Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Future Land Operating Concept and MOD Business Plan 2012/15

Two very important documents released recently by the MOD deserve a look and analysis: the Future Land Operating Concept (available here) is effectively the reasoning behind the new Army Structures, and sets out a bit of a (very generic) map of the investments to be made, and (in theory) sets the record on the priorities for the force.

The Business Plan 2012 (here) tells us a bit more of what is being done by the MOD, what is to happen, and when. 

I'll start from the FLOC, highlighting some of the most relevant passages and making some observations on them.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction amongst states and non-state actors will escalate the risk of conflict. It is likely, therefore, that the UK and its forces will fight enemies who use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. This means that the UK must have the capability, with its allies, to deter and defend against (or indeed counter) such attacks.

Overall i can agree with the assesment: the risk is very real, and it featured strongly inside the SDSR as well. What does not fit into the picture is the retirement of the Fuchs CBRN recce armored vehicles, without any replacement in sight. Where is the coherence in stating A and doing B? 

As we develop better ISTAR capabilities, so will our adversaries. They will actively seek ways to defeat our ISTAR system of systems, denying commanders the information and intelligence they need. We must safeguard our own ISTAR capabilities through resilience and redundancy. Equally, we must develop our own counter-unmanned aerial system capabilities.

The focus on the need for ISTAR is a constant in the document, and rightfully so. It is recognized that the Brigade will need to gather and exploit information from UAVs, direct engagement with the local people, and by traditional scouting, by stealth and by strenght, depending on the situation.
We will see if this focus on ISTAR will remain only in the words or if it will bring to some concrete investment: for example, i'm very curious to see the structure of the famous 7 infantry brigades part of the new force structure.
According to the Army's very own doctrinal studies and documents and exercises (such as Agile Warrior 2011), a Brigade Recce Force and a strong information-exploitation capability are absolutely necessary: we will see if the 7 brigades get their own dedicate ISTAR/Exploitation capability.
A model in this sense is the very succesful 30 Commando IEX Group, 3rd Commando Brigade. This 450-strong unit groups together the scouting element of the brigade and the necessary Exploitation capability.
Conversion of current TA and some of the regular Cavalry regiments into lighter Scout/ISTAR formations would seem to be the way to go.

Avoiding collateral damage will continue to be a constraint and the need for a balance between precision and suppression (including non-precision fires) will be required as an essential firepower ingredient of manoeuvre. Our requirements for suppressive fires (non-precision) will reduce, though not wholly disappear. The development of further precision weaponry, including from unmanned aerial systems, will be another important force design principle, augmenting the precision of our traditional direct fire weapons and our currently limited indirect fire precision weapons.

Suppressive and Area Fires (conventional, unguided artillery barrages, for example) might not be as frequent as in the past, but it'll still be required. Artillery is cheap, it is always available, pretty much unaffected by weather (differently from air support) and it is effective.
At the same time, expanding the accuracy of the Royal Artillery is a priority. But it has been at least since 2001, and, save for GMLRS and hopefully Watchkeeper and Fire Shadow, none of the programs the RA pursued were spared the axe. The SMART anti-tank intelligent shell was ordered, and soon after that cancelled. The Braveheart upgrade to 52 calibers barrels for the AS90 never went ahead. The effort for procuring the ATACMS missile for use from the GMLRS launchers seems to have run agroud for good. Longer range GMLRS rockets (over 100 km) have been demonstrated, but never were acquired. The much needed upgrade for the Warrior FV514 vehicle used by Fire Support Teams to direct artillery fire is struggling to progress.
The RA has been told that arming Watchkeeper is a project which can expect to wait at least 4 years before being seriously considered, and despite validation in 2010, it might be 2018 before the Royal Artillery can finally put in service the Excalibur GPS-guided 155mm shell.
A program to pursue Course Correction Fuzes for "all" tubed artillery apparently exists, but its status is uncertain: the MOD was shown such a fuze for the existing 81 mm HE round, by BAE Systems, and US's ATK and others can provide such fuzes, able to change standard shells into highly-accurate rounds, with solutions available for the 105 mm as well as for the 155, giving artillery a circular probable error as little as 20 meters at a fraction of the cost of the much more accurate, "silver bullet" Excalibur.

We are also kept in the dark for now about the future shape of the Royal Artillery: massive reductions are rumored, and it is highly likely that the future brigades won't even have their organic artillery regiment. This is another evident contradiction, if it'll be confirmed.   

Emphasis should be placed on improving precision, integration and interoperability. Our focus should be on: secure communications; sense, warn and engage systems; detection, location, identification and tracking systems; countering indirect fires; countering aerial threats; and the rapid clearance of joint, land and multinational fires.

Manoeuvre in the lower airspace will have implications for the assets allocated at brigade level. Air defence (particularly anti-unmanned aerial systems), as well as battlespace and air space management capabilities, are likely to be required. An enhanced find capability is also likely to be needed in this dimension.

So i take it that the Army will go ahead on the Common Artillery Locating Radar program (especially since the existing COBRA is being prematurely pensioned), a C-RAM capability and CAMM(Land) missiles, plus a reorganization of SHORAD air defence with decisions on the future of Starstreak and Stormer-mounted Starstreak, which at one point seemed set to vanish completely from 2009...?
I hope so.  

Decentralisation of forces will place significantly greater demands on commanders and soldiers to understand the character of the conflict they confront.

The reduced density of forces and increased lethality of weapon systems will place a greater responsibility and capability in the hands of smaller combat teams and more junior commanders.

Armoured infantry will be a core capability around which manoeuvre will be built. The complexity of the environment will require small and robust combined-arms teams able to fight dispersed. Mobility support will be critical in the complex battlespace; assault engineers will be required in greater numbers than at present to fight within complex environments, such as urban terrain. Armour, drawing on its protection and ability to provide precision fire, will be required primarily to provide intimate support to dismounted infantry, although armour should continue to be capable of defeating an adversary by shock action and ground manoeuvre. Control and integration of joint and organic precision fires, both physical and virtual, will have to be co-ordinated and synchronised as far down as sub-unit level.

Decentralization and dispersion of the force is another big point in the document. It is also a reality well experimented in Afghanistan, where battalions can easily end up broken down with each Company sent to a different FOB.
From the lines of the British Army Journal 2012, an hint of change can be seen: there is consideration going into retaining in the long term the Afghan "Fire Support Groups" embedded into the Companies.
There's a real possibility of a restructuring of infantry battalions on a new structure which does away with the Maneuever Support Company and the three Rifle Companies in exchange for 4 "Combined Arms" companies on 2 Rifle Platoons and a Fire Support Group each, possibly with one company being from TA.
I think it is an arrangement that makes perfect sense, and it will be particularly interesting to see if it does actually happen. 

Armor and protected mobility are identified as absolute priorities, with the upgraded Warrior equipping the heavy, high-end reaction force; while UOR vehicles, Foxhound and hopefully the to-be-chosen Multi Role Vehicle - Protected (MRV-P) and the FRES UV will provide protection and mobility to good part of the rest of the force. The 7 Infantry Brigades should be mechanized, at least to a degree, with FRES UV, to build a genuine “medium weight” force which will prove invaluable by combining some of the advantages of Light and Armored forces. In most situations, a proper “medium weight” brigade is likely to be the best solution, so I deem it very important that FRES UV and mechanization of the infantry are given a real priority.
The FLOC expects the MBT to mainly work in direct support of the Infantry, with a "shock" role as a distant second: i can't help but notice that a FRES Direct Fire variant, smaller and more suited to urban mazes and embedded into Infantry battalions would make for a better solution. Of course, money is not there for pursuing the best solution.

The above passages also highlight two other crucial future requirements: Engineers and Fire Support Teams capable to plan, direct and control the whole range of Joint Fires available in support of land maneuver. 
Fire Support Teams should be spared by the cuts, unless we get a nasty surprise. However, the platforms from which they should work (upgraded Warrior FV514 and FRES SV Joint Fires, planned as part of Recce Block 2) are still in the air: the FV514 will only get basic mechanical and electronic upgrades as part of the Warrior CSP, but won't get the desperately needed refresh of its specialized under-armor fire direction kit until the RA can secure funding for it, something that it has been trying to do at least since 2010. This requirement should be prioritized, in my opinion.
The FRES SV Joint Fires will, hopefully, arrive in a not too distant future, but as of now, it is simply not here, nor a certainty.

As to Engineers, the RE is expected to be hit rather heavily by the incoming cuts, and if it happens, there will be yet another evident contradiction between an assesed, recognized need and the action implemented.

Air manoeuvre has the ability to transition between roles and operate across the range of operational environments, most notably from the sea (via the littoral) to the land and back again. Air manoeuvre should be closely integrated with the air and maritime components, and the actions of a ground manoeuvre force if also employed. Air manoeuvre employs the agility, reach and flexibility demanded by the future operating environment and its ability to operate at range, geographically distant from main ground forces or bases, represents a key operational capability to shape, sustain or provide decisive action. The addition of the third dimension in the conduct of combined-arms operations can be enhanced by the teaming of manned and unmanned platforms for reconnaissance, strike and lift sorties.
Air manoeuvre provides a capability that can achieve speed of deployment and redeployment, independent of terrain, and deliver personnel and equipment or supplies rapidly, over distance and onto objectives that would normally be considered inaccessible by vehicle. It can also be used to seek advantage over very short distances in complex terrain where movement in vehicles is constrained. Aviation can, therefore, protect and sustain both a deployed air manoeuvre or ground manoeuvre force with intimate support from the air. Control of the air cannot be taken for granted and counter-air missions may be required in the future operating environment. Furthermore, some nonstate adversaries are also able to challenge control of the air, particularly at lower altitudes. Rotary and slow fixed-wing aircraft are vulnerable, particularly during take-off and landing, and their use may be constrained by the threat of ground-fire.

As part of the air manoeuvre capability, air assault provides a capacity to concentrate, disperse or redeploy rapidly by day or night and attack or approach from any direction across hostile terrain. It has tremendous use in irregular warfare and dispersed operations, acting as a force multiplier by enabling combat power to be massed at high tempo. A tactical battle group air assault mission can provide the massed combat power required on the ground in one wave. Air manoeuvre, air assault and air mobility capabilities will be instrumental in the seizure of the initiative and exploitation of the developing situation on the ground. Air manoeuvre will have important effects in the information domain and against many of the opponents that we may face; air manoeuvre is likely to constitute one of our asymmetric edges.

Who's been following this blog for a while knows that my position on air manoeuvre is very clear, and that i all but proposed to modify rather extensively the way 16 Air Assault Brigade is structured and the way in which it generates force packages, so to make it sure that any deploying brigade, even in the long timeframe of an enduring operation, would be given a coherent, pretty much self-sufficient "air battlegroup", centered around a strong airmobile battalion with (indicatively) an artillery battery from 7 RHA regiment and support of a large Chinook squadron, a Wildcat squadron for recce/escort/light utility, an Apache squadron for support and a Puma flight for Medium Utility, CASEVAC and MEDEVAC and other roles.
The air battlegroup would be attached to the Land Brigade and both would operate under the wider control of a 2-star Divisional HQ, in compliance to the Army's own assesment and following the general lines of what happens in Afghanistan, where there is an higher, 2-stars level controlling the deployed brigade and all other assets.   

The above passage of FLOC summarizes very well my thoughts on the matter, but despite the convergence and despite General Wall's announcing that 16 Air Assault brigade's structure will be "modified", i doubt that they will try anything as ambitious as i imagined and proposed.
The pessimist in me fears that the above words will remain, as often happens, a bit of screams in the wind, without a real impact on how things are structured and done in day to day life. The fear is that 16AA's restructuring has more to do with the expected loss of 5th SCOTS battalion than with anything else, but this is another area to keep under watch: who knows, we might be surprised.
What’s important, in my opinion, is accepting that Air Manoeuvre, at least at Battalion level, is more important than ever. Parachute insertion is likely to be an “extrema ratio” solution, for very rare, very particular situations. But the ability to combine vertical air manoeuvre with the Brigade’s land manoeuvre involving armored/mechanized formations is going to prove absolutely invaluable pretty much in any operational context.
As such, I deem it important that the way in which 16AA is employed is changed and expanded. The brigade should not only deliver the Airborne Task Force for reaction role, it should be able to provide complete “air manoeuvre” packages to a brigade on the field.  

There is, correctly, a similar passage about Littoral / Amphibious manoeuvre too:

Littoral manoeuvre is the exploitation of the sea as an operational manoeuvre space by which a sea-based or amphibious force can influence situations, decisions and events in the littoral regions of the world. This will be achieved through an integrated and scalable joint expeditionary capability optimised to conduct deterrent and coercive activities against hostile shores posing light opposition. There is an increased likelihood that the joint force will be engaged in littoral operations given the predicted future operating environment. The denial or unavailability of ports, land routes, airfields or airspace may necessitate littoral manoeuvre. If so, future littoral operations in the joint operational area are likely to be founded on joint (or integrated) action. Amphibious forces will seek to realise simultaneous effects directly against objectives through ship to objective manoeuvre using unexpected penetration points and landing zones to avoid established defences. The seizure or denial of key terrain to the enemy may be required to facilitate the introduction of follow-on forces. If projection of greater combat mass is necessary, a full commando brigade as part of a multinational coalition could be deployed or, heavier land forces can be projected.

In any littoral scenario, a necessary pre-condition for successful joint action will be an accurate, detailed awareness or, preferably, understanding of the operational area. Defining activities will need to persist throughout all phases of an operation or campaign. Shaping activities will follow this defining activity to set the conditions for successful land manoeuvre, decisive action and exploitation. Sufficient air, surface and sub-surface capability will be required for decisive acts. Decisive activities may be necessary to influence the wider littoral or induce a favourable situation on land. In these cases, it will be necessary to project amphibious forces or land assets, to achieve objectives. Decisive activities may include the simultaneous, or sequential, projection or introduction of land forces, systematic destruction of the enemy or neutralisation of opposition through a combination of organic and joint fires, leading to further manoeuvre and consolidation.

The reasoning is correct and it is pretty much impossible not to agree with it, but the question that it causes is related to, for example, the loss of RFA Largs Bay. How does the significant reduction in amphibious capability fit into a situational assessment that calls for more littoral manoeuvre, i truly can't understand.
Especially if i'll have confirmation of the rumor about the Army losing its Ramped Craft Logistics (RCLs) along with a good share of its other boats and assets. What's the use of these studies and documents if the actual decisions in the end go straight against them?
In a Joint Force approach, this doctrinal vision also suggest that the Fast Landing Craft project and the Future Force Protection Craft should be protected, as they are two important projects to enable littoral manoeuvre. The Force Protection craft will also be invaluable against the threat of swarm attacks and other asymmetric menaces, and it will also likely offer the chance of much expanded and enhanced operational capability in Riverine environment, which, while not specifically mentioned in the FLOC, is likely to be part of the future conflicts. And indeed prominently featured in Iraq and even Afghanistan as well (Kajaki dam and operations with boats on related waterways).   

There is an operational requirement to design and test the optimal integrated headquarters in preparation for future deployments. We must design multinationality into our established formation headquarters from the start, particularly those at high readiness.

The scale, multi-dimensional nature of manoeuvre, and the complexity of the environment, require an essential level of command above brigade, or task force, where the political dialogue takes place, and judgements are made about where to concentrate force and apply economy of effort. This enables the tactical actions of the brigades, or task forces, to be sequenced in time and space. Conversely, joint and inter-agency capabilities need to be integrated at lower levels of command.

The demands of the future operating environment are such that small and mobile formation headquarters are likely to be unable to collate, process and disseminate the level of information and understanding required to generate the mixture of comprehension and agility that is needed to retain the initiative in complex modern conflict. Land forces are likely to be geographically dispersed and decentralisation is likely to be the operating principle through networked command and control. There will be a need for flat information structures and rich information services available at the tactical level. Decentralised operations demand the ability to re-group and concentrate forces when the situation demands. In order to maximise the potential of mission command to create and exploit opportunities, command and control architecture which is able to network top-down and bottom-up is required to exploit advantages in information management and information exploitation. Recognising that command is a capability in its own right, empowerment will be critical to the success in the decentralised future battlespace.

Larger, more static, main headquarters require the structures and resources to deal with the requirements of an integrated and multinational approach. The span of decentralised command, and dealing with the  demands from governments and higher headquarters, will need to be supplemented by more mobile, tactical and deployable elements. This suggests a need for a robust deployable headquarters at the divisional level and more mobile brigade headquarters. This allows commanders to remain engaged closely with the conduct of operations, when and where, the situation demands.

Headquarters and command and control are the subject of a great focus. They were considered with great attention in Exercise AGILE WARRIOR 2011, and the position of the Army is that the Brigade HQ should be mainly Tactical, Fight-oriented, and Mobile. On operations, the brigade is expected to operate under the wider strategical control of a 2-star divisional HQ. 
The contradiction here is in the fact that we seem to be losing all but 1 deployable divisional HQ under the new Army 2020 concept soon to be announced, with the other brigades being all under the newly created UK Support Command.
The target is to operate simultaneously on up to three sizeable, non-enduring operations, as announced by the SDSR, and the FLOC reminds us that, since 1945, the british army has been almost constantly deployed abroad in a manner or another. It is clear to me that one deployable Divisional HQ would soon be overwhelmed by the tasks it would have to face. The personnel and resources assigned to it would never be enough. One deployed HQ requires, in my opinion, at the very least another deployable  HQ at a decent readiness level back at home.
A minimum of 2 Deployable divisional HQs are indispensable to have a chance to meet the army's targets as they are formulated, and the "Division HQ restructuring process", which is ongoing according to the business plan, should take this in consideration. I hope some serious thought goes into solving this rather evident contradiction.  

Future land forces should be designed to train, deploy at short notice with minimal mission-specific training, and fight as a division at best effort. This responsive, intervention force should be robust in design and composed of resilient establishments to prevent the need for backfilling. It needs to be capable of combined-arms manoeuvre, land-air in design, and be able to operate in the CJIIM environment. The integration of capabilities will be key. The force should be equipped to manoeuvre, and operate in, potentially high threat, complex, or intense environments and to provide endurance to a stabilisation operation. Combat power should be concentrated in the force to
match high threats from the outset, as opposed to reliance upon a modular approach that dilutes the combat power across the force. Rapid deployment of a robustly configured force to seize and hold the initiative from an initial position of disadvantage will be critical.

[...] Brigades should be optimised to fight at the tactical level and be fully capable of manoeuvre in all environments including ground, lower air and in some cases, cyber. The structure required to achieve manoeuvre, and the training it requires, will provide the most appropriate baseline from which to adapt to other tasks.
There will be a requirement to mass scalable joint precision effect organically at an increasingly lower level than hitherto; concentration of force requires balance with economy of effort.

The above passage, lifted from the FLOC document, is the justification we get for the very recent change of heart that saw the abandon of the 5 multi-role brigades and gave us the 3 Heavy, Armored "Reaction" brigades, plus 16AA, plus the 7 infantry brigades.
My guess about the structure of the 3 Reaction brigades is for a structure on a single large tank regiment (Type 44 or 58), a Recce regiment on FRES SV (but still possibly with a squadron on Jackal jeeps as well) and, if we are lucky, 2 battalions of armoured infantry on Warrior, ideally with as many as other 2 battalions of infantry in Light Role configuration, which would, i guess, be moved by helicopter to achieve the "manoeuvre in the lower air environment".
Hopefully, at least these Reaction brigades will have their organic artillery regiments (mainly on AS90, but possibly with a L118 battery as well, assuming that double-qualification of crews on both systems continues).  
All three of these brigades might be located around Salisbury Plain. This, at least, is what General Wall hinted at RUSI, while noting how advantageous it would be to have contractors helping to keep up the 3 heavy brigades running. No "scottish Salisbury", so, and considerably less heavy stuff (if any) heading north in the case: prepare to deal with a very angry Salmond when he understands it...!
However, it undoubtedly would make practical sense, to base such formations near the port of embarkation, near their support providers and near their training area.

As a force preparing for contingency operations, it is not possible to train the whole force to be ready to fight anywhere. Force elements will need to specialise in regional and terrain specific environments where activities will enable enduring relationships and provide a much deeper level of understanding of culture, language, relationships, potential rifts between populations, and the nuances of terrain and climate. Regional specialization will require a new emphasis on language skills.The future force will need interpreters, cultural experts, intelligence officers, civil military co-operation personnel and others to understand the subtleties and nuances of the modern battlefield. Soldier-diplomats who have a progressive understanding of the ideas and technology will allow us to take the fight to the enemy, both among the people, but also in cyberspace.

It is expected that the above specialization will mainly affect the other 7 brigades, which make for the (possibly) biggest floating question mark at the moment. They will emerge from the merging of the remaining two regular brigades with the current 10 Reserve brigades, but on their structure there are no real indications, other than they will vary in size, and, i add, probably in composition.
From these brigades the Army will deliver force packages for a wide variety of roles, from Public Role in London to engagement abroad.

Engagement activity incorporates security co-operation, defence diplomacy, forward presence, reassurance, deterrence, containment and coercion. Uniquely amongst the UK’s soft power tools, defence engagement can also deliver ‘hard’ influence by being able to deter, contain and coerce, and thus provides important political levers. Given the profound strategic changes and a more networked, interconnected world, land forces must continue to invest in defence engagement as a means of preventing, in certain situations, the need to use the more expensive hard power option. This should be complementary to our diplomatic, development, intelligence and trade-promotion tools in order to contribute to our security and prosperity objectives more widely. Specifically for the land environment, engagement assists understanding to shape strategy and builds trust and co-operation amongst partners.

Defence engagement, specific to the land environment, falls into four broad categories:

a. Non-combatant Operations. Non-combatant operations and security operations will continue to be an integral part of defence engagement. This includes activities such as conventional deterrence, coercion, containment and reassurance. Special Forces will continue to be used overseas, in conjunction with partners, to counter terrorist threats. Information and cyber operations will be conducted alongside our allies to protect our national interests, and contingency operations will take place to provide reassurance and security in volatile regions.

b. Defence Diplomacy. Defence diplomacy covers activities ranging from basing and access issues, to support to current and contingent operations. The Defence Attaché network provides a frontline defence presence and face-to-face interaction with host nations. This ‘soft power’ will continue to be instrumental in building alliances, coalitions, and partnerships to ensure co-operation, burden-sharing, interoperability and capacity building. The network of loan service, exchange and liaison officers provides critical situational awareness, information and influence within multinational and multilateral organisations (such as the UN and NATO), and foreign governments on a national or regional basis.

c. Defence and Security Exports and Sales. Specialist personnel, working in concert with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will continue to support UK Trade and Industry for the sale and export of defence and security training, advice and materiel manufactured in the UK or by UK companies.

d. Conflict Prevention, Post-conflict Reconstruction and Stabilisation. Conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation are all activities in support of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy which places an emphasis on upstream conflict prevention. Security sector reform is likely to remain a key policy instrument based on the recognition that security is essential to conflict prevention, stabilising fragile and conflict-affected environments and aiding development efforts. Capacity building will be central to conflict prevention and stabilisation tasks.

[...] An expeditionary military advisory capability should be created with specific units earmarked to provide specialist training teams. This will empower partners to operate by themselves, or alongside the UK and her allies. Foreign area officers must become ‘diagnosticians’ in designing and managing indirect and direct security assistance programmes.

Another role of these brigades will be in UK engagement and in national resilience.
On the effective deployability and fightability of these 7 brigades, we have only doubts.


UK land forces are likely to increase their contribution to UN humanitarian operations.

Really? I would not bet on it.

Experimentation should identify what level of combat and enabling capability (including the critical mass of force) represents the credibility threshold that has to be maintained, or surpassed, to provide the moral authority and ability to lead multinational forces in combat.

This is, i believe, an empty hope. No government will ever authorize a (serious) assessment of what is the minimum force level under which the UK should not go. Both because an honest assessment would probably conclude that we are already significantly under such minimum level in at least 2 services out of 3, and because once numbers and capabilities were recognized as indispensable, future cuts would become much harder to sell to the public.
And already writing certain statements and announcements and doctrinal documents filled of jargon and promises of "preserving capabilities", having the "capability to regenerate", "efficiency", "uncertainty", and all that must be really complex and awkward as it is.
70% of the documents by now are about lifting a smokescreen over the water, using always the same empty words.

There is then a list of capabilities to be prioritized:

In capability terms, dispersed sub-units may need to become more robust and resilient. Mobility support will be an essential capability and, in particular, they are likely to need organic, or attached, assault engineers able to operate in the urban terrain.

There will be a greater imperative for sub-units to have access to human intelligence assets and products in order to develop the situation in contact as a core competency.

The ability to operate and analyse organic surveillance and precision fires using small tactical armed unmanned air systems is likely to become a mainstream task for sub-units.

The land force must re-discover and re-invest in the art of manned reconnaissance, closely linking it to the confidence to exploit the situation, both in and out of contact. These forces need to be capable of operating against an enemy expert at reconnoitring.

We must seek structural and technological solutions which do not remove the strategic mobility and agility of light forces, nor detract from the tactical protected mobility of heavy forces.

There is an enduring requirement for logistic support regiments to plan and conduct deliberate logistic movement through contested battlespace.
These regiments must be resourced with an organic self-protection capability that includes suitable platforms, weapons and training.

The establishment of an information exchange group should be resourced as a priority, along with greater investment to develop scalable, flexible and mobile communication information systems architectures.

Lethal effects will increasingly have to be built around strategic communications and, in some cases, cyber.

The exploitation of the third dimension [air manoeuvre] will be critical to deliver rapid deployment, reach and flexibility in the future operating environment and will form a critical element of our high readiness contingency capability.

Although elements of the force can be held at lower readiness, it is important that the Army ‘trains as it fights’ and its Reserves are fully integrated.

The use of contractors for Logistics is welcome and possible, but contractors should take over in-base jobs and other supporting tasks at home or in the rear echelons. The "last mile" will still require military specialist regiments, and with organic force elements for escort and self protection.
Similarly, some of the work done by REME can be handed over to contractors, but battlefield support and recovery of damaged vehicles is still very much a work for the military.
Manned reconnaissance points to Brigade Recce Forces inside the brigades, too, quite unquestionably: keep it in mind when the Army structure is announced, and let's see if there's coherence with the doctrine and assumptions.

Now, on to the Business Plan. Highlights include:

Carrier Strike regeneration to be completed by December 2020

HMS Queen Elizabeth in service in December 2016

HMS Prince of Wales in service in December 2020 (depending on the choices of SDSR 2015)

Switch to the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of Joint Combat Aircraft (LIGHTNING II) to be complete by April 2023 (does it mean that all airplanes will have been ordered and delivered by that date?) 

IOC of the F35B for Land Based operations in March 2019 [it appears there has been a one-year delay

IOC of the F35B for Maritime Based operations in March 2021 [how does this fit into a Carrier Strike regeneration complete by December 2020...? If the plane is not ready, how can Carrier Strike be???]

Put in service the Merlin MK4 (fully navalized?) with the Commando Helicopter Force by January 2017

Merlin HM2 in service in September 2013

RN reserve expanded and restructured according to Future Reserves 2020 plan by December 2018

Achieve 4th Typhoon squadron [it will be 1st Squadron RAF] Initial Operating Capability (IOC) to accelerate Typhoon Force growth and increase multi-role capability by March 2013 [NOTE: increase multi-role capability means everything and nothing at the same time. Is integration of additional AG weaponry going ahead, or not?]

Achieve 5th Typhoon squadron [identity to be announced] Initial Operating Capability (IOC) to accelerate Typhoon Force growth and increase multi-role capability, to be completed by March 2015

Achieve Typhoon Force Full Operating Capability (FOC) in March 2018 [holy hell is it taking a long time. Will the FOC include capabilities such as Storm Shadow, Brimstone, Conformal Fuel Tank and AESA radar, the latter two only on Tranche 3 planes? We don't know]

Deliver the Army 2020 Study in June 2012 [Hammond say's he's absolutely confident they will deliver the announcement before Parliament's Summer Recess, we'll see]
Restructure deployable divisional headquarters, to be completed by April 2015

Restructure to deliver the new brigade structures identified by Army 2020, to be completed by April 2015

Deliver Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP), FOC by December 2020, first battlegroup should be ready in 2018

Take forward work to deliver a new range of medium weight armoured vehicles, to be concluded by December 2022 [This should be about FRES UV, but it is not clear]

Take forward work to replace unprotected support vehicles with protected ones, to be completed by December 2021 [Probably involves retaining UOR vehicles such as Husky, Coyote and Foxhound as well as hopefully introducing into service the adequate variants of the new Multi Role Vehicle - Protected]

Take forward work to deliver a range of Land Environment Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities, to be completed by January 2020 [FRES SV might be comprised under this very general voice]

Take forward work to deliver a range of capabilities to counter explosive ordinance and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), by January 2020 [retention of Talisman?] 

By December 2020 the Army is expected back from Germany.

By March 2014, the TriStar airplane will be retired from service. [term seem to have been extended, was to be 2013]

No mention of the C130K going out of service by year's end as originally expected. Indeed, the C130K is not mentioned at all; the remaining units (8) might have been given an indefinite retrieve, as anticipated also on this blog some time ago, due to delays with project HERMES (upgrade of the C130J to enable it to take over the Special Forces missions now covered by the K) and due to the airlift needs of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which might also have a part in the delay to the TriStar retirement.

The reduction from 40 to 18 Force Elements at Readiness in the Tornado fleet will only be completed in March 2015, due to the need for constant deployments to Afghanistan.  

By March 2016 the MOD will be out of the Search and Rescue job and the SAR Sea Kings will be retired.

Interestingly, there is an ongoing review in the Force Generation rules, including Harmony Guidelines and Tour Lenght. Work is ongoing, and changes will be implemented by 2015, presumably due to the new force structure adopted. Are we going to see the end of the "rule of the five"?

There is also an interesting financial table: Typhoon is, once more, the most expensive in-year big project (and the most expensive of all in general): 0.74 billion expenditure in-year and an expected 18.2 billion whole-life cost over 30 years.
This compares to 0.59 and 5.7 for Astute, 0.17 and 5.7 for Type 45 and 0.60 and 5.1 for CVF.


  1. Hi Gabriele

    Nice find, the F-35 service dates are no real surprise those are in effect the knock on effect from the US cut backs between 2017 & 2017 coupled with the expected Full production model not due till 2018.

    I would suspect the 2023 date could be the delivery of our initial order of Aircraft, i would guess that number will also be decided on the 2015 SDSR along with the fate of the 2nd QEC. I do get the feeling they may defer to the 2020 SDSR a possible 2nd order to enable both carriers to carry an airgroup, as they will have a better idea on the requirement, the procurement cost, the reliability and the potential loss rate from USMC data.

    BTW is there no mention of the Crowsnest project to replace the AEW Seaking ?

    1. The business plan makes no mention of Crowsnest. But then again, a lot of other "minor" programs aren't shown, either. For example there's no mention of the 14 new Chinooks, which will hit IOC by 2015: you'd expect it to be included, but it is not.
      Puma upgrade, another thing that is not mentioned, and yet it should be in service by next year.

      Crowsnest has just been confirmed as part of the committed core budget, so i'm not worrying for it not being shown in the business plan.
      My worry is that the MOD might be gambling to put it in service not before 2020, even if it means accepting a 4 or more years gap in AEW when the Sea King 7 retires in 2016. This is the main area where i'd like to have some comfort.

      I hope the 10-years equipment plan will prove more complete. But we might easily have to wait until september or later before it is published.

  2. Hello there!
    In his speech, General Wall said this:
    "The Army 2020 structure, which will be revealed in some detail later this morning by General Carter..."
    I have been looking for his explanation in RUSI,, and google, but I couldn't find anything related.
    Do you have any information about it?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Unfortunately, no. I was hoping that RUSI would make available the video of Carter's speech or a transcript, but for now there's nothing of his stuff accessible to the public. I'm keeping my eyes open to see if something surfaces, here or there. If it does, i'll write about it right away.

  3. I have just find this: the Army Book 2012, where LTG Carter writes about Army 2020. Perhaps is the same speech, but he doesn't explain anything about the new brigade organisation.

    Anyway, as the deployable army will reduce to one division with only three armoured brigades, I hope that, at least, they will retain four battalions as it was planned before: two lights, one armoured, one mechanised, plus armoured and recce cavalry.

    I'd liked very much this multirol organisation even for the Spanish brigades. It is much better than specialized one if every brigade has to shift in every operation with the rest.

  4. Sorry, I forgot to ad the link:

    1. Thanks, but i already know the 2012 Journal: indeed i already squeezed all the valuable info out of it a few days ago, writing an article about it:

  5. Hi Gabriele,
    Very interesting read. Thank you.
    I hope that the 3 armoured and RR brigades all have 4 battalions!
    I have always wanted a close support platoon in a rifle company. Pity it will be at the expense of a rifle platoon!
    Any idea what the fire support brigades will look like, for both the armoured and low readiness brigades?

    1. "Any idea what the fire support brigades will look like, for both the armoured and low readiness brigades?"

      At the moment, it is not even certain that artillery will be reorganized into brigades, i fear. I really wish i knew...

  6. Hi Gabriele,

    Have you read anything about the Fire Shadow deployment to Afghanistan being cancelled. Was just doing a quick search to see what the latest status of it was, and a google search of "fire shadow loitering munition" and filtered to only show results from the last week gives a first link to a Jane's Defence story about the deployment being cancelled.

    Going to the link ( doesn't show the story (so must be a bit older story), but was just wondering if I've missed something or this is some really old story?

    1. Ok looks like it is a new story:!/ihsjanes

    2. No good. I hadn't heard of this yet, so far everything seemed to be going the right way. Another bad news to add to the pile...

  7. Thank you Gabrielle for another brilliantly written commentary.

    What I see from this as a South African, are quite a few similarities with what the South African Army is planning.

    Of course you cannot mention the South African and British Armies in the same breath any more, because of vast disparities in funding, training, discipline, size and equipment, all in favour of the latter.

    However the South Africans have been for quite some time now planning to reorganise their army around two divisions - one mechanised and one motorized.

    For the mechanized division they plan an armoured brigade and a mechanized brigade.

    For the motorized brigade they plan several motorised brigades.

    There will also be a special operations brigade(independant) with airborne and seaborne capabilities)

    I find it interesting that these two armies who in the past have been enemies and close allies are both following more or less the same path, as opposed to the Australians who are following more or less the American multi role brigade model.

    Also Gabrielle I want to ask: Will the infantry batalions in the British Army rotate in and out of the Armoured Brigades or will they stay in their role (light role\armoured\motorized etc.)?



    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting, i'm glad you found this interesting.

      As to the british army not following the american model, i think in a way, it is actually following it more than Australia is, with the new force structure announced.

      The americans have many small (very small, indeed, 2 - soon to be 3 - maneuver battalions, plust 1xArtillery regiment and RECCE formation) brigades, either Heavy, Medium (on Stryker) or Light (Infantry).
      Most of the "enablers" are localized into Sustainment, Aviation and Artillery brigades, attached to a Divisional HQ.

      In a way, the new British Army mirrors the approach: many brigades, with well defined roles, with Heavy at one end, and Light at the other.
      The enablers seem also set to be removed from brigades and "grouped up" somehow. We don't have the details yet.

      In a way, you could say that Carter is pushing the British Army to adopt the guidelines of the american model, but with the differences imposed by the cuts and related shortage of... mostly everything.

      Hopefully, FRES UV will introduce a 8x8 armored vehicle that will allow at least a partial mechanization of some of the 7 Infantry Brigades to fill the "medium weight" gap, which is a big gap in my opinion.

      As to rotating the battalions into Heavy role, no, i think the Heavy battalions will always be the same ones. Hopefully there will be six of them: Heavy brigades with less than 2 Armoured Infantry Battalions would not make any sense.

    2. Thanks Gabrielle for clearing that up.

      Yes, I see what you mean with the Brits following the American model more.

      So if executed properly it can actually work very well as the Americans have proved.

      I am personally a fan of the MRB's though. Specially for a small army that does not have many brigades to rotate in and out of combat zones.

      So if the British Army has one armoured brigade already deployed, it will not, in a contingincy situation in a different area, be able to put a full division in the field for a short time. Or will they backfill this division then with one of the infantry brigades?

      Less than ideal?


    3. A fully-armored division on 3 brigades deployed in the field is kind of unthinkable anyway. Already in much better times, the UK only deployed 116 MBTs in Iraq in 2003, which is exactly 2 Type 58 regiments.

      The 3-brigades divisional effort would likely involve only 2 armoured brigades, with the third probably made up by 16 Air Assault Brigade and/or by the Royal Marines brigade. Or, of course, by battalions picked up from the 7 infantry brigades.

      And yes, i'm a supporter of the MRB concept myself, as i think it makes a lot of sense.
      I think the true, unspoken reason why the 5 MRBs project has been abandoned is that the cuts won't leave enough enablers available to properly equip such 5 brigades with artillery, engineers etc.

    4. Thanks again Gabrielle

      What you say makes sense.



  8. "Interestingly, there is an ongoing review in the Force Generation rules, including Harmony Guidelines and Tour Lenght. Work is ongoing, and changes will be implemented by 2015, presumably due to the new force structure adopted. Are we going to see the end of the "rule of the five"?"

    What is this review called, and when is it expected?

    Great detail as always Gabbie.



    1. There is no indication of a specific "name" for the review. It is listed among the ongoing activity. There is also no available release date, unfortunately. Perhaps the Army announcement in Parliament will contain some hints about this as well.

    2. cheers Gabbie, much obliged.

      I'm keen to see what they conclude on this too.

  9. Gabriele,

    I have been "hors de combat" for over a fortnight (holidays)and am therefore decidedly not up to speed with regard to the latest developments concerning the future structure of the British Army. I shall have to read your latest comments on the subject more carefully and perhaps post a few points/questions on the topic later.

    I must say that I am very disturbed by Matt's revelations concerning Fire Shadow. Is cancelling its deployment to Afghanistan the precursor to it being cancelled altogether, do you think? I think that it would be invaluable in Afghanistan, with its ability to loiter for hours and then strike devastatingly. Anyway, I thought that the thing was already in production and that some had already been delivered to the Army.

    1. I'm worried as well regarding Fire Shadow, but i'm trying to keep my hopes up. The first systems have been very recently handed to the Army, i understand. The cancellation of deployment to Afghanistan could have been caused by a number of considerations. The current Fire Shadow is still a weapon very much in development. Perhaps the MOD has decided that they do not yet want to risk using it in the busy, crowded sky of Afghanistan, i dunno.

      I'm convinced it would have been incredibly useful, though.
      I hope it will eventually be sent along later... and that it will stay. If it was cancelled, it would be the hundredth attempt of modernizing the RA to be torpedoed and sunk. Frankly, it is about time it would stop.

    2. I'm hoping that its only some delay rather than actually being cancelled, but then again if that was the case wouldn't they just keep quiet about it and just keep pushing back the date like they have with WatchKeeper.

      Thinking the worse, I can't help thinking maybe due to the future cuts to the Royal Artillery that they have decided to cut Fire Shadow rather than something else. But even then it would still seem to make sense to deploy it and see how useful it was before they decided. If this is the case, I think the Royal Navy should think about taking it over.

      The only other thing I could think of is that they have decided to hold it back for use somewhere other than Afghanistan. Maybe Somalia? If there are any future EU missions there, might be a alternative to Attack Helicopters and lower risk.

      Also the only reference to this cancellation seems to be on Janes and as I don't have a subscription I don't know what the full article says. So without official confirmation who knows how true it even is.

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