Friday, August 10, 2012

Royal Signals and Army 2020

A rather detailed overview of the Army 2020 impact on the Royal Signals has appeared on the August issue of their magazine "The Wire", courtesy of Col G Norton, Corps Colonel, so that now we know the general ORBAT of the Corps.
In detail:

The new Royal Signals ORBAT as part of Army 2020. 11 Signal Brigade is set to become the largest formation in the Corps by far. It'll also include, as shown, the Central Volunteer HQ (CVHQ) which looks after the TA specialists and after the Full Time Reserve Service. It also is responsible for organizing mobilisation efforts. 1 Signal Brigade is to be the top level Strategic Communications enabling formation, closely related to ARRC and JRRF. Very interesting to see the 14 Regiment (EW) assigned to the Surveillance and Intelligence brigade.

2nd (National Communications) Signal Brigade is, as we know, disbanding after the end of the Olympics, and 7th Regiment is to disband as well. There won't be other regiment-level losses.

11 Signal Brigade is to become a massive formation. Its new ORBAT includes:

7 Signal Group; Reaction Forces

Under 7 Gp, there will be 5 "Multi-Role" Theatre Support Regiments, evolution of the "Campaign Regiments" formed to support operations in Afghanistan. These regiments will provide signals support to deployed brigades and divisional HQs, with the loss of all but 16 Air Assault Brigade's Signal Squadrons.

Each Multi-Role regiment will have four squadrons (1 Support Squadron and 3 Field Squadrons). The Multi Role regiments are:

1st Signal Regiment (ex 1st UK Division signal regiment)
2nd Signal Regiment (To maintain a Queen's Gurkha Signals (QGS) squadron in its force)
3rd Signal Regiment (ex 3rd UK Division signal regiment)
16th Signal Regiment
21 Signal Regiment (ex Air Support signal regiment)

Each of the above regiments will come with some TA contingent components posts to facilitate regular/reserve integration. The exact detail of which squadrons will make up the Regiments, and the transition and implementation plans will follow on later this year.
The only ones who seem to already know their future are the men in the Queen's Gurkha Signals: their 3 squadrons all seem set to survive, and stay where they already are. 

2 Signal Group; UK Resilience and Adaptable Forces

Under 2 Gp will be grouped the Territorial Army signal formations, which are being reorganized under the Reserves plan, hopefully to be announced by year's end.

In addition, there will be the 10 Signal Regiment (regulars), in ECM(Force Protection) role and Information Communication Systems (ICS) infrastructure support. The Regiment will have the Squadrons 225, 241, 243, 251 and 81 (Volunteers), the latter being a TA formation.

Again, 2 Gp will have 15 Regiment (Information Support). The regiment provides Level 3 support, deploying elements abroad and providing "reachback" support. The Regiment was born only recently, on 30 September 2011, by re-titling the Unified System Support Organisation, which had steadily been growing in size and relevance over the years. The regiment will also include the Land Information and Communications Services Group (Volunteers), LICSG(V).

Finally, there will be 299 Signal Squadron (Special Communications).

New info has been provided with the January 2013 issue of "The Wire", magazine of the Royal Signals. The above graphic shows the current structure of the brigade. 1st and 3rd Regiments haven't yet moved in, 14 (EW) Regiment hasn't yet moved out and the two Groups (7 and 2) haven't formed yet. TA regiments from the disbanded 2nd Signal Brigade have moved in.

For a while, the brigade will also include the Land Information Assurance Group (Volunteers), which is however expected to move under the newborn Joint Forces Command at some point in the future.

11 Signal Brigade will also have the Central Volunteer HQ, which looks after the TA specialists and after the Full Time Reserve Service and is responsible for organizing mobilisation efforts.

Lastly, the brigade is due to assume the function of regional 1-star HQ over the West region, and will do so thanks to the Regional Point of Contact RPOC(West). This suggests that the current Regional Brigade (West), 143 Bde, is sadly going to vanish as part of the restructuring.

The future plan (Army 2020) on the left, and the current Regional Brigades structure on the Right. The 11 Signal Brigade is to take over the West Area. 143 Regional Brigade HQ seems set to go, and the direct comparison of the maps helps in guessing which other regional brigades are likely to vanish.

1 Signal Brigade will have the role of supporting deployed strategic communications for the ARRC and for the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. It will meet its requirements by lining the following regiments: 

22 Signal Regiment; on 1 Support and 4 Field Squadrons, with one being Queen's Gurkha Signal (QGS). 

30 Signal Regiment; on 1 Support and 4 Field Squadron, again with one being QGS. 

Allied Rapid Reaction Corp Support Battalion  

In addition there will be several more formations under other Commands, namely:

11 Signal Regiment (Training), to remain part of the Defence College of Communications and Information Systems (DCCIS) under 22 Group (Training) RAF.
The regiment provides training, and is based in Blandford Camp along with the DCCIS HQ.
DCCIS also includes the No 1 Radio School in Cosford and the Royal Navy CIS training unit at HMS Collingwood.

18 (UKSF) Special Forces Support Regiment; undergoing no changes from current structure and strenght and staying under control of the Director Special Forces.

216 (PARA) Squadron; the communications element of 16 Air Assault brigade.

628 Signal Troop; british contribution to the 1st NATO Signal Battalion. There are also another 74 or so posts for Royal Signals personnel within NATO. 

660 (EOD) Signal Troop; assigned to direct support of the EOD force

Joint Service Signal Organisation; around 200 Royal Signals posts within the JSSO. This organization, part of Joint Forces Command, has its headquarters in RAF Digby and is commanded by a RAF Operations Support Branche group captain.
The JSSO delivers support to deployed operations and contribute to innovation by researching new CI systems and techniques.

JSSO is divided in three Joint Service Signal Units, one in Cyprus JSSU(Cyp), one in Digby and one in Cheltenham.

A further 154 or so Royal Signal posts will be kept to provide support to Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) in several locations. 

Finally, and very importantly, 14 Regiment (Electronic Warfare), on 1 Support and 4 Field Squadrons, is being assigned to the newly formed Surveillance and Intelligence brigade. 
This reinforces in me the belief that this particular 1-star command is going to become one of the most important components of the Army, bringing together a wide array of enablers. 

My guess is that 32 and 47 Regiments Royal Artillery, with their UAVs including Watchkeeper, will be part of this new brigade, along with the Military Intelligence battalions. Possibly, even 5 Regiment Royal Artillery (Surveillance and Target Acquisition) could move under this new command. 
Currently, 5 Regt is part of 1st Artillery Brigade along with 39 Regiment (GMLRS) and the UAVs regiments. 

I'm expecting the UAVs and possibly 5 Regt to move into the Surveillance Brigade, and as we know 39 Regiment is to disband. 1st Artillery Brigade will however receive, in my opinion, the 5 "Fires" regular regiments, with the exception of 7 Royal Horse Artillery and 29 Commando which will stay with 16 Air Assault and 3rd Commando brigades. 

In any case, 14 Regiment (EW) has received a good news in these last few days, with the announcement that the ROKE Resolve manpackable EW system has been accepted into Core budget and will live on after Afghanistan, where it has been introduced as UOR under Project SEER. 
The RESOLVE system can be used on the march, in the backpack of a soldier, or on the move when installed on a vehicle, or, of course, it can be used from a base or any stationary position, with the option of erecting it on top of a mast to gain better coverage. 
While the press releases do not talk of it, the selection of Resolve is almost certainly part of the LANDSEEKER programme for the renewal of the Electronic Warfare equipment of the Army and Royal Marines. 

Resolve will provide the Light, man-portable EW solution to the Royal Signals of 14 Regiment and to the Royal Marines of Y Squadron (EW), 30 Commando. 

Interestingly, the ROKE Resolve is being installed on the Marshal TRAKKAR Unmanned Ground Vehicle, which is being evaluated by the British Army as an Assisted Load Carriage platform for the Infantry. While the Army's priority is to procure a platform capable to carry north of 25 kg of load from each soldier in a Section, to keep the men light and agile and comfortable, a longer term aim is to have the UGV provide ISTAR and possibly even Fire Support. 
Good news for once, and lots of potential for future improvements to the armed forces.


  1. Just a question : which tasks the 299 Sqn have?!?!!?

    1. I wish i knew! From the description the Army provides, i'd say that they might be used to support the Intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6, but it is only my best guess, not a certainty.

  2. Hi Gabriele.

    Good article.

    I think that is exactly the role of 299. I have been digging into their role for many years. Their previous incarnation,
    1 ( RBY ) Signals Squadron ( SC ) were themselves formed from 602 Signals Troop.

    602 troop were mentioned by Richard Tomlinson, the SIS officer, as supporting overseas SIS operations.
    My own FOIA requests to the Mod confirmed that, in 2010, they had 10 worldwide detachments. 4 in Iraq, 3 in Afghanistan, 1 in Kosovo, 1 in the UK, and 1 in the Falklands.

    A careful reading of the various official websites makes numerous mentions of supporting "OGD " other government departments. These departments are obviously the FCO, thus SIS.

    Research into the various communication sites in Cyprus, easily seen on Google Earth, reveals one such transmitter site which may support SIS, located in the Episkopi SBA next door to the go cart track!

    Your mentions of the JSSO very much echoes the official line that these units are involved in research. Stripping away the official jargon again " support to deployed operations" reveals the role of the various JSSU is in fact SIGINT. The various JSSU were all formed from 9 Radio Regiment RS, 399 SU RAF, and 13 Signals Regiment RS.
    All these old regiments histories are easily discovered as being involved in Signals Intelligence, SIGINT.

    Simply, they are the military arm of GCHQ.

    Again, examining Google Earth reveals the facilities these JSSU operate. For JSSU ( Cyprus ) - Ayios Nikolios, the primary GCHQ Middle East site, Salt Lake Site Akrotiri, Episkopi SGS, Golf Det at Troodos atop Mount Olympus, and another unspecified SIGINT Site on the coast just south of RAF Akrotiri.

    RAF Digby is the primary SIGINT Centre for the RAF. The operations centre is easily seen to the SW of the site.
    I believe they were linked to 51 Squadrons Nimrods nearby
    at Waddington.

    JSSU Cheltenham is obviously the Tri service support embedded within GCHQ, initially at the Oakley site.

    I believe there is a 4th JSSU you did not mention, JSSU Falkland Islands. Again, the SIGINT facilities of this entity are viewable on G Earth if one knows where to look.

    The whole JSSO is part of the DIS Intelligence Collection Group, now absorbed into Joint Forces Command.

    On the ISTAR Brigade, I think your thinking is bang on, and the integration of ISTAR assets from the RA, RS and IC makes sense to me.



    1. Who needs spies with you lot around!!!!

  3. Gabriele

    Further on the ISTAR Brigade, I wonder if 5 Regiment AAC may be included, they, according to earlier announcements, being the armys airborne surveillance capability.

    I will send a FOIA to MoD for this and other answers.



  4. Gabriele

    Another observation...

    On the graphic released by MoD showing the wire diagram of the corps, what is the entity at top left.... " West RPOC " ???



    1. Thanks for your comment Daniele, very interesting. As to the West RPOC, i've tried finding some information about it, but for the moment i'm still in the dark about what the hell it is, i must admit.

      As for 5 AAC regiment being in the Surveillance brigade, you rise an interesting point. It might be, i guess. The Surveillance Brigade seem set to really follow the examples set by the US Battlefield Surveillance Brigades and by the Italian RISTA-EW brigade: sure makes for one of the most interesting developments of Army 2020.

    2. The RPOC is the Regional Point of Contact (West): it is a command office that will take over the responsibilities of the current West Regional Brigade, which as a consequence will, i guess, cease to exist.

    3. Ah! Of course. The answer was there all along.

  5. Gaby,

    This new Intelligence and Surveillance Brigade intrigues me. You will have to pardon my ignorance concerning this matter, as I know next to nothing about it.

    Is it the idea that many more Intelligence resources will be brought together, centralized if you like, in one much larger Brigade? So what I had always thought of previously as rather separate entities e.g. elements of the Intelligence Corps (those who wear the Cypress Green beret), Royal Signals units (e.g. EW units), Royal Artillery UAV units, STA units, etc. etc. will combine in the new Brigade?

    Doesn’t this kind of centralization carry dangers, though, as well as advantages? For instance, won’t the organization providing intelligence and surveillance to certain resources/capabilities (e.g. to Artillery units) be too far removed from them? To be effective Artillery surely needs it own STA etc. in situ, as it were.

    1. Yes, the idea is to centralize the main information-gathering formations and systems in a large formation bringing their effects together and delivering formed intelligence reports and data to commanders on the field.

      The US Battlefield Surveillance brigades include an infantry unit specifically configured for covert observation and scouting, plus military intelligence battalions, UAVs on assignment and so along.

      The italian RISTA-EW brigade brings together the 33° Regiment (EW), the 41° Regiment "Cordenons" [which has a Radar battalion and a UAV battalion, so you can kind of think of it as a fusion of the british Royal Artillery 5 and 32 regiments] and the 13° Regiment "Aquileia", which is a HUMINT intelligence battalion.
      In addition, the RISTA-EW command can call on the services of a couple of specialized recce formations in the army, when necessary: one is a parachute recce formation from the PARA brigade.

      I think the advantages are far greater than the eventual dangers. The Artillery regiments should still have some Observation Posts with basic STA.
      5 Regiment RA, with the higher level surveillance stuff, will be about as available to the artillery as it is now, i don't think things will change much.
      5 Regiment has long moved on past the original "find the artillery shooting on us" role to a greater battlefield surveillance role, after all.

  6. Gaby,

    Thanks very much for the info. The Intelligence and Surveillance Brigade seems a most interesting idea.

  7. Caro Gabriele, anch'io potrei cominciare con un "... c'era una volta uno Spitfire ...". Tutto iniziò nell'agosto del 1968 a Cambridge (avevo 16 anni, l'età giusta), quando dal giardino della casa dei miei ospiti (Sir. Harry Hinsley) in una splendida giornata di sole, udii un rombo magnifico che attrasse la mia attenzione. Alzai gli occhi al cielo e mi passò sopra un meraviglioso uccellone. Fu una gioia. Era lui, uno Spit ! Mi dissero che vicino stavano girando un film di guerra (Battle of Britain: in Italia uscì con il titolo I lunghi giorni delle aquile) e mi portarono a vedere ... Era Duxford: una scoperta, un mondo mi si aprì. Da allora, come te, la passione per l'UK e la cultura militare (ma non solo) di quel paese mi ha rapito. Sicuramente con minore scientificità rispetto alla tua. Complimenti, anche per come scrivi bene in inglese. Ti seguirò con curiosità e passione. Buon lavoro ! Fanì

    1. Lo Spit ha fatto innamorare generazioni intere! Tu hai avuto la fortuna di vederlo assai più da vicino rispetto a me, ma spero che un giorno, presto, rimedierò almeno in parte.
      Grazie per il tuo commento. Mi fa piacere sapere che condividiamo questo interesse, e spero che sul mio blog continuerai a trovare articoli interessanti. Grazie ancora!


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