Monday, December 15, 2014
A few more force structure updates
In the last few days some more force structure plans have been announced. Firstly, RAF Odiham has now officially said that the Chinook OCU Flight will migrate to RAF Benson next year. This is the "minimum" assured measure, with the possibility of further Chinook elements going to Benson during 2016 as the HC6 comes fully online.
There is not yet a formalized plan to form an additional squadron, though. The Chinook OCU Flight could be put into a new OCU squadron comprising the Puma HC2's own OCU Flight. The use of a new standard, or the standard from one of the disbanding RAF Merlin HC3 squadrons are both possibilities. For now, absorbing the Chinook OCU Flight into one of the two Puma squadrons is another possibility.
My hope (and ultimately my belief) is that one of the standards from the disbanding Merlin force will go to a new 2-type OCU squadron. Of course, this, like everything else, also depends on the next SDSR: if the reports of new huge cuts to come are proven right, there's no telling what will be left after the slaughter.
Meanwhile, the last Chinook HC2 has gone into factory for the upgrade to HC4 back in September 2014. The HC3s are to follow, to be upgraded into HC5s to complete the JULIUS fleet-wide upgrade programme.
Elsewhere, we have finally a clue about the future of the Reserve special forces regiments. Rumors have been circulating for a long while, and now it has been officially announced that both 21 and 23 SAS have re-subordinated to the new Intelligence and Surveilllance brigade. The effect of this move on their status as special forces elements is unclear, but the units are being assigned the new specialized role known as HERA, for Human Environment Reconnaissance and Analysis. The reserve special forces patrols will be required to observe and understand the human dimension of the battlefield.
The same role will in part fall on the Honourable Artillery Company as well. The HAC will still be paired to 5 Regiment Royal Artillery and will keep its Ground Based ISTAR role, operating sensors and counter-artillery radars and providing covert observation patrols.
The covert observation patrols, used to reinforce the capability provided by the regulars of 473 Sphinx Battery, 5 Regiment RA, come from 1 (Special OP) Sqn. These patrols will have a HERA focus as well.
2 Squadron and 3 Squadron are in GB ISTAR role, and are paired with P and 93 Batteries in 5 Regiment RA.
The HAC is also getting back the gun role that it lost a few years ago: a Gun Troop has been reformed, with some 35 men and three L118 Light Guns, to provide a reserve capability to 7 Royal Horse Artillery in the air assault role. 7 RHA has lost its reserve gun battery as part of Army 2020, and is now getting back a small depth thanks to a reserve troop coming from the HAC.
29 Commando Royal Artillery is looking to stand up its own Reserve Artillery Troop, as it suffers the same problem.
Meanwhile, in 104 Logistic Brigade, the 2 Operational Support Group has been formed. Based in Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham, this reserve unit is composed of:
498 Labour Support Unit; which brings specific competencies to manage contractors and locally employed civilians during operations abroad
497 Operational Support Unit; which brings high level logistic planning expertise.
499 Contract Management Unit
Communications Troop; supports deployable field hospitals with a communications capability
Elsewhere in the Reserve, 295 (Hampshire Battery), 106 Regiment RA has formed to operate the Stormer HVM anti-air missile system.
In Germany, as 28 Regiment Royal Engineers is disbanded and the wide wet gap crossing capability moves to the reserves of 75 RE, the 23 Amphibious Engineer Troop is temporarily moving to Minden, in Germany, alongside the german regiment equipped with the same M3 rigs.
Reservists from 75 Regiment will regularly visit the Troop in Germany to train on the M3 on the river Weser, until 23 Amphibious Engineer Troop can move back to the UK, to Halton training camp. The move is planned to take place by November 2016.