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Ajax: The British Army’s future armoured vehicle

Ajax is a group of armoured fighting vehicles being developed by General Dynamics UK for the British Army. It is based on the ASCOD platform, which was originally designed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch and Santa Bárbara Sistemas in the 1990s and used by Spain and Austria. General Dynamics acquired both companies in the early 2000s and won a contract from the UK Ministry of Defence in 2010 to deliver 589 Ajax vehicles in six variants: Ajax, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Atlas and Argus.

Ajax is intended to replace the ageing Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) family of vehicles that have been in service since 1971. It will provide enhanced lethality, survivability, mobility and all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and recognition (ISTAR) capabilities through its advanced sensor suite. Ajax will be at the core of the British Army’s future armoured fleet and will operate alongside Challenger 3 main battle tanks and Boxer mechanised infantry vehicles.

The Ajax variant is the main reconnaissance vehicle that will be equipped with a 40 mm CTA International CT40 cannon and a coaxial 7.62 mm chain gun. It will also have a Kongsberg Protector Remote Weapon Station that can mount Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Ares variant is an armoured personnel carrier that can carry up to seven passengers. The Athena variant is an ISTAR command and control vehicle that will enable networked battlespace management. The Apollo variant is an ISTAR support vehicle that will provide repair and recovery capabilities. The Atlas variant is an engineer reconnaissance vehicle that will conduct route clearance and obstacle breaching tasks. The Argus variant is an engineer support vehicle that will provide earth-moving and engineering capabilities.

All Ajax variants share a common base platform with a V-shaped hull for protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They have an MTU V8 engine with 800 bhp and a RENK six-speed transmission that allow them to reach speeds of up to 70 km/h on road and 50 km/h off-road. They also have a torsion bar suspension system with hydro-pneumatic units for improved ride quality and obstacle crossing ability. They are fully digitised with open architecture electronic systems that enable interoperability with other platforms and systems.

The Ajax programme has faced several challenges and delays since its inception. It has been criticised for cost overruns, technical issues, poor performance and safety concerns. In November 2020, trials were halted over excessive noise and vibration levels that caused nausea, tinnitus and hearing loss among crew members. In September 2021, Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, stated that dynamic testing and training on Ajax was suspended indefinitely due to unresolved defects. In October 2022 limited trials resumed but extended trials are expected to last until early 2025.

Despite these setbacks, Ajax remains a key component of the British Army’s modernisation plan as it seeks to adapt to emerging threats and challenges in an increasingly complex security environment. Ajax promises to deliver transformational change in capability by providing superior situational awareness, firepower, mobility and protection for soldiers across a range of missions.

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