General Dynamics brings AJAX vehicle assembly, integration and testing to south Wales

General Dynamics Land Systems-UK, a provider of defence systems, on Monday declared the opening of its new Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) facility at Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, which will provide AJAX vehicles to the British Army.

Following a GBP390m commitment to the Ajax armoured vehicle by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Merthyr Tydfil facility, formerly a disused forklift truck factory, will be transformed into a specialist engineering hub for the British Army’s first fully digitised Ajax vehicles.

The new facility, which will see the creation of 250 new and highly skilled jobs, will undergo significant refurbishment through 2016 and is expected to begin assembling and testing the Army’s next generation Ajax vehicle in 2017. This new vehicle will provide the army with enhanced intelligence, surveillance, protection, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities. The first new AJAX is expected to be completed at the Merthyr Tydfil facility in 2018, with the first Army units to receive the vehicle equipped by mid-2019 and ready to deploy from the end of 2020.

Ajax will form a central component of the UK’s new Strike Brigades that were announced in the Strategic Defence and Spending Review at the end of 2015 and the British Army will be provided with 589 Ajax vehicles that will be delivered in six variants. These will replace the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked).

Initially, limited recruitment will take place for the new facility later this year; however General Dynamics Land Systems-UK said there will be further significant recruitment in mid-2017.

Additionally, the Ajax build programme is supporting 300 jobs at General Dynamics in nearby Oakdale, as well as a  further 2,250 jobs at more than 210 companies across the UK supply chain.

Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales, Philip Dunne MP, Minister for Defence Procurement and Alun Cairns MP, Wales Office Minister, along with representatives of the British Army and other local dignitaries, attended an opening ceremony for the facility, which was dedicated in memory  of a famous Welshman, Sir Tasker Watkins, who earned the Victoria Cross during the Second World War for his gallantry in the face of the enemy.

Dunne remarked: “The opening of this new facility is a major development for both Merthyr Tydfil and the British Army. It is another reminder of the importance of Defence investment right across the UK: the AJAX programme alone is sustaining 2,800 jobs across the country, 550 of which are here in Wales.

“This new facility, like the next generation vehicle it will produce, is more evidence of our GBP178 billion commitment to provide our Armed Forces with the equipment they need. Thanks to the close partnership between the UK Government and industry, this site will spring back in to life as a significant centre of employment and bring in valuable skills with a lasting legacy for the entire region.”