Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Future Force 2020 - Royal Artillery

After the post about the Future Force 2020 numbers, as promised, i'll be delving into an in-depth look into the new force structure that the Armed Forces might end up assuming. In these posts, i'll try to put all the information i can dig up, and always give precedency to the actual plan of the MOD, or at least to the collection of rumors and stories about the official plan.
I will also expose my own idea of a balanced, full-spectrum (albeit small) FF2020 force structure, trying to keep it realistic, and always making it clear that it is pure suggestion and speculation, separating facts from wishes.

The first article will be about the Royal Artillery. This is due to many factors: artillery used to be the "queen of the battle", and the invention of air power has not yet really changed this, despite appareances of the contrary. Moreover, some really excellent, detailed post-SDSR informations about the RA is available in an awesome online document (the Royal Artillery Briefing Bulletin 2010) and on the most recent numbers of 'The Gunner', the RA's journal, which also allowed me to deduce and collect useful information.

3) Future Force 2020 and the Royal Artillery

The British Army is working to deliver massive reductions in manpower while simultaneously working to adopt an updated, Afghanistan-informed, new Combined Arms Maneuver Doctrine, informed by the "Future Character of Conflicts" study, dated 2009. This effort is to give us the new Army structure, the Multi-Role Brigades, the cuts in manpower and formations and the updated, trimmed and re-aligned equipment programme, hopefully in a coherent package.
The effort is known as TAS, Transformational Army Structure, and it spells reductions in all components of the Army, big or small.
With an exception. The Royal Artillery is the only branch which has a TAS option (so, a possibility, not a certainty) for an overall increase of up to 1700 men.

As i've discussed on this blog and elsewhere, i personally was expecting a possibility like this, even before i learned of its effective existence by reading the already quoted bulletin. My belief came out of the direct experience of operations in Afghanistan, which see the RA busy in a huge array of roles, and hard-pressed as rarely before. Indicatively, out of the 9500 combat troops deployed by the UK in Afghanistan, at any one time around 850 (9%) are Royal Artillery personnel. This is very significant, especially considering that the RA makes up around 8% of the Army's force. In particular, the RA is covering roles such as:

Fire Support – its traditional mission. Until last year, this involved many L118 Light Guns (there's been a reduction in numbers of guns after the US Marines "surge" in Helmand) and even two whole troops of GMLRS deployed at all times (reduced after the surge to "half a battery", thus one single troop of 4 launchers).

Fire Support Teams – pre-Afghanistan, this role had been kind of neclected. Now, each Herrick deployment sees a minimum of 22 FSTs on the ground, accompanying troops in the patrols and sorties, to direct mortar, artillery and air attacks on the enemy positions. FST have become, in a word, simply fundamental. A Fire Support Team is capable to operate with other NATO assets, and timely call-in and direct any kind of strike, from an air attack to mortars. These small squads of six specialists are in extremely high demand, and personnel of the RA has been and continues to be trained in the role, with men picked up from almost all regiments, included the Air Defence ones, in order to be able to sustain the high numbers required by constant ops. A number of Warrior FV514 mounted FSTs are employed as well.
This is a role that has already been cleared to return stable and included in core budget and activities, even post-Afghanistan.
It would appear a lesson learned. Thankfully!

Covert Observation – This is the job of the guys of 4/73 Sphynx Battery (STA/Special Ops) from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery. They infiltrate enemy territory by foot, helicopters, jeeps or other means, and set up hidden observation posts. This kind of ops has been in high demand too, and the single battery devoted to this work has obviously been hard pressed to cover the demand, also because 4/73 Bty remains a major supplier of FSTs as well. The support supplied by the Honorable Artillery Company (the corresponding TA formation) has been invaluable, but arguably not sufficient in itself.

Drones – The Royal Artillery saw a colossal expansion of demand in drones coverage, and is working to respond to the needs of the forces. It mans the leased Hermes 450 force of drones in Afghanistan, supplying 5 different task lines, and it also uses the Desert Hawk III mini-drone, also in great demand, supplying 5-men DHIII detachments to troops on the ground. It is preparing to put in service the 54-strong fleet of Watchkeeper drones, between the end of this year and the next one, and will do so by operationally deploying the Watchkeeper OCU in Afghanistan, providing a Sixth drone task line, even as the system is worked into service!
The expansion in this role has seen 47 Regiment quitting its Air Defence role, to become a full-time second Drone regiment, joining 32 RA (and 104 TA as reserve formation) in the unmanned air system world.

Base ISTAR – Defending FOBs and bases in Afghanistan has required the addition of a complex "system of systems", the Cortez, which involves a multitude of sensors ensuring constant imaging coverage of the base and its surroundings. It is a new and demanding role spurred by direct Afghan experience, and it is taking up a significant share of the RA's effort: so far, the demand has been met by 5th Regiment, TA personnel, and re-roled batteries from 12 and 16 RA (the remaining air defence formations) which are trained for Base-ISTAR before deployment, before returning to their original role afterwards. It is evident that too much is being asked out of the single STA/ISTAR/Special Ops regiment (5th), and it is also undeniable that B-ISTAR is here to stay in the future, and that re-roling batteries "as it happens" leaves gaps elsewhere and is not efficient. Thus is another area in expansion that could and should get TAS's attention.

Counterbattery Surveillance – Again, meet the 5th Regiment RA, the busiest unit of the Army! Cobra and MAMBA radars for the detection of incoming enemy fire, Sound Ranging, old school but always effective, Automated Sense and Warn system, and control and de-confliction of the often busy afghan airspace (crowded by airplanes, helicopters, and mortar/artillery shells and rockets, which you don't want hissing by your Chinook!). 5th Regiment does it all, constantly.

This is of course in addition to all the rest that's asked out of the RA, such as maintaining a constant deployment of a Rapier battery in the Falklands, keeping at readyness a force of AS90, Self Propelled HVM air defence, Rapier and other assets for unforeseen emergencies and so along.

I think it is clear that there are good reasons for trying to increase manpower! Besides, the SDSR mandates for the future a permanent capability in C-RAM: the Royal Artillery's experience in this sense is the UOR for Iraq ops, met with a leasing of a few Centurion gun systems (prepared by Raytheon in the US using Phalanx CIWS mounts supplied by the Royal Navy). Current status of the Centurion is unclear: it has not been deployed in Afghanistan, and while it still appears (briefly) in the web page of 16 Regiment, it would appear that Centurion was not taken into core budget, with the trailers returning to the US and the Phalanx mounts (upgraded to 1B standard as part of the Centurionization) have been handed back to the RN.
This potentially opens a new road for the RA, that of long term C-RAM role.

For now, despite the option for increase in manpower, the Royal Artillery is set to lose 40 Regiment, the only Regular Light Gun regiment, which will be formally disbanded and put in "suspended animation" next year, as part of the closure of 19 Light Brigade, of which it was a part.

It might soon return, perhaps as a C-RAM/B-ISTAR formation, if the TAS option can be taken up. There certainly is an evident need for such a formation: problem is, can funding be squeezed out of somewhere to take this path?

Formations, Equipment, Plans

Joint Ground Based Air Defence (JGBAD)

Based at HQ Air Command, RAF Honington, the JGBAD is the formation tasked with ensuring the Army has organic, coherent and effective ground based air defence. JGBAD has its main force in 16 Regiment RA with its batteries of Rapier Field Standard C, and provides an integrated picture of what's going on in the air thanks to the JAPPLE (Joint Air Picture Provision of the Land Environment) subunit. The formation is closely supported by 106 (V) Territorial Army regiment, a mixed Rapier and HVM Starstreak missile formation. JGBAD does not control the Royal Marines Air Defence Troop, nor 12 Regiment RA, the SHORAD air defence regiment of the Army, but has close links with both formations.

12 Regiment and 47 Regiment used in fact to be under direct Divisional command (12 is part of 1 UK Division, 47 provided air defence to 3 UK Division), but with the 47 Regiment conversion to drones, the 12 Regiment will be the sole SHORAD formation of the Army from April 2012. I believe this might well be the prelude to the transfer of 12 Regiment into the JGBAD frame.

On the equipment front for these formations:

FLAADS(L) – The Future Local Area Air Defence (Land) system, also known as CAMM (Common Anti-air Modular Missile), is the in-development replacement for Rapier Field Standard C. With a range of 20+ kilometers, the CAMM will be a quantum leap in capability from Rapier, and will not be a towed but a fully self-propelled system: the current Land launcher proposed by MBDA is planned to be showcased at DSEI in September, and is built on a MAN SV HX60 4x4 truck, mounting a crane for self-reloading, and 12 launch tubes for CAMM missiles. As by now largely known, the CAMM is ejected "cold" from the canister by compressed air and a pistol, which fire the missile 100 ft into the air before its rocket ignites, making integration of the missile easy on all kind of launching platforms, very differenly from missiles such as ASTER, MICA, ESSM and all others, which are launched "hot", requiring a far more complex canister and launcher vehicle, capable to handle the stress, flames, heat and exhaust of an hot launch. 

The FLAADS(L) launcher vehicle, coherent with the SV MAN truck fleet

CAMM is also radar-agnostic, receiving target cueing from any kind of external radar source via data link or (probably) by more secure direct optic fiber connection when this is deemed necessary (as done with the SAMP-T SAM batteries, the land version of Sea Viper used by France and Italy) . Graphics show FLAADS getting cueing from the Blindfire radar (now used for Rapier) and by Giraffe ABM both.

Entry into service should begin in 2018. Current Rapier Out Of Service date is 2020.

Rapier FSC – The Rapier batteries are active since last year with a new towing vehicle, a MAN truck "prime mover" specifically modified and kitted for Rapier ops.

JAPPLE, LEAPP, Automated Sense and Warn - The Joint Air Picture Provision of the Land Environment is active in Helmand since 2008. A team of eight, split between Camp Bastion and Lashkar Gah, provide the Joint Helicopter Command and to the Combined Forces HQ a 24-hours complete picture of activity going on in the air, to direct air defence efforts and de-conflict the Joint Helicopter Command routes and missions with the concurrent artillery fire or othe potential threats. In addition to this constant presence, the system also deploys small forward teams with troops where necessary. 

JAPPLE builds on the capability provided by the Automated Sense and Warn system: this was procured as UOR for Afghanistan, and is a combination of software and hardware capable to fuse together information coming from a number of sources, including MAMBA artillery locating/battlefield surveillance radars. Mainly, though, it uses two Giraffe ABM radars. The information is fused and transmitted on the LEAPP C2 network, and alarm of incoming attack is launched via the Waves towers installed in based in Afghanistan. Two Giraffe radars are in Bastion, two in Kandhar.
In the system, at some point, is likely to be integrated also the flow of informations coming from B-ISTAR sensors.
The whole system is currently manned by 5th Regiment RA, with the support of roughly one battery deployed on each Herrick cycle by 16 RA.

LEAPP in itself (Land Environment Air Picture Provision) is a little known but invaluable programme which is going on from a few years, and that allowed the advanced JAPPLE to happen. LEAPP provides near real time correlated air picture for the land environment. It is a combination of control nodes and organic sensors, and a vital software, Bowman data radio-compatible, capable to link and connect all Royal Artillery assets (artillery batteries receive info and feed back into the system the data of their own firing trajectories, so that all things moving in the air can be mapped). LEAPP is deployed at formations Hqs, and provides its air picture to all users via NATO data link 16 and 11. 

Inside a LEAPP control node: keeping the air under control

Scheduled to be fully in service by November, LEAPP comprises 5 Giraffe ABM radars (delivered last year and already active in Afghanistan as explained above), 4 control nodes, 3 Air Picture trailers and a Data Link 11 access node. Falcon block C (a separated Royal Signals programme for the evolution of the Falcon communications system) will provide the communication bearer.

Saab’s Giraffe AMB is a truck-mounted 3-D “agile multiple beam” surveillance radar that is housed in a single 6 m/ 20 ft ISO container with splinter and NBC protection, mounted on a cross-country truck. Its name comes from the Agile Multi-Beam (AMB) 3-D radar that sits on an extensible “neck,” in order to give it broader surveillance coverage with a range of 20-40 km/ 12-24 miles. The system takes about 10 minutes to set up and activate, and 3 minutes for take-down. Setup can happen at leisure, after all, while take-down may involve enemy aircraft who are moving into anti-radiation missile range.

Giraffe radar - in action
Unlike conventional 3D search radar that rely on elevation scanning technology, the GIRAFFE AMB covers a large elevation range simultaneously by using one wide beam for transmission and multiple digitally shaped narrow beams for reception. The radar also has uses beyond air surveillance, including emergency military air traffic control, and even coastal surveillance despite the innate “clutter” produced by the sea. If integrated with ARTHUR software (in the british case, with MAMBA radar, itself a variant of Saab's ARTHUR artillery locating radar), it adds the ability to track “ballistic weapons” like rockets, mortars, and artillery shells, and figure out both their point of impact and their point of origin.

High Velocity Missile HVM Starstreak – The HVM Integrated Programme Enhancement is currently delivering, with a Full-Operating Capability date of December 2011.
The HVM IPE is a contract signed in 2009 for the upgrade of the Starstreak missile system, which includes automatic target tracking, new operator and commander consoles for the Self Propelled Stormer-mounted variant, an integrated training package and a new standard of Starstreak dart (Starstreak II for Thales and commercialization, A5 for the Royal Artillery) allowing greater agility and more range.

The upgrade also allows for the introduction of Thales UK's new Lightweight Multi-role Missile (LMM) on the same Stormer self-propelled armored vehicle and lightweight multiple launcher systems used for Starstreak.

These improvements are in addition to the multi-million pound contract awarded to Thales UK's Belfast site back in 2003 to design, develop, manufacture and integrate a thermal sighting system (TSS) and identification friend or foe (IFF) into the Starstreak weapon system. This system has now successfully entered service with the British Army ahead of schedule, providing a 24-hour poor weather capability and, importantly, the ability to identify targets before engagement.

Starstreak was designed to counter low-flying high-performance aircraft and helicopters. It employs semi-automatic command line of sight guidance consisting of a stabilised tracking system and an automatic guidance system. While the operator tracks the target using the stabilised tracking system, a laser beam for missile guidance is transmitted along the target sight line. The system compensates for crosswinds and low-level targets and a lead-angle is automatically generated to launch the missile ahead of crossing targets.

In its simplest form, Starburst is a man-portable, shoulder-launched system consisting of an aiming unit and a missile. The missile is contained in a canister that acts as a recoilless launcher when firing takes place. The aiming unit is clipped on to the canister and together they provide the firing and guidance control for the missile. At the end of the engagement, the aiming unit is quickly detached, the used canister discarded and a new canister fitted for the next engagement. The system can be operated by a single person. However, a second person reduces reaction time.

An intermediate system, the Lightweight Multiple Launcher (LML) exists, and is a tripod launcher with 3 ready-to-fire missiles, thermal sensor, IFF, and target tracking unit. A british army team of Starstreak LML counts 3 men. The LML is moved by helicopters, Land Rovers or Pinzgauers, or even carried by the soldiers of the detachment, on foot. 

An LML firing post during an exercise. In foreground, on its tripod, the ADAD (Air Defence Alerting Device) an IR surveillance system. In the background, the triple LML missile launcher ready for action.

The Starsteak A5 was tested against a small Banshee target and successfully hit it at 7.2 km, demonstrating extreme accuracy, good for shooting down even modern, fast and relatively tiny drones. South Africa ordered a number (8 plus 96 missiles, reportedly) of HVM Lightweight Multiple Launchers, fitted with Thermal Sighting System, and parachutable, and trialed then with total success (some 8 shots, all hits) against Lotars target drones as small as 3.2 meters wide and 2.9 meters long.

There once were up to 156 Stormer-mounted Self Propelled HVM units in the Army, but they were savagely reduced already in 2004, and further reductions have taken place in 2009. Two sole batteries of SP HVM are to remain, within 12 Regiment RA. This is a pity, because the latest upgrade have turned the Stormer HVM in a wonderfully capable and flexible system:

·         automated target tracking means that the operator finally has no more need to manually keep the target in the sight.
·         The new Thermal Sensor has been made multimission capable: it can deliver 360° degree situational awareness imagery on the operator's consoles inside the vehicle.
·         The A5 dart has now a 7 km range and capability against crossing targets (the 3 darts of the Starstreak are indipendently guided and all have their explosive charge, but they lacked the proximity-fuze. Progress in miniaturization might have solved this: it is not specified, but the improved kill probability against crossing targets might be due to the addition of such a proximity fuse into the darts.
·         The Starstreak was trialed against an old FV430 APC, and showed excellent armor-piercing capability, which make it a good anti-armor weapon (not against tanks, but perhaps lethal all the way up to IFV-class vehicles)
·         The compatibility with the LMM is a fantastic addition. With a range of up to 8 km, supersonic speed, laser guidance and HE-FRAG warhead, these missiles are good for intercepting UAVs, but are, moreover, perfectly suited to use against surface targets such as compounds, light armoured vehicles, troops in the open and light bunkers. The current Stormer HVM is now not just a SHORAD platform, but a true “Fire Support” asset, which could find lots of uses.

The Starstreak is experiencing a new youth, but unfortunately it will remain only with the Royal Marines Troop (HVM LML), 12 (Minden) Battery, 12 Regiment RA (HVM LML) and with the other two batteries of 12 Regiment, the 58 (Eyre's) Bty and 9 (Plassey) Bty, with the SP HVM, for protection of the maneuver, armoured formations. 

A Self Propelled High Velocity Missile (SP HVM), also known as Stormer HVM or Stormer Starstreak. It has a 8-cells launcher and carries 12 reloads.
47 Regiment RA lines the 21 (Gibraltar) Battery, the 16 Air Assault Brigade's own air defence unit, trained for parachute ops and equipped with HVM LML. It is not clear what the future will hold for this battery. My plan would be to move 21 Bty out of 47 Regiment and into 12 Regiment.
This would also have the merit of giving 12 Regiment a 5 Batteries (including HQ Bty) structure, indispensable to properly support enduring deployments abroad.

T Battery – HQ and Support : this battery has communications, air picture provvision systems, and Bulldog-mounted divisional air defence HQs for deployment.

12 (Minden) Battery : this battery has been converting from SP HVM to LML HVM in 2010, and should be made up by two missile Troops, each probably with 6 LML firing posts. Mobility for the LML can be provided with Land Rovers, but more often Pinzgauers appear to be used.

9 (Plassey) Battery : the first battery to receive the upgraded Stormer SP HVM vehicles last year. It should be made up by two troops of six vehicles each.

58 (Eyre's) Battery : also on Stormer, same two Troops establishment.

21 (Gibraltar 1779-83) Battery : parachute capable AD battery with HVM LML, on two troops. Pinzgauers can provide mobility. They are soft-skinned, but have good all-terrain reach and can be parachuted. Currently the battery is part of 47 Regiment, and has worked in Afghanistan in support of 16 Air Assault Brigade, but flying Desert Hawks, not using missiles. My proposal is to retain the battery as AD formation for the brigade, and thus move it to 12 Regiment as it completes its transformation into the Army's sole regiment in the role.

Starstreak will stay into service at least until 2020, and perhaps for longer time. There is not a real programme for its replacement, unless FLAADS is expected to cover SHORAD engagements as well, something that does not look probable.

NEADS Network Enabled Air Defence and Surveillance – NEADS is expected to deliver enhancements and expansions to the LEAPP system, and also includes the new “land effectors”, in practice FLAADS(L) and an eventual Starstreak replacement. Main Gate One is expected in 2012. Additional and upgraded LEAPP kits are expected, possibly with adoption of new and more powerful radars.

Surveillance and Target Acquisition

The realm of 5th Regiment RA has several items in store, and plans for the future that are taking shape.

COBRA artillery locating radar – a 40-Km range artillery locating radar, originally mainly thought to detect big russian guns, but upgraded during TELIC ops to have better efficiency at tracking small rockets and mortar bombs as well. It is mounted on a modified FODEN IMMLC truck, with another modified Foden truck as bespoke logistic support vehicle. 7 radars are in use in 5th Regiment, and the current planned Out of Service date is 2012. Surprising, especially if we consider that Cobra was fully accepted in service only in 2005, thus very recently. The Royal Artillery apparently isn't very happy with the system, in particular with its cost, which is said to be extremely high.
OSD however is heavily dependent on the survival of the Common Weapon Locating Radar project: if it is not acquired, Cobra will have to live longer. 

MAMBA – the Mobile Artillery Monitoring Battlefield Radar, mounted on a BV206 tracked vehicle, is a 30-km range radar well liked by its users. A troop of 4 radars is within 5th Regiment and deployed in Afghanistan.
OSD, again dependent on the fate of the CWLR, is 2019. 

Common Weapon Locating Radar – A requirement for 12 systems plus training solution exists. The new radar will have to replace both COBRA and MAMBA, and fit within the wider Sense and Warn system, inclusive of Sound Ranging and other sensors. It passed initial gate in 2009, with a ISD assumption of 2014 (interestingly, that would leave a two years gap between Cobra retirement and replacement entry in service, with the sole MAMBA holding the ground in the meanwhile). Main Gate business case submissions came in January 2011, and apparently the Arthur C radar (an evolution of the radar that makes up MAMBA) is the preferred solution. 

Think Defence reported on May 22, 2011,  that the Future Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) – Assessment Phase (AP) had been completed and Saab Electronic Defence Systems selected as preferred bidder to fulfil the requirement with its Arthur Mod C system. Which does not mean that the programme is safe and will reach the “order placed” status (remember FRES UV – Piranha V?) but is a step forwards in the right direction. Entry into service appeared to have been anticipated to 2012, even, in a rare case of good news, but i was unable to track any evidence of this. A contract should be signed soon enough (maybe next month during DSEI?) if the kit is to really arrive so soon.

ARTHUR Mod C has a larger antenna (60 cm taller than MAMBA’s), it can detect a mortar bomb at 55 km, shell at 31 km and MLRS-like rockets at 50 - 60 km depending on their size. It can locate targets at a rate of 100 per minute, with a storage capacity of 10.000 targets, with a CEP 0.2% of range for howitzers and rockets and 0.1% for mortars. It expands the field of view from 90° to 120°.

The radar uses closed-loop liquid cooling, that also delivers the cooling of the crew cabin, keeping the whole cycle closed to keep dust and dirt out of the circuitry. The liquid cooling is important for ensuring that the radar continues to operate at its best even in Middle East scenarios: earlier systems are simply air-cooled, but while this works very well in Europe, it causes troubles in the hot climates.

The ARTHUR Mod C can be fitted in a self-supported container weighting less than 4200 kg and portable by a DROPS/ELPS truck, or fitted to any vehicle with 2500 kg payload and suitable volume available. The UK system might find installation on the Viking or Warthog vehicle. It can be carried by a C-130 or slung under a heavy lift helicopter such as a Chinook. Its air mobility allows it for use by light and rapid reaction forces such as airborne and marine units.
For training, the ARTHUR radar has a built-in simulation mode, and a Classroom Trainer fitted at the main base can work to simulate a major operation involving 3 or more radars. 
Advanced Sound Ranging – A semi-passive system that can locate artillery firing and loud explosions, and cue other sensors, such as radars. The ASP cannot asses the events it reports (wheter it is rocket, gun or mortar) and its accuracy is influenced by terrain and metereological situation, but it is virtually undetectable (differently from radars) and a valuable cueing element capable to timely direct radars for a sector search.
Three Troops, each on two Sections, exist within 5th Regiment RA, and a training kit is also present. Sound Ranging kit should also be used by two of the batteries of 101 (V) Regiment.
A funded programme is looking at improving cueing and event classification is going on, and a study into replacement/improvement of the power supply for the system is also ongoing.

Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar – A 120 lbs radar that can be broken down in man-portable parts and assembled for operations in 20 minutes, the LCMR was acquired as UOR to counter indirect-fire in Iraq, and is now being used to great success in Afghanistan. It has been updated to track rockets as well as mortar shells. 34 systems have been acquired, and 26 are in Afghanistan, 23 throghout Helmand and 3 in Kandahar airfield. 

Joint Fires Integration

Begun in Afghanistan, this initiative is now Core, and will be completed by 2016, networking fire direction in the RA. This includes a maze of software upgrades to the Bowman data-radio network, with a channel for fire direction data and one for air defence information and data, plus other networking and software upgrades, included the ASCA, a NATO-level software from tactical control of UAVs and direction of precision strikes.
In terms of solid kit, Fire Support Teams, mounted and dismounted, are being given new kit:

FireStorm – acquired as UOR, it gives Forward Air Controllers and Artillery Controllers tactical precision targeting capability. Brigades are being given their sets of kit as they enter Herrick deployment preparation, and funding has been released for acquiring a training solution. The kit for Forward Air Controller includes Long Range Thermal video, Azimuth augmentation unit, Strike Hawk video downlink receiver, ruggerized sub-laptop PC, laser designation detector, and software definable radio.
Artillery controllers have the PC, Strike Hawk downlink and radio. 

A british army FAC in action with his FireStorm kit.
The Rockwell Collins FireStorm system provides combat proven Situational Awareness (SA) through integrated precision targeting, enabling ground personnel to seamlessly integrate with airborne assets. A FireStorm system is comprised of a lightweight, fully integrated, mission configurable suite of hardware and software including tablet PC, Laser Range Finder (LRF), Laser Target Designator (LTD), real-time video receiver, a Rockwell Collins Azimuth Augmentation system and manpack radio. The system also includes the Rockwell Collins DAGR GPS receiver, tripods and other system ancillaries.

A fundamental element is the Rockwell Collins StrikeHawk, a carefully designed, extremely rugged compact military video receiver for reception of real-time video transmitted from targeting pods. UAVs or other surveillance platforms enabling information for the tactical user. Designed for use by the target designated and air control party in the specialist role to support targeting missions and provide immediate Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), the receiver may also be carried by ground troops taking advantage of any surveillance assets available to them within threatre and in the vicinity of their immediate operations, offering invaluable insight into the movements and disposition of not only friendly but also local or approaching hostile forces.

A FAC FireStorm kit in carriage. The Helmet Mounted Display visible here has not been procured as of now however, at least for what i know.
A vision of the system and its parts is available here.

Surveillance System and Range Finder - The SSARF units are the size of a large pair of binoculars and are used in a similar way. The all-weather, day and night system is hand-held, lightweight, and combines uncooled thermal imagery system, 6x day optic, eye-safe laser rangefinder with a 5 km range and integrated magnetic compass with built-in GPS. The embedded military Global Positioning Satellite and azimuth angular referencing provide accurate target location data for both mortar and artillery fire control.

SSARF units have been deployed operationally and are providing British troops in the field with an ultra-lightweight, compact, multi-role, night vision target locator capability. The SSARF is being made capable of producing and passing target records on Bowman data radio channels to feed info in the network. 697 have been acquired, 153 of which are RA allocated. 

ROVER 4 remote viewing terminals – Rover stands for remote operations video enhanced receiver. According to the producer, L-3, it is essentially a software-defined radio that gives FACs (also known as joint tactical air controllers–JTACs) the same view of potential targets available to aircrew or unmanned aerial vehicle operators. Rover 4 allows JTACs to electronically mark their desired targets on the imagery, before retransmitting it to the airborne platform.
40 have been acquired by the RAF for Forward Air Controllers, but as UOR they have been purchased for B-ISTAR personnel and ISTAR parties as well.

Mounted Fire Support Teams upgrades – The Fire Support Teams in Formation RECCE squadrons and other armored formations are to get their own updates as well. Upgrades here are complex because the requisite of the RA enters in competition with the Army heads of the vehicle programmes.
As a consequence, the Royal Artillery's Warrior FV514 Mechanized Artillery Observation Vehicle, will not have its FST kit updated as part of the wider Warrior Upgrade: the RA Warriors, via WCSP, will only get improved vehicle electronics, protection, and “cosmetic” changes. The Royal Artillery fire direction systems are to be upgraded separately. The Royal Artillery is trying to secure funding for these much needed updates, and a prototype FV514 with new kit was trialed in June 2010 at Otterburn. The upgrade is extensive, and includes a turret-mounted panoramic thermal sensor and laser designator capable to direct air and artillery strikes and geolocate distant targets outside line of sight, and upgraded software and communications terminals, with the necessary addition of new antennas and new screens and consoles in the back and inside the turret. A “The Gunner” article with several good images is available showing the prototype. (Scroll down to page 10)

Fire Support Teams mounted in Spartan APCs and Bulldogs (in Formation Recce formations and Mechnized Infantry Battalions) will replace their vehicles with a FRES SV platform, the Joint Fires Control vehicle. This will be part of the Batch 2 order of the FRES SV. (Batch 1 should comprise 580 vehicles, of which 270 Scouts, plus Protected Mobility [APCs], Recovery and Repair. Batch 2 (or Block 2) should comprise the Joint Fires, Command Post, and, interestingly, the Direct Fire variant, probably the most interesting variant, yet the one more likely to be sacrificed to budget cuts)
The Joint Fires Control vehicle will carry a full six-men Fire Support Team, with under-armor sensors and C4I and STA sensors.


No, it is not an error: the Army calls UAVs “Unmanned Air Systems”. The Royal Artillery will mainly use two systems, the TUAS (Tactical Unmanned Air System) Watchkeeper and the MUAS (Mini UAS) Desert Hawk III.
To do so, two Drone regiments are being formed under the control of 1st Brigade Royal Artillery, 47 and 32 Regiment, supported by 104 (V) Regiment.
Together, 47 and 32 are to line 5 hybrid batteries, each comprising 10 Watchkeeper drones, 4 Ground Control Stations, and an unclear number of Desert Hawk III detachments. Some 17 “systems” have been acquired, and each should have 6 Desert Hawk III mini drones. 12 systems are used in Afghanistan by 12 5-man Detachments as of now, and additional orders (unspecified quantities and nature) have been approved.
The Royal Artillery is the Army's drone user, and in reflection of this, even the T-Hawk drone, used as part of the six Talisman route-clearing troops of Royal Engineers have been passed to the gunners and respond to 1st Artillery Brigade.

A Watchkeeper Ground Control Station is sized to a standard 20 ft container, and will mainly be carried by IMMLC DROPS trucks. A single GCS can control 2 drones at once, and a Watchkeeper GCS crew consists of 1 UAV pilot, 1 payload operator, 1 UAV commander, an Image Analyst and a Signaller.
GCS redistribute data and imagery at the tactical level by feeding “TAC parties”, each comprising a commander/NLO and a Signaller. 21 Viking vehicles have been acquired in 2008 for TAC parties mobility, and kitted for the role. 

The Ground Control Station layout

At an higher level of command, to concurrently support two Medium Scale operations (one of 6 months duration and one enduring, as from MOD requirement), Watchkeeper shall provide imagery and imagery intelligence concurrently to at least 8 Headquarters comprising a total of at least 10 Tasking Users throughout the battlespaces of 2 disparate operational theatres.

As part of its demanding requirements, Watchkeeper was made capable to operate in all weathers, and made capable to operate against surface targets at up to 4000 meters above mean sea level.

A Watchkeeper system (a Battery?) capable to support a Battlefield Mission is transportable with two C130J (one carrying the GCS, the other the partially dismantled drones, i'm guessing).

ATUAS – The RA has an official requirement (albeit currently without a budget) to arm the TUAS Watchkeeper with “at least two weapons”. Just as it happened with the Predators, the Watchkeeper is already going down the route of the Hunter-Killer solution, as it dimishes massively the reaction time between “Find” phase and “Strike” phase. The ATUAS is a main target of the RA, but the regiment is aware that the weapons might reduce a bit performances such as endurance, and they are also aware that Watchkeeper will never be a CAS platform: its payload capacity is relatively small, and the likely armament will be 2 or more LMMs.

It'll probably be at least four years before the RA can seriously hope to get funding for this improvement to Watchkeeper.


Post SDSR, the numbers of AS90 howitzers are going down to 95, in five Close Support regiments which will be hybrid, including also L118 Light Guns. It is not yet clear which structure such regiments will assume, but i'm hoping/expecting a possible (wartime) establishment of two AS90 batteries (each on 8 guns) and two 8-guns L118 batteries. In peacetime each battery would probably use just 6 guns.
Deep Strike will be supplied by 39 Regiment, which uses the GMLRS, and is working to put into service the Fire Shadow Loitering Ammunition as well.

Ballistic Sensor Fused Ammunition – The SMART 155 mm submunitions anti-tank shell made the news in 2008 when it was contract for 83 million pounds for adoption on the AS90 howitzer, but it did not make equal noise when it was cancelled, officially for inability of the contractor to meet technical requirements. The contract has been terminated in February 2010, making this the undredth killed component of the RA's modernization effort, known as Indirect Fire Precision Attack.

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition – First delivery should come later this year, in the fourth quarter, to allow personnel from 39 Regiment to prepare for the first operational deployment of the weapon, in April 2012, as part of Herrick 16. Live fire trials in Sweden are ongoing, and the imaging IR seeker is being refined: it must be a compromise between performance and cost, as the overall cost of a Fire Shadow LM is required to be lower or equal to that of a GMLRS rocket.
Already from October 2012 should be available the video downlink compatibity with FireStorm and Strike Hawk, to allow FSTs and other personnel on the ground to see through Fire Storm's eye and direct it on target when necessary.

Guided 155 mm shell – The Excalibur guided round has been trialed, fired and evaluated by the Royal Artillery, and its integration with AS90 basically goes down to a problem with the howitzer's muzzle brake, which can easily be fixed. Excalibur could now be adopted and put in service in 6 months, max one year, but at the moment no funding is available for ordering it. It remains a capability the RA plans to acquire before 2018.

GMLRS - The M270 launcher vehicle has been through an upgrade programme which gave it a new 600 hp Cummins engine and a new auxiliary power unit. Vehicles have also been upgraded in protection prior to use in Afghanistan, fitting mine protection, cage-armor against RPGs, appliquè armor and turret for GPMG.
Upgrade to the fire control system and launcher box are financed for 36 launchers, which are to be brought to the M270B1 (UFCS) standard, fitted with Universal Fire Control System software.
The vehicle was trialed with the ATACMS missile in the US, and UK launchers are now “fitted for, but not with” ATACMS.
4 M270 launchers were converted into specialized Repair and Recovery platforms (M270 RRV). 

M270 RRV
Large Long Range Rocket – As part of IFPA, the Royal Artillery plans to acquire the ATACMS missile by 2020. For now, there's no funding, but the launchers have been made ATACMS capable as part of their upgrades.

105 mm IR illuminating round – 3672 Infra-Red illuminating (their light is invisible to the naked eye, but makes day of what people see through night vision googles, giving a serious and one-sided advantage to troops against the taliban) have been ordered and funded via UOR, with a batch of 360 acquired for pre-deployment training.

L118 Light Gun – The immortal light gun is now expected to soldier on at least until 2030, against an earlier planned replacement put around 2022. Consequently, it received a series of upgrades in 2009, to braking, power management and software. As a UOR, a direct fire sight was procured, suitable for long range firing, also at night: the solution is a modified Schmidt and Bender sniper rifle optic!
New spade and platform made of titanium for the Light Gun could not be financed due to budget issues, however.

L118 Towing and Limber vehicles – The L118 is towed on the battlefield by a number of assets: in Afghanistan, the preferred solution is the Wolfhound, but use of the vehicle has to be conciliated with the need of the other users (the Military Working Dog regiment and EOD formations above all). At home, the Pinzgauers are still widely used.

Reynold Boughton RB44 – probably the most hated vehicle in the army, the RB44 was withdrawn from service on 31 march 2010. It was used to tow the L118 Light Gun in the TA and training formations, and there is not a programme for a replacement.
The apparent passage of the L118 back into Regular regiments might see the Wolfhound vehicles used for towing the Light Guns also post-afghanistan. In the near term, DAF 4-tonne trucks are being retained as towing vehicles, fitted with seating pods, drop-down hooks and revised tailgates. It is hoped that the Operational Utility Vehicle System will procure a towing solution for UK movement of the guns in a few years time, as keeping in service the DAF 4-tonne is really not efficient.

AS90 – A programme known as Future Indirect Fire Systems is looking into the AS90 replacement, but not before the decade between 2020 and 2030. Experience suggests that it'll be probably many years before we actually see a replacement. Meanwhile, several minor improvements and obsolescence removal have taken place, and a couple of Turret Trainers simulators have been acquired. The RA had hoped in 7, but the budget wasn't enough: one trainer turret is in the UK, one in Germany.

Future Integrated Soldier Technology – FIST kit is developed for the infantry, but personnel from other arms in the Army is to get a share of the kit depending on their role in theater. The Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and Royal Armoured Corps are the main users outside the infantry. FIST kit is likely being given out to dismounted Fire Support Teams and other frontline RA personnel.


Operational Utility Vehicle System – A pan-army project for replacement of Land Rovers, Pinzgauers and RB44. The programme is asked to procure a common-base family of vehicles delivering command post, command and liaison and general purpose service. There will be two chassis, with payloads of 1 and 2 tons.
Initially the requirement was for 8500 unprotected vehicles, with a budget of 97.000 pounds each, but a requirement for vehicle protection popped up due to Afghan experience, and now armor is required, with mine/blast resistance level 2A. Cost of course ballooned and numbers went down “significantly”, and in 2009 the programme was deferred by 2 years. Competition for delivering OUVS is scheduled to restart in 2012.

Tomorrow's RA

There is no appetite, nor scope for reducing the RA further. Indeed, TAS itself is recognizing that war experience calls for an expansion of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. 40 Regiment is gone, but it might return soon. Everything, of course, also largely depends on funding, and on what will have to be sacrificed in order to meet manpower reductions and to fit in the budget.

My Royal Artillery for the Future Force would see an expansion, as hypothized by TAS. Perhaps not of 1700 men, due to the financial factor always biting in, but still consistent.

1st Artillery Brigade

39 Regiment – Expanded to five batteries. It has for a long time faced overstretch as it had to keep a battery constantly deployed in Stan with just four Btys, when 5 are needed to meet Harmony Guidelines. The batteries will be hybrid, with personnel trained on GMLRS and Fire Shadow both. Instead of 4 batteries, of which only two actually equipped with GMLRS (the other are sole crews, and the vehicles are shared for training), I will split the resources.

Current Battery: 1 M270 RRV; 2 Troops, each with 4 M270B1.

Tomorrow's Battery: 1 M270 RRV, 1 GMLRS Troop with 4 M270B1, 1 Fire Shadow Troop

The Fifth battery will be an HQ and support formation, also acting as reserve of crews for sustaining enduring deployments.

The Regiment will continue to be supported by 101 (V) with 2 Hybrid Batteries.

5 Regiment

5 Enlarged batteries (one HQ but trained in STA as currently done for sustaining Afghanistan ops) plus 4/73 Sphynx STA/SPECIAL OPS battery. Batteries will be organized around the Common Weapon Locating Radar, with Sound Ranging in support, and with LCMR troops for FOBs protection against mortar threats.

It will continue to be supported by 101 (V) Regiment, with two STA batteries, and by the Honorable Artillery Company, supplying STA/Special Ops patrols to 4/73 Bty. The HAC will expand from 3 to four deployable patrols, giving a combined force of 5 (one regular, 4 reserve).
During Herrick 13, a Patrol from 4/73 experimented the use of Unattended Ground Sensors: the results were so good that now unattended ground sensors are a core capability of the Battery: details have not been disclosed, however, probably due to security reasons.

32 Regiment
47 Regiment

The UAS force will line a combined 5 Hybrid Batteries, each supplying Desert Hawk III detachments to the Infantry Battalions, Formation Recce and other brigade units. At brigade level, the battery will be able to supply 10 Watchkeeper drones and 4 Ground Control Stations, with a minimum of 4 simultaneous task lines. Watchkeeper will also have Hunter Killer capability, delivering precision, time-critical strikes and limited CAS.

The UAS force will be supported by 104 (V) Regiment.


16 Regiment
12 Regiment

16 Regiment will continue to use Rapier until FLAADS(L) replaces it. A five batteries solution at that point will be perfect, even though i'd want a further two batteries, to ensure that proper air defence could be attached to 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3rd Commando when and where necessary.

12 Regiment will continue to use Starstreak, with 2 batteries of Stormer SP HVM, and 1 Battery of HVM LML. In addition, 21 (Gibraltar) Bty will leave 47 Regiment and be added to 12 Regiment, retaining the HVM LML and the parachute capability, to provide air defence to 16 Air Assault Brigade. A further HQ/Support Battery will complete the force, and give an (imperfect, but better than nothing) “rule of the five” supporting deployability.
Post 2020 the Regiment future is tied to the missile it uses: I think Starstreak and LMM will live on longer than Rapier, but if they were retired without replacement, the regiment risks to vanish.

A JAPPLE subunit with the progressively upgraded LEAPP system will continue to provide an integrated picture of air activity.

The Territorial Army air defence formation will remain 106 (V) Regiment, with both Rapier and HVM.

Joint Force Protection Brigade

This formation is my own personal proposal for the answer of the British Armed forces to the ever expanding call for force protection, counterterrorism in the form of protection to sensible events/buildings/places, and protection of FOBs and bases abroad.
Further explanation will follow in future posts, but essentially, the brigade would bring together the formations tasked with force protection, and thus:

CBRN Wing (with the JCBRN Regiment moving into the RAF Regiment and becoming a formation made up by two Squadrons, 26 and 27, I suppose Wing might end up becoming the new name of the formation)
RAF Regiment (5 Field Squadrons + II RAF Field Squadron, parachute and special ops capable)
40 Regiment RA

The 40 Regiment RA in my proposal would reform, on five batteries, to operate the Cortez B-ISTAR system, and the C-RAM system planned to be procured by 2020.
The Hybrid Batteries would operate the sensors used to survey FOB's perimeters and to detect incoming threats, and the C-RAM guns used to intercept such incoming menaces. The formation of a dedicated regiment would ensure that the inhuman pressure that the RA has had to bear in Afghanistan does not pop up again.

The suite of Cortez sensors is also well suited to ensure surveillance and security in occasion of major events at risk of terroristic attack, which makes me look at B-ISTAR as an important role for the army, and something that is not going to vanish anytime soon. To keep costs down, it would be possible to adopt an hybrid structure for the regiment, combining TA and Regulars in the ranks. B-ISTAR involves plenty of roles within FOB's perimeters, which are particularly suited for reserves.

The Cortez suite includes several systems: 


Both are static systems fitted with a suite of cameras and sensors that when deployed in FOBs can be used to provide situational awareness, over watch, protection, target identification and tracking. It also has the capacity to provide cross-cueing for other systems, that is the information gained on a target can be easily passed on to other tracking systems.  A number of AIRLINERs and LIVINGSTONEs are deployed in Afghanistan, in FOBs and PBs throughout Helmand province. The commander of each system is provided by 5th Regiment RA, however, to provide 24-hour manning of the cameras and screens, the remaining users are provided by troops in the FOB.


A trailer-mounted mast system with a camera suite, providing a surveillance picture over the local area.  A number of REMOVERs are deployed in Afghanistan, in FOBs and PBs throughout Helmand province. The commander of each system is provided by 5th Regiment RA, however, to provide 24-hour manning of the cameras and screens, the remaining users are provided by troops in the FOB.


A trailer-mounted aerostat (balloon), fitted with an under-slung camera, providing a surveillance picture over the local area. Five  REVIVORs are deployed in Afghanistan, in FOBs and PBs throughout Helmand province. Configured with an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optic/infrared sensor, as well as optional full-motion video and acoustic sensors, the Revivor is the UK variant of the Persistent Ground Surveillance System (PGSS) already in service with the U.S. following a fast-track development led by the U.S. Navy and sponsored by the Army, while the Canadian forces also employ a version of PGSS at forward bases. The PGSS aerostat is a 25,000-cu.-ft. helium-filled tethered blimp that can remain on station for up to two weeks. The Revivor is fully integrated with the other systems such as Remover, Airliner and Livingstone, as part of the Cortez base-ISTAR architecture.  



One between 100, 103 and 105 Territorial Army Regiments could also be re-roled to support Force Protection tasks.

The MRB's artillery regiments

1 Royal Horse Artillery Regiment
3 Royal Horse Artillery Regiment
4 Regiment
19 Regiment
26 Regiment
The Close Support Regiments will have an HQ Battery, with BMETS (Metereological Troop) and Fire Support Teams, both dismounted and mounted under armor.
They will line two AS90 batteries and two L118 batteries each, possibly with the Wolfhound as gun-towing vehicle in the Light Gun batteries.

Two or even all three of 100, 103 and 105 TA regiments should become general support artillery regiments, providing deployable reserves to the MRB's artillery formations.

The Specialists

7 Royal Horse Artillery
29 Commando Royal Artillery

I must admit that i'm always puzzle when I think about parachute forces. Knowing that the UK is actually unable to parachute, or even airlift or provide helicopter mobility to 16 Air Assault in one go, and highly doubting that such a parachute assault could ever end in anything but a disaster these days, makes me think that parachute training and related costs would be an easy and relatively painless cuts. In my more radical days, only 1 PARA and special units would retain parachute training and capability, with the rest of the parachatusism effort cut in order to finance other capabilities.
But in other days, I struggle to be as brutal. And not just because I think of the Red Devils in Arhnem and in Normandy, and not just because of “A Bridge too far”. Parachute launches can still deliver tactical and strategical surprise (and that's why even in my radical days 1 PARA would remain parachute trained) and have their own share of effect, albeit only in rare circumstances and permissive environments/situations. I read once that the parachutists were intended as a force to close gaps broken in NATO lines by russian offensives, and it horrified me. What parachutists were supposed to do against armoured divisions goes past my imagination, but whatever. Someone read too many post-war comics (a pity I indulge into myself, admittedly) with hero soldiers doing epic things, before writing that plan.

7 RHA is to be safe so long as 16 Brigade exists. And if a requirement for parachute capability is genuinely still felt, then artillery has to be parachutable as well, since troops on the ground without artillery aren't going to do much.

29 Commando, with 148 Bty specialized in the direction of naval gunfire support in tow, are also absolutely to be retained, in support of 3rd Commando.

The Teachers

14 Regiment

The need for training will definitely remain, so 14 Regiment will continue to deliver its service, and expand the range of courses it holds, to prepare the gunners of 2020 for the whole, ample range of tasks they are called to cover.

Less heavy gun strikes, perhaps, but more reach, more ISTAR, more “find” role, more drones.

Quite simply, more RA.