In 2010, the British Army sought to find a new, fully digitalized multirole armored fighting vehicle designed to deliver a radical change in versatility and agility as part of the Future Rapid Effect contact system to replace the aging FV107 Scimitar. , which has been in service since 1971.
Following a competitive bidding process, DE&S beat the competition from BAE Systems to deliver the largest single order for armored vehicles in a generation through the £ 5.5 billion Ajax program.
The first block of vehicles was due to be delivered in 2017, but this has been pushed back to January 2020 due to delays with an estimated initial operational capability expected by July 2020.
Delays and design issues cast doubt on the future of Ajax vehicles
However, the entire program can now be in doubt due to delays and design issues with the Ajax Armored Fighting Vehicle.
For some time now, military personnel from all over the country have been in charge of testing Ajax vehicles. This involved a rigorous routine with various staff members operating with and closely with Ajax vehicles.
Military personnel complain of excessive noise and vibration
Those tests were halted in November 2020 following complaints from those involved in the testing of excessive noise and vibration, leaving crews suffering from nausea, swollen joints and tinnitus. This can be due to poor quality control during manufacturing, such as substandard welding and inconsistencies in the vehicle shell.
Last November, a number of people working on the Ajax armored vehicle program were invited to come to Camp Bulford in Wiltshire to perform hearing tests following the problems revealed. These included a compatibility issue with the hearing protection in place.
Ajax staff diagnosed with hearing loss
It was later discovered that several staff members suffered from some level of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), including tinnitus.
The Department of Defense has now identified 310 service personnel who need hearing assessments after working with Ajax.
Military lawyers investigate potential failures
Irwin Mitchell is currently reviewing the MOD program and potential failures to assess whether more could have been done to prevent injuries to service personnel operating with the vehicles.
Testing new military equipment naturally involves certain risks. But the Department of Defense (MoD), like any employer, has a duty to protect military personnel from these risks and to take all reasonable steps to prevent injury.
Since then, it has been widely reported in the media that concerns about the vibrations and noise of these vehicles were raised before specific issues were identified, but it appears that no further action has been taken at the time. era.
The Ajax maker was aware of the noise and vibration as early as 2010, but believed they were within the limits of safety legislation. Military personnel testing the vehicle for the Defense Ministry had also raised concerns about noise and vibration issues by 2017.
The MOD subsequently confirmed that “all testing and training on Ajax vehicles remains on hiatus … we will not accept a vehicle that is not fit for purpose”.
The MOD also stated that “it is not possible to determine a realistic timetable for the introduction of Ajax vehicles into operational service”.
Lawyer deeply concerned about first-hand testimony
Carol Purang, specialist military lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, criticizes the issues raised by military personnel, saying: “After speaking to a number of people involved in the Ajax testing, a general theme of NIHL and tinnitus arose. which has had a substantial impact on their daily lives and is likely to cause them psychological injury, as well as potentially leading to the end of their military careers.
“It was recently reported that in addition to the 121 staff members who underwent hearing assessments, 189 others were identified as having been in close enough contact with the vehicles in question to require assessments, bringing the total number to at 310. It is likely that there will be a number of other cases arising from these assessments, as staff who may have blamed their symptoms on stress realize that they are now suffering from NIHL.
“This is deeply concerning and we will continue to support those who serve in our armed forces throughout this difficult time.”
Irwin Mitchell remains committed to supporting all service personnel.
The Defense Ministry said trials resumed in March. But the leaked report says crews still must adhere to strict health and safety restrictions, including “limiting time on the platform to an hour and a half before a crew change or 20 mph speed restrictions. “- which is less than half of its maximum speed.