Friday, March 1, 2013

Army 2020 taking shape: roles and basing

Army 2020 is taking shape

The British Army restructuring is ongoing, alongside the basing review, since the physical structure of the army has much to do with its future homes and with the availability of training areas. The basing review should have been published before the end of last year, but things are taking longer than expected and we are still waiting for it. In the meantime, changes are happening within the army, unfortunately covered by little or no reports to the general public.

In this article I’m going to try and review the information currently available and also outline my own vision of how things might evolve in the coming months and years. I will take great care to make clear what is official and what is a guess.

Regimental futures

In a Written Answer, it has been announced that The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment will be part of the Adaptable Force. The regular battalions of the regiment will thus serve in Light and Light Protected Mobility roles.
Judging by the current homes of the two regular battalions of the regiment, my guess is that 1LANCS is likely to be in the Light Protected Mobility role (mounted on Foxhound) as part of the Catterick-centered brigade (to understand the brigades layout and roles, see this earlier article if you missed it). 1LANCS is home-based in Somme Barracks, Catterick.
2LANCS home is Weeton, which suggests it will be a Light Role infantry battalion in the North West adaptable brigade.
4LANCS, the reserve battalion of the regiment, will be assigned a precise role as part of the ongoing planning process for the Territorial Army.

The Yorkshire regiment will see the colours of 3YORKS laid up as a consequence of the Army 2020 cuts.
3YORKS is currently based in Battlesbury Barracks, Warminster, and is an armoured infantry battalion. It is perfectly placed to be part of the Reaction Force and in fact it is not physically vanishing, despite the loss of its identity and colours: it will “merge” (effectively take the identity of) 1YORKS.
2YORKS is currently in Cyprus and when it returns to the UK in July 2013, it will head to Elizabeth Barracks in Pirbright.
4YORKS, the reserve battalion, will remain centered on York, but its exact role will be defined as part of the TA plan.

The Royal Welsh will see its two regular battalions merge into one, with the colours of 1R WELSH. The battalion will stay in Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth, and will serve in the armoured role as part of the Reaction Force. The merge will be largely complete by 1st April 2014. A presentation of new colours will take place in Cardiff on 15th July 2014 to formally mark the occasion.
The Royal Welsh battalion is now looking forwards to a turn in High Readiness, with BATUS training later this year to be ready to make up the Lead Armoured Infantry Task Force from April 2014.
The colors of 2nd Battalion will be laid up, and the loss of one battalion frees up Dale Barracks in Chester for future use, which is still to be determined.
3WELSH, the reserve battalion, will stay as part of the ORBAT. Its trained strength will grow to around 410 personnel, with an additional allowance for training. The battalion will be restructured on 3 Rifle Companies [down from 4] and will have integral support weapons. This might be indicative of what will happen to another 12 of the 14 TA infantry battalions (4PARA is likely to be a different case as is the only battalion of the reserve assigned in support to the Reaction Force, providing manpower for 16 Air Assault Brigade).
With the exception of 4PARA, the TA infantry battalions will all be paired to regular battalions in the Adaptable Force. 3WELSH is likely to, “pair up with a Foot Guards Battalion in Pirbright for training and operational convenience; although existing links to the 1st Battalion will be maintained.”   

The Royal Anglian Regiment will maintain all of its battalions, but both regular formations (Vikings and Poachers) will serve in the Light Infantry role as part of the Adaptable Force. Surprisingly, despite 1st battalion being ideally based in Bulford, ready to serve as a mechanized or armored battalion in the Reaction Force, the current plan is to transfer the battalion after August 2014.
The 2nd Battalion has already moved in to the former RAF airbase at Cottesmore, now known as Kendrew Barracks.
The plan for the Royal Anglian seems to be a future of moving in and out of Public Role (based at the old Royal Artillery HQ in Woolwich) (To Be Confirmed, but proposed), Cyprus tours and turns in the Cottesmore-centered Adaptable brigade.
The 3rd Battalion, the Steelbacks, will remain as part of the reserve.
I’m surprised to see that 1ANGLIAN is not expected to be in the Mechanized Infantry role in the Reaction Force: unless something changes in the coming months, someone else will take the place of the battalion in Bulford.

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is to be reduced to a single regular battalion, but it will be a large one, as it will stay in Tidworth as Armoured Infantry battalion in the Reaction Force.

The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment  will for now see its first battalion fixed in the Armoured Infantry role, but the battalion is based in Padeborn, Germany, and for now we can’t be sure that it will remain an armoured formation when its return to the UK mainland eventually takes place. It is among the candidates for the remaining Armoured Infantry “slots” in the Reaction Force.

The Rifles Regiment will see 1st and 2nd Battalion in the Light Role, assigned to the Adaptable Force. 3RIFLES will also be in the Adaptable Force, but will be a Light Protected Mobility formation, mounted in Foxhound vehicles. 4RIFLES will be one of the 3 Mechanized Infantry formations in the Reaction Force, and 5RIFLES will remain mounted on Warrior, and is thus expected to transfer to the Salisbury Plain area on return from Germany.
There is much less clarity regarding the two Reserve battalions (6th and 7th) at the moment.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland will see 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions in the Adaptable Force, almost certainly in the Scotland-based brigade. 1st and 2nd will be Light Role infantry, while 3rd Battalion will be in the Light Protected Mobility role, mounted on Foxhound.
4SCOTS is to be part of the Reaction Force, but will not be Warrior-mounted when it returns from Germany: it is due to become a Mechanized Infantry battalion, mounted on Mastiff first, and on FRES UV later in the 2020s.
The basing plan, as of November 2012 was still very much up in the air: the Army wishes to centralize its units in large garrisons, pulling out of single-unit bases such as Fort George, but moving battalions is never easy, and with the considerable financial challenges ahead, along with the priority of bringing back Germany-based units, suggests that the Black Watch could remain in Fort George for many more years.

1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment is, in my opinion, likely to transfer to the Salisbury Plain area to serve in the armoured infantry line-up of the Reaction Force. Assuming that I’m right on the Tigers, this will leave a sixth Warrior-mounted battalion slot to fill. With the disbandment of 3rd Mercian, a Warrior-mounted battalion, the Scots Guards are left. I honestly thought the Scots Guards would lose their Warriors and go Light Role at some point in the future, but this is just my guess, based on the fact that involvement in Public Role and a home in Catterick both play against them being an effective part of the Reaction Force. I’ve been unable, so far, to discover what the plan is: it could very well still being worked out.

On the cavalry front, the Light Dragoons are going to become a Light Cavalry regiment in the Adaptable Force [Spring Newsletter, 2013]. Currently based in Swanton Morley, they are almost certainly going to be the cavalry unit of the Cottesmore-based brigade. In line with what I already said for Fort George, there are rumors that the Army would like to move the regiment and close the site at Swanton Morley. This appeared in some press reports, but there is nothing official yet and, just as with Fort George, money is tight and the move might not be possible, at least not in the immediate future, as priority is likely to be accorded to other transfers.

The merge of Queen’s Royal Lancers and 9th/12th Royal Lancers is likely to result in a regiment that will be known as The Royal Lancers. The two regiments hope to be assigned the role of Armoured Cavalry formation within the Reaction Force, which would mean a large establishment and FRES Scout vehicles.  

There’s nothing official, as far as I know, on the other cavalry unit’s future. The expectation in the RAC seems to be Household Cavalry in the Armoured Role, on FRES Scout, alongside the Royal Dragoon Guards. 
The Challenger 2 regiments should be the Royal Tank Regiment, the King’s Royal Hussars and the Queen’s Royal Hussars.
If these expectations prove correct, the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards will both become Light Cavalry units, mounted on Jackal. Late last year, the regimental newsletter of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards reported that there is indeed a solid proposal for bringing the regiment back from Germany and base it in Scotland as a Jackal-mounted formation.

Salisbury Plain area (including Bulford, Warminster, Larkhill, Tidworth and other garrisons) is already home to:

Headquarters 3rd (UK) Division
Headquarters 1st Mechanized Brigade
Headquarters 12th Mechanized Brigade
Headquarters 43 (Wessex) Regional Brigade

2nd Royal Tank Regiment  ---- > to become Royal Tank Regiment following merge with 1 RTR
King’s Royal Hussars regiment

1st Royal Horse Artillery
19 Royal Artillery
32 Royal Artillery (UAV regiment)
14 Royal Artillery (training regiment)

22 Royal Engineers
26 Royal Engineers

1st Royal Anglian

This in addition to the already mentioned 1st Welsh, 1st Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and 3rd Yorks (soon to be 1st Yorks).
In time, it should expand to be the home of 9 infantry battalions (6 Armoured Infantry, 3 Mechanized Infantry) and an additional tank, artillery and engineer regiment respectively.
The HQ 43 Regional Brigade will be removed from the ORBAT, but a third regular, reaction force brigade will take its place (possibly literally, taking up the same offices and building).

The MOD expects to bring back the HQ 1 (UK) Division from Germany within 2020, and it has been announced that, when it happens, it will move to Scotland (possibly to Edinburgh, or alternatively to Leuchars). Rumors have circulated that say that when the German-based division and brigades return, there will be a fair amount of colours-swapping, in order to pass the 1 Division title and badge to the Tidworth-based HQ, which will command the Reaction Force, while the Scotland-based HQ would command the Adaptable Force.
Similarly, it has been suggested that the 3 reaction brigades in Salisbury will be 7th, 4th and 20th brigade, but the 4th has its HQ in Catterick and the other two are in Germany. I don’t know if the army will effectively rework the identities of the formations, or if it is only a wild rumor.

102 Logistic Brigade, once it returns from Germany, is likely to be based in Grantham, home of the Royal Logistic Corps and in particular of the TA RLC component. The brigade is to be assigned to the Adaptable Force and a big share of its capability would come from the reserves, while 101 Logistic Brigade, based in Aldershot, is assigned to the Reaction Force. The assignment was evident in the Army 2020 brochure.         

On the Artillery front, it is expected that the Army will want to reunite the two UAV regiments in Larkhill, where the Watchkeeper infrastructure has been built. 32 Regiment is already in place, while 47 Regiment is still based in Thorney Island due to its past as vSHORAD formation.
16 Regiment, the Air Area Defence formation, could take 47 Regt’s place in Thorney Island. 16 Regt was close to transferring there in 2006/7, but it eventually went to North Luffenham instead, where it currently remains.
This double move would reunite the UAV force in Larkhill and the Joint Ground Based Air Defence in Thorney Island, simplifying things for both.

In the meanwhile, the Artillery has more or less finished its planning process under Army 2020, Jane’s reported.
The report, supported by updates on relevant pages of the British Army website, explains the structure that the 3 Reaction Force artillery regiments are going to assume: each will have three batteries of AS90 self-propelled guns (6 guns per battery), plus a battery with six GMLRS launchers. The Royal Artillery would also like this battery to have a Troop armed with the EXACTOR precision strike missile, currently in use in Afghanistan as UOR, but this is subject to securing funding to bring the weapon into the core budget.
A big effort has been made to retain the invaluable Fire Support Teams, squads of 6 men trained to call in and direct mortar, artillery and air attacks. Indicatively, each gun battery has a TAC Group comprising some four FSTs, and there is a regimental TAC Battery with six FSTs. The disbanded 40 Regiment, for example, has seen its own TAC Groups reassigned to the other regiments.

Jane’s article identifies the EXACTOR with the Israeli SPIKE Non-Line Of Sight missile, confirming a rumor, started by Jane’s itself, that dates back at least to 2011. The missile, procured secretly from Israel, is reportedly installed in M113 tracked vehicles, which captured the attention of reporters in Afghanistan as they aren’t standard issue in the British Army.
This also rises interesting questions as to the eventual future vehicle carrying NLOS if it is taken into core budget: will the army pay to support a whole new vehicle in the inventory, or will it try to move SPIKE NLOS on a different carrier?
Israel has showcased SPIKE NLOS launchers integrated on M113 but also on the Sandcat and Humvee 4x4 vehicles, so transferring it to a different vehicle shouldn’t be too much of a problem. 

SPIKE NLOS system integrated on an M113 tracked vehicle (Top) and on a Sandcat 4x4 (Bottom)

Currently, the EXACTOR capability in Afghanistan is delivered by one battery of 39 Royal Artillery regiment. In each Herrick deployment, a battery from 39 Regiment is always present. In theatre, it operates a Troop of GMLRS launchers (4 plus one spare) and two Troops of EXACTOR systems.
But 39 Regiment will be disbanded as part of Army 2020, with the HQ Battery and one firing Battery (56 and 51 Batteries) going into suspended animation, while the other three will transfer to the Reaction Force support regiments. Namely: 35 battery to 1 Royal Horse Artillery (1RHA) (to be re-named H Bty), 132 Battery to 26 Royal Artillery and 176 Bty to 19 Royal Artillery.
This confirms once more the identity of the third Reaction Force artillery regiment as 26 RA Regt.

The British Army has upgraded and updated a total of 36 M270 GMLRS launchers to the B1 standard. Of these, 18 appear destined to active service in the Reaction Force, with the others used as sustainment fleet and to equip the intended GMLRS reserve regiment.
The Army had originally taken delivery of over 50 M270 vehicles, and four have been converted into recovery vehicles (M240 RRV): it would be interesting to know if there are other hulls in good conditions in storage, because if there were, they could be a perfect solution for the fitting of EXACTOR. 

The M270 RRV vehicle. The bottom image, courtesy of Plain Military, shows the RRV uparmored to Afghanistan Theatre Entry Standard level

74 Battery is also expected to survive, moving from 39 Regiment to the UAV force (32 and 47 Regiment). The UAV force currently has 5 integrated UAV batteries, but I don’t think there are enough Watchkeepers on the way to form six batteries: the role of 74 Bty at the moment isn’t clear. It could act as a TAC Group containing additional TAC Parties, I guess, but at the moment I’ve no solid indications on the envisaged role.
Another option is an involvement for the battery in the planned Unmanned Air System Test and Evaluation Squadron to be based in Boscombe Down, and there is at least a third option I can think of, which is the use of Fire Shadow: the loitering munition was due to be brought into service by 39 Regiment, but its disbandment means a different solution will eventually have to be found.

The current five integrated UAV batteries were obtained by the reorganization of eight earlier batteries from the regiments 32 and 47. As a result of the passage to the UAV role, 3 batteries were put into suspended animation. Those that remain have been shaped by Afghanistan-related needs, and all are 190-strong, including 8 civilian contractors from the LYDIAN consortium, which provides the Hermes 450 drones currently in use as interim solution in the wait for Watchkeeper’s entry in service.
Each battery supports 5 Hermes 450 Task Lines, while also delivering 12 Desert Hawk III detachments, which are assigned to the various elements of Task Force Helmand. There is also a Troop with three detachments of T-Hawk drones: these are assigned to the TALISMAN convoys. Each Desert Hawk III detachment counts 5 men with all ground equipment and with 5/6 drones carried in waterproof cases. 

These Army slides show the current structure of the Integrated UAS Batteries, and show the way ahead, with the possibility of bringing both Desert Hawk and T-Hawk into the core budget, while going ahead with Nano-UAS development as well, encouraged by the good service provided currently by Black Hornet

The last available official document from the Royal Artillery suggests that the batteries will retain more or less the same structure also post-Afghanistan if the army manages to secure funding for bringing the Desert Hawk III and T-Hawk into the Core Budget.
As Watchkeeper replaces Hermes 450, the contractors should leave the ORBAT, but the manpower total should still grow, as the addition of a sixth TUAS task line is expected.

A Watchkeeper training facility has been built in Larkhill, and the drone, currently being tested at Aberporth in Wales, should be cleared to fly in civilian air space later this year. This will enable the entry in service and the beginning of regular training flying over the Salisbury Plain area. Watchkeeper drones will fly from the Boscombe Down airport, and a grass strip is available at Upavon to enable austere airfield operations training. 

The Watchkeeper training building in Larkhill

Jane’s article says that Army 2020 implies, for the Royal Artillery, the loss of one regiment HQ (39 RA, with 40 RA considered a pre-Army 2020, unrelated loss) and a total of 4 batteries.
Unfortunately, I do not have access to the whole report and I’ve not got any accurate info regarding the latest plan, but three of the batteries to be lost should be the already mentioned ones from 39 Regiment plus Z Battery, which will be removed from 5 Regiment, according to the last reports I had the chance to read.
If this is correct, only one more battery is left to be identified, and this possibly means that the number of gun batteries in the Adaptable artillery regiments (4 Regt RA and 3 RHA) and in the High Readiness regiments (7 RHA and 29 (Commando) Regt RA) has been preserved.
Until at least October 2012 the plan had reportedly involved cutting down to just 2 gun batteries the two Adaptable regiments, which are equipped with the L118 Light Gun, but this now seems to be off the cards, thankfully.
29 (Commando) Regt RA also seemed particularly at risk, with 148 Meiktila battery and one of the three gun batteries seen at one point as very much at risk of being cut. I hope that this absurd

However, on ARRSE it has been suggested that the Royal Artillery has somehow managed to save the frontline batteries by downsizing  from Battery to Troop size the HQ elements of 12, 32 and 47 Regiments, and by putting in suspended animation (read: disbanding) the HQ Bty of 39 Regiment.
This is in theory possible, as the RAF is reportedly going to gain greater operational control of the Joint Ground Based Air Defence units, making a downsized HQ element for 12 Regiment a realistic proposition. 32 and 47 Regts are the integrated UAV force, and with their expected move under the new Surveillance and Intelligence Brigade, a revised HQ structure is also realistic.
Under this rumoured new plan, the two Adaptable Artillery regiments would manage to stay full-size in terms of firing batteries, and are apparently expected to include 2 batteries on L118 Light Gun, one battery armed with AS90 self-propelled guns and one battery of GMLRS.

However, at the moment I have no way to confirm this report. Uncertainty seems to be still the rule, at the moment, regarding the Adaptable regiments. The rumour above deserves to be reported, but cannot at this stage be confirmed. Personally, I find it hard to believe in such a regimental structure. I wouldn’t complain if it turned out to be true, but it honestly looks too optimistic to me.   

The Royal Engineers, in similar fashion, will have 3 full-capability regiments in the Reaction Force and 2 regiments in the Adaptable force, which reportedly will be downsized from three to two squadrons.
It has not been clearly disclosed yet how the regiments will be organized, and while it is fair to assume that 22 and 26 Regts are due to be in the Reactive force, there is not yet an official confirmation I’m aware of, and the identity of the third Reaction regiment is still up for debate. 21 Regiment should be part of the Adaptable force, as it is in the Catterick area. The last regiment, I guess, will relocate somewhere in or around Cottesmore on return from Germany.
The latest update provided by the Royal Engineer’s colonel states that the readiness levels and training requirements for the engineers have been determined:

a. Reaction Forces (RF). RF Formations will complete sequenced Collective Training (CT) level 2-4 (CT2-4) training on Salisbury Plain Training Area and BATUS (Canada). Outside the Training Year, RF units will retain currency through one CT1-2 event and a period of Command & Staff Trainer and Combined Arms Tactical Trainer annually. RF Bde HQs will train to CT5 twice every three years.

b. Specialist Forces. The Specialist Bdes (3 Cdo and 16 Air Asslt) will operate on a 2-year FORM. A training period of 12-months will achieve CT2-4 at BATUK (Kenya) and CENZUB (France) followed by 12-months on Very High or High Readiness where they will conduct low-level CT1-2 training to retain skills.

c. Adaptable Forces (AF). AF Forces will train to CT1 on Back-Door Training Areas with CT 2-3 exercises conducted mainly on Salisbury Plain, but with some training delivered at BATUK and/or selected Overseas Trg Exercise. Units will train to CT3 once every three years.

d. Force Support (FS). The two FS Engr Regts will be required to conduct training and provide troops at readiness to AIR/SF and LAND/Log/Maritime components either sequentially or concurrently. Each FS Regt will conduct Special To Arm CT3 training in the UK as well as deploying Troops and Squadrons to participate in supporting LAND CT4 exercises in BATUK/ CENZUB, or AIR Support training at air bases as required.

e. Infra Sp. Wks Gps will be tied to Log Bdes for training and readiness periods. In addition to conducting their own ‘Professional Deepening’ and CT 1-2 in the UK, each Wks Gp will support Joint Force Enabling Exercises, selected CT3-4 Overseas Training eXercises (OTX) and “upstream capacity building” (future capacity) activities.

f. EOD & Search. Owing to their commitments and bespoke training requirements, the UK Ops Regt will operate outside of the usual FORM cycle of training and readiness.

g. Military Stabilisation & Support Group (MSSG). The MSSG will be the core of the new Security Assistance Group developing the Land Environments role in Defence Engagement, including upstream capacity building. This commitment will require bespoke stabilisation training outside of the usual FORM cycle, but with stabilisation teams at readiness to support VHR, RF and AF Bdes.

6. Geo. Support to Op HERRICK continued and Field Survey team deployed to survey three of the airfields in Afghanistan and the Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. Thirty Geo personnel deployed in support of Op OLYMPICS, providing Geo support and advice across all levels of command; five personnel deployed on Op ESCALIN providing Geo advice and support to COBRA, Ministers and operational commands. Geo support has been provided to a number of JTFHQ exercises and in an effort to consolidate resources and provide better multi-intelligence analysis the moves to Wyton in 2013 and 2014 are firmly in the planning frame. Finally, JAGO hosted a French delegation and plans to develop further the relationship and conduct joint exercises in 2013 and 2014.

The Force Support regiments are 39 Regt and 36 Regt. I expect 36 Regiment to inherit the River Crossing capability provided by the M3 rigs of 23 Amphibious Squadron, 28 Regiment, but I’ve not yet seen anything official speaking in this sense.
It is also not yet clear what will happen with the invaluable TALISMAN route clearance equipment. I very much hope it is retained as a Force Support capability, since the need for it is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

JAGO, which is the Headquarters Joint Aeronautical and Geospatial Organisation, is expected to transfer, along with 42 (Geographic) Regiment, from Hermitage to RAF Wyton.
Wyton is due to become, under Project PRIDE, the home to the new Joint Forces Intelligence Group (JFIG) which brings together the Command Group and elements of the Intelligence Collection Group. Wyton will also host the Defence Geospatial Intelligence Fusion Centre (DGIFC), formerly known as Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC). DGIFC provides specialist imagery intelligence to the armed forces through the exploitation of satellite imaging systems, as well as airborne and ground-based collection systems.

The training requirements for the engineer components provide an interesting insight into the readiness levels the Army plans for its brigades in the future. CT stands for Collective Training, and is a measure of the training undergone by a formation. It is a key component of the wider concept of Readiness, and measures the capabilities of a formation on a scale going from Level 1 to 6:

CT 1: Training at up to troop / platoon level.
CT 2: Training at sub-unit level.
CT 3: Sub-unit training in a task organised unit or combined arms BG context.
CT 4: Task organised unit or BG training conducted in a combined arms formation context.
CT 5: Brigade level formation training.
CT 6: Division level formation training.

Force Troops and brigades

Another point of Army 2020 that remains all but clear is the exact composition of the Force Troops element and the exact distribution of Artillery, Engineer and Logistic regiments.
The Army 2020 plan as announced in July last year implied that all artillery regiments would be removed from the manoeuvre brigades and grouped under the command of 1st Artillery Brigade. The same was going to happen with the engineer regiments under 8th Engineer brigade and with RLC regiments too.
The plan even included standing up a Military Police brigade to reunite all RMP regiments, removing them and the provost companies from the brigades they have been a part of for so many years.
This meant a total of 21 brigade headquarters appeared on the Army 2020 structure.

The plan has left me unconvinced from the very start, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies has agreed with my assessment when writing about Army 2020, noting that removing such elements from the brigades is likely to have an impact on the chances for proper collective training to take place. The reassignment of the various regiments also makes little sense because the formations are still likely to be based in the various brigade-garrisons around the UK, close to the brigades they support, and far away from the rather meaningless Artillery or Engineer brigade HQs.
Lastly, with the Army forced, by logic and by necessity, to structure 3 regiments of each support element (Medical, REME, Engineer, Artillery, Logistic) to support the Armoured brigades and two more to support the adaptable force, centralizing the control over the regiments is kind of deprived of any real meaning: in the end, it is still 3 “armoured” and two lighter formations.

After holding a series of meetings and talks with generals Wall, Abraham and Carter, the IISS this January wrote a general overview of the Army 2020 plan, and slipped in the detail that the brigade HQs will be 18.
After that, the Royal Engineers have rolled out the training plan reported above, which evidences that the Reaction Force regiments will need to train in Salisbury regardless of what command they are under, and Jane’s deliberately talks of artillery regiments assigned to the armoured brigades.

I can’t help observing that 18 brigade HQs are those that Army 2020 would imply if the Artillery, Engineer and Military Police 1-star HQs were removed.

This is what the Army 2020 brochure described (left) alongside the current map of regional brigade HQs (right): 

While it is not yet official, it is fair to assume that no regular brigade HQ will be lost, so where they overlap with existing regional brigades, I’m assuming the regional brigade colors will be laid up. So:

-          43 South West brigade gone, regional point of contact in 1st Artillery Brigade
-          49 East brigade gone, possibly with regional point of contact within the Cottersmore-based brigade
-          143 West brigade gone, regional point of contact within 11 Signal Brigade
-          15 North East brigade gone, possibly with regional point of contact within Catterick-based brigade
-          145 South, 2 South East and London District gone. London will have a brigade HQ, could be either 145, 2 or a new brigade identity. The South East will be controlled via regional point of contact within 8th Engineer brigade.

Things might have changed, if the IISS is right and the brigade HQs are going down to 18.

I’m personally in favor of the 18 brigade HQs.
Here is how I’d do it: I’d keep the RMP companies and regimental HQs assigned in the same way as now, doing away with the need for a new 1-star command.
I’d assign the engineer and artillery regiments directly to the brigades and do away with Artillery and Engineer brigade HQs.  

Three Artillery and 3 Engineer regiments are already in the right places:

1 RHA  --- > Tidworth
19 RA   --- > Tidworth 

22 RE
26 RE

When 26 RA and one Engineer regiment return from Germany and are accommodated somewhere in the Salisbury area, the Reaction Brigades are served.

4 RA   --- >  Topcliffe 

21 RE --- > Ripon

4 Regt RA and 21 Regt RE are in good positions to be part of the Catterick-based Adaptable Brigade.

The other Adaptable Brigade to be given regular-manned supports would, in my opinion, be that based at Cottesmore. I can’t see much real will or logic in sending artillery and engineers up to Scotland. The brigade up north will have to do with 105 Regt RA(V).
The engineer regiment for the Cottesmore brigade could move directly from Germany into the ex-airbase, while 3 RHA could find a home in St George barracks, North Luffenham, when 16 Regt RA moves out to Thorney Island.
The disbandment of 39 Regt RA has also freed up a place in Newcastle, so that 3 RHA could move there (and in this case I’d say it would be assigned to the Catterick brigade, while 4 Regt RA would “look south” to be part of the Cottesmore brigade, without moving from Topcliffe).

This is my proposal. I think there are realistic options for direct assignment and no visible need for a subordination to specialist brigades that would end up being nothing more than very virtual containers.
The Army 2020 brochure also assigned to the Artillery and Engineer brigades control over two regions of the UK (in replacement of current Regional Brigades that will cease to exist): 1st Artillery Brigade would have control over Cornwall and 8th Engineer Brigade would command the South East.
I’d give these responsibilities respectively to the Surveillance and Intelligence Brigade and to the London-centred infantry brigade. Judging from what is happening with 11th Signal Brigade in the West region, after all, the local control is exercised by an additional office known as Regional Point of Contact (RPoC) which should be easily added to any HQ.  

Another change I made would be to the 2-star “UK Support Command” established in Aldershot to replace the regional division HQs. This new command in my opinion has been overtaken by the events: it was envisaged as part of an army structure that had to comprise 5 multi-role brigades and up to ten regional brigades in support. With Army 2020, it makes more sense to make it a “normal” divisional HQ, such as 4 Division, which used to be in Aldershot. This HQ would control the four “non-deployable” adaptable brigades, including the one centered on London, which is likely to be the least deployable of all, mostly acting as a “container” for the battalions posted in Public Role and possibly for the Brunei and Cyprus garrisons.

My proposed Army 2020 layout follows: 

I’ve not numbered the brigade and Division HQs, other than 4 Division in Aldershot, replacing the “UK Support Command”. The eventual swapping of colours and identities to allow, as rumoured, 7, 20 and 4 brigades to be the Reaction Force is a matter of seniority that the army will sort out. I’ll focus more on the “physical” changes.
These are, overall, minimum: the London Brigade takes the responsibility for the South East region, and the Surveillance & Intelligence brigade HQ replaces the 1st Artillery Brigade in Netheravon, taking up responsibility over Cornwall with a RPoC. There is no military police brigade.
The Reaction Division HQ controls the 3 armoured brigades and 16 Air Assault Bde.
The Adaptable Division HQ controls the 3 “deployable” adaptable brigades
4th Division in Aldershot controls the 4 “regional” brigades left. 


  1. So when talking about the reaction brigades, we can assume that 3 batteries of AS90's & 1 of GMLRS would form the artillery component of the brigade then? If i've understood your writing correctly.

    1. That seems to be the plan, as also reported by Jane's. One regiment, each with 18 AS90 in three batteries and 6 GMLRS in one battery. Plus a number of EXACTOR systems, with a little bit of budget luck.

      It's a formidable firepower for a single regiment, and gives a brigade a real heavy punch.

    2. Excellent, especially as (until now) there hasn't really been that much talk about what sort of artillery assets would be available on a regular basis to the reaction brigades, I mean we all knew it'd be available on demand but it's good to have some numbers being thrown around.

      Could you link the Janes article mate? Don't think it's in the article itself.


  2. Reference Armoured Infantry Bns, they will be R WELSH (The correct shortened name- not just Welsh), MERCIANS, PWRR, YORKS,RRF and 5RIFLES. The Heavy Armour is QRH, KRH AND RTR, FRES scout based will be RDG,HCR AND RL, the Light Cav will be QDG, RSDG and LD. There was an internal note that went around confirming all this.

    My take on it all is that the next few years will see a lot if renaming/manouvering of units and that a lot of difficult decisions are still to be made.

    1. Thank you for the news. Only "surprise" is the Mercians. I'm guessing that it'll be the first battalion that takes the armored role and moves in to Salisbury area?

      What about the Scots Guards, if you can tell me that? To go Light Role?

    2. Hi Gabriele,

      Good post, thanks.

      Any information on which 3 battalions will serve as mechanized units in the 3 armoured briagdes?


    3. 4 Scots and 4 Rifles. I don't yet know the identity of the third. I would have said 1 R Anglian, but apparently it'll move from Bulford and go Light Role, so someone else will take its place.

    4. Thanks Gabriele,

      Any idea what the 5 Guards battalions are going to do?


    5. I think they'll be all Light Role battalions in the Adaptable Force.

  3. Gaby

    I don’t know how long all that took you but it looks a very well researched and detailed piece. You have also taken the trouble to distinguish (clearly, I think), between what is official and what is your own guesswork.

    It occurs to me that, if the IISS is right about how removing Artillery and Engineer elements from the brigades is likely to affect adversely the chances for proper collective training to take place, then your suggestion of assigning the engineer and artillery regiments directly to the brigades and doing away with Artillery and Engineer brigade HQs, would seem to be eminently sensible.

    That idea, if implemented, surely would make the proposed Reaction Force Brigades rather close to the now abandoned Multi-Role Brigades idea, wouldn’t it?

    Second question. Does it now seem more, or perhaps less, likely that the ground elements of 3 Cdo Bde and 16 AA BDE are to be reduced? I was thinking of the rumour that 3 Cdo Brigade was to lose 1 Rifles, for instance.

    It is good news that the Army seems to wish to bring Exactor into the core. From what you say, however, the future of Fire Shadow still seems a little uncertain. If they abandon that now, though, the future of precision attack weapons for the Artillery will be put back by many years and a lot of money will have been spent for nothing.

    1. Thank you Mike.

      Regarding the support elements of 3rd Commando, i don't know. In theory, there should be only manpower reductions and some changes, but no big cuts. So, all batteries should stay. Again, this is the theory. I wait to find some official explanation, this is one of the parts that do remain murky to this day.
      1st Rifles is, instead, definitely coming out of the Commando brigade and moving into the adaptable force. It is not spelled out directly in the news, but this is the idea i get.

      I agree on Fire Shadow: i very much hope it goes right ahead, because i'm convinced that it does have potential. And indeed, other countries are now beginning to invest in comparable weapon systems, while the americans are delighted with their man-portable loitering ammunition, the Switchblade, already in use in Afghanistan.
      Despite the many voices who have shouted against Fire Shadow in the media, i remain convinced that it is something that has to go ahead.

      As for the reaction brigades resembling multi-role brigades, yes, partly, they will.
      After all, as i've explained in the earlier posts, Army 2020 is still about delivering an output of five multi-role deployable brigades, to be able to sustain an enduring operation.
      The difference is in having three real heavy brigades and three "adaptable" light brigades to pick pieces from, in order to field a MRB in the field enduringly.
      Plus, of course, 4 heterogeneous "container" brigades made up by the spare battalions and reserve elements, to be used for regeneration, support, standing task such as Cyprus presence, and regional engagement.

    2. For a long time it looked as if all 7 adaptable brigades would simply be re-branded regional units with little to offer in way of support to the reaction force elements. I'm far more comfortable with the idea of 3 out of the 7 being essentially light adaptable brigades which can be geared to take on an enduring operation when necessary.

      3 heavy reaction, 2 rapid reaction, 3 light adaptable and 4 'container' adaptable, plus all of the support elements...sounds like a pretty sensible set-up under the circumstances.

    3. I agree absolutely with that, Challenger. What I was concerned about was whether removing elements (e.g. Artillery and Engineers) from the Reaction brigades was likely to affect adversely the chances of proper collective training taking place and therefore ultimately the coherence of the Brigades.

      It looks now, though, as if such elements might be more closely integrated, although it might not always be the case that they are near enough geographically to be fully so.

  4. GAby

    Thanks for that last reply. Interesting.

    Another question:

    "This is in theory possible, as the RAF is reportedly going to gain greater operational control of the Joint Ground Based Air Defence units."

    The increase in RAF operational control rather concerns me. Perhaps it will not matter quite so much with Rapier, which leans towards the area defence sort of weapon, but with HVM on Stormer surely it would matter. That is likely to be used in armoured formations, to provide air defence in fast-moving, fluid situations. Surely the Army is going to need its own command and control systems in operation to supervise the movements etc. of such a vehicle. It does not seem very satisfactory to place more responsibility on the RAF. Presumably both Rapier and HVM Stormer will be manned by the Army?

    1. Unfortunately, it is not very clear how it'll work. I know the LEAPP battery and JGBAD command already are jointly manned, and i guess the number of RAF posts will increase.
      But the regiments themselves should remain an army thing.

  5. Gaby

    Most of the Armoured Infantry battalions seem destined to be based in or near to the Salisbury Plain area, with exception of the Scots Guards up in Catterick.

    If the assigning of the Engineer and Artillery regiments directly to the brigades were to take place, then I suppose that would be alright in terms of Artillery because Larkhill is right on the Plain but would the Engineer units be near enough (and others e.g. Signals)?

    1. Well, as i said in the article, two artillery regiments are already in Tidworth, on Salisbury Plain. That's 19 RA and 1 RHA. Ideally, the third Reaction regiment will be brought in to Salisbury plain, but this might require the building of new accommodation.

      Exact same thing for the Engineer regiments: 22 and 26 are already in the Salisbury area, and ideally we'd want to see a third joining in, or moving to another accommodation as close as possible to the plain.

      The Catterick-based brigade is also ok, as it has 21 Engineer regiment and 4 Royal Artillery based in the right place.

      The Cottersmore-centered brigade should be the other one getting the supports. The artillery regiment could move into North Luffenham, or Lichfield, or perhaps on the ex-airbase itself, i don't know. For the engineer regiment, the latest rumor i heard is 35 Regt moving from Germany to Scampton in 2015, so that would solve it.

      Signals regiments might not be all so close to the brigades, but it shouldn't be much of a problem.
      At least one regiment, 3 Regt, is based in Tidworth.

  6. Gaby

    Many thanks for your reply.

    Your suggestion of possibly using the GMLRS chassis as a basis for Exactor looks a good one. I believe I am right in saying that originally the Artillery received nearly seventy of those carriers. I don't know what has happened to a large number of them. Probably gone the way of all flesh, like the M548 Tracked Rapier carriers and support vehicle years ago. The MOD seems to have a way of making such vehicles "disappear".

    I am not a subscriber to "Janes" and therefore could not read the whole article but did they comment any more on the likelihood of getting this very powerful weapon into service?

    1. I see just as much as you do of the Jane's article, unfortunately. I do hope Exactor can be funded, though. It sure is a good system, and it must have pleased everyone if they are hoping to bring it into Core. As for the M270 hulls, with luck there'll be some still in storage...

    2. I wonder if the Stormer would be a better chassis to put Exactor on (if they do manage to get it into core).

      It is smaller and should be lighter than the GMLRS chassis, which looks a better oversized for something the size of Exactor. I don't know if the MOD have disposed of the Stormers that they removed from the HMV role, but if they haven't then they can use them, and the same vehicle is already used by the Royal Artillery.

      Of course if the GMLRS chassis was used, then those particular regiments would already be using that vehicle, but I still think that Stomer might be a better option.

      I can't help but think that Exactor could play a useful role in the reconnaissance forces. Since they retired SwingFire, as far as I'm aware, they have been without any long range protection (with a longer range than Javelin). So a Exactor or two deploying behind them, could provide useful protection. I would also include a couple of Stormer HMV in the reconnaissance groups, armed with both StarStreak and the LMM.

      Of course, I know that it is unlikely that Exactor would be used like that, even if it is taken into core, as there just won't be the numbers required.

    3. Stormer hulls might be another option, but it depends on the long term planning of the army regarding the vehicle. If i understood it right, the Shielder minelayer has been retired because of the cuts, and the HVM Stormer numbers have dropped significantly, so there's a relatively small fleet left in service. Don't know if at a logistic level it would make much sense to use that kind of platform.

      Having Exactor in the reconnaissance regiments, instead, is a very interesting idea, and i did think about it more than once. It does not seem to be the path the Army takes, but it's a shame: i think the idea has a lot of potential.

  7. What will happen if Scotland declares independence after 2014? The whole plan (along with UK Armed Forces) will be thrown into disarray?

    1. I don't even want to think about it. Independence for Scotland only means further reductions to the forces and further problems.

  8. The link for RSDG is broken and I'm still wondering why it was chosen to be removed from its armoured role.

    Do British Brigade HQs not have a strong reconnaissance unit in their HQ? Is that why Army 2020 calls for such a large number of FRES SV in the Armoured Calavary unit?

    Does the final ORBAT only leave 2 air defence regiments?

    1. Yes, there are only two air defence regiments now.

      As for the brigade HQ, it hasn't a strong recce element of its own, it draws from the cavalry regiments.

      As for the RSDG, one regiment was due to be the cavalry element of the brigade based in Scotland, and the cost of going back home is losing the heavy armor, as Army 2020 has abandoned the ambition for five multi role brigades.
      In that case, Scotland would have had its tank regiment and its Scout cavalry regiment, and a new large training area for them too.
      Too much expense. When the Army was ordered to cut again, from 94.000 in the SDSR to 82.000 mandated in July 2011, Army 2020 was born, and the heavy armor was focused in three regiments instead of five, and reunited over Salisbury Plain. The consequences are obvious.

    2. What vehicles will likely be in the Brigade HQs of each of the reaction brigades? Foxhounds or Jackals?

      You mentioned once that Infantry battalions/companies will be downsized in 2020. Does that mean a reduction in the sniper platoon in the support comapny?

  9. Gaby

    You are probably already aware of this and have discussed it on Twitter or whatever. However, there was an item on Ceefax this morning about how Philip Hammond was about (today?) to announce details of future British Army Basing arrangements.

    Apparently 16,000 personnel are returning from Germany and will have to be re-housed. Apologies if you knew about this already but it could shed some more light on what you have already been discussing here.

    1. Indeed, i know the announcement is expected today. I'm impatiently waiting for it. I have a good idea of what is (probably) going to be said, but of course i want to see how right i am.

  10. Ok today's annoucement. Correct me if I'm wrong:

    1st (Reaction) Armoured Division
    16 AA (though autonomous)
    (sniff no more 7th Armoured)

    3rd (Adaptable) Division
    7th(so sad)
    51st (???)

    Is that how it will go?

    1. The Divisions are reversed: 3rd Division, being in Bulford, is to be assumed as the (Reaction) Division.

      The 1st Division is heading to York, and will be, we have to assume, the Adaptable division. The rest is correct. 7th Brigade takes over the Cottersmore area, although the HQ will be located in Chilwell.

    2. Why did they chosen 51st are part of the adaptable? Is it to appease the Scots?

    3. In part. A good number of battalions is based in Scotland, and good accomodation is available, so it makes sense to exploit both things and form a strong brigade.

  11. Today's basing plan also does not include a Northern Ireland Brigade, as early promised.

    1. Yes, it does. 38 Irish brigade is to stay as an Adaptable infantry brigade. To strenghten it, they are moving 1st SCOTS from Edinburgh to Belfast, besides.

  12. Realistically speaking I seriously doubt FRES-SV (aka Scout Vehicle) will survive the next round of budget axe. Ground moderation will be put on the backburner during time of financial stress. All of those fancy toys you mentioned in your post are nice to have, but you can live without them.

    1. Here i seek to speak of military equipment in a serious way. "Fancy toys" and your kind of dismissive approach do not really belong here.

  13. I would prioritize my modernization list in the following order of precedence:
    1) networking and interoperability, upgraded FALCON will achieve network on the move capability, down to the company level.
    2) solider related equipment & weaponry.
    3) vertical lift and assault i.e. helicopters such as Wildcat and Apache
    4) FRES-UV, a modern 8x8 wheeled armor vehicle replacing mine protected trucks which are NOT combat vehicles.
    5) Medium armed TUAV: Maybe Watchkeeper with 2 x Brimstones under each wing tip?
    6) cheap near precision artillery fires such as PGK, but no expansive BLOS missiles. Deep strike belongs to RAF.

    I would cut FRES-SV outright; reduce investment for tank and Warrior upgrades. Just my two cents.

  14. Hi Gabriele,

    Any surprises?

    How many units didn’t make it to Salisbury plain?

    I only make QRH, KRH and RTR are there from the armoured Corps, but that’s only after a quick look.

    I see the foot guards will rotate around London barracks on public duties, without there families!
    I assume 6 months on public duties, 18 months off, some of that time in the divorce courts.

    2 battalions to rotate to Cyprus, no sign of this Cyprus Battle group?

    On a personnel note, Copthorne Barracks to part close? Any detail on that? It used to be my old regimental depot.


    1. Just to add, I hear 45 CDO is to remain in Arbroth, Scotland?

  15. Still putting order into things, it's a long list and a not very reader-friendly document, at least so it looks to me.

    But lots of stuff made it to Salisbury, actually:

    3 tank regiments (RTR, QRH, KRH)
    All 6 Warrior-mounted battalions (1 PWRR, 1 Mercian, 1 RRF, 1 R Welsh, 5 Rifles, 1 Yorks)
    All 3 engineer regiments, all to Perham Down near Tidworth
    All 3 artillery regiments, (1 RHA, 26, 19) in Larkhill
    The UAV force is also being reunited in Larkhill (47 moving in to join 32)
    All 3 Armoured REME regiments made it into the area too.
    And 2 out of 3 Armoured Medical Regiments also made it, with the third going to Aldershot.

    Quite awesome, really. Only matter unsolved is the Mechanised Infantry Battalions... They are not where you'd expect them.
    4 Scots is in Catterick (i wonder if my info has become outdated, or if it'll be part of the reaction force even being there...)
    4 Rifles is in Aldershot.

    But with 4 Rifles and two Guards battalion being based in Aldershot, i've been wondering if perhaps they aren't going to be the 3 Mechanised battalions...

    The idea is that two Guards battalion would rotate into the Mechanised role every 3 years. In those three years, they fit within the FORM mechanism of the Reaction brigades, 1 year "reset", 1 year training, 1 year at readiness.
    Then they go into Public Duty and two other guards battalions come in to their place.

    Please be aware that i'm only guessing here. It's an assumption, based on the fact that, in my opinion, having the three Mechanised battalions together in Aldershot is the only realistic alternative to having them directly in the Salisbury area.
    As all Reaction Force parts are based between Salisbury and Aldershot... i would be surprised if the Mechanized Infantry was based far away. Even though it seems that, save for the Household Cavalry in Windsor, the reaction cavalry regiments will be based in Catterick.

    I don't know, i'm trying to get info / put order into things. I'll write on the matter in the coming days and weeks, when i have time for it.

    1. Thanks Gabriele,

      But whats happend to the Recce Regts?

      Not sure the guards things would work?

      I still think it would have been better, easier and cheaper just to go for 2 armoured brigades on the plain


    2. I'm not sure on the Guards either, but i think it is a possibility. Will keep the matter under a watchful eye, and i hope to learn something soon.

      As for the Recce regiments for the Reaction Force, it seems Household will be the closer one to Salisbury, being in Windsor. The other two will be based in Catterick, it seems.

    3. It really spoils the whole plan if there's no confirmation of who's the 3rd Mastiff. I was wagering on the Lancs. I can't find the written answer you stated in your post?


  16. Gaby,

    You say that all three Engineer regiments are to be based at Perham Down, near Tidworth. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on one matter concerning these regiments.

    Presumably, if each of the Reaction Force Armoured Infantry Brigades is to get one of these regiments assigned to it, then the Engineer regiments would have to be all-round, all-purpose regiments, wouldn't they? That is each regiment would have to have some armoured engineer vehicles (Titan, Trojan, Terrier etc.), some plant and some mine warfare capabilities (e.g. Talisman) Would there be enough armoured vehicles to go round? Or have I got this entirely wrong?

    1. I don't know what happens to Talisman. I'm guessing that if it is retained (and i hope it is) it might be kept in a Squadron within one of the two Force Support regiments. Perhaps in 36 RE, in Maidstone.

      As for Titan and Trojan and Terrier, there are no worries. The number of vehicles available were studied to equip 5 regiments plus training fleets, so i see no need to worry in that field.

      The Adaptable engineer regiments are both heading for Catterick. It's possible that they won't have the heavies (Titan e Trojan), but i don't know the details, at least not yet.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Gaby

    I suppose at least one good thing has come out of the basing review. I see that 17 P and M Regiment is scheduled to remain at Marchwood, which presumably means that the Army will continue to use at least a part of the site, (or does it?) That is sensible, given the specialist port facilities present there and the increasing emphasis on out-of-area action in recent times.

    1. I think the Army just can't do without Marchwood. Even if they sell it to a civilian contractor, the Army will have to continue staying there and using its part of the port. This is what i think.

  19. Btw, someone has formed a full Orbbat on wikipedia

    http: //

    Give your views?

    1. There is some good to that, but i think it is incorrect in several areas. Anyway, until we get something official to work on, there's going to be uncertainty on some aspects.

    2. Where is it mainly incorrect? Was just helping out

    3. For example, the composition of the Intelligence and Surveillance brigade. I'm also very unconvinced by the Logistic brigades in that list, and i don't think the Guards battalions will be all under London District.
      At any one time i expect two guards battalion in London for public duty, but the other three battalions active in frontline roles inside brigades. Also, i think the Military Stabilisation Support Group is not going to be part of any brigade, but it'll stand on its own, within the renamed Security Assistance Group, if the Army 2020 document is to be believed.

      The 11 Signal brigade is not correct either. It lacks a lot of pieces (see my earlier article on Royal Signals of army 2020) while it has 14 (EW) Regiment which should instead figure in the Intelligence and Surveillance brigade.

    4. There's new info. but won't say till confirmed. Some of your info is also incorrect

  20. Hi Gabriele! Terrific post!
    Even I guess that you probably have it, here you are the final Army basing plan document:
    Could you please give us as soon as possible a new ORBAT that updates both the graphic structure in wikipedia and your own first revision, at least with all the regular units included in the reaction and adaptable forces and the known territorial ones? Reading your post or the official plan, is almost impossible for me to assign each unit to its future barracks or brigade.
    Thanks in advance!

  21. Gaby

    On the subject of Exactor (SpikeNLOS), I would think the Army would want a fairly robust armoured vehicle to accompany the AS90 and GMLRS. Therefore I would imagine they would go for something like the existing M113 or possibly the Stormer. The Sandcat would just be too light in such heavy armoured formations, and it is also wheeled. I just happened to notice in a publication that I read the other day that 20 Stormers sent to Withams are still there, presumably unsold. A good opportunity to buy them back?

    However, this is all very much speculation, as I don't imagine we could afford them anyway!

  22. you get a F for the failure to reference properly

    1. Look at all the fucks that i don't give about your comment, good sir.


Everybody can comment on this blog without needing a Blogger account. It is meant to keep the discussion free and open to everyone. Unfortunately, anonymous accounts keep the door open for spammers and trolls, so i'm forced to moderate comments and approve them before they appear. Apologies for the inconvenience.