British AJAX conquers Lapland’s -30°C snowstorm harsh trials

The British Ajax infantry fighting machine, previously dubbed a “failed device,” is resolutely shaking off that old moniker. Once plagued by issues, Ajax is now acing rigorous tests. 

New version of the British military combat vehicle Ajax
Photo credit: GDLS UK

Reports from London reveal that on January 19, under severely challenging winter conditions, with the temperatures plunging to minus 30 degrees Celsius, Ajax flawlessly completed its tasks. The proving ground was Sweden, but specifically in the harshest terrain the Scandinavian country has to offer – the icy expanses of Lapland.  

The task of testing Ajax fell to the British Army Cavalry Regiment, an armored reconnaissance unit stationed in Wiltshire. These trials didn’t merely assess mobility and the speed at which the vehicle could traverse this terrain. They also tested the firing capabilities of the onboard weaponry. According to the British Ministry of Defence, the verdict was a complete success. Experts involved in the inception, growth, and past issues of Ajax regard these outcomes as a critical landmark. This success signals promising things for the future of Ajax.

The problem

In 2021, Bulgarian shed light on the issues persistently plaguing the British Ajax that remained unresolved even in the subsequent year. More explicitly, this information came forth from a categorical statement provided by Alec Shelbrooke, the State Minister at the Ministry of Defence. 

The Ajax Armoured Fighting Vehicle [AFV] is plagued by troublesome vibrations and excessive noise. According to Shelbrooke, the British Ministry of Defense is actively working to resolve these issues, in collaboration with General Dynamics Land Systems UK [GDLS-UK]. However, the vehicle can only be accepted into service once its usage conditions have been certified as safe. 

British AJAX conquers Lapland's -30°C snowstorm harsh trials
Photo credit: British MoD

Approximately 590 units of the 40mm Ajax AFVs were scheduled to be incorporated and rendered combat-ready in the British Army. Yet, as reported by in June of this year, the realization of this plan seems improbable. Echoing this sentiment, Shelbrooke admitted that establishing a firm timeline for integrating Ajax into active duty poses a notable challenge.

The costs are huge

By the middle of 2022, the UK government had already exhausted more than half of the budget allocated to the program. In a statement issued in mid-October 2022, Shelbrooke emphasized that the Ministry of Defense was diligently safeguarding taxpayers’ interests under the GDLS-UK agreement. However, an NAO report from March stated that the problems with the program were “insurmountable”. The core of the NAO’s criticism lay in poor decision-making and the contractor’s lack of understanding—with the NAO indicating that “GDLS-UK has consistently failed to comprehend the scope and complexity of the program.” 

No good news: British Ajax's trials could drag on until 2025
Photo credit: General Dynamics UK

In a startling revelation made in March this year, the NAO expressed concern over the elusive nature of the program’s expenditure. To date, it has not been clearly established how much capital has been invested in this project. The NAO urged the top brass at the UK Ministry of Defense to learn from their mistakes, advice that appears to have been ignored. Shelbrooke’s confirmation of persistent issues towards the end of the year attests to this negligence.

The good news in February 2023

As per updates from February 2023, the British Army’s Ajax combat vehicle has made a resurgence. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the project is back on track, having resolved the prevailing issues. 

To provide some background, a British project worth 5.5 billion GBP faced significant challenges due to excessive noise and vibrations within the combat vehicle. So how did the British authorities and General Dynamics address this? Their solution consisted of new, integrated earmuffs for effective communication, redesigned seats offering better padding, and revamped joysticks and controls. 

589 modern British 40mm Ajax V8 AFVs may never enter service
Photo: Wikipedia

However, it appears there were no substantial structural or engineering modifications made to Ajax’s transmission or suspension. Additionally, there’s no concrete plan for the vehicle’s soundproofing. This paints a picture that after months of rigorous effort, the only viable solutions to mitigate the noise and dampen the vibrations were new earpieces and seats.

Small improvements and tests

Here’s a piece of positive news to brighten up your day. Last year, it was revealed that Ajax, our subject of interest, had undergone a minor yet significant redesign. This change relates primarily to the vehicle’s combat capacity, specifically its firing mechanism. This redesign was necessary, as earlier trials had exposed a few issues. The recommendations for the changes came from the soldiers who had firsthand experience testing this vehicle. 

At the moment, Ajax has undergone numerous trials. In these tests, the vehicle demonstrated its durable nature by being able to withstand up to 50 tons of armor – a remarkable feat indeed. The test vehicles traveled an impressive total distance of 120,000 km during the testing process. To date, Ajax’s weapons systems have fired an astonishing 9,000 rounds.

GD’s Ajax

The Ajax is a powerful combat vehicle that requires digitization to enhance the fighting prowess of British ground troops. By the end of 2022, only 324 sections had been assembled, and a mere 143 were fully completed armored vehicles. What’s more, a mere 26 units were handed over to the British Army. 

British tanks for $ 5 billion defective two years after delivery
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Regarded as a 38-tonne mechanical mammoth, the Ajax can be upgraded to weigh in at a hefty 42 tonnes, depending on modifications and weaponry. It’s powered by an MTU Friedrichshafen 600 kW [800 horsepower] V8 engine and an RENK 6-speed HSWL 256B transmission. This leviathan can achieve peak speeds of 70km/h, offering a potent blend of power and speed in a formidable package. 

Equipped with BAE Systems and Nexter jointly developed CT40 40mm gun as its primary firepower, the Ajax is fully loaded in the armaments department. It also features an L94A1 coaxial 7.62mm chain gun mounted on a Kongsberg Protector Remote Weapon Station atop its turret. A compact crew of three soldiers operates this rolling fortress, which can carry an additional seven troops inside.


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