Defense secretary Gavin Williamson to purchase German military equipment directly came with the promise that the odd choice will create additional jobs in the UK. If the purchase decision is maintained, it will likely indeed be accompanied by the request that production be centered within the client country. But whether built in the UK or continental Europe, the program will prove one of the most expensive ever, and one the UK can certainly not afford.
The British armament industry may be in as bad a shape as the Royal army itself, and the Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) replacement deal may be the straw to break the camel’s back. The Royal army has been in need of new IFVs for a very long time. The vehicles currently in use are a mixture of Warriors and Mastiffs bought for Afghanistan, which have all been in service for too long to extend or upgrade them. In addition, the 1970s design simply is no longer fit to protect the soldiers from the threats they are likely to encounter nowadays. In the early 2000s, Britain had therefore entered the Boxer program, a new generation IFV, which would allow soldier and commanders to exercise their craft in suitable and modern circumstances. However, they quickly left the program in favor of developing a new type of vehicle: The FRES program, which ended in 2009 in an absolute fiasco. Upon rendering the FRES program moot, the British government issued a statement, saying: “In February 2007 we concluded that the MoD’s attempts to meet its medium-weight vehicle requirement had been a sorry story of indecision, changing requirements and delay. Two years later the story is, incredibly, even worse. We find it extraordinary that, some seven months after announcing General Dynamics UK as the provisional preferred bidder for the FRES Utility Vehicle, the MoD has announced that priority is now to be given to the FRES Scout Vehicle. Whilst we recognise that the MoD’s equipment requirements need to reflect changing threats, that is no excuse for the MoD’s behaviour in this programme; they have wasted their and industry’s time and money. The FRES Utility Vehicle programme was, from the outset, poorly conceived and managed.” After having considered purchasing the Boxer, the British had gone solo and missed their mark: many years and millions of pounds after the army expressed its need for a new vehicle, still none had arrived.