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The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) is the British MOD programme to deliver a fleet of more than 4,000 armoured fighting vehicles for the British Army. The vehicles are to be rapidly deployable, network-enabled, capable of operating across the spectrum of operations, and protected against current threats.
The total FRES fleet is expected to comprise five families of vehicles: Utility, Reconnaissance, Medium Armour, Manoeuvre Support and a family of simpler variants known as the ‘Basic Capability Utility’.
Despite long delays in the procurement process, exacerbated by a budget shortfall at the MoD, the FRES programme is moving ahead with the award of the Specialist Vehicle contract to General Dynamics for the ASCOD AFV tracked vehicle in March 2010.
Due to the complexity of the FRES programme, a "System of Systems" Integrator (SOSI) was appointed to assist the MoD in selection of the vehicles and cross-vehicle electronic architecture. In October 2007 the FRES SOSI contract was awarded to a joint team of Thales and Boeing.
The SOSI team was contracted to act as an independent, honest broker between industry and the MoD to co-ordinate the procurement of more than 3,000 vehicles which were expected to be acquired under FRES.
Six main elements of the SOSI role were: programme management; systems of systems engineering and integration; alliance development and management; development of the MoD's SOSI competence; through-life capability management; and through-life technology management. 
The SOSI role was scrapped when the programme was restructured following the failure to progress with the UV procurement.
The first family of vehicles, known as the Utility Vehicles (UV) were expected to enter service in the 2010s. FRES UV was to replace the Army's Saxon wheeled APC, tracked FV432, and some of the CVR(T) vehicle family. The design is planned to follow the philosophy of "medium weight" forces that balance ease of transportability ("light") with armour ("heavy").
In 1999, Germany and United Kingdom began development of the Boxer Multi Role Armoured Vehicle, which was intended to assume different roles via switchable modules. However, the UK announced it would withdraw from the project in 2003, stating that the Boxer did not fulfill requirements. The British Ministry of Defence decided to pursue a replacement, with a specification that it could be airlifted by Airbus A400M and smaller C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The new "Future Rapid Effect System" project was established on 5 May 2004, with an assessment period of two years.
Since then, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has been researching electrically charged armour, with the view of ultimately integrating it into the FRES design. Plans for FRES vehicles to be carried by C-130 have also been dropped for being unworkable.
On 7 June 2007, the Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support, Lord Drayson, announced that three vehicles had been selected for trials to determine the utility vehicle design for FRES UV. These were:
In a defence briefing on 14 June 2007, Lord Drayson made it clear that FRES UV would not be the standard off the shelf version of any of these vehicles:
"They are designs which are currently in development to provide new models within existing families of vehicles. I am sure you agree that it would make no sense to invent a new vehicle from scratch. The designs we will look at in the trials this summer take proven vehicles, and evolve them to the next level to have the capacity, mobility, ability to upgrade through life, and, above all, the level of protection the Army need."
In FRES UV it was envisaged that a further role, that of the "vehicle integrator", would be required to ensure that the vehicles are customised to meet British Army requirements and be supported and upgraded through life. A number of companies positioned for this role, including BAE Systems and General Dynamics, but when the programme was restructured this was no longer envisaged as a separate role.
The announcement of the winning design was initially planned for November 2007, but the selection was not announced until 8 May 2008. The winning design provisionally selected for the FRES Utility Vehicle contract was the Piranha V, manufactured by General Dynamics. This decision had been expected, with speculation from February 2008 onwards that General Dynamics was the preferred contractor for the deal. However, as no production order was announced, various sources "feared that the FRES programme had fallen victim to the UK defence "budget crunch". This was borne out in December 2008, when General Dynamics' status as preferred contractor for the Utility Vehicle contract was officially rescinded.
After General Dynamics had its preferred bidder status withdrawn in December 2008, the Ministry of Defence decided to restructure the programme. The utility vehicle programme was scheduled to restart towards the end of 2010. The UK MoD's Defence Equipment and Support agency has focused its attention on the tracked variants of the FRES programme; most notably the Specialist Vehicle. The FRES Integrated Project Team (based at MoD Abbey Wood) has disbanded. The UV element has been put on hold; its future hangs in the balance of the Strategic Defence Review, scheduled for mid 2010. The SV has been joined with the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) in a new procurement team named Medium Armoured Tracks Team (MATT). The two programmes share the Common Cannon and Ammunition Programme, whereby a new 40mm Cannon from CTAI will be the main armament to both the upgraded Warriors and the new Specialist Vehicle.
With the demise of the UV procurement, the supporting roles of SOSI and VI were no longer required, and were not pursued as part of the overall procurement scheme. In 2011 changes to the Army regarding the TA (which meant deeper cuts in the regular forces) has meant that there is extra money to go ahead with future defence programmes which were previously under threat from the cutbacks in armed forces spending. With these new savings the government has given its commitment to the programme.
As of 2013 the program has continued to be delayed and the base vehicle is still overweight, however a prototype turret has been tested and further tests will include a turret mounted on an actual vehicle.
The Specialist Vehicles programme will provide a range of vehicles including reconnaissance, engineering and battlefield medical variants, based on a tracked chassis. The CV90, offered by BAE Systems, and ASCOD SV, offered by General Dynamics UK, were put forward as potential reconnaissance vehicles and were awarded assessment-phase contracts in November 2008.
On 22 March 2010, the MoD announced that General Dynamics UK had been awarded a development contract to build the FRES SV. BAE Systems had fought to reverse the decision by announcing it would move manufacture from Sweden to its Newcastle factory. The £500M contract for the demonstration phase of 7 prototype vehicles was announced on 1 July 2010. Trials are expected to start in 2013.