Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER)

  1.  TRACER is the name given to the land-based component of the information, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. ISTAR, capability required to meet the land commander's critical information requirements. We are currently conducting a series of parallel studies into land-based and air-based manned and unmanned systems to help determine the optimum balance of investment into these complementary capabilities. No decisions have yet been made on the specification or numbers of each type of platform. As part of the parallel studies, we are conducting a project definition study on TRACER in collaboration with the US. This memorandum covers not just TRACER, but the current position in land and UAV elements of the wider ISTAR programme.


  2.  The original requirement for Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement, TRACER, was a direct replacement for the ageing Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), CVR(T), vehicles to provide a high resolution real time information gathering capability at extended range in all conditions. Since then, however, the development of unmanned air vehicle, UAV, technology promises to deliver a significant portion of the required capability without the risk to life associated with deploying troops far forward into enemy territory. Operational analysis and military judgment show that manned reconnaissance is still required, however, and studies are currently planned into the sensors required to deliver the capability and the most appropriate platform, manned or unmanned, on which to deploy them.

  3.  The US has a requirement for a land-based, manned, armoured reconnaissance vehicle, known as the Future Scout Cavalry System, FSCS, and we decided, therefore, to participate in a joint Project definition study to further define the TRACER requirement and to provide the information necessary to inform the UK's balance of investment decision. A UK/US Combined Operational Requirement Document was agreed in December 1997 and contracts signed with two competing consortia on 29 January 1999. The UK element of the requirement included two possible variants, one of which would be equipped with a long-term anti-tank guided weapon, LRATGW, to provide overwatch protection for vehicles deployed far forward without protection from tanks. The US does not currently have a requirement for the LRATGW variant, since its armoured cavalry regiments are normally supported by main battle tanks.


  4.  The principal trade-offs are between a manned, land-based capability and an unmanned, air-based capability, which can only be determined once the parallel TRACER and UAV studies have reported. Within TRACER, possible trade-offs will be studied in depth in the operational analysis conducted as part of the programme. There will be an affordability review 24 months into Project Definition, which will review capability against cost and further refine the TRACER requirement. Studies are also being conducted into the viability of unmanned land vehicles, which will be taken into account in the wider decision on balance of investment studies due in 2002.


  5.  No decision has been taken on the number of TRACER or UAVs to be procured, pending the outcome of the balance of investment studies.


  6.  The Strategic Defence Review, SDR, emphasised the importance of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance, ISTAR capabilities. It confirmed the importance of a continued ability to conduct high intensity conflict with TRACER and/or the UAV capability would be designed to support.


  7.  TRACER and/or UAV capability would be used in all phases of war and in operations other than war, where they would be able not only to provide intelligence, but also to act as a deterrent, monitor opposing forces, help maintain freedom of movement and provide a credible offensive capability by directing direct and indirect fire onto enemy forces. Any equipment would need to be transportable by strategic transport aircraft.


  8.  The current capability is provided by the Scimitar, Striker and Sabre variants of the CVR(T) vehicles and by the Phoenix UAV. The CVR(T) vehicles were introduced in 1972 and proved to be inadequate during the Gulf war in the areas of sensors, stealth, survivability, mobility and lethality. CVR(T) is undergoing a life extension programme, which will improve its sensors and mobility, but is inadequate to meet the requirements of the modern battlefield. The out-of-service date for CVR(T) is about 2015. An ISD will only be confirmed for TRACER and the UAV capability once a decision has been taken on numbers to be procured. Currently none of the funds allocated to this programme beyond Project Definition has been allocated to a specific platform, land-based or air-based.


  9.  The initial feasibility study for TRACER, jointly funded by the MoD and industry, was conducted by three UK industrial consortia and reported in 1994. A further cost and risk study allowed the consortia to propose concepts and prices, address areas of risk and consider candidate technologies for downstream integration. As the cost and risk study neared completion in 1996, it emerged that the US had a similar requirement, (see paragraph 4), and the UK and US decided therefore, to collaborate on Project Definition studies and subsequently signed an umbrella Memorandum of Understanding in July 1998. We are currently investigating opportunities for similar collaboration with the US and other countries on the UAV elements of the wider ISTAR programme.

  10.  There is currently no opportunity for a European collaborative programme on the vehicle element, although we are continuing to investigate this possibility in the Western European Armaments Group, and France and Germany have sought observer status on the TRACER project.

  11.  Two UK/US industrial consortia have been formed to participate in the competitive TRACER Project Definition phase. SIKA International is a joint venture company formed by British Aerospace and Lockheed Martin, and including Vickers Defence Systems, with General Dynamics Systems as sub-contractors. LANCER is a consortium headed by Marconi Land and Naval Systems, formerly Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd, acting as prime contractor, and including Alvis Vehicles, United Defense and Raytheon.

  12.  An invitation to tender for two firm price Project Definition contracts was issued to the two consortia on 9 July 1998. These proposals were evaluated jointly by teams from both the US and UK. The limited competition meant that NAPNOC, no agreed price, no contract, procedures were applied. Contracts were awarded on 29 January 1999. British Aerospace have given assurances that they will make the arrangements necessary to maintain effective competition should the proposed merger with Marconi Electronic Systems take place.


  13.  Alternative procurement options include the extent to which the capability could be provided by UAVs. As far as the possible vehicle element is concerned, two alternatives to the development of a new vehicle were considered in 1992 and again in 1997. A market survey off-the-shelf options revealed that no commercially available solutions to the requirement existed, or would be likely to exist in the relevant timescale. The possibility of modifying a number of existing or proposed armoured vehicles, including the Challenger 2 main battle tank was also considered. As it was estimated that the platform itself would only account for around 20 per cent of the system cost, and there was a high risk of failure to meet the full requirement, this course was not assessed to be cost-effective. Procurement options for the UAV element are still being investigated.


  14.  The TRACER project is directed by a UK/US Steering Committee and administered by a Joint Project Office, JPO. The UK has assumed the lead of the JPO for Project Definition, and was responsible for placing the contracts on behalf of both nations. The JPO is led from the Defence Procurement Agency's office at Bristol and has a permanent staff of about 30 military and civilian acquisition professionals covering a wide range of disciplines and will also call on the expertise of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. The estimated cost of the UK offices for Project Definition is some £4 million a year, funded by the MoD. A satellite project office, funded by the US, has been set up at the US Army's Tank Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan. All decisions relating to the progress of the programme must be agreed jointly. There is no commitment by either nation beyond the current Project Definition stage.

  15.  The MoU commits both the US and UK to an equal cost share during Project Definition and Full Development, although the latter would be the subject of further national approvals. Supplements to the MoU, taking account of national off-take, would be negotiated for the production phase if a decision were taken to proceed with production.


  16.  It is impossible to assess the market potential for TRACER or the UAV elements until the projects are better defined.


  17.  Collaboration provides an opportunity for UK companies to forge links and share technical expertise with US companies. The TRACER/FSCS MoU with the US sets a goal of equitable work-share, which is reflected in the proposals received from industry. The two industrial consortia participating in Project Definition were the only industrial groupings to come forward after briefings on the collaborative programme. The industrial factors for the UAV element have yet to be determined.


  18.  The TRACER programme embraces several Smart Procurement features. Greater emphasis is being placed on risk reduction during Project Definition. The JPO is liaising closely with all stakeholders, including industry, to reduce timescales and achieve a better understanding of a complex programme. The benefits of this approach have already been realised in the evaluation of tenders for Project Definition—a process which would traditionally have taken six to eight months has been completed in four. Increased emphasis is being placed on through-life costs, with challenging but achievable targets for reliability and in-service availability. A similar approach will be adopted for the UAV element.


  19.  The initial feasibility study and the subsequent cost and risk study allowed TRACER to be defined in affordable terms by mid-1996. The planned progression to a national Project Definition phase was delayed because of the emerging possibility of collaboration with the US. Following detailed negotiations, Project Definition with the US was approved in July 1998 and contracts were awarded on 29 January 1999. It will last for 42 months. Each consortium is to produce a detailed specification for Full Development and Initial Production in accordance with the agreed pricing strategy; an assessment of training requirements; a range of demonstrators, including an integrated demonstrator vehicle; a risk management plan, supported by an updated risk register; a software integration plan; a trials and acceptance plan; a project management plan; a quality plan; a safety plan; and an integrated logistic support plan. This will then be considered in parallel with similar plans for the UAV element before deciding whether to proceed to the next phase.


  20.  Contracts for the Tracer Project Definition study were awarded on 29 January 1999. The next milestone is the affordability review at the 24 month point of this phase, early 2001, which will further refine the requirement following consideration of a number of options. Project Definitions should be complete by mid-2002 and the outcome will be used in the ISTAR balance of investment study.

  21.  A reliable estimate of the total cost of the project is not possible in advance of decisions on the balance of investment between platforms. Some £10 million has been spent by the UK on the Feasibility Study phase. The current estimate of UK costs for Project Definition is £118 million, costs at 1998-99 prices.


  22.  During TRACER Project Definition, contractors will deliver costed options for contractor logistic support for the first two years in service, the next five years and subsequent periods. Options may include direct supply of spares to the field force, and Public/Private Partnership type arrangements for major spares components, as well as contractorised maintenance support. A Training Needs Analysis will also be undertaken during Project Definition. A similar approach will be adopted for the UAV element.


  23.  To be determined during the balance of investment considerations in 2002.


  24.  Project Definition will cover TRACER's compatibility, interoperability and commonality with other systems. A similar approach will be adopted for the UAV element.


  25.  CVR(T) will have been in service for over 40 years when it is replaced. Options for disposal are likely to be limited. Disposal options for Phoenix have yet to be determined, as the equipment has only recently entered service.


  26.  These issues will be considered further in Project Definition.

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Prepared 10 November 1999