After numerous cancellations, the UK finally selected the ARTEC BOXER (8×8) Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) to meet its future Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) requirement. The UK Defence Equipment & Support organisation (DE&S) placed the contract with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) who in turn placed the contract with ARTEC in Germany which is a joint venture between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Landsysteme. These in turn placed contracts with their UK elements Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) at Telford and WFEL in Stockport who are both classed as Tier 1 suppliers. RBSL is a joint venture between BAE Systems UK (45 per cent) and Rheinmetall (55 per cent). WFEL is 100 per cent subsidiary of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
These two contractors are already making major investments in their existing manufacturing facilities such as installation of production lines with new manipulators and painting facilities as well as training for the production team. BOXER Drive Module for the UK production is already underway at WFEL. The first welders, for example at WFEL, have already been trained in Germany who will then come back to the UK and train additional welders as the production process gets underway.
The original £2.8Bn UK contract was placed in November 2019 and covered the supply of 523 BOXER MIV and variants, plus an initial support package, which were originally earmarked for the British Army Strike Brigades. This was followed by a second contract in April 2022 for an additional 100 BOXER (8×8) MIV which brought the total up to 623 units of which 80 per cent will be built in the UK but as some elements will come from abroad around 60% of the original contract value will be spent in the UK.
The first 105 UK BOXER MIV are being built on the German production lines in Munich (KMW) and Rheinmetall (Kassel). There is no current requirement for the UK to undertake the demanding Reliability Growth Trials (RGT) as these have already been completed for the original customers. The first of these UK BOXER from Germany are due to be delivered towards the end of the first quarter of 2023 to go into trials and acceptance to allow for British Army to start training during 2023 before production starts in UK facilities in 2023.
It is understood that the current yearly production rate will be around 60 units, but this could be accelerated. According to Rory Breen, Sales Director at RBSL, “in the longer term there is potential for the UK to export members of the BOXER family“.
As a result of the Integrated Defence Review (IDR), the Strike Brigades have now been dispensed with. The Armoured Infantry Brigades were to have CHALLENGER 3 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) and WARRIOR Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) ungraded by Lockheed Martin UK under the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP). The latter programme has now been cancelled even though RGTs had almost been completed with very good results. The BOXER MIV will now equip the Armoured Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT) who will also have the latest CHALLENGER 3 MBT being developed by RBSL at Telford.
The UK MoD has firmly stated to European Security & Defence that the BOXER MIV is NOT the replacement for the cancelled WCSP and “these are distinct capabilities employed in different tactical functions.”
WFEL will fabricate and assemble all of the BOXER Drive Module hulls and a smaller number of Mission Modules for final assembly and delivery of complete BOXER vehicles to the UK MoD. RBSL will fabricate and assemble Mission Modules and undertake final assembly and delivery of complete BOXER vehicles as well. Both WFEL and RBSL will undertake functional tests before delivery to the UK MoD.
Following functional trials at the Telford test track, RBSL will deliver these BOXER to the Army for acceptance and integration with Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) such as the General Dynamics UK Bowman digital communications equipment and weapons will be installed.
The steel required for UK BOXER is not available in the UK; so this will be supplied by Swedish Steel who already supply this high hardness armour steel for many European armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) programmes. In addition, BOXER MIV will have an applique passive armour package and spall liners.
The Latest Version
The UK will have the latest version of the BOXER designated the A3 with an integrated power pack consisting of engine, transmission and cooling system. On 3 August 2022, it was announced that RBSL and WFEL had selected Rolls Royce Services Limited to supply diesel engines for the UK BOXER MIV programme. This will be the latest MTU 8V 199 TS21 rated at 600 kW and the UK will the first user of this engine which gives 90kW more power than earlier engines fitted to BOXER.
For the WFEL BOXER, the Rolls Royce facility in East Grinstead will deliver these engines directly to David Brown Santasalo who will integrate engines into the complete power packs and deliver these to WFEL. For RBSL, assembly and testing of the complete BOXER power pack will take place at their Telford facility. The complete A3 version of BOXER has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 38.5 tonnes and new wheels and tyres.
A BOXER has been demonstrated at the Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK rated at 41 tonnes, showing that the Boxer has plenty of growth potential to meet future UK requirements. There are many sub-contractors for the BOXER MIV programme in the UK and overseas with the former including the Nasmyth Group for precision engineering, GuS Periscopes for periscopes and window systems, AeroGlow International for the HalO vehicle egress lighting system, Atec for power distribution boxes and Renvale for CAN-Node electro-mechanical devices.
The largest UK sub-contractor is Thales who early in 2021 were awarded a £180m contract by RLS/RBSL to supply the latest PROTECTOR RS4 Remote Weapon Station (RWS) and options for the ACUSONIC Shot Detection System (SDS) for the BOXER MIV. The UK has used earlier versions of the PROTECTOR RWS for some years on their MASTIFF (6×6) protected mobility vehicles, but the latest RS4 RWS features a stabilised weapon which can be a 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine gun (MG) or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL), with these weapons being GFE. The PROTECTOR RS4 RWS also features a Thales CATHERINE EZ thermal imager (TI) module as well as a CELT3 laser rangefinder. Lower down on the RWS are two banks of electrically operated multi spectral smoke grenade launchers.
The ACUSONIC SDS is also installed on the General Dynamics Land Systems UK AJAX family of tracked vehicles which as of early August was still an active programme, although had been under threat of cancellation for some time. Acusonic SDS systems can, if the capability is supported and enabled, alert the crew to an incoming threat and automatically lay the Protector RS4 RWS onto the target with the operator then making the final decision as to whether to engage the target on not.
So far, the UK MoD has only confirmed four BOXER MIV variants. These are infantry carrier, specialist carrier, command post vehicle (CPV) and ambulance, with the latter having a raised roof line for greater internal volume for its specialised role. In all BOXER versions, the dismounts can enter through a large power-operated ramp at the rear.
In addition to the IFV and Command Post (CP) versions, the British Army currently deploys a number of more specialised versions of the WARRIOR including:
- mechanised recovery vehicle (repair)
- mechanised combat repair vehicle
- mechanised artillery observation vehicle
- battery command vehicle
With the phase-out of the WARRIOR IFV and its variants, there could potentially be more specialised versions of BOXER MIV for the UK in the future even though they have different missions as previously stated. There are already a number of more specialised versions of the BOXER, some of which are in service while others have been developed as a private venture in anticipation for future requirements, including:
- cargo (deployed by the Netherlands)
- Driver Training Vehicle (deployed by Germany, Lithuania and the Netherlands)
- engineer (Netherlands)
- prototype of an Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) with the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann LEGUAN horizontally laid bridge system
- prototype of Rheinmetall Air Defence SKYRANGER air defence system,
- pre-production models of the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann REMOTE CONTROLLED HOWITZER 155 mm/52 calibre and fitted with Rheinmetall High Energy Laser (HEL).
While BOXER MRAV is used as an APC and specialised versions by Germany and the Netherlands, it is now being promoted as a IFV with both Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall offering unmanned and manned turrets armed with a 30 mm cannon, 7.62 mm co-axial MG and options for anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW). It has also been fitted a Kongsberg RCT armed with a 30 mm cannon and 7.62 mm MG to meet requirements of Germany Army.
BOXER supplied to Lithuania are fitted with an RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems SAMSON RCT armed with a Northrop Grumman 30 mm dual feed cannon, 7.62 mm co-axial MG and SPIKE-LR anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW). Latest customer for BOXER is Slovenia who ordered 45 in May 2022. BOXER has also been shown with the rear mission module fitted with a John Cockerill Defense C3105 two person turret armed with a 105 mm high pressure rifled gun and 7.62 mm co-axial MG. Other BOXER versions include being fitted with the Saab ARTHUR artillery locating radar while FFG has developed and tested a recovery module.
Rheinmetall Norway has developed the RAGNAROK mortar system which is already deployed by the Norwegian Army for a batch of its CV90 fitted with an 81 mm mortar (as used by British Army) or a 120 mm mortar.
Logistical support for the currently delivered BOXER (8×8) MRAV fleet is provided by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) which aims to reduce through life cycle costs by maximum use of purchasing power direct from the suppliers. Within NSPA, there is a firmly established Boxer System Management Group (BSMG) which is their centre for Life Cycle Management and Integrated Logistic Support (European Security & Defence June 2020).