Ajax APC, Engineering & Reconnaissance Vehicle
The British Army needed to replace their aging fleet of light reconnaissance vehicles that have been on active service for over 40 years. They also wanted to buy a ‘platform’ armored fighting vehicle. This is a base vehicle that could come in many variants to perform different jobs on the battlefield. They would all share the same basic mechanical parts to simplify the logistics of supplying spare parts, training mechanical engineers and giving them right equipment to maintain and fix these AFV.
British Army Ajax Reconnaissance Tank (Photo: Ian Wilcox)
The British Government put out this requirement and General Dynamics UK Ltd won the contract over its competition after testing of the prototypes. In September 2014 they were awarded a £3.5 billion contract to deliver 589 AJAX platforms to the British Army. In July 2015, they were awarded a further £390 million contract to provide in-service support for the AJAX fleet until 2024.
At the same time, General Dynamics announced that it is opening a new Armoured Fighting Vehicle Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) facility in South Wales.
The Ajax programme was originally known as the SCOUT Specialist Vehicle (SV) programme. It was renamed by the British Army on 15 September 2015 on the same day the first turreted Ajax prototype was unveiled to the press. It was announced that the first British Army squadron will be equipped with Ajax in mid-2019.
The Ajax is powered by a German designed MTU V8 199 TE21 turbocharged diesel engine, that produces 805 hp. The engine is located at the front of the hull to enable the rear of the vehicle to stow equipment and troops. It has a German Renk 256B 6-speed fully-automatic transmission: six forward gears and five reverse gears.
During trials the test vehicle towed an additional 62 tonne weight over 300 km. Versions of the engine are currently used in the Austrian Ulan and Spanish Pizzaro AFVs. Rolls-Royce signed a £57 million deal to build the MTU V8 199 TE21 engines for all the first batch of 589 Ajax vehicles and variants.
Ajax was originally known as the SCOUT Specialist Vehicle (SV) programme.
Design and Development
The Ajax has an innovative design that gives additional protection against mine blasts. General Dynamics claim that it is the best in terms of protection and survivability in its class. Crew seats are not connected to the vehicle floor but are suspended to provide more survivability after a mine explosion.
The Ajax has a modular armor system that is fitted to the sides of the vehicle. If a section of the add-on armor is damaged it can simply be replaced by attaching a new unit. When more technologically advanced add-on armor is developed over the vehicles lifetime the old armor is taken off and the new armor bolted on in its place
General Dynamics have fitted the vehicle with electronic countermeasures, a laser warning system, an acoustic listening device, a local situational awareness system and placed the ammunition storage units outside the crew compartment.
Ajax has a gross vehicle weight rating of 42 tonne but it has a 2 tonne growth ability for extra equipment to be added to the vehicle without causing a significant impact on its performance.
The 40mm Cannon
The cased telescoped (CT) 40mm cannon will be used in the new Ajax Reconnaissance tank and an upgraded British Army Warrior AFV. The rounds contain both the projectile and the propelling charge unlike the shells used on the British Challenger 2 tank that uses two-part ammunition.
The £150 million manufacturing contract was signed by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) and CTA International (CTAI), a joint venture between the UK’s BAE Systems and the French company Nexter. Under the terms of the contract, the company will supply 515 40mm Cased Telescoped Cannons. They will also supply initial spares, special tools, test equipment and some early training equipment. The new French Jaguar EBRC Combat and Reconnaissance Armoured vehicle will also be fitted with the CTA International 40mm CT cannon.
The ammunition is contained inside a tube. It does not have a pointed aerodynamic traditional bullet shaped nose cone. The ammunition is loaded automatically sideways to the gun barrel: the cannon is an autoloader. Loading the ammunition in this way saves a large amount of space behind the gun. This allows more ammunition to be stored. These new 40mm tubular rounds are smaller than normal 40mm rounds so more can be carried. This new system has been in development since the 1990s.
At present, there are five types of rounds available for the 40mm CT cannon: armor piercing AP round; training rounds; airburst high explosive rounds, aerial airburst round and a point detonating round for penetrating thick concrete. More are being developed and tested. (BAE Systems info)
The 40mm Aerial Airburst round can be used against drones, helicopters and light aircraft. The gun has a velocity of 900 meters per second and a range of over 4,000m. (BAE Systems info)
The 40mm Point Detonation round is for use against hardened targets. It has a velocity of 1,000 meters per second and can penetrate 210mm of concrete at 1,500m. (BAE Systems info)
The 40mm Airburst round is designed for use against multiple light targets like infantry and soft skinned supply vehicles. It has a velocity of 1,000 meters per second and has an effective area of around 125 square meters. (BAE Systems info)
The 40mm Armour Piercing Round has a velocity of 1,500 meters per second and can penetrate 140mm of hardened steel at 1,500m (BAE Systems info)
The Ajax turret is also fitted with a 7.62mm Coaxial L94A1 Machine Gun and 76mm Smoke and Fragmentation Grenade Launchers. Some of the variants that are not fitted with the turret, like the Ares armored personnel carrier is armed with a remotely-controlled 12.7mm machine gun.
ARES variation of the AJAX undergoing initial air portability trials
General Dynamics put the Ajax through initial air portability trials in May 2016 at the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit (JADTEU) at RAF Brize Norton. The trials were designed to test the loading of the Ajax into the cargo hold of an RAF C-17A Globemaster III and A400M Atlas transport aircraft. They used the prototype ARES variation of the AJAX during the trials. It was driven into real-size mockups of both aircraft. This enabled staff at the JADTEU to develop custom tie down systems for this new British Army fleet of vehicles so that it can be transported anywhere in the world to support the British Army.
Mock-up cargo holds of the RAF C-17A Globemaster III and A400M Atlas transport aircraft were used to trial the Ajax vehicles ability to be transported to conflict zones by air.
Not everyone is happy with the choice of the General Dynamics Scout SV to be the new British Army Ajax Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support tank. Here are some of the comments found on social media:-
“It is too heavy to be easily airlifted to remote places. The width of the Ajax with its additional side armor will cause it problems navigating through many European and middle eastern narrow streets. The Armoured Personnel Carrier version carries fewer soldiers than the Warrior APC it is replacing. It only offers marginal better protection than a top of the range Warrior. It has the same firepower as a Warrior LEP 40mm (CT-40).”
“It has no weapons at present capable of tackling a 2nd generation main battle tank like the T-62. These are often seen in asymmetric engagements (a war or conflict between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement). Its profile is too high for a reconnaissance vehicle and will not be able to be concealed very easily. For a scout vehicle, it is huge. The small British Scimitar it is replacing could be hidden almost anywhere.”
“Just imaging deploying the Ajax to a 3rd world location. The British Army will have to rely on a slow ship or an American heavy-lift aircraft. The RAF has no capacity to move the Ajax to a battle zone. The new RAF Atlas A400M transport aircraft can only carry loads up to 25 tonnes. The Ajax weighs 42 tonnes. There can be no stealth arrival. The ships unloading and the landing of giant transport aircraft will be noted by the enemy.”
“In many 3rd world locations and old European villages, towns and cities it will only be able to go down main roads and around the outskirts of settlements because of narrow side streets. It will have to make long detours as it will not be able to cross local bridges because of its width and weight. For such a large vehicle it has very narrow tracks which could cause problems in water-logged thick muddy terrain.”
“If it is spotted by a Russian T-90 tank, captured by the Rebels from an overrun Government Army base, all the Ajax crew can do is call in an airstrike or an artillery fire mission as they try to hide their large tank. It does not have any weapons it can use in self-defense against such a well-armored tank. Its Cased Telescoped 40mm Cannon can fire 6 types of ammunition but the 40mm APFSDS round can only go through 150mm steel at 1500m. The Ajax cannot run away very quickly: 44mph is not very fast.”
“It is fine if you are operating against incompetent enemies, but if you are up against a peer enemy this thing is useless, it’s a death trap.”
“The rear door is a problem for fully kitted troops wanting a fast exit. It is too small. It looks like it was designed for hobbits not British Army soldiers.”
“This lightly armored mini-tank cannot stand up to heavy artillery”
“The side loading feed system on the new 40mm CT Gun is complex and makes it vulnerable to damage from violent bumps during cross-country travel.”
“The Ammunition is more expensive to similar sized tanks as there is only one supplier”
“The weaponry on board is not sufficient. The gun has already ‘stopped working’ during foreign trials.”
“The barrel life of the weapon system is too short to function adequately”
“Utter garbage and a death trap for anybody that end up serving in it. It failed to get approval at the Defence capability and testing center, It has failed every single part of the survivability layering scale, It has never undergone live firing tests to test for hull strength, the armour package for the front causes it to overheat and has to be removed, its too wide for the actual transport it was designed for, it’s too heavy for the operations it was designed for, it’s too big for the role it was designed for, it’s too slow for the same thing, it has no decent anti-armour capability, the combat ranges of the CTWS effectiveness past 500m is dubious and the ammo jams on rough terrain- which cannot be fixed from inside the hull, the rear door sticks and is too small for a fast exit for all the crew in an emergency. Now add on the issues that the side armour (consisting of stowage bins) has to be removed for track changes making a field change a nightmare not to mention the suspension is faulty, the software powering the ‘digital’ tank is Windows XP based and that overall it’s worse in almost every important aspect of the previous vehicles when compared and has not met a single part of the FRES criteria when I say it’s a deathtrap I damned well mean it.”
“Main Armament not signed off, running gear still being modified…it will be a long time before it comes into service methinks”
Ajax Reconnaissance and Strike
The British Government ordered 198 Ajax Reconnaissance and Strike tanks on the 4th September 2014.
Ajax Joint Fire Control
The British Government ordered 23 Ajax Joint Fire Control tanks on the 4th September 2014.
Ajax Ground Based Surveillance
The British Government ordered 24 Ajax Ground Based Surveillance tanks on the 4th September 2014.
Ajax deployable all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability AFV (Illustration: General Dynamics UK Ltd)
Ares Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC)
The British Government ordered 59 Ares Armoured Personnel Carriers (PMRS) on the 4th September 2014. It has a crew of two: commander/gunner and driver. There is accommodation for up to 7 troops. There is space for specialized and personal equipment of the soldiers. There are internal racks and stowage boxes. More equipment can be stored externally. Troops enter and leave the vehicle via rear doors. Roof hatches can be used for observation, firing and as an emergency exit.
Crew and passengers are seated on mine blast resistant seats. The Ares APC is armed with a remotely-controlled 12.7-mm machine gun that can be fired on the move under armour. The Ares will eventually replace the British Army Spartan FV103 APC. It has a route marking system to enable other armoured fighting vehicles to follow it over known safe ground.
Ares Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch
The British Government ordered 34 Ares Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch Protected Mobility Recce Support (PMRS) varients on the 4th September 2014.
The Ares APC variant will be used to deliver and support specialist troops across the battlefield.(Illustration: General Dynamics UK Ltd)
Athena Command and Control
The British Government ordered 112 Athena Command and Control (PMRS) vehicles on the 4th September 2014. The Athena will process and manage information to provide commanders with information to make informed decisions on the battlefield. It is fitted with computer work stations and map boards. The vehicle has a crew of two but also transports one ‘watchkeeper’ and three PMRS operators, a staff officer and two signallers. It has an auxiliary power unit to provide supply to the command and control electrical systems. It is fitted with the remote weapons system for self defence.
The Athena variant will process and manage information to provide commanders with information to make informed decisions on the battlefield.(Illustration: General Dynamics UK Ltd)
Argus Engineer Reconnaissance
The British Government ordered 51 Argus Engineer Reconnaissance (PMRS) vehicles on the 4th September 2014. The Argus variant will provide timely and accurate engineering information on the natural and man-made environment. It is also expected to obtain relevant information about enemy engineering activities, intentions and terrain.
It has a two man crew and an engineer operator. It is fitted with equipment that measures gap and slope. It has a behind armour demolition detonation ability, a jettisonable front end dozer blade, Battlefield Information Systems Applications (Makefast BISA) and safe route marking equipment. It is fitted with the remote weapons system for self defence.
The Argus variant will provide timely and accurate engineering information on the natural and man-made environment. (Illustration: General Dynamics UK Ltd)
Atlas Recovery vehicles
38 Atlas Recovery (PMRS) vehicles were ordered by the British Government on the 4th September 2014. The Atlas variant is fitted with a recovery package that is optimised to provide the most effective means of recovering a casualty vehicle. It has a crew of three. An Earth Anchor to enable it to pull vehicles out of holes and ditches. It is fitted with the remote weapons system for self defence. The main crane is a 300Kn winch and there is a auxiliary 8Kn winch.
The Atlas variant is fitted with equipment designed to recover a knocked out or broken down casualty vehicle. (Illustration: General Dynamics UK Ltd)
Apollo Repair vehicles
50 Apollo Repair vehicles were ordered by the British Government on the 4th September 2014. This variant can be used to tow battlefield damaged vehicles and lift heavy engine power packs. It will be able to tow a trailer containing spare parts and equipment to enable mechanical engineers to work on repairing damaged and defective vehicles close to the front line.
The 5 tonne crane has its own stabilisation system to stop the vehicle falling over when lifting large heavy loads. The crane can be powered independently of the vehicles engine so that it can change its own engine power-pack. It is fitted with the remote weapons system for self defence.
The Apollo variant will be used to tow battlefield damaged vehicles and lift heavy sub-assemblies.(Illustration: General Dynamics UK Ltd)
British Army Ajax Reconnaissance Tank (Photo: Ian Wilcox)
British Army Ajax Reconnaissance Tank (Photo: Ian Wilcox)
British Army Ajax Reconnaissance Tank (Photo: Ian Wilcox)
Rear hatch on the Ajax Reconnaissance Tank (Photo: Ian Wilcox)
Ajax Reconnaissance Tank smoke dischargers and sensors. (Photo: Ian Wilcox)
In this photo you can see the top and lower bolt-on side armour system. (Photo: General Dynamics)
In this photos of an Ajax (Scout SV) prototype, you can see that only the upper side armour bolt-on system has been added. The lower section of the track is covered by a skirt. (Photo: General Dynamics)
This Ares APC variant is fitted with a double row of bolt-on side armour and a remote controlled 12.7mm machine gun. (Photo: General Dynamics)
The prototype Ajax was called the Scout SV. This photograph was taken during a demonstration at General Dynamics European Land Systems’ facility in Seville, Spain.(Photo: General Dynamics)
The first pre-production prototype, a Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support variant (ARES), was showcased at the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor, Newport in September 2014. (Photo: General Dynamics)
General Dynamics (UK) Ltd
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||25′ x 11′ x 9’10” ft.in
(7.62m x 3.35m x 3m)
|Total weight, battle ready||42 tons|
|Crew||3 (Driver, commander, gunner)|
|Propulsion||MTU V8 199 TE21 diesel engine 805hp|
|Top Road Speed||44 mph (71 km/h)|
|Range road/off road||500km|
|Main Armament||40mm CTAI cased Telescoped CT40 stabilised automatic cannon|
|Secondary Armament||7.62mm Coaxial L94A1 Machine Gun
76mm Smoke and Fragmentation Grenade Launchers
|Ares APC Armament||remotely-controlled 12.7mm machine gun|
|Armor||Advanced modular armour|