Coachlines - May 2020

16.05.20 Major Thomas F R Coker, Royal Dragoon Guards

Ajax – the strike concept part 2

In my previous article we looked at the impressive new Ajax family from the technical aspects of its capabilities. However, as the operator of any vehicle will tell you, the equipment is only as good as the people who use it. How is the British Army going to maximise the potential of this incredible new platform.

The vast array of new capabilities that Ajax brings to the party, including acoustic shot location, laser detection warning systems, and independent commander / gunner night vision to name but a few, comes at a price. The new vehicle will have a significant training burden, and the ‘cognitive load’ on the crew will be significant. The Army’s current challenge is working out how much training is necessary to ensure currency and competency. With a commander’s station that would not look out of place in a fighter aircraft simulator suite, the sheer volume of information and information types is immense. The ability to deal with that inflow whilst fighting a battle (which is confusing enough as it is) will require some extremely well-trained, and arguably more importantly well-practiced, personnel to operate the system to its full capacity. That is the next challenge.

AJAX undergoing cold climate trials in Sweden

Of course, with new vehicles also come new ways of working. CVR(T) and formation reconnaissance was always intended to operate well ahead of an advancing armoured formation. However, that was in the day when a battlefield was broadly linear – we had the (relatively) reassuring certainty that the enemy would come at us from one direction, and we knew roughly how they would come (vanguard, main body forces, etc.). The situation has now changed – the threat has changed. Forces now have to be conscious of threats emerging not only from the 360 degrees around them at ground level, but also of the now nearly omnipresent watching eyes of unmanned aerial vehicles (‘drones’) that range from high end military grades to those that can be linked to a smartphone and bought from eBay for loose change. In 2014, two Ukrainian mechanised battalions suffered 85% casualties from Russian artillery called in by UAV spotters. Being predictable and operating in formed bodies is now a risk we cannot take. Ajax, as part of the strike concept, will see a change in doctrine. Squadrons, with their Javelin Anti-Tank missile toting support troops, and Boxer Medium Infantry Vehicle (MIV) mounted soldiers will operate at long range from their higher headquarters and will effectively swarm onto targets, before returning to dispersed operations. All of this is being developed in tandem with the trials on the new vehicles, and it is an exciting time to be a recce soldier in the armoured cavalry.

Forces now have to be conscious of threats emerging from drones as well as 360 degrees around them

The Coachmakers will be pleased to know that the Royal Dragoon Guards, their friends on armour, will be one of the first regiments to take on Ajax upon their return from Estonia. The regiment is slated to deploy on Op CABRIT (the NATO enhanced Forward Presence) as the British battlegroup in Estonia at the end of 2020 on CVR(T) 2 – the greatly enhanced version of the old vehicle built specially for Op HERRICK (Afghanistan). The regiment will be in Warminster by then, so perfectly set to try its new vehicles on the Salisbury Plain training area. Definitely a good excuse for a visit!