Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Army: where is it going?

According to reports, letters have been sent by the MOD to Commanders in the Army, and the units have been/are being briefed about their future as i write, ahead of the Army 2020 announcement which is expected tomorrow.
Service personnel should at this point in time know about their future, so i think i can report of the latest leaks without the speculation being particularly damaging to the force. If the data is correct, the force should already know. If it is not correct, someone will laugh at the suggestion, and someone else will bitterly smile. Too late to change anything, anyway. 

According to the latest reports, the Army's frontline will lose:

5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland - Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment - Duke of Wellington's
2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh
2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
3rd Battalion, Mercian

The Cavalry is set to lose 2 units, as 9th/12th Lancers and Queen's Royal Lancers are merged. The Welsh and Scottish cavalry regiments, which were reportedly at risk, should be safe, but 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiment will be merged.

This would leave 4 regular tank regiments and 4 recce regiments: the fourth tank regiment will probably work like the current 1st RTR, providing reinforcements for deployments, training and demonstration roles.
The fourth Recce regiment might be assigned to supporting 16 Air Assault and 3rd Commando, if we are very lucky: i can't quite see a regular regiment being broken down in squadrons to assign to the 7 infantry brigades, this is more something i expect to see happening with the 4 Territorial Army cavalry regiments. But we'll have to wait and see.

So far, it is not a tragedy, if confirmed: although painful, despite the impact it will have on the soldiers losing their unit and their jobs, for the Army these are manageable losses.
The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Royal Welsh will become one-battalion (plust TA battalion) regiments like the Royal Irish.

Hoping that the pain stops here, though: in the past few days, in the mess of leaks, suggestions, speculation and fear that has been raging, we have been told (mainly by the Telegraph) that 11 infantry battalions were in for the chop, for merges and/or transformation into TA units.
Tomorrow we'll have to see if this is the case: it might be if the cuts outlined so far are to be intended only as the first tranche of Army restructuring, as it had been planned that the Army would first drop to around 89.000 by 2015, and then down to 82.000 by 2020.
Tomorrow's announcement, i must warn, might still add other bad news because of this. I hope it won't, but be aware that it is a possibility, only partially mitigated by the fact that, down the road, there will be another SDSR.
But of course, with the track record of the last reviews with the weird exception of the 1998's one, "hoping in the SDSR" sounds like a sick joke.

Of course, the pain does not at all stop to the Infantry and Royal Armoured Corps, much as the debate over infantry and cavalry capbadges dominate the whole debate on the press. Extremely painful and damaging will be the savage cut to all combat support branches, from the Royal Artillery to the Royal Logistics Corp, passing by Signals and Engineers and not sparing REME.
We are talking about many thousands of men that will be removed from the force, and a consistent number of formations, much as this makes no headlines for some unfair reason, like the Combat Support men were not as worth of attention as those in the infantry and cavalry.

The Royal Artillery has already lost 35% of its AS90 self-propelled guns (down to 89), and the 40 Regiment (Lowland Gunners) is gone. Further reductions (totaling a third of total manpower, if we are to believe the reports)  are due to be outlined tomorrow, and because of them, it appears almost certain that no brigade in the Army, perhaps excluding 16 Air Assault and 3rd Commando, will have organic artillery support. How many regiments will be lost, at the moment is not clear. What is left will apparently be grouped into 1st Artillery Brigade, and from there assigned to deploying brigades when and as necessary.
Until a few months ago, the Royal Artillery was reorganizing its Field regiments into 5 formations each with 2 AS90 batteries, 1 battery on L118 Light Gun and one Tactical Battery made up by several 6-man Fire Support Teams capable to request and direct mortar, artillery and air attacks on the targets. It was also reorganizing 32 and 47 Regiments on 3 and 2 Integrated UAS Batteries, each employing both Tactical drones (Watchkeeper) and mini drones (Desert Hawk III and T-Hawk) and restructuring 39 Regiment and 5th Regiment on 5 batteries each.  
Until not many months ago, the Royal Artillery had been the only service, along with the Signals, which would see some growth, instead of shrinkage. This tells you just how huge a shake-up the Nick Carter's review has been. Politics have had, no doubt, a massive impact on planning: we might never know the full, real story, but in summer and autumn 2011, even after the July announcement that additional cuts would push the army down to 82.000 instead of 94.000, things were clearly headed down one route. And then, all of a sudden, a dramatic change happened, and the Multi Role Brigade, which was being studied by as far back as 2008, was abandoned. It is a fact. 

Now, the Royal Artillery seem set for a big shock.

Something similar will probably happen with the Royal Engineers, apparently doomed to suffer a cut just as savage. They have already lost 38 Field Regiment and merged 25 and 39 Air Support Engineer regiments, and mothballed the M3 rigs until 2015, but this seem set to be only the beginning of the pain. The only specialty that's ringfenced is EOD, but even so there's no telling if this means that Talisman route-clearance systems will have a long term future post Afghanistan or if the Army will divest this capability only to regret it later on...

The Division HQs (2...?) of tomorrow, and the Brigades themselves (again perhaps with the exception of 16 Air Assault brigade) seem destined not to have organic Royal Signals elements either: already late last year, in The Wire, magazine of the Royal Signals, the commander announced to the force that the plan was evolving into the formation of 5 Theatre Support Regiments, based on the current Campaign regiments. The exact words were:

The shape and size of the Corps will rightly depend on how the Army and Defence develop – we are in support - but we can no longer afford the luxury of organic support to any but the very highest readiness headquarters. So we are creating as part of our part of Transformational Army Structures, five new “theatre” Signal Regiments, based on our Campaign Signal Regiments. These will provide close support to brigades and battlegroups, and other points of information presence, using satcom and terrestrial bearers (largely Skynet and FALCON), information infrastructure (principally DII), and suites of applications. Support to other HQs, such as aviation, Joint Force Support and two star HQs will be provided from within these regiments, although it is likely that some adjustments will be made as our thinking on the future of divisional HQs develops. There are other changes, designed both to meet our man­power reduction targets and balance us for the future.   

The Campaign Signals Regiments were born from a 2009 Headquarters Land Forces order to re-role 5 existing regiments: these are 1 Sig Regt (1st UK Division HQ and Signals Regiment), 2 Sig Regt, 3 Sig Regt (3rd UK Division HQ and Signals Regiment), 16 Sig Regt and 21 Sig Regt (Air Support). 11 Sig Bde is coordinating and controlling the preparation and deployment of all 5 regiments. The key idea was that each regiment would be at home and prepare for 2 years and then deploy to Afghanistan for the classic 6 months, before returning to recuperate and start the cycle once again. 16 Sig Regt were the first of the Campaign Signal Regiments, deploying in February 2010. They were replaced by 2 Sig Regt who, in turn, were relieved by 3 Div Sig Regt.

The change, if confirmed tomorrow, is now to become definitive, and will see the Division Signals regiment removed from the Divisions and centralized. The Army brigades  apparently would all lose their organic Signals Squadron as well.
21 Regiment, which is in theory meant to be a supporting element providing communications to the RAF Support Helicopter Force and other units under Joint Helicopter Command, has been "generalized" and the Air Support role has effectively been reduced to be assigned to the sole 244 Squadron, with the other two Squadrons in the regiment (220 and 214) providing "general" support.
This could become the definitive arrangement. A degree of "air support" capability is provided by all Campaign regiments in Afghanistan, where they work with the deployed JHC units, so, in theory at least, the reduction is manageable. Especially if the 5 regiments are beefed up some with part of the squadrons that will be lost by the brigades.  

The Campaign Signals Regiments have worked well in support of Afghanistan and other Army commitments in these years, so, hopefully, things will work overall. However, with the need for communication specialists on the rise, big reductions effectively go against logic, there is no escaping this truth.

The Royal Signals have a recently formed regiment, 15 (Information Support) which provides Level 3 reachback support to all operations, and this should be definitely safe.
The expansion of 14 (Electronic Warfare) Regiment to an establishment of 750 should be confirmed, and the regiment's 5th Squadron stood up officially just last month, on 20 June.
I also expect 18 Regiment (Special Forces Support) to be untouched, and the need for the 11 Regiment (Training) is certainly not reduced either.

That leaves 3 more regiments: 10 Regiment is a special formation in the force, providing the invaluable 225 Electronic Counter Measure (Force Protection) Squadron. Again, with its 241 and 251 Squadrons the regiment provide Information Communication System Support (ICSS), with 241 Squadron on permanent high readiness to deploy abroad as it the squadron tasked with putting up cabling and ICS infrastructure whenever the army needs it.
In theory, for these reasons the regiment should be safe.
22 Regiment has been busy introducing Falcon in service, and 30 Regiment, with its two squadrons, provides Deployable Strategic Communications, using Cormorant and, in the near future, Falcon.
If there are further changes to be made to the Royal Signals, it will be in this area, perhaps "merging" 22 and 30 Regt, but this is only speculation on my part.

One new formation in the Royal Signals that i hope to see given a long-term future is the Royal Signals Infantry Support Team. Each team counts 5 men, and one such team has been prepared for each infantry battalion in the regular army. 37 team were planned (so one for 1 PARA too?) and 13 were already in action as of April last year.
In total, it's just about 185 men committed full time to this program, but the ISTs have answered to the very real need for improved access to communications for the infantry on the ground. The IST works at Battalion HQ level, normally, but it is also responsible for training infantrymen selected within the regiment in the use of radio and satcoms. Between 20 and 50 infantrymen within a battalion will be prepared pre-deployment by the regiment's IST and turned into Tactical Signalers, capable to use HF, VHF and Tactical Satellite comms. Each of them is also normally given training as combat medic: in Afghanistan, this allows every patrol generated by the battalion to have one infantrymen competent as medic and equipped with radios and satcoms. These combined skills allow him to, for example, call in and coordinate Casualty Evacuation from the battlefield, providing valuable information to the Medical Response Team about the conditions of the wounded.
The Infantry Support Team has been a game-changing answer to a very real need in modern warfare, and with the number of battalions shrinking and with the removal of Brigade's signal squadrons, i think it is fundamental to confirm this element in the future force.

The already official cuts to the Royal Signals are 7 Regiment, which will be gone entirely soon, as part of the reductions to the supporting elements of the 3-star ARRC HQ.
2nd (National Communications) Signals Brigade will be disbanded after the Olympics: this is a formation mainly made up of TA formations, which will be redistributed to the surviving brigades (1st and 11th).       

The RLC is going to lose one of its 3 brigades, and i'd say that it is certainly going to be one between 101 and 102 Logistics Bdes, with 102 being the most likely victim as it is Germany-based. Cuts to 104 Logistic Brigade do not seem likely, as 104 is made up of unique, highly-specialized enabling regiments: it contains the (ringfenced) 11 EOD Regiment and the unique:

17 Port & Maritime Regiment, Marchwood 
23 Pioneer Regiment
24 Postal, Courier & Movements Regiment
29 Regiment, Air Despatch and Movement  

If the Army has to retain its capability to deploy and operate abroad, it'll need all of these unique formations. 101 and 102 Brigades are essentially Divisional logistic enablers, and with the reduction in ambitions to a single Division-sized operation as maximum, a single such brigade is probably deemed sufficient. 101 and 102 Brigades each have one Supply Regiment, 2 Transport regts, 1 Military Police regiment and one Force Support Battalion REME. It is not unconceivable to expect all the units of one of the brigades to be disbanded, but we'll know tomorrow, possibly.

Reductions in REME manpower are also expected. Medical regiments, one regular regiment for each brigade, are likely to be centralized into the Medical Brigade, but i do not expect large cuts in this area.  

Wikipedia's and Jane's' Army 2020 report

Wikipedia has a quite detailed overview of the Army 2020 general structure: most of it was revealed by General Peter Wall at the RUSI Land Warfare conference last month, so i know that it is correct. But Wikipedia adds details that were not in Wall's main speech.
General Nick Carter, head of the Army 2020 Team, spoke in the same conference, but RUSI did not make available transcripts or videos of his speech, unfortunately: General Wall said in his speech that Carter would provide some detail later, and i think that is the data that Wikipedia uses, via Jane's "British Army looks to reactive and adaptive division", page 5, Jane's Defence Weekly, vol 49, issue 26, dated 27 June 2012.

I do not have access to said Jane's document, so i cannot verify by myself what it says, but the Wikipedia entry reports:

The new structure will comprise:

  • Reaction Forces

    • A modified 16 Air Assault Brigade, including paratroops, and two regiments of attack helicopters. This 'early entry' force will share enabling capabilities such as artillery, engineer, and logistics regiments with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. [Modified is the exact same word used by General Wall. However, the general did not speak of shared supporting elements in common with 3rd Commando. By the way, i find this "sharing idea" very unrealistic and potentially terribly damaging. I'm really, really hoping for it not to be a part of the official announcement]
    • One division comprising three armoured infantry brigades, each with one armoured regiment and two armoured infantry battalions. These brigades will have heavy and medium vehicles; including upgraded Challenger II tanks, Warrior and Scout armoured vehicles. Each of these armoured infantry brigades will comprise:

[General Wall announced the 3 armoured brigades and said they would have tanks, the Scout and the two Warrior battalions, but in his speech he did not expand on the number of tanks in the regiment, nor did he talk about a third infantry battalion. I must also note that "56" is a weird number: the Uk has traditionally had Type 43, Type 44, Type 57 and then Type 58 regiments, but, as far as i'm aware, there never was a Type 56 tank regiment. Not saying that Wikipedia is necessarily wrong, but sure it is a curious detail.]

From the reaction forces one pararachute battle-group and one armoured battle-group will be available for immediate operations world-wide with the air assault brigade and a mechanised brigade available for deployment within three months.

  • The Adaptable Force
    • This will comprise one division [as far as i know, it is not clear yet if this will be a traditional divisional HQ, with deployable characteristics, or if it'll be the recently created UK Support Command, stood up in Aldershot to replace the Regional Division HQs] made up of seven infantry brigades of various sizes each made up of paired regular and Territorial Army forces. These infantry brigades will each comprise:

      • between two to four light-role infantry battalions,
      • a number of light cavalry or wheeled reconnaissance squadrons.

[General Wall announced these 7 infantry brigades of mixed regular and reserve formations, and said that the sizes of said brigades would vary, but gave no detailed indication on the possible number of regiments. Wikipedia might be quoting, via Jane's, General Carter if he effectively provided such details at RUSI, or it could be speculation, so be careful in approaching this info.

These infantry brigades will be suited to U.K. operations or overseas commitments (such as the Falkland Islands, Brunei and Cyprus) or with sufficient notice [18 months, according to The Guardian] as a brigade level contribution to enduring stabilisation operations.
Reportedly, the British Army is notionally planning for future enduring operations to last 3 years at most, deeming an intervention that requires longer than that "a failure".

  • Force Troops And Logistics Support, comprising eight brigades:

    • one artillery brigade,
    • one engineer brigade,
    • one surveillance brigade,
    • one medical brigade,
    • two signals brigades,and
    • two logistics brigades.

These "Force Troops" appear to be merely the current Theatre Troops under a new name. They were announced by General Wall. The most interesting element is the "Surveillance" brigade: currently the Army has a Military Intelligence brigade, but the term Surveillance might indicate the intention of following the American example and form a battlefield surveillance formation combining UAV regiments, Surveillance and Target Acquisition regiment and Military Intelligence Battalions. There's no details available for the moment, though.

The Joint Helicopter Command will remain an integral part of the land force. There won't be no reductions to the Apache fleet, and both 3 and 4 Regiment AAC are safe. 1st and 9th Regiments AAC, on the Lynx AH7 and AH9A, are not as set in stone, and the possibility of early retirement for the Lynx AH7 has appeared in some reports.

How i'd do it

Now for the wild speculation, i'll have a quick go at what i would have done in Carter's place.

First of all, make the infantry battalions standard, homogeneous, and modular. All must have the same structure, finally, and the countless little differences between a formation and another should finally vanish. It would make things a lot easier. As of now, there isn't even a common establishment for battalions in the same role: looking at Army data provided in Parliament, the establishment (The Establishment of a formation is the number of posts within it that are filled by men coming from the same specialization, so that the establishment of an infantry battalion is not the total force of the unit, but the number of posts filled by Infantry soldiers and officers, excluding REME, Signals, cooks, clerks and all other components) of a Light Role infantry battalion can vary from around 550 to over 570 men, a quite important difference for battalions in the same role.
An armoured infantry battalion has an establishment of around 636 men, and a Mechanized Battalion hovers at around 610, with a PARA/Airmobile battalion is at 587/588 men.

Make a study, select the structure that best meets the needs, and adopt it as standard for that type of battalion, as everyone else in the world does. It makes management so much easier.

Personally, having read MOD documents such as the Future Character of Conflict and Future Land Operating Concept, i've matured the belief that the most desirable structure is one that does away with the Manoeuvre Support Company as currently used and adopts 4 homogeneous combined arms Maneuver Companies.
For example, in the Light Role battalion this would mean having each Maneuver Company on 2 rifle platoons and 1 Fire Support Platoon, built with sections removed from the Maneuver Support Company. This is something that already happens quite frequently in Afghanistan, for what i've heard, since battalions often end up separated down into companies assigned to this or that FOB.
Indicatively, the Fire Support Group would have a couple of 60 mm light mortars, with tripods for long-range use, a couple of .50 HMGs and 1 Grenade Machine Gun, possibly a couple of GPMG in Sustained Fire mode and eventually a Javelin section and one or more sniper pairs.

The 81 mm mortar sections (4, each with 2 mortars) would be normally kept at battalion level, along with the Sniper platoon and Anti-Tank platoon (again on 4 sections of 2 missile launchers each). There would also be a RECCE and Pioneer platoon with Foxhound vehicles.
The integration with the reserves would be achieved by having perhaps as much as one third of the regiment's establishment coming from the TA in form of mortar teams, Javelin teams and fireteams/sections which would be mixed in with the regular equivalents.
Forming such small formed teams of reserves should be much easier than trying to get whole TA battalions to deploy.

For what i've read, the Government proposed one such arrangement to the Army: no regular battalion would be cut, but all or most of them would be restructured to have nearly a third of their establishment made up by TA personnel, or shelved.
The Army refused, and of course i approve not reducing the battalions to an establishment of 400 (if anything, battalions should ideally be enlarged), but the option of providing the balance of manpower with reserve personnel i find attractive. This is what the Army is supposed to do: get 30% of its strength from Reserves.
Refusing to do it by depleting the regular component in existing battalions is, to me, a surrender: it very much looks to me like the admission that the Army does not believe in the TA being able to step up to meet expectations. Sadly, it is far from unfunded a fear. But the Army's approach does not solve the problem at all: in my mind, it makes it worse, as the regular-manned enablers (Artillery, Engineer and others) end up paying a disproportionate price to meet the two contrasting requirements:

- Political requirement: do not lose capbadges, it is highly unpopular
- Military requirement: lose a lot of Regulars, but keep the battalions large and fully regular manned

It is obvious that, when you try to put these two objectives together, you can only cut battalions whole, but only an handful picked wisely here and there, among the less politically sensitive ones, while losing the rest of the regulars from the vital enablers.
Even when it means obvious incoherence with your very own assessment of your needs: more Signals, more Artillery personnel and more Engineers needed on operations, as shown by Afghanistan and openly recognized in the Future Land Operating Concept, and at the same time cuts of up to 30% exactly to those units you admit you'd need more of.
You've not reduced the risk, you've made it worse by far: you have lost a lot of enabers, some of which you hope to get via reserves, the same ones you don't believe will ever deliver, and you have infantry brigades largely made up by battalions, again, made of the very same TA personnel.
The remaining infantry battalions in the regular force might be at their full efficiency, but without sufficient enablers and organized in brigades which might never be able to really go anywhere.
Does not sound smart to me.

I would have taken the risk by trying to have as many as 200 men in each infantry battalion come from the expanded, reorganized TA. That would have meant a "soft" cut of up to 7200 regulars without the loss of a single battalion, potentially, against the loss of 5 battalions and perhaps 3000 regular infantrymen.
The difference, 4000 men, would meant far less damaging cuts to the strategic enablers.

The reorganized Army would so have 7 infantry brigades each with 3 regular infantry battalions, plus 9 battalions armored/mechanized in the 3 heavy brigades, plus 4 battalions in 16 Air Assault brigade, 1 in Brunei and 1 in demonstration/training role. The battalion for Cyprus, the Roulement Company for the Falklands and the battalions for public roles would come on rotation from within the 7 infantry brigades.

The cuts in the RAC would be the same, 2 regiments removed by merging Lancers and RTR. The 4th Tank Regiment would be in training and demonstration role with two squadrons, while one squadron would be dedicated to 3rd Commando Brigade.
Similarly, the 4th Recce regiment would be "split" in two brigade recce elements, one for 3rd Commando and one for 16AA.

The Royal Artillery would maintain 29 Commando Regiment and 7 Royal Horse Artillery unchanged, to provide adequate support to the 2 rapid reaction brigades.
Then it would re-organize as planned in late 2011 on 5 homogeneous regiments combining AS90 and L118 batteries. These would be regrouped into 1st Artillery Brigade, along with 39 Regiment (Depth Fire) on 5 Batteries, each combining GMLRS and Fire Shadow.
The Artillery brigade would also have 16 Regiment (Air Defence), again on 5 batteries, obtained by merging 16 and 12 Regiment: each battery would have a LEAPP Command and Control battery for the surveillance and management of the air space, a troop on Rapier and a troop on Starstreak. 3 of the Starstreak troops would be mounted on Stormer armored vehicles.

The Surveillance Brigade would have 5 Regiment Royal Artillery (Surveillance and Target Acquisition), since the 5 Regiment's role has much expanded from its original "detect the enemy artillery firing points" task. One TA regiment of the Royal Artillery would re-organize on the Cortez BASE-ISTAR equipment that will be brought into core budget with Project OUTPOST.
The combined UAV force (32 and 47 Royal Artillery) would also be part of the brigade, along with the Military Intelligence and Psyops battalion. This is roughly in line with what happens in the US with the Battlefield Surveillance Brigades.

3rd Commando brigade would lose 1st Rifles battalion, which would be used elsewhere. With the reduction in amphibious shipping, i think this is more than acceptable. In exchange, i'm expanding the full-spectrum nature of the brigade with the stable addition of a dedicate Light Cavalry squadron on FRES SV and a Challenger 2 squadron, as said earlier.
Due to Fleet Harmony guidelines, 3 Commando battalions are sufficient for delivering, constantly, one Commando battlegroup at high readiness centered either on 40, 42 or 45 Cdo.

The fourth battalion in 16 Air Assault brigade would be re-organized on the same structure of 30 Commando IX, so on around 470 men delivering:

- Communication Squadron
- Support Squadron with:
Police Troop
Air Defence Troop (Starstreak LML)
Brigade Patrol Troop (on Jackal vehicles and feet, comprising the Pathfinder Platoon. The Jackal can be parachuted with the new 10-tons platform developed for it)
- EW Squadron (electronic warfare)
- Logistic squadron

16 Air Assault and 3rd Commando should not share their supporting elements. Trying to do it won't work, as the two formations are each required to generate constantly one battlegroup each to keep on high readiness.
Shared support elements wouldn't be able to provide, at once, engineer, artillery and logistic elements at readiness for two battlegroups, especially not if one has to be amphibious and the other parachute capable. How can you put these two roles together?
In this optic, 24 Commando Regiment should finally be given the 56 Squadron promised but never stood up, as it needs at least 2 regular and one reserve squadron to be able to provide decent engineer support to the Commando battlegroup at readiness. Currently it only has the HQ and Support Sqn, 59 Sqn and 131 (V) Squadron. Standing up the second regular squadron is an urgency.

With 10 brigades and 5 engineer regiments, keeping the regiments embedded into the brigades would make no sense. So i'd want to centralize, and have 5 engineer regiments in a single engineer brigade, which would also contain a single (down from two) General Support Regiment. This would have an Amphibious Squadron with M3 rigs and a Talisman route clearance squadron.
There would also still be 39 Regiment (Air Support) and the 170 Group Infrastructure Support on 5 works groups. The EOD command is left untouched.

The Royal Signals would be reorganized on 5 Theatre Support Regiments plus at least 10 Regiment and 30 Regiment, as explained earlier, in their two specialist roles. There would of course also be 14 (EW) Regiment, fully resourced and on 5 squadrons. The Infantry Support Teams would definitely stay, and an expansion in the ECM (Force Protection) elements should be at the very least considered.

The RLC would be re-organized on a single Divisional Logistic brigade, plus 104 Logistic Brigade, untouched from its current structure.

I would keep the separation on Reactive and Adaptive divisions, adopting a modular model of HQ capable to deploy "command packets" suitable for providing a 2-star level of control for operations involving a single brigade plus supporting elements, or deploy entirely for a Divisional effort in the scale of 3 brigades, as mandated by the SDSR.

This, rather quickly outlined, would be my approach.
The cuts are still substantial (i must fit in the same 82.000 regulars total, after all!), but delivered differently. The rule of the 5 is adopted with religious care to really enable the Army to sustain enduring operations in the future. Enablers are preserved in exchange for a different use of reserves.
Differently from the Multi Role Brigade approach, here the modularity is achieved from the bottom, by standardizing the units on the same basic types and by centralizing support elements that, while insufficient for all brigades in the force, are sized carefully to enable a one-off Divisional effort or enduring large-brigade sized operations, while providing, on a normal day, one Airborne/Airmobile battlegroup, one Armoured Battlegroup and one Commando Battlegroup at readiness for giving the government options for reacting to any kind of crisis.  
Prior to deployment, the right kind of brigade for the mission can be "built" by picking one artillery regiment from the relative brigade, surveillance assets from the dedicate formation, infantry from the infantry brigades and armor from the reaction brigades, and so along.
Everything is reduced to the minimum amounts (kind of inevitable, 82.000 is a real challenging number to work with) but, at the same time, it keeps just enough of everything to make it work as effectively as possible.

However, forming all these brigades without having the juices to support them, is a move that, while it has some merits, is clearly a compromise dictated by the government, which orders the cuts, but then does not have the courage to announce the disappearance of ancient names and badges.
I'm pretty sure that, given more freedom, the Army would have tried to deliver 5 multirole brigades, keeping more enablers even at the cost of going down to 25 infantry battalions. Because that's the number the Army would need for five brigades plus 16AA.

I hear someone say that MRBs would lack the proper amount of enablers. False. In the army there were and there could be just about enough enablers exactly for a 5+1 brigades organization.
The real problem with the MRB, i fear, is that too many capbadges would have gone to adapt the structure for them.

This, however, is criminal. I'm the first one who felt stabbed in the heart when a glorious name is sent to the scraphead, but between names and badges and actual capability for the Army, it is cleary the name that should go.  


  1. Hello matey

    Thats a long post to digest and comment on, so just two things for now;

    ON mixing TA and Regular in the same battalion - absolutely NOT !

    Cut the number of battalions first, but you don't want go down this road. We already have the stupidity of additional mortar sections and other parts of support weapons in a regular battalion being made up to "war time" establishment by adding TA. It does not work well. It is much better to integrate by adding fully formed companies, battalions, specialist units etc.

    This based on my experience as a TA soldier :-)

    Secondly, as we discussed on another thread I have been thinking about the shared support for the "intervention forces" in the form of 3 CDO Brigade adn 16 AAB.

    Ref: "16 Air Assault and 3rd Commando should not share their supporting elements. Trying to do it won't work, as the two formations are each required to generate constantly one battlegroup each to keep on high readiness."

    Well actually.........

    So, if we accept a "modified" 16 AAB is cut down to two Para battalions and 2 Apache squadrons, and so the high readiness formation is approx. battalion sized battle group, in the shape of the Airborne (Parachute) capability, AND the reduction in amphibious shipping means that the RM high readiness element is a single Commando plus supporting elements - THEN - perhaps a single Artillery, Engineer and Signals unit could indeed support both, IF such units were big enough. There are surprisingly quite a lot of soldiers who have both parachute wings and the All Arms Commando qualification, so the difference in training and role is not as big as you might think.

    Interesting times...... :-(

    1. As i wrote, that is the reaction i expect the Army's officers had when the government made the proposal. I do realize that it is far from optimal an arrangement, but cutting all the enablers is bound to be even worse, and by far.

      Let's be entirely clear on this point: however the reserves end up used, if they can't be made to deliver, the whole thing fails.
      I just really do not want the Army to end up with brigades good only for Brigadiers to keep their post. And the lack of enablers is a sure way to make not just the brigades, but the army whole rather pointless.
      If the expanded TA can't be made to deploy an handful of Rifle platoons in support of a deployment, then perhaps the right cut is using the TA only for Medical units and for the Works Groups and a few other very selected roles, with the "fighty" bits removed from the reserve altogether.

      Perhaps i'm missing something, but i just can't see how the TA will help by deploying battalions, if people does not believe it can make available platoons to work alongside regular ones.

      As to 3rd Commando and 16 Air Assault, well. France has got PARA-MARINES, which are also heavily mechanized. They have at least one battalion called something like Mechanized Parachute Marine battalion or something like that, and i remember making fun of it with a friend. I mean, seriously...?

      My real fear is that 3rd Commando, in my view the reaction formation which actually works fully to what it promises to do, ends up paying the bill if the supports are "shared".
      Thankfully, via 30 Commando IX, the brigade has its own air defence, EW and signals.

      But artillery and logistics... Each of the two brigades is supposed to have a battlegroup at the ready, for six months, then another for the following six months, on rotation.
      With some 3 battalions to use as base for the battlegroup, this is feasible.

      The Commando Logistics Regiment is already preparing "packages" for the Battlegroup at readiness, and the artillery regiment can do the same.

      But if you mix them up, there won't be enough to support two battlegroups at once, constantly. Merging is not going to give you an artillery regiment on 6 batteries, it is going to cut N batteries, perhaps half of them.

      Besides, the SDSR promised that both brigades would stay able to deploy as such, as brigades.
      If you have 2 brigades and only one support tail, it is clearly not true any longer.

      No, i just really, really, really hope such a demented decision is not taken. It just won't work.

    2. About France, The Marine Regiment (Para or Not) is not a real Marine units. They comes from Colonial Infantry. The Colonial Infantry Regiment was transformed in Marine Infantry Regiment after independance of French colonies. Also The Marine Para Regiment was created during the Indochine War as Colonial Parachutist Batalion

    3. True, Marine is kind of a term for colonial in France's case.
      Still, sounds funny.

      It makes things worse in a way, though. There might be Marines trained to use parachute (indeed, there are some in 3rd Commando and there is Meitkila battery, too) but trying to merge an airborne and a marine brigade truly seems absurd to me.

    4. exactly

      (The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders will become a company-sized unit for public duties... For 2 RRF, it is only political reason to disband the battalion.)

  2. Gaby

    The use and integration of TA infantry is about the way you train and the way you integrate - you must have read enough posts from Phil and others on ThinkDefence - I was not infantry though, I was Signals and in a "specialist" unit;

    but the theory is you don't want a regular battalion that relies on a third manouvre company of "part timers" because integrating that company into training and major exercises is too difficult. However on the other hand, if you have a brigade with 2 battalions, and you add a third TA battalion which has trained and worked up together as a single homogenous unit, then the integration is smoother at this higher more self contained level.

    At the other end of the scale if you have to add two or three TA soldiers here and there across all the platoons of a battalion, then they will also integrate quickly with the majority of guys who already know each other, and how each other works.

    Does that make sense ?

    1. I might be wrong, but i remain of the idea that you can't deploy a battalion of "european" reserves on a frontline job and use it as such. It hasn't the training and readiness of a US Guard unit. You risk putting it into a job for which it is not quite ready enough.
      You might end up being able to use only for, say, provide second-line tasks, defence of the base's perimeter and such.
      Which is not necessarily bad, if it frees up the regulars for the real action, but might not be enough in the 82.000 strong british army.

      I'd much rather have small bodies of reserves mixed in tightly into a structure made of regulars. The TA man will have enough training to know how to mesh in, and follow the guidance of the more experienced and trained regulars to survive and do well.
      Even if he's not been in all exercises and has only had TA training periods, he should find it easier to fit in, than a wholly TA battalion trying to fit in complex maneuver on the battlefield without having the same level of training of the regulars.

      Personal opinion, of course.

  3. Using the TA is extremely risky. Only certain certain countries like Singapore and Israel have merged regular and reservists forces well. In times of conflict--and UK always participates in at least one medium-high one every decade or so (intentional or unintentional), relying on one division (of regular troops) and a couple of reaction forces is not good enough.

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