliveries are expected to continue through 2025. As of the end of May 2021, General Dynamics had completed the production of 263 hulls, 58 turrets under a sub-contract with Lockheed Martin and a total of 107 finished vehicles.
However, one former defence official reportedly questioned the utility of the fleet of lightly armoured vehicles in a fight with a rival power such as Russia because of their vulnerability to heavy artillery. “It is fine if you are operating against incompetent enemies, but if you are up against a peer enemy this thing is useless, it’s a death trap,” one former defence official said.
The programme includes six variants: AJAX, ARES, APOLLO, ATHENA, ATLAS and ARGUS, each of which will be an agile, tracked, medium-weight armoured fighting vehicle. The vehicles are developed upon an adaptable and capable Common Base Platform, maximising commonality in mobility, electronic architecture and survivability that ensures the British Army has a family of world-class platforms.
However, each variant has different armoured bodywork and a specialised battlefield role.
The AJAX variant will be the medium-weight core of the British Army’s deployable all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability.The unique ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and recognition) and sensor capability of the Ajax and its intelligent architecture allows the capture, process and storage of data from multiple AJAX platforms (which can be shared via a real-time communication system) and will allow a close-up picture of the battlefield for remote headquarters.
The ARES variant will be used to deliver and support specialist troops across the battlefield, The APOLLO variant will be used to tow battlefield damaged vehicles and lift heavy sub-assemblies.
The ATHENA variant will process and manage information to provide commanders with information to make informed decisions on the battlefield, The ARGUS variant will provide timely and accurate engineering information on the natural and man-made environment. The ATLAS variant is fitted with a recovery package that is optimised to provide the most effective means of recovering a casualty vehicle.
The AJAX family of vehicles has built-in growth, through scalable and open electronic architecture and a modular armour system; it can incorporate new technology throughout the lifespan of the platform. As a result, AJAX has enormous potential to combat future threats and provides the kind of growth capability that the user will need to face the uncertain challenges of Future Force 2020 and beyond.
AJAX platform capabilities
The primary role of AJAX is to provide accurate and timely information to support decision making at all levels. It integrates a range of leading-edge technologies to provide an optimised survivable, lethal and agile ISTAR platform.
Each AJAX platform variant has 24-hour sensor capability that allows AJAX to find and engage targets more effectively at far greater ranges. The sensor package include acoustic detectors, a laser warning system, a local situational awareness system, an electronic countermeasure system, a route marking system, an advanced electronic architecture and a high performance power pack.
Its stabilised system provides on-the move target engagement and surveillance capability. The vehicle contains 360° Situational Awareness Systems and thermal imagers and cameras which enable day/night/long range/infrared/laser search and detection.
Protection in the vehicle defends the crew against multiple threats and includes chemical detection, laser and missile warning systems. AJAX will have three vehicle-mounted Acusonic acoustic shot detection sensors that can detect the direction of incoming fire.
The panoramic Primary Sight provides advanced all-weather imaging technology capability, which allows AJAX to find, engage and target enemy combatants at far greater ranges than current UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) legacy platforms.
Lethality is provided by the 40mm cannon integrated into a revolutionary, user-defined, fightable turret. Where the operation dictates, a fully-stabilised Remote Weapon System can replace the Primary Sight.
The primary armament is the CTAI 40 mm CTAS (Cased Telescoped Armament System) integrated into a revolutionary user-defined turret, along with a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. The Primary Sight can be replaced with a fully stabilised Remote-Weapon system and its digital fire control system enables AJAX to fire on the move.
CT40 can conduct ‘smart fires’ which means they can fire; air burst rounds (13,000 sq ft coverage), point detonating rounds (can defeat 8.3” reinforced concrete) and armour piercing rounds (can penetrate 140 mm hardened steel armour).
Honeywell has equipped the British Army’s new Ajax armoured fighting vehicles with its navigation technology. The Talin inertial land navigation technology will enhance mission success in difficult terrain by providing users with a lightweight and highly accurate laser guidance system, Honeywell said in a statement. This navigation system features three-axis inertial sensors and can be easily installed and mounted on vehicles. Weighing less than 6kg, Talin is smaller and lighter than other navigation solutions that are currently available. According to the company, the technology is built with Honeywell’s high-accuracy ring laser-gyro and accelerometers.
Honeywell Aerospace Defense and Space, OEMs senior director Milind Ghanekar said: “Soldiers depend on technologies to provide unparalleled precision aboard their combat vehicles, as do workers using sensor platforms or mining equipment. “Over 15,000 Honeywell Talin systems are deployed by land, air and sea on more than 60 military and commercial platforms worldwide.
The Ajax also has a 20 Gbs/s Gigabit Ethernet intelligent open architecture, which enables it to capture process and store 6 TBs of information gathered by the sensors. It can then share this data, be it images or other information via a real-time integrated BOWMAN communication system as fitted to the Challenger. Power for these advanced systems comes from a silent auxiliary power generator.
According to company, “It provides best-in-class protection and survivability, best-in-class reliability and mobility, best-in-class lethality, first ever fully-digitised Armoured Fighting Vehicle for the British Army.” With an upper design limit of 42 tonnes of driveline capability, it will feature highly effective 40mm cannon, which was developed jointly with France. Compact and stabilized package, a turret optimizing human factors and system packaging has been designed specifically for the AJAX variant in partnership with Lockheed Martin UK.
General Dynamics UK has joined forces with European missile maker MBDA to position itself for an upcoming British Army requirement to field an “Overwatch” anti-armor vehicle to support the army’s heavy and deep recce strike brigade combat teams. The companies are offering the Ares version of the Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicle already purchased by the Army fitted with a Brimstone missile capability carried in a modular cannister to meet a requirement to strengthen its anti-armor capability.
Featuring the Brimstone Anti-tank guided weapon ‘Overwatch,’ this Ajax variant is designed to fight against other tanks with high-precision munitions. According to General Dynamics, the MBDA Brimstone is a multiple-platform weapon for Air, Land, and Maritime environments. In Overwatch role, Brimstone becomes a high intensity, peer-on-peer weapon offering excellent reach, high load-out and salvo capability. It’s capable of defeating defensive aide suites and armor in a precise manner in any weather condition.
UK has successfully completed initial manned live firing tests onboard an ARES vehicle, a member of the AJAX family of Armoured Fighting Vehicles, at a range in Dorset, England. The manned firing trials tested the performance of the three weapons that can be mounted to the Kongsberg PROTECTOR Remote Weapon System: General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) and Grenade Machine Gun (GMG). This was the first manned firing test for an AJAX variant.
In Sep 2020, General Dynamics Land Systems–UK, a business unit of General Dynamics, conducted live crew clearance trials at MoD Pendine in South Wales – involving a British Army crew operating a CT40mm cannon and 7.62mm chain gun aboard their AJAX Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) for the first time. Up to 28 serials were conducted over 500 and 800 metre distances, and the QinetiQ Pendine team provided targets, high-speed and normal video, as well as a Muzzle Velocity Radar and Meteorological data on a safe, secure and clear range. The GD trial team used an Unmanned Air System (UAS) to capture footage of firing serials.
As of October 2020, GDLS-UK said Ajax had fired 4,200 40mm rounds from the CT40 cannon in trials and that 157 vehicle hulls and 45 turrets had been built.
Vibration issues reported in 2019
Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said the UK Ministry of Defence first became aware of ‘anecdotal’ reports of vibration in late 2019 in a response to a parliamentary question. In his response, Quin wrote: “As preparation activity for the Capability Drop 1 vehicles at the end of 2019, some soldiers were invited to do pre-trials training on prototype variants. Whilst the on-board sensors did not register any issues subsequently there were anecdotal reports of vibration.”
Following the anecdotal reports, soldiers participating in the vehicle’s Entry Qualification Trials reported ‘noise and vibration characteristics’ in July last year, and in September medical staff reported a raised possibility of noise injuries from operating the vehicle. Responding to a different question, Quin wrote: “The MOD commissioned testing by the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) in May 2020. These were conducted in August 2020 and investigated both noise and vibration.
“In addition, the Army’s Environmental Health Team, supported by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, conducted “in-ear” assessments of military crews of AJAX platforms between 31 October and 5 November 2020. The MOD expects to see the results of independent trials by Millbrook Proving Ground into noise and vibration issues with its new Ajax armoured vehicles by late July 2021. The MOD commissioned the trials following reports of severe vibration and noise issues with the General Dynamics-made Ajax family of vehicles that have caused long term health effects for some personnel, including swollen joints and tinnitus.