Monday, July 18, 2011

The day of announcements

It is almost like the SDSR came out today, and not last October, such is the scale of today's announcements. They do at least deliver, though, a few good news, an hint of hope, and much needed, much dreamed clarity.

Defence Funding

The MOD has now secured a 1% real term increase per year in the equipment budget from 2015 to 2020, adjusted for inflation. 
In the words of Liam Fox, this ensures that the order for 14 new Chinooks (to be named HC6) to arrive from 2014 onwards, 3 Rivet Joint also in 2014 (with 4 RAF crews already undergoing Rivet Joint conversion training and destined to man US planes until delivery of the UK's ones), conversion of at least one of the CVFs to Cats and Traps, Warrior CSP upgrade and initial F35C orders will all happen.

"The Government has committed to deliver a package of new money, further efficiencies, and adjustment to the future Defence equipment programme, turning the unfunded aspirations of the last Government into real contracts and real equipment. For the first time in a generation, the MOD will have brought its plans and budget broadly into balance, allowing it to plan with confidence for the delivery of the future equipment programme."

This is Liam's promise, and i can only hope that, for once, his words will be proven true: it has been a painful road this far, one signed by cuts, new cuts, more cuts, and constant uncertainty. The MOD will publish a fully funded and balanced 10-year Equipment Plan by September 2011, and the National Audit Office will conduct an affordability audit of this; the first of its kind.

I now hope that this report, coming out in September, will finally offer real clarity about other programmes (FRES SV, which was indicated more than once as in danger, MARS still waiting to start actually delivering, the schedule for the Merlin HC3 mid-life upgrade and navalization), as the MOD completes its studies and planning and comes out of the freeze it has lived in the last long, difficult months. 
FRES SV should be safe, and has been progressing well, and considerably ahead of schedule so far, for a change. However, part of the press and of the Army have expressed uncertainty and fear at the fact that Liam Fox did not provide direct promises about the programme. At 5 to 8 billion, this is a major element of the future budgets, and its fate is likely to be still under study as part of the ratification of the plan to present in September.
Merlin news, and MARS Fleet Tanker news, are both expected this year, and i hope they haven't been delayed. The Merlin decision is particularly urgent since the first helicopter converted has been promised for delivery in 2016, in time to replace the retiring Sea King HC4. The MARS Fleet Tanker requirement is expected to procure a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 tankers (against an original requirement as high as six, but it was another age and another fleet...), with 4 still appearing to be the target. 

It is to be hoped that there will be not just empty words an un-detailed assumptions in the September's report, but actual indications of numbers and plans, in regard also to F35, Future Force Protection Boat, Fast Landing Craft and other procurement efforts. 

In the debate that followed the Defence Transformation announcement, Liam Fox delivered a good news of such epic proportions that it was totally unexpected and that is almost shocking: 

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Secretary of State confirm the exact details of the announcement he made in his statement when he said, “I can therefore now give the go-ahead for the procurement of” a list of things, including “the cat and traps for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers”. Does that mean that both carriers will receive cat and traps?
Dr Fox: That is our plan, and I have agreed to my officials now getting involved in contract negotiations. They were not previously able to do so because we were not guaranteed that we would have the budget. When we make decisions of this nature we must ensure that we have the wherewithal to pay for them. Otherwise, as I have said, they are simply a wish list. 

It can be read here

Reserves and cuts in the number of Regulars in the Army 

The publication of the Basing and Reserves Reviews shows that the commission identified that the Army can meet the vision for Future Force 2020 in a more cost effective way, by changing the balance between Regulars and Reserves. The Government will now proceed with a £1.5bn investment package over the next 10 years, £400m in this Parliament, to enhance the capability of the Reserves and consequently increase their trained strength.

As a result, the department will plan for an Army of around 120,000 comprising of Regulars and Reserves with a ratio of about 70 per cent regulars to 30 per cent Territorial Army: reserves would count roughly 36.000 elements, while the Army regulars will drop to 84.000 by 2020, against an SDSR figure, is worth reminding it, that was provisionally put at 94.000. Approximately 7,000 soldiers will be cut from the Army by 2015, following the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, through a mixture of voluntary and compulsory redundancies and natural wastage. The remaining reduction of 10,000 will take place by 2020. 

It now appears inevitable that the number of Regular infantry battalions will decrease (by probably no less than six), but a stated aim of the Reserve review is to make the reserves more professional, forming more stand-alone units that can deploy and operate on their own, rather than just being attached in small groups across the regular forces. In practice, turn the TA in a british version of the US's National Guard, which has regiments and squadrons fully deployable.
One of the key drivers of the review has been the cost of reserves compared with regular forces. Cost of a TA infantry battalion is 20% of that of a Regular battalion of similar size. The costs of a TA infantry battalion mobilised for 12 months, including a six month operational tour, are 87% of a Regular battalion over
the same period.

The Reserves Review was led by General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the vice-chief of the defence staff, Julian Brazier, an MP and former TA officer, and Lt Gen Graeme Lamb, a highly decorated former SAS commander. In the foreword, they declare: 

“Our Commission has concluded that the UK’s Reserve Forces are in need of significant revitalisation and reorientation. Although continuing to do a remarkable job in many areas … the wider picture is one of relative neglect and decline.
“Our Commission recommends the immediate need for resources to be committed to stabilise and then improve the state of the Reserve. Within this unifying idea, our view is that the Reservist element of the Armed Forces must grow to become a far greater proportion of overall Service manpower.” 

In the UK, the current commitment of reserve forces is below 20 per cent, whereas in the United States the figure is 50.5 per cent, in Canada 44 per cent, and in Australia 37 per cent. This is to change, and the key recommendations of the review are:

• Reservists bring with them a huge range of skills, experience and capabilities and more investment must be made in recruiting, training and better integrating them into the Regular force.
• Consideration should be given to the attribution of Reservists to a wider range of military tasks, especially UK resilience and Homeland Security.
• Defence should adopt a Whole Force Concept, where the Reserve component should be increased. The Reservist element of the Armed Forces must grow to become a far greater proportion of the overall Force Structure.

The force structure and deployment capability set out in the SDSR as part of Future Force 2020 stands confirmed without reductions, which is definitely a good news.

By 2015, the trained strength of the Reserves should be: Royal Navy Reserves/Royal Marine Reserves 3,100; Territorial Army 30,000 and Royal Auxiliary Air Force 1,800. Thereafter the size of the Reservist component should increase further to maximise the cost effectiveness of having a larger Reserve component within the Whole Force.

The Review draws a quite sad picture of the Territorial Army: against an establishment of some 37,000, their research indicates a TA trained strength of about 20,000, but with the suspect that the active trained strength may be as low as 14,000. Current forecasts see the TA ageing and reducing to potentially unsustainable levels by 2015. Morale and officers are also listed as concerns, and it attacks the by now long-running practice of cutting into TA funding each and every time the Army was in financiary trouble. The Review judges that the potential capability of the Army Regular Reserve (35,000 ex-Regular Army
personnel with a reserve liability) is not fully exploited. Of the total Reservist contribution to current operations, the Regular Reserve provides just 6%. The Review notes (ironically) that the TA has been reviewed 7 times in the last years, with the overall effect of mostly causing confusion about the role and objectives of the force.
The main recommendation for the TA is to make early betterment to move ex-Regular personnel to a potentially new type of more accessible Reserve status. The current administrative system for managing transfers of ex-Regulars to the TA also needs updating by migrating the processes, onto the Joint Personnel Administration system as soon as possible. In the short term, this is expected to help bolster TA numbers.

The TA costs in the order of £490M per year. Of this, £173M goes on the annual cost of activity (pay, ammunition, movement, etc); £180M is spent on paying the Civilian and Regular staff costs for those supporting TA training and administration; £60M to the RFCA; £30M to the University Officer Training Corps and £47M other costs (eg infrastructure running costs).

In order to improve the efficiency of Force Generation in the TA, the Review recommends that the Reserve estate should be rationalised in a way that is sensitive to maintaining geographically dispersed local links whilst providing access to training. Once we have rebuilt the officer and non commissioned officer structures, and in the context of more effective Regular:Reserve twinning, the requirements for Regular Permanent Training Staff should be reviewed. And the overall Force Generation ratio within the TA should be optimised so that, if required, a 1:8 ratio of mobilised to non-mobilised Reservists could be sustained.

The Maritime Reserves combine the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) and Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) and its role is to augment the RN and RM. The RNR has 14 shore establishments, all but one commanded by a Reservist. The RMR is based around 5 Headquarters and 24 detachments with each Headquarters commanded by a Regular or Reservist. Together, the Maritime Reserve has a dispersed UK-wide presence which, outside of the Naval Bases, is the only Naval presence in many parts of the country.

The Maritime Reserve’s strength is 2,809 which represents 86% of the target number which the Royal Navy believes is required – known as the ‘liability’. The RNR is at 94% of liability. The RMR is only at 77% of liability, but it is improving due to increased recruit numbers. In addition to the Maritime Reserve, there are approximately 2,500 Sponsored Reserves , predominantly personnel employed within the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The Fleet Reserve, consisting of some 16,000 ex-Regular RN/RM personnel with a Reserve liability, is not widely used, but, with better tracking could be utilised for regeneration.

Since 2003, the Maritime Reserves have continuously provided personnel as both individual augmentees and as formed detachments to operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Northern Arabian Gulf and in support of wider naval operations such as the antipiracy effort off Somalia. Reflecting the flexibility of the Reserve, many individuals have deployed outside of their specialisations, having been trained specifically for the roles
undertaken in theatre. The Maritime Reserve uses the 1 in 3 mobilisation interval (ie a Reservist can be mobilised for one year in every three) enabled by the Reserve Forces Act 1996 (RFA 96). Well over half of the trained strength of the RNR and the majority of the RMR have been mobilised since Operation Telic 1, with many individuals having deployed several times. In addition, 10% of the Maritime Reserve has been employed at any given point on Full Time Reserve Service contracts, although this has reduced within the last

The Commission has also noted that the RNR Air Branch is unusual in that its aircrew contribution contrasts markedly with the more limited Reservist flying capability in the Army and RAF. The RNR Air Branch is currently providing support to operations in Afghanistan, while simultaneously undertaking Search and Rescue missions and training personnel for the Commando Helicopter Force. A range of supporting roles is also
delivered, including specialists embarked in the RN’s Response Force Task Group and personnel working in UK Naval Air Stations. The Branch is commanded by a Volunteer Reservist, with minimal supporting staff and a modest budget, and is a very brilliant example of what the new reserves should deliver.

The Marittime Reserve runs on a paltry £32M per year, sub-divided into £19M for the RNR and £13M for the RMR. £12.2M pa (38%) is spent on Reservist pay, with Regular and civilian staff costing £10.1M pa (31%). Estates currently cost £6.2M pa (16%), although work is being carried out to rationalise the overall footprint and reduce this element. The commission wants the National Security Council to examine the scope for them to contribute to new tasks, including UK coastal security and domestic resilience. The commission also believes that in the longer term the RN should consider greater use of Reservists to man a wider range of roles. The only recommendation for change is a look into the permanent staff and command structure of the reserve, which is judged to absorb too much of the budget.
The Review also interestingly suggest that the Reservists could augment the crew of the P2000 boats to "allow the P2000s to move beyond their current role training university personnel into a coastal security contribution. Personnel from the Maritime Reserve, both sailors and Marines, can be trained to conduct port and riverine security duties, and to conduct boardings." This certainly makes sense, and takes into account the risk of a Mumbai-style terrorist attack coming from the sea. Since Britain's dependence on Sea Trade starts from (quite vulnerable) port facilities, this strengthened coastal security is certainly welcome. 

The RAF Reserve is made up by 2 reserve air forces; the RAF Reserve comprises individuals with previous
Regular service; the Volunteer Reserve component – Royal Auxiliary Air Force – comprises principally reservists without previous regular service. Personnel on Sponsored Reserves commitments serve in a special category of the RAF Reserve. University Air Squadron cadets are excluded from all RAF considerations of ‘Reserves’ as they routinely have no mobilised liability. The Regular Reserve currently consists of 6,000 personnel, who have incurred a 6 year reserve liability through their non-pensionable Regular service.

The RAFR employs personnel in established Reservist posts - providing continuity of outputs at lower cost compared with regulars on ‘contracts’ up to 4 years. These personnel are not routinely mobilised, as their abated Terms and Conditions of Service reflect their stability of employment. Additionally, some 290 RAFR
personnel fill gapped regular posts funded within the regular headcount.

The RAuxAF liability is 1,975 posts – allocated against 20 squadrons/flights - principally against Force Protection, Movements, Medical, Intelligence, Media roles and Flight Operations tasks. Of these roles, only Medical, Media and aircrew do not require professional training from the RAuxAF. The RAuxAF is currently manned to approximately 68% of liability (down from 75% pre-SDSR). Its trained strength is just below 1,000 personnel. This reflects the time taken to train civilians, using on average only 35 training days per year. The RAF believes that the bulk of its technically trained trades are not represented in the Reserve Forces because the time necessary to achieve and sustain technical competence is not available. RAuxAF units are mainly located on RAF bases; their outputs are integrated with those of Regulars. There is no discrete RAuxAF command chain and, because mobilisation takes place through the parent RAF station, there is no requirement for a bespoke mobilisation centre.

The Review recommends that the RAF "now needs to be more vigorous in their application, providing far more opportunities to maximise its use of the Nation’s talent, especially that from the aviation industry." The measures include "Delete 2 RAuxAF Force protection sqadrons and create 2 RAuxAF hybrid squadrons in N. Ireland and NW England" and the transfer of 200 RAF Regular Posts to Full Time reserve. 

The two Special Forces Reserve Regiments are to remain, and be expanded.

The Review also highlights the need for the MOD and NHS to collaborate to maximize the valuable output provided by the Defence Medical Services, to improve their effects at home and during deployments both, noting how, since 2003, Reserves have provided over 40% of the hospital-based personnel for operations in Afghanistan, as the ‘lead unit’ for 50% of the operational tours.

Overall DMS manning numbers (at Oct 2010) are approximately 10,400, of whom 8,200 are Regular personnel and 2,200 are Reserves (2000 Army, 130 RAuxAF, 70 RNR, against establishments of 3400 Army, 230 RAuxAF, 150 RNR). Whilst there are 14 Land Field Hospital Units, of which 11 are Reserve Units, there also 2 RAuxAF Squadrons, and RN Reserves attached to various establishments. The TA also support a range of Land based Units such as 16 Close Support Medical Regiment. The RAuxAF and RNR predominantly deploy individual augmentees, who are used to support strategic aeromedical evacuation
in the case of the RAF, and in the case of the RNR are used to backfill firm base commitments. Whilst recognising the significant contribution that Medical Reserves have made to operations the Commission notes that, in common with DMS Regular cadres, there are a number of shortages. These include consultants in anaesthetics and resuscitation, emergency medicine, trauma and orthopaedics and burns and plastics, as well as nursing shortages in burns and plastics, orthopaedics, emergency medicine and Intensive Treatment Units. Recruitment and retention of qualified medical personnel is achallenge and the long training pathways for clinicians have led to difficulties in attracting personnel once they are qualified. These factors mean that it has been difficult to increase Medical Reserve numbers.

The review recommends to commit to returning formed sub-units to ‘the fight’, and continue to use units in more permissive environments entailing a return to collective training at unit and sub-unit level: TA and RMR, plus some opportunities in RNR and RAuxAF. The Reserves must become a more integrated
part of the routinely deployable Whole Force. Their roles must be clearly defined and ideally they should be part of a predictable and/or recurring deployment cycle, where readiness changes can be anticipated well in advance. A proportion of these may be individual augmentees, as it will normally be easier for individual Reservists, rather than Reserve units, to respond to shorter-notice demands. Where collective Reservist groups are needed as formed sub-units (or units if the situation is sufficiently permissive), the training and maintenance burden should be minimised, and we should examine best practice abroad in order to develop an efficient mechanism to deliver appropriate training, deployment and recovery within a 12 month mobilised period. The exception might be in areas where the skill set is almost directly transferable from the Reservists’ civilian life and/or embodied in ex-Regulars, or, where a Sponsored Reserve contract can be arranged with industry, Reserve units could undertake highly complex tasks and for shorter periods – the field hospitals are an example. Alternatively, tasks for Reserve units should be selected where the threat, and therefore the training level required, is less demanding, eg UN operations in Cyprus and the UK’s security commitment to the Falkland Islands.

The Review recommends an increase of the Marittime Reserve requirement for trained personnel from 2400 to 3100 as this is justified by current tasks. This will have to build, however, on a current real trained force of only 1900. 
The TA currently has 20.000 trained men and a requirement for 37.000, the Review sets a requirement for 30.000 trained men, noting that this would mean that roughly 8000 more would be undergoing training.
It recommends increasing the TA unit's size to achieve critical mass and maximize effects of training, even disbanding some "poorly manned nationally recruited" TA formations in the process. The exact new ORBAT will not be known for some time, and will have to fit within the new MRB-shaped regular forces ORBAT.
The Review judges the Royal Auxiliary Air Force oversized for the post SDSR world, and recommends decreasing from a requirement for 2000 men to 1800. The commission however also note that "if a robust analysis of the prospects for putting elements of the RAF at lower readiness were to be carried out, as we believe it should, there is scope for a considerable increase in Reserve numbers, and a reduction of Regular manpower."

The Review condemns the cuts made in the last 4 years to the Reserves: 280 or more million that will have to be poured back in, in addition to at least 309 million more.
The whole review can be read here.

Headquarters and Brigades 

A surprise, considering what was written into the SDSR, is the announcement that there will be no Regional Brigade closure. The SDSR had announced that "at least 2" Regional Brigades HQs would be closed/amalgamated, while now the revised Army's AVANTI project has delivered the current structure, where the Regional Divisions 

HQ 2nd Division at Edinburgh - disbanded
HQ 4th Division at Aldershot - disbanded
HQ 5th Division at Shrewsbury - disbanded

will all disband, and they will be replaced by a single 2-star support command, which will be based in Aldershot. The move to a single Support Command appeared in the SDSR, so it is not a surprise.

It is not specified, but it is almost certain that, compliant to the SDSR, one between 1st and 3rd UK Divisions will have their HQ structure downsized and stripped of its deployability, with the transition to a deployment option of a sole 3-brigades division.  

The Army has concluded that 19 Light Brigade in Northern Ireland should be disbanded. This leaves 1st, 4th, 12th, 7th and 20th Brigades, which will mutate into the new Multi Role Brigades. 
In the words of Liam Fox: 

"Army brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five multi-role brigades. The other two MRBs will be based in the east of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh. The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Government. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars, increasing the number of posts there from 1,200 to more than 1,300. Consequently, the Typhoon force due to be built up there will instead be built up at RAF Lossiemouth. Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle barracks and eventually Arbroath, as we intend over time to bring the bulk of the Royal Marines together in the south-west. We are also planning to place Army units in Kinloss in around 2014-15, continuing its long-term relationship with defence." 

Basing and Re-Basing

A driving force behind the review of basing is the military requirement. By 2020, the Army will be made up of five Multi-Role Brigades (MRB) of around 6,000 people. These brigades need to be geographically close to suitable training areas so they can prepare for deployment, and there are already been suggestions that the MOD is looking at creating a "scottish Salisbury Plain" for the exercises of the troops based in the North.
According to the MOD's website, the military requirement appears to also be the "only" reason for the changes, but we well know that basing is expected to have a part in delivering savings and cut costs. Arguably, this is the true main target of the exercise. 

The changes to military basing announced by the Defence Secretary include:

• Former RAF bases and existing Army bases in the east of England will accommodate one Army MRB, concentrated in Cottesmore, North Luffenham, Bassingbourn and Woodbridge

• Lyneham will be the preferred location for future Defence Technical Training, spelling the end of the 14 billion pounds Defence Technical College plan in St. Athan in Wales, which should however benefit from expansion in Cyber Warfare and Special Forces Support Group, which will see many more jobs created here.

• The other Army MRB will be in Scotland, centred on Edinburgh. The base at Kirknewton, south east of Edinburgh, will be developed into a major Army base. A Multi-Role Brigade will be based here.

• The Typhoon Force will be built up at RAF Lossiemouth which will become the base for the Northern QRA missions. Leuchars will cease to be an RAF base but will be used to house two major Army units and a headquarters. Flying will continue at both Leuchars and Lossiemouth until at least 2013

• It is also planned that Army units will move into Kinloss around 2014/15.

The decision to transfer the 6 Sqn (Typhoon) and North Quick Reaction Alert service currently based at Leuchars to RAF Lossiemouth was only reportedly finalised last Friday, although rumours of the move had been circulating for months. Rumours to which i've contributed with this blog, as the option always felt the most likely and smart even since it first was touted.
RAF Marham in Norfolk remains open, primarily because it is the only Tornado servicing facility. This comes as absolutely no surprise to me: RAF Marham was pretty much invulnerable due to the Tornado maintenance and logistics being based there, making any prospect of moving it all elsewhere a financial and operational nightmare.
RAF Lossiemouth is home to Tornado training, included 15 Sqn, the Tornado OCU: simulators and classrooms and OCUs could of course be relocated far more easily than logistics, but keeping them where they are was always going to be the easiest solution of all. Lossie is (was...?) also the base expected to host the F35 fleet in future.
RAF Leuchars is currently home to the 6 Sqn, which will relocate onto Lossie and continue providing QRA from there. It is likely that all Tornado sqns, save the OCU, will move out of Lossiemouth and into Marham, leaving space for the stand-up of the last two planned Typhoon squadrons. One, expected to be 43 Sqn, should reform this year, with the last standing up in 2012.

Since my hypothesis about the basing decisions have been proven correct, i'll challenge luck and put forwards another forecast: Tornado training will remain in Lossie, alongside the growing Typhoon force. However, the base will probably be unable to have the once-planned role as F35 base, in addition to 3 Typhoon squadrons and the QRA North service. 
Marham now appears, to me, as the most likely candidate for being the future F35 home, which means that both Lossie and Marham might have secured their future for many, many years to come. Time will tell if i'm right or not. 

Scotland is to get a sizeable share of the Army, and Faslane is also going to expand as the SSN fleet leaves Devonport to be based up on the Clyde, so this should be a more than decent balancement of the loss of air bases. However, changes mean that three barracks in Edinburgh – Dreghorn, Redford and Craigiehall – are due to be closed down and sold off by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
As part of the UK government’s review of the country’s defence strategy, RM Condor in Arbroath will lose the 45 Commando Royal Marines, which will relocate towards Devonport. The move will end a relationship with RM Condor that has lasted four decades since the unit was moved there from Plymouth in 1971. The unit was originally moved Arbroath to be closer to Norway primarily for Arctic training to allow the UK to deal with the Soviet threat, but now this advantage is now very relative, while concentrating the 3rd Commando Brigade in the south will have much greater overall benefits. 
Condor, like Leuchars, will become an army base, as will RAF Kinloss, the closure of which was announced months previously. The home of the Black Watch, Fort George, in Inverness, escaped the axe in the review. At least for now, as much will depend by which battalions will get the axe as the new ORBAT is finalized. 

Scotland Bases and Forces

Bases Current position Future position

The army will take over RAF Leuchars and RAF Kinloss. The army will also take over RM Condor near Arbroath when 45 Commando (currently in Afghanistan) move south, but this may eventually close too. The army will join the Royal Navy at MoD Caledonia Rosyth, Fife.
Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh Home to the 1st Battalion, the Royal regiment of Scotland (Royal Scots Borderers). It has approximately 550 soldiers, plus their families. Will close
Glencorse Barracks, Midlothian Home to the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Royal Highland Fusiliers). It has approximately 550 soldiers, plus their families. Will receive extra investment
Fort George, Inverness Home to the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Black Watch). It has approximately 550 soldiers, plus their families No change
Fallingbostel, Germany Home to 4th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Highlanders) who are currently on operations in Afghanistan. It has approximately 550 soldiers, plus their families. It is unclear at this stage whether they will be among those returning home
Canterbury Home to the 5th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders). It has approximately 550 soldiers, plus their families. No change expected
Glasgow Home to 52nd Lowland 6th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (TA). No change at the moment, but likely to have increased role in future
Perth Home to 51st Highland 7th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (TA). No change at the moment, but likely to have increased role in future
Redford Infantry Barracks, Edinburgh Home to the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles. Will close
Craigiehall Camp, near Edinburgh It is the administrative HQ for Second Division (approx 150 military and civilian staff). Also includes bomb disposal, defence infrastructure and personnel recovery unit.
Looks after four brigades in Scotland, North of England and Northern Ireland (51 Brigade, Stirling; 38 Brigade, Lisburn; 42 Brigade, Preston; 15 Brigade, York)
Will close and Second Division will be disbanded. In future these four brigades will report directly to Aldershot
Stirling The HQ for 51 Brigade. It has approximately 60 staff, overseeing administration and discipline for all units in Scotland. No change except 51 Brigade will report directly to Aldershot in future

Further detail on the basing is probable to continue emerging for a long time. The MOD website so far has not made available a document on the Basing Review. I will keep an eye open for any and all additional news that will be released.


  1. Hi Gabriele,
    Great article, and great site.
    In respect of the regular infantry battalion's, I assume that you think; 5 4 battalion bridages, (20 bns), 4 battalions in 3 commando, and 16 Air assault brigades,(8 bns), 2 in Cyprus, 2 on Public duties, and 1 in Brunei. So 39 down to 33 (Including the 3 RM Cdo Bn's).
    On another note, Puma upgrade programme? Shelved?


  2. Thank you for wandering over, Phil, i'm glad you like the site, i try to keep it updated timely whenever i can.

    My thinking is that each MRB will have 1 Armored, 1 Mechanized, 2 Light Role Infantry battalions.

    So 20 Battalions of various nature indeed.
    4 Battalions in 3rd Commando Brigade (3 Commandos, 1 Army-amphibious)
    1 PARA - Special Forces Support/16 AA
    2 PARA Battalions + 2 Air Mobile infantry in 16AA
    1 Battalion in Brunei
    2 Battalions in Public Duty/Light Role
    2 Light Role battalions as Regular Reserve

    Army: down from current 37 to 30 Battalions.
    Navy: 3 Commandos groups confirmed
    RAF Regiment: Sqns confirmed but with two of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment Sqns becoming "multi-role" as stated in the Reserves review.

    As for the Puma upgrade, the first upgraded Puma HC2 has flown, but Liam Fox did not specifically confirm the programme.
    I believe it should be safe, but just like with FRES SV, the details will probably be known only in the Equipment programme report coming out in September, for which i'm anxiously waiting.

    The programme for the Puma update has been meeting some hostility, not just from me, but from military and parliamentary members which see little sense in spending as high as 14 million pound on old airframes just to give them roughly 10 more years of service, especially since you can only improve the Puma so much...
    There was who favored, all along, a smaller buy of new airframes instead, and i've been a supporter of this for a long time.

    Anyway, better Puma than nothing. The upgrade should go ahead, i believe... but it is on the list of the easy cuts if it can't be fit into the budget. We'll have to wait September to have clear ideas of the situation.

    Thanks for coming over, and for commenting!


  3. Hi Gabriele,
    I am an ex British infantry soldier, and I take a keen interest in things military.
    You site has told me more, than any other that I can find on the UK armed forces present and future. So thank you for that.
    Somthing I don't understand, why when there will be 107 typhoons, is there only to be 5 operational Sqns? (60 airtcraft?).
    Do you think there will be any cuts to the number of armoured regiments? They say 2 per brigade, 1 MBT and 1 Recce, as there is only likly to be 2 Sqns of MBT per MBT role Regt, won't the remaining Sqn's be Recce role anyway?
    A whole Regt of 3/4 Recce role Sqn's seems ovekill for one brigade?


  4. Thank you for coming over and for reading, and congratulations for your past service, too.
    There's no need to thank me, anyway: my love story with the british armed forces is long, and by now years-old. I'm the italian once-kid who's always dreamed to be a Spitfire pilot, even if now ironically my pro-aircraft carrier position gains me lot of accuses of being a PTT slave and a RAF hater and all that...
    But anyway. The point is that it is a pleasure for me to stay informed about the armed forces... the blog is also, for me, a diary in which i "save" the new info i manage to dig up during the day. Sharing is only an added pleasure to it all.

    As to your questions. Well, 60 Typhoons will be in frontline sqns, plus 6 in 17th Sqn (OEU) and 12 more in 29th Sqn, the fleet's OCU. That makes the "flying fleet" 78 planes out of 107, which means 29 spare/rotational airframes.
    A bit high, but the RAF has always worked on these lines in modern time. They rotate airframes in and out of reserve to try and make them all age "fairly", so to stretch the fleet's useful life longer.

    I don't think there will be cuts in the Armored Regiments, not in the regular ones, at least: despite the uplift in spending in the Reserve, the TA armoured battalions might be scaled back/amalgamated/given new roles, as there will be a lot less Challengers around.

    In the Army section here on the site you can see my assessment of the 40% cut in MBTs. I believe the holding prior to cut was 345 tanks, so i think around 207 tanks should remain... which (hopefully) should limit the cut to the return from 2 Type 58 and 3 Type 44 regiments to a force of 5 x Type 38 regiments.
    In a Type 38, two tanks would be in the HQ and 36 in 4 Sqns, so it would be less of a dramatic change.

    As to the Formation RECCE, i don't think there's any appetite for cutting more historical names than strictly necessary, and the regiments will survive. I also think to remember that the SDSR document contained a quite unmistakable indication of MRBs each with their own Tank and Recce regiments.

    The structure of the Brigade Reconnaissance Regiment, however, is not set in stone. I believe 3 Sqns of FRES Scout will remain the plan (some 270 Scouts are expected to be ordered) while there might be additions shaped from the Afghan experience, so perhaps a "Light" Sqn on Jackal, and sniper troops, Forward Air Attack Controllers and other specialists.

    I hope at some point there will be a clear plan announced: there was a parliamentary answer some time ago who said that the cut to the Challenger and AS90 fleets were "complete", but as far as i'm aware no one has explained, yet, what does it exactly mean: what's the new official structure of the regiments and batteries? What will be done with the retired vehicles?
    I wish they could finally let us know, really.


  5. Any idea as to what they mean by 'Hybrid' Sqn means, with regards to RauxAF There's nothing in the report, a merging of which trades?

  6. It might mean that the Squadrons will have a role in Cyberwarfare in addition to a Force Protection role, or it might even have to do with collaborating with the RA on a C-RAM system. The SDSR mandates one as part of FF2020, after all.

    But indeed, it is not clear.

  7. I think C-RAM would be a reg job.

    The only thing I can think of is that it would 'accept' more trades; the extra police and others could be part of the sqn, it would give them a formed unit to come under.

    That's the only thing that I can think of. The thing is most of the sqn's are in name only, hugely undermanned, and there fore are only able to add indviduals or form very small formed units.

  8. Hi Gabriele,

    Seen this in the press; "a proposal revealed in a leaked memo to officers from Gen Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff. According to Gen Wall, an extra 5,000 soldiers face losing their jobs, in addition to the 7,000 redundancies already announced. As he put it, “we must assume that these reductions will require the further removal of formed battalions and regiments from the force structure, including the combat arm"

    Any comment, is this the army moving on the last weeks statement already?


  9. I believe the MOD denied any plan for additional early cuts. The 10.000 announced reduction is officially intended to take place after 2015.
    So it shouldn't actually happen for now. But in the case, yes: it would be part of the work for following the plan outlined in the announcements of Liam Fox.

    I've also noticed on the press that the rumors about the destiny of this battalion or that one are already coming up.
    The Argyll and Southerland Higlanders and the 4 SCOTS The Higlanders might both be turned into TA battalions or closed down, and i even saw rumors of closure for the Coldstream Guards, which i regard as extremely unlikely, as it would be a truly shocking thing to announce due to what such regiment represents historically...

    I don't want to follow the rumors too much, though, as they are often wild speculation, and they would just sadden and confuse me.
    Some battalion will go, that's for sure, but i'll wait until things are a bit more secure before worrying about this or that formation.

    Thanks again for following my rants on here, and for commenting.

  10. Hi Gabriele,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I think your right, it's to early to tell yet what battalions will go.

    I can see the smaller Regiments being forced into larger ones, as The Rifles, and Scottish Regiment have been. I think there must be fewer regiments if they cut 6 battalions. There are still a couple that have not formed, "the large regiments", as instructed. I think the army wants infantry regiments to have a minimum of 3 regular battalions, which to me makes sense.

    As for the guards, they have many powerful friends, but even they may not escape this time. I can see one large Guards Regiment, maybe 3 or 4 battalions, the 1st battalion being The Coldstream, 2nd The Grenadiers, etc. Which would bring them into line with the rest of the infantry. However the Household units seem to have a guardian angel were defence cuts are concerned, so I wouldn't bet on it!

    Do you sense I am not a fan of the Guards? ;-)


  11. Yeah, i do sense it, to say the least...!

  12. Hi Gabriele,

    A few questions about the F35.

    I assume Dr Fox is in the US ordering a number of F35’s, any ideal how many?
    Will the US Marines buy those 3 F35’s we don’t want (wrong version).
    I did read that this version was going to be cancelled by congress, but I have just read the US Marines are still keen to go ahead, test flying the other day?
    What’s the cost saving of going for cats and traps and the US Navy version of F35, as opposed to US Marines version of the F35?
    As it looks like the US defence are going to suffer some big cuts, what looks at risk, the F35 programme itself?
    Landing using cats and traps are more risky, what's loss rate of aircraft?

    Sorry, I couldn't seem post this on the F35 article


  13. Officially, the 138 F35 figure still stands.
    A slightly more realistic long-term ambition was expressed post SDSR by Bagwll (RAF's Group 2 commander) in "around 100".
    An ideal plan, which i believe is the sole realistic target (economically realistic and militarily realistic, as having less would greatly reduce the usefulness of having them at all) is for 80 planes, with 4 squadrons of 12 planes each.

    For now there's no firm indication on the orders. According to the latest (but still now outdated, since it is dated November 2009) F35 production plan the UK could get 36 planes by 2020, 80 by 2023, with orders of production planes starting in 2013.
    "Around 40" with "a single large squadron with around 20 planes, combining Frontline and OCU role by 2020" was also a figure which circled post SDSR, which you might have heard and remember, so it would overall fit. Bagwell talked of such a scenario as well.

    By the recent words of the RN Admiral that leads the Carrier Strike project at the hearing a few days ago, it emerged that the operational fleet in 2020 will count 18 planes, with 6 expected to start featuring regularly on the carrier, with progressive work-up towards 12.
    18 is roughly compatible with what Bagwell said in 2010, about a single squadron of around 20 planes, including OCU Flight.
    18 planes, with 6 operational, leaves 12 for OCU work, training the pilots for the expansion of the force.

    The UK is late for changing the first 2 of its test planes: they will be F35B, and it is unlikely that this can be changed. Luckily, they will still do to train deck handlers (very similar sizes and arrangements), maintenance crew, and for studying avionics and such.

    The third F35B, if current negotiations are succesful, will go to the US Marines in exchange for an F35C.

    The F35B is on a two-years probation. By the end of 2012/13 it must meet its development targets and demonstrate it is viable, or it'll be cancelled.
    The US Marines continue to bet heavily on it, though, and understandably since it is going to be the only option for arming with fixed wing jets their LHAs. A one-horse race that would hurt the Marines badly if the one horse died before arriving...

    The F35 numbers for the US could be lowered some due to cuts to the budget, but the programme appears safe.

    So far, the cost of going Cats is 950 million pounds, which are being reserved for the conversion of the carrier.
    This is balanced by a 1 billion programme cancellation, as the RAF, getting the F35C, has seen satiated its requirement for Deep and Persistent Attack Capability.
    The F35C through-life cost is projected as 25% lower than that of F35B as well, further making the switch attractive. Unitary cost is also expected to be lower.

    Loss rate, i don't know. In the 60s it was quite damn high, but these days losses are rare. I think the French since the Rafale navale introduction have lost only one, for example, and not for cats/traps problems but for an engine failure.
    I would say that the loss rate should be reasonably comparable to that of land based planes, these days.

    I hope i answered to your questions. I await anxiously for more details on the F35 purchase plan... hopefully the equipment procurement plan announced for September will contain some valid indication.


  14. Thanks Gabriele.

    I see the F22 programme was stopped at less than 200 aircraft. I also heard that that the F35 programme was "unaffordable," as the cost per aircraft was to high.
    As the cost of aircraft goes ever higher, do you think the next generation of fighter aircraft is going to be one high specification type and one low specification type? With european air forces having a few high spec aircraft, with the bulk of they sqn's having a low spec aircraft.I can't see anyone being able to build a high spec multi role fighter other than the US in the future, but a could a low spec aircraft be built by someone like India?


  15. 187 F22, indeed. But it is not a cut of these days, it is already "old". Production line was ordered to be closed after 187 airplanes.

    If you listen to all rumors and opinions, everything is either easy to afford or unaffordable.
    The UK has every interest to go down the F35 route due to massive ensured industry revenues, but of course, the F35 is quite expensive. Not as much as people imply, as it is, really, kind of in line with the cost of all other modern fighters in the end. Problem is that it was promised to cost 40 or 50 million dollars, while now it can easily cost 120 to 150...!
    The unrealistic figure was always going to be the first one...

    And interestingly, the F35 borns as the "low specification" type: the F22 was intended as "High end" F15 replacement, while the F35 had to be the "F16" of the situation, merry, cheap everything-doing workhorse to complement the numbers of the F22.

    Problem is that over 1000 F15s were built, including F15E, against just 187 F22s, and the F35 is also far more expensive than it had been hoped.


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