Sunday, June 14, 2015

SDSR 2015: solving the problem of hollow army 2020

SDSR 2015 – Issues, analysis and recommendations going towards the review


Solving the problem of hollow army 2020

Royal Air Force 
Royal Navy 

In general, the SDSR 2015 is far more likely to bring more cuts and bad news than it is to bring wisdom. So I fear that trying to reason on how to fix problems is most likely going to be wasted time. But nonetheless, I plan to write about some of the major challenges ahead, and explain what I think should be done to fix Future Force 2020 by making better use of what’s available, and by adding targeted investments in some specific areas.

I’ve decided to start from the army, since it is no mystery that Army 2020, in many areas, has never convinced me. If you’ve been following this space for some time, you are very likely to have read my sometimes harsh critique of certain decisions. Two of the many points I raised from the very beginning have actually been addressed (kind of): the demented decision of sacrificing the CBRN Area Survey and Reconnaissance has been subject to an epic U-turn, and the Fuchs vehicles and related equipment have been brought back into service. Meanwhile, 16 Air Assault brigade has been brought back to a three manoeuvre battalions structure by moving 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles under its command. This in itself does not make 16 Air Assault a viable brigade, since supports (medical, engineer, artillery, logistic…) have all been cut down to Binary structure and there’s no sign that they will be rebuilt (manpower, after all, is not available for that unless something else is cut). Nonetheless, they are steps in the right direction, and they are both things I had been calling for.

Now, let’s go in some detail. About these two changes, and about the remaining other weaknesses of Army 2020 as currently thought out.


Regarding CBRN, unfortunately, the U-turn has come not before a lot of hard won experience has been squandered in an unbelievably stupid way: according to the Royal Tank Regiment, which has been tasked to rebuild CBRN AS&R in its FALCON squadron, the withdrawal of the Fuchs and the passage to a Light Role only CBRN structure in the RAF Regiment has come with the outright cancellation, on the part of Air Command, of most of the documentation about Fuchs operations.
It is difficult to overstate how rushed and stupid such a decision was. FALCON squadron has now embarked on the reconstruction effort, seeking out veterans of the disbanded Joint CBRN Regiment, to get information from them. Germany’s help has also been sought and obtained. The Fuchs training simultator has been brought back into operations and the vehicles themselves are following.

FALCON Squadron is now planning for an establishment of some 80 men and 30 vehicles. The unit will be at permanent Very High Readiness, as AS&R elements are rightfully planned to be an enduring part of the Army’s VANGUARD pool of ready-to-use units. No Whole Fleet Management: the squadron owns 100% of its vehicles, full time, and it is responsible for keeping them going.
There are going to be 4 Sections, each with 2 FUCHS. Earlier reports suggested another would be in HQ squadron for follow-on confirmation of Section findings, and the remaining two would be kept back for evaluation and demonstration purposes. However, there must have been a slight change as apparently one FUCHS is actually going on a plinth to serve as Gate Guardian at the Harman Lines barracks.
The squadron is also receiving 6 COYOTE MEP vehicles fitted out for Command and Control and for Logistic support. The MEP (Military Enhancement Programme) is not the open-top Coyote 6x6 best known these days, but the closed-cockpit, shelter-carrying variant which was originally procured (in 35 units) to serve as prime mover for the SOOTHSAYER EW kit, which was sadly cancelled later on. The mechanical base is more or less the same, the Supacat HMT 600 6x6. Each Fuchs section will receive one MEP, with two held in Echelon Squadron.
A number of Panther CLVs are on the way, while the Multi Purpose Decontamination Systems should have been refurbished and put back in action by this point. For now, they will move on the legacy DROPS trucks, but by 2017 the MAN EPLS trucks will be assigned, presumably becoming the MPDS movers. 

The MEP was originally procured to be the prime mover of the SOOTHSAYER EW system, carried inside the shelter visible in the photo. The cancellation of SOOTHSAYER left 35 vehicles without an immediate use, and a big gap in the Army's EW capability. A gap which has yet to be closed, with the LANDSEEKER programme.

It will be interesting to see what FALCON squadron's MEPs end up looking like. New shelters might be a possibility.
As is to be expected in the British Forces, the chain of command for the squadron is a bit… complex. With the Joint CBRN Regiment gone, FALCON squadron is an additional sub-unit of Royal Tank Regiment. But its actual manager is 22 Royal Engineer regiment, so that the squadron sits under 25 (Close Support) Engineer Group, itself part of 8 Engineer Brigade, controlled by Force Troops Command.
Force Troops Command is responsible for task-generating the AS&R element at Very High Readiness from FALCON Sqn, with the ultimate 4-star owner of FALCON being the Commander, Joint Forces Command. 
Confused? Understandable if you are.  

The FUCHS simulator is back online

With the good news out of the way, the bad ones: even after the U-turn, the long term future of CBRN AS&R is floating in the air more than we all would like. As said elsewhere, FRES Scout brings sensors of its own to help in the wide-area detection of CBRN threats, but what comes after the FUCHS is still uncertain. Apparently, the Army is assuming that UAV-based sensors will take up the role. Not clear if it might be a Watchkeeper role fit equipment one day, or if there will be a specific CBRN UAV, or what.
I’m a bit… unconvinced still by the UAV idea, but as always it is the uncertainty that disturbs the most. It looks pretty likely to me that, barring the eventuality of FUCHS being chopped again (with HMG and the MOD, you never know), FALCON Sqn can expect to work for quite a bunch of years with what it has.

Bringing back some jointery with the now 20 Defence CBRN Wing, RAF Regiment might be desirable for obvious reasons, but the Army has now awakened to the importance of green control over CBRN, and the RAF Regiment on the other hand is unlikely to want to let go of the Defence CBRN scepter without a fight. Watch out for possible incoming mess.

Hollow force

Now for the biggest problem of Army 2020: despite the best efforts of Nick Carter and his team, the political orders about the preservation of capbadges at all costs have forced the adoption of what is, at least in part, a hollow force. 16 Air Assault Brigade itself is an example of hollow force: it is a brigade, but really isn’t. Its supporting elements have been cut down to size, and are now enough (barely) to support the generation of an Air Manoeuvre Battlegroup at VHR readiness, with the sub-units alternating yearly into the role.

3rd Commando brigade has partly suffered the same fate, since it continues to suffer a chronic shortage of engineer support, and, even though harsher cuts have been fought back successfully by Navy Command standing up to the Army, the Artillery element also has suffered indirect reductions (REME, for example) which make the survival of all 3 the batteries (down to just 4 guns each, by the way) somewhat symbolic only.

The “Adaptable Force” is a collection of false brigades to be raided whenever it is time to build an actual deployable one during an enduring operation, with supports having been preserved (partially) to enable the 7 brigades to form just 2, to cover the fourth and fifth 6-month tours in an enduring deployment.
I say “partially” because there are recognized shortages of resources even for achieving this base target, which is the key to achieving the SDSR target of an army capable to sustain a brigade-level operation in enduring fashion.
Specifically, these is a well known and rather dramatic shortage of Royal Signals: the need for them has never been higher, yet their number has been cut and one regiment removed from the count. In the current army structure, not a single signal regiment is aligned with the brigades of the Adaptable Force. Gen. Sir Peter Wall named Logistics and Royal Signals as points of concern in Army 2020 during hearings in front of the Defence Committee, and while presenting the Corps’s future after the SDSR, the Royal Signals’s journal made clear that there is not enough manpower to properly support the brigade-sized enduring operation ambition. 

Royal Signals are precious and more necessary than ever, but their number is currently insufficient to support enduring brigade-sized operations.

Finally, the infantry battalions: the Army was denied the chance to cut more of those, with a firm ceiling put at 5, to prevent the loss of capbadges, notoriously a politically sensible subject. However, the battalions remaining are simply tiny: Light Role battalions have now an establishment of a mere 561 men, all ranks, all trades. This is very, very little indeed, and has been achieved by, among the rest, cutting all companies down from 3 to 2 platoons. A (very) partial mitigation has been obtained by re-distributing the GPMGs of the Machine Gun Platoon into fire support sections assigned to each Rifle Company.
This, at most, partially corrects a long standing deficiency of firepower in british infantry units, by adding a Fire Support Element in each company, like other armies have been doing for many years. But it is a nice dress up for bad news: the machine guns are just removed from the Heavy Weapons Company and reassigned, and the missing platoons remain missing, and they are supposed to come out of the paired reserve regiment. In principle it is a decent idea, but whether the reserve regiments will ever be able to effectively deliver all the pieces needed, is a very big guess to make.
The 561-strong Light Role Battalion should be uplifted to as many as 750 men for deployment, a value better in line with what is found in other NATO armies, the Army says. This in theory requires almost 200 men from the reserve unit, which is a 50% output from regiments which are established for 400. Can it be done?
Ideally, yes. In practice, it seems very, very likely that the regular regiments of the Adaptable Force will be raided far and wide to piece together something that can be deployed.
This makes the Adaptable Force very virtual indeed, with a realistic output which is a small fraction of what would be expected by reading a list of 7 brigade HQs, 3 cavalry regiments (+ 3 Reserve) and some 15 infantry battalions (+ 13 of the Reserve; 1st SCOTS and the Royal Gurkha Rifles don’t even have a paired reserve unit).

To me, this is a hollow force. There’s an acute shortage of Signals; enough supports for 2 brigades at most; a whole lot of questionable, under strength infantry battalions and the elite brigades which are handicapped by lack of a few hundred men in support roles.
It is pretty clear to me that this is not what 82.000 regulars could and should deliver. Infantry battalions, even understrength, are never useless, but it is clear that actual military value comes, at the lowest level, from battlegroups and then brigades.
Brigades, comprising of infantry, cavalry, signals, artillery, logistics, REME, medical and intelligence, are the main element of power for the army. And by associating support sub-units and infantry, they can produce battlegroups.

A very honest and in depth look must be given to the other 2-star commands in Army 2020: are a 2-star London District and a 2-star UK Support Command actually needed on top of the 2 divisions plus JRRF?
Can’t the London District and UK Support Command be combined into a single non-deployable Division HQ? I think it is more doable and less damaging than other cuts we have seen. The resulting Divisional HQ could control a couple of non-deployable brigades: Guards Bde, for the Public Duty units in London, and 11 Infantry Bde as administrator for the units posted to Brunei, Cyprus and for the Falklands Infantry Company. 

The Army will dismiss it as heresy, but i would also suggest tough questions about the ARRC. Is it justified? Is it a good use of precious Signals specialists and of manpower in general? The UK, Italy, France, Germany and Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Spain... each have one NATO Corps 3-star HQ. But by now, in Europe, there are not enough deployable brigades, and even less Divisions, to form Corps. 
Sometimes i read of people saying that the Royal Navy's carriers are a "vanity project". I couldn't agree less. If there is a vanity project within NATO, is the ridiculous number of deployable 3-star HQs. I would suggest the ARRC is an ultimate vanity item: it is there so there is a capability to go in the field and command a big badass Corps of multiple divisions. 
The divisions to build the Corps up aren't really there, but everyone gets a Corps HQ. Read this list without laughing: 

These headquarters are multinational, but are sponsored and paid by one or more ‘framework nations’ who provide the bulk of the headquarters’ personnel, equipment and financial resources.  The United Kingdom is the framework nation of the ARRC, while France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey have sponsored the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps France, Greece Italy, Spain and Turkey, respectively. Germany and the Netherlands share costs for the German-Netherlands Rapid Deployable Corps, while Denmark, Germany and Poland are the three framework nations of the Multinational Corps Northeast and Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain are the Eurocorps framework nations.  Romania is currently establishing a Multinational Division Headquarters for south-eastern Europe, which is expected to be operational by 2016.

Neat, huh? 
Perhaps it is time to shift the precious resources down to "lowly" deployable divisions. It will not seem much at first, but getting back a Signals regiment for use with actual deployable brigades would actualy do a world of good...  

I will stop short, in this article, of assuming the disbandment of ARRC and re-roling of 22 Signal Regiment, but i want to write it here: it might really be time to consider it.

How many infantry battalions?  

Solving the problem entirely is always going to be very problematic, as there are other considerations that need to be made. One of the UK’s battalions is committed in Brunei and is kind of out of the scope. Two more are routinely committed in Cyprus: one as garrison, one as Theatre response unit, forward positioned for action in the Med and Middle East.
Two more, plus elements of a third, get swallowed up by the Public Duties in London, with 5th SCOTS - Balaklava company in Edinburgh.
Another battalion is a Ranger-type unit, the SOF backup to the Special Forces proper.

This means that a minimum of 6 battalions are committed outside of a notional brigade-level Force Generation Cycle. There are also political (and in lesser measure military) considerations that dictate the presence in both Wales and Northern Ireland of regional brigade HQs and of at least a battalion.
Assuming an ideal force structure made up by 16 Air Assault brigade, 3 Armoured Infantry Brigades and 3 Medium/Light brigades, the minimum number of infantry battalions needed is 27.
That is four less than the current 31, and includes 3 battalions for 16AA, 18 for the 6 “line” brigades, and 6 for the other tasks. The Light Brigades would have to forcefully “lack” two or three battalions as these would be based in Northern Ireland and Wales, and under daily control of brigade HQs in those regions.
Effectively, they would however be part of the force generation cycle for the three Light deployable brigades.
Two of the current 7 brigade HQs would also be cut.

A cut of 4 battalions, while keeping the 82.000 men target, would release some 2250 invaluable regular positions, which would shift out of the infantry to go to supports. Some reserve manpower would also be made available for other uses, while there would be no more unpaired regiments.
The problem is even these numbers would not be quite enough to obtain the ideal force structure.

Brigades first

The ideal structure for the British Army, in my opinion at least, would have two Deployable Division HQs, each with 3 deployable brigades and with 16 Air Assault in addition. 3rd Division would not need to change from how it is now, while 1st Division would lose 2 subordinate brigade HQs and four regular infantry battalions in favor of uplifted supports. The Divisional HQ itself would need a manpower uplift to be restored to deployable status. Currently, it is envisaged as deployable only with augmentation, within the scenario of an enduring operation. 
The actual doctrinal work made alongside the Army 2020 restructuring has concluded that it is absolutely desirable to have effective 2-star HQs that can sit between the brigade in the field and the MOD / Government back in London. The Brigade HQ can so focus on the tactical side and on the combat operations, while the Division takes care of the strategy and of higher level management. 

Obtaining a third light brigade (as we said, elements for two such brigades are already available) for 1st Division and restoring 16 AA and 3rd Cdo to actual brigade efficiency would require significant additional Signals, plus reinforcements to the support units in 16 AA and 3 Commando. The third of the Light brigades would need to gain a hybrid artillery regiment, a hybrid engineer regiment, a hybrid medical regiment, a REME and a Logistic regiments.
The biggest manpower drain would come from new Royal Signals regiments, followed by the new RLC regiment and by the engineer. The Artillery would be relatively better placed as the regular regiments in the Adaptable Force already have an additional Tac Gp battery which could migrate to the new hybrid regiment.
Existing Adaptable Artillery Regiments (4 Royal Artillery and 3 Royal Horse Artillery) would be split to supply 2 gun batteries to each of the three new hybrid regiments, which would each have two regular gun batteries, a regular Tac Gp battery and 2 reserve gun batteries.
The number of reserve batteries would remain unchanged from now: the current two reserve Light Gun regiments would be removed and their batteries reassigned. The regulars would instead have to provide an additional RHQ and two additional gun batteries.

The Adaptable Force currently has two Hybrid Engineer Regiments. Under my restructuring suggestion, each gains a second reserve sqn. They were already technically planned to have 2 reserve squadrons each, but this was to be achieved only by taking control of the reserve Commando and Parachute engineer squadrons. This most evidently made very little operational sense, and the decision was changed, with 299 PARA and 131 Cdo now due to joint respectively 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment.
A third hybrid engineer regiment would be required, with 2 regular and 2 reserve squadrons. The additional Engineer reserve would use part of the manpower freed by adjusting the number of infantry battalions.
The situation is identical on the Medical front, with two hybrid regiments that would need to be supplemented, ideally, by a third.
There are also two RLC regiments in the Adaptable Force, with a third needed for the third brigade.

The Royal Signals factor is worth a better look: currently, the regular regiments are roled as follows:

-          1 Sig Regt is principally aligned to 20 Armd Inf Bde and provides deployable communications for operations
-          16 Sig Regt is principally aligned to 12 Armd Inf Bde and provides deployable communications for operations
-          21 Sig Regt is principally aligned to 1 Armd Inf Bde and provides deployable communications for operations

-          2 Sig Regt provides general support communications services to the Reaction Force Division HQ and to the Reaction Force Logistic Brigade

-          3 Sig Regt provides general support communications services to the Reaction Force Division HQ and to the Reaction Force Logistic Brigade

-          10 Sig Regt provides specialized deployable support, including ECM (Force Protection)
-          15 Sig Regt provides Level 3 support for delivered and deployable CIS
-          14 Sig Regt (EW) provides electronic warfare teams
-          11 Sig Regt is the training unit
-          18 Sig Regt delivers communications to the Special Forces units

-          22 Sig Regt provides communications and data for the ARRC HQ

-          30 Sig Regt has a mixed role. 1 sqn is committed to ARRC alongside 22 Regt; 1 sqn (244 Sqn) is the air support role, providing communications to the Support Helicopter Force; the remaining two squadrons deliver HQ infrastructure and communications for the deployable HQ of the UK Joint Rapid Response Force

There is no regiment aligned with Adaptable Force brigades. As said in other occasions, the brigade signal squadrons, no longer sufficient on their own, have been removed from the army’s brigades and absorbed into the regiments. The so-called Multi Role Signal Regiments are meant to provide theatre-wide networking and communications points. The signal units no longer provide Life Support to the brigade HQs. The change is one of the most noticeable in the whole of Army 2020, and the Army is still experimenting and working on defining how deployable HQs will be resourced, structured, deployed and supported in the future. The final outcome depends also on the choices that will be made on LeTacCIs (Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems), which is in practice the replacement for the Bowman radio and data infrastructure, supposed to deliver around the middle of the 2020s.
Whatever the outcome, it seems evident that, at a very minimum, 7 Royal Signals Regiment needs to be resurrected as a Multi Role Signal Regiment aligned with the brigades in 1st Division. As the divisional HQ is brought back to deployable status, one between 2 and 3 Sig Regts would also move to support it.
One single additional regiment might well not be enough, moreover. As we know, the Army works to a 1 in 5 rule, which means that 5 brigade-aligned regiments are necessary to ensure that an enduring deployment of one brigade can actually be supported. The “ideal” force structure would have to include a careful study on the need for communications and networking in brigade operations, so that each deployable brigade receives the support it needs, adjusting the regiments again as necessary.

Restoring 16 AA brigade to a true 3-battalions structure will also require an additional troop and other uplifts within 216 Parachute Signal Squadron, the one and only remaining signal unit which is organic to its brigade and which also maintains a life support role in the field.
16 Air Assault would also need to uplift to 3 subunits each its artillery, engineer, logistic and medical units.Currently, it has a two-companies organisation in all of these areas.

16 AA could use a Reconnaissance and Surveillance Sqn of its own, incorporating the Pathfinder Platoon and adding a bit more land-manoeuvre capability, considering that it has lost the support of D Sqn, Household Cavalry. One solution might be to stand up a Command Support formation, like 30 Commando IX in 3 Commando Brigade. This unit would include the brigade recce squadron, the HQ support and 216 Signal Sqn, plus the other supporting elements task-generated by Force Troops Command (vSHORAD missile troop, RMP troop, EW team…).

3rd Commando would need an uplift to its engineer regiment (it has been planned since 2008, but never really happened) by restructuring on 54, 59 and an additional (56) Sqn. Sub-units within 3rd Commando and 16 AA should continue to have an even split of capabilities among them, as they will continue to rotate into Very High Readiness, as well as training to support a possible brigade-level deployment.

Ideal, minus

The “ideal” force structure is not achievable within the manpower and budget figures of Army 2020, so a bit more change is actually going to be required to go as close as possible to it. One possible solution is having only 2 “full” (complete with supports) brigades in 1st Division. The manpower margin from the removal of 4 infantry battalions would be used to reinforce 3rd Cdo and 16 AA, and to remove the worst weaknesses, principally the lack of Signals for the “light brigades”. It is not enough to do more.
The result would be a non laughable 5 “true” brigades, plus para and commando brigades, and some additional infantry battalions. It would still be better balanced than Army 2020 as currently envisaged.

Another option is the removal of 3 further light infantry battalions from the ORBAT, and the transfer of the Heavy Protected Mobility battalions from the Armoured Infantry Brigades to the Light/Medium brigades.
The Heavy brigades would lose their wheeled element, focusing on tracks only. They would have only two infantry regiments each, but of course, they include the tank regiment as third manoeuvre unit.
The Light/Medium brigades would each have one Heavy wheeled battalion, and two light wheeled battalions (with Foxhound vehicles). The Heavy brigades would become somewhat “lighter”, shifting part of their support train to the “light” division.
With this additional sacrifice of a further 1680 infantry posts, more manpower could be moved towards support units, to build up the elements needed to have 3 brigades in both Divisions, plus full supports for 16 AA and 3 Cdo.
I tend to support this option more, since having two complete divisions, one specializing in heavy & tracked and one on Wheeled and Light/Medium is the most balanced option. This way there are two harmonic force generation cycles going on at any one time, and two brigades available. These two brigades at readiness can then be combined to deploy a single, larger, mixed brigade to a single theatre, or be deployed separately to better achieve the Defence Planning assumption of two contemporary dispersed operations.

One remaining problem for consideration is the higher cost of some support elements, primarily, once more, the Signals, due to their special training and equipment. Although the manpower count remains the same, the cost might well increase. Whole Fleet Management and other carefully thought out measures might be necessary to fit into the budget.

Cutting so many infantry battalions would cause a capbadge outcry rarely seen before, and is not something that I suggest with any pleasure. And it is most clearly something that could ever happen only with a government and Army leadership with some serious courage.
I make the proposal, despite the clear difficulties it would imply, because in an age of cuts and shrinkage, all the manpower available must be used to deliver actual effect, not to keep alive scrawny battalions purely to preserve symbols. Symbols are immensely important, but if we continue on this course at some point the regiments will have the strength of companies and the brigades will be battalions, and without supports to add insult to injury.
A working brigade is always to be preferred to a great number of disjointed light role battalions, in my opinion. The usefulness that can be squeezed out of a brigade is countless times superior.

In the wake of Army 2020 there has been a great amount of talking about flexibility, adaptability, task-organizing, centralization and other catchwords which, again in my opinion, make little actual sense 90% of the time.
For all the innovation we might try and achieve, the army remains a construction made of brigades. At the end of the day, for any operation of any kind of complexity, it will be necessary to put in the field a communications network and a command and control HQ; ground units for combat and seizing of terrain, artillery support, logistic support, equipment repair and support, medical support, engineer support, plus police, air defence, EOD etcetera. The Adaptable Force and Force Troops Command are no revolutions and no great adaptability innovations. There is nothing more adaptable than a brigade complete of its supports, to which higher commands can require to task-generate battlegroups for the need at hand. There might be some merit to centralization of support elements into their own brigades to oversee administration and training in an organic way, but that is about it. Force Troops Command can certainly stay, but the balance of infantry to supports needs to change if Army 2020 is to be a realistic fighting force and not a paper tiger.

Combat Aviation Brigade?

Personally, I would also recommend the formation of a Combat Aviation Brigade to unify, not just at 2-star administrative level (JHC), but at the daily working level, the crucially important aviation elements.
In practice, the Combat Aviation Brigade would take the Chinook and Puma squadrons of the Support Helicopter Force, and organize them into regiments.
The brigade would be structured as follows:

-          244 Signal Squadron (Air Support)
-          1st Army Air Corps Regiment (4 Wildcat Sqns)
-          3rd Army Air Corps Attack Helicopter Regiment (2 Apache Sqns)
-          4th Army Air Corps Attack Helicopter Regiment (2 Apache Sqns)
-          1st Support Helicopter Regiment (2 Chinook, 1 Puma Sqn)
-          2nd Support Helicopter Regiment (2 Chinook, 1 Puma Sqn)
-          Aviation Support Regiment RLC (would be built by bringing together the existing 132 Avn Sqn RLC and the Tactical Supply Wing to organize a complete ground-support formation for the combat and support helicopters)
-          7 REME (existing 2nd line aviation support teams, reinforced by taking in the RAF Support Helicopter ground elements where applicable)

The Combat Aviation Brigade would be assigned, alongside with 16 AA and 3 Cdo, to the Permanent Joint HQ, specifically to the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. Not just for deployment, but routinely.
The brigade would be tasked with supporting a binary Force Generation Cycle, in which, each year, a Support Helicopter Regiment, an Attack Regiment and 2 Wildcat Sqns are put at very high readiness, alongside the relevant package of ground support elements from RLC, REME and Signals.
In my opinion this would help in obtaining the most out of the very significant Air Manoeuvre fleet of some 60 Chinook and 24 Puma HC2. The regiments at readiness would primarily support the Air Assault Task Force and the Lead Commando Group. Like it is planned for the 2 Apache squadrons at readiness, the 2 Chinook squadrons at readiness would focus one on the Air Assault Task Force and one on shipboard ops with the Commando battlegroup.
The Commando Helicopter Force would remain responsible for providing one Merlin HC4 squadron at readiness for the Commando Battlegroup, plus 847 NAS with its Wildcat for the shipboard side of operations.

The training units would sit outside the Combat Aviation Brigade, as well as the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing. The Chinook force, once at full strength, would be organized on 4 “line” squadrons of around 12 machines each (HC4 and HC6), with 6 Chinooks assigned to the joint Puma-Chinook OCU (28(R) Sqn, which will stand up soon in RAF Benson, once 28 is disbanded from its current form as Merlin HC3 squadron) and with the 8 HC5 assigned to 7 Sqn, inside the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing.The HC5, with the ""fat" fuselage with the enlarged fuel tanks, was originally procured for SF work. Once upgraded and even retrofitted with Digital Flight Control, i would suggest it finally is assigned to the mission it was originally procured to do.

7 REME currently includes also the 8 Parachute REME Field Company, which is the equipment support element of 16 Air Assault Brigade. I would finally split the two units, which are already located in completely different bases and doing pretty different jobs, forming 8 Parachute REME.

Summary of Changes

2 deployable division HQs, plus JRRF HQ

1 less 2-Star HQ,

1 Combat Aviation Brigade added by regrouping existing resources, splitting Chinook force in homogeneous squadrons grouped in Support Helicopter Regiments

Regular manpower total unchanged or slightly inferior to current target

24 Regular Infantry Battalions (2 PARA, 1 Air Mobile, 6 Armoured, 3 Heavy Protected Mobility, 6 Light Protected Mobility, 1 SFSG, 5 Light Role)  -  Down from 31, with removal of 7 Light Role battalions

Restructure 3 RHA and 4 RA into Hybrid Artillery Regiments, each with 1 Tac Gp Bty, 2 Gun Batteries and 2 Reserve Gun Batteries; add a third regiment of the same type

Form a third hybrid Engineer Regiment

Form an additional Hybrid Medical Regiment

Form an additional REME Close Support formation

Form an additional RLC Brigade Support formation

Rebuild the third sub-unit within 16 Air Assault’s support regiments

Build a Command Support formation within 16 Air Assault Brigade 

Split 7 REME and 8 Parachute Company; uplift strenght of the latter to support 16 Air Assault brigade in its roles

Form up to 3 Multi Role Signal Regiments for the brigades of 1st Division

Total Reserve manpower target maintained or possibly decreased

11 instead of 13 reserve infantry battalions

Remove 2 Reserve Artillery Regiments, spreading their batteries evenly across 3 Hybrid Reg-Res Regiments (4 RA, 3 RHA and another to be formed)

Add 4 Reserve Engineer Squadrons (one to 21 Engineer Regiment; one to 32 Engineer Regiment; 2 to a new Hybrid Regiment to be formed)

Reorganize Reserve Medical Regiments to account for a third Hybrid Regiment (2 Sqns to be assigned to it)

The resulting 1st Division will have all the pieces necessary to support a 3-year Force Generation Cycle of three wheeled brigades. Up to three battalions will however be geographically and administratively assigned to 160 and 38 Infantry brigades (Wales and Northern Ireland), while being part of the force generation cycle under 51, 4 and 7 brigades.

Each brigade will be able to field:

-          1 Light Cavalry Regiment + Reserve
-          1 Heavy Protected Mobility battalion
-          2 Light Protected Mobility battalions + reserve
-          1 Hybrid Artillery Regiment
-          1 Hybrid Engineer Regiment
-          1 Hybrid Medical Regiment
-          1 RLC Force Support Regiment
-          1 REME Equipment Support Battalion

The Armoured Infantry Brigades will have:

-          1 Heavy Cavalry Regiment
-          1 Tank Regiment
-          2 Armoured Infantry Battalions
-          1 Heavy Artillery Regiment
-          1 Armoured Engineer Regiment
-          1 Armoured Medical Regiment
-          1 RLC Close Support regiment
-          1 RLC Theatre Support Regiment
-          1 Armoured Close Support REME Battalion

16 Air Assault and 3 Commando will both be again able to deploy as complete brigades. The availability of 3 sub-units per role will greatly ease the constant provision of a battlegroup at Very High Readiness.

16 Air Assault Brigade will include:

-          1 Command Support Battalion (Identity to be determined; will have a Reconnaissance and Surveillance squadron combining Pathfinder Platoon with patrol troops with a cavalry role; 216 Signal Sqn plus the supporting elements force generated from 14 EW Signal Regiment, 33 EOD and others)
-          2 Parachute battalions. The para companies will rotate into Very High Readiness.
-          1 Air Mobile Battalion (Gurkha). Gurkhas will not be trained to parachute, but will help generate the 2 air mobile companies at very high readiness, spreading the work load across 3 battalions instead of just 2.
-          1 Parachute artillery regiment on 3 Batteries (+ HAC Gun Troop as reserve), each combining all functions, so that they can routinely alternate into VHR
-          1 parachute engineer regiment on 3 squadrons (+ 299 Squadron reserve), each combining all functions, so that they can routinely alternate into VHR
-          1 parachute logistic regiment with 3 Air Assault squadrons to rotate into VHR, plus Air Despatch and Log Sp squadrons
-           1 parachute medical regiment with 3 air assault medical squadrons to rotate into VHR, plus support
-          156 Provost Company, 4 RMP Regimen, on three troops
3 Commando stays basically as it is, with one squadron added to 24 Commando Engineer Regiment (54, 56, 59 + 131 Reserve) and reinforcements given to stabilize the 3 sub-units mechanism in the rest of the support elements. 29 Commando Royal Artillery already plans to establish a Reserve gun troop.

Adding also the output of the Combat Aviation Brigade the Army’s VANGUARD pool would include, each year:

-          1 Armoured Infantry Brigade
-          1 wheeled “medium-light” brigade
-          1 Commando battlegroup with full supports plus 1x Apache Sqn, Chinook and Wildcat support and 1 Merlin HC4 sqn
-          1 air assault battlegroup with 1x Apache Sqn, 1+ Chinook Sqn, 1 Puma Squadron, 1 / 2 Wildcat squadrons

Force Troops Command would continue to add CBRN, EOD, STA, UAV batteries, theatre entry logistics, VSHORAD and Local Area Air Defence and so on. 


  1. Magnificent Gabriele.

    Love the Combat Aviation Brigade, almost a recreation of the old Royal Flying Corps. The RAF will want compensating though, or the inter service rivalries would rear their head again.

    1. The RAF would continue to man Chinook and Puma squadrons, so hopefully there's no need for a war. I see it as a step forwards from the current JHC arrangements.

  2. Can you please cite your sources for the CBRN Squadron, or it's just hearsay.

    1. I could, but i won't. Go back to insulting me on your hate-filled little webpage, and stop coming here for information.

  3. The Army 2020 Adaptable Force/London District/Support Command, etc., etc. structure seemed like an exercise in keeping as many senior posts as possible as well as cap badges. Have you heard anything more of the stories that the new CoS Army is looking to reduce these drastically?


    1. No, i did not hear anything else about that after the first news reports.

  4. Really don't like the armoured Infantry Brigade setup they really need a third battalion.

    1. But how do you do that without additional resources? Something else has to give.
      If there were more Challenger 2s available, i'd suggest mixing it up like in american BCTs, combining 2 tank companies and 2 armoured infantry companies in each battalion. That would give 3 combined arms manoeuvre battalions. But tanks aren't there for doing that. Warriors aren't there for additional armoured infantry; and sheer manpower isn't there to do everything. One brigade set has to be sacrificed, either way, to obtain 3 battalions in the armoured infantry brigades.

    2. Karl - I am not following. Even if there was available resource (whcih there isn't), no other contemporary army has amoured brigades with more than 4 manouver batallions. Indeed most have only 3. 1 recon, 1 tank and 2 armoured infantry is the optimal size and reduces logistical complexity too, by removing a whole set of vehicles from the brigade.

    3. my comment was more of a rant at the general state of the army now than anything, The Structure of the brigade makes the best use of what we have left. I just think that the armoured Infantry Brigade could do with it own reserve infantry battalion as a just incase measure.

    4. Gabrielle - I have been giving your comment above some more thought. In the current structure an armoured brigade has 1 recon regiment (4 companies), 1 tank regiment (4 companies - 58 Chall 2s) and 2 armoured infantry batallions (6 warrior companies). Your US Heavy BCT really does seem very attractive if the resources could be secured. Each would require 1 recon squadron, 2 tank squadrons and 2 infantry companies. In effect we would be looking at an increase of 1 cav squadron per brigade and finding 26 more Chall 2s per brigade. It really would make a difference to have that strcuture - to the point that one might make the argument that we should drop the recon regiment and just have the 3 heavy BCTs? That would resolve the manpower problem and also cut down on the need for Scout SVs? Just a thought, which I agree is drifting into fantasy fleets.

    5. The reconnaissance regiment has 3 Sabre squadrons, the other are support, HQ and other bits and pieces.

      The tank regiments now are Type 56, with 56 tanks each, spread in 3 squadrons of 18 tanks. Each squadron has 4 troops of 4 tanks, and 2 tanks in the HQ element. A further 2 tanks in RHQ give the total of 56.

      I would not want to see the reconnaissance regiment changed (indeed, i think the US are increasing the current squadron in their BCTs, as it is obviously not enough), unless it is to effectively lose any combat value moving over to a recce by stealth only approach.

      It would take additional tanks and Warriors to adopt a three battalion BCT-like structure with 2 tank companies and 2 infantry companies in each battalion, so it does not solve the problem of finite resources. It would however give an equal spread of tanks and infantry resorces to form three battlegroups. Experiences in BATUS with the current structure of the armoured infantry brigades has shown (as it was to be expected) that there are not enough tanks to properly support all battlegroupings.

    6. Thank you - I had assumed we had moved back to the old type-58 MBT regiment - most informative. Given the resources available then it looks like the best that will be achieved for each battlegroup is 1 recon squadron, 1 MBT squadron and then whatever armoured infantry can be provided per battlegroup (I assume 1-2 companies max). Not ideal, from an MBT perspective, but as you say, the most reality is likely to provide.

    7. Apologies Gabriele, but I have been giving your response around the idea of moving to US style armoured batallion combat teams with 2 armour squadrons and 2 infantry companies in each. The more I think about this the more I like the idea and I am not sure I am following the lack of resources point, other than in MBTs. If you think about it we currently have 3 MBT and 6 armoured infantry batallions. To achieve 9 BCT batallions what we are talking about is an increase in MBT squadrons (and hence an increase in Chall 2s), but a decline in armoured infantry companies (and hence a decrease in Warriors). I would also certainly not expect an overall increase in manpower requirements, indeed potential a slight decline. More than happy to understand your rationale if different, but the real show stoppers to this would appear to be - 1/ Overcoming the Army's apparent dislike of MBTs and 2/ Overcoming the likely howls of protest over the introduction of a whole new permanent batallion type which combines cavalry and infantry - you can imagine the arguments there - one assumes that the 9 "names" would simply be 3 historic cavalry regiments and 6 historic infantry batallions.

  5. Brilliant Gabriele. Without a shadow of doubt this is the structure (given the resources available - which as you note are NOT going to increase, so no fantasy fleets!) that the British Army (and Marines) requires. A fantastic article and one I wish beyond hope that the MOD would read and implement....

  6. As always a most thought-provoking article which displays a lot of common sense. There is still some fat to be removed from the Army's structure such as Support Command and the Regional Brigades. I have never had a sensible answer to the question what is the role of Support Command, and what is the division of responsibility between that command and the brigades. On these we await General Carter's much needed cuts-if he can achieve them.
    The most problem which you acknowledge is the inadequate size and power of the Adaptable Force infantry battalions. I suspect that the reductions will not be achieved because the politicians lack the will-power to take on the vested interests which are usually described as the cap-badge mafia [if you will excuse the use of that term.] If you look at the current infantry structure there are several components which are virtually untouchable because of the public opinion which would be mobilised in their defence-can you imagine the outcry if there any cuts to the Guards, the Gurkhas, or the Rifles. For different political reasons it would be difficult to cut any more battalions from the Royal Regt. of Scotland. As Wales and Northern Ireland are already down to a single battalion each, then any cuts would fall on English 'county' regiments which have borne the brunt of cuts in the past. So much as I would welcome a solution along the lines you suggest, I am a wee bit pessimistic as to whether any change of this sort will happen.

    1. Well, it is pretty obvious that it won't happen. More battalions might be cut, but if they are, it will be almost certainly because the army is being chopped down to an even smaller size, not because they want to solve the hollow-force problem... But i had been meaning to write this for a while, and at least discuss the issue, and put out my suggestion for how to improve things.

  7. Hi Gabriele, for Falcon Sqn you are pretty much spot on, a few things are not quite right, but I will check to see if I can put them in the public domain.

    1. Any detail you can share or update you can provide is always very welcome. Look forwards to anything you can tell. Thank you.

  8. Gaby,

    Fascinating article. Yes, I remember the development of the MEP. It was, as you say, originally procured to be the prime mover of the SOOTHSAYER EW system. It was also, if memory serves me correctly, planned to carry the FALCON communications system. Good that it is finally seeing service. As there were 35 vehicles procured originally, perhaps it may be put to other uses too.

    “What comes after the FUCHS is still uncertain. Apparently, the Army is assuming that UAV-based sensors will take up the role. Not clear if it might be a Watchkeeper role fit equipment one day, or if there will be a specific CBRN UAV, or what.
    I’m a bit… unconvinced still by the UAV idea,”

    Yes, I am more than somewhat puzzled by that concept too. UAV sensors could do part of the job, but not all that a specialized ground vehicle can do surely ? (detecting, collecting samples, analyzing them etc, etc, all under armoured protection). However, it is a specialized area and I do not know enough about it, although Cbrn Guru has been very helpful in the past.

    1. The flirt with FALCON was short lived, i think, with the choice quickly falling on the HX-60 MAN SV. For sure, the HMT 600 / MEP was the mechanical base of the LIMAWS artillery systems, both GMLRS and M777 Portee. Another programme which went nowhere, as we know...

  9. Great post Gab and i pretty much agree with all you've said!

    82,000 isn't a huge amount to play with, but even so it should be providing more than a Reaction Division (which is to be fair well organized on paper), a very hollowed out 16 AA brigade and a confused mix of leftover light battalions and other bits and pieces dumped in the AF without enough support elements to ever use more than a handful of them in any meaningful way.

    Agreed that the major stumbling block on which any change to Army 2020 depends is the cutting of more infantry battalions, and thus cap-badges. It is pretty laughable that we are seeing units of 500 or so men and 2 instead of 3 platoons. As you say, if the Reserves can augment and top them up in wartime then i guess that's not too bad...but it's a big if.

    Sadly we all know cap-badges continue to be the disproportionate and irrational focus, which is why cutting another 4 or so and using the equivalent manpower to balance out the badly depleted support elements, which badly needed, won't happen. Give it another 5-10 years and we'll see every regiment fielding a single battalion with barely 500 soldiers.

    In an ideal world i'd concur with having 3 reaction brigades in 1 division, 3 medium 'wheeled' brigades in a 2nd, plus 16 AA (and 3 CDO).

    However that is probably a bit too ambitious for an Army of 82,000 regulars. 2 medium brigades, would as you say, be a decent compromise.

    I'd question whether a 2nd divisional HQ is required though? The British Army can't/won't deploy more than 1 complete division on active ops, so why can't any medium brigades purely exist as self contained combat formations which can act independently or slot into a composite divisional force under 3 Div HQ if necessary?

    Getting rid of ARRC, having a separate brigade to control the Brueni, Cyprus and Falklands deployments and keeping some sort of Support Command Regional Brigades all seem sensible ideas though.

    1. One of the actual "strategic" conclusions of Army 2020 studies (and there are several bits of good thinking, despite the mess) is that it will be more and more desirable to have a 2-Star HQ between HMG and the deployed forces, even if a single brigade is in the field. This removes a lot of pressure from the brigade HQ, which can better focus on the actual operation, while Division pulls the strings and faces the relationship with the higher ups. Army 2020 puts a lot of focus on Divisional role, but then, in the practice, falls short of achieving the means to go with the doctrine. That's why a second division is needed, to have a better, enduring ability to have that 2-star layer available and ready.

  10. Gaby,

    I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "Hybrid" Artillery and Engineer regiments in 1st Division, especially in terms of kit.

    For instance, the Artillery regiments would almost certainly not be the Heavy Artillery regiment of 3rd Division, with their AS90/GMLRS/Exactor combinations, would they? So Light Guns plus what? Or were you referring to Regular/Reserve formations?

    Similarly would Engineer regiments be a mixture of bridging, plant and mine warfare units or again were you referring to the idea of Regular/Reserve combination? Maybe I have missed something?

    1. Hybrid refers to units which are part Reserve. Tipically, RHQ and 2 companies / batteries / squadrons are made of regulars, and a further two companies / batteries / squadrons are composed of reserves. To deploy one sub-unit of reserve, you need at least 2 sub-units just due to the planning assumption about how often reservists can deploy. It is also a good thing to have considerably larger than normal sub-units, due to the fact that not all the personnel in them will be able / willing to deploy.

      In terms of equipment, 1st Division would stay much as it is now, with artillery using the L118. The engineers would have the usual mix of capabilities, on wheeled platforms (HMEE, REBS, ABLE, a few Terriers perhaps)

  11. Gabriele,
    Thanks for another great post and very interesting ideas.
    In my own humble opinion,
    a. I agree with cutting the number of infantry battalions.
    b. Public duties must be reduced, 2 battalions and 2 companies if far to much, who else has that much of its infantry on such duties?
    c. I would suggest that we reduce from a brigade to a battle group for any long term deployment.
    d. The problem of keeping the deployable battalions at full strength still needs to be addressed.
    e. I do not agree with rotating the 2 battalions deployed in Cyprus.
    In my view one should be a Gurhka the other a Commando if we have to have two there?


    1. Reducing public duty might be possible, but it will reduce the army's visibility to the public, and this is not desirable, that's why i'm wary of messing too much with that. Cyprus i see as a strategic committment, and using Commando units is out of the question as the 3 Commando groups already are busy as it is, especially since the disbandment of P Sqn and the need to draw ship security teams from the line commandos.

      As for reducing to only battlegroup deployable strenght, that is what will happen if there are further cuts. But it is the end of Britain as a nation with any kind of actual power. What you propose is a dramatic ambition downsizing.

    2. Thanks for reply Gabriele.
      In my view,
      a. Visibility to the public is a poor 2nd to national defence.
      b. There is no need for two battalions in Cyprus.
      c. On the subject of the RAF regiment, what's its role?
      You cannot cut the army to 82000 and have the same capability as before. It's my humble opinion that everyone should except this and plan for what the army can do.

  12. Latest talk I heard about SDSR2015 was that the Army will loose all its helicopters to the RAF but in return the RAF Regiment will transfer to the Army. Probably just speculation but any thoughts as to whether this would be a good or bad move?

    1. For me, it would be very, very bad. The place of the helicopters is in the army, not in the Air Force. It is the very anomaly that has made Joint Helicopter Command necessary in the first place.

  13. Everything boils down to national ambition. We are a P5 UNSC member and one of the worlds biggest economies. We are also a self proclaimed nuclear power. What politician would openly belittle a country by saying "we don't want any of that" ? They won't, but they have an agenda and are quite happy to have their cake and eat it!

    Money should also not be an issue. Spending vast sums on the EU every year and ring fencing overseas aid at 0.7% of GDP, around 13 billion I believe, and rising, is absolutely bonkers at a time of fiscal constraint, and quite clearly shows where the governments priorities are, despite the spin and flowery political speak. There is money, they just refuse to spend any on defence. Even a small increase would be something. No.

    The hypocricy comes when government wants to grandstand on the world stage because of that status yet cuts to the bone at the same time, and I feel so many of Joe public do not even notice. If there were some decent defence journalists who could grill the government properly on decisions it would help, it seems most don't have a clue. Such as Cameron's comments months ago when the RAF intercepted Russian aircraft and he reckoned it shows the RAF has the planes and pilots it needs! Really? Why didn't someone ask for his comments on how now there are only 8 Fast Jet squadrons yet in 1998 there were 23? Put him on the spot and make him look like an ignorant idiot.

    The Tory pledge was no more manpower cuts, so I'm interested to see what happens. I am praying that the underspend and spare money in the headroom budget as unallocated could mean no more cuts to numbers.

    I would also like to see more off the shelf purchases of equipment rather than the buy British at all costs even if it costs the earth, is years late and billions over budget, to help offset any loss to the spare contingency budget.

    3 Division is safe, as the minimum heavy war fighting division. 16AAB and 3 Co seem to be going down the road of raiding forces for small scale quick actions rather than being used for an enduring deployment.
    And if they are used for this all that will happen is various bits and pieces will be added to bring up to strength. I was always interested to notice that when the latest brigade roulement was announced for Helmand province the list of units assigned bore little resemblance to the units that made up that brigade on paper.

    I can only echo Gabriel's comments on needing more enablers to create capable brigades for the reaction force.

    I refuse to believe the rumour of the AAC ending up in the army. Barking mad. The RAF Regiment is small, and should remain as it is doing the job it does, which is guarding airbases and airheads usually far behind the front lines, so the idea they would move to the army, who are in the forward zone, is insane.

    I know Cyprus has several sites of strategic importance but can they not be guarded by existing RAF and MOD SBA Police, or a new detachment
    of the MDP? Having one Battalion as Middle East theatre reserve is fine, same as the Gurkha Battalion in Brunei, but unsure of the need for 2.

  14. Gaby,

    Thanks very much for your information on "hybrid" formations.

  15. A couple of questions if I may?

    1. The 561 personnel for a Light Infantry Battalion in the Adaptable Force - does that include both the 'paired' and non-paired battalions?

    2. If I understand you correctly with the 'paired' Battalions the regular ones have 561 people and the reserve ones about 400. In a national emergency they combine into one fighting unit of 960 or so? For regular future deployment to somewhere such as Afghanistan all 561 regulars would deploy but only 50% of the reserves giving a deployable Battalion of 760.

    Have I got that right?

    1. Yes, Light Infantry battalions are 561 strong, regular side. The two Gurkha battalions are established for perhaps 20 men more. Don't remember the exact number right now, but it is a few men higher.

      All the light role battalions (with the exception of 1 SCOTS and the Gurkha) are paired with a reserve battalion with an establishment of 400 trained men (trainees are in addition). On deployment, the two battalions should deploy as one, with up to 750 men. That means deploying less than half of the trained reserve element. This is also because a reservist, between a deployment and another, is given twice as much time as a regular.
      So, when the second tour of duty comes around, the regular battalion deploys in the field using the other half of the reserve battalion as reinforcement.

      In theory, it is very smart. Some doubts on how many reservists will actually be available do remain. But i'm sticking with the mechanism for my Army 2020 proposal, since there isn't manpower to do differently and, really, if the reserve is what we get, the reserve is what must be made to deliver.

      The same general concept applies to hybrid artillery, engineer and medical: with 2 reserve batteries alternating to make up a single deployable one, bringing the regiments up to strenght and to the usual three sub-units structure.

  16. What if... a significant number of Tory rebels force the UK government to keep defence spending to 2% of GDP. Assuming the UK avoids another recession, that could mean quite a boost to the defence budget in real terms -maybe a 10% increase over 5 years. In such a scenario what changes would you prioritise to Army 2020?

    1. I don't see it happening, but if the impossible happened, i'd want to see this exact same structure, obtained with less cuts and with regular formations less dependent on reserves. Reserves should allow formation of a fourth company, not be needed every time just to have the base 3 companies...

      And i'd prioritize investment in improved networking and communications on the move. That british HQs can only work when stationary, with no plan shaping up to mitigate this weakness, is a non desirable fact.

  17. Guys,
    Could I please ask, beg, that you refer to Battalions as Light Role, not Light Infantry. As a former Light Infantryman it hurts deeply!

  18. OK, Falcon Sqn, still forming up. Not sure about the gate guard FUCHs, I have not seen it there but I have not been to see them for a while. Last orbat I saw was 4 Troops with 2 FUCHS in each Troop and 1 FUCHS at Sqn HQ acting as Reach Back to AWE and DSTL. Both organisations are connected into the Bowman network via a “special link” as that’s as far as I am going to say on the matter. They were all sorts of rumours about colour schemes of the FUCHS, some mad cap ideas including painting the Sqn HQ FUCHs black!! Then urban pattern for two of them, plus desert for another 2, hopefully that has been kicked into touch. There are 4 delivered but only two are complete, two were delivered without their CBRN equipment fitted so have to be sent back, the whole refurbishment is a cluster, of course everyone is blaming everyone else. There was only 9 ever going to be brought back in because as I have stated in previous posts, is FUCHs really a viable option in today’s CBRN environment? What are the chances of a mass CBRN event, most NATO opinion is no, small events yes, Toxic Industrial Materials yes, improvised devices with the odd chemical war agent shell attached to them yes, the odd improvised rocket attack with a possible chemical fill yes. So is FUCHs a bit of a overkill, plus as I have stated before its weakness is that it must drive through contamination to get a reading, that means decontamination after the suspected area has been recced.

    Plus Project A (not its real name, again classified) is on the horizon, that will encompass all elements of CBRN survey and recce, the only reason why Project A is not out to RFQ is quite a bit of the money for it has gone onto other priority CBRN projects and the refurbishment and establishment of Falcon Sqn. Anyway back to Falcon, I am not sure that the MEP’s you are suggesting are the ones that Falcon will get, but I might be wrong because I have not had an update on that. The original idea was to get the ones that the guys in Hereford did not want which had cranes, but as I said that may have changed. Falcon under 8 Engineer Brigade makes perfect sense because most CBRN tasks within NATO fall under the Engineers, plus they are protected by CO 22 and the Brigade Commander. If they were still controlled by the CO of the RTR, they would just be classed as second class citizens and be filled with the RTR’s problem soldiers that they do not want within the Sabre Sqn’s.

    As for UAV’s, that is not going to be a replacement for FUCH’s but an enhanced capability to gather quick samples for analysis or confirm if there are CBRN substances around. Again a good idea that is being explored by many NATO countries.

    1. Thanks, some good info there.
      On being under control of engineers, yes, i see your point. I have nothing against that, it is just the arrangement of commands and relationships that it is perhaps more of a cluster than it should be. And at least one of the Fuchs seems to have definitely been painted black.
      As for Fuchs being overkill, i wouldn't quite agree. It might be unlikely that there will be a major event, but one small core of capability must be available. I don't see anyone else rushing for the exit on Stryker, VAB, Fuchs and other tools of the trade. The british army losing that capability entirely was an absurd uniqueness.

  19. Fantastic article, I just still struggle with the utility of the "standout" brigades.

    Because they arent in any way deployable Brigades
    At best, they are 3 battlegroups, but even that is dicey.

    16 AAB
    It only has one CSB, now, if thats an actual battalion, it can only be in one place at one time, and it can only run one deployment in a row, unless it is going to be at VHR forever and its members are happy to spend 18months overseas without breaks in combat deployments.
    If its three Combat Support Companies, why not just call it that?

    From my reading it will "have" two para battalions and a heliborne battalion, but it will "fight" with two para companies and a heliborne company.

    In peace time,
    1 para bat reports to 1 para bat col
    2 para bat reports to 2 para bat col
    1 Heli Bat reports to 1 Heli bat col

    In war time
    1 para bat col commands 1 para bat 1 coy, 2 para bat 1 coy and 1 heli bat 1 coy
    2 para bat col commands 1 para bat 2 coy, 2 para bat 2 coy and 1 heli bat 2 coy
    1 Heli bat col commands 1 para bat 3 coy, 2 para bat 3 coy and 1 heli bat 3 coy

    Why not just have a peace time organisation that reflects war?

    The same applies to the support arms, who at least have clear lines of control, but its still confusing.
    Battery 1 deploys with Para 1 Col, but when does the regimental col deploy?
    I can see every col in the brigade (and the Brigadier) deploying on day 1 and 6 months later handing over to the second battlegroup, with 2Para Col, who's own battalion has two unknown (to him) companies, and a gaggle of majors.

    Dont even get me started on the CAB

    1. I'm not sure i get what you are saying. 16 Air Assault brigade would either deploy for one brigade-sized tour and then have a brigade-cycle of "other task year" and "training year" before deploying again; or it works to form one battlegroup at VHR, each year. The battlegroup contains 1 actual parachute-ready company, and the others for helicopter assault. And it has one accompanying artillery battery, one logistic company, one engineer squadron, one medical squadron, and all other supporting elements.

      The British Army is now kind of too small to have problems of the sort of 2 PARA's commander "not knowing" the companies of 3 PARA. I see that, but worrying about that is a luxury the british army no longer can afford. Training must ensure the building blocks get along with each other. There aren't resources to do it differently.
      Army 2020 even removes all supports from the direct control of the Brigade. Hell, it takes away even the Signals which used to build, sustain and protect the HQ.

      In the "absolutely not feeble" (quote) forces of today, certain worries are no longer affordable.

  20. It’s the Insurance aspect that most countries cannot get their heads around, yes we need various forms within the CBRN Defence pillars, detection or SENSE as it is now called by certain countries with the capability of reconnaissance and survey is one of them. The tick in the box to say, yep, if something happens then we can deploy that asset. But the use of liquid sampling and analysis normally via an MM1 or MM2 mobile GC/MS detection on wheeled vehicles, is it really needed, I think not.
    I grant you that Stryker, VAB and FUCHs has had its customers, but they were procured years and years ago. It’s cheaper to upgrade than go down the road of finding a more logical and initiative replacement. I’ve been to 7 Regiment in Civitavecchia several times, if you talk to the guys they know that using the VABs is a waste of time, but upgraded them is the easy solution and keep practicing the same old drills. But they are being used less and less, LRT’s are a lot more common, in, grab a sample and out. Doctrine is changing slowly but surely, most Military CBRN organisations can see the writing on the wall and are changing the way they work.
    But these without that knowledge are still the dumb customers for the vehicle manufacturers who still try and sell CBRN Variants.

  21. Cbrn Guru

    Nice to hear from you again, bringing your expertise to bear.

    "But they are being used less and less, LRT’s are a lot more common, in, grab a sample and out."

    I am not very familiar with the more modern military jargon but I presume that the acronym stands for Light Role Team or some such. I think that the present Light Role Team still uses the Pinzgauer 6 x 6 vehicle. I suppose too that the teams that man the vehicle can deploy and fight alongside the expeditionary forces. They can presumably detect, analyze and identify substances and provide advice to the commander on the ground.

    However, is a light vehicle such as the Pinz really substantial and robust enough enough for some of the work to be done? For instance, I read recently that a certain group in the Middle East, now wielding fairly widespread power, might possibly be developing chemical weapons. If an intervention were required in such an extensive area, would something like our light role teams be adequate?

    Surely armoured CBRN vehicles facilitate movement while Land Forces advance, don't they? Or am I just a Cold War dinosaur and thinker?

  22. Very interesting blog Gabriele,

    Out of interest where do you get your wealth of information from? Do you keep the MoD busy with freedom of information requests by any chance?

    Also where would EU battle groups and the UK's VJTF contribution to NATO fit into your proposed ORBATs ? Should the UK join Eurocorps if it folowed your suggestion to disband the ARRC, or perhaps even join the Franco-German brigade?


    1. I do not post FOIs because i'm not a british citizen and i don't think it is fair for me to ride on british taxpayers money. But i do constantly check the MOD FOI answers repository to take note of anything of interest, and follow all other sources i can, from DESIDER to the NAO reports and daily written answers checks and all that.

      The british contribution to the NATO reaction force is merely a double-hatting of the Lead Armoured Battlegroup, pretty much, while i see no rush to join any Eurocorps both because it would be very unpopular a move and because it would also be pretty pointless. European battlegroups do not actually seem to ever go anywhere, and they never will until Europe's foreign policies continue to be so diverging and ultimately indecisive.

    2. You are not missing anything Gabriele. I used to get plenty of FOIA responses from the MoD but the last few I sent have remained unanswered ever since I sent them 3 years ago so I gave up as they are often the usual stock responses.


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