Tuesday, December 22, 2015

British Army 2025: a proposed concept and structure

Since the British Army plans for Joint Force 2025 still are nowhere to be seen, there is space for suggestions. I decided to write my own.

Combined Arms Regiments

How to transform the 3 armoured infantry brigades of Army 2020 into two armoured infantry brigades for future force 2025, not losing MBTs, keeping 3 main maneuver units (plus Cavalry for recce and screening) and at the same time addressing the insufficiency of the 245 Warrior CSP in Infantry and Infantry Command variants?

If I was the one making the decisions, my first pick would be the Combined Arms Regiment, on the model of those adopted years ago by the US Army.
The current three tank regiments and 6 (on paper) armoured infantry battalions would be mixed to become 6 Combined Arms Regiments. Each CAR would have 2 tank squadrons with 14 MBTs, and 2 armoured infantry companies, plus a Recce and Screening element and a Support Weapons Company.
With 1 further MBT (and a Warrior) in the RHQ, the regiment would line 29 MBTs and a similar number of Warrior IFVs.
The reconnaissance and screening element would be provided by a strong squadron with Ajax and Ares / Warrior / ABSV apc carrying dismounts.
The Support Weapons Company would deliver long range guided weapons capability (Javelin); snipers; assault pioneers and mortars. In particular, it is highly desirable to invest in 120 mm mortars for both ABSV mortar carriers (for the tracked, heavy brigades) and MIV mortar carriers (for use in the Strike Brigades). 
Combining the Tank Regiments and the existing armoured infantry battalions means making do with what is already available / on order. Indeed, the passage from 9 regiments / battalions to 6 units allows savings which are easily quantified: 3 less REME LADs, 3 less recce platoons on Ajax, a reduced requirement for ABSV vehicles and a reduction in the number of armoured infantry companies (from 18 to 12).
A cut by any other name, but one which looks more and more unavoidable: 245 updated Warriors just aren’t enough for more.

Advantages include a more appropriate ratio of MBTs to IFVs (the insufficient number of tanks in the current Armoured Infantry Brigade structure has been evidenced in training) and the CAR is, in its daily shape, much closer to a realistic Battlegroup composition. Instead of being pieced together on deployment, the CAR is always in typical battlegroup shape.
The number of tanks, overall, would stay exactly the same: Army 2020 has 3 tank regiments with 58 tanks each, for a total of 174. 6 CARs with 29 tanks each give exactly the same total, compatible with the 227 tanks in holding post 2010 cuts. The new brigade would be able to pair each infantry company with a tank squadron. This is not possible in the Armoured Infantry Brigades as currently planned (58 tanks, of which the majority sits in three squadrons of 18 each). 

The CAR could be given a stronger reconnaissance and screening element by receiving more than 8 Ajax, and/or complementing them with a greater dismounted element carried in Ares or ABSV. 

The mortars are essential: moving up to the 120 mm opens up whole new lethality, range and precision opportunities: guided 120 mm mortar rounds are becoming available. Having mortars in direct support to tanks gives an excellent counter to enemy ATGW teams. Adding mortars into armoured regiments is something that elsewhere already happens, from the US to Israel, but the british army would not be able to afford adding a mortar element into the tank regiments unless they become one with the armoured infantry battalions. 
The CAR concept allows the six existing mortar platoons to offer a (virtually) greater cover. The cover is evidently not actually greater, but just better placed to respond to the various needs. 

With a powerful screening and recce element; a powerful fire support element, tanks and armoured infantry, the CAR is a battlegroup in itself. It has everything it needs to hit the ground running if needs be. This is unlike the current Army 2020 Lead Armoured Battlegroup, which has to be built up by taking one tank squadron plus HQ (18  + 2 MBTs) from the brigade’s tank regiment; two armoured infantry companies from one of the brigade’s battalions and a company on Mastiff from the brigades’ Heavy Protected Mobility Infantry battalion, as well as all relevant sub-units from artillery, medical, logistic and engineer regiments and battalions. 

Capbadges chapter: moving from 9 to 6 units has obvious capbadges implications. But a CAR arrangement gives options to keep all capbadges alive, with a bit of imagination. The tank and infantry elements could keep their “battalion” status within the CAR, and thus preserve their respective capbadges and identities while being joined at the hip into the new combined units. Six CARs would actually allow the resurrection of lost cavalry capbadges, as 3 tank regiments would become 6 “small battalions”… Not to mention that the CARs themselves could take up some historic title of their own, if there was the will to make it happen.
The rich history of the british army is added value, but it cannot shape the force structure. It must be considered, absolutely, but not drive the strategy. Only capability should drive the planning, with the capbadges preservation coming last on the list of priorities.

Balance of change from Army 2020 to a Joint Force 2025 CAR

MBTs: same (174 tanks in the regular regiments)
Warrior IFVs: same (245), but equipping 12 instead of 18 rifle companies
Ajax: slightly less or same. There will be 3 less Recce platoons to form, freeing up 24 Ajax. However, they could just be assigned to the platoons remaining, to expand them from 8 to 12 vehicles each. Otherwise, they would go to the second Strike Brigade to ease the formation of its recce Cavalry regiment.  
ABSV: less. Same number of mortar carriers and other variants, but reduced requirement in some other areas, due to the reduction from 9 separate units to 6. 
A reduction also comes from other units within the armoured brigades: going down to two armoured brigades mean just 2, rather than 3 armoured medical regiments, so less ABSV ambulances are required. Same goes for Close Support REME units.  
REME: 3 less LADs required due to the drop from 9 to 6 main armoured units, freeing up resources to transfer to the Strike Brigades, the second of which will need the uplift as it changes from a mostly Light Role adaptable infantry brigade into a mechanized formation. More vehicles and kit means needing more REME (and more RLC logistic support too: another uplift needed there). 

Strike Brigades

One Strike Brigade will be obtained downgrading one of the three Armoured Infantry Brigades planned by Army 2020, while another will be obtained by upgrading one of the seven adaptable brigades.

The current 3 Heavy Protected Mobility Infantry battalions (one in each armoured infantry brigade) can be expected to move across to the Strike Brigades. At least a fourth regiment is needed, however, assuming that the Strike Brigades will have at least 2 “heavy” mechanized formations each (with Mastiff at first, and then with the new 8x8 MIV).
Since a mechanized infantry battalion is close to 200 men larger than a Light Role battalion, the reduction in armoured infantry caused by the CARs will be re-absorbed quite quickly to cover all the areas where growth is required.

Ideally, the Strike Brigades should have 3 infantry battalions on MIV, but it takes quite some optimism to imagine the british army with enough funds to purchase the hundreds of 8x8s needed for such structure.
An alternative could be a structure with 2 heavy battalions and a light battalion, mounted on Foxhound. There are 6 such light battalions planned under Army 2020, with, crucially, 400 Foxhound already on order.

Soldiers from 4 RIFLES get to know the french VBCI. A rifle coy from 4 RIFLES has spent months working with the Armee de Terre and specifically with VBCI. Clearly, an experiment ahead of the start of MIV 

Army 2020 includes 3 heavy cavalry regiments on Ajax, which means that the two armoured brigades and the first of the strike brigades are covered. A fourth regiment on Ajax is however needed for the second strike brigade. An Ajax regiment is well over one hundred men larger than a Light Cavalry regiment on Jackal, but the CAR reform will have freed up manpower to adjust the various areas without an increase in the total number of regulars. Planned numbers of Ajax-family vehicles should suffice to form 4 regiments, but it might be necessary to make each regiment a bit smaller, and adjust the ratio of variants (Ajax, Ares). 

General Dynamics UK is already working on a proposal for the MIV requirement
What the Strike Brigades lack is a direct fire support platform bringing heavy, tank-like firepower to the party. The Ajax only has a 40 mm gun, and the MIV might end up having nothing more than a .50 or GMG on RWS. A direct fire variant of the MIV would be a real blessing, but, again, money is the obvious issue.

Infantry Brigades

The six remaining infantry brigades should continue to include two “deployable” brigades, working to a two year force generation cycle, with supports for one deployment, so that future enduring operations will be sustainable.
Under Army 2020, three out of seven adaptable brigades are the main deployable framework upon which a three-year force generation cycle is built, forming each year a package including up to 5 infantry battalions (2 mounted on Foxhound, 3 Light Role plus paired reserve battalions) and a Light Cavalry regiment (plus paired reserve).
Two sets of supports (artillery regiment, engineer regiment, medical regiment, REME, logistic regiment) are also available, so that the Adaptable force, when needs be, can support two six-months deployments out of the 5 needed, in circle, for an enduring operation if the “1 in 5” principle is to be respected.

In Joint Force 2025, the number of “deployable” infantry brigades could shrink to two. And since one set of supports will have to be upgraded to cover the second Strike Brigade, only one would remain.
The infantry brigades would be tasked with a single deployment within a cycle of 5, instead of two.

The transition of supports

Plenty of questions remain on how support units will be reconfigured. For example, artillery: while it is reasonable to expect no changes for the artillery regiments associated to the two remaining Armoured Infantry Brigades (3 batteries with AS90, 1 Precision Fires battery with GMLRS and EXACTOR), the composition of the artillery regiment for the Strike Brigades is anyone’s guess.
The AS90 appears too heavy and large to fit within the “deployability” that the Strike Brigade is supposed to offer. On the other hand, its firepower, protection and mobility would fit a mechanized formation better than the L118 Light Gun.
The loss of one armoured brigade could result in further reductions to the number of AS90 batteries, even though one of the (several) lessons of the war in Ukraine is the enduring key importance of artillery… and the fact that pretty much everyone in NATO is really at a disadvantage against the kind of indirect firepower available to Russian-style formations. Losing AS90s is really not something that should happen, yet it is a quite likely outcome.
If the army decides to put AS90 in the Strike Brigades, their total number (89 post 2010 cuts) means that adding a net three batteries is going to be next to impossible.
The Strike Brigades could perhaps receive only two AS90 batteries (+1 bty from Army 2020 planning), with the balance made up by L118.

Towards 2030 (the OSD for both AS90 and L118), a new plan for artillery might be necessary, and again France could provide an useful indication: their CAESAR truck-mounted howitzer would be a perfect fit for the Strike Brigades. The Armee de Terre is also now planning to procure the CAESAR NG, on an armored 8x8 platform, as replacement for their remaining tracked heavy howitzers.
The UK could, and probably should, follow the same direction when the time comes: while the tracked howitzer brings several advantages (more armor, more mobility, 360° coverage due to the turret), it costs more, it is harder to deploy and, ultimately, misses out on part of its advantages due to its resupply chain.
The AS90 has the mobility of a MBT and good protection, but in the end depends entirely on wheeled trucks carrying the ammunition. Trucks which are less mobile and more vulnerable to counter-battery fire.
Arguably, the advantages of the tracked self-propelled howitzer are only enjoyed fully if, like in the british army, a vehicle with the same protection and mobility features is used to carry ammunition during shoot and scoot fire missions.
In absence of money for those, it might be best to just go for the different advantages offered by a lighter, cheaper, wheeled howitzer.
Crucially, the CAESAR comes with the longer barrel (and thus the greater range) that AS90 sadly didn’t get when the BRAVEHEART upgrade programme collapsed.

The L118’s replacement could be the 120mm towed mortar. Even easier to deploy, even smaller and lighter, it offers almost as much range, same lethality and a greater variety of ammunition, already including precision guided shells.
A French-style combination of CAESAR and mortar batteries could give even 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando a good level of capability, offering both the power and reach of the 155 and the strategic and tactical mobility of the 120mm mortar.
But this is in future prospective.

The GMLRS is a key capability, for its long range, its precision, its effects. Its weight and mass is not far from the “defining form factor” for the Strike Brigade, which has its sweet spot at around 30+ tons. Weight and mass which must be compatible with A400M Atlas transport (even though air insertion alone will never be a realistic option for deploying a brigade, and arguably not even a battlegroup, with the number of cargo aircraft the UK can reasonably expect to have available).
The GMLRS comfortably fits within that sweet spot, and because of what it brings to the fight, it is to be recommended that a Precision Fires battery is included in the Strike Brigade’s artillery element.
This means adding a fourth GMLRS battery (up from 3 in Army 2020), but it should be doable: the army should have some 36 launchers at B1 standard. 
One issue is that the GMLRS is now a pin-point precision weapon only, having lost the ability to annihillate dispersed forces in a wide area with the withdrawal of the rockets loaded with submunitions. The US Army is beginning to put in service the Alternative Warhead rockets, which replace the submunitions with an enhanced fragmentation payload with zero risks of residual Unexploded Ordnance on the ground and restored wide-area attack capability. The Royal Artillery should buy a stock of these rockets as soon as possible.

Engineer regiments will change, as well. The loss of one armoured brigade means that less Titan and Trojan will be required; even assuming that the remaining two regiments will increase their holding to compensate.
The Terrier, at around 30 tons, will be the key capability of the Strike Brigade’s own engineer regiments.
Bridgelaying will probably fall on the shoulders of the ABLE systems and of the few REBS, which should have been brought into core after the end of Op Herrick.

Medical regiments for the Armoured Infantry Brigades are currently equipped with the medical variants of FV432 tracked vehicles, which might be replaced by suitable variants of the ABSV when the programme finally progresses.
The Medical regiments for the Strike Brigades could use an ambulance variant of MIV, eventually, although less expensive options, such as the ambulance variant of the Multi Role Vehicle – Protected, might be adopted instead.

Beyond the adjustments (less track and heavy armor; more wheels and medium weights), the real key question in this hundredth restructuring of the army must be a very basic one: does it make sense to centralize support units away from the maneuver brigades? I’ve written more than once to say that no, it doesn’t, and that remains my belief.
Now more than before. Since the regiments are inexorably taking on a structure that reflects the brigade they have to support, the benefits of centralization are quickly made irrelevant. It would be far better if the key supports were part of the relative brigade (at least for the armoured and strike brigades).

A reorganization of logistics also appears necessary. With the army having won, at least in the talk, a renewed commitment to the Division as operational, deployable level, the task should now be to reorganize the divisional logistic brigade.
The maneuver brigade should include the logistic elements it needs at the tactical level, to support its own operations, whether as a full formation or broken into dispersed battlegroups. The logistic brigade should have a theatre-wide responsibility, and be the point of contact between the maneuver brigades and the main port (air and sea) of debarkation of stores, equipment and materials, with these being, of course, primarily the responsibility of 104 Log Bde with its theatre-opening capabilities.

Between US and France

It appears clear that the British Army is trying to position itself, structure-wise, somewhere between the US and France. Concepts coming from either country clearly run into the british army’s own planning. And in my proposal, due to the CARs, the resemblance with the A-BCTs of the US Army would be even greater.

I think many will have noticed the resemblance between Joint Force 2025 and the “Au Contact” plan of the French armee de terre. The 2 heavy, 2 medium, 2 light plus airmobile brigade structure is the same, with the British Army adding a number of further infantry brigades of, honestly, dubious usefulness, but that are needed as containers for infantry battalions busy on a variety of roles in the UK and abroad.

The French Au Contact plan, which also puts renewed focus on the Division, has gone for a very rational spread of capability: each Division commands 1 armoured, 1 medium and 1 infantry brigade. In the French case, the “infantry” brigades are particularly capable and specialized, since one is the Mountain brigade and one the PARA brigade.
The armee de terre then has an “airmobile” brigade which is, really, an aviation brigade, since it does not include ground maneuver units other than the logistic battalion. It contains the helicopter squadrons, but the infantry would come from other brigades.
The French “airmobile” brigade actually resembles more the “new” Joint Helicopter Command than it does 16 Air Assault Brigade.

I call JHC “new” because, as part of the restructuring, 16 Air Assault brigade has been pulled out of JHC and assigned to Field Army Command. In the process, 16 Air Assault Brigade has lost direct control of the helicopter regiments, that remain in JHC alongside the 7 Aviation Support Battalion REME (including 132 Aviation Supply Sqn RLC).
16 Air Assault now has all the ground units (including 8 Field Company (PARA) REME, which has left 7 REME and joined 13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC instead) while the JHC has all the major aviation units.
Major aviation units that, by August 2016, will include 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, with its 3 Watchkeeper batteries: it has been decided that, despite its ISTAR role, a UAV of that size and complexity should not be under direct command of the ISTAR brigade, but rather under the aviation experts of JHC.  
All Desert Hawk III mini-UAS instead are to be grouped in 32 Regiment RA, within the ISTAR brigade.

Unlike the Armee de Terre, the British Army seems determined not to split the brigades evenly across the two Divisions. All armoured and strike brigades will be under 3(UK) Division, while 1(UK) Division will have the six infantry brigades.
This is probably in no small part due to geography and infrastructure: the heavier and more complex brigades largely gravitate around Salisbury Plain for both basing and training. Sitting under the same Div HQ probably makes sense because of that. However, if the Division is to be so important in the future of the british army, careful thought should go into how to ensure that 1(UK) Div HQ can deploy, command and, through its logistic brigade, support whatever brigade the UK is fielding in a determinate moment.


-          Re-arrange heavy armour formations according to the Combined Arms Regiment structure

-          Use the manpower savings obtained via CAR to uplift the units needed for the second strike brigade. The first comes from downgrading one of the armoured brigades of Army 2020. 

-          Bring CS and CSS units back into the maneuver brigades, and structure their sub-units to support both full-brigade operations and the agile, quick deployment of battlegroups formed from within a specific CAR 

-          The battlegroup mechanism should no longer be matter of making a complete dog’s breakfast by pulling pieces from everywhere across the brigade, and even beyond. As much as possible, the dogma should be: structure like you fight. Battle-grouping must be thought into the very structure of the brigade, on the lines of what happens within 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando due to their specific readiness requirements. A basic battlegroup from the armoured brigade should consist of a CAR, an artillery battery, an engineer squadron, a recce squadron, plus all other elements up to a CAMM battery for air defence where required. 

-          If the Division is key, plan accordingly, and uplift the capability of 1(UK) Div HQ. 

-          A triple, two-year force generation cycle based on the alternation into readiness of 2 armoured, 2 strike, 2 infantry brigades. This will make possible to deploy a Division of three brigades, as from SDSR ambitions. Simultaneous deployment of both armoured brigades, as has been indicated in the House of Lords, promises to be quite challenging, and will require, at a very minimum, the maintenance of high vehicle availability. It seems a “third world war” desperation scenario, or something, otherwise, that the Army would only be able to do if given ample notice to move (more than 1 year, surely). 

-          ABSV remains a fundamental part of the future of the army. It must be progressed at all costs. 

-          120 mm mortars should be introduced in the armoured and mechanized regiments and battalions. 

-          Once, the MOD was looking at 8x8 in pure APC configuration, with nothing but a .50 or GMG as main armament. This severely limits the usefulness of the 8x8 in a conflict against a near peer adversary and even, as the French found out in Mali, represents a serious weakness against enemies with ample access to 23 mm guns and 14.5mm machine guns mounted on pick-ups. The French vehicles armed with .50 have found themselves repeatedly outmatched by the firepower and reach of the enemy, so much so that they have brought old 20mm guns out of storage and put them on trucks used as convoy escorts. The French VBCI has the 25mm gun, and that is a key part of why it did so well in Mali (although the one-person turret, did not prove entirely convincing). It is very important that at least a share of the MIVs get fitted with an unmanned turret with the CTA 40mm cannon, to ensure that each company has adequate firepower.
The US Army is putting remotely operated, basket-less Kongsberg Protector MCRWS on its Strykers to arm them with 30mm guns, and this hopefully will provide further “inspiration” to the british army as well. 

-          Another lesson readily learnt by the Armee de Terre in Africa is the need for an escort squadron within the Logistic regiments. The British Army is well aware of this necessity as well, but probably unable to release manpower from elsewhere to fix the problem. If some of the small light role infantry battalions that will remain after the restructuring were looking for a role, this might just be it…   

          The third Light Cavalry regiment should be assigned to 16 Air Assault Brigade to become a IX unit including squadrons mounted on Jackal, the Pathfinders and the framework for integrating EW teams and Air Defence troops, on the lines of what 30 Commando IX does for 3 Commando brigade. Ideally, a small number of CVR(T) vehicles should be retained for this particular regiment, to give a small, highly mobile, highly deployable armor element which could prove invaluable in some situations. 


  1. fantasy fleets rock!

  2. Hi Gabriele,

    As usual your idea’s are sensible, make the best use of the available equipment and are forward thinking.
    Unfortunately, I doubt any will be adopted.
    I have always thought an armoured cavalry regiment would be a good idea. Dragoons after all started off as mounted infantry.
    I would also suggest that both 3 CDO and 16 AA get another infantry unit and at least a recce Sqn.
    With only 3 infantry units, they can never deploy as a full brigade due to there commitments and I feel this is a waste when they already have a deployable HQ and support. At least there would be 6 deployable brigades.
    With my cynical hat on. I think the reduction in the number of Challengers, if we assume that we are going from 3 to 2 regiments has already been factored in, and only the remaining ones will be upgraded.
    As to the cavalry regiments in the strike brigades, I think they must be some sort of mix of support and recce role. But who knows at this stage. (Maybe not even the army).
    Like you I doubt very much that the replacement for the mastiff, this 8x8 vehicle, will be ordered in any great numbers. I am only expecting 1 unit for each strike brigade.
    I am also curious why they say that the army will be able to deploy a division of 2 armoured and 1 strike brigades? Why not a mix of any combination? Is the 2nd strike brigade got some other role?

    Phil (Still very cynical)

  3. Gaby

    I have never understood the adverse criticism of “fantasy fleets”. True, there are some which are truly fanciful and just too far-fetched for words. However, the best of them are useful and are, in fact, the outcome of constructive creative thinking about the relevant subject, a method which is used in most areas of life. I find yours falls into the latter category.

    A good deal of hard work, research and calculation has gone into the article and it seems like a well-based, thoughtful proposal. The decision to go for six 6 Combined Arms Regiments appears sensible. We hear so much now about the fact that the battlegroup is the formation most likely to be deployed, rather than the brigade, which is often described (not always accurately) as more of an administrative formation. Well, yours is a suggestion that uses that idea. The battlegroup often does contain 14 MBTs and 14 Warriors, and combining two such groups would create your CAR. A brigade might have up to three or four battlegroups. The battlegroup would seem to be the building block for fighting formations.

    I would also go along with your plan to include a Recce and Screening element and a Support Weapons Company in each CA, the former being provided by a “by a strong squadron with Ajax and Ares … etc.”. I’m not sure, though, that your theory concerning Combat Support holds water in every respect e.g. that the change from 9 regiments / battalions to 6 units “allows savings which are easily quantified: e.g. 3 less REME LADs”. You have pointed out that the number of MBTs and Warriors will not change and therefore your (reduced number of) REME units would have to be enlarged in order for them to manage the workload (unless you wanted to put an increased strain on the personnel).

    Would agree with you about the need to upgrade to 120mm mortars. Over the years the British Army has shown a strange reluctance to acquire them, almost as if it were part of their doctrine (maybe something to do with the weight of the 120mm bombs/rounds to be lifted by infantrymen). These presumably would be SP versions, though?

    Will write more later. Just one more question at the moment. Concerning your proposed new Combined Arms Regiments, would there be any of the new MIV wheeled vehicles in those formations? Or just in the Strike Brigades?

    1. It is true that the remaining LADs would have to grow somewhat. More accurately, they would have to change to reflect the fact that tanks and warriors would be found within the same regiment, so that Challenger recovery vehicles would have to be added.

      Overall, with one brigade being "downgraded to wheels" and the other two going to six CARs, significant REME numbers would be available to fix the second Strike Brigade.

      The mortars would be self propelled, absolutely. They would be carried in the tracked ABVS and the wheeled MIV respectively.

      As for the MIV, the armoured brigades should not include MIVs, unless the Army decides to expand use of some wheeled combat support variants (ambulances, command posts, maybe) to cut back correspondingly on ABSV conversions.

    2. What you find is civilians play fantasy fleets on line. While defence professionals play fantasy career structure........

  4. Right some more points and questions.

    I quite like your suggestion for keeping (and even increasing!) cap badges. It has always seemed a corollary of many pundits’ arguments that cap badges must inevitably be lost if amalgamation takes place, but if, as you say, the tank and infantry elements could keep their “battalion” status within the CAR, then they could preserve their respective capbadges while being combined into the new units.

    You say that “ideally, the Strike Brigades should have 3 infantry battalions on MIV, but it takes quite some optimism to imagine the British Army having enough funds to purchase the hundreds of 8x8s needed for such structure. “ Well, I have read in two different sources that the likely buy is something in the area of 300 MIVs. Would not that suffice for 6 infantry battalions (50 per battalion?). Or would that be grossly insufficicent? Alternatively, as you say, a light battalion, mounted on Foxhound, in each brigade, might be the solution.

    Agree with your suggestion that the Royal Artillery should buy a stock of the Alternative Warhead rockets, “which replace the submunitions with an enhanced fragmentation payload with zero risks of residual Unexploded Ordnance on the ground and restored wide-area attack capability. That is, of course, if the money is available. As you say, the US Army is beginning to put these munitions into service, and it can only enhance the capability once again of what is already a fine weapon system.

    1. The number of MIV vehicles depends also on the variants covered. If 40+ Warriors are enough in a battalion, it is just because many variants other than IFV are covered by FV432/ABSV. But if MIV has to come with its own mortar carrier variant and everything, the number needed goes up substantially. Not to mention that there should always be a margin for the training fleet and some reserve.

  5. Hi Gabriele,
    And seasons greetings to one and all.
    Just to put my cynical boot in,
    I did wonder if the infantry battalions in both the armoured and strike brigades might be reduced to two infantry company's or to two platoons in each company?
    Would that then be enough vehicles for 6 warrior and 6 MIVs battalions?
    Or is the 2nd strike brigade to be without vehicles when its not active? 'The army able to deploy a division of 2 armoured and ONE strike brigades'

  6. All might be. The army so far sure hasn't shared any kind of detail.

  7. Thanks Phil. I forgot to say season’s greetings to everyone. Now some last points.

    As you say, Gaby, the US Army is intending to put 30mm cannon onto its Strykers to provide more powerful fire support and you quote the French experience in Mali. Do you think that the Rarden 30mm, due to come off the CVR(T) family when those vehicles go out of service, might be a possibility as a short-term fit for the MIVs? I don’t know much about the state of the Rardens but I know that some pundits consider them to be obsolescent. However, the Rarden has proved to be a more than useful gun over the years it has been in service and might possibly last for the first five or six years of the MIV service, until we can find the funds for something more modern. We must have plenty of ammunition left!

    That leads me to the second point. The vehicles often referred to as “new-build” CVR(T)s or the “Scimitar 2 family”, only entered service about four years ago and must have a lot of life left in them. The term “new build” is apparently something of a misnomer as, although the hulls are new-build ones, some other parts are not. However, these are agile, fast, very mobile vehicles, which are light and air portable. And we do have sixty (approx.) of them. As you say, “ideally, a small number of CVR(T) vehicles should be retained for 16 AA Brigade, to give a small, highly mobile, highly deployable armour element which could prove invaluable in some situations.” It would surely be a massive waste to bin such vehicles while the need in 16 AA Bde is still there.

    The last point I have been into several times previously. It concerns the fact that with the emphasis so much nowadays on formations ready to move at ultra-short notice (e.g. “ready to go within 48- hours” etc. etc.) and to “hit the ground running”, surely the relevant brigades and battlegroups should be integrated as much as possible along the lines of the Combined Arms Regiment. To me, it makes little sense to have support units in other brigades or formations apart from the manoeuvre brigades. As you say, the doctrine should be to structure as you fight” Those who believe that the British ]Army is infinitely flexible and adaptable are, I think, ignoring the importance of making formations as integrated and cohesive as possible. If that happens, such elements as ethos, efficient communication, etc. etc. follow. Otherwise why create an amalgam like 16 AA Brigade, which has operated very efficiently over the years?

    However, that does lead me on to something that seems inconsistent. You say that recent changes have meant that 16 Air Assault Bde now has all the ground units, while the JHC has all the major aviation units and you seem to have approved of such changes. Those changes surely move away from the idea of integrated, cohesive formations which you seem to be propounding here. Or have I got that wrong? Is it different with the aviation elements?

    1. I do approve the move of aviation out of 16 Air Assault brigade. The brigade should stay and will stay closely involved with the aviation community, but it was always not actually helpful to have the whole apache force within the brigade, when the Apache force is committed to providing support to a whole other range of formations, 3 Commando included. I see the helicopters as a different thing from artillery or brigade logistics: the UK cannot afford to allocate helicopters exclusively to one brigade. An aviation-centric JHC with all the helicopters and all the specific supports will be better able to provide aviation packages to whoever needs them, while 16 Brigade can fully focus on its own end of the business.

      As for CVR(T) Mk2, they are an obvious candidate for staying. However, the MK2 is considerably taller and heavier. While this brings advantages in some areas, it brings problems elsewhere: they are not Chinook-transportable like the old ones and might be harder to air land / air drop. It'll be a matter of evaluating the pros and cons.

      As for Rarden, i don't know if such "interim" solution would deliver significant savings. It depends probably on how long it would last before a new gun was rolled in.
      The gun itself is probably still okaish, the problems are feeding and lack of stabilization in the legacy platforms. Hard to say if the Rardens could be successfully re-employed in an unmanned turret on MIV. Might be worth considering, but i don't honestly know. Those with the details should work out the pros and cons, again.

    2. Could always put those ex-Warrior Rarden turrets onto those former modernised 434/Bulldogs. ~6 Bttns worth of reserves - yet good enough for Mali/Yemen/Lybia?

      Different Anon.

  8. Gaby,

    Many thanks for your reply. I can now for the first time see your reasons for approving the move of aviation out of 16 Air Assault brigade.

    What you say about CVR(T) Mk2 is also very informative.

    Thanks once again.

    1. The Scimitar MK2 uses a Spartan APC hull, that's why it is taller. And it reaches up to 12+ tons, so you can't pull up one beneath a Chinook, like you could with the old ones. That also means greater specific pressure on the ground, aka reduced mobility in some circumstances. On the other hand, it offers better crew survivability (and probably comfort). Those are (some of) the factors that would have to be considered in choosing, eventually, to retain old or MK2 CVR(T).

  9. Gaby,

    I did read somewhere a few years ago that the Scimitar 2 vehicles were based on the Spartan hull but I had completely forgotten about it. I had grown to thinking that all variants were built along the same lines as their predecessors. So thanks very much for informing me about that and about the limitations and advantages of the later-generation vehicles.

  10. Your "combined arms regiment" looks similar to the FCS concept that the US was designing around 10 years or so ago. In the FCS design, each Unit of Action (brigade) had 3 x Combined Arms Battalions (each 2 x armoured, 2 x infantry, 1 x 120mm Mortar, 1 x HQ, and 1 x Recce company). Each Infantry company had 3 platoons, each of which had 3 x Infantry squads and 1 x weapons squad with 2 x Javelin ATGW and 2 x AGL. Each armoured company had 10 Mounted Combat System vehicles.

  11. Hi Gab,
    I have a question regarding Italian military missile defense plan. I guess you the best expert that I can find :) Italian Army has selected SAMP/T as her ground based missile defense solution. The first battery already obtained IOC status and there is even conversation about possible deployment to Trukey for NATO mission. And yet the Air Force is considering MEADS. Italy after all is one of the three nations that have invested in MEADS. What is the rational behind having two competing systems that pretty much do the same job?

    1. They don't do the same job, as MEADS is more anti-ballistic oriented and offers far better capability in that respect. SAMP-T has some ABM capability of its own, but secondary in the end.

      The purchase of MEADS remains on the cards because the Air Force still wants to acquire an anti-ballistic capability beyond the limited coverage offered by SAMP-T. Whether it will actually happen, is to be seen.

      And then there is CAMM ER, the Extended Range variant of the british CAMM, to be developed by MBDA Italy and Avio, which is the desired Local Area element to replace SPADA (air force) and Skyguard (Army).
      So, there is a possibility that the high-end SAM systems will actually be 3 by the end of the modernization.

      SAMP-T replaces Hawk
      CAMM ER replaces the Aspide missile in the Skyguard (Army) and SPADA (air force) batteries
      MEADS is a new ABM capability (and in some way a replacement for the old NIKE Hercules that however left the air force service back in 2006)

  12. If I have one observation on this interesting article it is that it assumes that the division is 'built up' from brigades rather than first working out what forces the division should have and then dividing these up between brigade HQs, historically the brits have tended to take the latter approach. If they do this again then it might lead to different conclusions about what's in the armored infantry, strike and artillery units. For example, might divisional level recon necessitate armored cavalry being held directly by the division rather than in the armored brigades? (which was the case until relatively recently)

  13. Hi Gabriele,
    According to this Defence News article, the French plan to reduce their Scalp stockpile to just 100 missiles? Not sure if that is for both the Armee de l'Air and Marine Nationale. Just wondered if you had heard anything about it?


    The UK apparently still has a stockpile of around 600 Storm Shadows? (even after the reduction)


    1. I had not heard of such a massive cut in the french stock, thanks for the heads up.

      The british stock was cut by an over 200 milion value according to a news report, which suggests over 200 missiles will have gone. But the UK had purchased 900 or 950, so the remaining stock, even factoring use in combat, is possibly still around 600, yes.

    2. Thanks for info.


  14. Gaby,

    Regarding the article “UK Surges Ahead with Challenger 2 Upgrade”, the main reason for the British Army’s concern would seem to be the decreasing effectiveness of the L30 rifled gun and its ammunition.

    If the proposed upgrade is to involve only the turret’s subsystems, then that will not solve many of the problems, will it? At the very least a new suite of ammunitions is required and to be truly effective the gun, and possibly the turret too, need to be replaced. Moreover, the vehicle could do with an upgrade to the power pack and some enhancement of armour too.

    Has there been any indication yet of what the upgrade will involve? If they intend to spend over £2 million per tank, surely the update is bound to involve much more than turret subsystems, isn’t it?

    Also have you heard anything more about the “competition to provide the British Army with updated bridging capabilities.” Could that involve Titan as well as the BR90 system? In the case of the latter I have read about the possible replacement of the Unipower vehicle but not much else.

    1. Unfortunately, the two big problems of Chally (gun and engine) will not be touched by the LEP, and that is really a big question mark over the whole thing. I'm not sure it is worth bothering. I'm also horrified that we are just looking at yet two more years of concepts, assessments and who knows what. What is left to be "assessed" after years of studies which never go anywhere, i don't know.
      The cost is also ridiculous. It includes support for N years, okay, but if comms and thermal imagery are the main changes as it appears, there really is not much to chew in comparison to the cost.

      As for the bridging, the TITAN is just the carrier vehicle. Don't think it will change. The two bridges TITAN can employ are part of the BR90 kit (which is a family of bridging elements with various elements), and will be upgraded to handle much higher weight classes, to account for heavier vehicles. It is the ABLE General Support Bridge element that might also get a replacement truck, as well as the weight class envelope expansion.

    2. Gaby

      "The cost is also ridiculous. It includes support for N years, okay, but if comms and thermal imagery are the main changes as it appears, there really is not much to chew in comparison to the cost."

      Agree absolutely. Thanks for your commonsense response.

  15. having read F-35 and weapons I wonder about the "punch" of two carriers :)

  16. why 120mm mortars why no 155MM M777 which are a British design?

    1. Because despite being very light for a 155 mm howitzer, the M777 is not quite as mobile as we'd like it to be. That's why the USMC complements it with 120 mm mortars and the US PARAs and infantry BCTs continue to use the M119 (their variant of the L118).


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