Saturday, June 16, 2012

Army 2020 according to Sky News

Sky News claims to have seen the Army 2020 report due to be announced in Parliament sometime over the next weeks, prior to Parliament's Summer Recess. I have no reasons to believe they are lying, but of course, take their article with a bit of sane skepticism, as there might be parts of it that do not ring true when the actual announcement arrives.
The article is, however, well informed, and fits in the plan introduced by General Wall's speech at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, so it is definitely worth reporting.

Under plans drawn up by Lieutenant General Nick Carter the regular Army will number 82,000 by 2020. Reserves will be expanded to 30,000.

It will be split into Reaction Forces and an Adaptable Force.
Reaction Forces will be made up of a division of three armoured brigades, each with a tank regiment and two armoured infantry regiments [General Carter mentioned FRES SV as part of them, i think they will have a Recce Regiment embedded as well. Hopefully they will have at least another infantry battalion, Light Role, as well) plus an airborne brigade.

This division will be commanded by a major general and will be responsible for short-term interventions from instant deployment through to a larger dispatch of troops, which could take a year to prepare.
One armoured battle group and a parachute battle group would be on standby for immediate dispatch to a global emergency.
The airborne brigade and one mechanised brigade, armed with Warrior fighting vehicles, will be capable of deploying inside three months. Emergency missions would be backed by two regiments of Apache helicopters.

This is absolutely certain, save for the "each with a tank regiment and two armoured infantry regiments", which is likely, but won't be certain until i hear it from the official sources. However, it is the force structure i was anticipating and expecting. It will be interesting to see if the number of Warriors to be upgraded is incremented accordingly: the previous plan was for 5 battalions, plus 1 to cover the rotation into Training and Demonstration role.
Now we are looking at 6 frontline battalions, and we have a Training issue to be solved. We'll see how this is tackled: seen that these brigades are the "high readiness" force, one would hope that they won't lose a battalion in turns to the training role...
Also, i wish people would stop using "Armored" and "Mechanized" titles interchangably for the same three brigades like nothing changed: the terms have a precise meaning, stick to it, goddamnit. 

Adaptable Forces will be made up of seven infantry brigades capable of providing troops for a long-term operation of several years. They will also provide the troops for on-going commitments to ceremonial duties, protecting the Falkland Islands, two battalions based in Cyprus, and one in Brunei.

This division [so are they listening to me and keeping two Divisional HQs...?] will depend heavily on reserves soldiers who will be grouped into battalions to shadow the regulars. During a long-term operation, General Carter believes that 30% of forces in the field would be reservists.

Both parts of the Army will share resources from a new element called Force Troops And Logistics Support.

This will include one artillery, an engineer, a surveillance, a medical, two signals and two logistics brigades - many of these made up of reserves.

These reforms are expected to result in the cutting of five infantry battalions and two armoured regiments.

Defence sources have told Sky News that the largely Welsh Queens Dragoon Guards and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are unlikely to be disbanded, which would put pressure on English cavalry regiments especially the Royal Tank Regiments.
The Brigade of Guards, Parachute Regiment, and the Gurkhas are also to be spared the axe, sources have said, leaving many of the cuts likely to fall disproportionately on English regiments, especially the Yorkshires and the Mercians.
The above is also generally true and certain already, as it was announced by General Wall. However, Sky News talks of "Division" regarding the 7 infantry brigades, and this is still a controversial point, as the Army has just finished creating a 2-stars, non-deployable HQ in Aldershot, the UK Support Command, which was supposed to control the regional brigades.
Now that the regional brigades effectively vanish into fewer but deployable, "reg-res" brigades, putting them under a restructured but hopefully deployable Divisional HQ would make total sense; however, this would almost certainly bring to the disbandment of the newly created HQ, which barely months after being announced is effectively without a real purpose.
UK Support Command might still be the HQ that commands the 7 Infantry Brigades, even if i hope in a second Divisional HQ instead, so take this passage with some prudence.

Also, the composition of the Force Troops and Logistics Support (effectively a - pointless - renaming of the current "Theatre Troops") is to be taken with prudence. While Force Troops have been specifically announced, there was no indication in General Wall's statement about the brigades that would compose the force.
Sky New's version does not imply too dramatic changes, at least in the number of Brigade HQs: the Artillery Brigade already exists (1st Artillery Brigade) and controls the GMLRS regiment, the STA regiment and the UAV regiments, [and now will get the Air Defence formations currently under Joint Ground Based Air Defence command...?]; the engineer brigade is also already there [8th Force Engineer Brigade, with 29 Land Support Group, 12 Air Support Group and 170 Infrastructure Support Group], the Medical brigade is also already an old reality (2nd Medical).

The Signals Brigades are currently 3, but it's already been more than one year from the internal announcement that 2nd 'National Communications' brigade would disband after its involvement in the Olympics with the (surviving) regiments re-assigned to the other two brigades, so both 1st and 11 Signals Brigade would seem to be safe. Not all of their parts will be, however: for example, 7th Signal Regiment will vanish by 31 July, and others might well follow.

The Logistic Brigades are also 3 (104 Brigade is the strategic "deployment-enabling" brigade, while 101 and 102 Logistic Brigades were the Divisional support formations) and so it seems that one is doomed: i realize that speculation should probably be avoided, but i can't hold back from observing that the most likely victim is 102 Logistic Brigade, as it is based in Germany.
I doubt that the unique roles of 104 Brigade can be "devolved" to two restructured divisional logistic brigades, after all, while it makes sense, with the reduction of defence ambitions to operations at most at single division scale, to retain a single support formation. This will be bad news for RLC and REME, but it has been in the air for some time, and i can't say i did not expect it: i made mention of this possibly happening in several of my past articles on the Army. I suspect in the Army they had been imagining it as well.

The only real news is that "Surveillance Brigade" mentioned in passing, given no real attention by the press. A pity, because this one might actually be new, unless the journalists are calling "surveillance brigade" the current 1st Military Intelligence brigade. This is an HQ controlling a force of 3 regular and 2 Reserve Multi-Role intelligence battalions. 
The "Surveillance" name suggests that it might be a new formation having to do with UAV regiments, which would transfer from 1st Artillery Brigade, RAF collaboration (always via drones, but perhaps Sentinel R1 will continue to play a part in it) and Base-ISTAR, i guess. Probably the Intelligence Battalions would be part of it, too, especially if the Army is taking inspiration from the US Army Battlefield Surveilance Brigades, or even from France's army, or Italy's with its RISTAEW brigade [Reconnaissance, ISTAR and EW]. 

Who's been following my posts for some time knows that i've proposed forming a "Force Protection Brigade" bringing together a Base-ISTAR regiment, the RAF Regiment inclusive of CBRN Wing and the Military Working Dog Regiment, to concentrate under the same joint command the valuable experience and skill in the protection of bases and deployed forces. My aim was also to add to it a C-RAM artillery formation, in time.
I wonder if under the "Surveillance" title there might be at least part of what i envisaged. I think, after all, that it is a good idea, at least as good as the idea of a single command overlooking UAVs and intelligence exploitation, closely connected to the RAF's own resources in this field. The Army's Intelligence and RAF's own experts can and indeed should collaborate on IMINT, ELINT and SIGINT.

As to the cuts, i won't comment on the identity of the regiments that will be lost. The names that go around by now are known and have "stabilized". There's a few names being reported, and they never change. So it is likely that the cuts will be made in that group, in a way or another, but how it will happen, we don't yet know.
The loss of 5 infantry battalions and 2 Armour Regiments is a rumor circulating from quite some time, and it seems to be correct, but again, no certainties yet.
Take it as "likely" or "very likely" for now.
Only thing, very personal, that i want to note is that the latest rumor of cuts to "Irish units" sounds politically non realistic. There is no really much in terms of Irish units: there's a single regular battalion, other than the Irish Guards (that should be definitely safe), and i honestly can't see it being cut. I might be proven wrong, but it just sounds unlikely to me. 

What i'd really want to know is what happens to the Artillery and Engineers, which are two critical enablers i want to see efficient and well structured. They are the two areas i really worry about, and i'm indeed very critical about this idea of brigades without organic artillery and engineers. I just hope that the reductions that will be announced won't make for a suicide...  

And the composition of the 7 Infantry Brigades, too, that is something else i'm eager to learn about. But at least Sky News seems to suggest that they will be more akin to deployable brigades than to the old Regional ones. And this at least is a good thing.     


  1. For Infantry, the royal regiment of Scotland, the yorkshire, the mercian and the rifles lose each 1 batallion, but the 5th? Which regiment lose 1 batallion.

    For RAC, the royal tank regiment lose 1 regiment. It is logical. But the 2nd? Which regiment disappear? One of the Lancers? One of the Hussars? Or The Royal Dragoons Guards?

    What is your opinion?

    1. It is a bit of a sick game to try and guess the unit. We could well be proven spectacularly wrong, while we'd perhaps contribute to the worry that service personnel waiting for an announcement on their future have to face.
      I prefer not to play guessing too much.

  2. Hi Gabriele,
    Very interesting stuff. Thanks.
    Not sure how much I trust leaks at the moment, as we didn't get leaked that the MRBs would go!
    I think the high risk units are, 5 SCOTS, 5 RIFLES, 3 MERCIAN and 3 YORKS. I would be surprised if the IRISH Guards got the chop, but you thats a maybe I guess.
    As to the RAC, we hear that 4 are to merge, 1 and 2 RTR seems to make sense. Not sure about the others, and I wouldn't like to guess.
    The news seems to be getting a little better, but I await the full plan, I hope its very soon!

    1. Actually, we did get it, but no one believed to it! There was a Daily Mail article already in January announcing that General Carter wanted 10 brigades and not MRBs... hat off to him, he is now being proven entirely right. He sure got a good source, as i do not think he tried and guessed...!

      I have to re-evaluate the Daily Mail. This time they were spectacularly on target, ages ahead of anyone else, for what i know.
      The Economist also leaked, back in October 2011, rumors of a step away from MRBs, but its rather scary report of 2 Mechanized and 2 Light brigades was not on target at all.

      As to the current leaks, i think they are actually becoming more and more worthy of attention. The plan is complete, and the government is preparing for the announcement: leaks at this stage are meant to prepare the public, and might be informed by the MOD itself, on purpose.

      As to the RAC, yes. The press initially reported that the Scots DG and QDG would merge, which sounded weird because, of course, the scots dragoons are on Challengers, while the welsh ones are RECCE. Also, politically it felt immediately like shoving a pistol in your mouth. I was left puzzled.
      And in fact, this option, according to Sky News, has either been abandoned or never considered, and was just a wild rumor.

      The Times has reported recently that 9/12 Lancers and Queen's Lancers could merge, and both are RECCE regiments.
      This might be a lot more realistic. While it remains speculation, the prospect of a single "Royal Lancers" regiment seems to make sense.

      And the other merge could be between 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiment indeed, as Sky guesses. Would kind of be the least painful of all: same name, same overall tradition... you gotta remove the number. "Royal Tank Regiment".

      This is all we know.
      I won't add speculation of my own. I think the above is probably close to the target, though.

    2. Gabriele.
      I think your right about the RAC.
      Did you read think defence, defence statements 11th June, notice the infantry battalions strengths?
      2 battalions in Cyprues, 5 to go, that would only leave 28 regular and 10 TA to man the 11 UK brigades?

    3. The TA battalions are 14, don't know if they will reduce or increase or what. There was talk of 5 Scots becoming a new TA battalion, for example, after being cut from the regular component, so we might be surprised.

      Cyprus, i dunno if the battalions will still be two by 2015: when Afghanistan is no longer part of the picture and does not require a reserve battalion forward-based and ready to go, i can see the resident Cyprus force down to a single battalion.

      Another will be in Brunei though, of course, one of the Gurkha ones.

      Regular battalions:

      36 - 5 to be cut = 31, [not counting 1 PARA]
      31 - 2 to Cyprus and Brunei = 29

      You only get 28 assuming 1 Rifles with 3rd Commando Brigade.

      28 + 14 TA battalions is still 42 Regular and TA battalions back at home in the core army. 2 of these out on public role, and still potentially 40 battalions.
      That's 3.64 battalions available per brigade, in theory. Counting them all, all brigades could be given 4 battalions each. The key is improving the effective value of the TA battalions, of course.

      Overall, they are not at all absurd numbers. I repeat, the key is making the Reserves plan work!

    4. Gabriele,
      Sorry I got my numbers wrong on TA battalions.
      Yes, I agree, I can't see 2 battalions remaining in Cyprus post Afghan.
      However, I wouldn't count the Bruni Battalion in my total.
      I can't see all 3 armoured brigades, a regional infantry brigade and 3 CDO all being based in the south west! But I guess that depends on the size of the armoured brigades, maybe if they are only 2 battalions strong that maybe possible.
      I like you also hope that each infantry brigade has a FRR, even if its only a light one.
      Watched Mr Hammond on TV this morning, his says cuts to the infantry to be fair, one battalion from each infantry division would be fair? ie, 1 from the RIFLES, 1 from the SCOTS, 1 from the Queens etc. and the extra companies from the Guard? Anyway, I wish they would just get on and publish it!

    5. Well, about brigades being massed in the south, that's about what Hammond and Wall said, justifying it with demographics and saying that the south, casually, will see the smallest decrease in the number of males in recruiting age in the coming years...

      On top of that, there's training considerations, Brize Norton and Marchwood.

      Good reasons to base them there, even if i perfectly agree that it is "not fair" to the rest of the country and politically a bit of a hot issue.

      But, if decisions were to be made on common sense and actual operational requirements...? I think South West it would be, no doubts.

      As to the Brunei battalion, i've counted it off as well, as you saw.
      But armored brigades on just 2 battalions...? I really hope not!
      Also because the doctrinally-relevant component of "air manoeuvre", where would it come from? At least a light role infantry formation is needed.

    6. Gabriele,
      I agree, It would be sensible to station all 3 armoured brigades near Salisbury plain.
      After all it’s the only training area in the UK capable of taking a large number of heavy armoured vehicles. I assume each brigade will have at least, 1 MBT Regt, 2 Warrior Bns, 1 Light role Bn, 1 FR Regt, and Maybe 1 AS90 Regt. That’s 18 units, plus 3 Brigade Hqs, 1 Div HQ, and support and logistics units.
      Add to that the Regional Brigade, maybe a further 2 regular Bns, 2 RM CDO Bns, based in the South West. I make that at least 22 units, not counting support, and logistic units, RE and Hqs. I am not sure that the South West has enough barracks to cope with all that, and if it would be politically possible to do.
      I could be wrong, but I don’t think there are more than 2 brigades based in that area at the moment?

    7. Gabriele,
      Just to add to that, here is the link to the current regional brigade boundries;
      3 must go to get to 7 I know, but I expect the 7 regional brigades to follow these boundries, but with some joined together, south and south east seems a likly one, for a start.

    8. The plan was to have 3 multi role brigades based between Salisbury and Catterick, plus a fourth was announced to be centered on the ex RAF base at Cottersmore, so the area will be pretty vast, but they were all supposed to be able to access Salisbury for training.
      There is also going to be RAF Lyneham available to welcome army material and soldiers.

      It was the 5th Multi Role Brigade, with HQ in Kirknewton, Scotland, that needed a new training area, the famous "scottish salisbury".

      I suspect the new Army structure solves that one particular problem, and if 4 MRBs could fit in the South, the 3 new armored formations almost certainly will as well.

      As to the regional brigades, yes, there will be some merges. How it will be done, i don't know.
      51 Scotting and 38 Irish, for example, could become a single brigade under 51 Bde HQ, i guess, especially since 38 Bde is quite tiny.

      15 and 42 Bdes could merge as well. But it is nothing but wild speculation: i fear we'll have to wait and see.

    9. For me, I think we have 5 "active" brigade and 5 "reserve" brigade (2 English, 1 Welsh, 1 Scottish and 1 Irish). It is logical...

  3. how can they cut the RAC challenger 2 regiments to 3 and why have english cavalry regiments been used as political sacrifices to pander to the scottish indepence vote for a country like ours to have as few as 171 challengers going of a type 57 regiment is sheer lunacy that would mean we would have the fewest tanks since we developed them in WW1
    we will lose our heritage with regard to English cavalry regiments

    1. You might not like it, but it could have been even worse.
      Also, i think the Challengers to be kept in total are 227.
      3 Type 58 regiments would be actually very good: 3 out of 5 regiments currently are only Type 44 (Like in Italy, anyway), and already years ago they were about to go down to Type 38.

      Type 58 is actually a strong kind of regiment, which compares very favorably with other european and not tank regiments.

  4. Have anyone wondered about one cavalry regiment with both armoured and recce squadrons in each brigade, included reaction an adaptable forces?
    That means 10 regiments, plus one single squadron for the airmobile, as it's today...
    Of course it means a wide reduction of tanks too

    1. We thought about it more than once, but it now seems that the tanks will be all concentrated into 3/4 large regiments in the Reaction force.
      And each Reaction brigade should have a formation recce regiment on FRES SV, from what i understand.

      The hope is that the remaining Cavalry regiments, regular and TA, are used for creating Brigade Recce Forces for the infantry brigades, a bit like the RSTA squadrons in the US BCTs.
      But these formations would almost certainly use vehicles such as Jackal and Foxhound, not FRES.

  5. Gabriele

    "And the composition of the 7 Infantry Brigades, too, that is something else I'm eager to learn about."

    I would also like to know something about the composition of these brigades. I don't know whether anything else has been released. Do you think they will be variable in terms of size, with some as small as two regiments/even battalions. Will they be specialized (e.g. some optimised for desert warfare, some for jungle combat, etc. etc.) or just general service trained?

    It will be interesting to see.

    1. General Wall said they would be variable in sizes and composition, if i remember correctly. But there should be enough battalions that they have more than 2, thankfully.

      A bit of regional specialization was also hinted at, but i don't know if it'll ever stretch so far to generate "Middle East" brigade, "Persian Gulf" brigade and other such-specialized formations.

      There was an ambition to improve mountain training with France's help, though, interestingly. They have good training facilities, and the Army is reportedly interested.

  6. Gabriele,
    I know its all speculation at the moment, but until FF2020 Army is published, we can only speculate.
    I doubt that NI would be under Scottish command, for political reasons, and that the Scottish brigade is already a large one, with 4 Regular, and 2 TA battalions, plus 8 other TA units. Of course that’s before the cuts! I think it more likely that it would join the Welsh brigade, as this is also quite a small brigade command.
    Looking at the regular brigades, 1, 4 and 12 Mechanized brigades could become Armoured, and form the bases for those brigades. 19 Light, 7 and 20 Armoured could just disappear, or the numbers used for the regional infantry brigades, say North East, and North West brigades becoming 7th Infantry Brigade?
    Yes, I agree looking at some of the brigades at the moment, there units are scattered far and wide, and I would hope that this would be rationalized in the new force structure, at least a bit!
    I also agree that an extra brigade in Scotland looks very unlikely. But I would assume at least another unit would be posted north of the boarder to soften that blow?
    I get the feeling that the regional infantry brigades will just command what ever is in there area, and there will be no real defined structure, at least to start with. Maybe 2 regular and 2 TA battalions, an artillery regiment, and hopefully a Formation Recce Regt, and if your really lucky an Engineer Regt, but don’t hold your breath!
    The only really organized force, in my view, will be 1st Division, and 16 Rapid Reaction Brigade. As I said, the 3 armoured brigades could be build around the 3 mechanized brigades already in the UK. 1st at Tidworth, 4th at Catterick and 12th at Bulford. I cannot see much money being available for much moving units about, maybe at a later date! To me that would make sense, but as you say it’s all speculation at the moment!


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