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The Ajax family of armoured reconnaissance vehicles for the British Army, which have been plagued by a series of noise and vibration issues, will finally achieve initial operating capability (IOC) between July and December 2025, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 20 March 2023. This will be more than six years after the British Army originally expected to equip its first squadron with the vehicles and around 11 years after General Dynamics UK (GDUK) first received a production contract for Ajax.

Full operating capability (FOC) for the vehicles is slated to be achieved between October 2028 and September 2029, when the army has trained and converted enough personnel to the Ajax platform to deliver an armoured cavalry capability to its Deep Reconnaissance Strike Brigade and two Armoured Brigade Combat Teams, the MoD said. The ministry added that payments to GDUK, which had been suspended, have now resumed.

“Future payments will be made against the new schedule and its milestones, conditional on the delivery of compliant and deployable Ajax vehicles and continued progress of remaining trials activity,” the MoD said in its press release.

An Ajax vehicle undergoing cold weather trials at Tame Ranges in Sweden in February 2019. The UK MoD has now stated that the Ajax family of armoured vehicles will achieve IOC with the British Army between July and December 2025. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

The MoD release additionally noted that since trials of the Ajax family of vehicles began, a number of Ajax turreted reconnaissance variants, Ares armoured personnel carrier variants, Atlas armoured recovery vehicles and Apollo repair vehicles “have driven over 2,260 kilometres through different terrains, completing a variety of representative battlefield tasks”.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was quoted as saying in the release, “Having worked closely with General Dynamics to address the issues, I am pleased to say that we are making progress and are now on course to see the delivery of a suite of hundreds of battle-ready vehicles for the British Army.”

Wallace had stated during a visit to the British Army’s Bovington Camp in Dorset on 22 February that he was “confident we have turned the corner on this troubled programme”. It is understood that the fixes put in place to mitigate the noise and vibration issues include new ear defenders for the crew that incorporate hearing pieces for better communication, along with remounted seating with better cushioning and improved joysticks and controls. The news that issues with excessive vibration and noise had led to trials of Ajax variants being halted from November 2020 to March 2021 first emerged in June 2021.

GDUK was originally awarded a fixed-price GBP 500 M contract in July 2010 for the demonstration and qualification phase of what was then known as the Scout – Specialist Vehicle (Scout SV) programme.

GDUK was subsequently awarded a GBP 3.5 Bn contract in September 2014 to deliver 589 Scout SVs to the British Army from 2017. At the time the British Army expected to equip the first squadron with the vehicles by mid-2019 and have an equipped brigade ready to deploy by 2020.

Peter Felstead