UK-based defence firm BAE Systems has been awarded a £38m contract to upgrade the Royal Marines’ fleet of all-terrain vehicles but cuts in MoD spending has meant that the latest engines will not be used.
The contract with the UK Ministry of Defence covers the refurbishment of 99 amphibious vehicles after heavy use in Afghanistan.
BAE Systems will bring the Viking tank fleet to a common mine protected standard.
The fleet is a mix of standards, with many operating earlier versions with limited mine resistance.
BAE Systems and engine-manufacturer Cummins has developed a 6.7 litre engine that provides added reliability and power. This would add to the operational efficiency of the tanks as they now carry more weight due to operating requirements, but the MoD opted to use an earlier version.
Specific requirements in Afghanistan increased the weight of the vehicles which has meant that they are no longer amphibious. The fleet has been off-road for prolonged period after being “heavily abused during operations in Afghanistan,” according to one source.
The fleet are currently unable to carry out their tagline of go-anywhere armoured all-terrain vehicles due to the additional weight.
The refurbishment of the Viking will restore their capacity to swim ashore and go straight into action so that the fleet can return to rapid reaction situations, which includes disaster relief efforts as well military intervention.
“The highly versatile Viking is fundamental to the Royal Marines’ ability to carry out littoral operations and this cost-effective programme will sustain this vital capability,” said Alan Lines, support services director at BAE Systems. “Such regeneration and upgrade programmes are a growing part of our work as defence budgets tighten around the world.”
The work on this high-priority programme will be carried out on BAE Systems’ new armoured vehicle production line in Sweden and is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
All but the Mk2 Vikings (the latest go-anywhere armoured all-terrain vehicles) will be rebuilt with new front and rear car hulls to feature the latest mine-protected, v-shaped underbodies.
The entire fleet will be given a major overhaul, brought to a common standard and certified for a 14 tonne gross weight, with suspension, braking and other modifications carried out as required.
Nineteen rear cars will be converted to a new crew-served weapon variant and nine more will allow the firing of the standard-issue BAE Systems 81mm mortar from the vehicle.
The Viking reset is part of a planned joint MoD/BAE Systems coherent management of the fleet until its current out of service date of 2031. A mid-life improvement towards the end of the decade is expected.