Thursday, December 12, 2013

The evolving budget situation: reversing bad decisions

In the previous article, about Force Structure, i've noticed the apparent change in the plan for the formationg of Hybrid Engineer Regiments, and documented the ongoing war for the survival of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment.  
Another bad decision of the rounds of cuts of the year 2011 might be reversed soon, according to what Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment has written to the RTR community: the wide area, under-armor CBRN reconnaissance capability of the Army, sacrificed with the early withdrawal of the FUCHS vehicle and the net loss of 319 Army posts in the CBRN specialisation, as all residual capability in this area was moved out of the green army and into the RAF Regiment. In total, the loss of the 9 armored vehicles and of all the army personnel in the role was only estimate to save £129 million over a period of 10 years.
The Fuchs was hurried into service for Operation Granby in 1991
As often happened in the modern history of the british armed forces, a strategic shock came soon afterwards, reminding everyone of just how stupid the decision just took was. The crisis in Syria, with the use of chemical weapons, accelerated the rethink already going on within the MOD, and added new urgency to the restoration of the wide area CBRN surveillance capability. I talked about it at lenght in June.   

Lieutenant-General Christopher Michael Deverell MBE wrote last month about the ongoing planning for the resurrection of such capability, while providing an update on the plans for the merging of 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments into a single Type 56 tank formation as part of the Army 2020 restructuring: 
A message from the Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment 
My main purpose in writing this message is to cover a number of issues that arise as a result of the amalgamation of our two Regiments. The RTR Council has been looking at these issues, significantly assisted by members of all ranks from both Regiments.   
The amalgamation issue that will affect serving members of the Regiment in the most immediate way is dress. So I am pleased to be able to say that the Commanding Officers and Regimental Colonel have agreed on the key aspects of the new Dress Regulations to be adopted on amalgamation, the details of which will be promulgated separately. Suffice to say that black will continue to feature highly.     
The Council has determined that there are a number of amalgamation issues on which it is not yet possible to reach decisions, in which the status quo will therefore continue for the time being. For example, we have not yet been engaged by the Army or the RAC in substantive discussions about Recruiting Areas – so for the time being we would expect to continue to recruit from the same areas of the country that 1 and 2 RTR recruited from. In similar vein, we have not yet formed a view on the distribution of tasks between Regimental Headquarters in Bovington, and the new Regiment in Tidworth. I will report back on these, and other important issues such as the future of the Tank magazine, and of the Association, when I am in a position so to do. But I am now able to let you know what the Council has decided on Squadron names, and on the degree of Scottishness we should seek to maintain, topics that I know will mean a good deal to many of you.

The Council accepts that some of our antecedent Regiments have a tradition of using letters, rather than names, to describe sub-units. However, with the benefit of our considerable experience, and time served in both Regiments, we believe that Squadron names strengthen sub-unit identity in a positive way and that the ability to name our Squadrons offers the Regiment a significant brand advantage over others. We conclude that the advantages of using names, rather than letters, for all our sub-units outweigh the loss of some historical precedent. 
We have therefore decided that, upon amalgamation, the three armoured squadrons in the Royal Tank Regiment will be known as AJAX, BADGER, and CYCLOPS. Command and Reconnaissance Squadron will be known as DREADNAUGHT, and Headquarters Squadron will be known as EGYPT. Should there be a future CBRN Area Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AS&R) Squadron, it will be known as FALCON. These particular names have been chosen because they represent a connection all the way back to the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps in World War 1, as well as to more recent regimental history.  As far as our Scottish heritage is concerned, the Council is proud of this tradition and recognises the benefit it confers in helping us to differentiate ourselves from others. We would not wish it to dominate, but we see it as a net contributor to recruitment. For so long as it is practicable so to do, we would wish to maintain this historical association. We will achieve this by retaining the Pipes and Drums, by painting ‘Chinese Eyes’ on our tanks, and by applying whatever other aspects of Scottishness that the Commanding Officer of the day so authorises. The practicality of this approach will next be reviewed after the referendum on Scottish independence.   

Finally, I should take this opportunity to say something about the formation of the CBRN AS&R squadron. As I write this message, there is a strong possibility that the RTR will be invited to generate an additional squadron to meet this task, over and above our Type 56 Armoured Regiment role. But the Defence Board has not yet made a final decision, so the task may yet fail to materialise, or (less likely) could be given to some other unit to perform. I have been involved in a host of high levels discussions about this task, both as your Colonel Commandant and as a member of the Army Command Group. My position throughout has been that the Army and Defence need an AS&R capability, that the RTR has demonstrated the ability to provide it, and that we stand ready to do so again. My one proviso has been to say that it would not be sensible to double-hat this capability with that of an armoured sub-unit: it needs to be a squadron in its own right. Hopefully, we will know the outcome on this issue within the next few months. 
Fear Naught.  
Lt Gen C M Deverell MBE                                                                       15 November 2013
Restoring the AS&R capability of the armed forces would be a massively welcome move, which would remedy to one of many very questionable, hurried decisions that were taken in 2010 and 2011. Let's hope in good news, for once. 


  1. Good news, and likely in my opinion.

  2. Gaby

    Yes, I agree - good news if it happens. Do you think that, as an alternative to a RTR-manned CBRN AS&R squadron, it could be managed by the TA (sorry, Reserve)? There are some very able units in the Reserve and the TA was responsible for the Fuchs vehicle in the past. Having said that, the Fuchs was among the first vehicles in action in Gulf War 1 and any unit that manned them would have to be extremely professional.

    1. In theory, all is possible. But when the reserve was involved in CBRN, it was only in support to regulars, Reserves (RAF Regiment reserves, specifically) are still part of the CBRN force in 20 Wing RAF Regiment. However, with just 9 FUCHS or so, this precious capability is best placed with a regular formation that can constantly work it to best effect.

  3. Gaby

    Thanks for the reply, Gaby but where do you get your figure of 9 rather than 11 vehicles? That's what the Army had previously.

    1. I know, they were 11 originally, but apparently had gone down to 9 in the years, for some reason. I don't remember where i read it, though, sorry.

    2. We are down to 8, 2 troops of four. They will be manned by Falcon Squadron RTR at Harlem Lines in Warminster.
      There were only 8 that were upgraded to MM2 and had all the towing and extraction gear.
      From CBRNGuru
      They will be a Divisional asset under the control of the Army.

    3. Funding was confirmed, then? That would be great.

    4. Yes, will be four at a time, DE&S are putting the contract together to allow Rheinmetall to check everything over, plus get them off the RAF Regiment holdings. Even through they did not use them and just stick to IBDS and LRT, but elements of Decon will have to be transferred, funding is well in place to carry out quite a few improvements.
      Doctrine is the big issue, all knowledge just about disappeared, so I reckon it will be start from Scratch again. But FUCHs maybe just an interim capability gap, it has many disadvantages that I have posted here before, whither it survives the Wide Area CBRN Recce and Survey Project starting in 2015 we will have to wait and see.

    5. Well, it will be a good interim solution. We shouldn't have reached this state of things in the first place... Thanks for the info, i appreciate it a lot.

  4. @Cbrn Guru

    I agree with Gabriele that it is great news but a few questions:

    a) Will the squadron concerned be a “dedicated” squadron (dedicated to CBRN, that is), without the need to double up as a more conventional armoured unit? The latter, which would involve “dual training”, would be almost impossible to accomplish, wouldn’t it?

    b) Why would it be the case that knowledge has been lost to the extent you describe? The vehicles were only removed from service a couple of years ago, weren’t they? Surely many of the same personnel are still within the ranks of the RTR.

    c) You suggest that the Fuchs might be only a temporary solution to the problem. Surely any successor would be based on the FRES SV vehicle, wouldn’t it and that won’t be in service until the next decade. Or is there a nearer solution, which the British Army is interested in? If so, what would it be?

  5. Sorry, I meant FRES UV.

    1. To answer your questions MikeW.
      a) Yes that is its only role, I known the 2ic very well, issue being that when they pitched up to be assigned to units i.e. BG’s, Bde’s and Div they (the HQ’s) will think that they (CBRN Sqn) are the complete CBRN capability controlling all of the CBRN capability for that organisation. That is what they will have to sort out, they are only there to Recce and Survey any possible hazardous areas not control CBRN Incident management for that organisation. So BG’s etc will still have to have CBRN Defence cells that can be manned to control assets at source level and to ensure warning and reporting is disseminated correctly. How they work with the LRT’s from the CBRN Defence Wing is still an unknown. My fear is that as usual internal politics get in the way of some Joint Operations and this could be the case with these assets. RAF Regiment personnel running about in an Army controlled operation will be interesting to see and how they are controlled.
      b) That’s exactly what I thought!!! They were handed over to the RAF Regiment late 2011, there were only 5 key FUCHs instructors in the Joint CBRN Regiment at the time. Three have left the military and are in other employment. One has joined a detection company, so that leaves one. Unfortunately this is an open forum so the story behind the last one is not open source and would make you laugh out loud in the sheer incompetence that has happened regarding him. Let’s just say a certain cavalry regiment will be happy to have him and leave it at that.
      c) It’s hard to figure out Mike, I think it is highly unlikely that any vehicle tracked or wheeled are in the running. I known for sure that pie in the sky thinking from certain elements for the Wide Area R&S for CBRN is looking closely at UAV. But FUCHs maybe part of the whole capability. Nothing is off the cards because we are talking about net-working capabilities in this Project. So in reality it may end up being source sensing, mobile sensor arrays, LRT, FUCHs and UAV all networked together to give a more comprehensive picture or CBRN COP as they like to say.

    2. There are going to be generalist CBRN sensors on FRES Scout, networked with the rest of the CBRN layer, if this capability hasn't been shelved in the last year or so. This is, i suppose, part of the possible spread of recce capabilities.

    3. Partly correct, all FRES Scouts will have the ability to mount CBRN sensors. Depending on the operational threat, then a certain amount will be fitted with the capability. Trouble is the sensors are changing, Project B is looking at an all in one chem sense capability. At the moment there is CAM, Colpro CAM, MCAD and LCAD. Rad is also being updated, so mounts are hard to fit with external probes if you do not known what the sensors will be. The concept through is the same as what the Germans do right now. They mount the Smiths LCD on the back of their Puma's for external detection, when the crew or Infantry section dismount they un-clip the LCD and take it with them.

  6. Cbrn Guru

    Thanks very much for your comprehensive, well-informed reply.

    "My fear is that as usual internal politics get in the way of some Joint Operations and this could be the case with these assets. RAF Regiment personnel running about in an Army controlled operation will be interesting to see and how they are controlled."

    Yes, I can see that might be quite a problem.

    I can't really believe that all the key instructors have gone. So you might have to start from scratch again. Surely, though, the main principles and elements of doctrine and knowledge must be well documented?

    Thanks too for the information concerning a successor to Fuchs. I had, in my innocence, assumed it would be another vehicle Surely the MOD/Army will not bring a vehicle back for just a year and a bit and then bin it again after the 2015 Review? Now that would seem like a kind of madness.

  7. MikeW,
    I like your style, you ask some tricky questions.

    I cannot inform in an open forum what the RAF Regiment has done with all the hard and electronic information regarding SOP’s and Doctrine because that could be slanderous. But I can let you guess…..

    FUCHs will be safe for a few years I think. Project A (Wide Area CBRN R&S) has main gate projected at FY16/17 and ISD FY18/19.

  8. Cbrn Guru

    Ta very much for the helpful answers. Note the lowering of tone/style here in the use of "Ta", or perhaps it wasn't that kind of style style you were referring to! Cheers, Mike


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.