Saturday, September 15, 2012

The force of Army 2020

A recent written answer in Parliament has revealed the full list of planned Full Unit Establishments for the various kind of battalions the British Army will have under A2020. An incomplete list had already been released earlier, and i had already reported that.

Armoured Infantry Battalions (6x): 729 men
Heavy Protected Mobility - Mechanized Infantry (3x): 709 men
Light Protected Mobility (6x): 581 men
Light Role Infantry (14x): 561 men
Gurkha (2x): 567
PARA (2x plus 1 PARA which however is likely to be a completely different matter): 660 men

Type 56 tank regiment (x3): 587
FRES SV-mounted Recce regiment: 528
Jackal-mounted Light Cavalry regiment: 404
Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment: 341

In Parliament it has also been announced that the expected fighting force of the Army is to be as follows:

20.000 regulars and 2000 reserves in the Reaction Force

12.500 regulars and 8000 reserves in the Adaptable Force

The rest of the regular and reserve manpower is part of Force Troops, which include the Surveillance Brigade, Logistics, REME, Artillery, Signals and Engineers.

The UK is retaining a fleet of 227 Challenger II battle tanks, which compare favorably to Italy (200 but with cuts to come), Germany (announced a cut from 350 to 225) and roughly in line with France (254 but with cuts possibly coming, since a review of their defence "strategy" is underway).

There will be a Yeomanry regiment in the Reserve mounted on Challenger, providing replacement crews. 

Also, while detailed planning is still ongoing and official announcements are due later this year, the info i've collected suggests that the three Armoured, Reaction Brigades will be the 7th, 4th and 20th.
The current planning assumption include: 

101 Logistic Brigade to be based in Grantham
102 Logistic Brigade to be based in Aldershot

1 Combat Support Logistic Regiment and 27 Theatre Logistic Regiment assigned to 4th Brigade, in Abington

12 Combat Support Logistic Regiment and 7 Theatre Logistic Regiment assigned to 20th Brigade, with 12 CSLR in Bicester and 7 TLR on the ex-RAF base at Cottersmore.

2 Combat Support Logistic Regiment and 10 Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment assigned to 7th Brigade, in Aldershot.

Each logistic regiment to have a squadron of reservists assigned in support.

The three Armoured Brigades will be supported by 3 Close Support artillery regiments (expected to be 1 Royal Horse Artillery, 19 Royal Artillery and 26 Royal Artillery) each with two batteries of AS90 self-propelled howitzers and one battery of GMLRS.
A Royal Artillery briefing has reported that, as of 2011, the range of the GMLRS has been increased, and point targets have been hit as far as 93 km away from the launching point.

In the US, the GMLRS+ has been demonstrated, with range reaching a figure as high as 130 km.

3 Royal Horse Artillery and 4 Royal Artillery will be part of the Adaptable Force, and will be equipped with the L118 Light Gun. It is possible that these two regiments will only have 2 batteries each. It is possible that the reserve element, in exchange, will expand on more batteries.

In the Royal Armoured Corps, currently the indications are for a future force composed as follows:

Queen's Royal Hussars;
King's Royal Hussars;
Royal Tank Regiment;

On Challenger II MBT and part of the 3 armoured brigades

Household Cavalry;
Light Dragoons;
Queen's Dragoon Guards;

On Jackal and in Light Cavalry role as part of the Adaptable Force

Royal Lancers;
Royal Dragoon Guards;
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards;

On FRES SV as Recce regiments in the 3 armoured brigades. 


  1. Can I just check, definitely only 3x Type 56 Tank Regiments?

    1. 3 plus a Reserve Regiment for the formation of replacement crews.

  2. Hi Gabriele,

    Thanks for that information.
    As i did think, the 3 UK based Mech Brigades will be the bases for the 3 'Armoured' ones.
    However, I am not sure on how the infantry battalions stregths are arrived at? How many are reservists in the regional brigades?
    Of course, I am thinking of the reduction to 2 platoons in these units.


    1. There is no detail yet, but until now, the Establishment (= sole infantry personnel) was around 530 for a Light Role battalion.

      The Full Unit Establishment (that includes EVERYONE, from cooks to padres to whatever) being now 561 indicates that a sizeable reduction has taken place. It is obvious that there is a lot more than 30 or so non-infantry personnel in each battalion, after all.

      In terms of manpower, the Reaction Force is described as having:

      20.000 regulars and 2000 reserves

      Adaptable Force

      12500 regulars 8000 reserves

      The rest of the manpower is in Force Troops (engineers, artillery, signals etc)

    2. Also, for what i understand also in the Adaptable Brigades the thick of the force is to be made up by Regulars, and the battalions, while "paired", should be kept separate.
      So 561 will be the all-regular force, to be expanded by adding a company worth of manpower (or more) via paired reserve battalion.

  3. I was just wondering how many men were in the parachute regiment before force 2020 was announced?

    While I feel we may being reducing the number of tanks to a level which isn't economical viable to design and make in the UK. I don't really oppose the cuts in the army, one of the advantages of being an Island, we don't have any land borders so the army is not of high priority to protect the UK. With 82,000 men that should be enough to send a reasonable force on any multi-national military intervention, though I do think with reduced number we may need to reach a 1-4 ratio of deployment rather than the current 1 in 5.

    1. I think the PARA battalions might have been expanded: i think it was 584 or something like that, but i don't know how up to date or accurate the 580-figure is.

      As for the number of tanks, well. It is debatable. But the UK is keeping 227 Challenger II tanks: that's more than Italy (200, with cuts yet to be spelled out), more than Germany which announced a reduction to 225, and roughly as many as France (254, but with cuts possibly coming with the review going on as we speak)

      So, as you see, whatever the opinions we have, the cuts are in line with what is happening in Europe.

    2. The difference being the Challenger 2 has seen combat, unlike the Italian and to a lesser degree, the German Leopards

    3. That does not mean a whole lot for a number of reasons.

  4. Gaby

    Well, this post of yours has made things a lot clearer.

    I am still confused about one or two areas, particularly Artillery. In a way, my comments now link up with an earlier post of yours, entitled "Commando Brigade" under attack", which was partly about the possible loss of artillery batteries from 3 Cdo Bde.

    I wonder whether that change has already taken place. The MOD website (Army) under "Corps and Regiments", says that that 29 Commando Gunners are equipped with 12 105 mm light Guns. That's only two batteries worth, isn't it? I thought that 29 Commando Regt. had three regular gun batteries: one in Arbroath and two in Plymouth.

    Might it be that the affiliated TA unit:- 266 (GVA) Commando Battery will come into play more to fill up the gaps during deployment and that the same thing will happen in other formations/organizations in the Army?

  5. That's an interesting find. I'm not aware of any reduction in the number of batteries having been carried out, for now, though.

    As for the reserve battery, we'll have to see what the Reserves plan says when it comes out, before year's end if times are respected.

    1. It might be because the regiment has been undermanned for a good while now. As i reported, the commanding officer of 29 said recently that they are 20% understrength: they have possibly reduced the number of guns as a consequence.

  6. 16X and 3X under SDSR exist to provide a single battlegroup at readiness. There are no plans for a brigade-sized high-readiness unit. Is it not then logical for a reduction to two plus one regular and reserve battalions in these brigades? 2 and 3 PARA have managed to rotate into the Airborne Task Force Role, it doesn't seem impossible for this to be achieved with the Response Force Task Group. Did either 16X or 3X manage to be at complete high-readiness at any point during the last 14 years?

    It seems to me the reduction in the size of these brigades is simply abandoning the illusion that we had any way of moving two (or even one) large infantry brigades into theatre in any reasonable time, and that those two infantry brigades had any hope in hell of prosecuting anything other than medium intensity conflict (owing to their anaemic air mobility and support). With the reduction in teeth comes a reduction in support elements. How much can be saved by disbanding a commando and elements of the CLR? Do we measure it in Type 26s or Pounds Sterling?

    P.S. Presumably the Gurkhas are to be included in the 14 light-role battalions? Or has my early-morning maths gone awry?

    1. Actually, it is intended that both brigades will also be able to deploy as brigades. The battlegroup at high readiness is a thing, the brigade deployment is the next step.
      For 16AA a Battlegroup will be some 1300 strong.
      For 3rd Commando it'll be 1800, with the full Brigade capable to go in the field with some 5200.
      These numbers were contained in a post-SDSR document, the "Royal Marines Vision".

      3rd Commando Brigade's HQ is also intended to be a deployable headquarter element, and not at brigade but at Division (2-star level) capable to lead a larger and/or multinational deployment involving both land and sea operations. It is going to stay at high readiness and be high on the list of the deployable commands, in no small part because 3rd Commando has ties with many countries, from Netherlands to US: we should not forget that 3rd Commando was the only british command in Iraq 2003 which commanded US forces, and not vice-versa.
      3rd Commando was given a USMC MEU to command at Al Faw.

      As for the savings connected to cutting a Commando battlegroup, they would be negligible. You would regret doing it. You know what was saved by deleting 40& of the Challenger II fleet? 10 millions a year.
      Deleting a Commando group would save even less, likely. For sure it wouldn't buy a Type 26, sorry.

      Also, i think that a Type 26 would not be a good deal anyway for the loss of capability of 3rd Commando.

      And yes, the two Gurkha battalions are part of the Light Role count despite the slight difference in manpower.

  7. My point is simply that at the size envisaged -5200 men- 3X will be primarily tasked with providing a high-readiness group. It is unlikely, if not incapable, of deploying as a brigade in any situation other than roulement. With army 2020 having 10 brigades (perhaps 11 if we believe 16X is capable of deploying fully-formed) it won't require that extra unit. Ergo, there is fat to be cut. Again, at what point in the last 14 years did 3X maintain the entire brigade at high-readiness and have the ability to land it? At what point in the future will it be able to do this?

    If 3X deployed 2 battalions to Op Telic and was reinforced by US Marines- is this unforeseeable in the future under a two battalion brigade? Rather the opposite, if the inter-unit ties are to be used an excuse.

    The illusion that 3X is in anyway comparable or capable, now or after cuts, to a functional divisional headquarters seems laughable; and ties between units are ubiquitous and are no excuse for this delusion. The airborne brotherhood doesn't require 1st Airborne Division to reform.

    Savings would not be negligible. The 700 or so men disbanded would no longer draw pay, equipment, or pension and other allowances. An infantry battalion was reckoned to cost, in isolation, £28 million a year to run a few years back. For nine years- until, say 2021 (when a certain ship class is meant to enter service) savings would equal £252 million. That excludes additional support troops, reduction in training requirements, and the increased size of a Royal Marine Commando. If we are to assume it would save less than £10 million pa, then each Royal Marine must cost less than £14,300 per year, an unlikely figure. Furthermore, the Type 26 was merely an example of a potential lost capability for an unobtainable goal.

    By all means keep a battlegroup of specialist door-kickers (Though I would be tempted to argue that marines are a prime example of a Royal Corps of Tree Climbers), but we do not need a large brigade to do this. Labouring under this illusion, while being beholden to another service to make it feasible, is synonymous with the variety of failures which have dogged the RN over the last decade.

    1. I absolutely disagree. There is absolutely no fat to be cut, and 3rd Commando has been every bit as effective a deployed brigade as any other army formation.
      Arguably, it has delivered more.

      The ability to land the entire brigade with sole military ships arguably never existed, but that is why the practice of Ships Taken Up From Trade exist. If the UK needed to, it would be able to land a brigade on a beach. And this is before we argue on the opportunity of actually expanding amphibious capability, with the Army itself noting in its doctrinal papers that it "will unable to avoid the need for littoral maneuver" in the future.

      If, as every time happens, coherence is to be sacrificed, fine.
      But then perhaps we should cut the millions spent doing studies, strategies and doctrinal efforts, first of all. They seem to never be made into anything anyway.

    2. If we are required to maintain or expand our ability to land troops amphibiously, is this best served by the creation and/or maintain of a specialist marine brigade? One which is still reliant on the army for its supporting arms. Or perhaps involving army units en-masse in littoral training is better practice, with marines reverting to at sea action; as it was prior to the post-war re-branding of the Royal Marines.

      After all, the last time STUFT was used 3 Commando had to be reinforced with army units, which ended up landing before the marine units, then 5th Infantry Brigade reinforced it because it wasn't sufficient on its own. If we are forced to use STUFT I can't imagine a single infantry brigade, of whatever size, will be large enough to have a meaningful or decisive effect. Ergo, proper interoperability between naval and army units would be a far better solution than a single brigade having complete monopoly on training and resources, with a commando battlegroup maintained as the shock troops.

      Forgive me, I certainly think if we had the ability to properly maintain 3 Commando Brigade as was intended, with the addition of 1 RIFLES and 24 Commando RE etc., then we should. But with the reduction in those supporting units, along with the rest of the army, it remains anomalous. Neither fully functioning, nor reduced to the minimum required level. I'd rather it went to a properly supported brigade, but I don't think it ever will. The dog’s dinner that will be left will be a waste of resources for what it will be able to achieve.

    3. You can't routinely train a whole army in amphibious operations just as you can't train a whole brigade in air assault operations.
      In afghanistan the army used Air Assault battlegroups built on infantry battalions that are not trained in Air Assault, but that is because there is a brigade that keeps the expertise alive and deals routinely with the many challengers of air maneuver.

      Similarly, the Commando brigade ensures that proper amphibious capability is retained, exercised and improved.
      The PARAs going ashore in the Falklands carried by landing crafts are soldiers taxied to a beach from a ship.
      The proper "amphibious maneuver" is a concept far more complex. A specialist brigade is very much needed.
      And the Army was supposed to be part of it in part because so it would be able to build additional capacity in times of need.

      That stupid planning and decisions threw part of that to hell is not a reason to throw to hell the whole thing and regret it later.

      So, we just aren't going to agree.

  8. Gaby

    "There will be a Yeomanry regiment in the Reserve mounted on Challenger, providing replacement crews."

    Good to know that an Armoured Replacement unit will still exist. Actually, though, I've never been sure what the replacement regiment actually does. Does it train on the same tanks so that it can replace crews only or is there something more to it than that? I think that I have seen the word "delivery" used in connection with such a regiment. Surely, though, delivery can be done using HETs? Perhaps I've imagined it!

    1. They train on Challenger II. There was a relatively recent news coverage of their firing trials in the MOD News.
      It is possible (and actually probable) that they have supplied crews to other uses (as the whole Royal Armoured Corp has done, anyway), but they are first of all a tank regiment.

  9. Gaby,

    Forgot to mention that you seem to be very much along the right lines with regard to the future force composition of the Royal Armoured Corps. I saw exactly the same allocation of units on another website the other day i.e:

    QRH, KRH, RTR - on Challenger in Armoured Regiments

    HC, LD, QDG - on Jackal in Light Cavalry

    RL, RDG, Scots DG - on CVR(T) (later Scout SV) in Armoured Cavalry

    That looks like it.

    1. Well, this is (reportedly) the Army's plan at the moment. It should be confirmed officially soon enough, if the plans are respected. By year's end we should know more about regiments, roles, ORBATs and stuff.
      And, of course, the Reserves plan.

  10. Is this before the SNP start moaning that the RSDG should be on Challenger 2 personally I think we should keep 4 type 56 regiments to allow for 2 proper Armoured Brigades i.e. 2 tank and 2 inf. regiments/battalions but im biased as I was in the 14th/20th KH then KRH these cuts are just too much also 3 commando brigade should be increased to allow for all RM support arms so that there will be no further inter service squabbles. As for the 3 light cavalry regiments on jackel wouldn't the new CVR that BAe are proposing be a better fit allowing for jackels to go to infantry recce platoons in the armoured and mechinized roles ?
    just a thought

    1. Problem being there's only one active division according to Army 2020.

  11. party0929

    "these cuts are just too much"

    Couldn't agree more but then who's listening? Recently Gerald Howarth, a Defence Minister replaced by Cameron in the reshuffle, said just that, that the defence cuts should be restored. However, (my words now) we are so short of money (the result of 12 years of profligacy by the last adminstration) that we simply must get the immense deficit down before we can afford tax cuts and obtain genuine and sustainable growth. Genuine growth, not that obtained by printing money or borrowing more. Personally, I feel that they could have made more of an exception in the case of Defence (Defence of the Realm being the first duty of any government and all that) but I think we are in for another three years hard!

    Anyway, I particularly agree with this bit:

    "As for the 3 light cavalry regiments on jackel wouldn't the new CVR that BAe are proposing be a better fit allowing for jackels to go to infantry recce platoons in the armoured and mechinized roles?"

    Do you mean the completely new CV21 vehicle or the one that has already entered service as CVR(T)2? Even the latter would have many years of service left, as it is in many ways a "new-build" (new hull), etc. and yet we already have people saying that it will disappear from service once FRES SV comes in.

  12. Guys,

    Yes, I agree it would have been better in my opinion if these were proper ‘armoured brigades’ with 2 challenger regiments and two warrior battalions. But that would have meant leaving them in Germany.
    However, again in my opinion, they are only armoured brigades in name. Scattered around the UK, the units that form these three brigades have no access to training areas that they can use to train with there armoured vehicles, there armoured vehicles will nearly all be in storage.
    The plan to base this armoured division near Salisbury plain, the only large training area in the UK for heavy tracked vehicles, I believe will never happen, either because the money can’t be found and or these brigades will be re rolled into a lighter configuration, maybe in 2015 or 2020.
    If the army wanted to maintain an effective armoured formation, it should have kept it in Germany, there it would have been able to train.
    In my view, most of Army 2020 is a mess. I know its not easy, with Afghanistan, and the promise not to cut any infantry regiments, but I still think it could have been done much better, and will have to be in the future. I hope for better things in the 2015 review.

    A very sad ex pongo

  13. Phil

    "The plan to base this armoured division near Salisbury plain, the only large training area in the UK for heavy tracked vehicles, I believe will never happen, either because the money can’t be found and or these brigades will be re rolled into a lighter configuration, maybe in 2015 or 2020."

    Although I am dejected immeasurably by the cuts in general, I wouldn't be as depressed or "sad" as you are about the particular possibility you mention in the paragraph I have quoted. I really do believe that they intend to keep the Armoured Infantry Brigades with the full range of heavy kit as part of the "Army 2020 Structure" and will find the training areas for them. Too optimistic?

    And surely BATUS will be kept?

  14. MikeW,

    I am sure BATUS will be kept, but in my view, to have a fully trained armoured formation, you have to be out in your vehicles on the training ground at least one week in four. Training at battle group level, with infantry, armour and artillery working as a team.
    With most of the vehicles in storage, and limited training in small formations, company level at most, maybe once or twice at year that can't be achived.
    But thats just my opinion of course.


  15. Phil. Your right of course, the whole key to making this thing work has got to be the ranges and training areas? That is exactly the part that no one seems to have given any thought to at all, apart from 'base the whole thing on Salisbury plain'! STA is maxed out as it is. When it comes to armour it just about works at Battle Group level or below (apart from the fact that no one needs to read a map let alone use a GPS, because weve all been there so many times before?) Brigade, let alone Div - forget it. Even to CPX, there isn't the room. I don't think many would argue that in the current fiscal environment draw down in Germany wasn't a sensible course. Particularly when you come to consider that the bulk of the expense is in the 'non kenetic'. Family pads, hospitals, schools etc etc etc. But to pull out completely - lunacy. We have our very best training areas and ranges right on the door, compared to Saltau and Luneburg, Salisbury Plain just doesnt compare. We run Sennelager on behalf of NATO in any case. I cant believe somebody isn't giving serious thought to retaining some of this capability at least, maybe on a shared and jointly funded basis with the Bundeswehr perhaps. Even a Battlegroup's worth of kit left in place, one Squadron of Chally 2, 2 Coy's Warrior, an AS90 Battery and a troop of CVRT for example would make so much sense. All you would have to do is put the troop'ies on a coach and down the 'pipe', or on a ferry as we do now. How much cheaper and more convenient than flying the whole lot to Canada perhaps once very other year, or even Kenya one must ask??

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  17. Why you consider RSDG as the FRES Scout battalion and not the Challenger 2?

    1. Because the RSDG will cease to be a Challenger 2 regiment.
      And updated information has it not on FRES SV either.
      Now that the planning progressed, i hear that it will be a Light Cavalry regiment, on Jackal, to be based possibly at Leuchars when it comes back from Germany and the RAF has moved to Lossie.

  18. Hi Gabriele,

    nice website! Could you tell me where you got your information on the numbers of regular and reserve troops in the Reaction and Adaptable Forces? I really need this information for my thesis, but of course I need a source. Thanks a lot!

    1. Here for unit establishments:

      And here the answer by Peter Luff on the split of regulars and reserve in Reaction and Adaptable Force:


    3. Great! Thank you! :D


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