The protection of our forces remains a top priority and improvements in armoured fighting vehicles training continue to be made following my written ministerial statement of 15 June 2006, Official Report, column 14WS, that the Department would be seeking alternatives to the Private Finance Initiative as a means of securing improvements in the delivery of this training.
Recent improvements in armoured vehicle training have included the introduction into service of a new 120mm Live Crew Gunnery trainer (Sub Calibre Device) for Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank in June 2006 and an improved Warrior Gunnery Turret trainer that is due to enter service in February 2007. In addition, the Defence Procurement Agency is exploring options for an Enhanced Capability for Armoured Training Systems (ECATS) programme which includes determination of the cost boundaries.
About 50 new vehicles, plus training support, are also being provided to meet the pre-deployment training demands for new vehicles in theatre. I can confirm that, following the statement made on the 24 July 2006, Official Report, columns 74-76WS, refers a pool of about 300 vehicles to be used only on operations is being created including VECTOR, MASTIFF and BULLDOG with a proportion being retained to support pre-deployment training. This pool of vehicles will be resourced from the Conflict Prevention Fund.