19 October 2010 - the SDSR is published. The Army gets a cut of 7000 men, from a force of roughly 102.000 regulars to 95.000 by 2015, with a 94.000 strong regular army envisioned for 2020.
According to sources such as Jane's and RUSI, the MOD's advice had been to cut the Army back to 82.000 in order to balance the books, but the government rejected the call at this stage in time because the measure was seen as too politically white hot to present with Afghanistan ops still going on full force.
The cuts fall hard on the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force instead: in the very last few days of the planning process, it is decided that Tornado GR4 has to stay, Harrier goes, and STOVL is abandoned even for the future.
November 2010 - Brigadier Nick Eeles, Director Royal Artillery, announces to the force that:
It is inevitable that there will be changes to the Royal Artillery force structure. The SDSR made it clear that we will reduce the AS90 fleet to 95 guns (from 146) as the Army transitions towards a lighter force profile. In the future each of the five multi role brigades will be supported by a close support regiment equipped with a mix of Light Gun and AS90. No decisions on the future size of the TA have been made under SDSR and a six-month review will now be undertaken into the role and structure of the Reserves. It should be emphasised that the TA remain critical to success on current operations and will form a key element of Gunner structures to deliver integrated support to future operations.
December 2010 - Royal Artillery announcements of the restructuring of its regiments and formation of the UAV force:
Thus the decision was taken earlier this year that 47 Regt RA should be re-subordinated to 1 Arty Bde as a UAS regiment, and 12 Regt RA should revert to being solely a CAD regiment [In recent years the regiment had deployed personnel to Afghanistan to operate UAS] (remaining within 1 (UK) Armd Div). Subsequent work, which is still subject to HQLF approval, will see 32 Regt RA (currently Tactical UAS) and 47 Regt RA (currently Mini UAS) restructured to become two integrated UAS regiments; each will contain integrated batteries comprising both Mini and Tactical UAS. The intent is to replicate, in barracks and in training, the integrated UAS structure deployed in Afghanistan. The resulting batteries are large and to create the five deployable batteries needed to meet harmony guidelines will require the combined resources of the eight equipment batteries currently within the two regiments. Three batteries will therefore be placed into suspended animation, although all the soldiers will be redistributed within the two regiments.
The five batteries are intended to line a number of Watchkeeper (Tactical UAS), Desert Hawk 3 (mini UAS) Detachments (possibly 12 in each battery, with each DH3 detachment numbering 5 men) and T-HAWK detachments (should be 3 per battery). The T-Hawk is a part of the Talisman route clearance system and was initially used by Royal Engineer personnel. It was however found more efficient to give control of all army UAS to a specialized force within the Royal Artillery.
July 2011 - The results of the "3 months study" into the MOD books are announced: unsurprisingly, the deletion of Harrier, Type 22s and Nimrod have proven far from sufficient to bring the balance under control. Further manpower cuts are necessary, and they have to come from the Army: the revised plan adds 5000 more posts to be cut to the 7000 already announced, as the Army is now required to go down to 89 / 90.000 by 2015 and 82.000 by 2020.
The improvements to the structure and employment of reserves is announced as part of the move. By 2020 it is promised that army strength will be 120.000, inclusive of 30.000 trained reservists.
July 2011 - Royal Artillery restructuring continues with new changes announced:
In recognition of the high demand for fire support teams, the tactical groups from the disbanded close support regiment (40 Regt) will move to reinforce other close support regiments. In addition, transformational Army Structures work recognised that our specialist MLRS and STA regiments are under-resourced and should each grow or reorganise to five equipment batteries for each capability, thereby allowing for longer intervals between operational tours for the officers and soldiers involved. The outcome is five mirror image composite unmanned air systems batteries, three in 32 Regt RA and two in 47 Regt RA (the latter having lost its close air defence role) which meant that earlier this year three batteries, 42 (Alem Hamza) Bty RA, 43 Bty (Lloyd’s Company) RA and 25/170 (Imjin) Bty RA went into suspended animation.
After the demise of these three fine batteries, HQ Land recently granted permission to raise one new battery in 5 Regt RA equipped with weapon locating radars and sound ranging, and one new battery in 39 Regt RA equipped with MLRS. These are 93 (Le Cateau) Bty RA and 51 (Kabul 1842) Bty RA respectively and these batteries are currently being taken out of suspended animation.
August 2011 - The head of the Royal Artillery announces the details of changes in the regiment:
40 Regiment Royal Artillery is to disband, with hopes for a farewell parade in April 2012
6/36 (Arcot 1751) Battery, from 40 Regiment, is reassigned as Tac Group Battery to 4 Regiment Royal Artillery, by April 2012
38 (Seringapatam) Battery is assigned as Tac Group Battery to 19 Regiment RA. Transfered from 40 Regiment are also all the scottish symbols and hetos, as 19 Regiment now is the Scottish artillery regiment, incorporating both Lowlands and Highlands traditions.
By April 2012, 5 batteries of AS90 guns, one in each regiment, are re-roled to L118 Light Gun as number of AS90 howitzers is brought down to 95
By November 2012, 137 (Java) Tac Group Battery will resubordinate to 26 Regiment Royal Artillery
19 September 2011 - First wave of Royal Signals restructuring announcements:
12 (National Communications) Signals brigade to disband after the Olympics are over, and with it the brigade's involvement in the security and support to the event. Work is underway to decide which of the commanded units of the brigade survive, how they are restructured, and how they are re-assigned to 1st and 11th Signal Brigades.
7 Signals Regiment disbands by mid 2012, after completing its role as Campaign Signal Regiment to augment the Signals force in Afghanistan.
Early 2013 is to see 19 Light Brigade's HQ closed down, along with its Signal Squadron, 209 Sqn.
The Unified System Support Organisation, based in Blandford has been steadily growing in size and importance. It has a critical role providing expert Level 3 support to deployed information and communication services across Defence, and provides a combination of deployed and ‘reachback’ support. On 30th September 2011 it was re-titled 15th Signal Regiment (Information Support) and established fully as a Royal Signals Unit, albeit with very joint manning and roles.
In the last few months it emerged that 14 Regiment (Electronic Warfare) is being expanded 8% to an establishment of some 750 men.
Some change at the highest ranks as well, and warning from the Director Royal Signals that this is only the start.
November 2011 - First announcements for changes in the Royal Engineers
25 Air Support Regiment to disband by 31 March 2012 at the latest. Squadrons re-assigned to 39 Regiment
39 Regiment to move into RAF Kinloss during the summer of 2012
HQ 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group [44 men] moves into RAF Wittering in 2013
38 Regiment will disband together with 19 Light Brigade, which it supported.
Some considerations and numbers and guesses:
All of the support components of 19 Light Brigade are going:
40 Royal Artillery Regiment
209 Squadron Royal Signals
38 Royal Engineers Regiment
19 Combat Service Support Battalion
How many more formations will go, is very hard to say.
Arguably, in almost all trades there is no more room for cuts if 5 brigades are to be maintained, and fully kitted. The Royal Artillery is already restructuring on 5 Fires Regiments, so there really is no room for further cuts.
But as the Telegraph suggests that most of the AS90 howitzers will be mothballed (at least 51 have been, post SDSR, and of those remaining many will be in Controlled Humidity Storage most of the time under Whole Fleet Management) or used by reserves, my guess is that one of two AS90 batteries planned in each brigade artillery regiment will be assigned to TA personnel. It would be a first, since currently the TA does not work with the AS90.
I sincerely hope the cut is something of this kind: no regular AS90 batteries would, in my pessimistic/realistic view make it very hard to think about sending AS90 in battle again. With all my good will and with all the confidence i can muster, i still have doubts about how much the TA will effectively be made capable to deploy on the field in significant, formed units. I'd very much avoid putting whole capabilities and forces into reserve, personally.
What else could be cut?
Well, the additional batteries of 39 Regiment and perhaps even 5 Regiment. With the excuse of "contingency ops" opposed to enduring operations, the hard gained expansions in strength just enacted might be cancelled again, and leave both regiments again overstretched the next time they are called in action.
It wouldn't surprise me. But i hope it can be avoided.
I don't even want to think about cutting the UAS batteries, even though we could get a bitter surprise or two in 2015, if Desert Hawk 3 and/or T-Hawk were not brought into core budget despite their usefulness.
An area where there is possibly some maneuver space for cuts is 12 Regiment and 16 regiment, the air defence force.
I judge it feasible to merge the two regiments, forming a single air defence formation on 5 Batteries, each with a Rapier troop for local area defence and the second troop would have Starstreak for Low Level Air Defence - very short range.
The Royal Engineers might be in even worse difficulty, if the Telegraph is to be believed. The Telegraph talks of a 30% cut, down to an establishment of 5500. In early 2011, however, the strength of the Engineers (Regular Reserve included, however) was 9660, however, so the figures do not quite add up.
The Engineers are already shelving a couple of regiments (even though most of 25 Regt manpower just moves under another RHQ) and making other adjustements, but cutting formations will be very complex, unless not all of the brigades are granted an engineer complement.
And i hope this is not the case because it does not make sense.
A current Royal Engineers regiment on 3 Armoured Squadrons has an establishment of some 644 (REME personnel and other trades from other Army branches included, i believe), all-ranks, all-trades. And there already are only 5, exactly the number that is needed.
With a smaller deployable Army there might be scope to downsize all five regiments to a degree, perhaps even cut them down to 2 squadrons each, instead of 3, but will it be enough?
The engineer regiment of 16 Air Assault brigade counts 543 posts, 375 of which are for parachute trained personnel. Some trimming is likely to be achievable, and almost certainly will be inevitable.
24 Commando Royal Engineers Regiment likely will never see its second field squadron stand up, and as it is it already is the smallest of regiments in the Corps. There really is no room to touch this.
28 Engineer regiment, one of the two General Support Regiments, has an establishment of 850 [probably includes the TA personnel of 412 (V) Troop as well, though, and possibly the 110-strong REME LAD).
36 General Support Regiment has 5 squadrons as of now (2 are Gurkha) and has assumed the role of High Assurrance Search regiment to aid in the battle against IEDs in Afghanistan. I don't know what its head count is, but is likely to be even higher than 28 Regt's.
It is arguable that, by 2014, with Afghanistan over and the Army becoming much smaller, one single General Support Regiment could do, assigned to the sole deployable division HQ. In my view said regiment should be about preserving specialized capabilities available on demand, so a possible structure could be:
· 1 Amphibious Squadron (with M3 rigs and other kit)
· at least 1 Route Clearance Squadron (preserving the expensive and effective Talisman equipment set and related skills for meeting future needs)
· 1 Search squadron, keeping alive the experience and skills gained with years of high risk, high cost operations
· and another Squadron, more general in nature, ready for tasking where and when necessary
Again, will it be enough?
REME chapter, again, very little room for cuts. With 19 Light Brigade's REME formation gone, there's just the indispensable 5 + 1 Battalions, one for each MRB plus 7th Battalion (Air Assault) which serves the AAC helicopter fleet and 16 Air Assault brigade.
In addition, there's two mixed regular/TA battalions, one in each of the two logistic brigades.
There does not seem to be any room for cutting further battalions, but i guess all of them will be downsized. A number of Light Aid Detachments will also go along with the units they support, and that is:
90 men for each Armoured Infantry Battalion cut [9 to 6 or 5, so i'd say at least 270 men]
115 for a Royal Artillery Regiment [probably an AS90 one, an L118 regiment like 40 RA probably has a significantly smaller LAD]
Up to 160 men in the LAD of air defence regiments [assuming something on the lines of the merge i proposed happens]
75 on average in each RLC regiment
60 in a Signals regiment
85 in a close support engineer regiment [38 Royal Engineers, cut along with 19 Light Brigade]
And so along.
Royal Armoured Corps and Cavalry regiments chapter. In theory, we are waiting for a tank regiment and a recce regiment in each MRB. In practice, the Telegraph article suggests that this plan might have had to be abandoned, but we'll have to wait and see.
Two Squadrons coming from 1RTR are almost certainly doomed as soon as they come back from Afghanistan involvement, after they have been pushed out of the CBRN regiment with the Fuchs vehicles being retired. A Squadron 1RTR however will stay almost certainly: the training Squadron is likely to be still needed after all, no?
All other tank regiments are, at best, being downsized. A Type 44 regiment counts 550 men, including some 120 REME, but i think at best we'll have Type 38 regiments, even smaller.
The Telegraph talks of tanks going to the reserves, again, but this could mean anything. It might be that the regiments become mixed, say, with 2 regular and 1 TA squadrons.
Or all five tank regiments are cut and small formations of tanks added to the 5 Recce regiments, or other solutions still. Hard to say.
The Recce regiments should not change, at least in theory. Plan is for 3 squadrons, two mounted in FRES Scout and 1 in a wheeled UOR-to-core vehicle, which is expected to be Jackal.
The Household Cavalry Regiment is said to be off-limits and safe from cuts, but i have doubts about this meaning that the 4-squadron establishment stays. Currently HCR is the only recce regiment on 3 Sabre Sqns, since D Sqn is available for tasking with 16 Air Assault brigade. In future, who knows.
The REME have around 90 men in each Recce regiment. The number might drop lower.
Royal Logistic Corps chapter: the Telegraph suggests a cut from 15.240 men (early 2011) to around 12.000, and this, to my eyes, looks... out of place. I very well might be wrong, but i think in the RLC, more than in armour or artillery fields, there is space to expand the roles given to reserves, and there is arguably more room to make cuts.
Also, with the army dropping to so much lower numbers, to a single deployable divisional HQ and much less ambitious planning assumptions are 12.000 men in the logistics sector still required? Seems oversized to me.
I'd very much personally try to find solutions here, instead of chopping severely artillery, armour and engineers.
A last consideration i want to make is on the Corps of Army Music.
Please, don't take it as an offence, as personal hostility or anything. But 24 bands, and 790 men (as of early 2011)? No way when cuts as dangerous and damaging as those currently being enacted are a reality.
790 men is more than a whole Armoured Infantry battalion inclusive of REME personnel and all other components.
It just can't do.