The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that it has resumed testing of the Ajax Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV), a key platform for the British Army’s future deep reconnaissance strike brigade and two armoured brigade combat teams.
The Ajax program, which aims to deliver 589 vehicles in six variants, has been plagued by technical issues related to noise and vibration, causing some crew members to suffer from hearing loss and other health problems. The MoD had suspended payments to the manufacturer, General Dynamics UK (GDLS-UK), since December 2020, pending a resolution of these issues.
However, after a series of trials and modifications, the MoD has confirmed that the Ajax vehicles have met the required standards for noise and vibration, and have successfully completed user validation assessments. The MoD has also agreed to pay £480 million ($588 million) in arrears to GDLS-UK this month, as part of a £5.5 billion ($6.7 billion) fixed-price contract signed in 2014. The MoD has also revised the schedule for achieving Initial Operating Capability (IOC) and Final Operating Capability (FOC) for the Ajax program.
According to Defence Procurement Minister Alex Chalk, IOC will be achieved between July and December 2025, when the Army will be able to operate and sustain a squadron of 50 vehicles in the field for six months. FOC will be achieved between October 2028 and September 2029, when the Army will have trained and converted forces to use the Ajax platform across all its variants. Chalk said that these dates are “robust, realistic, and achievable”, and that they have been assured by internal and external reviews.
The Ajax vehicle is designed to provide enhanced mobility, protection, firepower, situational awareness, and network connectivity for the British Army’s armoured cavalry units. It features a new 40mm cannon mounted on a two-man turret, as well as advanced sensors, communications systems, electronic warfare capabilities, and modular armour. The other variants include engineering vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, command vehicles, recovery vehicles, and equipment support vehicles.
The Ajax program is one of the largest land procurement projects in Europe, and represents a significant investment in modernising the British Army’s armoured capabilities. However, it has also faced criticism for its delays, cost overruns, technical problems, and reduced numbers of vehicles compared to initial plans. Some analysts have suggested that alternative platforms such as Boxer or CV90 could offer better value for money or performance.
Despite these challenges, the MoD remains committed to delivering the Ajax program and ensuring that it meets the operational needs of the British Army. The MoD says that the Ajax vehicle will provide a “step-change” in capability and enable the British Army to operate effectively in future complex environments.