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The defense could cancel the delivery of the army’s 8×8 video recorder protesters and refocus the program

The Army’s 8×8 video recorder technological risk program may be canceled due to the accumulated delay in the delivery of protesters. Last year should have ended with the handover of the five demonstrators of the 8×8 Dragn wheeled vehicle (VCR) to the Ministry of Defense by the Temporary Union of Companies (UTE) formed by General Dynamics European Land Systems Santa Barbara Sistemas, Sapa and Indra to the Ministry of Defense responsible for the start of the operational assessment for the Legion Brigade.

Since this milestone in the risk mitigation program has not been reached, the Department of Defense and UTE are currently discussing the possibility of renewing the current contractual terms again or even ending the technological risk program and canceling the delivery of the 5 demonstrators to be assessed to La Legion, which will have an important impact. An important issue in this context is the penalties for breaches of contract, which add up to almost 10 million euros and will continue to grow as long as the armaments are not delivered.

It is the case that we recently updated the current situation of the program with the expected deadlines for the delivery of the protesters, which are expected to take place before the end of the first four month period of this year. Despite the fact that the first section of the 8×8’s production phase was awarded to TESS Defense last August, there are no demonstrators available to start the evaluation phase, which is designed to identify problems before production begins. For this reason, it was planned to subject the vehicles and their systems to an operational assessment for at least six months. However, given the cumulative delay, it was decided to take into account the recommendations of this assessment in the form of clauses of the manufacturing contract.

The question therefore arises as to whether these demonstrators and their evaluation will be useful for the future program unless the same platform and systems are chosen that were chosen to be evaluated. Yes, they will be useful and the more than 90 million euros have been written off in full or in mystery if the platform and the main equipment analyzed and integrated are retained. Indeed, the specifications of the current production contract stipulate that the vehicles have the capacities (not the systems), at least the technological programs. Suffice it to recall that the insufficient budgets available compared to the technical requirements were the main reason argued by GDELS-SBS after the production contract expired in December 2019.

There is a general perception in this sector that the technological risk program no longer makes sense due to the lack of an in-depth assessment of the technologies that it has been decided to integrate. It can happen that the production phase is continued without taking into account the knowledge gained in this way, without any doubts, for example about the weight of the platform, the integration of the mission system and the robustness of the propellant group or the operation of weapon systems, where the risk is to introduce risks into production by selecting systems that have not been adequately assessed.

A short story

Without going into the whole process of the VCR program over the last decade and referring only to the part of the technology programs, it must be recalled that in July 2015 the Minister of Defense (SEDEF) validated the Viability Document (DDV). based on the acquisition of an existing product on the market with the integration of systems in operation organized in two phases, a first to reduce technological risks and a second to award the delivery of the first 348 vehicles.

The Ministry of Defense issued a request for information (RfI) to five candidates in July of this year and in December granted the Temporary Business Union (UTE) formed by GDELS-SBS, Indra and Sapa the technology program for the development of the 8×8. The proposal was based on the Piranha V from Mowag, a subsidiary of General Dynamics as GDELS-SBS, but was adapted to the needs of the army and later baptized as Dragn.

With regard to the technological risk reduction program, the ministry believed that the results obtained from it would be implemented in production vehicles in order to ensure the highest level of safety during delivery and the life cycle of the system. It also sought to ensure operational sovereignty in order to operate it without being dependent on third parties, as well as strengthening the industrial fabric in capacities that are considered to be of strategic interest to defense and security, and protecting the industrial and intellectual property of the achieved solution. The company responsible for manufacturing will be the design authority, which means that it can carry out modifications, maintenance or exports of the vehicle with a national workload of 70% in the manufacturing phase.

The program envisaged the production of five technological demonstrators that combine the technological programs (PT) from the mission system, weapons, powertrain and many others that we analyzed exclusively there in 2016 (when it was planned that the demonstration phase would end in 2018) .

By and large, the PT-1 focuses on increasing safety, the PT-2 on situational awareness, the PT-3 is configured as an Advanced Observer Combat Vehicle, and the PT-4 is used to evaluate the integration of electronics, communications and Information systems, the PT-5 would analyze the drive train and a so-called PT-0 would be used as a mobility demonstrator. The Indra mission system and the power propulsion group, consisting of an engine and gearbox supplied by Sapa, were installed on barges developed from the Piraa V, but with their own capacity. Each of them was equipped with various protective equipment, weapons, and communication systems configured as different types of command post. Five different towers were selected, including two 30mm remote controls. two light remote controls and one with a 30mm cannon.

However, the third delay in the delivery of the technology demonstrators was announced in October 2019, setting milestones that were not met in November 2018, July and November 2019. May 2020 was the deadline for the delivery of the five demonstrators to be demonstrated by the La Legin Brigade as a phase prior to mass production, a milestone that lasted until December last year.

At that time, it was envisaged that the factory acceptance tests of the five demonstrators and the acceptance tests of the demonstrators to be carried out in the factory test field would be carried out in the first half of 2021. The demonstrators received at the Ministry of Defense were to start the operational assessment tests, which were carried out by staff of the Army Operational Assessment Team (BRILEG) should be carried out.

For the first time, the ministry confirmed the possibility that the demonstrators would be converted into pre-series vehicles (retrofitting) given the proximity of the production phase of the first batch. However, there are plans to use the D4 and D5 demonstrators in mine resistance tests and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that will apply the above retrofit to the D1, D2 and D3 demonstrators. It was also officially considered that the configuration of the production vehicles could vary in relation to the demonstrators, as the final vehicles would have the same features as those mounted on the demonstrators, although it will be the Department of Defense that will ultimately approve any proposal of the contractor.

Regarding the weapon systems (which account for about a third of the program value), only those corresponding to the demonstrators D1 and D2 equipped with the 30mm remote use turrets were rated. Tizona from Navantia (together with Elbit Sytsems and Expal) and Toledo 30S from Pap Tecnos. No evaluations or test designs have been made on the remote control light towers and the Escribano Mechanical & Engineering Guardian 2.0 has been selected to compete against the Pap Tecnos Mini Samson currently in service with the Spanish Army and integrated into three different ones Platforms. In the case of the manned tower, Leonardo Hispania’s Hifist 30, selected for the cavalry reconnaissance vehicles, will be available for evaluation as soon as possible.

In the latter case, while the first phase, while still part of the general staff’s requirements for the army and retained for production vehicles, will not include manned towers for budgetary reasons. It is planned to include them in the first expansion of the budget and the barge has been adapted to accommodate it.

Adding to this confusing panorama is the possibility of companies excluded from the program taking legal action to denounce the limited process followed in choosing the different systems or allegedly relying on Article 346 of the functioning of the European Union access to European companies. (Jos M Navarro Garca)

Photo: From left to right demonstrators D2, D4 and D1 of the video recorder 8×8 (Army)

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