Monday, July 16, 2012

Informing, or justifying Army 2020…?

The results of the 2012 edition of “Agile Warrior”, the future-informing series of exercises and studies that the Army is using for shaping its future structure and capabilities have been released via RUSI during the Lad Warfare conference in June. Agile Warrior 2012 is said to have significantly informed the Army 2020 restructuring.

Agile Warrior has been hailed as an “innovative” and open thinking exercise of thought, open to the general public scrutiny (at least in part), constituting an example of how the forces should try and see into the future to re-shape (read reduce) themselves.

Is there anything really that innovative or good about Agile Warrior? I’m far from convinced.

For example, until Agile Warrior 2011, the exercises had been centered on developing the Multi Role Brigade on which the Army has been working at least since 2008, when the hope was to have 8 such brigades. In 2010, this had reduced to 5 as we know, but the MRB concept was still the way, and Agile Warrior 2011, albeit showing some reserve on some factors, significantly hailed the MRB as the way to go.
Then, as we know, Army 2020 took a sharp turn to the side and broke away from the MRB concept altogether, and apparently moved away also from much of the sound concept of unit standardization and modularity that had been worked upon. As far as I’m aware, there has not been an Agile Warrior assessment of this complete change of direction. It just happened, and Agile Warrior 2012 is considerably less expansive of AW11, and just avoids expanding on any kind of brigade or force structure.
This, in my opinion, already undermines the credibility of the whole thing. Is AW actually influencing something in a meaningful way, or are the decisions made and then “justified” with a suitably general and vague document published later? It very much feels like it is the second option.

But let’s see what the major thinking exercise of the Army has brought forwards this year, also building on the experiences of Urban Warrior 3, the third major urban warfare simulation conducted:

• Recognise that it is more likely than not that the Army will be required to fight in a city within the next 10-15 years.

• Prepare and employ combined arms brigades, with expeditionary and mobile headquarters for manoeuvring to seize the tactical initiative.

• Invest in the divisional level, where operational art should be practiced using a comprehensive approach.

• Re-mechanise. Beyond 2020, ensure that the equipment programme includes a capable main battle tank, an armoured reconnaissance vehicle, an armoured artillery piece and armoured vehicles for armoured and
mechanised infantry; with command and support vehicles to match, in order to ensure the necessary levels of firepower, protection and mobility.

• Move from assured to confident targeting, based on judgements, the law and accountability, rather than mechanistic processes.

• Invest in specific preparations for operating in urban areas: inter alia, intelligence awareness of the terrain; a method for simplifying the common operating picture; communication that works in built up areas; psychological inoculation of personnel; and tactical training for fighting in buildings and underground.

• Re-invest in logistics, medical and equipment support pushed forward and integrated with the fighting echelon.

• Ensure that aviation can operate effectively in urban areas.

Perhaps I’m cynic, but I can’t see any innovative thinking or any great discovery here, while I continue to be amazed by just how vague and generalist these documents can be.
“Invest in the Divisional Level” can mean pretty much anything, but the hard fact is that we are getting a single Divisional HQ of which the Army has not yet decided the structure, plus another (presumably) deployable following augmentation, and another HQ with divisional rank for internal operations in the UK and daily management. Investing in the Divisional Level is certainly desirable, but what this “investment” is about, who knows. Obviously the Army won’t tell everything to the general public, but the sensation is that there aren’t many hopes of seeing anything particularly revolutionary. Ideally, the Division level should be able to provide a deployed brigade the theatre-level logistics, a strategic direction, “big picture” intelligence, and it should also provide a number of enablers such as, for example, an Air Assault Battlegroup (this is what happens in Afghanistan, where the Regional Battlegroup South is kept separated from Task Force Helmand and employed as an air assault formation for maneuver and for rapid reinforcement when necessary, with one Company held at 6 hours readiness to move, and the rest at 12 hours notice) and air support (via collaboration with the RAF) plus other elements as and when necessary.

A new structure for Brigade HQs with a renewed Mobile element is also highlighted as necessary, fortunately.

The re-machanization concept is overall sound and in line of principle we can all agree with it, I think. It is important to note that command and support vehicles adequate to support the new armour and mechanized force are highlighted (will we hear of a Mortar Carrier replacement for the ancient FV430 vehicles in this role, finally? This is a requirement that FRES SV seems to have forgotten entirely, this far…), and we will see if this assessment brings to any actual action in the future.

Re-investing in logistics, medical and equipment support pushed forwards, closer to the fighting echelon is also a concept to be welcomed, but what will we actually see done about this?
For example I can think of confirming the Royal Signals Infantry Support Team project as a long term element of the force, and not as an Afghan-timed measure. These less than 180 men organized in 5-man teams at battalion level have a hugely beneficial impact on the combat effectiveness of the formation, and this is amplified by the fact that this small team prepares up to 50 soldiers within the battalion for the role of Tactical Signallers, competent in the use of HF, VHF and Satcom radios and also trained as Combat Medics.
The stable integration of such a combat medic / Tac Sign at least at Platoon level is absolutely desirable, and more than worth the investment.

Strenghtening the Electronic Warfare and Electronic Counter Measure (Force Protection) capability to make it more available at Company or evel Platoon level is also very desirable. This might be done, as it seems that 14 (EW) Regiment is continuing to expand (even if Army 2020 strangely decided to cut a squadron from it, barely weeks after the additional squadron mandated few months earlier stood up…) and 10 Regiment, which contains the Army’s ECM(FP) Squadron is now described as an ECM regiment. A way to announce an expansion in this capability? I hope so.

Up to Agile Warrior 2011, the new Logistics element of the Army was described as having organic escort and force protection fighting element. This is not mentioned openly in AW12: should we be worried? We will perhaps know in the next months, as future unit ORBATs are revealed.
The Army also has a long-running requirement for a Platoon (or lower level) load carrier, ideally a drone, and we’ll keep an eye on this as well, to see if it brings to something or just vanishes. At Company level, vehicles such as Coyote and Husky are part of the Logistic picture, but we’ll have to see if these are brought into core when Afghanistan is over. At Battalion level, MAN SV trucks and Wolfhound vehicles are meant to deliver the logistic element. Again, Wolfhound’s future in the long term is far from certain.
The Multi-Role Vehicle (Protected) should replace Land Rovers, Pinzgauers, Panther and possibly Husky and other UOR platforms in this logistic and support role, but even in the best-case scenario, the MRV(P) is years away, so there is a lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers here.
Also, will the UK infantry company gain a CASEVAC section with a battlefield ambulance as part of the “move forward” of the support elements, like it happens in other nations, such as the US? 
It is too early to know the intended future ORBATs of the battalions, but the Army has determined that the Full Unit Establishment for the main type of infantry battalions will be as follows: 

Armoured Infantry (on Warrior vehicles, 6 battalions): 729 
Mechanized Infantry (on Mastiff, then on FRES UV, 3 battalions): 709 
Light Protected Mobility (on Foxhound, 6 battalions): 581 
Light Role Infantry (14 battalions): 561 

Again, the US Army has been observing the USMC in Afghanistan using the K-Max unmanned helicopter to sling heavy loads and carry them to remote FOBs without putting people in danger and without requiring convoys moving on IED-ridden paths. They are now planning for adding load-carrying helicopter drones to their logistic elements in future: this is innovation at play. I see no sign of it in the british army document.
Is lack of funding constraining even ambitions and free thinking? Being unable to finance it now should not mean not even considering it.

Ensure that aviation can better work in urban areas roughly means “acquiring and fitting improved electronic countermeasures”, one of those rare but welcome priorities that are actually being addressed. However, the hard question in this area is what can be done to protect low flying helicopters in the urban maze from the threats against which Chaff, Flares and even direct laser/IR missile blinding rays won’t do a thing: small arms fire and unguided RPGs fired in volleys. These latter two menaces have caused most of the helicopter losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the obsession seem to be always about portable SAMs. Other than a few efforts, mainly in the US and Israel, to develop small-arms fire locating warning devices, and an Israeli effort for developing an hard-kill anti-RPG countermeasure, there does not seem to be much of a solution in the works. The British Army should probably consider acting in this particular area, at the very least by following US and Israeli efforts, instead of focusing only on SAMs, ignoring even the operational experience. 

NOTE: just this afternoon, the MOD announced a 20+ million pounds order to Thales for developing and demonstrating a major 360° Infra Red situational awareness system for helicopters and aircrafts which will be capable to locate not just missile launches, but rockets and small arms fire. A step forwards in the right direction. This will ease evasive maneuvers. Hopefully, countermeasures will follow. 

Another important passage of the report is about the use of fire support, namely artillery, in future and specifically in urban warfare scenarios.

Offensive Support. The utility of indirect fires in urban operations was confirmed. Conventional fires to defeat or neutralise the enemy remain highly relevant although the balance between yield, precision and suppression demand a range of capabilities to be available. Non-explosive natures were also seen to have utility, e.g. marker and smoke. Further study is recommended to investigate how novel munitions could enable operations in the urban environment where avoiding collateral damage is a major factor.

Very generic.
Indirect Fire programs have been chopped savagely in the years, and the efforts of the Royal Artillery to modernize have been frustrated. I can think of many questions that could be made:

-          You were shown 81 mm mortar shells converted in precision guided bombs with a change of fuze. It seems the kind of technology that helps a lot in urban scenario: is it going somewhere?
-          Maneuver against enemies other than guerrilla fighters are openly expected, and we are keeping armored brigades indeed to face said threats. But the Royal Artillery no longer has an anti-tank shell, after the old bomblet carrier was retired and its replacement, the SMART 155 (a 155 mm shell containing two precision guided Anti Tank submunitions) was cancelled. Where are we going with this? Last time that thousands of bomblet shells were used was in Iraq in 2003, not a century ago.
-          MLRS was the anti-area, anti-mass weapon for excellence until 2007, when even the guided variant of the submunitions rocket was retired, just 2 years or so after being acquired. The unitary warhead GMLRS is very good for hitting point targets with great accuracy, but what about enemy maneuvering forces? The US are developing a new, Alternative warhead for area attack which removes the problem of unexploded ordnance common with submunitions: will the UK look into it?
-          The AS90 is ready already since 2010 for adoption of the GPS guided Excalibur shell. Course-Correction fuzes capable to turn current long-fuze ammo into 20 meters-CEP precious rounds are also available. Yet the RA is being forced to wait at least until 2018?
-          The focus on maneuver, including long-range, deep penetration air assault operations, is likely to require artillery with longer reach to keep the forces in the vanguard under the umbrella of heavy supporting fire. The Large, Long Range Rocket requirement (ATACMS) has been de-scoped, but this does not seem wise. Extended range ammunition and longer-range GMLRS (range of well over 100 km already demonstrated) will be re-considered? They were part of the Indirect Fire Precision Attack family of modernization efforts, but one by one they have been systematically killed.
-          What about Fire Shadow? Combining UAV and precision missile with low-collateral damage capability, it could be extremely useful in any scenario, urban one included, especially when, from October this year if times are respected, the full-motion video downlink via Strike Hawk device will be validated, allowing troops on the ground to see Fire Shadow imagery on ROVER portable displays.

Some “innovative thinking” in replying to hard questions such as these would be a more convincing exercise.   

But the area of the report that more than all others told me that Agile Warrior cannot and will not generate much of anything is the part about Command, Control and Information (C2I) needs. I find this part of the report as depressing as it can get and denotes a total lack of reaction to even obvious needs. What Agile Warrior tells me, is that the money available for investment on C2 and communications is tight or non-existent, and the Army is trying to say that it does not need certain improvements. This is not innovation: this is telling people that things are going fine while the ship is sinking. This is flattening the Army’s voice on what government says, even hiding the reality of the operational needs in order to say that, really, what we have is fine and beautiful.
This is a criminal way of acting. It is obvious that financial resources are a factor in what can and what cannot be done, but the process should be: Identify Needs and Challenges à Develop a Strategy à Identify priorities and fit into the finances available. Instead, the process seems to have turned into: This Is What You Get à Tell Everyone That It Is Fine.
But let’s see what the problem is, reading what the document says:

The exponential growth in information technology has revolutionized operations. The demand for complex, rich information services in the current and future operating environments has outstripped delivery. Information and Communications Services (ICS), and their applications and data, need to be made available, securely, to a very large number of dispersed users and if necessary within a contested environment. These users will need access to information services through ‘points of presence’, interconnected by high bandwidth links, and will need to be able to reach across the deployed force, to allies and coalition partners, to the home base and to others in the country of deployment. While reversionary working needs developing and practice, there is, essentially, no going back. C2 elements, large and small need access to a ‘flat’, ubiquitous ICS network to allow them to achieve an operational advantage; all within the context of cyberspace - with its associated opportunities and threats.

Military communications specialist, supported by DE&S and contractors, will need to operate a common equipment platform, carrying common NATO services and applications, using a single Service Management regime. The scaling of Dii(S) and Dii(R) to deliver medium scale enduring operations, requires review. There is also a lack of an agile (smaller/lighter) solution. It will be essential that the ICS regiments use common infrastructure, networks and service management, and that there is a common set of user applications.
Without this common platform, the multi-role approach will be difficult to implement.

Delivering rich information services into the fast moving manoeuvre elements of a force is challenging and services at this level will be optimised for voice, situational awareness and battle planning and control, with some tailored access to richer services; fixed or static HQs, with relative stable power supplies, can expect the full range of ICS to be provided; BGs and Coys will rely on Tactical CIS. As there is a direct correlation between the quality and timeliness of information and decision making, manoeuvre force elements will need to readjust to making decisions with less information and thus reduced understanding, which will have a concomitant impact on the level of assurance, risk and tempo of operations.

In other words, the Army needs information on the move, and needs it down to lower echelons than Brigade level, but delivering information is “challenging”, and  the “innovative” solution the Army comes up with is asking the forces on the field to make do with the reduced, frammentary situational awareness they have got.
For a document that plans for the future, this is inacceptable. This should be a temporary (and indeed an as-short-as-possible) gap in capability, not an element reported in a document for the future of the Army. It is like being back in 1940, when German tanks had radios and French ones had not.

Before Agile Warrior 2012 came out, for a lucky case of destiny, I had chosen to make an article about FALCON, the new communication system entering service with the Army in these months, introducing this crucial problem into the discussion. It was very much the right inspiration, it seems. In the article, I also included an Australian Army assessment of the communications situation, which painted a picture definitely depressing for the British Army, which offers sorely insufficient comms support to lower echelons and has ridiculously low capability for sharing information on the move.
It was also noted in the article how, with contractors’ help, FALCON in Afghanistan has been adapted to exploit commercial technology to deliver information at 100 Mbps, against the limit of 32 Mbps the system is built with.
Now, in what I can only consider as a lie, Agile Warrior tells us that “Estimated broadband WAN bandwidth
requirements range from 10 Mbps at the smallest C2 nodes up to 32 Mbps at the larger nodes.” This is not a requirement honestly assessed, it is, casually, what is available with FALCON.

The only tiny bit of honesty comes with the headline:

Their is [error maintained from original document] an emerging imbalance between the demand for rich ICS and the ability for supply to keep pace.

The suspect is that the British Army is expecting not to be able to invest into the next element of FALCON, the “Future FALCON”, for several more years at best. So long, indeed, that they are hushing even their needs down, as they don’t know whether they’ll ever be able to solve the problem. This is very, very serious.
The lack of an effective Information and Communication system, deployable, ubiquitous, reaching all echelons and available on the move is the biggest blow to the Army’s efficiency.
This conflicts dramatically with the reality of operations and with all realistic expectations for the future, which will see the need for communications and data exchange grow, not shrink. Even instruments such as UAVs, from Watchkeeper to Scavenger, will deliver far less effect than they could and should, if the final users on the ground are unable to receive the data and imagery and full motion videos the UAVs collect. Ever since the dawn of war, information has been the key to victory, more than almost anything else.
It is crucial that investment in ICS materializes. 

A FALCON WASP node deployed. Save for the mast deployed directly from the truck, the rest has to be assembled all times the node deploys. On the move, the node does not contribute to the network, and has very limited situational awareness via a Bowman tactical radio.
FALCON, as it works now, is roughly comparable to the US Army’s WIN-T (Warfighted InformationNetwork – Tactical) increment 1: it delivers a communication network using IP (Internet Protocol) infrastructure, with VoIP (Voice Over the Internet Protocol) capability, optimized for use in command posts down to battalion level, and with Networking-On-The-Halt capability: the command post arrives in the intended location, deploys, resets its systems and connects into the network.
On the move, communications services reduce to Bowman radios, which only ensure voice and basic data capability. When the command post transfers, most of its capability is lost until it deploys again. The FALCON network nodes themselves work only on the halt: on the move, they cease to be working elements in the network. 

On the move, FALCON stays silent.
The British Army seems set to be stuck at this point for undetermined time into the future, but the other allies in NATO are moving on from this limitations. Technology to overcome the problem is available. The US Army should start fielding in October the WIN-T increment 2, which introduces “On the Move (OTM)” capability all the way down to Company level. Crucial to this is the adoption of powerful Software-Defined Radios, capable to automatically switch channel (VHF, UHF, HF, satellite or military VoIP channel): with the SDR, the old separations in roles and capability vanish. If until now an operator had to be trained in the use of this or that channel and then issued with, say, a VHF radio that could talk only to other VHF radios, today an operator can talk to everyone, as the radios adapt automatically to the needs of the moment.
In addition, a radio which is moving on a vehicle, which is talking to another radio and loses the Line-Of-Sight contact, automatically switches, for example, to SATCOM to keep the communication going on.  
Testing is well underway, and by the end of next year, 8 BCTs might already be equipped with the system. 

The consequences of this improvement are immense, and far-reaching. The need for traditional headquarters which deploy and expand under canvas is reduced dramatically, as the commander can stay fully updated on the battle situation inside its vehicle on the move, be it a M1 Abrams, a Bradley or another.
Behind this capability, is the NetOps software, which dynamically assigns shares of bandwidth over the network to this or that unit, ensuring that no one can saturate the lines.
The physical infrastructure of the network inside a BCT is made up by 4 different kind of nodes:

TCN (Tactical Communications Node)
POP (Point of Presence)
SNE (Soldier Network Extension)
VWP (Vehicular Wireless Package)

The TCN node is the main hub of the system, and works as Satellite and Line of Sight node, with On The Move capability. In the US Army, the TCN is installed on FMTV (Family Medium  Tactical Vehicle) trucks. This is roughly comparable to the WASP node of FALCON, which is mounted on HX60 trucks. The FALCON node, however, has no OTM capability, as we said.  

US Army's TCN node, deployed along with other WIN-T elements, including a satellite dish. FALCON in the British Army will often work near a REACHER satellite node.

The echelon immediately lower inside the Network is supported by the POP network: the POP systems are installed on the tactical vehicles used by commanders and their staff, down to Battalion level.
Both TCN and POP use Highband Networking Radios (HNRs) for Line Of Sight communications, employing pulse directional antennas for directing a narrow signal (harder to intercept) over a greater distance. For Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) communications, TCN and POP use satellite communication systems with antennas capable to electronically scan the signal and keep locked on to the satellite while the vehicle moves.

The capability to work On The Move being introduced in the WIN-T system is the start of a new era in military communications.

The SNE is the expansion of the Network down to the fighting Echelon at Company level. Installed on combat vehicles, the SNE node has a small satellite antenna and a VoIP modem that can reconfigure automatically to interface with all portable radios used by the soldiers, keeping the network working on the move, regardless of terrain and dispersion, by communicating with the main radio of a Platoon, which acts as node of connection to the personal radio of each soldier in the team. The US Army has selected as “Rifleman Radio” the AN/PRC-154 produced by a Thales/General Dynamics joint venture, of which a first lot of over 6000 was ordered in June 2011. The Rifleman Radio has been sent in Afghanistan for in-theatre experimentation with the 75° Ranger regiment last January, and reportedly met the favor of the soldiers for its low weight, its capability of talking regardless of obstacles in the way (crucial in rough terrain and, even more, in urban scenarios) and its 10 hours battery duration.

Finally, the VWP is a Local Area Network extension node, which keeps the command posts on the move linked in the LAN with the TCN nodes.

An US MRAP vehicle fitted with SNE node during trials of the WIN-T increment 2

Finally, the WIN-T Increment 3 to come in the near future will expand the network to aerial platforms, by fitting the Gray Eagle MQ-1C drone with a 150 lbs Highband Networking Waveform pod. This will act as a communications relay node working in Line of Sight (LOS) by dialoging with the vehicle-based nodes below, reducing the need for satellite use, a crucial factor since satellite bandwidth is, of course, finite. It is expected that 3 pods will be issued to each Gray Eagle company, so perhaps a single pod will go to each of the 3 platoons, each with 4 drones. The Americans have put a Gray Eagle company into each Combat Aviation Brigade, which is a divisional asset. Brigades have their own UAV element with the smaller, 6-hours endurance Shadow drone. For the British Army, the sole Watchkeeper works at brigade/division level.   
In Afghanistan, the US has been regularly using manned airplanes working as communication relay nodes as well. The installation of such pods on other high-flying, long endurance platforms is also envisioned and experimented. 
[NOTE: the above is a quick and simplified overview of what is a very ample and complex system of systems. A complete view of all components and structures of the WIN-T network is in this document, but don't be surprised if you don't quite get it all, it's quite complex!]

The British MOD itself tested a communications relay pod on the Qinetiq Zephyr solar-powered drone, holder of the world record for endurance in flight for a UAV (some 14 days at 21.500 meters of altitude), even if lately it has apparently vanished from the radars. The Zephyr aims (aimed?) to deliver a lightweight drone capable to stay over the battlefield for months, making it a good, low-cost alternative to satellites.
The Watchkeeper drone should also have some margin for additional payload (weapons are an option being studied, and the Hermes 450 from which it derives can be fitted with two fuel tanks for 50 liters each under the wings), so a comms-relay payload might be a possible fit for the future.
Again, British company ALLISOPP HELIKITE offers a variety of small kite-balloons (the smallest is only 3 feet long) that can be used to launch at altitude a radio antenna offering immediate, long range relay of signals.
The options are there to exploit, in other words.

The Future FALCON, which is meant to deliver communications support to the maneuver forces, including those on the move, is absolutely crucial for the Army’s future capability, I repeat once more, and I find it abysmal that Agile Warrior is not used to assess, measure and explain the full range of needs of the deployed forces on the field. Lack of money is not in itself a justification for even refusing to honestly face reality and find solutions. If the Army’s “innovative thinking” is just a way to hide the dust under the carpet, then they should save the money and effort of going on with these annual exercises and “studies”.

Moving on, to ISTAR.

Robust ISTAR structures at each level of command are essential to meet future contingent needs. Whilst forming a bespoke IX/ISTAR Group on operations (as seen on Op HERRICK) may be an option it should not necessarily be the default setting (1). What is needed is better alignment of collection assets and the process of collection management, with that of Information Requirements Management in order to better support a commander’s decision making with an analysed output (Intelligence). The key to success is the effective grouping of special-to-arm I, S, TA, R force elements in barracks, holding them at the appropriate readiness and force generating them at the right stage of the supported HQs Collective Training; CT5 and CT6 events must include the full suite of ISTAR capabilities.

Specialist support must be scalable and adaptable to the HQ structure; start small (lean) and get bigger as required. Following the ‘plug and socket’ philosophy, which is a key tenet of the A2020 proposition (2), there is a need for a combination of better educated generalists with appropriate training and experience to be core staff members in Battlegroup, Brigade and Divisional HQs, responsible for integrating ISTAR; and specialists (EW, UAS, HUMINT, GMR etc) that are task-organised when required to bring professional/SME advice and input to both collection (FIND) and exploitation.  


Each deployed brigade should have its own organic ground mounted recce, Intelligence, Communication, Geo and Battlespace Management elements. The division may require the development of a bespoke deployable reconnaissance / surveillance organization that manoeuvres to find but in direct support of
divisional information requirements.

A One-Star proponent (Capability Director Information) will reinforce the professionalisation of ISTAR as a discipline and bring coherence to its delivery. (3)

Consideration should be given to introducing a tactical intelligence career stream for infantry and armoured

(1)    This appears to be a direct contradiction of what the Army said in Agile Warrior 2011, where an Information Exchange/Exploitation group was assessed as needed at each brigade level, somewhat mirroring 3rd Commando Brigade with its 30 Commando IX group.
(2)    It would be nice to see some explanation given about this philosophy, which is mentioned only in passing, in such a casual way. Who follows my blog and has followed with me the Army 2020 sage knows that the new force structure suggests that deploying brigades will “pick” “this” artillery battery/regiment, “that” Theatre ICS Signals Regiment and “that” one Logistic element from the “container” brigades of the Force Troops command, but no official explanation of this has been released yet, nor do we know how this choice was made.
(3)    Possibly this will be the brigade HQ of the newborn Surveillance and Intelligence brigade, of which we still ignore the composition, even though I’ve long been saying that I expect it to reunite Royal Artillery UAV regiments and Military Intelligence battalions, plus perhaps even the STA regiment of the artillery.  

Another crucially important area is the retention of Afghanistan UORs to bring into the Core Budget.
About this, AW12 says:

Fires, Targeting and ISTAR.
• Retain the significant enhancement in collect capability
• Retain and nurture the significant enhancement in staff dissemination and processing skills.
• Review of training progression and the use of simulation.
• Maintain the competence levels among reserves and support forces across the wide spectrum of new weapon systems that they have used.
• Future training will need to balance between scenarios constrained by an IED environment with training for operations that demand speed of manoeuvre.
• UK must maintain its world class R&D and manufacturing capability.

[Note: in here, I hoped to find an indication about Talisman being retained. It would be endlessly stupid to once more throw away the route clearance capability. For 20 or more years, the British Army has been dealing with mines and then IEDs, across Serbia all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. It sunk huge amounts of money on studies and development and acquisition of several clearance systems, then quickly junked them, only to restart again from scratch in the following mission abroad. PLEASE, don’t let Talisman be the next one system developed, used, junked and then soon afterwards missed.]

• Those vehicles used to provide Equipment Support must have mobility and protection matched to those
that they are supporting. [So? Husky, Coyote, Foxhound to stay…?]
• Future fleet requirements must enable units to train as they fight as opposed to wholesale conversion to type prior to deployment.
Dismounted Close Combat
• A coherent assessment of night operating capability is required.
• Need for an integrating hub for all ISTAR collect assets.
• Provision of robust Full Motion Video capable Information Support Service, separate from Base
ISTAR infrastructure should be investigated in order to support contingent operations.
There is an enduring requirement for a layered ISTAR mix ranging from heavy to light and including a capable aerostat. [Good news for Project Outpost, meant to preserve for the future some of the Cortez BASE-ISTAR system used to provide security for FOBs in Afghanistan. It includes 5 PGSS aerostats bought from the US]
• Provision of simulation in support of ISTAR training.
• ISTAR Specialists must be made available for Level 3 Collective Training activities, and above.
• Enhanced Defensive Aid Suites are fundamental for the use of aviation, particularly as the future airspace is likely to be increasingly contested.
• The investment in training in support of current operations, and its clear benefits, has been hard earned and must be retained
• Tactics Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) that have evolved during HERRICK (and which will have utility in
future operating environments) need to be hard wired into training and Tactical Doctrine.
Next Steps:
• Output has informed Army 2020 and will be used to inform MoD and Army capability balance of investment decisions.
• Study continues on this theme in 2012.

The Aerostat used by Cortez is the Persistent Ground Surveillance System (PGSS) (25,000 ft3) is an helium-filled tethered blimp that can raise a payload of up to 150 pounds to 1,200-2,000 feet and remain aloft for up to two weeks.  The mainstay PGSS payload is a (98 pound) L-3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR sensor, but the turret can accommodate most any payload or payload combination of up to 150 pounds.  PGSS has carried various acoustic (shot/mortar identication) sensors and a SIGINT payload could be another option as well.

The coverage offered by the PGSS with the MX-15 EO/IR payload is as follows: it can detect a vehicle at 18km; identify a vehicle at 12km; detect a man at 12km; identify a man at 4km. It is filled with Helium in around one hour, and can stay in the air for a couple of weeks. While up in altitude, the aerostat resists to 60 knots winds, and can be launched with 20 knots. The mooring station of the aerostat weights some 16.000 lbs, but work has been made to try and make it helicopter-portable for easing future deployments.

These were procured from the US, but apparently the UK has been leading the way on a smaller, far more deployable kind of floating surveillance device, the HeliKite, which combines features of kites and aerostats and comes in a far smaller and easier to manage package that can be used to keep up in the air surveillance sensors or even communication relay systems. These HeliKites are produced in the UK, by the already mentioned company, ALLSOPP HELIKITES. Now this is more an example of what I call innovative thinking.

These are the highlights from Agile Warrior 2012. I find very, very little to hail as innovative, imaginative, or particularly reassuring, apart from the fact that Cortez kit should be safe, along with quite a lot of other UOR material.
Then again, judging from the IX group, last year mandated as priority and now described as an option at best (and one to avoid if possible, probably due to the manpower capping at 82.000 regulars), Agile Warrior 2013 could again cut back on ambitions.

I appreciate the effort the Army is making, and I recognize the challenges it is facing. But Agile Warrior so far has been absolutely unimpressive. And I have the feeling that it is not doing much to actually inform decisions.
It seems more like it justifies them once they are taken.


  1. Hi Gabby, I was similarly non-impressed.Thanks for drilling in on the artillery bit.

    Tactical networking was separately mentioned at the launch of the review, so if not much comes out, it must be a reflection of running out of allocated funds.Haven't read your follow-on piece on Falcon yet, back later.

    Cheers, ACC

    1. Networking is going to be absolutely of primary importance, and funding or not, it is essential that the Army makes an honest reflection on the matter, and assesses its needs with just as much honesty.
      Then it should come up with a financial strategy to, piece by piece, close the gaps.

      Agile Warrior, for what we can see at least, is remarkably non commendable.

      Thanks for the comment, and enjoy the Falcon piece when you get around to it.

  2. Gabriele

    Like you I was disappointed by "Agile Warrior 2012". Your question: "Are the decisions made and then “justified” with a suitably general and vague document published later?" seems to sum much of it up admirably.

    Hoever, there was one area in which I thought sensible, if not exactly innovative. The conclusion that the Army should:

    "Re-mechanise. Beyond 2020, ensure that the equipment programme includes a capable main battle tank, an armoured reconnaissance vehicle, an armoured artillery piece and armoured vehicles for armoured and
    mechanised infantry; with command and support vehicles to match, in order to ensure the necessary levels of firepower, protection and mobility."

    seemed to me to be affirmation that the Army has re-learned an old lesson about urban warfare, a kind of combat in which they will be increasingly involved.

    In an article in "Jane's Military Review" for 1987, entitled "FIBUA and the Weapons System Concept", a T A officer, S.S. Fitz-Gibbon, puts forward the view that FIBUA (Fighting in Built-UP Areas) has often been described as an "infantry battle" but that that is a blinkered view. He maintains that the only acceptable view is that the FIBUA force should be treated as a system in which each component - infantry, tanks, combat engineers, artillery and so on - is a vital element without which the system is out of balance and can only be successful if it is disproportunately numerically superior or prepared to accept a crippling casualty rate, or both. He says that the best rebuttal of the "infantry battle" theory was provided by the protracted period of inconclusive fighting by largely unsupported infantry in Beirut in (then) recent years. He quotes the example of the Red Army all-arms FIBUA teams in World War II (each consisting of an infantry battalion, a company of tanks, two batteries of artillery (one tracked, one towed), an engineer company with demolition and smoke-laying equipment, a flamethrower platoon, etc., and states that when they became unbalanced, their success was severely limited. He says that such all-arms formations departed to large extent from general Soviet practices and witnessed an uncharacteristic flexiblity and cohesion between arms - evidence of creative thought which is the lifeblood of an army.

    Reminiscent perhaps of the arguments that were put forward to support the all-arms idea contained in the MRB concept? And pointing perhaps to some of the weaknesses in the "Army 2020" structure?

    1. A good comment, MIke, thank you.

      And yes, Re-Mechanize in principle is good. However, to fully welcome it, i would like to see some thinking in issues such as engaging enemies on high floors (typical or urban warfare. As far as i'm aware, only FRES SV will come along ready to take an high-elevation RWS turret for engagements of targets high up), providing direct fire support to infantry (anything from punching a hole into a wall to let soldiers through to taking off enemies in a fortified house) and so along.
      We can hope these are the kind of details the army keeps for internal use only, but i doubt it.

      Also, i'll be very much more confident in mechanization when i'll see a new Mortar Carrier and a medium assault bridgelayer for supporting said medium, mechanized force.

      As for your last, very valid point, it does not worry me as much, because the Army 2020 structure seems thought out well enough to enable ample flexibility in the formation of the deployed brigade, at least for the first 18 months. The right balance of armour, infantry, artillery and support can be built up by picking the needed components from the various brigades.
      Past the first 3 tours, though, things get harder, because potentially all of your tank formations and Warrior-mounted battalions have deployed, and if you need them again on the battlefield, the personnel won't go anywhere close to having the desired 20/24 months of break between war tours.

    2. Gabriele

      Good point you make about the need for a "high-elevation RWS turret for engagements of targets high up". That's a situation that must occur often in urban warfare.

      Is there anything in the idea of certain battalions specialising in urban warfare, perhaps even with two or three of them forming a special FIBUA regiment?

      "Also, i'll be very much more confident in mechanization when i'll see a new Mortar Carrier and a medium assault bridgelayer for supporting said medium, mechanized force."

      Hear, hear! I think the Mortar vehicle would have to be on the FRES SV, though. I'm sure I read somewhere that there is something in the dimensions of the Warrior that causes great difficulties when trying to set it up as a mortar vehicle. Would you have 120 mm or 81 mm?

      As far as Artillery is concerned, yes, I am as perturbed as you are about the situation. We seem to have the same platforms in service as we had 20 years ago (AS90, Light Gun and MLRS (GMLRS)) with very little by way of improved ammunition of projectiles. I don't really know what can be done about it but the RA should push as hard as possible to save Fire Shadow. There' nothing on C-RAM either - one of the capabilities mentioned in the SDSR.

      The unmanned cargo-carrying helicopter seems like a good idea. Can you remember the old Skycrane,which really did not have a "body" or fuselage at all, just a frame for picking up cargo loads! It was in service with US forces for some years.

    3. I don't think there is any plan for a specialized FIBUA force. The hope is to provide good urban warfare training to each brigade as it goes into readiness period, possibly exploiting the excellent Urban Warfare range of the French army.

      And yes, the Mortar Vehicle could well be on FRES SV, even though if we are serious about FRES UV (i keep saying that just 3 battalions make little sense, though...) we'll need a mortar carrier variant of that one too.
      A Mortar Carrier variant of Warrior was originally envisaged, though, and it shouldn't be too much of an issue to create one if that was chosen as the way to go. Indeed, it was very possibly considered until a few years ago, when the Warrior upgrade had to be accompanied by the conversion of remaining warriors in Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicles, as said in the 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy.

      Besides, the Army might always decide to go with a fully-enclosed turret-mounted mortar.
      I know, more a dream than any realistic option, but the possibility exists. And it would make sense, as decision.

      120 mm would present some advantages, but the 81 is already around, so the army would likely keep it.

      And yeah, no C-RAM mention is bad, too.

      As to the Skycrane, my ideal cargo-carrying drone would have that kind of architecture indeed. I don't think it can be improved much from that one design: the general idea was pretty much perfect!

  3. Gabriele

    Sorry! I din't think the last post had got through so I wrote another similar one. Can it be deleted please? Thanks for your reply.

  4. Hi Gabriele,

    Very interesting stuff. Thanks.

    How about doing something on the infantry, as its such a hot topic?

    Subjects I was thinking of;

    a. The regimental system and recruitment
    c. Organization of infantry battalions and its equipment
    c. Public duties and the Guards

    Anything else you can think of?


    1. Air Assault infantry could be a topic too. We could try and think of how to better use it, and how to provide it.
      Do we REALLY need an air assault brigade configured as now to generate air assault infantry...?

      I think some reasoning can come out on this topic.

  5. @Phil and Gabriele

    I think Phil's suggestion concerning a discussion on infantry is an excellent one.

    I also think that your idea of examining the purpose and use of Air Assault infantry is first-rate.

    "it should also provide a number of enablers such as, for example, an Air Assault Battlegroup (this is what happens in Afghanistan, where the Regional Battlegroup South is kept separated from Task Force Helmand and employed as an air assault formation for maneuver and for rapid reinforcement when necessary"

    I didn't know this happened. The Regional Battlegroup South are obviously not always from 16 Air Assault, are they? So much food for thought.

    1. Oh, no, it is not at all always from 16 Air Assault. The RBG(S) was introduced in 2007 as expansion of the UK capability and force in Afghanistan. The first battalion in the role was 1st Royal Gurkha, then 3rd PARA, then 42 Cdo, then 3rd SCOTS (Op Herrick 10 in 2009) and so along.

      3rd SCOTS deployment was notable because they made a much publicized one-wave battlegroup air assault (some 350 men in one wave) using 12 Chinooks (some of which from 82 Combat Aviation Brigade of the US Army) plus support (MH60 MEDEVAC, Apache, Harriers and 1 AC130 Spectre gunship). It was the opening move of Operation Panther's Claw, and it involved link-up with the rest of the battlegroup coming on land with Viking vehicles.

      The battlegroup was some 540 strong.
      It had 2 Rifle Coys (the third had been broken up to provide 50 men for mentoring teams, 12 men to the brigade recce force and other tasks), one Fire Support Coy (dismounted or mounted on 22 Jackals), logistics and artillery Tac Group.

      They had, on assignment, a lot of other assets including an armored company includin danish Leopard 2 tanks.

      THAT kind of air maneuver element (indeed a reinforced one, with greater availability of national heli assets) i'd always want to have available in future.

  6. Gabriele

    "THAT kind of air maneuver element (indeed a reinforced one, with greater availability of national heli assets) i'd always want to have available in future"

    I agree absolutely. The thing is could Air Assault formations exist officially outside of 16 Air Assault (that is, as part of the standard infantry set up)?

    I am not making this very clear but what I am suggesting is having 4 kinds of infantry: Armoured, Mechanised, Light and Air Assault but with some of the last existing outside of 16AA i.e. as part of mainstream infantry. Clear?

    I am rapidly reaching the conclusion that I don't know what I am talking about and perhaps we had better leave the bulk of this discussion until we enter the topic properly (perhaps when you write an introductory post on it). Don't want to use up all the material, do we?

    1. I'll try and seek more information about the american experience: their infantry BCTs are nominally all capable of air assault by helicopter, and the two Airborne divisions only differ by having larger (or two instead of one) brigades of helicopters and infantry parachute trained.

      I do not much seek focus on parachute, but air assault via helicopters certainly.
      We'll see what we can come up with. I hope Phil will write something, i think he could make some good points.

  7. Sometimes lessons need to be re-affirmed and re-evaluated.

    Especially when every fool and his dog believes that the Army is stuck in the past, isn't radical enough, and other silly paradigms like RMAs and 4 GW.

    It seems the Army just can't win. Never revolutionary enough for the internet fan boi's.

    It bases its future operating concept in an evidence based approach and because it comes out with conservative and common sense lessons (funny that seeing as the current military status quo has been borne of centuries of state warfare) it's not far reaching enough.

    I guess its easy to criticise from behind a keyboard.

    1. You are entitled to your opinion, but in mine there's about a million reasons why it is more than justified to criticize this.

  8. Your criticising a public domain document, no doubt watered down and redacted and presented for mass consumption. All the things you point to being missing will be in someone's in-tray - you just don't get to see the details.

    You don't know the real context of the exercise, you don't know if you are seeing the whole results of the exercise and you don't know the details yet you address the document like it encompasses the sum of British Army operational doctrine knowledge. Which it clearly is not.

    The Future Land Operating Concept document has more depth to it and even then it still is not the sum of institutional thinking or knowledge.

    1. I've read the Future Land Operating Concept too. And because of it, I'm noting that the various documents often show open contraddictions no less.
      Also, i'm not criticizing merely the document. I'm criticizing the force structure and equipment choices: we are not shown the full extent of army thinking, but nonetheless we see what the Army is actually doing, and there is plenty of things that do not make sense.

      Since i'm not a minister, i refuse to say that all is fine the way it is. So i criticize. And i do make some pretty specific observations, backed by as much hard evidence as possible.

      You, on the other hand, come forwards with nothing but a show of faith. "Surely they are doing something behind the scene".
      Almost certainly they are doing something. At the very least, i'm hoping they are genuinely assessing needs and requirements, funded or not, at least in private works.
      But these are assumptions.

      And the point remains: the "open" "transparent" and innovative documents being released are more of a figleaf than they are a document for debate, study and consideration.

    2. And mind you, it is a matter of coherence that goes well beyond the sole Army domain and responsibility. It is tri-service. And it starts from the government, capable to say that littoral and expeditionary ops are the future while simultaneously cutting back on the instruments needed for exactly those scenarios.

  9. There's nothing faith about it. I don't hold a view. I am pointing out that you are bereft of most of the data so any conclusions you draw are frankly suspect. Which is fine, but you talk far more authoritively on the matter than your access to the data should allow.

    And besides, I am sure that whilst not being perfect and subject to the same limitations as other mortals, the Officers writing this stuff have a far better idea of their trade than you give them credit for.

    1. It is questionable how much of the "data" is actually not available.

      And i do not question the officer's knowledge of the trade, i question a very evident flattening of their voice on the government's position that prevents them from saying and doing what they probably see as actually necessary.
      Then, when they become FORMER officers, they come out with open criticism, often quite severe.

      We all see it happening. You see it too, if you follow defence matters anywhere near as much as i do.

      The officers should very much have greater courage when they are serving, not wait to speak when they are out of the door.

  10. Come off it you have no idea of the true extent of the data available to the decision makers, you don't even know how they came to the conclusions they have in the document. Again fine, but again you write as if there are no such limitations on your knowledge which is disingenuous.

    As for Officers speaking out, the Army does not exist in a political vacuum and do not forget that it is completely and entirely subordinate to Parliament and HMG therefore there very well should be careful consideration as to what they say in the service. They are the servants and that is constitutional fact. I again doubt very much that men who have served to lead for 30 plus years are quite the push overs in private you think they are.

    1. Ok, we are not going anywhere with this. Keep your opinion, i'm going to keep mine.

  11. Your opinions aren't very rigorous if you can't see that all you've done is a content analysis of a document but written up as if you have access to the underlying data. There's nothing wrong with criticism but I think you're misfiring in this article.

    1. All you're saying is, without any basis, that you assume that there are work concepts in private.

      My reply is: maybe and hopefully there are. But as a matter of fact there are no programs assessing the problems i'm underlining, and the documents the army has released ignore/hide the problems.

      It might well be that some of my criticism is excessive "cruel", so to speak.
      But this is the same army that retired the Platoon light mortar as obsolete only to have to urgently reintroduce it.
      The same that removed the GPMG from the section, then put it in Platoon level maneuver support squads, then tried to remove it again, then in Afghanistan had to put it back in sections again, and when not in sections then in Fire Support Groups at Company level at the very least.

      It is the army that selected that utter disaster that is Springer, the same that after Bosnia retired the excellent (for the time) route clearance solutions it had developed, only to regret it in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      The same army that for years tried to tell people that Snatch Vixen was, really, fine.
      The same army that put together that half abort that is the Vector "protected" vehicle.

      Should i continue?

      I cannot criticize what i do not know or see. I criticize what the army let us know.
      If i assumed that, really, in secret they are thinking about it, surely, it is all fine, i would never say a thing.

      I'm sorry, but i just cannot agree with your reasoning.

  12. @Anonymous

    “It seems the Army just can't win. Never revolutionary enough for the internet fan boi's”

    I can understand your point of view but only to a certain extent. Although you do acknowledge that “There's nothing wrong with criticism”, what does come across strongly from your comments is the view that somehow the Army, because it is party to knowledge that it would be imprudent/unsafe to release to the public, therefore automatically knows best.

    “Especially when every fool and his dog believes that the Army is stuck in the past, isn't radical enough”

    There is something in this. I do remember standing up at a British Army roadshow a couple of years ago and asking a question about whether the Army was shifting too hurriedly and in too wholesale a fashion, over to COIN warfare (in terms of its equipment etc.) and not paying enough attention to preparation for more conventional, high intensity combat (i.e. I was recommending caution – suggesting that it be more conservative, more reactionary, if you like.) However, the Army has, rightly or wrongly, down through the ages, acquired a bit of a reputation for “fighting the last war” (a phrase very evident in WWII) and its intellectual core does not have a monopoly on military wisdom. In fact, there have been numerous occasions when its critics have been pulled back from civilian life to right deficiencies in its thinking or planning (General Sir Percy Hobart of D-Day fame is just one example).

    I fail to see that the Army (or any other institution in national life, come to that) should be immune from criticism. Well-informed criticism even if it is from individual outside the Armed Forces, should be recognized as such. I happen to believe that Gabriele does do his research pretty deeply. As he says, “ I refuse to say that all is fine the way it is. So I criticize. And I do make some pretty specific observations, backed by as much hard evidence as possible.”

    Personally, I found Army 2020 quite an elegant solution to the problems the Army faces. General Sir Nick Carter is a very able officer indeed. That does not mean, however, that I found “Agile Warrior 2012” anything other than vague and general.

    As you say, parts of it will no doubt have been “watered down and redacted and presented for mass consumption.” But, like Gabriele, I did not find find much that was innovative in it.

    Incidentally, when you state: “Sometimes lessons need to be ‘re-affirmed’ and ‘re-evaluated.’”, there is a direct contradiction between those two terms, isn’t there? Did you mean ‘re-affirmed’ OR ‘re-evaluated.”?

  13. "is the view that somehow the Army, because it is party to knowledge that it would be imprudent/unsafe to release to the public, therefore automatically knows best."

    That is not at all what I said. I said the Army has access to more data, specifically the data that underlies its conclusions in the document. I would bet the farm that ten minutes with anyone behind the thinking in that document would answer most of the questions here.

    Gabbie in my mind assumes that because something is not in the document, it does not exist as a work stream or a concept, he appears to be assuming that the Army has a gaping hole in its approach. Again I would bet the farm that at no point would anyone go "wow, hang on a minute we hadn't thought of that", they might go "we are working on it" or the "details are not public domain" but I would doubt very much that there are the enormous gaps in knowledge Gabbie accuses the Army of having. Certainly, there are gaps in the document, which is why I believe his article is content analysis masquerading as an analysis of the data underlying the conclusions.

    "However, the Army has, rightly or wrongly, down through the ages, acquired a bit of a reputation for “fighting the last war” (a phrase very evident in WWII)"

    The fact is, nobody knows how the Army will be engaged, anyone who says he knows is a liar and a fantasist. The Army only has that reputation in the eyes of people who have not thought these things through. The Army entered WWII with an expeditionary force far larger than WWI and which was ahead of all its peers in being completely mechanised and it was integrated with air support. That it didn't possess a suitable mass of tanks is more down to the industrial limitations of the country which affected the entire re-armament process.

    "its intellectual core does not have a monopoly on military wisdom."

    No it does not, but it does have a monopoly on the data behind the document in question.

    "I fail to see that the Army (or any other institution in national life, come to that) should be immune from criticism. "

    I never said they should be immmune from criticism. But the criticism must be constructive and informed if it is to be worth anything.

    "I happen to believe that Gabriele does do his research pretty deeply."

    Then he is being disingenuous here and analysing the document like it is the sum of knowledge and criticising gaps in the document as if they were gaps in thinking. None of us writing on here as far as I know, is privvy to the data that would enable a proper analysis. Which is fine, but what isn't fine is writing as if you are.

    "Incidentally, when you state: “Sometimes lessons need to be ‘re-affirmed’ and ‘re-evaluated.’”, there is a direct contradiction between those two terms, isn’t there? Did you mean ‘re-affirmed’ OR ‘re-evaluated.”?"

    I meant precisely what I said. Previous lessons need to be re-evaluated and in so doing they may be re-affirmed which is just as important when there is intellectual pressure to be radical for the sake of it and a believe that the Army doesn't know how to fight the next war. The Army has no more idea of the next war than anyone else, which is why we are maintaining a core fighting force able to operate across the entire spectrum of likely operations at divisional level.

  14. And besides, the fundamentals of warfare remained precisely the same as in WWI, however certain aspects of the offensive were enhanced and which meant more freedom in certain environments. In other words, WWII was no different from WWI accept the offensive could now finally potentially exploit success.

    1. If that's just it, the fundamentals are pretty much the same from many, many years. This does not mean that approaches are and/or should be the same ones.

  15. Neither should experimentation be done for the sake of it or for the novelty of it.

    Evolution not revolution. Revolutionaries tend to crash and burn.

  16. Anon, with you on most of your comments but would disagree about the WWII armoured vehicle piece. At the end of WWI the Army was the epitome of an all arms manoeuvre force at the cutting edge but then proceeded to squander some of that hard won institutional knowledge in the interwar period. Not all of it, as you say, we were in trucks, the Germans still using hay but that does not mean were weren't eclipsed by overall, the facts I would say, tend to speak for themselves.

    Look at how we treated Percy Hobart, a classic case of institutional inertia.

    I am nitpicking though, thought your overall response was bang on

  17. The question is why were we like we were in 1939?

    Organisations lose knowledge over time if it is not used or part of a routine, as we probably both know. There is plenty of research on it.

    That the infrastructure as it were for conventional combined arms warfare atrophied to an extent during the inter war period is not a surprise. Indeed, this shows what a valuable tool AW is, it represents attempts to maintain institutional knowledge that we are not using at the moment by using hypothetical scenarios on an institutional basis, this is innovative relatively speaking - a lot of organisations fail to do this. That the Army is doing it is evidence for deep thinking and practical bent. But I digress from my point which is:

    Was it a dearth of intellectual mass that saw us some steps behind the Germans in integrating combined arms formations or a dearth of industrial capacity and resources to actually put it into practise? There were very real re-armament problems in the 1930s that physically limited us despite aspirations otherwise.

    I think that it was all of these things, some knowledge atrophied but there was also not the physical means to equip our forces in the necessitated manner - there were plans for several armoured divisions but not the money or the tanks for them. Also, the German combined arms superiority I think is a bit of a myth and is mainly explained by their aggression at the operational level and the allies allowing the strategic German strength to be arrayed against their strategic weakness. Whenever the Germans hit serious defences they conducted WWI style actions with the difference that radio's and motor vehicles finally allowed tactical and operational success to be exploited at a strategic level.

  18. The post war journey from the 100 days offensive to Dunkirk is a fascinating one to study and as you say, no single factor but I don't think we can completely absolve the Army of any blame and just pin it on industrial or financial issues.

    The main point, that Agile Warrior and Army 2020 represent a serious attempt at innovating on one hand and preserving the basics of combined arms manoeuvre whilst operating within the political, financial and arguably 'cap badge' political constraints that are a simple fact of life is spot on

  19. "All you're saying is, without any basis, that you assume that there are work concepts in private."

    There is a basis. The basis is that this data is somewhere. Unless you have evidence that someone or a group have pulled this out of their arses in the Mess over Port then there are reams and reams of data and analysis.

    "and the documents the army has released ignore/hide the problems."

    As I said, you're criticising a document but acting like it represents the sum of thinking and knowledge.

    "But this is the same army that retired the Platoon light mortar as obsolete only to have to urgently reintroduce it."

    So what? The Army made a change, a completely miniscule one, learned it was not appropriate in the context, and reversed that decision. This is a sign of a healthy, thinking and relfexive organisation. It experimented and the result was found unsuitable. By your logic and accusations they should still be ignoring and denying that they ever made a subsequently poor decision. If you want an Army to evolve and adapt changes need to be made, if you expect it to get it right 100% of the time then you don't know what you're talking about.

    "Should i continue?"

    If you want but I don't see how it refutes my point that you're fulminating about a document. You're doing content analysis.

    I have explained to you the good points:

    (a) AW shows the Army is trying to retain relevant institutional knowledge and assessing its relevance and experimenting. These are symptoms of an organisation that is primed to learn and to look forward, not atrophy.

    (b) The Army has made some decisions that were bad, turned out to be bad or were forced to make, in all cases these have been corrected which again shows a healthy organisation. You experiment, you innovate, not all of it will work. Exercises like AW assist that experimentation and innovation by providing evidence as much for what should be done as for confirming that what is being done is right.

    You criticise the document but miss its actual significance, that it is evidence of exactly the opposite kind of institution you think the Army is - experimental, innovative, evidence based, forward thinking, healthily conservative.

    Do they get it right all the time?

    Do they f*ck.

    But they get it right a lot of the time.

    Is the Army perfectly innovative, perfectly experimental, perfectly evidence based?

    Of course not.

    No organisation manned by mortal men in the context of society will be.

    I say this to show that I am not some sycophant, the Army can be criticised, but it is not the organisation you think it is from a weak document analysis.

  20. TD

    I don't absolve the Army entirely. As I said, knowledge will atrophy for a variety of reasons that Organisational Learning theories are trying to get to grips with. Not least, not needing to use it doesn't help.

    I think the thinking was there, there's plenty of contemporary literature to show that there was no dearth of good concepts.

    That the Army failed to harness the potential in the same way as the Germans managed to (with equal amounts of luck and pluck) I think is down to the factors I mention: natural atrophy, lack of resources and a lack of time. The kernel was there in the BEF and there was the institutional desire to create more armoured divisions, indeed there was a proposal for the BEF to be entirely made up of armoured divisions much like a German Panzer Corps, but there was simply no money and no tanks.

    Anyway, I think we broadly agree, the Army might have done things differently. But you can't get away from the fact that the Army was simply the equivalent to a side arm in the thinking at the time, the real weapon was Bomber Command.

  21. @Anonymous (and Gabriele if he wants to join in)


    Unless you can accept the premise that individuals have the right to comment on issues and criticize even if they are not in full possession of every single fact, I cannot see that we can take this much further. Voters are not in possession of all the facts when they vote at elections but that does not alter the fact that they should be able to point to and say what they think about issues. It’s a recognized part of democracy.

    Gabby has every right to point out what he feels are weaknesses, inconsistencies and omissions in Army doctrine and policy. He has been specific in mentioning mistakes made by the Army over equipment, for instance, in an earlier post in this thread (concerning Light Mortar, Springer, Snatch Vixen, Vector etc.) Just imagine what it would have been like if journalists and politicians (some far from being in possession of ALL the facts) had kept silent about that lot of appalling decisions.

    I would agree with you, though, that generally the Army has had a poor press in recent times. In some circles they got the blame for the debacle called FRES, the accusation being that they were unable to make up their minds. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Politicians, specifically those in the previous administration, were to blame, saying money was available at one moment, then suddenly withdrawing it, so that the Army just did not know where it was. I do not doubt either for one moment the sheer volume of work that went into producing something like the Army 2020 policy. People were no doubt poring over their desks and in meetings for unconscionably long hours to produce such decisions. Moreover, I do not doubt the immense expertise our top Army officers have and they have made many fine decisions in recent times, not least over Army 2020, which makes the very best of a rotten hand.

    I think one of the main thrusts in Gabby’s arguments over recent posts concerns the “open contradictions” he mentions between the Army’s stated intentions and their actual decisions and actions. The example he gives in another post on the Future Land Operating Concept concerning the statement that closer attention would be paid to CBRN at the same time as retiring the best CBRN vehicle available, the Fuchs, makes the point admirably. There is a kind of mental dislocation, an Orwellian doublethink, taking place in such contradictions between statements produced for the public and what is actually happening!

    I’ll have to leave it there, I’m afraid.

    1. Indeed, i accept (and i hope) that thinking goes much further than we are shown in open source documents.
      However, i cannot avoid noting a series of things that simply do not make sense.
      It is not wholly because of the Army (or the Navy, or Air Force, it is not like it doesn't happen with them), it is not without reasons either, but all the same, it cannot go under silence.

      There is plenty of things that, for a reason or another, and generally for lack of funding, are not working. Talking of them is indispensable.

  22. Bomber Command, bloody hell, best steer clear of that one :)

    One thing that I think isn't particularly well explored and it is something I would like to read more about is the difference between the home and away areas of the three forces in the interwar years.

    For example, the Army and RAF mastered close air support in Palestine using portable radios and so on with response times that haven't been bettered even today but we struggled with the concepts in Europe until well into WWII

    Hindsight is a wonderful tool !!

  23. "Unless you can accept the premise that individuals have the right to comment on issues and criticize even if they are not in full possession of every single fact, I cannot see that we can take this much further."

    I have never said this. You are missing the point. My point is to be taken seriously the analysis should take into account the data limitations. I have never said that nobody should criticise, but it should be done constructively and the comments qualified.

    "Gabby has every right to point out what he feels are weaknesses, inconsistencies and omissions in Army doctrine and policy."

    I never said he does not. I am saying his analysis is flawed.

    "There is plenty of things that, for a reason or another, and generally for lack of funding, are not working. Talking of them is indispensable."

    I agree. Reflexivity is vital. But I think you miss the point of AW and you have come to completely the wrong conclusions as a result. As I have said, you have done content analysis, not the analysis you think you have done.

    1. As i've already said, you have your opinion. I cannot agree with it.

  24. "For example, the Army and RAF mastered close air support in Palestine using portable radios and so on with response times that haven't been bettered even today but we struggled with the concepts in Europe until well into WWII"

    Perhaps it has something to do with the far larger scale of ETO operations and the resulting massive increase in complexity.

    I think, when analysing the Army in 1939 you have to take into account that it was not until very late in the day, to be used on the continent and it was the poor step-sister of the three services because of the perceived power of the bomber in the inter war years.

    Once you take these into account it starts to make sense why it was not ready or fully equipped for continental warfare: few wanted it to be so used and others didn't think it useful in a major war.

  25. "I cannot agree with it."

    Then your piece is exactly what you accuse the Army of being.

    1. You are starting to annoy me, sincerely, you know that?
      I do not agree with your reasoning. I find that it goes way too far in optimism, and while there are things i can relate with, your point remains based on hopes and assumptions.

      I might be focusing too much on what is there and too little on what is not shown, but you are doing the opposite, putting blind faith in what you -suppose- is there.

      As for your point about AW being good as a demonstration that thinking in the army is alive and well, i can agree to a degree.
      It's surely better than nothing.

      But please, don't try and pass it as this great new shiny innovation. It is not. Doctrinal documents, studies and assessments come out all the time, and they rightly should.

      It is not like the Navy does not do its Future Maritime Operating Concept documents. They do publish "Navy visions" quite regularly, too. So, what?

      And here it ends.

  26. You still completely miss my point.

    There is no blind faith. I am saying that you don't have all the facts but act like you do and criticise as such and that AW actually shows a healthy inclination to reflexivity, thought, experimentation and learning. My evidence for that is the existence of AW.

    I'd suggest getting a thicker skin, your article is after all available to be viewed by at least a billion potential readers.

    I apologise if I don't engage in the mutual backslapping.

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