To hell with 5 Multi Role Brigades supported by 10 Territorial Brigades and 16 Air Assault, the British Army is planning to have 3 "Armored Infantry brigades" with Armoured and Mechanized infantry supported by tanks, 7 infantry brigades of various size, made up by mixed regular and reserve formations, and 16 Air Assault brigade for rapid reaction role.
Force Groups with Engineer, Artillery, Intelligence and Logistic formations will provide support.
It could, i repeat could, mean just 3 tank regiments in the force, assuming one in each Heavy brigade, and 3 to 6 battalions of infantry on Warrior vehicles.
The Recce regiments on FRES SV might also go down to 3, at this point, perhaps with lighter Recce groups in the infantry brigades, mounted on Jackals: i would be surprised if the infantry brigades had no organic recce force, as that would go straight against operational experience.
Rumors suggest that 4 battalions of infantry are to go, and 4 RAC regiments will merge into 2, but for now uncertainty rules supreme. Most changes at unit level will happen between 2014 and 2016, with an SDSR in the middle, which can easily mean further worries, doubts, and very easily further changes to the plan in the future.
Even without details, it is clear that we are looking at a very different picture compared to the expected one. It is what emerges from the speeches of General Wall and General Carter at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, according to the report from DefenseNews.
How it is supposed to work is still a mystery. I'll keep this upgraded as possible: whoever has additional info is more than welcome to share.
The SDSR is officially gone tits up, anyway. Nothing of what it said seems to be valid, less than two years from its publication.
UPDATE 1: General Sir Peter Wall, Chief General Staff's speech.
My earlier guess seems to be confirmed, but general Wall has actually painted a picture that is, i'm afraid, a further bit worse than i expected, despite my seeming-abundant pessimism.
Eliminating the useless babbling about unpredictability and other arguments we've heard used in all possible ways, his message comes down to announcing that the serious Army is going down to 3 largely unusable brigades configured for a Fulda Gap scenario, supported by 7 brigades good for contrasting the next London Riots plus a "modified" Air Assault Brigade [NOTE: the SDSR did not talk about modifications to 16AA. Might have to
do with 5 Scots battalion being cut and not replaced within the
brigade...] with attack helicopters. Effectively junking ALL the work, planning and studies done until last winter (go read the Agile Warrior 2011 report, september 2011, for seeing how the Army was planning for modularity, for homogeneous formation structures and for Multi Role Brigades capable to tackle all missions) for running head-first down a path that ends with a tall cliff.
The 3 Armored Infantry Brigades are described as being formed on upgraded Challenger II battle tanks, upgraded Warriors, and FRES Scout vehicles.
No mention of mechanized infantry, FRES UV, or anything. These are heavy brigades, albeit probably with a single tank regiment, of currently unknown size (hopefully Type 58, but i wouldn't bet on it).
I'd say that this points to a RAC providing 3 tank regiments, 3 RECCE regiments and one training regiment, a loss of four regiments, which goes against current press rumors reporting of 2 merges, which would mean a cut of only 2 regiments. Something is wrong or missing, but we will learn in the next future.
The "modified" air assault brigade, the main Rapid Reaction unit of the army, and the 3 Armored brigades are presented as the main army force at readyness. They will be all-regular, apparently, and will work as a "deterrent" and as the main force, readily compatible with allies and ready to be slotted into a US-led land effort, as the General says.
I'm not sure about this, but General Wall's words seemed to suggest that these four brigades will all be grouped under the single Deployable Divisional HQ announced by the SDSR.
On a "lower echelon" will be the 7 "reg/res" infantry brigades, which will be of various sizes and probably of rather various composition (go to hell, modularity and commonality, we don't like you!). These are presented as brigades roled for UK resilience, upstream prevention, daily engagement with the country and for wider engagement abroad/capability building.
Only with suitable warning, these brigades will go to war to support enduring operations.
The lower echelon should be the newly created "UK Support Command", a two-star, non-deployable HQ formed in Aldershot to eliminate the Regional Divisions and control all the regional brigades.
This was what was announced in the SDSR, at least, along with the cut of "at least two" regional brigade HQs. The regular brigades would have 2 Divisional HQs, one deployable and one in support, deployable with suitable warning and ugmentation.
Then there was a U-Turn, and all 10 regional brigades were confirmed, and the plan was to pair two reserve and one regular brigades.
And now we have a bigger U-Turn, which sees 12 brigades between regular and reserve becoming 7, a cut (unannounced) of 5, which is particularly serious because this is effectively a chopping blow to the Deployable brigades. From 5, we are down to 3.
And these 3 are equipped with the kind of material that is hardest to deploy, both physically and politically.
And it also seems to be a "silent announcement" that the second Divisional HQ promised in the SDSR is being cut as well.
Goodbye British Army! Goodbye SDSR!
The feeling of desperation only gets worse and deeper when you realize that none of these brigades seem set to have any organic artillery or combat engineer element, something that punches logic straight in the face.
These are to be concentrated in "Force Groups" comprising Artillery, Engineer, Surveillance & Intelligence, Logistics and Medical brigades.
How it is supposed to work, we do not know.
But it gets even worse, when General Wall admits that they have no idea yet of how to base this new army in a way that makes it possible to integrate reserves and regulars.
Reforms to the laws and procedures connected to the employment of reserves are also still to be determined, and made to work. Good luck in getting the british employers to collaborate.
If it was the first of April, i'd laugh. Since it is not, i'm crying inside.
This is not an army anymore, it is a waste of money. And all is dominated by this horrible "did you put this crap together in the five minutes you've waited out of the door...?" feeling. Until a few months ago, there had been some common sense in planning: the Artillery was reorganizing on 5 brigade-artillery formations combining AS90 and L118, with many changes already in place. Batteries have been moved around, regiments have been restructured, the rule of the 5 has been made possible in crucial enablers by adding personnel where needed.
The Engineers were reporting of plans that still included brigade-level regiments and 2 General Support Regiments, despite the reductions, and despite the "82.000 men announcement", which anyway dates back to the summer of 2011 and does not classify as a new event anymore.
And now we get to... this... thing, which turns the Army into an unlikely mix of two extremes, from the Heavy Brigades (To use when? Where? For what???) to the Light brigades of part-time soldiers, without a Medium force in the middle. It's a reform that throws to hell accurate planning and modelling work which has been carried on ever since 2008.
Where did this thing come out of? A magician's hat? A rabbit-hole?
This force structure is designed mainly for one thing: for not going anywhere.
UPDATE 2: The British Army Journal 2012
Launched during the conference at RUSI, this big book is filled with interesting articles talking about the theory that's behind the army restructuring, and outlining the challenges that are to be faced. It gives, however, little additional information over the solutions and structures that the army is adopting for adapting to the future.
The British Army Journal has now been given a website as well, where you can also see the current the previous two editions (2009 and 2011) of this relatively new publication. There is much food for thought in there.
In terms of actual indications for the future, the 2012 Journal tells us that:
Despite the cuts and contracts cancelled, Indirect Fire Precision Attack is still alive. The GPS-guided 155 mm shell (Excalibur) is due to be adopted "in the next few years" (if there have been no further delays, the RA hoped to have it by 2018. Trials and validation on the AS90 have already been completed as far back as 2010(!))
In addition, Course Corrected Fuzes will be adopted as well, "for all tubed artillery". These fuzes, simpler and less expensive than the Excalibur guided shell, are able to turn a normal artillery shell into a very accurate bomb that can correct its course in flight to minimize the circular probable error. BAE systems has demonstrated such a solution to the MOD for the 81 mm mortar round, and the US ATK and others have plenty of offers for 155 mm howitzer fuzes. The improvement is very significant: for a Circular Error Probable that goes from 180 to over 200 meters with normal 155 mm shells, the CCF fuze offers a CEP inferior to 50 meters. The ATK PGK fuze demonstrated a CEP of around 22 meters, indeed, during extensive fire trials.
Adoptiong of CCF can give the Royal Artillery a lot of additional accuracy at a very competitive price, and across the whole spectrum: from 81 mm mortars to 155 mm howitzers, passing by the 105 mm, which is going to be part of the British Army at least out to 2030 after the replacement program planned for 2022 has been shelved.
Fire Support Teams (FSTs) are definitely here to stay. These 6-man interforces teams (Army/RAF and Navy too, at times) are invaluable as they can direct on the enemy everything from mortar fire to helicopters and air attacks. With the Navy's help, they are expanding in the role of guides for Naval Gunfire Support as well, particularly following the wake-up call that Libya was for the use and usefulness of naval gunnery.
They currently work with the FIRE STORM kit of radios, video-downlink and targeting equipment and there is a program ongoing to define the mix of kit that makes it into core budget for the future.
For the engagement of mobile and relocatable targets, several solutions are being studied. Of course the Loitering Munition, with Fire Shadow soon to go live in Afghanistan, but another option remains arming the Watchkeeper under ATUAS (Armed Tactical Unmanned Air System) program.
Additional non-line of sight weapons might be evaluated (perhaps the Army is liking the EXACTOR so much to consider it for the longer period and not just as UOR...?).
ISTAR and EW
The Army is working with the RAF on SOLOMON, system of systems intended to aid the tasking of ISTAR assets, controlling the collection of information, its exploitation and sharing.
RAF Regiment and Army are involved in OUTPOST, which is intended to bring into core budget some of the Project CORTEZ solutions used for Base-ISTAR in Afghanistan (such as the 5 aerostats deployed in Afghanistan, for example) and build on them to develop a solution to the need for situational awareness in defence of bases, locations and events.
BLOODHOUND is about retention and expansion of UOR capability in Forensic and Biometric Intelligence.
PICASSO is a joint, national-level programme for the development of a solution for collection and distribution of Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) and Geospatial Information (GEOINF) from civilian and military resources, such as european earth-observation satellite services, allied military systems and national capabilities. (There's a notional ambition to develop, at some point, a national Earth Observation satellite capability, in which the MOD would of course be interested)
LANDSEEKER is intended to give the Royal Signals the Electronic Warfare capability they need, following the failure of Soothsayer. It is intended to provide a modular family of EW systems, from soldier-worn to vehicle-borne, for the interception of communications and non-communications emissions, and for complex Electronic War tasks. It will replace current systems such as SEER, Odette and Ince, from around 2018.
Royal Logistics Corps
It seems that we have found the replacement for DROPS: the Journal reports that the Enhanced Palletized Load System (EPLS) deployed in Afghanistan as UOR by modifying around 90 MAN HX-77 15-ton trucks has been so succesful to have already been brought officially into core.
Expect more EPLS to be ordered in the next few years, to replace the old Leyland DROPS trucks.
Project JULIUS to upgrade the RAF Chinooks is ongoing, as we know. There's just an additional detail: the new Mk6 (the 14 new-build helos on order) will have their IOC in 2015 (slowed down some, it seems) and will differ by the others for the addition of the Digital Automatic Flying Control System, which will greatly ease and improve handling. HC4, HC4A and HC5 and HC6 will otherwise be nearly the same, and pilot's training and certification will be valid for all variants.
Both FRES SV and FRES UV mentioned as cornerstones, another confirmation that the army is planning on resurrecting the UV in the coming years (2016 is the expected date).
This september, the FIST Underslung Grenade Launcher Fire Control System will enter operational service. Allows to fire a 40 mm grenade out to 300 meters with a 5 meters CEP.
When it'll be live in service, the Journal seems to suggest that the UOR weapon, the LAW66 rocket modified with HE warhead, will be abandoned, but there are no details.
The Casualty Locating Beacon (UOR) is due to evolve in a much more complete electronic package under Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) program, which will help the soldiers locating themselves, their allies, and the enemy.
As part of DSA, the adoption of "more UAVs" is mentioned: the MOD came out with an urgent requirement some time ago, about nano-drones for the infantry / special forces. The DSA might want to give Platoons (or even Sections?) their own mini or nano UAV for the future.
A digital Generic Soldier Architecture is being pursued, forming a core skeleton to which add, with minimal complexity and costs, upgrades and new systems. The GSA goes hand in hand with the Generic Vehicle Architecture, which is coming into service with the latest platforms (FRES SV and Foxhound) and with the Generic Base Architecture effort.
In terms of Fire Power, studies is going into how to restructure the provvision of maneuver support to the infantry via Fire Support Groups. In Afghanistan, a Rifle Company is often given a Fire (or Maneuver) Support Group created by breaking down the Maneuver Support Company.
The RM Commandos, for example, normally operated in Afghanistan restructured on 4 "Combined Arms" companies each with 2 Rifle Platoons and a Fire Support Platoon.
Apparently, consideration is being seriously given to maintaining this kind of arrangement in the future force structure, which might mean doing away with the Support Company, perhaps only retaining Mortars in a platoon controlled at Battalion level.
This might have to do with the fact that the Journal states that non-at-readiness battalions in the future army won't be manned fully, with TA providing elements up to company level. This is probably a step further forwards from the current (paper) arrangement, that sees Regiments supposed to get a 4th Maneuver Coy from the TA on mobilization, but there is no detail of how much gaps will battalions have on a normal day.
In any case, perhaps this plays a part in wanting each Company complete with Fire Support element? It is not clear, but we might see some change in the future.
Finally, the L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle and the use of sharpshooters in Platoons is a big success, and the Platoons of the future army are definitely adopting the Sharpshooter for the long term future. The article is not clear, however, on how this will be done: one per Platoon, or one per Section?
Personally, i'd go for the second, but this will require additional orders of rifles: i think only around 400 were acquired, and we'll need several hundred more.