The RO2000 series of light vehicles were a part of a government initiative into developing a new generation of vehicles, known as the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV). This was a follow up on the Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FLAV), whose origins can be traced back to the 1980s when it had failed to deliver a workable platform.
FFLAV began to progress swiftly after the 1990-1991 Gulf War. This conflict had highlighted key areas of concern with the older vehicles used by the Army, most notably the FV430 and CVRT series which were already three decades old. One highlighted area of concern was the overlapping roles that the equipment fulfilled, with roles duplicated on the FV430, CVRT, and even old Centurion types in service. Not only did this lead to a bigger logistic footprint than required, but was also expensive to maintain and required extensive manpower and training in familiarity to keep them operating successfully.
The MOD concluded that, if the units could be consolidated by using a more coherent approach and creating a family of vehicles that fulfilled all roles on a universal chassis, it would go some way to reduce the issues noted above.
The FFLAV was meant to streamline at least three key series of vehicles into one family; the FV430 series, the FV510 Warrior family, and the CVRT (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance Tracked). This would have meant that up to 7000 replacement vehicles would have been needed, leading to one of the largest modern defense contracts ever issued in the United Kingdom. Such an opportunity did not go unnoticed and nearly all the major defense firms showed interest. Given the size and scope of the project, these firms began to form consortiums to increase their odds of winning any sole contract for the program. However, at this stage, it was still officially a study and not an official development/procurement request.
Three key consortiums were formed:
- Royal Ordnance PLC/BAE
As is typical in any large multinational defense design and procurement project, the three consortiums promptly settled on trying to push their own nation’s domestically-made vehicles as the best possible option, while retaining civility amongst themselves.
The first consortium chose to propose the Panhard VBL, Alvis CVRT upgrades, the ENASA BMR-600, and Hagglunds CV90. The second one submitted the GKN Warrior 2000 and MOWAG’s own Piranha APC.
However, the third team was the only group to seemingly understand that the MOD did not want yet more variants of the vehicles they already had and wanted to reduce the existing collection into one single family. It was the Royal Ordnance PLC that drew up and actually made some of the RO2000 series.
Despite various levels of research being carried out and several pre-production vehicles having been made, the UK once again decided to go through a different route and opted to proceed with the fiscally disastrous MBAV, MRAV, TRACER and later FRES programs.
According to a report from the Armoured Trials & Development Unit at Bovington, the RO2000 series stemmed from a design, called SP122, done by the Royal Ordnance for a self-propelled howitzer for the Egyptian army, a design which would become the RO2001. The vehicle was meant to be built in Egypt, the industry of which was not well developed, and thus the vehicle had to be simple and easy to manufacture. It was then decided to use the chassis for a family of vehicles, four of which would actually be designed. Other reports indicate that all the vehicles were designed at the same time and only after that was the SPG version offered to Egypt.
The basic RO2000 vehicle had a steel chassis, with a Perkins TV8-640 V8 turbocharged diesel giving 320 hp coupled to a 6-speed epicyclic automatic gearbox, both placed at the front of the vehicle, leaving the rear space empty for the addition of the fighting compartment. The suspension consisted of 5 double wheels mounted on torsion bars, with an idler at the rear and two return rollers per side. These features were meant to be simple, cheap and low maintenance. It was also advertised as being easily upgradeable for the needs of the British army, mainly because the stock configuration was technologically primitive for the day and era. The vehicle could manage a gradient of 30o, a trench measuring 2.2 m or an obstacle 75 cm high.
The armor values are not specified, although they were probably very low given the low weight of just 13.5 tonnes for the base vehicle. However, it was advertised that a new armor package could be installed to optimize protection against kinetic and HEAT shells.
Maintenance-wise, the vehicle was meant to be easily pulled apart, taking just 40 minutes to take out the engine, 35 minutes to take out the gearbox and 25 minutes to take out the final drive unit, all with ‘the simplest of equipment’.
The RO2000 chassis, probably in the form of the RO2001 howitzer, underwent at least 10,000 km of testing in ‘arduous conditions’.
The RO2001 and RO2003 were built, while RO2004 was only partially constructed. The vehicles were displayed at various private arms exhibitions. On paper, they filled the role needed and would have been valuable assets to the British Military. Unfortunately, like so many ideas put forwards, political bickering and incompetence saw interest wain and the UK once again began the ongoing waste of money that became synonymous with its research and development process.
However, the technical simplicity and small size of the RO2000 series were double-edged swords, as they also meant that the vehicles were seen as unsophisticated and hard if not impossible to upgrade and improve. The Royal Ordnance PLC was bought by British Aerospace in 1987, currently known as BAE Systems.
The RO2000 common platform without any combat module installed on the back. This illustration was produced by Brian S. Gaydos, funded by our Patreon Campaign
|Dimensions (L-W)||6.2 x 2.81 meters|
|Propulsion||Perkins TV8-640, 320 hp 8 cylinder turbocharged diesel with T320 automatic 6-speed epicyclic unit|
|Suspension||Transverse torsion bar, 5 per side, telescopic dampers 1,5|
Royal Ordnance files relating to the RO2000 program in the Bovington Tank Museum archives
Royal Ordnance RO2000 series Technical Datasheets
Armoured trials and development unit, Bovington Camp, Report on the RO2000 series, 9 June 1986
Royal Ordnance RO2000 sales brochure
Royal Ordnance RO2000 press release