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General Dynamics unveils Brimstone-equipped Ajax variant

By Harry Lye 26 Apr 2021 (Last Updated April 23rd, 2021 14:51)

General Dynamics has unveiled a Brimstone missile-equipped variant of its Ajax vehicle developed in collaboration with MBDA.

General Dynamics unveils Brimstone-equipped Ajax variant
AJAX-Brimstone ‘Overwatch’ variant. Image: General Dynamics Land Systems-UK.

The demonstrator, dubbed ‘Overwatch’ and funded by General Dynamics and MBDA, is seen as potentially operating as part of the British Army’s new Heavy and Deep Recce Brigade Combat Teams.

The company has integrated the Brimstone missile onboard the Ares variant of the Ajax vehicle family, making use of its electronic architecture, which General Dynamics said enables the rapid insertion of ‘new technologies and capabilities.’

General Dynamics Land Systems–UK vice president and general manager Carew Wilks said: “The Ajax family can fulfil a large number of roles for Armed Forces worldwide, including reconnaissance, persistent surveillance, command and control, and bridging.

“Our collaboration with MBDA further demonstrates the versatility of the Ajax fleet through the delivery of an ‘Overwatch’ capability quickly and effectively for the Heavy and Deep Recce Strike Brigade Combat Teams.”

Brimstone is a mainstay of the Royal Air Force and is fully integrated onto the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. The missile can also be operated from uncrewed aerial vehicles, ships and, as demonstrated by the Overwatch Ajax, land-based platforms.

The 50kg missile measures 1.8m in length and features radar and semi-active laser guidance capabilities.

MBDA UK managing director Chris Allam said: “Brimstone and Ajax is a potent battle-winning combination. Brimstone is a core part of the ‘portfolio’ approach to complex weapons between MBDA and the UK Ministry of Defence.

“This co-operation on Ajax Overwatch demonstrates how we can use sovereign UK complex weapons technologies to provide rapid and low-cost solutions to enhance the operational capabilities of the UK Armed Forces, while ensuring sovereign skills, jobs and security of supply are maintained.”

The Brimstone carrier demonstrated by General Dynamics and MBDA has been designed as a quick, low-risk solution to integrate the missile onto Ares. Further work could also explore whether a larger number of missiles could be integrated onto the vehicle.

Army Technology understands integrating a launcher within the hull of the vehicle is also possible. The Brimstone missile can use the information provided by the Ares vehicle for targeting.

A similar Brimstone launcher could theoretically be mounted on the turreted Ajax vehicle, however, in an overwatch role, the missile loadout of the system is improved by the large deck space provided by the Ares vehicle.

Brimstone’s high off-boresight and non-line of sight (NLOS) capability remove the need for the missile to be mounted on a turret and launched directly at a target.

In 2019, MBDA was contracted to integrate Brimstone onto the Royal Air Force’s Protector RG Mk1 remotely piloted air system, built by General Atomics. In 2018, the UK Ministry of Defence announced a £400 million contract with MBDA for the production of new missiles and the extension of its service life beyond 2030.

Under plans outlined in the Defence Command Paper, the British Army is set to invest in new longer-range artillery capabilities with £250m over the next decade to be invested into the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS).

The Army will also spend £800m over 10 years on a new ‘Mobile Fires Platform’.

In its recently published Defence Command Paper, the UK Ministry of Defence outlined a shift in the British Army’s organisation around new Brigade Combat Teams or BCTs. One of which is a Deep Recce Strike BCT combining Ajax vehicles and deep fire capabilities.

The Ajax family of vehicles is also set to form a part of the Heavy BCTs alongside the Challenger 3 Main Battle Tank and Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicle.

The British Army has ordered a total of 589 vehicles across six variants, 245 will be of the turreted Ajax variant. The first Ajax family vehicles were delivered in February 2019 and deliveries are expected to continue through 2025.

As of October, last year, GDLS-UK said that 60 of the planned 589 vehicles were completed, with 17 accepted by the MOD and 12 vehicles being put into service.

The British Army’s current schedule should see a squadron of its new Ajax armoured fighting vehicles ready for this summer, allowing it to conduct team level training. There are currently 12 turreted Ajax vehicles going through the general acceptance testing (GAT) process.

Several of the vehicles have already completed live firing trials and final acceptance testing for some is being completed ahead of initial deliveries to the British Army.