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pounds 7bn deal hopes for defence giant.

Byline: By Steven Oliver

Defence giant Alvis Vickers today unveiled its plans for a pounds 7 billion contract which would safeguard hundreds of Tyneside jobs for decades.

The Newcastle-based company is closely involved in what will be the biggest contract ever to be offered by the British Army.

Alvis Vickers is already in talks with the Ministry of Defence about the development of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) which will form the backbone of the next generation of the British Army.

It will mean the creation of anywhere between 2,000 and 6,000 vehicles which could be transported by air in a deal worth between pounds 2 billion and pounds 7 billion.

Now the company, which employs 480 people at its Scotswood Road plant, is outlining what it sees as the future of the Army's armoured vehicles at the prestigious Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition in London over the next couple of days.

An Alvis Vickers spokeswoman said: "Although FRES is in a very early stage, we believe we are well placed to make a significant contribution.

"This would be a very important contract for Alvis Vickers and we are keeping our fingers crossed."

FRES business development manager at Alvis Vickers, Peter Cooper, added: "FRES is a demanding programme to deliver a family of medium-weight armoured vehicles.

"It is the biggest programme the British Army has ever seen and will be the largest land programme industry has undertaken.

"Not surprisingly, we are very keen to demonstrate at the exhibition how very seriously we are taking this programme and how we and our partners have the capability and experience to develop, integrate and deliver FRES."

The project was expected to be given the go-ahead to move forward to the next development stage in July, but the Government's Investment Approvals Board - the department responsible for signing off large schemes - has delayed the decision.

Treasury officials are reported to be looking at ways of reducing costs, including putting the project out to international tender. A decision is now expected in autumn.

The vehicles are not due to enter service until around 2009 to 2013 and the exact size and make-up of the new fleet has yet to be decided.

Alvis Vickers will also be using the exhibition to showcase its impressive Multirole Light Vehicle, which won the race to be the British Army's new Future Command and Liaison Vehicle in July.

This resulted in a pounds 200 million order for almost 500 of the highly mobile vehicles, which provide troops with protection against mines and small arms fire.

Managing director of Alvis Vickers Trevor Harrison said the Multirole Light Vehicle selection for the FCLV contract was great news.

He added: "Winning FCLV is a demonstration of our competitiveness and our ability to provide cost-effective solutions to land system requirements".

"As prime contractor for this programme, we are deploying a team of skilled and experienced project managers and engineers to ensure the successful development, delivery and support of FCLV."

Former Challenger 2 project manager, Newcastle-based Les Tyler, has been appointed project executive for FCLV.

He said: "It's an exciting programme and will no doubt be a demanding one too.

"But Alvis Vickers has a lot of experience as prime contractor for programmes involving large numbers of vehicles and I have no doubt we will use our experience and expertise to overcome challenges and to work productively with the Defence Procurement Agency on FCLV."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2003
Words:572
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