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The Ajax Lessons Learned Review ~ Lead Announced

Prototype AJAX on trials in Sweden in early 2019 [Crown Copyright: Jack Eckersley]

On 19 May, Clive Sheldon QC was formally appointed to conduct the follow-on review of the Ajax AFV procurement programme.


UK MoD Update, Whitehall, 23 May 2022: On 19 May, Clive Sheldon QC was formally appointed to conduct the follow-on review of the Ajax Programme.

In December 2021, Ministry of Defence’s Director Health, Safety and Environmental Protection published conclusions and recommendations from his review of health and safety on the Ajax programme. This found failings not only in the handling of health and safety concerns raised during vehicle trials, but also in MoD’s acquisition system more generally.

Clive Sheldon QC will lead the Ajax Lessons Learned Review that will help the department deliver major programmes more effectively in future.

Static AJAX at the 2016 Combined Arms Manoeuvre Display on Salisbury Plain ~ it was put on a low-loader and taken away shortly after this photo was taken [© Bob Morrison]

Terms of Reference

To: Clive Sheldon QC

Aim: In light of the delay to date in delivering the Armoured Cavalry programme (Ajax), you are to conduct an independent focused review into the programme. You should identify lessons and make recommendations to help Ministry of Defence (MoD) deliver major programmes more effectively in future, with a particular focus on how MoD shares and elevates issues across the Department and the commands.

In order to encourage openness, evidence given during the course of the review will not be used in disciplinary proceedings unless there is evidence of gross misconduct, in which case, individuals will be subject to appropriate sanction.

AJAX at IAV 2020 [©Bob Morrison]

Scope: The review should examine the following areas in light of the experience with the Ajax programme, identifying any lessons that can be applied more broadly across defence:

  • how should the leadership, culture and governance in MoD (including in the armed forces and relevant arms-length bodies) relating to the delivery of future major programmes be improved to ensure timely and appropriate elevation of problems to the right levels within the department (including to ministers) and the commands
  • you should focus on systemic and process issues as well as individual action and inaction. This should include looking at whether individuals are aware of how to elevate problems – informally and formally – and whether senior personnel are given appropriate training on acting upon the information received

The review should not examine or make findings on the accuracy of any complaints regarding:

  • the existence of noise and vibration problems on armoured fighting vehicles
  • military communication systems used in armoured fighting vehicles

The review should not consider the ongoing delivery of the Ajax programme. It is the responsibility of General Dynamics Land Systems-UK to deliver a vehicle that is fit for purpose and meets the contractual specification.

The review should seek to avoid making findings on issues which in due course may fall to be determined by other bodies, for example, contractual disputes and personal injury claims.

Resources: Dedicated secretariat support will be provided for the review. You should familiarise yourself with key documents setting out the MoD’s operating model and acquisition processes and evidence that informed major decision points on the programme.

Schedule/Reporting: You will report to MoD ministers through the MoD Second Permanent Secretary and provide regular updates on progress. You should advise ministers of the likely duration of your review within one month of starting.


AJAX is a derivative of the Austro-Spanish ASCOD 2, seen here at BSDA in Bucharest, 20 May 2022
[© Bob Morrison]

¤ Further reading:~


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