"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

£1.5 Mn a throw for uparmoured Rdigeback to replace Snatch Land Rovers in Afghanistan/ Iraq

£81 Million pounds is being spent by the MOD on converting US made Force Protection Inc. ( (NASDAQ: FRPT - News )vehicles - the Cougar 4x4s , into what are described by Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies as the "awesome" Ridgeback -"supplement the excellent work currently carried out by the hugely successful Mastiff. As a smaller version than Mastiff it will offer our forces first-rate protection with greater manoeuvrability and easier access to urban areas. " (MOD pic)

The contract has gone to NP Aerospace in Coventry and 157 Ridgback vehicles will be retrofitted into an "uparmoured and weaponised version" with additional protection, weapons, communications systems and specialist electronic counter-measures equipment.

NP Aerospace (473 Foleshill Road Coventry CV6 5AQ England United Kingdom UK - which is the successor to Courtaulds Bakelite Moulding ) produce 4 variants including an Ambulance or command post vehicle - to enable it to carry out different roles within Afghanistan.

All the Ridgback vehicles will feature:
* Strong axles and suspension to cope with the harsh terrain
* Weapons systems
* Additional armour
* Communications systems
* Modified seats to offer the crew more protection from bomb blasts

Top speed: 55mph Weight: 19.5 tonnes

Weapons: A mixture of weapons systems, including a 7.62 Heavy Machine Gun; General Purpose Machine Gun; Grenade Machine Gun mounted.

Some will also be fitted with a remotely controlled weapons system which will allow the user to operate Ridgback's weapons by using a camera and joystick from inside the vehicle.

This contract is on top of the procurement announced in December 2007 of the original vehicles for £150 Mn

NP Aerospace was also awarded a £61M contract to deliver Mastiff 2, the next generation of Mastiff vehicles, on 18th September 2008.

It may interest many that NP Aerospace were part of the mysteriously owned Carlyle Group, the global private equity house which bought the company for £30 million from Reinhold Industries in 2005 - then in August 2007 Morgan Crucible particpitated in a a £71 million trade buy-out (TBO) to end u[p with a minority stake.

Force Protection Inc. have a fascinating history in supplying wjhat are calle MWRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected ) vehicles to the US forces, shared traded as high as US$25 dollars 6 months ago but are trading today at US$2.05. see Tuesday, January 22, 2008 Ist US fatality in MRAP in Iraq - Force Protection slides

What this story means is that the Mastiff unveiled by Lord Drayson (now motor racing) in September 2006 which Lord Patel described as

Too Large, Too Late and incredibly expensive MOD runabouts bound for sunny Afghanistan.

Presented as a replacement (at £1/4 Mn per throw) for the inadequately armoured "snatch" Land Rovers this hugely expensive sticking plaster adds a further burden of costs of spares, and base training , and a further front line burden , of training mechanics, the need for low loaders , more back up equipment, spares to carry and a higher overhead of maintenance staff, plus their housing , catering etc., Press reports state they cost £1/4 Mn. each but the manufacturers press release at the date of order 11th August (4 weeks ago!) states the order for 85 vehicles is US$63 Mn. = approx £400,000 "The contract also includes associated spares, technical manuals, and field service support and is worth approximately $63 million. "

So now the MOD are spending at least £150 Million buying some more ( and nimbler 4 x 4 Cougars) for £150 Mn and another £81 Million = £231 Million adding things like ;

* Strong axles and suspension to cope with the harsh terrain
* Weapons systems
* Additional armour
* Communications systems
* Modified seats to offer the crew more protection from bomb blasts

Which one might assume would come as original equipment - so we make it that each of thes "awesome 4 x 4 Ridgebacks" which are basically to replace the "snatch Land Robver" will cost and eyewatering £1.5 Mn each.

The MOD provide no date for delivery.

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