Monday, December 2, 2013

The evolving budget situation: force structure - UPDATE

Big and small changes have taken place in the structure of regular units, and more changes will happen in the coming months and years. Unfortunately, tracing all of them is complex, as we don’t have a published sub-unit level scheme announcing the changes that will take place. One was printed for the Reserves (which incidentally gave us some information on a few interested regular units which got directly touched by the changes) but none for the regulars, so keeping track of each change is a matter of keeping up with each little hint dropped in MOD publications, as well as the news about disbandment parades on websites and social media connected to the forces.

Air Assault

Serious change has been underway within 16 Air Assault Brigade with its reduction to just two regular army manoeuvre units (2nd and 3rd PARA) plus the reserve PARA battalion (4th PARA). The supporting formations within the brigade have morphed to adapt to this new structure and to the needs of delivering, on rotation, a air assault battlegroup at high readiness.

7 Royal Horse Artillery has lost two batteries, with V Bty disbanding and going into suspended animation and with H Bty (Ramsay’s Troop) moving to 1 Royal Horse Artillery to become a Precision Strike battery (with GMLRS and Exactor).

The regiment retains a total of three batteries, with I Bty (Bull’s Troop) as HQ Bty and F (Sphinx) Bty and G (Mercer’s Troop) batteries in the Light Gun role, each with 6 guns plus Fire Support Teams. The two gun batteries have been reinforced in their support and command elements so to be better able to deploy autonomously in support of the battlegroup at readiness.

The brigade’s logistic regiment is growing in establishment fro 500 to some 650 men by gaining command of 47 Air Despatch squadron (in Brize Norton) and 65 Logistic Support Squadron, which is moving into Colchester. On the other hand, one of the air assault close support squadrons is disbanded (15 Sqn), leaving 24 HQ & Sp Squadron plus two close support squadrons, one for each regular battalion (63 Sqn and 82 Sqn).

23 Air Assault Engineer regiment is also restructuring and shrinking by some 130 posts. 12 (Nova Scotia) HQ Squadron has been disbanded, and its relevant capabilities have been redistributed to the remaining 51 and 9 Squadrons, which are becoming larger and more independent, so that they can best support the formation, on rotation, of the battlegroup at high readiness.

7 REME battalion has also undergone some changes and adjustements, being more closely integrated with 132 RLC Aviation Supply Squadron: the Motor Transport platoon of 7 REME has been absorbed by 132 Sqn. 7 REME retains its three Aviation Companies (71, 72 and 73).

It remains very disappointing how the brigade has been run down in strength. The reduction to just two manoeuvre units plus one reserve battalion for reinforcements is highly questionable: not only does it greatly reduce the effectiveness of 16AA as a deployable brigade, but it seems to be a source of strain and difficulty even in the stated plan for the generation, on rotational basis, of a battlegroup at readiness, as there are effectively only two battalions, two artillery batteries, two logistic squadrons and two engineer squadrons which will take turn, in and out of high readiness. This seems very likely to put the brigade through some serious operational stress.

To make things worse, 299 (Parachute) Engineer squadron, the Reserve squadron tasked with support to 23 AA Regiment, is being removed from the control of 23 Rgt to be instead re-subordinated to 21 Royal Engineer regiment, no later than December 2016. This seems to make no sense at all, as the squadron will be assigned to a line engineer regiment: it is not clear if the idea is to have the squadron having “double loyalty” to two regiments and two rather different roles at the same time, or if the squadron will eventually cease to support the Parachute engineers. In both cases, the change makes very little sense as it further reduces the effective resources available to the air assault brigade to sustain its demanding force generation cycle.

The reserve artillery battery which used to support the Air Assault Brigade, 201 Bty, 100 Royal Artillery regiment, is to be disbanded and put into suspended animation “not before April 2014”, weakening the artillery resources of the brigade as well.

Finally, this new, unwise “rule of the two” is rumored to be on the cards for the Apache helicopter fleet as well, which is widely expected to reduce from 6 to 4 squadrons, in two “binary” regiments. After all, if the regiment stays, all is fine, isn’t it? Much easier to hide sub-units disbandment to the general public. One day, if things continue down this path, all that will be left will be “regiments” with the consistency of companies.


Support to 3rd Commando brigade has been, and very possibly still is, a battlefield over which Land Forces HQ and Navy HQ are fighting an underground war. The Navy has had some success in this war: while 1st RIFLES was moved out of the Commando brigade, the Navy successfully resisted the plan for disbandment of 148 (Meiktila) Battery, plan which was put forwards by the Army but shot down in the later negotiations.

The Army 2020 plan however contains the announcement that 24 Commando Engineer Regiment is to disband. The regiment was stood up in 2008 in order to give the brigade much needed organic engineer capability, indispensable for brigade-level deployments, with the Army keen to continue using 3rd Commando in Afghanistan. The regiment was to expand over time, forming a second field squadron (56 Cdo Sqn) in addition to 59 Cdo Sqn and 54 HQ & Sp squadron.

56 Squadron actually never managed to stand up, and in the Army 2020 plan, the regiment is to be lost, with 59 Squadron returning to be “independent”, complete with some of the capabilities currently provided by 54 HQ & Sp Sqn.   

In practice, the regiment would shrink from an establishment of 360 / 380 down to around 270 by the summer of 2014

54 HQ & Sp Sqn includes a reconnaissance troop, a support troop, a signals troop a motor transport section, a resource cell, a training team and a construction supervision cell. 59 Commando Engineer Squadron is made up of 3 field troops and a support troop.

With the disbandment of the regiment, 59 Cdo Engineer Squadron would have to expand to inherit at least a part of the capabilities of 54 HQ & Sp.

However, the last word might have yet to be said regarding 24 Engineer Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Leigh Tingey, commanding officer of the regiment, wrote on 1st November 2012 that the decision to disband the regiment has not been accepted by the CO 3rd Commando Brigade, nor by the Commander General Royal Marines (CGRM) nor by Navy HQ, signaling that the war was still on within the MOD and offering a ray of hope for the future of the formation. I’ve not been able to find any indication of the state of this war, but it is worth remembering that the Army 2020 document as published said that 24 Cdo Engr would be removed by the ORBAT “not before April 2013”. Of course, that indication is vague enough that it could happen any time in the future, but nonetheless we are in December and the regiment is still in place.  

The commando battalions are planned to rotate into high readiness (5 days notice to move) to form the Lead Commando Battlegroup, which also has to include artillery, logistic and engineer resources. It is evident to any observer that a single engineer squadron won’t be able to generate more than a troop of 30 men or so for the support of a 1800-strong battlegroup. This is ridiculous, and it is only logical that the Royal Marines and Navy HQ revolt against such a plan. The Army, on the other hand, is likely to require that the Royal Marines and Navy provide the manpower and funding to keep the regiment going (and hopefully actually standing up 56 Squadron as well). And this will be very challenging for a navy that already struggles to fit inside a (ridiculous) mandated manpower total of 30.000.

The Royal Marines will also have to face an increased workload as P Squadron, 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, disbands by the end of the year. The 167-strong squadron, manned by Navy personnel and not by Marines, stood up in 2010 to provide Force Protection teams to embark on RN and RFA ships, especially in a counter-piracy perspective. The disbandment of this squadron means that the commando battalion in its “standing tasks” period will be asked to provide such teams for use on ships, making the Marines even busier. The force generation cycle was meant to see one Commando at High Readiness, one training for its turn in high readiness, and the third “resting” after its own turn at high readiness. The disbandment of P Squadron changes this substantially. In the words of Jane’s in the special report on the future of the Royal Marines:

In developing the new rotation, it was originally envisaged that the third Commando unit - the one 'out' of the role - would be engaged in low level training and would take on the numerous support tasks that continually arise, including support to training courses and ceremonial duties. In reality, however, a much greater number of functions has had to be absorbed. A significant one of these is the ship protection task previously undertaken by a predominantly naval squadron within 43 (FP) Cdo RM, a squadron that is being disbanded. This task covers the provision of security for naval vessels when alongside, and some boarding tasks in low threat environments.
The net result of the accumulation of these tasks is that the third unit is now classified as the 'standing tasks Commando' rather than the 'out of role' one. As this unit is also heavily committed, the overall effect is the need to generate about 1.7 units of tasks from the three units.

To make things worse still, like with the PARA, the reserve artillery battery assigned to the Commandos is change role completely, moving into 104 Regiment to work with mini UAVs, and 131 Independent Commando Engineer Squadron is to resubordinate under 32 Engineer Regiment, creating the same contradictory situation as with 299 (Parachute) Squadron.

In practice, the high-readiness brigades, despite the high demands placed on them in terms of readiness and force generation cycles, are being, in a way or another, weakened and deprived of important supports which will make it challenging to achieve all what is asked out of the formations. Both brigades, in addition, have been severely weakened and their viability as deployable brigades is questionable. Both would need consistent reinforcement from other formations (a third manoeuvre battalion for 16AA, with associated supports; appropriate engineer resources for 3rd Commando) in order to properly deploy in the field as 1-star formations. The rationale of these changes is, to say the least, questionable.

Royal Signals

The Signals are undergoing significant change as most of the surviving regular regiments become Multi Role Signal Regiments (MRSR)  as the brigade and division-organic signal formations are removed, with the exception of 216 Signal Squadron in 16 Air Assault brigade, which will stay.

In practice, the Royal Signals resources are being centralized in the two signal brigades, and will be assigned only for training and deployment.

The MRSR build upon the experience of the “campaigning” regimental organization developed to support Operation Herrick with a constant rotation of Signal units to the rule of the 1 in 5. The regiments becoming MRSR are:

1 Signal Regiment
2 Signal Regiment (including one Queen’s Gurkha Signal Sqn)
3 Signal Regiment
16 Signal Regiment
21 Signal Regiment

Each of these regiments, once the restructuring is completed, will have 3 Field Squadrons and 1 Support Sqn. Each MRSR is being equipped with the FALCON system, with at least 11 FALCON detachments being assigned to each regiment. Once deployed in the field, the MRSR will be tasked to provide the whole spectrum of communications needed by the manoeuvre force and its HQs. How exactly Real Life Support will be delivered to brigade and division HQs is still being worked out.

216 Signal Squadron has undergone a restructuring to better support the force generation cycle required for the formation of the Air Assault Battlegroup. Curiously, 216 has been restructured on 3 Comms Troops, from 2 previously, with the re-instatement of Charlie Tp. The squadron also has its training wing and Motor Transport / Light Aid Detachment troop.

1 Signal Regiment [ex-Signal regiment organic to 1st (UK) Division HQ) will see the squadrons 201 and 212 merging to form a single squadron the identity of which is not yet know. 200 Signal Sqn (ex organic squadron of 20 Brigade HQ) will come into the regiment, providing the second Field Sqn, with 211 Sqn being the third. The HQ & Sp squadron completes the new-look MRSR. The regiment will transfer from Germany into Beacon Barracks, Stafford, under PROJECT BORONA.

21 Signal Regiment is losing its special role of Air Support regiment, and two squadrons: 244 Sqn transferred under command of 30 Signal Regiment, while 43 (Wessex) Signal Squadron (Reserve) transferred to 39 (Reserve) Signal Regiment.

21 retains the HQ & Sp squadron, plus 214 and 220 Sqn. The third Field Squadron will be 204 Sqn (ex organic squadron of 4 Brigade HQ) which has disbanded in its current form and will stand up in its new format by 2015.

2 Signal Regiment has the support sqn plus 219 and 246 Gurkha Sqn. A third squadron will be added, possibly another of the squadrons that so far had been organic to manoeuvre brigade HQs.

16 Signal Regiment is in the same situation, with Support Sqn, plus 230 and 255 Sqn. The regiment is also moving to Beacon Barracks, Stafford, under PROJECT BORONA.

3 Signal Regiment has the squadrons 202, 206 and 258 plus Support Squadron.

The 5 Regiments will come under the direct command of 7 Signal Group itself part of 11 Signal Brigade.

Specialist ICS enablers will be one of two functions commanded by 2 Signal Group also part of 11 Signal Brigade and include:

10 Signal Regiment (ECM(FP)/ICS Infrastructure) comprising 225, 241, 243, 251 and 81(V) Sqns.

15 Signal Regiment (IS) comprising 233 (Global Comms Network), 259 (Global Information Support) and 262 (Logistic System Support) Sqns.

299 Signal Squadron (Special Communications)

The support to UK and National resilience will be commanded and delivered as the second function from within 2 Signal Group.

It will include:

R SIGNALS TA Regiments
251 Signal Squadron, 10 Signal Regiment

1 Signal Brigade will command the support to both HQ ARRC and the JRRF comprising

22 Signal Regiment (comprising Sp Sqn + 4 Fd Sqns ( one QGS Sqn)). The Squadrons are:

-          217

-          222

-          248 Gurkha

-          252

-          Sp Sqn

30 Signal Regiment (comprising Sp Sqn + 4 Fd Sqns ( one QGS Sqn)). The Squadrons are:

-          244 (coming from 21 Regiment)

-          250 Gurkha

-          256

-          A new squadron to be determined

-          Sp Sqn

ARRC Support Battalion.

Other EW and ICS Support. Outside of our Signal Brigade Structure R SIGNALS will retain support to EW/SI and ICS support other specialist areas.

These include:

11 (Royal School of Signals) Signal Regiment – under command of Defence College of Communications and Information Systems (DCCIS).

-          1 (Ouston) Squadron – Disbanded 6 May 2013

-          2 (Catterick) Squadron

-          3 (Harrogate) Squadron

-          4 (Military Training) Squadron

-          5 (Maresfield) Squadron

Elements of 5 Sqn are being redistributed with subunits in the other squadrons. The long term goal of the internal reorganization is to provide a through-career view of both operator and technician training within one sub-unit remit.

14 Signal Regiment (EW) – part of 1st Intelligence and Surveillance Brigade (Sp Sqn + 4 Fd Sqns).

-          223

-          224

-          226

-          237

-          245

-          Sp Sqn

The regiment, which is high in demand, formed a fifth field squadron (224) in 2004 to better meet the need of constant deployments at squadron level in Afghanistan. In another very questionable decision of the Army 2020 plan, one of the five squadrons will be lost. Not clear yet which one is to go.

The regiment will find a new home in MOD St Athan base.

18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment (no change in structure).

-          SBS Signal Squadron

-          264 (SAS) Signal Squadron

-          267 (SRR) Signal Squadron

-          268 (SFSG) Signal Squadron
     63 (SAS) Signal Squadron (R)

216 (Para) Signal Squadron.
628 Signal Troop. British contribution to 1st NATO Signal Battalion (1 NSB).
660 (EOD) Signal Troop.
DE&S – Continued support to various parts within DE&S.

The Signal Troops (661 and 662) organic to the HQs of 101 and 102 Logistic Brigades are disbanded.

Royal Artillery

Judging from the restructuring going on at 3 Royal Horse Artillery regiment, the Adaptable Force artillery units will only have 2 gun batteries as they reduce to an establishment of just around 370 men.

3 RHA is keeping all its batteries, but J (Sidi Rezegh) Bty is losing its guns, presumably to remain as a second Tac Group battery of sole Fire Support Teams.

Expect 4 Royal Artillery to suffer the same fate.


-          J (Sidi Rezegh) Bty. Becomes Tac Group Bty as it loses its guns?

-          C Bty. Light gun.

-          D Bty. Light gun.

-          M Bty. Headquarters.

-          N (The Eagle Troop) Bty. Tac Group Bty.

4 Royal Artillery currently has six batteries. How the regiment will transform is not yet clear.

    6/36 (Arcot 1751) Bty, (was resubordinated to 4 RA from the disbanded 40 RA regiment) Tac   Group Bty
    3/29 (Corunna) Bty,
    129 (Dragon) Bty, (was resubordinated to 4 RA from the disbanded 40 RA regiment)
    88 (Arracan) Bty,
    94 Headquarters (New Zealand) Bty
    94 Bty (Lawson’s Company).

On disbandment, 40 Royal Artillery had its batteries re-roled and re-subordinated to other regiments.

6/36 (Arcot) Battery - subordinate to 4 RA as Tac Group Bty
38 (Seringapatam) Battery - subordinate to 19th RA as Tac Group Bty
49 (Inkerman) Battery - under Joint Ground-Based Air Defence, armed with Land Environment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP)
129 (Dragon) Battery - subordinate to 4 RA
137 (Java) Battery - subordinate to 26th RA as Tac Group Bty

On 22nd of June 2012, 49 (Inkerman) Battery became an independent battery with both RAF and RA troops in the orbat. The battery now uses the Land Enviroment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP) used to deliver a significant improvement to battlespace management for the British Army, LEAPP operates 5 SAAB G-AMB radars to detect, track and identify air contacts and produce a complete local air picture. 

Royal Engineers

The regiments 21 and 32 will lose a regular squadron each as they become Hybrid regular-reserve regiments. 

21 Regiment currently has: 

7 Headquarters and Support Squadron
1 Armoured Engineer Squadron
4 Armoured Engineer Squadron
73 Armoured Engineer Squadron
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Light Aid Detachment 

As it becomes an Hybrid regiment, 1 and 4 Squadrons become Field Squadrons, and 73 Sqn is due to disband. Two reserve squadrons come under command: 103 Field Squadron (located in Newcastle) and 106 Field Squadron (located in Sheffield). NOTE: the reserve squadrons given by the british army website are different from those announced in the Reserves plan. Under the Reserves plan, 21 Regiment was to get 103 Field Squadron and 299 (Parachute) Squadron.
There might have been a plan change inspired by common sense, for once.

32 Regiment currently has:

2 HQ & Support Squadron
26 Armoured Engineer Squadron
31 Armoured Engineer Squadron
39 Armoured Engineer Squadron
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Light Aid Detachment

As it becomes an Hybrid regiment, the armour will be lost and one squadron will disband, but we aren't yet told which one. According to the Reserves plan, 32 Regiment was to take command of 131 Commando Engineer Squadron and 106 Field Squadron. Now 106 Squadron is instead assigned to 21 Regiment, apparently. 
We will have to wait and see how the plan has changed. 

The Air Support regiment, 39 Royal Engineers, in Kinloss, has had 10 Squadron disbanded in Leeming, but will gain command of 65 Squadron in Kinloss in summer 2014. 65 Squadron used to be part of 28 Royal Engineer regiment, which is however disbanding. The final structure should thus be:

34 Field Squadron (Air Support).
48 Field Squadron (Air Support).
53 Field Squadron (Air Support).

65 Field Squadron (Air Support).
60 Headquarters and Support Squadron (Air Support).

REME Workshop.   

The two EOD regiments are restructuring to become hybrid as well, both lining 2 regular and 2 reserve EOD squadrons. The new structure is as follows:

101 (EOD) Regiment

-          22 HQ & Sp sqn

-          17 (EOD) Sqn

-          21 (EOD) Sqn

-          221 (Reserve) Sqn

-          579 (Reserve) Sqn

33 (EOD) Regiment

-          EOC Group Explosive Ordnance Clearance

-          821 (EOD) Sqn – this squadron has two Commando and two PARA EOD troops

-          51 (EOD) Sqn

-          217 (Reserve) Sqn

-          350 (Reserve) Sqn

The restructuring of the EOD force is meant to take good note of the lessons learned in the vicious fight against IEDs in Afghanistan. Much better integration, even in peacetime training and structures, of RE and RLC EOD, Search specialists, ECM operators and Search Dog Teams from the Military Working Dogs Regiment is the final objective.

One question yet to answer in this area is the future of TALISMAN. Will this route clearance system be brought into core? How, if it is, will it be distributed and employed in training?

Hopes for the long-term future of TALISMAN come from a slide of the June 2013 presentation given by Lt Gen Chris Deverell, Chief of Materiel (Land) and Quartermaster General during the RUSI Land Warfare conference.

The slide shows a variety of UOR material that the Army is bringing into core (simulation training, Mastiff, Ridgback, Warthog, Wolfhoud, Husky, Jackal, Desert Hawk III, Geo Intelligence solutions, portable radio SATCOM and, in the Force Troops mix, the photo of Mastiff Protected Eyes with mine-roller (an important component of MASTIFF) can be seen. Hopefully, it signals the intention to retain TALISMAN as a whole package.

Also worth noticing is the presence of the photo of the REBS (Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System). Around a dozen such systems have been procured urgently for use in Afghanistan, mounted on HX-77 EPLS trucks. At least 10 were available on the eve of Herrick 14, with 5 systems used for training and five more deploying to Afghanistan.

Bringing REBS into core is likely to be a way to (partially) answer to the requirement for a Medium Weight bridgelayer for the support of FRES SV. The REBS has a military load class (MLC) of 50, so it can support a fully laden FRES Scout. It can only, however, bridge 14 meters gaps, and it is installed on trucks which of course aren’t the same thing as a tracked armored vehicle.

Anyway, much better this way than having nothing. However, on the eve of the publication of the SDSR, the Royal Engineers quantified in 77 tracked vehicles their Medium Weight, FRES-related manoeuvre support requirement for bridging, mine breaching, digging and battlefield shaping. It is not clear if Terrier was considered part of the solution to this requirement, as, save for bridging, it can cover all other roles.


Many changes are yet to come and be detailed, but this update wants to track, as much as possible, the changes at sub-unit level within the regular army. It also wants to highlight the massive reductions in Combat Support and Combat Service Support capabilities available to the army, to make more people aware that, while understandable, the fury for the loss of historical infantry battalions has no real sense. The uncomfortable reality is that political considerations have messed up Army 2020 even more than it could be expected from such a massive cut, exactly for limiting the loss of capbadges, containing in “just” five the number of infantry battalions to be lost. I’m fully convinced that, given freedom of choice, the army would have cut more infantry battalions in order to deliver a better balanced force: as it stands, the army has more infantry battalions and more brigade HQs than it can actually deploy and support in the field. The tragicomic situation of the two High Readiness brigades is an example. The removal of signal elements from 1 and 2 star headquarters, with new solutions for Real Life Support having to be literally invented somehow is another stark reminder.

The many Infantry battalions of the Adaptable Force have also been cut down in establishment to cut manpower while retaining a non realistic number of separate formations. The british infantry battalions, of all types, are becoming some of the lightest (in terms of both manpower and firepower) in NATO and perhaps in the world.

In other words: if the situation of CS and CSS units is not fixed, the last thing the army needs is more infantry battalions. The Chief of General Staff, general Sir Peter Wall, has (very carefully and mildly) admitted that there is a problem in this area, speaking to thedefence committee in early November 2013:

Q343 Derek Twigg: You mentioned in one of your answers a few minutes ago that obviously this is putting pressure on certain areas in terms of resilience, but you have to find contingency for that. Could you expand on where those pressure points will be on resilience, and are you absolutely confident that they can be dealt with?

General Sir Peter Wall: Yes, I think that in our force structure we are conscious that we have made certain assumptions about the balance between Regular, reserve and contractor logistics, and if those assumptions turn out to be incorrect, then we may find that the dependence on Regulars-because of the threat situation or the tempo of operations, or some other unforeseen sort of delta-is greater than we would like. In that situation, we might have to enrol people from other parts of the Army to do transport functions and things like that.

We can see increasing pressure on the demand for communications bandwidth in the tactical space. We have taken account of that in our design by pro rata reducing the Royal Signals by considerably less than the 20% average, but even so, I can see that demand growing as a consequence of the changing nature of the way that business is done in the future, which is not so much a function of size, but of the changing character of the way we do things, with an increasing dependence on high-resolution imagery for targeting and things like that. I can see that happening. I think in the gunners and the sappers we also might find that they are running a little bit faster than we would like and some of their other cap badge counterparts, but that has often been the case in the previous structures of the Army, depending on the nature of the specific operation and where the emphasis lies.

It will appear extraordinarily mild an admission, and it is, but keeping in mind how rare it is these days for the top brass to acknowledge any specific problem caused by cuts imposed by government, and considering that Philip Hammond was sitting at the general’s side, it becomes a very significant admission.  

I would expect army officers (retired and non retired, to moan about THIS problem, not about the loss of infantry battalions, as painful as those are.

We should all be aiming for a powerful and capable army, not for capbadges. 


  1. Hi Gabriele,
    Another good post. Thanks.
    I have to agree with you on 16AA, I think its little more than a pathfinder force now.
    As for 3 Cdo, I still feel 3 Cdo units are not enough to provide a deployable brigade. One likely to be on other duties.
    I find it very disappointing that the army seems unable to sort itself out.
    I am sure there must be a way better forward. Can we swap are top brass with another armies?
    Its always said that German officers and British soldiers would make a good army!

  2. Gabriele,

    An excellent, if depressing, post. As you note, the key point in all of this is that political considerations have doubled the pain which the, at least understandable, financial considerations were already going to impose. A key point here then is to understand the source of the political consideration to not scrap infantry cap badges. Politicians only react to vote winners / threats and I'd suggest that the average voter would only have a passing interest in the subject - and then only if it was drawn to their attention by "save our regiment" type campaigns in the Daily Mail / Sun / Telegraph. That would suggest that the source of the political interference are said campaigns - the vast majority of which, I am afraid, are organised by ex-officers / soldiers. They are further aided and abetted by serving senior officers seemingly being unwilling to state their concerns and/or make this a resigning issue - which is the state it has reached. Given the planned resources available to the British Armed Forces (Army and Marines) there is no reason whatsoever that 7 fully Deployable Brigades, each with 4 infantry/armour batallions each, could not be found. Instead we are left with 3 Deployable Armoured Brigades, 2 Reaction Brigades each of which can only deploy a Batallion and bits and pieces from 2 other Infantry Brigades. The service chiefs should hold their heads in shame.

    1. Indeed, retired top brass and serving officers have a big share of the fault for all this.

    2. Gabriele,

      Just following up on this some more - this is probably amongst the most important themes to the overall "capability" of the UK armed forces you are currently tackling.

      It is noticeable to me that there have been relatively few posts regarding it, compared to your normal deluge. That would seem to reflect the conflict and discomfort it brings to all who are interested in the health and capability of the UK forces. Ie to basically suggest that we have too many infantry batallions and that keeping that many means that overall brigade and divisional fighting capability is being compromised appears to be a concept that no one wishes to tackle.... It reminds me of another British religion - that of keeping open local hospitals while compromising overall NHS capability......

    3. I'm sorry for my absence lately, but i've been busy in a variety of other things, and blogging has had to take a bit of a backseat. But yes, i must also admit that i've grown quite depressed about the whole thing. It is discomforting to follow the fate of the british forces these days.

      And when i see battalions kept alive by removing rifle platoons, by removing (again! How many times do they need to be proven WRONG in a row before they admit it???) the platoon's mortar, by cutting back on establishment to almost ridiculous levels... Give me less brigade HQs and less battalions, i say, but give me working ones. I'm not at all against the integration with reserves, quite the opposite, but there are contradictions all over the place even in the plan for integration, so... yeah. I find it all quite depressing.

  3. “. . . the photo of Mastiff Protected Eyes with mine-roller (an important component of MASTIFF) can be seen. Hopefully, it signals the intention to retain TALISMAN as a whole package.

    Yes, I saw, I’m pretty certain, about a year ago, an article to the effect that the Royal Engineers were trying to get Talisman, REBS and some of the armoured plant they have used in Afghanistan into core. I also read a rather later article that Talisman was actually going to enter core. However, I cannot find the articles and, in the present volatile climate, it would be dangerous to assume anything without substantiation! Hope it is saved and used.

    On the subject of REBS, it would have to have an armoured cab, wouldn’t it? Would it be a stopgap possibly until an armoured bridgelayer (FRES or Warrior) is funded? Does it necessarily mean that we won’t now get an armour-based bridgelayer, do you think?

    On the subject of cuts to force structure, I agree that they make for pretty sad reading. Some of the proposed cuts are going to have to be halted in the coming years. Let us hope that the improvement to the economy continues, although that does seem to be too much based on domestic consumption rather than investment and exports (although the latter could follow).

    1. REBS most certainly has a Theatre-Entry Standard armor fit as of now. Probably it will be removed in peacetime to contain wear and tear, but at least it can be fitted with needed. It remains not quite the same thing as a Warrior bridgelayer of course, but, then again, far better than nothing.

      There were for sure at least 10 REBS sets: 5 deployed in the field in Herrick 14, with 5 staying back for training.
      And you ask a difficult question: in theory, nothing stops the procurement of a bridgelayer. In practice, it is probable that REBS will remove that requirement from the list for the next future, though.
      However, in 2010 the Manoeuvre Support requirement for FRES SV was a total of 77 vehicles in bridging, mine breaching and digging configurations. Can't understand if this includes Terrier, though. Would make sense if it included Terrier, otherwise it looks like there would be a serious duplication of capability, as Terrier can do it all, pretty much, bar the bridgelaying.,d.bGE

  4. Thank you for this Gabriele.

    Keeping track of these changes is a nightmare.

    Politicians in this country should be taken out and shot.

  5. I don't think their was/is anything particularly wrong with the broader future Army structure on paper. 2 specialist brigades (including 3 Commando) for 'kick in the door' operations and to generate small rapid reaction forces, 3 balanced armoured infantry brigades to provide 1 at high readiness and a number of adaptable/reserve units including 2 that are slightly larger and at higher readiness to slot into an enduring operational pattern with the reaction brigades if/when necessary.

    That sounds to me like a fairly good balance for the Army of 2020. As you rightly point out though Gab it needs to be done properly. 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando need the manoeuvre units to provide elements at high readiness and the specialist support functions to remain as effective independent formations and provide balanced battle-groups.

    I agree as well that it's a real shame, and even perhaps slightly dangerous to have an unbalanced Army where too many line battalions are protected for the sake of cap-badges and at the expense of other vital branches.

    A really dynamic move would have been to have wholesale reformed the infantry into fewer but much larger 5 battalion regiments and made a big effort to draw a line under what's gone before and start afresh with less parochial and elitist divisions between units. Instead all we have seen in terms of regimental orders of battle has been tinkering and salami slicing of manpower. It's not good enough!

    1. I've considerably warmed up myself with the general concept of Army 2020. I agree with the neat separation of heavy armour and lighter formations, mainly because of basing, infrastructure and training area considerations. But i disagree with many of the actual measures of the plan. 16AA and 3rd Cdo are two brigades that are, to a degree or another, ruined.
      And the adaptable brigades are perhaps too many. I realize that battalions would come together for deployment under one HQ or another, but i believe in structure coherence and in working together even in peacetime. I'd much rather have 3 well organised brigades with all their parts, plus brigade HQs in Northern Ireland and Wales with a resident battalion each (plus reserves and the other elements present in those regions) than the current "stuff all over the place, under 7 different HQs" arrangement.

    2. Yeah I think the biggest problem is definitely the gutting of 16AA and 3rd Cdo, id much rather sacrifice a little extra line infantry to preserve the organic support elements effectively functioning brigades need. Getting 1 Para back where it belongs would be a priority for me as well.

      As you have said this hollowing out of units to preserve cap-badges is ridiculous and anyone with half a brain should be able to see that. I'd much rather have 1 tooled up and highly capable battalion than 2 or 3 under-strength and under-equipped ones. At some point it has to stop!

      Not sure how many adaptable brigades is the magic number (if their is one) but I agree whilst a reaction/adaptable split is a good idea the current 7 messy brigades doesn't seem great. 2 reserve/regional brigades in N.Ireland and Wales, 2-4 properly constituted, well organised brigades (1 in Scotland, 2-3 in England) and maybe a London district for public duties and reserve stuff sounds about right to me.

    3. P.S

      Heavy armour sounds like one of those things that you don't really want to put in the hands of an adaptable/reserve force. We don't need to keep that much around (3 heavy and 3 light regiments sounds fine) seen as we don't use it that often, but it's the sort of thing that will be useful again one day and is very difficult to regenerate, far harder than infantry for instance.

    4. Hi Gabriele,

      I was reading a comment on the F35C on a Think Defence article on Typhoon 3. Is it true that if the F35A (carrier version) is cancelled that will be the end of the F35C, and in my view the end of the UK carrier strike capability?
      I would be very interested in your opinion Gabriele.

      Infantry brigades strengths, I was impressed with the case you put forward for a 5 manoeuvre strength brigades. I like the idea of rotating battalions, and it also allows for 3 battalions to be deployed if needed. This is what 3 CDO should be aiming for, and in my own humble opinion all brigades would benefit from a 5 battalion strength, it offers so much flexibility.

      I would also suggest that instead of pairing regular and reserve battalions, reserve infantry companies be added to regular infantry battalions. For example, a battalion would have 3 regular infantry companies and one reserve one. But this could be tailored as needed to particular battalions.


    5. It is very probable that if F-35A variant (the conventional land-based one) fails, all variants fail, or, at the very least, become way too expensive. The F-35's fate is largely determined by the USAF buy, which is by far the largest. If that was to go (highly unlikely) the US Navy and US Marines, and even more so the smaller partners like the UK, would most likely end up with an unaffordable product on their hands.

      I've not actually proposed 5-battalion brigades, though, if by battalions you mean infantry or armor. I'd be very much happy with 3-battalion ones, with full brigade supports.

      For me, a brigade is a brigade if it has 3 manoeuvre battalions, ideally one reconnaissance regiment/battalion, communications, logistic, medical, engineer and artillery components.

      I'm also quite convinced that pairing battalions is the right way to go if you want to have a (relatively) assured amount of trained, deployable reserves available for use. Judging from even the current Army 2020 plan, if you replace a squadron of regulars with reserves, you are going to want two reserve squadrons at least: the case of the hybrid engineer regiments is telling.

      Having three reserve companies in a paired battalion is probably the best way to be relatively sure that you can indeed deploy one company alongside the regulars when the time comes.

    6. Hi Gabriele,

      Thanks for your swift reply.

      As I read the Think Defence article, the carrier variant has an unsolvable hook problem. If this version was no longer going into production this would mean the end of the F35 as the USAF is not that keen on the F35. To me this would mean the end of the UK's carrier strike, as we could not afford a go it alone project or to convert the carriers to carry a F18 or other cat launched fixed wing aircraft.
      As to 5 Battalion brigades, yes I do mean 5 infantry battalions, as in my view, and in the case of 3 CDO, they will never have 3 units able to deploy, as one will always be on operations already or just finished operations. A 5 battalion brigade will always be able to deploy 3 of its battalions as a brigade. Its much more flexible and can rotate a single battalion for deployment on the armies 2 year rotation
      Pairing regular and reserve battalions as I understand the situation, does not give the regular battalion a reserve company made up of an ad hoc reserve battalion, but a number of platoons to add to its regular understrength companies, now only 2 platoons strong. For me that means ad hoc reserve platoons acting within a regular company. I my humble opinion as an ex infantryman that's a recipe for failure. I would much prefer 1 or 2 reserve companies with 1 or 2 regular companies.
      Always with a regular HQ and support companies.
      I still hope for a reform of the infantry in 2015, to a smaller number of regiments, with larger battalions and less commitment to public duties and more deployable brigades.

    7. I highly doubt the F-35C hook problem is "unsolvable". The F-35C has done tests on land with the new hook design and is scheduled to go to sea next year to try on a real carrier. Here is the current status of play of the F-35:

      Someone up there is running too fast.

      On the platoons: technically, yes. Each Rifle coy in a regular Adaptable Force battalion is short of one platoon. Still, once they deploy, they can assign the reserve platoons around the battalion as they see fit, i believe. However, i don't think the Army would want to put all the reservists on their own: mixing them up with more prepared and experienced regulars should allow reservists to have a guide to follow. If the company is made wholly by reservists, the risks are higher.

    8. Hi Gabriele,

      With Reference to the F35, as I have said, I am just going on what was written on the matter in Think Defence. I asked the question as I value your opinion on the matter.

      As to mixing reserve and regulars. Here's my problem, what is the reserve battalion CO, company OC's, platoon commanders, and sections commanders doing? They will not be commanding regulars will they? How many reserve posts does that waste?
      I had a chat with a former TA member last night from my former Regiment as it happened, he agreed with me that regular and reserve soldiers should be under there own Officers and NCO's in there own companies.
      But this is just my humble opinion.

    9. I'd say that the reserve formations must be commanded by reserve officials during peacetime, to provide a military career path to reservists. On deployment, more often than not the lead will come from regular officers, but there can and must be a space for reserves too.

    10. If you added up all those posts that will never be deployed in there post, for instance, CO's. RSM's,company commanders, CSM's, Platoon commanders, etc how much money training time has been wasted and how much of a dent does that make in an already challenging numbers strength?
      I think there must be a better way forward.
      Gabriele, I respect you opinion. But If I was back in the regulars, I would prefer to be in a company with the guys I live and train with 24/7. I having spoken to a former TA guy, he said the same.
      But my opinion means nothing. As its the current top brass who make the policies.

  6. Just following up on the "5 infantry batallion piece". I think I understand where you are coming from in regards to 3 Commando & 16 Air Assault - ie if they are both rotating spearhead batallions and supports they may face harmony problems in then deploying as a full Brigade, however I'd suggest that this is the price they pay for being "elite" / "spearhead".
    Gabriele is absolutely correct on the "optimal" structure of a Brigade - ie 4 batallions of armour/infantry, one of which would normally be recon/light armour. Studies (including many from the British Army!) have shown time and again that Brigades with less than 3 manouver batallions don't have the sustainability/hitting power and that more than 3 + 1 stretches Brigade command and control too much....
    So for the UK Armed Forces Brigades we should be looking at -
    Marine/Air Assault - 3 Infantry Batallions + 1 Light Armour Batallion
    Armour - 2 Armour Batallions, 2 Armoured Infantry Batallions
    Mech Infantry - 3 Mech Infantry Batallions + 1 Light Armour Batallion
    Each would also have an Artillery, Signals, Engineer and 1/2 Logistics Batallions each as well.

    It is of course noticeable that none of the proposed Brigade structures are of this nature either in terms of number of Batallions or the nature of those Batallions..... It is almost as if they have gone out of their way to not learn the lessons of the past and to have a total mishmash of types and designs....

    1. Hi,
      The reason why I would go for 5 infantry battalions per brigade, (plus of course support artillery etc) is as I mentioned, infantry battalions are not just sitting there on the shelf waiting to be deployed. with 5 battalions you can rotate them from training, on operations etc. Giving you a deployable brigade of 3 battalions.
      If you have 3 battalions from the start, you have no chance of having all 3 deployable at short notice.
      Ad hoc brigades made up of what's available is what we should be getting away from in my humble opinion.
      But again we all have our points of view. I doubt if the chiefs and Mr Hammond are hanging on to our every word.

    2. I understand what you are trying to do and as I say, I can see how it would be of use for 3 Commando and 16 Air Assault Brigades where they are often likely to deploy Batallion Groups below the level of Brigade.
      Where the idea loses coherence is at the actual level of the Brigade. You say that with 5 batallions you can rotate them on training, on ops etc.... which is true, but then with 3 Brigades of any type you achieve the same thing at the Brigade level (ie 1 on ops, one training up and one recovering). That negates the need to carry internal Brigade rotations - each Brigade wouldn't be deploying some of its formations on training and others on ops. It also allows the Brigade to form and train as a coherent formation.
      Finally you note that we need to get away from Adhoc formations - completely agree, but if a Brigade doesn't know which 3 of its 5 potential formations it is going to actually deploy with then you are surely perpetuating exactly that - ie the Brigade commander would need to be familar with all 5 formations and their exact capabilities, but wouldn't know which 3 he would get on actual ops - hardly conducive to unit coherence.....

    3. Like I said, we all have are own opinions and of course your can have yours, but I doubt very much that anyone outside the regular readers of Gabriele's great blog takes very much notice. But its always good to hear others view and comments.

  7. Rumours rather than facts. Great blog post not.

    1. Oh, yeah? So the British Army and MOD must be publishing rumours and holding fake disbandment parades and sending muppets speaking to conferences, because all i wrote has been documented, with links wherever possible.

      Go acting like a troll somewhere else, where your shit is accepted. If you find such a place.

  8. Interesting post. But I'm uncomfortable with a lot of the more speculative parts. It would be great if you could provide footnotes or links for each comment, otherwise, where are you getting your information on what people 'want' or 'are intending' to do, or what is 'rumoured' to be the case? Does it come from a Jane's article or something or do you have contacts within the forces?

  9. 49 Inkerman is NOT under JGAD. FOIA has confirmed that.

    1. Where did they end up to, then? They resubordinated as independent battery in 2012, converting from Light Gun to LEAPP. Since LEAPP is joint, with RAF personnel, and all about tracking air contacts, it was the plan to have them in the air defence organisation. Where have they ended up to, instead?

    2. Also,

      Can i see any evidence at all of the contrary? It might just be because the resubordination isn't complete yet.


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