Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A last summary, two weeks from SDSR day


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



Royal Air Force 
Royal Navy 

What to expect?

In general terms, it is thought that this SDSR will bring “good news”. As I wrote on Twitter back in October, its publication was pushed to the right to more closely aligned with the Spending Review (25 November), but with release “a few days before” (that was my guess, and we now know it’ll be 2 days, as the SDSR is due for release on the 23rd) to show that, “no, It is nothing like 2010”.

In broad terms, the SDSR will re-affirm the targets for Future Force 2020. No cuts are expected, and instead there should be some good news. How many, and how actually good, we don’t yet know.

I’m moderately optimistic. The fact that we can expect overall stability is a welcome change in itself, but I’m still skeptic about the good news. If the SDSR doesn’t settle satisfactorily the MPA gap, which I consider the most problematic, I cannot consider it a success.

One thing I try to keep in mind and a warning that I feel I must give is: don’t expect too much detail. The yearly Equipment Programme document shows just how well this government is using indetermination to protect its ability to cut at leisure behind the curtains. What does the Equipment Plan include, exactly? How many vehicles? For delivery when? We don’t know. The document says nothing until firm contracts have been signed, so that anything not yet firmly on contract can be stealthily cut, pushed to the right, descoped, changed.
I expect the SDSR to be just as indecisive and vague whenever it suits the Treasury’s interests. For example, I do not expect to be given details about the plans for purchasing F-35s, other than a confirmation of the 48 needed for the OCU and the first two squadrons.
Main Gate 5, the next big programme decision point, is scheduled for 2017 and I honestly can’t imagine this government telling us much before that date.

The purchase of 20 Protector RPAS to replace the current 10 Reaper will also not be detailed before Main Gate in early 2016, I’m afraid. Until then, we are unlikely to learn much about what exactly they’ll be like, or what impact they will have on manpower, infrastructure and number of squadrons (currently, there's 2 squadrons operating 10 Reapers). 

In general, I expect plenty of questions to remain unanswered.

Some programmes are however on the move, or expected to move on with the SDSR. There is even some optimism in the press about reversing some more of the 2010 madness. The following summary shows where we are, what we know, and what rumors are floating around.

Airborne troops and helicopters

16 Air Assault Brigade is re-subordinated to the Land Forces, leaving Joint Helicopter Command. In the process, it “loses” some pieces: the Apache regiments remain as Attack Helicopter Force under JHC. 7 REME battalion splits into two, with 8 Field Company (Para) re-subordinating to 13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC to continue delivering equipment support to the paras on the field and the aviation coys (73 Av Coy now in Yeovilton to support the Wildcat fleet, the other two in Wattisham, aligned with the two Apache regiments)  staying under JHC as 7 REME battalion. All should be done by the end of this month. The Eagle symbol retires with dignity, and the beloved Pegasus returns. 

The split of 7 REME was in my list of suggested changes to 16 Air Assault Brigade, as well as the separation of the helicopters from the troops. Of course, I called for more ambitious changes, with 8 Field Company being at least doubled into a (small) battalion better suited to support the force generation cycle of 16X and with the army and RAF helicopter squadrons reorganized into real aviation brigade(s). I did not expect it to actually happen, at least not in one go, but one can hope. The restructuring of 16X is, at least in my opinion, following the right path.  

The army is taking control of the work to determine what comes after the Medium Stressed Platform to allow the parachuting of heavy equipment and vehicles. An attempt to find a stop-gap solution by adapting the MSP for use on the C-130J seems to have sadly been cancelled, leaving the present airborne forces badly handicapped. An handicap that will stay for a good few years, until a new platform and the A400 are ready for operations.
The US Type V platform remains on the list of possible solutions, but there’s reportedly a 500 kg problem still for using it with Jackal. The employment of Jackal with the airborne has been trialed during exercises in the US, and the vehicle has fared very well, delivering decisive firepower and faring better than the Humvees employed by the US. However, the impossibility of parachuting the Jackal into battle is a limit, and even when air landing from the C-130, the Jackal can’t just charge into the fight right away: the weapon on top needs to be re-installed after landing due to the dimensional limits of the C-130’s cargo door and hold.

It is also to be regretted that there are no plans to retain a small force of light, well armed, tracked armoured vehicles. Those would add immensely to the ability to react swiftly and to bring armoured fire support even in the most hostile territories. 

Right as the US Army resurrects ideas for a light tank capable even of being airdropped, with BAE showcasing a renewed M-8 Buford, the UK has no plan to retain a squadron of light combat vehicles. I think Ajax is a good replacement for CVR(T) in the armoured brigades, but i also see the enduring need for a small unit equipped to enter a distant theatre quickly and support the reaction force even on the worst terrain.

A bit of good news came from Joint Warrior 15-1, which saw the debut of RAF C-17 in tactical role, with it being employed in Rapid and Follow-On Air Landings. Finally! As I’ve said more than once, the UK has paid big money for a strategic cargo with great tactical capabilities: you paid for them, now use them. I hope we will see airdrops becoming part of the C-17’s routine as well. 

A capable replacement for the Medium Stressed Platform is key to keeping the airborne task force viable.

Meanwhile, the MOD has begun the process for upgrading 25 Gazelle helicopters with GPS, traffic avoidance system and a new VHF radio. The upgrade will be carried out by Gama Engineering Ltd, and should be completed by August 2017. It has to be assumed that the Gazelle OSD is no longer 2018, and that the thorny issue of its replacement will be pushed to the right by a good few years. The Gazelle remains in use with 667 (Development and Trials) Squadron and 671 Squadron as part of 7 (Training) Regiment at AAC Centre Middle Wallop; in 665 Squadron, part of 5 Regiment at Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove, Northern Ireland; and 29 (BATUS) Flight as part of the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Canada.

The SDSR should confirm the plan to upgrade 50 Apache helicopters to Block III standard, but details of how, where (Boeing or AW?) and when are most likely going to come out only in March 2016 when the Main Gate decision is planned.  

Army vehicles

The 10 Years Equipment Plan, 2015 edition is, as was to be expected, entirely devoid of details, dates, numbers, but it still provides some interesting pointers: both ABSV and MRV-P are included in the plan. The ABSV has been definitively separated from the Warrior CSP and will be, on achieving Main Gate, a new Category A programme in its own right. Unfortunately, we might have to wait for 2017 before Main Gate is reached. Entry into service might have to slip as well as a consequence, from 2020 to sometime into the 2020s. ABSV is a key programme, as it is needed to replace the ancient FV432 and complement the (insufficient) number of Warriors with 40mm gun. The effectiveness of the armoured infantry battalions is in no small measure connected with ABSV.

A curiosity: if the Equipment Plan is not just messing up numbers, the Warrior Section Vehicle becomes FV520 after the CSP (now is known as FV510) and the Infantry Command sub-variant becomes FV521 (was FV511).

The Equipment Plan confirms thinking that the MRV-P will require a 4x4 and a 6x6 vehicle. The requirement, albeit over many years, runs into the thousands of vehicles, but the funded MRV-p project for now is expected to cover only 500 troop carriers, 78 ambulances and 27 recovery vehicles. Main Gate is expected in 2017. The hope is that the MRV-p does not become another orphaned programme, abandoned after the first phase with the result of creating yet another “mini” fleet. Rationalization of the current holding of vehicles (from Land Rovers and Pinzgauers in “close to firing line” roles to Husky, Panther, WMIK) with successive purchases of MRV-P should be a key army aspiration in along the next decade.

The Challenger 2 LEP is confirmed as part of the plans. Main Gate has slipped to the right as the army tries to find ideas (and money, especially money) to try and address the growing list of deficiencies. The idea of possibly purchasing a “new” tank as replacement has quickly been abandoned, but the Army has now officially declared its concerns, especially about lethality. The powerpack would also need replacing. Whether the delay to the LEP brings to any increase in its scope, is beyond my guessing ability at this point: the army knows that upgrading only the fire control system, communications and sights won’t quite solve the problems, but might still be unable to do anything about it for lack of money.

The REME Conference 2015 has seen the announcement that there is a funded plan to procure an Air Portable Lightweight Recovery Vehicle that will be used by 16X and 3X Commando. A light recovery vehicle for the Light Protected Mobility Infantry battalions will also be procured. Finally, the Challenger recovery variant is due to receive unspecified survivability upgrades, perhaps in line with add-on armor elements of the Challenger 2 LEP.

Note that MRV-P and Air Portable recovery vehicle were grouped together with two more requirements to form the Operational Support Programme (OSP). The other two components were the new Future Protected Battle Field Ambulance (FPBFA) and the Non-Articulated Vehicle – Protected (NAV-P), the vital replacement for DROPS (also known as the vehicle which went out of service at the end of 2014 but remains used in numbers anyway because the army simply can’t do without it for many things). It is not known yet if these will progress as well. The NAV-P certainly should, because it really is an indispensable piece of capability. 

Logistic storage capacity

In Summer 2016, we should finally get to hear the recommendations for where to re-locate the vehicle storage capability from the current facilities: Ashchurch and its sister site in Mönchengladbach, Germany are the 2 major controlled humidity storage sites preserving vehicles and kit for all three the Services, but government wants to close both by 2018. Clearly, a decision on where to park the thousands of items, including armored vehicles up to the Challenger 2, is an absolute necessity.
A new site, ideally located close to the Salisbury Plain training area and well connected by rail to both Marchwood and Brize Norton, is clearly required. It will be important to see what is actually done in this key area. 

Seeking a new garage

Work has already begun on the complementary storage site, the Defence Fulfillment Centre MOD Donnington, which will store and distribute food, clothing, general and medical supplies in a 80.000 square meters, two-hangars facility.


With Phase 1 vests and load carrying equipment deliveries beginning, the Equipment Plan 2015 says that activities have begun for Phase 2 and Phase 3, respectively covering the development of new, advanced and lighter ballistic plates and man-worn data and power infrastructure.

Ground Based Air Defence

An anti-UAV capability demonstration was given earlier this year by SAAB to the MOD: the focus was on an Enhanced Low, Slow, and Small (ELSS) capability for the Giraffe AMB radar in service. The development of anti-UAV capability is part of Increment 2 of the Network Enabled Airspace Defence and Surveillance programme. If the schedule continues to be followed, a kinetic C-RAM capability should be acquired by 2017.  

The MOD is procuring a C4 solution for integrated air defence of the Falklands and has procured additional Giraffe AMB radars and an upgrade to the latest standard for those already in service. The fleet should now count 10 systems between radars delivered and on order.

The Phase 1 of procurement for the FLAADS(Land) batteries that will replace the current 4 Rapier batteries has begun with a contract signed in December 2014.

A new EOD robot

A new battlefield UGV for EOD work is to be procured under Project STARTER. This is curious, since I thought the recent purchase of the much celebrated CUTLASS would be enough to completely replace the old WHEELBARROWs, Evidently it is not the case. STARTER is for 56 UGVs with a further 30 options. It is meant for fire line battlefield use, and requirements include being able to fit within existing EOD vehicles, from Pinzgauers to Mastiff III EOD.

Training of aircrews

Plans for the complete renewal of the training fleets for both fixed and rotary wing fleets are progressing, and surprisingly they are doing so in complete silence. One possible explanation is that they are keeping the announcement for the SDSR, to present it as good news.
It is not, at least entirely, good news: the training fleets will be renewed, yes, but their sizes are expected to drop enormously, and there will be little to no more capability for training foreign pilots. Moreover, RAF Linton-on-Ouse is probably going to close as Basic training is moved to RAF Valley.
The SDSR should, one would expect, spend a few words to explain what will happen to the base and to the training fleets.

A “RAF Military Flying Training School” is expected to stand up in 2017 in RAF Valley, probably replacing both No 1 FTS (basic training, RAF Linton-on-Ouse) and No 4 FTS (Advanced, RAF Valley). It can be assumed with quite some confidence that the current 72(R), 208(R) and IV(R) squadrons will drop to just 2.

No 2 FTS has been re-formed in January 2014 on RAF Syerston to oversee the gliding training programme for up to 45,000 air cadets of Cadet Flights and Air Training Corps.

No 6 Flying Training School has been re-formed in September to command and manage the 15 RAF University Air Squadrons (UAS) located across the UK.

The RAF will rebuild a pipeline for training mission specialists and “back-seaters”, after losing it in 2011. The role will be covered by the same small fleet of Phenom 100 jets which will replace the Beechcraft 200 as training platform for the multi-engine pipeline.The same squadron will cover both roles, unlike what happened up to the SDSR 2010, with 55(R) Sqn using the old Dominie to deliver rear-crew training and 45(R) delivering multi-engine training.

No 3 Flying Training School at RAF Cranwell currently has 2 squadrons (16(R) and 57(R), with 16 being actually based at RAF Wittering) for elementary flying training; 115(R) Sqn (RAF Wittering) for instructor training and refresher courses and 45(R) Sqn for Multi-Engine training. The impact of the renewal of the fleet might bring further changes and downsizing.  

A new school building, with simulators and hangars for the new rotary wing training fleet is to be built by 2017 in RAF Shawbury. The details of the re-organization, and the types of helicopters that will replace Griffin and Squirrel have yet to be decided.


The big thing everyone is on the lookout for. The Sunday Times has recently reported that, just three weeks from SDSR publication, the secretary of state for defence would have stopped what was said to be a done deal for the purchase of P-8 Poseidon aircraft, throwing RAF plans in disarray. According to the Sunday Times, the SDSR will only contain an indecisive “promise” about addressing the MPA gap, perhaps through some kind of competition.
This will inexorably delay the closure of the gap and risks creating significant difficulties: top brass have warned more than once about SEEDCORN being sustainable only for a limited amount of time. The programme has recently been given a further 3 year extension, with 22 out of 36 service personnel involved deployed in the US to work on the P-8 Poseidon.

If it is true that the Secretary has suddenly awakened to the high cost of closing the MPA gap only now, after years of effort clearly targeted at boarding the Poseidon train, we have touched a new low in MOD history. This thing has been in the making literally for years now, and it is a bit late to throw everything back to square one.

I’ve talked about the MPA issue at length, so my comment at this time will be brief: there is the widespread belief that, due to money and manpower shortages, the MPA eventually acquired by the RAF will have to be a multi-ISTAR platform, coming, in particular, with a wide area surveillance, including GMTI capability sufficient for replacing Sentinel R1. In practice, the assumption is that the MPA and Protector will be accommodated using the manpower and money currently “occupied” by Sentinel R1, Shadow R1 and Predator (and then some more, probably).

For the overland surveillance requirement, the RAF will obviously look at USAF’s own experience, to try and keep the pace, so to speak. Most contenders in the JSTARS replacement race for the USAF are offering business jet platforms, size-wise, stepping down from the current huge size of the JSTARS and effectively following the general direction the RAF traced with Sentinel R1.
There is one exception: Boeing is still offering a larger aircraft, the 737-700, which is however a bit smaller than the 737-800 which is the P-8's base. The small business jet comes with the advantage of lower costs, higher altitude (good for radar range) and ability to operate from smaller airfields. However, they also come with constrained growth margins and with limited space available for systems and crew. The Sentinel R1 itself is an example: it reportedly has a growth margin as small as 700 kg, and the RAF had to renounce to fitting an air to air refueling probe which had once been in the requirements.

The main point of interest is, however, the sensor. The radar to be employed also hasn't been firmly selected yet, but one of the top contenders is the same AN/APS-154 AAS that the US Navy will put on part of its P-8 fleet for its own needs, or anyway a derivative product reportedly going by the “Skynet” name.

It will be interesting to see what choices the USAF makes, but unfortunately the JSTARS recap effort is struggling to get funding and might not progress for a while.
Key considerations to take away are: the AAS radar is a serious contender for the US JSTARS requirement and a 737 platform remains in the game.

The US Navy is working to integrate the AAS on P-8 for increased target mapping capability in the littoral and overland domains. The AN/APY-10 radar already comes with overland functionality and the P-8 as it is now is not any less of an ISTAR platform than other MPAs used over land.
It is actually probably better already. 

P-8 test flight with the AAS "canoe"

The UK requirement is for a MPA with good ASW capability and, eventually, a wide area SAR / ISAR / GMTI surveillance capability over land. The P-8 with AAS fits the requirement like a glove.

Would it be better to use a pure, high performace MPA and a smaller, higher-flying business jet with AAS for the overland role? Sure. But the UK can't realistically afford to purchase, man, operate and upgrade through life two such fleets and have reasonable numbers to work with. There is a very high risk that, at some point, two such fleets would end up locked in a fratricide struggle for funding and manpower, and one of the two would end up succumbing.  

No other MPA on offer in the world has a clear path to a wide area SAR / GMTI capability matching the AAS on P-8; no other MPA in the world has a civilian base of similar airframes and a military, international fleet as large as P-8 has; no other MPA in the world comes with tens of RAF personnel already trained / involved on it; no other MPA in the world has the kind of assured evolution path that the main MPA of the US Navy can expect to have.

There are several offers to create something that does MPA and overland ISTAR for the UK, but they all exist only on paper: the Sea Hercules, the Q-400, a UK evolution of the C-295 or P-1. They are all entirely or partially paper projects with varying degrees of risk and uncertainty.
It is a movie we’ve already seen: it starts with promises of "it'll be cheaper and better too" and then it ends in years of frustrations and cost overruns. Then, a few years later, when it is time for major upgrades, you look around for a partner to share the costs with... and while US and Australia go on with P-8, you end up alone in the room, with a Challenger 2 rifled gun and 2-piece CHARM 3 round at your side, cursing the heavens.

No MPA in the world comes ready for british weaponry, apart perhaps for the P-3 Orion of Norway, the only customer of Stingray ever.  I’m not sure if the planned integration was carried out, but even assuming it progressed, is P-3 an option / would the UK take any real advantage? No.
Integration of british-specific weaponry and equipment it is not a P-8 problem but a UK problem. Some integration of customer-specific kit is unavoidable whenever a country purchases an off-the-shelf product. Either that, or purchase of US torpedoes for P-8 use, whatever is cheaper. India decided to buy the torpedoes along with the aircraft, for example.

There is a very real risk that indecisiveness on MPA causes knock-over effects across wider ISTAR planning. If the RAF does not get P-8, money will probably tend to go to Sentinel R1 to life extend and upgrade it, leaving even less money available for a later MPA purchase. The result could end up being a horrible example of half-arsing which creates more problems than it solves.

Fast Jet squadrons

News reports lately have insistently mentioned the possibility that the SDSR will announce plans for a third F-35B squadron and two more Typhoon squadrons, the latter made possible by the retention of Tranche 1s into the 2020s (at least the first half of them). Under current plans, the Tranche 1s would be withdrawn from service by 2019 and only then would the new Tranche 3A be assigned to the squadrons.

I’ve already explained where the merits of the Tranche 1 solution are. Tornado GR4 would be more useful, but its retention is more complicated and expensive.
Assuming that the rumor is true and the Tranche 1s stay, the next big question is where does manpower come from?
The first (and possibly the only) answer is “from the Tornado fleet”, but settling the details will be complex: Typhoon will not be ready to take Tornado’s place in action for several years still, meaning that, if operations against ISIS drag on over the coming years, it will not be possible to draw down Tornado squadrons and train the personnel to move on to Typhoon. A transfer from Tornado to Typhoon does not happen overnight. The process of setting up two more Typhoon squadrons can only happen in concert with the drawdown of Tornado unless the RAF is not only given the funding for hiring more people, but manages to boost recruitment quickly and efficiently.

Even if the additional squadrons will be confirmed by the SDSR (and I certainly hope so), it’ll take quite some effort (and probably a few years) to find a way to make them happen. Two additional Typhoon squadrons would be fundamental to avoid falling to just 6 squadrons in 2020, and the Tranche 1 could act as a place holder ahead of further purchases of F-35s in the second half of the 2020s, when keeping Tranche 1s any further is likely to become a real problem.


There are expectations about the SDSR bringing good news for the AWACS fleet too. The UK Sentry are lagging badly behind US and NATO , having not been included in the ongoing upgrade programmes for lack of money. If the problem is not addressed, the british Sentry will become more and more obsolescent and of less immediate integration within allied plans.
This is another area requiring urgent attention.

And the navy?

The Navy is a major question mark. It unfortunately starts to sound like it will be shafted once more, to some degree. Earlier optimism about being granted a manpower increase has been watered down, and there is still no real indication of what, if any, answers the SDSR will give about the fate of the River Batch 2, MARS FSS and other plans.
We are also still waiting to understand exactly what “in service” will mean for HMS Prince of Wales. 

The SDSR will reaffirm the objective of putting into service 13 Type 26 frigates, but in the facts we can only really expect the order for the first batch, of just 3 ships, with a contract expected in early 2016. It seems almost certain that the other two batches of 5 ships each will be left for future parliaments. With the last Type 26 due in service in 2035/36 and with the government having decided to go for a procurement in small successive batches instead of the hoped-for contract for 13, or even the earler "ASW batch" of 8 in one go, we can expect the uncertainty about the final number of frigates to be a fact of life for many years. 

No ship is expected to be axed, but probably the out of service date for HMS Ocean will be confirmed as 2018/19 (not necessarily saying it into the SDSR document, of course). 

The Navy is very likely to be asked to provide one carrier group presence in the Gulf with a certain regularity. This will be particularly welcomed by the US Navy, which probably wants the UK’s help to be free to focus its own carrier groups more on the Pacific, without leaving the Middle East uncovered.

The new british base to be built in Bahrain will help support this role as well as the enduring operation Kipion presence, with its significant MCM element.



  1. Concerning the replacement for MoD Ashchurch, I suggest refurbishing existing hanger complexes at Ludgershall. Close to Bulford/Tidworth/Perham Down/SPTA and with rail access.

    1. Don't know if it still possible. The area is being already used to build accommodations and homes for the troops relocating to Salisbury Plain. I read that many buildings will / have been demolished. The location sounds about right, though: the storage hangars could be new buildings, i guess.

    2. Ah, Ok, and I see by cbrn guru's reply lower that my knowledge via google earth is out of date with the hangers demolition!

      Is there any spare capacity at either of the DSDC Bicester sites Arncott or Graven Hill, or Donnington? Could some of these Hangers be converted to CHE?

  2. Very rare for the Army to use the railways to transport hardware, over the last year can only think of once. Other stuff, yes there are quite a few services that operate weekly.


    1. Movement of armoured vehicles by train is done in scale in a limited number of occasions, for example with the annual deployment exercise (Ex Tractable) which sees the "Vanguard Fleet" pulled out of storage / deployed from the bases and transported to Brize and Marchwood, from which it would sail / fly on to the theatre of operations.
      Vehicles based in Germany have been using train rides much more frequently to go in Poland for exercises. When the british army vehicles all return home and are stored in one main location, as is planned, having the means to move them in and out of storage and forward them towards the place where they are actually needed will be more important than ever. There is just one tank transporter squadron in the whole british army. It can't move armoured vehicles on its own, and trying to do it always by road would be incredibly dumb anyway.

  3. Nice summary Gab!

    Like yourself i fully expect this SDSR to be a bit more positive than the last one (which wouldn't be difficult) but essentially consisting of a lot of vague assurances resulting in business as usual.

    Hopefully some of the more pressing matters like MPA and fast-jet numbers will be addressed out of embarrassment and insider if nothing else.

    On the whole i agree that a hell of a lot of questions, including final F35 numbers, final T26 numbers, MARS SSS, Hawk T1, Puma, Gazelle and Sentinel OSD's and the majority of the Army's vehicle plan will be yet again pushed to the right through a lack of money and firm ideas on possible solutions.

    I'll make a few educated guesses on what i think we'll see.....

    - Prince of Wales will be given a skeleton crew (using a few hundred extra sailors the RN will be allowed to recruit) and kept at extended readiness.

    - A paltry 3 T26 will be ordered, with 'at least 8' being the new soundbite.

    - The batch 2 River's will sadly replace their older sisters.

    - Overall the RN could lose 1 or 2 mine-hunters or frigates to make some small-scale economies and alleviate the issues with manpower.

    - T1 Typhoon's retained to maintain an 8 squadron force but on a 2-3 years at a time basis like Sentinel. The plans for F35 will remain roughly the same.

    - Sentinel will be given another short-term reprieve.

    - The transport fleet will contract down to just 30 C17 and A400m as planned.

    - A decision will be made on Apache, probably for 50 air-frames, whichever is cheaper between new-builds or refits.

    - The AAC's Lynx AH9's look particularly vulnerable for the chop to me now that Afghanistan is over.

    MPA? Seriously needed, but who know's on that score.

    All in all a real mixed bag.

  4. Gaby,

    Fine summary, Gaby.

    When you say: "The development of anti-UAV capability is part of Increment 2 of the Network Enabled Airspace Defence and Surveillance programme. If the schedule continues to be followed, a kinetic C-RAM capability should be acquired by 2017."

    Will that capability still be based on be the CAMM missile, or will a new weapon, linked to the Giraffe radar, be introduced just for the C-RAM capability?

    1. CAMM is highly unlikely to be a viable way to intercept RAM threats. If i called the shot, i'd want a gun-based C-RAM solution. Cheap and flexible. Ideally on a platform that, with the addition of missiles later on, can combine C-RAM and vShorad role and provide a replacement for self-propelled Starstreak HVM in the 2020s.

      If i have to be sincere, however, i think there will be no C-RAM system purchased. Not so "soon", at least. But we'll see if something happens.

  5. Gaby,

    Many thanks for the reply, Gaby. I agree with you about a "gun-based" solution" and how, with the addition of missiles, the C-RAM and vShorad role could be combined to to provide a replacement for self-propelled Starstreak HVM in the 2020s.

    Wasn't the UK interested in the German Skyshield or Skyranger, (was it called?) systems a few years ago?

    1. Maybe, but i don't remember any serious approach.

      Personally I'm intrigued by the Thales RAPIDFire, which uses the same 40mm gun used by Warrior and FRES, but with ammunition specific for C-RAM / AAA duty. Add missile pods to the turret, initially containing Starstreak / LMM and then an eventual replacement, and you have a pretty good C-RAM / Counter UAV / vShorad solution already.

  6. WOW, very nice piece actually.

    Such a list, I was feeling positive about the T26’s.

    But I think P8 will get priority, and your list really points out to me the number of programs we are committed to or politically very attached to. (I.e. if we don’t find them Mr Cameron will get more stick than he is getting over the MPA)

    I had thought the Navy would do well out of this, but now I’m starting to wonder.

    Probably I should be hunkering down and sacrificing a goat to the great gods of 13 T26’s. I had wondered if we might get a couple more, but you have me wondering now.

    Obviously they are not going to talk details, not on all things.
    Then of course we have to see how it implements with the new accountancy practises of “what you save you keep”

    Next 3 years could be very interesting.

    1. There will be a contract for 3 Type 26s in early 2016, all being well. But the following batches will have to follow years into the future. I'm sure the SDSR will reaffirm a requirement for 13, but with the last expected in service in the middle of 2030, the orders will be spread over years. The uncertainty over final numbers will be with us for a LOOOOONG time, i'm afraid.

    2. Either way, I'm always greatful to you for pulling ALL this stuff together for us.

      Your posts arn't frequent, but when I read them its plain how much time its taken to read, digest and assemble all the masses of sources and pages into easy to muse pieces.

    3. It is a pleasure for me to keep track of things (i just wish there were more good news i could report...). It just is quite difficult for me to find writing time, at times. But thank you, glad the work is appreciated.

  7. Gaby,

    Thanks very much for your reply, Gaby. An interesting idea, the RAPIDFire.

  8. Couple of points from me:
    There are no hangers in Ludgershall, demolition is well under way, in fact its ahead of schedule due to the fact that the concrete basing of the hangers was not as deep as first thought. 450 Military houses and a Primary school will service the Engineers Regiments at Perham Down.

    Ashchurch is slowly closing down, lots of plans to sell to developers but not a lot wish to touch it due to the levels of asbestos removal that has to been done in the old hanger roofs. Ludgershall, they have no choice and the military has to pay for its disposal so that the housing plan can go ahead, Ashchurch would be a civil contractor problem.

    I think you may find Mönchengladbach is held onto a lot longer than 2018. It is a key strategic site for the movement of Battlegroup Equipment into areas of Europe without the cost of transporting equipment directly from the UK. Especially with the increase of conventional warfare exercises with NATO partners.

    Project STARTER is done and dusted, down selection has already taken place. It’s a long and complicated story that cannot be told within an open forum. CUTLESS provides a certain form of capability, STARTER will cover the rest.

    16X is not the only reconstruction of resources, I think you may found out in due course the CBRN assets are reorganised somewhere else. Though I doubt it will make even a footnote in the SDSR as its not a massive debate like some of the other subjects you have mentioned.

    1. Ugh, please don't tell me we are heading straight for the "soldiers in the UK, vehicles in Germany" scenario. That is ridiculous.

      And i'm interested in the CBRN re-re-re-reorganisation. Anything you can say, or all embargoed still...? Are we heading for the return of some kind of joint CBRN formation?

    2. Regarding STARTER, i will not ask for details that i can tell you can't provide, but... tell me. Was STARTER planned, or it became necessary at a later moment because CUTLASS did not deliver all what was expected of it...? Because i suspect it is the second.

    3. Here's an interesting dilemma.

      If you upgrade 220 or so Challengers do you keep them on Salisbury Plain or in Monchengladbach?

      Should the Army on Salisbury Plain be using the older poorer condition Challengers for its training on Salisbury Plain while keeping its best most updated tanks in storage in Germany ready to be used in any real conflict?

      At first it sounds counter-intuitive but if you think about it a bit maybe makes some sense.

    4. STARTER was ICECAP and all that was wrong with that will hopefully be sorted.
      Mönchengladbach makes perfect sense to me, its a mini BATUS. Troops come across get their vehicles, do their exercises, last one has just finished with the KRH BG doing 2 months in Poland on 2 different training areas. Clean up the vehicles, back in the hangers ready for the next unit or BG to take them out on Exercise.

    5. Yeah, but BATUS holds enough Challenger 2s for a full squadron, one battery of AS90 other vehicles just for battlegroup-sized training. Storing the thick of the army's vehicle fleets in Germany while bringing the soldiers back to Britain would be a whole different story. If government wants the Army of the Rhine, then keep the army of the Rhine...

    6. Maybe I am not explaining myself correctly:
      1. Mönchengladbach will only hold a Battlegroups worth of equipment.
      2. Any extra storage space will be sold off.
      3. Everything else comes back to the UK. Most of it is back in the UK anyway.
      4. There will be a Company minus number of service personnel to look after the vehicles and ensure they are serviced and ready to handover and return to Mönchengladbach after exercises. One of the Armoured Close Support Battalions will send the majority of their personnel out to Mönchengladbach after a major exercise to get the vehicles back to a high readiness state within a limited time frame. This has been done recently where they have 2/3 weeks to turn all the Battle Groups vehicles around by inspection, repair or replacement of equipment items.

    7. That does make far more sense.

      But bring us back to the big starting question: when Ashchurch is gone and Germany is down to a battlegroup, the forces will need new controlled humidity storage space somewhere. Or will have to re-assign the stuff directly to the regiments and have them tasked with keeping them up to task. Otherwise, the material state of the fleets will deteriorate pretty damn quickly.

    8. That is a very emotive subject… Vehicle Fleet Management…we have a food substance in the UK called Marmite and they were famous for their adverts which had a catch phase of you either “Love it or Hate it”. I have a very good feeling that Fleet Management falls into this category.

      Last time I was in Tidworth there was a lot of talk about Fleet Management, the old and bold and rank and file hate it. There is no identity anymore with Regiments having a full quota of vehicles allocated to each sub-unit.

      Speaking from the Royal Armoured side which I have experience in, this means that you do not get your own vehicle that you can love and cherish day in day out. In fact Regiments do not get even a full quota of Tanks, so you will never see a Regiment with 56 CH2’s in it. They only get the vehicles that they required for the time period that they need them. So there is no more vehicle identity that tank crews like to have.

      Now, some think this is a better way forward, instead of tanks sitting on a Tank park doing nothing for large amounts of time with crews sitting in their Troop stores doing nothing as well. Vehicles are rotated around properly and according to Higher Command this allows an even balance of mileage and fatigue on each vehicle.

      Of course to save costs and manpower this is controlled and run by a contractor. It is their responsibility to provide the vehicles at the right time and at the right location. Stowage and climate control is also their responsibility so I would suggest that somewhere down the line these contractors will have to (if they have not already) building or planning to build vast vehicle depots in the UK somewhere. Just like Team Leidos are having to build the new Defence Fulfilment Centre in Donnington which seemingly will save the MoD £500 million over 13 years.

  9. "Are we heading for the return of some kind of joint CBRN formation?"

    Or is Cbrn Guru referring to the fact that the Royal Engineers will assume command of the CBRN squadron, rather than the RTR?

    1. That would not be new, though. I wrote about it a while back. Besides, it has OPCON implications, but not a real impact on how Falcon sqn is built and works.

  10. I would be happy if this SDSR is boring and maintains what we have! I fear the worst, I really do, such is the incompetence of our plastic politicians.
    I hope Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, ISIS, etc has served as a wake up call.

    The minimum 3 Brigades in Reaction Force to form an armoured division in emergency are safe I feel, with all their component Regiments and Battalions.
    Adaptable Brigades could be shaken up a bit, which they probably need anyway as well documented here.
    Fast Jet squadrons should be safe, too few left to cut and already engaged.
    I would fear for T26 numbers, MCMV numbers, and the RAF Regiment, and various bases they might cut to save money.

    In my world, for the RAF, all ISTAR assets ( UAV, Shadow, Sentinel, Sentry, Air Seeker ) all RAF A4 enablers, the SHF and transport / tanker fleet should all be ringfenced.

    For the RN, the 4 pillars around which all else should be formed are Carriers / FAA, SSN, amphibious ships / RM, and the RFA with no cuts to these areas.

    For the army, 3 UK Division is bare minimum already, add to this 16AA and the various supporting elements of the Force Troops and DSF as sacrosanct.

    I would support removing several Infantry Battalions from the ORBAT if it is guaranteed that this manpower would then go to forming new RA, RE, RS formations.

    I feel that MPA- P8 will be confirmed, as it is typical of HMG to dangle an attractive Carrot for ignorant joe public and the press to jump on while scrapping other assets elsewhere! I still recall the emphasis of acquiring Meteor in the 1995 Front Line First review, which still has not materialized and ironically the front line was cut then as well.

  11. Gaby

    You say: "It is also to be regretted that there are no plans to retain a small force of light, well armed, tracked armoured vehicles. Those would add immensely to the ability to react swiftly and to bring armoured fire support even in the most hostile territories."

    I agree with you.What will happen to the CVR(T)2s, being in part new-build vehicles with new hulls etc.? I read somewhere that they are not scheduled to go out of service until 2026! I still cannot get my head around the number of AJAX family vehicles that will be needed, not only for the Armoured Cavalry regiments but also the Armoured and Armoured Infantry regiments. Still, if the CVR(T)2s are not needed to supplement those vehicles, where are they going to serve? They would be well placed with 16 AA Bde.

    1. 2026 is the date in which the last CVR(T) is due out of service, and that includes, as of now, the Stormer, with implications for self-propelled Starstreak batteries, obviously. Scimitar might be gone before that. Number-wise, 245 Ajax are enough to replace Scimitar in the 3 cavalry regiments and in tank and armoured infantry battalions too.

      Retaining a small fleet of CVR(T) for "special" use would be technically feasible, of course, but it does not seem to be planned in any way, unfortunately.

  12. With the US talking about the possible renewed need to fight their way across the N Atlantic to reinforce Europe- No MPAs and fewer Type 26s- would not impress Washington.

  13. Gaby

    I have seen your comments on the new "Strike Brigades", which are to use Ajax. I too wonder where that will leave the Armoured Infantry Brigades. Will that leave only one fully "Armoured" Brigade with MBTs? There surely can't be enough Ajax-type vehicles to go around, can there?

    Are we perhaps, in a way, returning to the idea of Multi-Role Brigades? Mr. Cameron says that the new brigades will be self-supporting in the field.

  14. These 2 brigades are going to take 10 years to make ready so it's hardly a case of just stripping 2 armoured brigades of its challengers and warriors. I get the impression that they will be formed from
    The adaptable force, maybe with the 3 mechanised battalions taken from the armoured brigades and forming the core of the 2 'new' brigades. I can't see the government being so dumb as to scrap two thirds of our challengers

    1. That is what i'm hoping for, but at this stage we have no real info, so we can only guess.

  15. Hi Gabriele,

    As always your articles are great.

    Some points post SDSR I would like to ask:

    1. RN.
    As it seems there will only be 8 Type 26, and maybe some sort of corvette, numbers unknown.
    That would leave the RN with just 14 proper escorts. With in my view only 7 out at sea. Does that make the RN able to deploy just one task group?

    2. Army.
    Now to have 5 deployable brigades, and able to deploy an armoured division. (3 brigades).
    At total of 11 brigades, each having 3 battalions 33 battalions?
    How many battalions will have warrior? I think only 4?
    I also note that the document that Chinooks squadrons are listed as just 3?
    I would like your view on the above, and how you think the RA, RE and RSigs will change to make this 5 deployable brigade army will work. I assume both the 2 armoured, 2 Strike and 16 AA will have artillery, engineer and signals element, and the armoured and strike brigades will have either MBT or light recce vehicles?

    3. RAF.
    Good news on the MPA and the extra Typhoons.
    Looks like the F35 will be the sole aircraft of the future with a 138 to be ordered. I guess that will make 8 or 9 operational squadrons?
    I have to raise the RAF Regiment. The Army are guarding RAF Akrotiri, From were the RAF are flying operational sorties from. The RAF Regiment are in the UK. Please can someone tell me what there role is?



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