Just weeks after Australia chose the Boxer vehicle for LAND 400 Phase 2, the British Army has taken a step towards exploring a deal for a fleet of new armoured vehicles after announcing it has re-joined the Boxer program.
The UK has re-joined the Boxer program and will explore options to equip the Army with the 8x8 troop carriers to modernise its vehicle fleet and meet the Army’s Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) requirement.
The UK played a major role in the original design, development and testing of the Boxer but left the program in 2003, citing changing requirements as the reason behind the move and claiming that vehicle weight growth made the Boxer too heavy for transport by Royal Air Force C-130s.
Under the deal announced last week, the UK would reassume the rights it had as a project partner if a deal was to go through – allowing the option for the vehicle to be built and exported from the UK. The deal could see the Boxer fully assembled in the UK with at least 60 per cent of the manufacturing with British industry, sustaining and developing UK industrial capabilities, facilities and skills.
Artec, the consortium that manufactures the Boxer vehicle, has already made commitments to British industry by signing partnership agreements with BAE Systems, Pearson Engineering and Thales UK, in anticipation of a deal being struck.
It is expected that British companies would compete for the manufacture and supply of many of the vehicle sub-systems, as well as for a full production and assembly line in the UK. Estimates suggest Artec’s planned investment in the UK could secure or create at least 1,000 jobs, based across the country including locations such as Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, Stockport, Telford and Wales.
The UK government is hoping the deal could secure a broader industrial UK partnership, with Rolls Royce already powering Boxers with engines and Parker-Hannifin, William Cook Engineering and other British companies also supplying sub-systems for the vehicle.
The UK's Ministry of Defence (MOD) is now taking forward negotiations with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) and Artec. In a statement from the MOD, it said it is now looking forward to the assessment phase, concluding in 2019. This will consider the comparable benefits of manufacturing locations and different supply chains for Boxer, as well as value-for-money. Any deal will be subject to commercial negotiation and assessment in 2019 and the aim is to have the first vehicles in service with the Army in 2023.
OCCAR is a European intergovernmental organisation that facilitates and manages collaborative armament programs through their lifecycle between the UK and European allies. The organisation manages the Boxer program and, as an OCCAR member state, the UK has the necessary intellectual property rights to the Boxer and greater control over ensuring Britain benefits from supply chain work, a statement from the MOD said.
The MOD conducted a comprehensive market analysis of Mechanised Infantry Vehicles in service, entering service and in development. The analysis was guided by the British Army’s requirements and how best to deliver them. The Boxer delivered on protected mobility, capacity, flexibility, utility and agility.
As part of the proposed deal, the UK is also expected to see substantial inward investment from Rheinmetall, one of Artec’s parent companies, which signalled its intention to launch a production and integration centre for armoured vehicles in the UK as part of the program.
Along with Australia, Slovenia also selected the vehicle last month and Lithuania became the program's first export customer in 2016, with first deliveries scheduled for this year.