Following an audit report on the “Efficiency of the Procurement of 8×8 Wheeled Combat Vehicles for the Slovenian Armed Forces”, the Slovenian government announced on 15 September 2022 that it had decided to withdraw from the BOXER procurement programme.
Just a few months prior, on 11 May, the then Minister of Defence Matej Tonin signed a procurement contract for 45 BOXER 8×8 armoured vehicles valued at €343m with OCCAR, the European procurement agency. At the same time, Slovenia had also been accepted into the OCCAR BOXER programme as an observer.
Under the terms of the contract, the first BOXER was to be delivered in 2023, reportedly intended for trials, to verify compliance with Slovenia’s requirements. The other vehicles were to be delivered in three batches, consisting of nine units in 2024, 22 units in 2025, and 13 units in 2026.
According to the Slovenian government, initial invoices for development and operating costs totalling around €10m have already been received. The withdrawal from the contract will cause further costs. The OCCAR has provisionally estimated costs amounting to 20 per cent of the contract value, which would be up to €60m.
Audit Report from Slovenia
The Ministry of Defence’s audit report criticises above all the insufficient examination of available alternative offers. A review of the decisions would not be possible, since the available offers were differently itemised. The report stated that the process had focused too early on the BOXER, and that less-costly alternatives were not examined, such as requesting a proposal from Poland’s Rosomak SA, the producer of the ROSOMAK (Poland’s domestically-produced variant of the Patria Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV) 8×8) to upgrade the AMVs already in Slovenian service, where they are referred to as ‘SKOV Svarun’.
The Slovenian army announcement stated that while the BOXER met the Slovenian Armed Forces’ minimum requirements for firepower, ballistic and mine protection, manoeuvrability and tactical characteristics, the internal audit believed that the most expensive solution had been chosen in 2018. The decision to privilege higher ballistic and mine protection than the minimum requirements had led to a smaller choice of 8×8s, and consequently, to a higher price. For these reasons, the audit was not able to judge that the purchase of the BOXER was economical.
Building New Battalions
The Slovenian Ministry of Defence puts the creation of a medium infantry combat battalion and a medium combat reconnaissance battalion at the centre of its considerations. According to the ministry, the medium infantry combat battalion requires vehicles in a number of variants in addition to the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) variant. The list includes 120 mm mortar carriers, ambulance, recovery, and command variants. According to the ministry’s assessment, the expenditure for this would amount to €1.4Bn. The Act for the “Provision of Funds for Investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces” currently earmarks only €609m for this purpose in the period 2021-2026. According to estimates by the General Staff, at least €433m more would be needed over this period.
The cost estimate for the medium combat reconnaissance battalion is not yet available. It is expected that the reconnaissance vehicles would be more expensive than the medium infantry combat vehicles due to their additional requirements. This leads to an estimated cost of around €800m for such a battalion, but this figure does not include the infrastructure, training and life cycle of the equipment, which would require further spending.
By reducing the procurement of the intended number of 8×8s, selecting a cheaper supplier and upgrading their existing 30 AMV APCs, the ministry aims to achieve savings of at least €400m. One likely candidate to meet these requirements is the ROSOMAK, which is already produced in most of the required configurations. Its protection also meets Slovenian requirements and the ROSOMAK has already been combat proven in Afghanistan. The ministry did not want to comment on contacts with suppliers, which had already been rumoured in June.