Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Infantry of Army 2020

This is the first post of what could become a series for which i invite any reader interested in collaborating to step forwards and contact me. I will welcome suggestions, information and thoughts at the same way. This article is intended both as a take on the always actual, still-evolving Army 2020 situation and as a kick-start for what will hopefully become a wider reasoning over the future of the british Infantry in the modern scenarios.

Some Written Answers in Parliament in the last month and in June are painting a possibly quite depressing picture for the future of british Infantry battalions, which are possibly set for a marked downsizing as part of Army 2020 restructuring.
On 13 July 2012, in fact, minister Nick Harvey, answering to a question about the future of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, dispelled the myth, created by The Telegraph, that the surviving Scottish battalions would have their establishment downsized to around 400 or 450 in exchange for their survival. This, both fortunately and unsurprisingly, is not the case, as creating such small battalions, so much smaller and different from the others within the army would have been a severely damaging move.
Harvey makes clear that the establishment of each battalion will in future depend solely from the role to which it is assigned and added that, under Army 2020:

Any battalions that are in the Armoured Infantry role will have a full unit establishment of 729 personnel;

Any battalions that are in the Mechanised (Heavy Protected Mobile) Infantry role will have a full unit establishment of 709 personnel;

Any battalions that are in the Light Protected Mobile Infantry role will have a full unit establishment of 581 personnel;

Any battalions that are in the Light Infantry role will have a full unit establishment of 561 personnel;

[Official Report, Column 415W]

The Light Protected Mobile Infantry role is a novelty of Army 2020, represented by 6 infantry battalions which will be mounted on Foxhound vehicles, while the other three roles all already exist, even if the 3 Mechanized Infantry Battalions (currently 4th Rifles, 1st Royal Anglian and 1st Lancs) will have their vehicle changed as part of Army 2020 from FV430 MK3 Bulldog (now) to FRES UV (not earlier than 2022, possibly around 2025) with the Mastiff vehicle, brought into Core Defence budget after Afghanistan as interim solution.
The Armored Infantry battalions will go down to 6, but will continue to work on Warrior vehicles, although modified under the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme, with first deliveries of the upgraded IFVs in 2018, IOC in 2020 with an Armoured Company fully operative and deliveries completed by 2022.

Nick Harvey fails to provide a Full Unit Establishment for Air Assault battalions, which as part of Army 2020 might go down to just 2 (from four until now: 2 and 3 PARA plus 1st Royal Irish and 5 SCOTS). Currently, the full establishment for such battalions should be 582 all ranks, all trades.

According to the data I’ve managed to collate, the new establishment present some differences with the current ones, and most of these differences are not good ones.
According to Charles Heyman’s “The British Army Guide 2012 – 2013”, and ArmedForces.co.uk, the full unit establishment of a current armoured infantry battalion is 741, so that, if data is correct, Army 2020 implies a reduction of 12 men. At the moment, there’s no telling how this might be achieved, as there is not an evident source for the reduction in manpower (as would have been the case if, for example, the Warrior upgrade had walked down the road of Overhead Remote Weapon Stations and reduced the turret crew of Warrior from 2 to 1). One possibility is a reduction in the strength of the REME Light Aid Detachment, but this is only a wild guess.

With the same source of data about the current battalions, it seems the 3 Mechanized Infantry Battalions are getting a very significant uplift in manpower, instead, from 667 to 709, hopefully with the increase made up as much as possible by fighting troops. Might have to do with the fact that a Mastiff 2 or 3 can take up to 12 men aboard, even though normally it is described as a “2 + 8” vehicle which, in the case, would provide no evident justification for the manpower increase, since Bulldog is a 2 + 8 vehicle itself.

As said before, the Light Protected role is new, so there is no comparison to be made. One consideration to be made is how the Light Protected battalion will work, and how much of its strength will effectively be mounted in Foxhound vehicles and protected. How will it all be arranged? Foxhound is a 2 + 4 vehicle, and we could reasonably assume that the driver at least won’t count as a Dismount, while the commander perhaps will.
This would open the door to a fireteam of 5 instead of 4 men, but even if the Section stays 8-strong, there will be a need for 2 Foxhounds for each Section. That would mean as many as 28 Foxhound vehicles per each Rifle Company.
And numbers at that point do not work, because many more Foxhound vehicles would be needed over and above the 300 on order (even before the toll that Afghanistan will eventually take)[at least 35 for a training fleet] and the provision of drivers would become a problem.
Also, the Foxhound vehicles on order this far are all in the basic patrol variant, while a Battalion would arguably need weapon carriers (so the WMIK variant of Foxhound, or perhaps Jackals), an ambulance, ideally on the same chassis and with the same battlefield mobility (perhaps the Husky ambulance variant can be used in the short term, assuming that Husky is brought into Core post Afghanistan), a command post and so along.
Of course, this problem would not exist if substantial follow-on orders for more Foxhounds (in more variants) were to arrive, but for quite obvious reasons I find it hard to be that optimist.

Another reason not to be optimist is the comparison of the establishment of the Light Protected and Light Role infantry battalions: just 20 men of difference suggest that there won’t be that many vehicles, possibly, as the need for drivers and maintenance would suggest a much higher figure otherwise.
It will be very interesting to see how these Light Protected Mobility Battalions are actually organized: it might come down to having the capability of moving one Rifle Company in Foxhounds, for the look of it, and I frankly hope in something better than that.

But the real worrying part is the Light Role battalion itself, because a Full Establishment of 561 seems very low. According to the same sources named earlier, currently a Light Role infantry battalion full establishment is 630.
That would mean a cull of 69 men from each battalion, likely to imply a significant impact on the fighting force of the battalion, which will be balanced, on paper, by the famous “pairing” with reserve battalions. The Army 2020 document, presenting a force of 14 Light Role regular battalions, seemed to go in the direction of a possible “one to one” pairing, since the TA has exactly 14 Infantry Battalions.     
The Army 2020 document also showed the Foxhound battalions paired up with TA battalions, though: will the Reserve expansion offer room and scope for a further 6 TA infantry battalions? I doubt it for many reasons, mainly for the fact that, was that the case, there would have been an easy solution for government in the delivery of the cuts: the names and badges would be saved by moving into the TA.
Since this has not been done, taking the usual flak connected to the loss of “historic” names, room for optimism is very small.

As you can easily see, there are some very hard questions left in search for an answer. The Telegraph was wrong when it reported that the Scottish battalions would go down to 450 men establishments, but the reduction in manpower might have been enforced army-wide, with the oddity represented by the Mechanized Infantry expansion. 
This, of course, while we wait for better and more accurate data. I have no real reason not to trust the sources quoted earlier, but I’m taking them with some prudence.
However, there is another, indirect element in support of the downsizing fear: a look at the current Establishment.

The Establishment is different from the Full Unit Establishment. FUE is the total strength of the battalion, all-trades, all-ranks.
The Establishment instead is a figure that only comprises those soldiers from the unit’s specific Arm or Corps, excluding any supporting components from other Corps. The Establishment of an infantry battalion, in other words, is the count of the sole Infantry personnel, excluding REME, clerks, cooks and all other figures.

Current Establishment for a Light Role battalion hovers at around 530 men.
For an Armoured Battalion, it goes from 599 to 608, roughly.
For a mechanized battalion it is around 570, and for an Air Assault battalion it is 554.

Assuming, once more, that the figures from “The British Army Guide” are correct, there’s a 132 men difference between Establishment and Full Establishment for Armored Battalions, of which up to 90 are made up by the Light Aid Detachment (REME personnel).
The difference reduces to 97 for a Mechanized battalion (including a smaller REME component).
Some 100 man are the difference in Light Role battalions (a bit high, admittedly, since Light Role should not have that much in terms of supporting elements), reducing to just 28 for an Air Assault battalion.

If  the figures are correct, the Army 2020 Light Role battalion might have an Infantry establishment of just 460 men from the Infantry. This is, obviously, highly undesirable, and goes against operational experience which very much calls for bigger battalions (an expansion to over 700 has been assessed as necessary already long ago).
The US Infantry battalion in an Infantry BCT has a strength of 685 men.    
A Royal Marines Commando battalion full establishment is 692 men all ranks, too, even if the Royal Marines are semi-mechanized, with normally a Wheeled and one tracked (on Viking) “stand-off combat” companies plus 2 Close Combat Companies.

Looking at the strength and ORBAT of the infantry battalions, mainly the Light and Light Protected Mobility ones, will be very important to understand how much compromise the Army has had to accept, and how much damage the infantry’s capability has eventually taken.
I’ll keep my eyes open, as always, to try and catch any other useful information regarding this subject.

At the same time, there are questions we could try and reason about, for coming up with a realistic, desirable design for the infantry battalion.
Questions to be faced include:

-          The Maneuver Support Company is valid in its current form? In Afghanistan it is very often broken down into Fire Support Groups, made up of sections of HMG, MG Sustained Fire, Javelin Anti-Tank, Mortar, Sniper. These sections are organized on the lines of a Platoon and assigned directly to the Rifle Company, giving it the firepower it needs to .
Normally the FSG will use the 60 mm Light Mortar, and the 81 mm mortars will be kept at Battalion level. In some cases, the Maneuver Support Company remains, albeit in a different form, including the RECCE element, a Fire Support Group and a Fire Support Team (the latter being the 6-man team for the direction of Joint Fires, be it mortar, artillery, rocket or an air attack). A Fire Support Team is assigned at Company level on deployment.
Are these “ad hoc” structures indicative of long-term trends?
What and how should be made permanent in the force structure?

-          Mortars and guided ammo. 81 mm forever, or shift towards 120 mm? Is a mortar-cannon the best Fire Support Weapon, combining direct and indirect effect?

-          Fire Support Team: vital direction for the whole range of support fires in a complex, joint environment. Definitely need more, how to integrate them in the force?

-          The Load Carrier. At Platoon level? How many? Manned or unmanned?

-          UAVs for the Infantry, how many, where, for what roles?

And, no doubt, many others.
With a major focus in thinking being the reduction in the weight carried by the soldier out on a mission. Current weight levels are way too high, and a substantial reduction is absolutely necessary.
Other issues include bandwidth and communications, especially in urban areas and C2 on the move, and this brings us straight to another problem closely connected to these: provision of power for all the optics and systems. Which means considering ergonomics of wiring, load carriage, and other issues. 

The graphic shows the organization of the Royal Anglian battlegroup in its deployment in Afghanistan. The restructured Maneuver Support Company, and the Fire Support Groups in which it broke down are well evident. Also, the Fire Support Team at Company level.

A very complex and ample subject, so let’s start thinking.


  1. To think an infantry battalion at the end of WWII was 845 strong all ranks, and that's less a machine-gun platoon...

    The downsizing is inevitable as part of the desperation to save battalions/cap badges. It happened in option for change, if I remember correctly. By my calculations (air assault given the same establishment as light-role, 6 armoured, 3 mechanised, 6 motorised, 17 light) total infantry establishment will be 19,524, or 23 WWII infantry battalions, or 28 US light-role battalions/RM Commandos. How much strain could be saved on budgets and support personnel by reducing to 23 large battalions? If operational experience suggests larger units, surely this is the way to go?

    With the various structures for fire support elements, and the apparent intention to integrate weapons a company level (and, indeed, practice on operations), why can't we look at the USMC's practice of including a weapons platoon at company level? Though, no doubt, the planned small size of our infantry battalions wouldn't allow this. Looking at large units, a USMC infantry battalion at the end of WWII had an establishment of 954 men.

    Wearing rose-tinted glasses and abandoning cynicism for the time-being, perhaps with pairing there is the intention of bringing infantry battalions to "war-time" strength- adding a TA infantry company and support elements. This could add upwards of 100 men, assuaging the loss somewhat.

    Bertram Pantyshield

    1. Regarding the TA additional company, the problem is that it has been assumed for years that battalions would be uplifted by one company and at least one additional Anti Tank and Mortar sections via Reserves.
      In practice, this has not happened for Iraq and Afghanistan, due to the low trained, available TA strength.

      Now the "new" and "larger" reserve might end up not adding a 4th company, but merely bringing the existing 3 up to strenght.

      And indeed, the British Army Journal 2012 said, in a passage, that in Army 2020 non at readiness battalions would "not be fully manned". http://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.it/2012/06/so-11-brigades-it-is.html
      No details provided, but judging from the establishment figures, the only fully manned battalions in the Army will be the 6 Armored and 3 Mechanized.

      As for the Heavy Weapons Platoon at Company level, for the british army this is achievable only by breaking down the current Maneuver Support Company, keeping only the 81 mm mortars and RECCE platoon in it, and taking the various ATK, Sniper and other Sections to put them into Platoon-shaped Fire Support Groups.

      In the British armed forces of today, only the Royal Marines have an "american-style" fire support team at Company level.
      Compared to many NATO allies, and probably to many other countries, the british infantry coy has a deficit in firepower.

    2. I agree that the cap badges/regimental pride seems to be getting in the way of effective force strength. If King's and Queen's Divisions would amalgamate into super regiments like the Royal Regiment of Scotland did there could be fewer but larger and more effective battalions. This is done in many countries. Here in Canada, the entire regular army consists of 3 infantry regiments, each of 3 battalions.

      The super regiments could simply be The Queen's Regiment and The King's Regiment. Both were regiments in the past. If each division/super regiment cut back to 3 or 4 fully manned battalions (except the Household Division would maintain 5 battalions) this would be an easy fit for the multi-role brigades.

      5 Multi-Role Brigade each based on a super regiment + 1 battalion of Guards. Each brigade would have one battalion on overseas garrison duty or public duty in the UK. This would rotate amongst the battalions in the brigade. So at any one time all 5 brigades would have 3 battalions + 1 tasked away on garrison or public duty.

      ie. 1 SG is on public duty in London for 2 years. When it returns to the 52nd Scottish Brigade 3 SCOTS deploys to Cypress for 2 years. There remains continuity with the battalions returning to the same brigade after their tasking is over. Fewer but fully manned infantry battalions.

  2. TD

    Interesting what you say about numbers of vehicles (Foxhounds) needed in the new Light Protected Mobile Infantry role. My figures differ from yours but my overall conclusion is the same.

    I take it that each battalion will be formed around three Rifle companies, each with three Platoons, each of which has three Sections. Now, working as you have, on the basis that each section will need 2 Foxhounds, that makes it 6 per Platoon, 18 per Rifle Company (not your 28) and 54 per Battalion (not 84). Now, I have probably missed out something obvious and am horribly out on these figures but even on these, which are much lower than yours, that would still mean that in six battalions you would need over the 300 already ordered. (I think by you calculations and scaling up by three, the total would be above 500). As you say, that is without other variants that would be needed.

    There is also another matter that needs to be taken into consideration. In each of the present Light Role Battalions there is, I believe, a Manoeuvre Support Company which contains a Recce Platoon. If you have a similar Support Company in the new Light Protected Mobile Infantry role, each of the Platoons would need, say, six further Foxhounds, adding another thirty-six for all six battalions, unless recce is to be carried out by another vehicle.

    More Foxhounds ill have to be ordered!

    Very good article, by the way.

    1. Gabriele is closer to the mark than you, i make it as 26 per company. 8 vehicles to the platoon ( 3 x 2 vehicle sections + 2 HQ vehicles), 3 x 8 vehicle platoons + 2 HQ vehicles and perhaps to take it up to 28, x2 Foxhound FFR with bowman (instead of the landies or panthers)

    2. 28 might be too many, but 18 are too few, because you are leaving out of your count the vehicles of the Platoon and Company HQs.

      So you are going to need 7/8 vehicles for Platoon and possibly a further 4 for the Company HQ.

      If you think of the 14-vehicle company on Warrior or on Bulldog/Mastiff, you have each Section on a single vehicle, plus a Platoon HQ on another vehicle, and 2 more in the Company HQ.
      In the Bulldog battalions, actually, i think the Company HQ had no less than 3 FV432s.

      Plus ambulance.

      And yes, the Light Role and Light Protected Mobility Platoons should have their RECCE platoon, and each recce platoon should have 6 Foxhounds, unless the structure is changed, or Land Rovers continue to be used for the role (i hope not...).

      So, however you want to look at it, there are holes all over the place.

    3. "So, however you want to look at it, there are holes all over the place."

      Maybe not, if "Whole Fleet Management" means only a couple of battalions are fully equipped?

    4. That in my view is starting to stretch far too much on the Whole Fleet approach.
      To a point, it makes sense.
      But past certain levels, it becomes wishful thinking.

    5. I didn't say I liked the idea, Gabby! I'm just saying the powers that be might be trying to get away with one "ready" b/n fully-equipped, one "pre-deployment trg" b/n fully-equipped, the b/n on "reset" or whatever it's called having no vehicles, and maybe the other three in the intermediate trg phases having a company's worth of vehicles, or less. Which leaves 30-50 for driver trg.

      Who knows?. Just saying, don't discount the possibility.

  3. Hi Gabby

    I'm not sure this idea of a fully formed view of army 2020 (being reviewed in detail now) makes for the best view of the undertaking. I would expect that the role of the reserves is going to be better defined as they respond to the new opportunities.

    Also the army are trying to describe a force able to deliver against a range of threats but they are also aware that there is very little prospect that they will be allowed to operate for any period at the current level of commitment in Astan.

    Therefore its probably correct to keep first responders at strength and allow time to determine the maximum capabilities of the remainder (from trial and error).

    We will get a force capable of developing a strong response to a crisis but it will draw in reserves contractors etc in direct relationship to its importance to the wider tax paying community.

    In other words there will be more political leadership with a small p in future , the public mood being more strongly involved and less Tony Blair conviction leadership.

    Not quite the current German situation but still not more than the Libyan style of intervention.. if the populace will fight we'll help if not why bother.

    I also think re equipment that the MOD is putting together what is a reasonable story for the current finances, I'm not sure that there will not be big changes with future investments, especially as the new doctrine is a buy only when you need to and when you do buy little and often.

    If in three years time a GoCo is doing the buying you might expect more inventive purchases and a wider range of capabilities coming from the type of equipment options being funded.

    A bit like the team complex weapons work, but applied to the army mobility and Armour, a slow start could lead to some very interesting outcomes.

    1. Yours are not bad observations, but all the same, i think the Reserve plan, which is due for publishing around the end of the year, won't be able to avoid facing the issue of the pairing of infantry battalions. They have announced it themselves with the Army 2020 document, it is not something i am making up.

      It'll better be a workable and realistic plan which makes it actually possible to bring battalions up to strength when it is the time for it.
      That's all i ask.
      I'm a believer (with reserves) in the Reserve (pun not intended) and i did write a piece calling for the Infantry Battalions to be restructured as modular units completed by the TA for deployment.

      But since it is going to be challenging to make it work, i'm hoping to see a realistic planning over this (and other) matters.

  4. @Ian B

    "Gabriele is closer to the mark than you, i make it as 26 per company. 8 vehicles to the platoon ( 3 x 2 vehicle sections + 2 HQ vehicles), 3 x 8 vehicle platoons + 2 HQ vehicles and perhaps to take it up to 28, x2 Foxhound FFR with bowman (instead of the landies or panthers)"

    Yes, of course, I was stupidly, as Gabriele says, leaving out the vehicles of the Platoon and Company HQs.

    Even by my calculations, though, the six Light Protected Mobile Infantry battalions would take more than the 300 Foxhounds ordered. Stll, Mr. Hammnd did tell us that he has a reserve of £8 billion, was it, for urgently needed kit!

  5. Hi Gabriele,
    Thanks for putting this post up!
    I have just had a quick read, and you make some very interesting points.
    I will post a more detail comment when I have more time.

    1. Look forwards to that, Phil. I'm now working on a post on the C Fleet of vehicles, but i've already planned a few more installments for this Infantry series. You are more than welcome to add in all you want!

  6. Gabriele

    Light Role Infantry battalions used sometimes to be called general service battalions and their transport was limited to 4-tonne trucks and Land Rovers (i.e. I suppose they might loosely have been called Motorized Infantry).

    What do you think our Light Role battalions will be transported by in future, if anything? Will it still be a mixture of 6-tonne trucks and Landies or will they have the good fortune to be given a better vehicle to get them to where the fighting is?

    1. I suspect it is and it is going to be for quite some time 6 or 8-tonne MAN trucks that figure in the Motor Transport platoons in Infantry Battalions.
      Land Rovers ideally will be replaced by the Multi Role Vehicle (Protected) along with 4x4 and 6x6 Pinzgauers, though, one day.

  7. Gabriele

    Just to move on for a moment to the Mechanized battalions.
    As you say, they will have the Mastiff vehicle brought into the Core Defence budget after Afghanistan as an "interim solution".

    I think that everyone knows that the Mastiff is hardly the ideal personnel carrier for such batttalions. It is a heavily protected patrol vehicle, essentially the Cougar with greatly increased armour. I was just wondering whether, when Mastiff goes into sevice with the Mechanized Infantry, it will be possible to remove some of the addtional armour ftted. The bar armour should be quite easily removeable but the heavy slabs of armour on the sides have been welded on. Were it posible to remove such armour you would have a much more mobile vehicle as a result, one which could be used for more conventional mechanized infantry work. It could always be re-fitted if necessary for another Afgahnistan-type campaign.

    1. I think the slat armor almost certainly will be removed not to tax the vehicles uselessly. It is also necessary to make the vehicle narrower: even without it, it'll already have issues on UK roads.

  8. Hi Gabriele.

    The points I wish to raise concerning the infantry are;

    Equipment. Does the infantry have the best weapons and equipment that it can afford?
    My view, I think the infantry has a wide range of weapons available, some of which are not the best, but in my opinion, with budgets as they are it’s the best we are going to get.

    Organisation; Like many, I would love to see a close support element, available within an infantry company. Should battalions be bigger? However, with the pressure on manpower and budgets how could this be done?
    I suggest adding a close support platoon to support company. It’s not the ideal answer, but the platoon could be a large one, maybe 10 to 12 per section. Equipped with sniper rifles, GPMGs etc. Sections could be deployed either per company of as a platoon. This would be a modest increase in battalion strength, 30 to 38. Unlike 1 platoon per company at 26, which would be 78. However, a close support platoon in each rifle company would in my view be best. This would also increase the size of infantry battalions, which in my view would be a good thing.
    I worry about battalions being to specialist. Infantry need to be flexible, and adaptable.

    Recruitment and the Regimental system. Is the regimental system still the best way forward for the infantry? Keeping battalions at full strength and therefore deployable has been a problem for many years.
    I still think the regimental system is the best one for the infantry. However, I think regional regiments are the way forward. The recruitment areas for some regiments overlap, and conflict with each other.
    After so many amalgamations over the years, the infantry need a good shake up. This not as hard as it seems, the Scottish, Welsh and Irish regiments are already there. The remaining English ones have made some bold moves, but this painful wounding of regimental pride and morale has to stop.
    Having large regiments, helps with the second problem of keeping battalions up to strength.
    I think this is what the MoD means when it says, the battalions in the armoured brigades will be at full strength, while the others will not. Regiments with battalions in the armoured brigades will be expected to keep these at full strength at the expense of there other battalions.

    Just some of my thoughts


  9. @Phil (and Gabriele)

    I don’t know whether Gaby wishes to have a full-blown, detailed discussion of various infantry topics in response to this particular post or whether he intended it as an ideas/topics gathering post, preparing the way for future discussions.

    Hoewever, I’ll plunge in and make a more detailed comment on the subject of equipment. Let’s start with Phil’s first statement:

    “Equipment. Does the infantry have the best weapons and equipment that it can afford? My view, I think the infantry has a wide range of weapons available, some of which are not the best, but in my opinion, with budgets as they are it’s the best we are going to get.”

    Here is a list, as far as I can remember them of weapons used by the infantry:

    Browning Pistol, SIG Pistol, L85A2 Rifle, L129 A1 Sharpshooter Rifle, L86A2 Light Support Weapon, L96 Sniper Rifle, L115A3 Long-Range Rifle, M82 Barrett, L128A1 Combat Shotgun, Minimi Light machine gun (5.56 mm and 7.62 mm), L7A2 GPMG, L2A1 Browning Heavy Machine Gun, 40 mm Grenade Machine Gun, 60 mm Mortar, 81 mm Mortar, Javelin, MBT LAW, Anti-Structures Munition and Hand Grenades.

    That seems to me a fairly comprehensive list of pretty capable weapons. My question, Phil, Gaby and others, is:

    Which of these do you consider not to be “of the best”? Would you make any additions?

    Next, I suppose, we could consider which of these should be in the Rifle Companies (in Platoons, Sections and Fire Teams) and which in the Manoeuvre Support Company (or in Fire Support Groups). Any thoughts?

    1. I'm definitely thinking of making a series of posts about Infantry by now, so you can expect more articles to arrive in the next while. Just want to finish an article on C Fleet that i've started writing, since it is a topic largely unknown to most.

      I think the next post in the Infantry series will be "Lethality", and we'll look into weapons.
      My thought is that, in general, what is around is good or very good, especially since it definitely seems that the L129 sharpshooter is going to stay, and the 60 mm mortar is also entirely confirmed.

      The 66 mm rockets Interim Anti-Structure weapon should soon be gone, i understand, replaced by the ASM missile derived from MATADOR and by the FIST underslung grenade launcher control system, which is to enable a 5 meters CEP at a 300 meters range.

      The GMPG was to exit service in 2015, but it does not seem like it will.
      The 7.62 MINIMI, i don't know if the Army has already decided on it for the post-afghanistan, but i'll explain my own idea about it.

      And lastly, it seems that the Army might want to effectively replace SA80 in the early 2020s: there's been indications of an Initial Gate point for a replacement effort by 2014. One evolution to follow!

      I'm also gathering info for other topics (Communications and Situational Awareness, and so along).
      So, there is space for thinking, discussion, contributions and so along, definitely.

  10. Gabriele

    All sounds very interesting.

    Regarding your comment: "The GMPG was to exit service in 2015, but it does not seem like it will."

    There is a new lightweight version of the GPMG which has been developed. You probably know about it. I understand that it chops about 1.8 kg off the weight of the older weapon. Sounds good for the squaddies! I can't imagine what will replace GPMG on vehicles, though.

    Incidentally, Gaby, there is a most intriguing headline listed on the Jane's website, under Jane's Defence Weekly"

    "UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has signalled a major revision to the UK's plan for procuring the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), ... the report was dated 26-Jul-2012 (today). The headline said something about how he might look to a split buy with the F35A. AsI don't take Defence Weekly, I therefore have no access to the full report. Sorry for posting it in a discussion about the Infantry!

    1. There is actually more than one lightweight GPMG, i think: H&K showcased one, and the UK has been trying to enact great reductions in weight at Cranfield, and there might be even more examples.

      The British Army plan seems to be to launch a Weight Reduction plan and modify the GPMG.
      They also plan a "reconfiguration" of the Light Machine Gun. Don't know what it'll mean in practice.

      Thanks for the F35 warning.
      If Jane's right i think that proves that the B is going to be every bit as expensive to run as i though; and proves that the RAF is just not satisfied with the range and weapon bay of the B.

      However, it is stupid to create two too small fleets instead of one, maybe not very large, but larger than any of the other two combined.
      For all their commonality, F35A and F35B will never be the same thing. Not for pilots, not for maintainers, not for the logistic tail.
      Does not sound smart at all.

      Not to mention that the F35A will need to be modified to get the probe for AAR, or it won't be able to refuel from RAF Voyager tankers.
      There's already C17 and Rivet Joint which have that problem, please let's not do it with the combat fleet too.

    2. If they are going to split the types, then at least hopefully they will go with B and C models. Then if in the future it is decided to convert the carries after all, they will have some C models that can be used.

      Plus they will not need changing to be able to refuel from the Voyagers.

  11. Hi Gabriele and MikeW.

    I am sure Gabriele has a full list of infantry weapons, from anit tank down to grenades!
    The GPMG is a great weapon, but having to carry it for many a mile, I would welcome a lighter version!
    Looking forward to more infantry stuff!


    1. Complete, no, i fear: the complexity of this real is mind-blowing, especially with the number of UORs that have been brought in line for Afghanistan operations.
      It can get very confusing.
      Trying to keep track of the various radios, for example, is a nightmare!

      However, i've managed to dig up some good info.

  12. Phil

    "I am sure Gabriele has a full list of infantry weapons, from anit tank down to grenades!"

    Apologies for my naivete, Phil. I intended the list as an aide-memoire and in my innocence I'd imagined that it might even act as a stimulus to others to join in any debate which might arise. I should have made it clear by directing my earlier comments to more people than you and Gabriele. Still, I suppose one can but try.

    1. Sorry MikeW,

      I didn't mean to offend.
      Please keep your comments coming.
      It was just a quick comment, pointing out what Gabriele donsn't have a database on is not worth knowing! :)


  13. @Phil

    No real offence taken, Phil. It was just that it had taken me nearly half an hour to drag up from the recesses of my memory the list of weapons and I was rather proud of it! I see now what you were saying was about Gabriele and his encyclopedic knowledge, something which is certainly true.

    Anyway, I have just re-read my post and I did after all ask others to respond ("Phil, Gaby and others"). It would be nice to get a really full forum going when Gaby posts his next article.

    You keep posting as well. Always enjoy reading your stuff!

    1. @MikeW,

      Just checked out the British Army website,
      they have a full list of infantry weapons in use.
      I am looking forward Gabriele's infantry blogs,
      it's a subject I know a little about, for a change!


    2. @Phil

      Thanks very much for the info. Will have a look at that site.



  14. Gabriele and MikeW,

    I think Gabriele wants to look at infantry vehicles next.

    But when we get round to looking at infantry weapons I would suggest we divide the weapons into the following groups:

    Section weapons; personal weapons and grenades etc.

    Platoon weapons; weapons carried by the platoon, in my day light mortar and Carl Gustav

    Support weapons, 81mm mortars, medium and heavy anti tank.

    I guess this discussion will include the subject of close support platoons, I don’t know how Gabriele or MikeW stand on this subject, but I have always been in favour of a close support being a part of an infantry company. I would welcome comments and views on this subject.


    1. The next post will talk exactly of this, Phil. "Lethality" will look at the weapon types, at their distribution, at their evolution, at weapon sights, and at how best to employ heavy weapons in support of Maneuvre.
      I'm definitely in favor of a Company-level Fire Support element myself, and i'm going to look at it with attention.

    2. Thats great news Gabriele,

      Just a quick point, thinking outside the box,
      3 rifle platoons @ 26 each 78 men.
      3 rifle platoons, and a support platoon each of 20, equals 80 men.


  15. Why are you fussing about the organisation of an infantry battalion when almost without exception they operate in battle groups?

    1. Not a good reason to cut back savagely on their own structure and capability, or for half-assing their composition.

      The organization of the infantry battalion is important, and totally worth the "fuss".

  16. But, all that matters is the outputs out on the ground - and to achieve those effects the infantry unit will be operating as part or as the core of a battlegroup.

    Your analysis misses this out completely. Which is like missing out that a tank has armour, or a Warrior can carry infantry or a rifle fires bullets - you've missed the most important aspect out.

    1. I actually haven't even made my analysis yet, this is an introduction piece.

      Also, the base of the Battlegroup will pretty much always be an infantry battalion. You can add artillery, ECM, EOD, Dogs, Engineers, armor support, but if you start cutting back on infantry platoons, coys, or on mortars and support weapons inside the Battalions, how are you going to provide them?

      You need a solid core to build upon.

      Otherwise why would armies even bother studying, trying and validating structures for their battalions?
      You almost make it sound like they could just have a big pot of men put together in semi-casual formations.

  17. "You almost make it sound like they could just have a big pot of men put together in semi-casual formations."

    That is exactly what happens.

    You do know that battalion COs organise their battalions as they see fit right? It is their train set. Your diagram proves it incase you doubted me.

    You say yourself you don't know what is being cut in the battalions. Perhaps the echelons are being centralised in certain units and battalions will draw what they need?

    Perhaps the reserves will make up the shortfall on operations?

    Perhaps the Army has new definitions for unit establishments?

    You don't know, you say this yourself.

    1. This does not mean that there isn't a general CONOP and associated structure for the battalion. While variations are common in the British Army (and Army 2020 might actually want to reduce the differences in favor of modularity, on US model), the structure of the infantry battalion is definitely something the Army fusses about.

      Apart from that, if it does not interest you, you can always avoid reading.

  18. Oh but it does interest me. I just think you've missed the point.

    Like talking about the chassis of a car (infantry battalion) and criticising it for not being able to move whilst ignoring that it is never intended to move anywhere without wheels and an engine (atts and dets).

    1. You should be careful in assuming what a person ignores or knows.
      One day it'll put you in trouble if you assume too much.

      The formation of battlegroups is a thing. The optimal structure and strenght of an infantry battalion is another.
      And an introductive post of a series is all but a sliver of the considerations to come.

  19. You simply gave no hint it was in your consideration. You just criticised half the information.

    Battlegroups are completely fundamental to how combat arms work in the British Army.

    It is odd to moan about manning when the number of men in a battalion is NOT the number of men who will go on operations.

    1. Oh, really?
      You think cutting battalion strenght while effectively cutting back on all the rest as well has no impact on the capabilities and sizes of battlegroups that could be formed in future?

      Aren't you being more than a tad naive?

  20. Where did I say that? I didn't. You've made that argument up to detract from your flawed analysis.

    I have said you haven't done a proper analysis as you have missed out the key aspect of British infantry battalions: to whit they don't fight as per peacetime organisation.

    Yet your entire article is about criticising the number of men in said battalions, the number of men that won't be deploying on operations because the unit will be task organised.

    You can't criticise where the supposed shortfall comes from, if any, as you have no idea how it is meant to work, your article is quite clear on this.

    1. Go search a "proper analysis" elsewhere, if you are not satisfied. And if you get better info, share. I'll gladly listen.

      Until then, i'll keep thinking that you are just trolling on purpose, sincerely.
      The article is NOT just about "criticizing" the reduction, not it does present it as a done thing. It is made very clear that it is a figure coming from collation of the current information available. It is an hypothesis.
      It is also made very clear that it might be connected to the plan for the employment of the reserve.

      You are trying to present "flaws" that frankly exist only in your imagination, and inflate them like hot air balloons.

  21. Hi Gaby. You may gfind this post on arrse intreresting


    Basically it says that Light Inf battalions will only have 6 platoons (2 per company) with the remainder now coming from the TA.

    Obviously not officially confirmed, but the guys posting seem to think its correct.

    1. Well, it seems i was right to be worried, and on track with the reasoning that the pairing of regular and TA Light Role battalios would (hopefully) answer to this issue. Of course, not "official", but the way they talk they seem to refer to quite accurate internal army briefings.

      Many thanks for the link, very interesting.

  22. The AF battalions will be on graduated readiness it makes complete sense to thin out units that will deploy at notice in order to keep HQ frameworks and then uplift using small TA groupings which the TA could produce now. Doom and tedious gloom. What do you expect all battalions to be poised to spring into action? There's no need.

    1. It makes so much sense that the suggestion of the Army chiefs was to cut more a few more battalions instead, but this was not possible due to political pressure for the preservation of names and capbadges.
      While it might make sense at first sight, it remains a far from optimal solution, and it increases risk.

      The ability of the TA to supply formed reinforcements formations is not exactly that good, to say the least, and there is no telling if the uplift planned has any real chance of success.

  23. Rubbish. The TA is bring asked for platoons. It has been generating platoons for years now with no massive dramas.

    If you want a pool of units that can rotate through activities you need plenty of HQs. This is playing to both forces strengths. But I'm sure you know better.

    1. You are always the same annoying anonymous, who is actually Phil from Think Defence, and make it a mission to annoy me and present your points as Truth generously given from the Skies above, aren't you?
      Have you nothing better to do in life?

  24. I come up as anonymous because this thing won't make my post otherwise. Once I have worked it out I'll post as my name.

    You'll note that in all the years you have been writing this thing I have commented on three threads and none of them to do with kit.

    The TA can provide platoons. The regs might not like the idea but it makes sense. It does not carry as much risk as you state because it's not bring asked to provide sub units, just platoons. Which once the personalities start to get to know one another will work just fine.

    1. As far as i am aware, the Army has for years operated in the assumption that the Battalion on 3 Companies would be reinforced with a TA company, so to achieve the notional ratio of force for Assault, Support, Reserve, Echelon.
      I think this level of reinforcement was never achieved. I might be missing something, but i don't think there ever was such TA output in practice.

      I remember the MOD website recently celebrating the successful reinforcement of 5th SCOTS with the grand total of 54 reserve soldiers. Not even two full platoons.

      Now 14 and very possibly 20 Army battalions (it seems the 6 battalions on Foxhound will be in largely the same situation) are effectively losing each the strenght of a company (a Platoon from each Rifle Coy, and some rumors even say the Machine Gun platoon will be lost), a further generational change from battalions capable of
      Assault, Support, Reserve.
      The TA is supposed to fill this new gap.

      So effectively in future 14 to 20 regular battalions will have to get the equivalent of a Company from the TA or from other regular battalions in order to reach just their baseline structure on 3 maneuver coys, not to be reinforced for war. Just to achieve what is considered to be the minimum fighting force and structure.

      And they will need it routinely. For the TA that's a much, much increased demand for deployment.

      Will it work? I hope so. I wrote about this approach being a possible outcome of Army 2020 quite some time ago. And i was in favor of it as concept, believe it or not.
      But to say that there is no impact, no risks, or that we should not worry, is frankly impossible. No one can honestly say there are not reasons for worrying.

      Of course we should be worried. And focused. Because there's about a thousand things that could work against the TA plan in the future.
      Funding is tight, and not ensured. In future the TA might again become neclected.
      Doubling the TA strength won't be easy. Retaining personnel, and maintain a Phase 2-trained strength of 30.000 is not going to be easy. The TA has been understrength in forever. Now we want to double its trained force. Awesome target, but is it even possible? At which costs? In which times?
      Get employers to support a plan which can see their personnel away for a year in five is not going to be challenge-free either.

  25. I'd bet my salary that 5 SCOTS only asked for 54 soldiers to uplift them.

    Nobody is saying that change in TA role will not be challenging or need a culture change. But just because a low readiness battalion has to call up three platoons of infantry every 5 years or not isn't a major risk.

    The RF units will be at higher strength.

    And to be frank the reality is a lot of battalions are short that number of deployable infanteers anyway. And again, they'll deploy as battlegroups or task organised units.

    It is a sensible idea.

    1. I still think you are oversimplifying it, but i admire your optimism.

  26. There's no over simplification about it. You either integrate the TA or don't. If you don't integrate TA infantry then disband them all.

    I imagine that once the units mesh and personalities get to know one another things will work tolerably.

    To be honest a regular influence in the TA might bring done sense to some of the shittier and poorly led TA units.

    And the work on the reserves is not finished yet.

    1. Oh, i think you are simplifying things a lot, instead. There's a whole range of issues that go from basing and bringing the "paired" regular and reserve battalions in contact within very tight budgets, to ensuring they can train together, and do so effectively, to completing the passage of up to date equipment into the TA in the needed quantities, to countless others.

      Cutting the platoons from the Regular battalions will be quick and easy. Integrate the reserve so that they are effectively replaced is a whole different story.

  27. As I pointed out, there are challenges and the work is not finished.


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