Monday, February 29, 2016

The Army's deficits - UPDATE

Are 82.000 men too few? Yes, especially if you waste them.

There is little doubt that 82.000 regulars are a small manpower base for a major army like the british one. The limit has been met by accepting constraints almost anywhere, and some other limitations have only been narrowly avoided (example: the 60mm handheld mortars remain, but at one point they were due to be shelved in all but PARA and Commando battalions). However, 82.000 is not a shabby number. If used well, it can still sustain a good combat force. The problem is that the british army is not using its 82.000 regulars in a way that makes sense, due to political interference. Namely, due to the 2010 order from HMG to cut a maximum of five infantry battalions, to avoid a loss of capbadges. I bang on this problem quite often, but it is indispensable to do so, because this single order is continuing to cause absurd distortions in the force structure.

The biggest and most amazing issue is that, due to the conflicting requirements caused by the 2010 orders, 7 out of 11 army brigades are currently undeployable. They are a container of precious resources (3 cavalry regiments, 2 artillery regiments, 2 logistic, 2 REME, 2 artillery, 2 medical and over half of the infantry battalions) piled up messily and destined to be thrown together yearly to form a “brigade package” which, in an enduring operation abroad, would have to cover the 4th and 5th deployment in the 5-deployments cycle.

There is a lot of value in the Adaptable Force. Yet, all of it is of dubious actual employability. The infantry battalions are scrawny: they have been kept around, but all rifle companies are short of one platoon. Every area has been cut back to the bare minimum of men needed.
The Light Cavalry regiments have no direct firepower greater than that offered by HMG and GMG.
The Artillery regiments have a mere 12 L118 Light Guns each, and the supporting elements (command, REME, etcetera) have been cut to the bare bone.
The Logistic Regiments are down to 2 squadrons plus HQ Sqn.
And there is not a single Royal Signal regiment in the whole Adaptable Force.

The Signal deficit

Amazingly, the 7 brigades of the Adaptable Force have access to zero dedicate Signal support. There is not a single Signal regiment tasked with supporting the Adaptable Force. Under Army 2020, Signal resources have been “centralized” under 1st and 11th Signal Bdes. In particular, the 11th Brigade groups the signal regiments destined to ensuring brigades and divisions can communicate. 5 “Multi Role Signal Regiments” have been formed and put in Group 7. The reserve Signal Regiments form Group 2.
Group 2 is tasked with the provision of UK ICS support. The regiments are not deployable, but they are paired with the regular ones and provide reinforcement to them.

That leaves 5 regular regiments which are tasked with providing communications for brigades, divisions and all supporting elements (logistic brigades, field hospitals, theatre entry units from 104 Log Bde). Between 2011 and 2015, the plan has been for the 5 regiments to be restructured to the same shape and capability, to enable seamless transition from one position to another in the Readiness Cycle and in the Army’s ORBAT.

The FORM (Formation Readiness cycle) was thus intended to be spread over 5 years, with each regiment spending three years aligned with one of the Reaction Force armoured infantry brigades (a complete cycle Other Tasks Year, Training Year, Readiness Year) before moving on to spend one year aligned with the Reaction Force Division HQ (providing the Forward and Main HQ and support for attached units) and finally conclude the FORM with a “Committed Year” delivering ICS support to… whoever needs it across the army, including troops in Afghanistan for Op TORAL to forces busy in the Middle East under Op SHADER and all sorts of other small deployments (training tasks and defence engagement tasks abroad).
If an enduring operation popped up and had to be supported, the “Committed Year” probably would entail deploying in support of the Adaptable Brigade going in the field, even though this would inexorably break Harmony Guidelines.
Let that sink in: half of the army (and the majority of its brigades) has no assured, dedicate communications support.

The whole wisdom and feasibility of the “centralization” of resources is called into question. It just can’t really work, no matter how many buzzwords are thrown at the plan to make it look like “innovation”. What the Multi Role Signal Regiment concept does is providing uniformity in structures and capabilities across the regiments and deliver Signal units that can actually meet the needs of a brigade / division HQ in the field. But did the restructuring of signal resources also require the removal from the supported brigades and division?
The current multi role signal regiment has:

-          one armoured squadron, mounted on Bulldog, delivering the manoeuvre HQ for the Division or Armoured Infantry Brigade. Effectively, these are the Brigade Signal Sqns of the pre-2011 era, removed from the brigades and incorporated into Signal regiments.
-          one squadron delivering communications support to Vanguard Enabling elements from 104 Log Sup Bde and Force Troops Command
-          one squadron delivering FALCON Trunk service and SATCOM to enable operations of the deployed force and of its supporting elements

In the Division support role, one squadron is needed to deliver the Main HQ, a huge field deployable command structure comprising 50 or more DRASH tents, 2 FALCON elements, a REACHER Satcom access point and hundreds of other elements.

The complexity of the Division Support role and the changes it requires to training, equipment and structure have ended up making the originally envisaged FORM mechanism almost unworkable. The result…? Months after shelving “Division Signal Regiment” from its title, 3 Signal Regiment is now once more called 3 (UK) Division Signal Regiment, and while remaining under OPCON of 11th Signal Brigade, it is now permanently aligned to the divisional task, giving a “4 + 1” FORM.
Three regiments (21, 1 and 16) have already taken up the intended Multi Role Signal Regiment structure. 2 Signal Regiment, on the other hand, has stopped its restructuring to provide much needed Signal support to all deployed packages during 2016: this includes a multitude of short term training tasks and other duties in Africa and elsewhere; support to BATUK training etcetera. To make things more complex still, HMG keeps piling up commitments on the shoulders of the Army, having committed 4 Brigade HQ for High Readiness in the 3rd and 4th quarters of this year as framework HQ of the European Union Battlegroup, while also promising some personnel to the Spanish-led NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Land) 16.
So, an area already stretched thin is stretched thinner still, with 2 Signal Regiment tasked to send men all over the place, literally.

Hilarity will ensue when the Army tries to make sense of Joint Force 2025, with its 4 regular, reaction brigades (up from 3). That will probably entail the definitive abandonment of the Army 2020 “centralization” and FORM rotation. With 3rd Signal Regiment already committed to the Divisional role, there are just 4 regiments for 4 brigades of two types (armoured, tracked – mechanized, wheeled). It seems fair to assume that the Signal Regiments will align permanently each to a single brigade, and that will end the “innovation” of Army 2020.
Cuts are not innovation.

Elsewhere, centralization is just as virtual: Artillery, REME, Medical, Logistic units, all obviously need to reflect the characteristics of the brigade they are meant to support, so that huge differences exist between the regiments committed to supporting the Reaction Force and those left for the Adaptable Force.
Again, does it even make any real sense to keep these units formally separated from the manoeuvre brigades? As I’ve said many times already, I think no, it does not make actual sense. No one else is doing it and the US Army, the only one which had done something remotely similar by giving its Brigade Combat Teams only token engineer elements, grouping the rest into brigades, is going back to fix the mess.

Moreover, the problem of the Enduring Operation remains: math is a cruel mistress, and the British Army continues to be at least 1 Signal Regiment short of the minimum requirement for 5 brigades to alternate in the field.  

The Firepower deficit

The british army ranks among the lightest in the world when it comes to generating firepower. It does not employ 120mm mortars in its battalions; it does not have vehicle-borne ATGWs; it fields Cavalry Regiments which have in the Grenade Machine Gun their most powerful direct fire solution, etcetera, etcetera.
There is also a lot of curiosity ahead of the selection of a solution for the Mechanized Infantry Vehicle (MIV) requirement. Will it still be a simple APC, with no firepower option greater than an RWS with a .50 or GMG if we are lucky…?

The british army has been deeply impressed by the French operations in Mali and has found in those the ultimate argument in favor of the “medium weight force”, based on the 8x8, which it has been pursuing for decades (without any success so far). British soldiers have been training on the VBCI in France, getting to know it, its merits and the tactics connected with the vehicle.
However, it must be noted that VBCI did well in Mali because it is an IFV, with a turret and a 25mm gun. The gun bit cannot be ignored. The french army has found itself in difficulty in Mali when faced by columns of pick-ups armed with 14.5mm Russian machine guns and the ubiquitous 23mm ZSU cannons and other heavy weaponry. Those weapons outgun and outrange the .50 HMG, and represent a serious threat. In Afghanistan the problem was not quite as keenly felt due to how the Taliban fight and act, but in Mali the French army ended up pulling out the old 20mm AA guns to fit them on the back of trucks to outgun or at least match the firepower and reach of the 14.5 and 23mm on the enemy pick ups. We are not even talking about the firepower of a Russian mechanized formation, but of ISIS-level cheap crap, which can already be enough to create serious risks and difficulties.  

The "Strike Brigade", if the MIV ends up being an APC with a RWS, will be outgunned by pretty much anyone on earth, and all direct firepower requirements will fall on a handful of Ajax from the brigade’s cavalry regiment, being used not just for recce but as "medium armour" element as well.
It is worth reminding that FRES SV originally included a specific "medium armour" variant. That was a serious item, armed with the 120mm gun.
But now Medium Armour is merely another double-hatting of the recce variant.

Ahead of the MIV (and ABSV, hopefully) decision, the British Army should reconsider its firepower capabilities. Everyone and their dog are rethinking the merry and unarmed 8x8 APCs. Poland is putting remote 30mm gun turrets complete with SPIKE missiles on its Rosomak in the APC version. Even Germany is thinking about putting Puma turrets on Boxer. The US Army is rethinking the Stryker and working to put an unmanned turret with a 30mm gun on it. And even before that, Stryker battalions were supposed to include a number of Mobile Gun System vehicles with the 105mm gun, now possibly to be replaced by the new Mobile Protected Firepower once they fund and select a vehicle for the requirement.

Are they the mad ones? Don't think so. Of course, money is always a problem. Turrets and guns have a cost. But if the Strike Brigade is to be useful and, at least to a degree, able to deploy alone and get the job done exploiting its strategic and tactical mobility, the MIV must have firepower.
At least one vehicle in each MIV section should carry an unmanned turret with a serious gun, ideally the same 40mm employed by Warrior and Ajax, if you ask me.

Indeed, in my mind the Light Cavalry regiments need some guns with more punch and reach than HMG and GMG, too. And quickly, because the French experience proves how easy it would be to put a current Light Cavalry formation in trouble.
Workable solutions to this problem exist, and have been put forwards in France and in the US, where the M230 30mm chain gun used on the Apache has been adapted to vehicle RWS weighting as little as 450 kg (including 250 rounds), which have been tested on Humvees and M-ATV vehicles and even on the little, Chinook-internally transportable Flyer. While putting the CTA 40mm gun on Jackal does not seem to be doable, a number of vehicles in each regiment could be armed relatively easily with the land variant of the 30mm gun used by the Apache attack helicopter. This would also have the merit of not introducing a new cannon and a new stock of ammunition to manage: commonality with the Army Air Corps would ease things somewhat. Lethality out to 2 km would be vastly improved. 

The M230 on the Flyer lightweight vehicle. This could be a low-pain solution to the firepower deficit in the Light Cavalry.

Both the MIV and the ABSV mortar carrier variants should come fitted with 120mm mortars. The 81 mm mortar makes sense for Light formations, but armoured and mechanized battalions, which aren’t as tormented by weight issues, should really adequate their firepower to what is by now the international standard. 

The US Army has awakened to the weakness of Light Role infantry brigades and early-entry parachute forces which lack mechanization and direct fire punch. The Mobile Protected Firepower, for which BAE is offering a renewed and improved M8 light tank, aims to provide Infantry BCTs and Air Assault / Parachute BCTs with an air-droppable, light, protected, well armed fire support platform. It could also end up replacing the rather unsuccesful Stryker Mobile Gun System in Stryker brigades. In the meanwhile, the US Army is funding unmanned turrets with 30mm guns for its Stryker troop carriers. The UK should take notice of both developments.

The Army “hopes” to have an ABSV variant in the ATGW role, possibly reinstating vehicle-borne long range anti-tank missile capability in the British forces after many years of gap. The MIV should come with an ATGW variant as well, arguably with even greater urgency since the Strike Brigades will not include tanks to relay upon.

The EW deficit

Another important programme for the future is Landseeker, the tentative of Land command to procure new EW systems. Ever since Soothsayer was cancelled, the army has been able to make progress in this field only with the purchase of Light systems, procured as UOR for use in Afghanistan.
But one of the lessons of the war in Ukraine is that EW really is game-changing, and Russian formations make ample use of it. The british army needs to acquire more capable systems not to be shut out of this particular fight.

Lessons from Op Herrick

The Army has released part of the document produced to summarize the lessons of operations in Afghanistan. They are many, but several are related to aviation support and manoeuvre. The ability to move troops by air, using helicopters, is a recognized key strategic ability, yet the army fears that, with the end of operations in Afghanistan, the helicopters will tend to be available only for the PARAs. Maybe this concern has something to do with how 16 Air Assault Brigade has been split from the Apache helicopter regiments and pulled out of Joint Helicopter Command. Specific aviation needs which have long been neglected are also mentioned, including medical evacuation via MERT teams, which are not normally available, and helicopter transport for the commanders.
The crucial importance of aviation to the whole army and the need for enduring close integration make me think, not for the first time, that the one Force Support Brigade that Army 2020 should have given us was the Combat Aviation Brigade.
This belief is further reinforced by the observations contained in the Herrick campaign review about the different tour length for aviation personnel and the problems in ensuring that ground forces and air forces deployments remain connected properly. More must be done to re-align tour lengths for future operations, but the document laconically says that JHC has no intention to do so, at least “at the time of writing”. The wild difference in tour lengths should absolutely be mitigated, although tour duration will never be written in stone due to considerations of output and performance of the crews.
It seems to me that having JHC in Andover is not enough to ensure proper Air-Land integration, and I continue to believe that the combat aviation brigade construct should be a priority for Joint Force 2025.

The Op Herrick campaign study also says that the Warrior 514 is not fit for the purpose of carrying and enabling a Fire Support Team. It should be carefully considered whether it is possible and cost-effective to proceed with the 514 upgrade the Royal Artillery has been pursuing, so far without success, for years, or if it wouldn’t be easier to just purchase some more Ajax in the Joint Fires variant. Ajax comes with more space, more power and a more modern electronic architecture that should ease the integration of all systems needed. Moreover, using only the relevant Ajax variant would remove the need for developing and procuring the role-specific 514 upgrade.

Another area in which I feel vindicated is Air Drop. The Op Herrick document contains the recommendation to procure precision and guided airdrop capability for stores.
The British Army also needs to recuperate the ability to airdrop Light Gun and vehicles: currently, this is not possible since the Medium Stressed Platform is not compatible with the C-130J’s cargo floor and a temporary integration, although pursued for a while, seems not to have been funded.

If, Then, Else

There are basic truths that do not change, no matter how many buzzwords SDSR documents use. There are things in the military which just are what they are, and can’t be “radically innovated”. Operational capability is not achieved by an understrength Light Role infantry battalion, but by a coherent construct composed of a recce element, a manoeuvre element and the key fire and logistic supports, plus adequate communications. A messy pile of resources will not deliver adaptable combat power just because you stick the “adaptable” adjective to it on paper.
The Army needs to be given real freedom of manoeuvre in reorganizing its structures. And the army must face the problem with rationality and honesty.

If the Division is important, then resourcing it must be a priority and having only one deployable HQ is probably not enough. It imposes a really short duration to operations.

If air manoeuvre is key, your force structure must reflect your doctrine.

If you know that to make a brigade you need a Cavalry/recce element, at least 3 manoeuvre formations, ideally a direct fire support unit, artillery, logistic, communications, medic and equipment support, build a structure that reflects it.

My “SDSR” for the British Army is as follows:

Disband 4 Light Role infantry battalions to free manpower for other needs (should make available at least around 2200 all ranks all trades).

Form two additional brigade Signal Regiments and one additional Aviation Support Signal Sqn (use 1300 all ranks, all trades).

Beef up 16 Air Assault brigade with Light Cavalry regiment; swap 2nd Gurkha Rifles for 2 Light Protected Mobility battalions. Build up 8 Field Coy REME into a battalion; reinforce other supporting formations with a third sub-unit each.

Form a second airmobile brigade with two Light Role (instead of PARA) and two Light Protected Mobility battalions.

Convert the third Light Cavalry regiment in the CBRN Regiment as the mission is taken back from the RAF Regiment.

1st UK Division to be restored as a deployable HQ; 1st Signal Regiment to resume its Divisional role

Two Armoured Infantry brigades each with one cavalry regiment with Ajax and 3 Combined Arms Regiments each. The 6 CARs are to be formed by merging the current 3 tank regiments and 6 armoured infantry battalions. Each CAR to have 2 squadrons of Challenger 2 tanks, 2 companies of infantry on Warrior and one Manoeuvre Support Coy with mortars, ATGW, Recce troop, Snipers and Pioneers.

2 Medium Brigades each with one cavalry regiment with Ajax and 3 infantry battalions on MIV.

Align each support regiment permanently to one brigade. Each brigade to have one Signal regiment, 1 artillery regiment, 1 REME, 1 Medical, 1 Brigade Logistic Regiment.
The regiments currently assigned to 16 Air Assault and to the Adaptable Force will need an uplift and the formation of the missing sub-units. This will quickly use up all the remaining manpower recouped with reductions elsewhere.

Create a 4th regular Precision Fires artillery battery with GMLRS and Exactor. Each armoured and medium brigade to have its own.

Cut 3 AS90 batteries, re-role to L118 and assigned to Medium Brigade. An autocannon like CAESAR would be perfect to equip the Medium Brigades, but money won’t be available before 2030 at the very least (current OSD for both AS90 and L118).

Purchase a number of lightweight 30mm guns to fit on Jackals to give greater firepower to the Light Cavalry. At least a share of the MIVs should come armed with the CTA 40mm gun in an unmanned turret.

Create two Combat Aviation Brigades, one for each Division. Each brigade to have:  

1 Reconnaissance, Light Utility & Command Support regiment with WILDCAT (2 Sqns) and Watchkeeper (1 large battery). Ensure close liaison with Division HQ for command support utility role, as from Op Herrick lesson learned.

1 Assault Regiment, with one Chinook (HC4 and HC6) and one Puma HC2 squadrons.

1 Attack Regiment with two Apache squadrons.

1 Aviation Support Signal Sqn (244 Sig Sqn, existing, and a second one to be formed) 

1 Aviation Logistic Group (REME Av Coy, RLC Supply Sqn, Tactical Refueling Sqn, Joint Ground and LZ Support Element. The REME Coys exist within 7 REME; the RLC element is currently 132 Sqn, might need reinforcement as it is restructured in two twin sub-units; same for the Tactical Refueling Wing and the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron)

1 Force Protection and MEDEVAC Sqn (RAF Regiment Field Squadron, with attached permanent MERT organization supported by one Chinook and one Puma flights from the Assault Regiment)

24 Air Mobile brigade. Back as a Combat Aviation Brigade? If it depended on my judgement, yes.

Going back to 2 deployable Division HQs will be given sense by redistributing the deployable brigades under the two, following the example of the French army under their Au Contact plan: each Division should control one armoured, one medium and one air mobile / light brigade.
The readiness cycle will last two years, one of reset and training and one at readiness. Each year, one Division, with its brigades, will be responsible for preparing and fielding the force needed for any crisis arising.
16 Air Assault will continue to have the two PARA battalions and will alternate them in the Airborne Task Force role. I gave thought to putting one PARA battalion in each brigade, but figured it would probably complicate things rather than ease them.

This restructuring cuts back on infantry to re-invest in enablers, first of all on the Royal Signal, but also to rebuild sub-units in currently understrength logistic, artillery and engineer regiments in order to better exploit the still considerable resources available and deliver a greater number of deployable brigades and, hopefully, a greater integration with aviation resources.

Cutting four infantry battalions will still leave 27, of which 20 in the Deployable Brigades. That leaves 7 to cover Cyprus (2 battalions), Public Duties (2 battalions), Special Forces Support Group (1), Brunei (2 battalions, one in the UK and one in Brunei, alternating regularly). Every two years, the battalions in Cyprus and in Public Duties role will swap place with the Light Protected Mobility battalions in the Light Brigades. The two Gurkha battalions will continue to alternate to cover Brunei. It is a tight fit, but all roles are covered and the resources that remain are better exploited.

Both Divisions will have their own Logistic Brigade. Rather than directly incorporating every logistic regiment, though, the brigade will contain the “Theatre” elements, which stand between the UK and the brigade area of responsibility. The logistic brigades should cover that level, ensuring the flow of supplies from the UK to the area of operations and forward to the Brigade area of responsibility. The Manoeuvre Brigade should instead have its own Close Support Logistic element, configured to deliver all the way to the line of fire.

A number of Force Troops brigades would consequently be removed: 1st Artillery Brigade will be replaced by smaller Artillery Integration Cells at the Divisional Level. 11th Signal Brigade would be removed from the ORBAT, with the reserve regiments and 10 and 15 support regiments assigned to Groups within 1st Signal Brigade.
8th Engineer Brigade would stay, but the Close Support group would be removed as the combat engineer regiments are handed back to the manoeuvre brigades, leaving Force Support Group (Land), Force Support Group (Air) and Force Support Group (EOD). 

EDIT: I've just learned that 25 (Close Support) Group, with the 3 heavy engineer regiments destined to the Armoured Infantry Brigades, has resubordinated to 3rd UK Division. The two hybrid regiments (21 and 32) which would support the Adaptable Force have been assigned to 12 (Force Support) Group within 8 Engineer Brigade. Not quite the return to the manoeuvre brigade yet, but a step in that direction.

The formation of the Combat Aviation Brigades will still leave 1 Chinook squadron, which will be devoted to Special Forces role and CSAR. Ideally, it will have the long-range HC3 (which are being upgraded to HC5 and fitted with Digital Flight Controls like those found on the new HC6s) and, if they really will be funded, the AAR probes to further expand their reach.
Formally outside of the Combat Aviation Brigades will also remain 657 AAC (also special forces support), 658 AAC (Dauphin for urban SF ops), all grouped in the Joint SF Air Wing.
The training squadrons will also remain outside, at least in terms of Force Generation Cycle.    

Flexibility and task-grouping will continue to be encouraged and pursued, but with a different approach. Task-grouping must become an easier proposition and something that is carried out orderly within the brigade. Flexibility is best achieved by using standardized structures for sub-units and by reducing the amount of re-roling and mixing up of parts within infantry battalions. Currently, in any one year the personnel within a typical british infantry battalion can be moved around infinite times; mortar platoons can go without touching a mortar for months and re-ORBATing is way too frequent. This may give soldiers knowledge of a wider variety of roles, but the confusion it brings cannot be actually helpful. Jacks of all trades and masters of none, that’s the likely outcome.
It is time to bring standardization and order in basic structures. Build battalions which can be employed, and brigades that can readily pick pieces from their constituting units to form battlegroups, following practices recognized by everyone within the army.

It won’t solve all problems, but it’ll do wonders to improve the effective combat power of those precious, few 82.000 regulars. And it'll make supporting future enduring operations a realistic proposition. At the moment, it does not seem to be realistic at all, because too many pieces are not available, sacrificed to keep capbadges thrivin and to shield politicians from the backlash that comes from losing an historic regiment. 

Time to put CAPABILITY first.


  1. Why aren't you protesting in front of MOD gates or toppling them to produce this army then? It's too good to waste on a blog.

    1. What's that supposed to be, advanced humor for mature people? You are doing it wrong.

  2. The Army seems to be having an existential crisis of purpose and this has resulted in them coming off worst in SDSR15 (though it has been well covered by the 'strike brigades' announcement).

    The harsh fact is they aren't going to be deployed to fight in numbers anytime soon making them an easy target to become a piggy bank for the other services.

    This isn't unique to the UK, the same thing is happening in the US.

    1. I wouldn't say the US situation has anything really to do with the british army disaster. There are cuts, of course, but it is a whole different approach, scale. The damage done to the british army is far worse.

    2. Disagree, the US Army may be larger but the effects of program reductions are just the same albeit on a longer scale.

      I actually don't think this is a bad thing if the money is directed back at the RN and RAF, in the meantime someone needs to work out exactly what the British Army is actually for.

    3. You are right Gabriele. The British Army has been hung out to dry by the politicians, who else? But that applies to the whole country.
      You need voices inside the forces and Parliament to take your visions forward.
      These need to be at middle level.
      Keep going you are splendidly well informed and coherent.
      The Navy is being sorted and probably the RAF too.
      The point you make about lacking armament is very valid and for years we have forgotten to put enough guns into the front line formations. Thanks

    4. Re Anonymous above. I am not certain you are really conscious of the comparative positions of the US Army and the British Army. Obviously they are completely different scales, but leaving that aside, the British Army's use of is resources (manpower, structure and money) is a complete disaster compared to the US. When you say "programme reductions" - the US Army has a deployable structure that has deploying Brigades and Divisions at its core. The British has retaining Regimental titles and non-deployable brigade, division and corps headquarters as its core purpose.

  3. We don't even have 82,000 in the regular force. Couple of weeks ago I was given the figure of approx. 73,000. Also 1 Lancs have had close to a companys worth decide to sign off.

  4. Hi Gabriele. Excellent article as ever which I would almost 100% support. Three questions / thoughts for you which might free up additional resources if it was needed -
    1. Why do the Air Assault / Light Brigades have 4 infantry battalions each? Would not three be appropriate?
    2. Could the "ready" light infantry battalion from the light brigade not take (rotationally) one of the Cyprus battalion roles - ie act as theatre reserve as well?
    3. Would your logic also not result in 3 Commando Brigade needing to be bolstered - particularly in the light cavalry area?



    1. 4 battalions in the Light / Airmobile brigades is a mean to give them good power even though they are, as the name says, light. It is also a mean to hopefully make good use of the interesting capability of Foxhound-mounted formations. You could put the Foxhound into regional brigades, but what good would that make? It would separate them from the supports, which simply are not available in sufficient quantity.

      Putting one ready battalion in Cyprus as regional mobile reserve could be another way to tackle the Cyprus problem, yes. But battalion moves are expensive, and i wouldn't suggest making them too frequent. It could be done, though, if the battalion spent both the training and readiness year on the island. It is an option.

      I would very much like to bolster 3 Commando, but the resources are not quite there for it. A small cavalry capability would have to be obtained from the brigade's own resources, namely the Armoured Support Group with its Vikings.

      If, at some point, the Army was in the position to purchase 5 squadrons worth of Mobile Protected Firepower platforms, that would be ideal: one sqn in each of the Medium, Light/Air mobile and Cdo brigades. But, of course, money and manpower again.

    2. Combining the 1st and last points would an option not be to -
      1. Scrap the manpower of 2 more infantry battalions (including considerable money savings)
      2. Keep all of the foxhounds available for use in the two light brigades - one battalion might either be airmobile or protected mobility depending on need - although agree shifting between the roles would take time
      3. Use the above manpower / monetary savings to fund the 5 squadrons of firepower (or at least 3 for the 2 light brigades + the marine brigade)


  5. Gaby

    Very thought-provoking article. You are certainly right in your assertion about the dubious actual employability of the Adaptable Force.

    I have some questions/comments, though, about various suggestions. First of all, your proposal that four Light Role infantry battalions should be disbanded in order to free manpower for other needs. You say that this should “make available at least around 2,200 all ranks all trades.”
    Now, such a move, to my naïve way of thinking, would necessitate the sacking of two thousand plus highly trained infantrymen because they are not going to be immediately transformed into first-rate signallers or engineers or mechanics, etc. That takes years of training and the transitional period would be considerable.

    By the way, I found the details provided by Anonymous in one the replies to the article deeply disturbing (i.e. when he says that we don't even have 82,000 in the regular force and that a couple of weeks ago he was given the figure of approx. 73,000). That, if true, I find immensely dangerous and extremely depressing.

    Secondly, your suggestion that greater firepower than an RWS with a .50 or GMG is needed for the Mechanized Infantry Vehicle (MIV) requirement. There is an interesting article on “Defense News” today which mentions the upgrading of the Stryker, in particular the US Army’s approval of an upgrade for 81 vehicles in July 2015 in response to urgent requests from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Germany, “to replace its .50-caliber machine guns with a 30mm gun and turret amid fears the eight-wheel vehicles were being outgunned by their Russian counterparts”. I did not, however, fully understand your point about the British Army being deeply impressed by the French operations in Mali and the VBCI doing well because it is an IFV, with a turret and a 25mm gun. Was that before or after they started pulling out the old 20mm AA guns to fit them on the back of trucks? If they were doing well, why the need to re-introduce the 20mm guns?

    Other questions will follow when I have a bit more time.

    1. It would certainly take time and pain to remove infantry battalions and build up supports, but the only other way to fix the problem would be to obtain an uplift to the number of regulars, and we both know that isn't at all likely.

      As for 73.000, it would imply that the MOD and HMG are lying more than usual, because the official numbers are 80.300 Full Time Trained Strenght for January 2016 (there is indeed a deficit, but not so immense, thankfully).

      As for the french experience in Mali: the french forces there have operated in combined forces battlegroups. Not all of those had VBCI available, especially early on. So they found invaluable their wheeled Sagaie recce AFVs with the 90mm guns, the AMX-10RC with the 105mm and so along. Then, when it comes to the lighter forces, that's where the problem pops up: they struggled when the .50 was the best they could employ. The trucks fitted with the 20mm were a quick fix to the problem. Now they have been made a permanent feature within logistic regiments, which have formed Protection companies that provide escort to the convoys. Obviously, a battlegroup mounted on VBCI won't need that.

  6. Agree on your broad points about the Army's expected future structure which is undoubtedly a mess and driven far more by a cap-badge mentality than any common sense.

    Battalions down to 500 or so bodies and companies losing whole platoons, heading away from a very tried and tested structure is unacceptable. The first priority should definitely be to lose a handful of light battalions which aren't assigned to any meaningful role to make sure both the remaining line battalions and the wider supporting regiments can be brought up to full strength.

    I like the 2 division, 6 brigade structure and the balance of capabilities along French lines. Would happily see 24th brigade reactivated as the 2nd light formation alongside the 16th as well!

    I really can't understand why a force of 82,000 or so regulars as well as a substantial reserve element can't field 6 decently sized combat brigades of 5-6,000 ranks as the field force and have a reduced adaptable force with what's left over for public duties, Cyprus, Falklands etc and regional presence.

    As magnificent as they are, in this day and age with them now costing the same to train and pay as the wider Army i really don't see a need or rational for the Gurkha's and see axing those 2 battalions as a pretty logical move as apposed to 2 UK ones.

    People often retort that the Gurkha's are useful in providing a battalion strength presence in Brunei but i think the UK government should and perhaps will under public pressure increasingly question the propping up of a pretty dodgy theocratic sultanate, and thinking it over i don't see it as the end of the world if we pulled out of our arrangement there.

    Seen as our leaders have in recent years repeatedly provided a lot of hollow sounding affirmations of support to the Five Powers commitment perhaps a new jungle school somewhere on the Malaysian peninsular with probably company level (but perhaps battalion) detachments on 4-6 month rotations would be a good alternative?

    1. Another benefit of the Gurkha brigade, however, is that it represents a door leading to a vast reserve of men eager to be enlisted. There is never shortage of gurkha recruits, and when the army has trouble manning other units, the Gurkhas are a readily available solution. In recent times, a Gurkha elements was used to bring even 24 Commando Engineer regiment up to strenght.

      Since british recruitment isn't so stellar these days, i wouldn't want to lose that.

      I also wouldn't want to lose a stable base and reserve force in South-East Asia right when presence in the area has more political weight than ever. It doesn't necessarily have to be Brunei, i guess, but in Brunei there is infrastructure already, and someone that pays all the costs. It is an excellent bargain for the UK, and i'm really not sure that letting India take the station with its own Gurkha battalions is in the UK's interest.

  7. Challenger

    Always follow your comments with interest. You hold interesting views, always lucidly expressed.

    However, I draw the line at the Gurkhas! You have said it yourself in your qualifying phrase: "As magnificent as they are,..." And not all British home-produced infantry regiments are necessarily first-rate.

  8. Sorry, Challenger. That last comment should have been from MikeW, not M. Forgot to press a button or something.

  9. Brilliant assessment Gabriele. Agree with all your points. What a mess HMG has made of the army especially.

    As for the Gurkhas. I would maintain and actually expand them into a Brigade on their own, by using their various subordinate squadrons used piecemeal elsewhere and extra recruitment. Put it with 3cdo and 16AA in the JRDF.

    While we are at it, why not a Brit version of the French Foreign Legion, say a single Regiment. Knowing the UK, it would probably offend somebody....

  10. Hi Gabriele,

    Great article, and I agree with much of what you say.

    In my humble opinion the army has 3 major problems;

    A. It’s leadership is poor. The top brass are more interested in cocktail parties, getting there peerage and the directorship of a multi national company than leading the army forward and making it work for the 21st century.
    B. It’s organization. As you have pointed out, most of what is needed to build 6 deployable brigades is there. Yet it seems beyond the wit of anyone above the rank of colonel in the army to organize it into 6 deployable brigades.
    C. The Infantry. I have 2 pictures on my wall in front of me, one showing my company on operations, strength 115 strong, another deployed non operational, strength 69 strong. No infantry battalion is at deployable strength. The Infantry regiments are not organized to keep front line battalions at deployable strength; instead we have all infantry battalions at below strength until they are needed for an operation. Then they rob steal and borrow from other battalions. Which makes those other battalions under strength even more and those guys and companies that have been borrowed are now not deployable for 2 years because they have done a tour.
    So are there too many infantry battalions? Yes, I think we should only have 18 deployable front line battalions. As Gabriele says in 6 brigades. I am not counting 3CDO, as they are pretty much committed to battle group size stuff. Also not included, Public duties and the new special overseas training battalions.
    (Just to add, unit moves are very expensive, and it take units out of the ‘line’ that’s why they have been mostly stopped, I think it took us out for 2 months either side of the move).
    To get to 18 deployable infantry battalions however, see problems above.
    1. Better leadership.
    2. Get the army organized into 6 deployable brigades.
    3. The infantry must sort itself out so it has 18 deployable full strength battalions for these brigades.
    4. Is any of this going to happen, no.

    Sorry, still cynical

    PS. Please note; Light role battalions are NOT Light Infantry. Just a personal point.

  11. Gaby

    Many thanks for the previous answers.

    “because the official numbers are 80.300 Full Time Trained Strength for January 2016”. Well, that’s a lot more re-assuring. Not perfect, of course.

    “There are basic truths that do not change, no matter how many buzzwords SDSR documents use. There are things in the military which just are what they are, and can’t be “radically innovated”. Operational capability is not achieved by an understrength Light Role infantry battalion, but by a coherent construct composed of a recce element, a manoeuvre element and the key fire and logistic supports, plus adequate communications.”

    That has my unqualified support. Formations need to be integrated and cohesive. Those critics who maintain that the various elements that make up the British Army are rather like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and can knit together seamlessly if thrown together suddenly before a deployment have it rather wrong. Having a rounded force training together, exercising together, building up communications and connections, etc. must surely be superior. Could I tentatively put forward 16 AA Bde and 3 Commando BDE as good examples of the kind of integration I am talking about. I’m not sure whether we are quite talking about the same thing here, Gaby, but would there be anything in a return to formation structures more closely resembling the old Mutli-Role Brigades? Did you have anything in mind approaching that idea when you talk about the “manoeuvre brigade” (You see, I’m not 100% sure what is meant by that term, as it seems to have different meanings in different contexts. You say later:

    “I've just learned that 25 (Close Support) Group, with the 3 heavy engineer regiments destined to the Armoured Infantry Brigades, has resubordinated to 3rd UK Division. The two hybrid regiments (21 and 32) which would support the Adaptable Force have been assigned to 12 (Force Support) Group within 8 Engineer Brigade. Not quite the return to the manoeuvre brigade yet, but a step in that direction.”

    Am I talking at cross purposes here?

    1. "Manoeuvre brigade" is a generic term to mean a combat, deployable brigade, no matter if light, heavy or medium. That's how i use the term. It is meant to differentiate them from non deployable brigades and support brigades such as Logistic ones, or the ISTAR Bde.

      Multi Role Brigades would be nice in some way, but bad in others. There is merit in keeping specializations, so one brigade devoted to armour and tracks, one to wheeled AFVs etcetera. Indeed, it would be better not to have to mix the tracked Ajax and the wheeled MIV... but the resources are what they are, so compromises are unavoidable.

      Even if i were 100% sure of the merit of having "a bit of everything" within the same brigade (and i'm not), there wouldn't probably be enough resources to build 5 or 6 proper MRBs.

  12. I like your concept, but I have some confusion trying to visualize the structure you have presented in this post and the earlier one. Have I got it right so far?

    2 x Armored Infantry brigades
    ----1 x cavalry regiment (Ajax)
    ----3 x Combined Arms Regiments each
    --------2 x squadrons of Challenger 2 tanks (14 MBT)
    --------2 x companies of infantry (Warrior)
    --------1 x Maneuver Support Coy
    ------------Mortar (ABSV)
    ------------ATGW (ABSV)
    ------------Recce (Ajax)
    ------------Snipers (?)
    ------------Engineer (?)
    ----1 x Signal regiment
    ----1 x Artillery regiment
    ----1 x REME regiment
    ----1 x Medical regiment
    ----1 x Logistics regiment

    2 x Medium Brigades
    ----1 x cavalry regiment (Ajax)
    ----3 x Infantry battalions (MIV)
    ----1 x Signal regiment
    ----1 x artillery regiment
    ----1 x REME regiment
    ----1 x Medical regiment
    ----1 x Logistics regiment

    1. 1 x Air Assault brigade with
      ----2 x Light Cavalry regiment
      ----2 x Light Protected Mobility battalions.
      ----1 x supporting formations

      1 x Airmobile brigade with two
      ----2 x Light Role (instead of PARA)
      ----2 x Light Protected Mobility battalions.
      ----1 x supporting formations

      1 x CBRN Regiment

    2. Air Assault brigade should have:

      1x Light Cavalry (including Pathfinders)
      2x PARA
      2x Light Protected Mobility infantry
      1x supporting formations of all types

      The other light / airmobile would have the same structure, but with Light Role infantry instead of PARAs

    3. Can't see how Ajax fits with the Meduim Briigades. I could see a situation where you got enough up gunned MIV for the 2 Cavalry and say 4 of the Infantry Battalians in the Medium Brigades and used Mastiff, Ridgeback for the rest. In this scenario how would you redeploy the Medium Brigades Ajax in the Armoured Brigade (assuming some flexibility with variants)? What would be the oustanding requirement for ABSV ?

  13. Gaby

    You say: “An autocannon like CAESAR would be perfect to equip the Medium Brigades, but money won’t be available before 2030 at the very least”

    I must confess that I was rather surprised to learn that there will be no money available before that date. I’m sure that I have read that the MOD still holds a substantial contingency fund of £ 4.6 billion over the next ten years and approximately £8 billion of headroom in the later years of the decade. Moreover, they plan to spend about £15.4 billion on Land Equipment over the next decade. Surely that won’t all go on Challenger 2 LEP, Warrior CSP, the Scout SV and UV programmes and on MRV(P), will it?

    There is some excellent new kit available. For instance, the Royal Engineers must surely be interested in the new WFEL Dry Support Bridge and the Pearson PEROCC, just to give two examples. You seem to think that money might be available for an ABSV variant in the ATGW role and for 120mm mortars. Surely we don’t have to wait 15 years for a much needed artillery piece, do we?

    1. The WFEL Dry Support Bridge could be chosen as the solution for Project Tyro, or the current BR90 could be strenghtened and perhaps given a new truck. We'll see something happening in that area, all being well.

      ABSV, no idea. Hopefully there will be money for it, but it is not a given when, how many, and what it'll cover.

      MIV is going to require quite a lot of money, depending of course on how many they want.

      Around 2020 a new Tank Transport truck solution will be needed when the current contract ends. In theory, the Tactical Tankers will also hit OSD, and there are still unmnet requirements (Light Transport, DROPS replacement).

      15 billion might sound like a lot, but it includes all support costs as well, and Ajax alone takes away 4+ billion. I do not expect a bonanza of orders, unfortunately.

      Current OSD for both L118 and AS90 is 2030, and i'd be far, far more surprised to see a purchase of new artillery pieces before 2030 than i'd be surprised by the OSD for both being pushed further to the right.

  14. Gaby

    "and Ajax alone takes away 4+ billion." Good Lord, that sounds like an awful lot of money. For the number we have ordered (approx. 600) that works out a between 6 and 7 million pounds apiece. That is getting on for twice the cost of a Challenger 2! Still,as you say, that includes all support costs as well.

    Having decided to re-organize yet again, this time with two Strike Brigades, the powers-that-be will at least have to make sure that they are equipped properly. That means a lot of variants for MIV. Has anything been released on just how many variants it will have? I have heard nothing.

    1. There is not much information about anything, as usual.

    2. Current price quoted for a Puma IFV is $7m / vehicle and it is not clear that includes R&D. Theoretically Ajax is at least equivalent to it and in some ways more advanced. Furthermore you need to take into account the price that we are probably paying for the assembly and fit out line to be established in Wales.
      With reference to the point around the Strike Brigades, I can guarantee you that no thought whatsoever will have been given to equipment or structure, only the sound bite that 2 "new" brigades are going to be created to "increase" the British Army's power.

  15. @Anon

    Many thanks for the information about the cost of PUMA and AJAX respectively. Makes interesting reading. I had not thought of including the cost of the production line in South Wales.

    Incidentally, there has been quite a lot on the net today about the inauguration of the new Armoured Fighting Vehicle facility at Merthyr Tydfil, both from GDUK and from the MOD.

    I was surprised, to say the least, to hear that no thought or planning has gone into the equipment for and the structure of the new Strike Brigades yet. Astounding. Surely they must have an idea, no matter how approximate, of what they can afford, although I suppose it is all nine years away.

    1. It does not cease to be amazing, but no, no one had any real idea of how to build up the Strike Brigades and it seems a plan is still taking shape. So, not even the army itself knows what the fuck it is doing. Which i find dramatic, but that's how it is.

      And it gets worse when you consider that the Strike Brigades are actually supposed to start taking shape in 2018, reach IOC in 2021 and FOC in 2025.

  16. RE: The Gurkhas

    Gab & Mike you guys make some good points. I guess if we were looking at more troop reductions a better case could be made for sparing British soldiers by getting rid of them. As it is you're probably right that keeping that door to Gurkha recruitment open is too useful to relinquish entirely and if we are talking about cutting a handful of infantry battalions to top up the remainder and provide sufficient supporting arms then a reorganization of the British regiments (with this ridiculous protection of cap-badges set aside) is a better approach.

    Also whilst i'd still like to ideally see the Far East reserve and jungle warfare school in Malaysia to double up as a Five Powers commitment you're right Gab that closing the existing facilities and building new ones wouldn't be cheap to implement, or to run when compared to the Sultan of Brunei footing the bill.

  17. @Gaby

    “And it gets worse when you consider that the Strike Brigades are actually supposed to start taking shape in 2018, reach IOC in 2021 and FOC in 2025.”

    Yes, I had forgotten the date of Initial Operational Capability, as opposed to Final Operational Capability (if that is what the terms stand for). IOC then, is only six years away, so choice of vehicle and decision on structure must be approaching fast!


    Many thanks for your comments re: the Gurkhas. It seems that you now concede the points that Gaby was making about how keeping the door to Gurkha recruitment open is too useful to relinquish entirely and how closing the existing facilities and building new ones in order to form a new jungle school wouldn't be cheap to implement. But I think it is also a matter of the quality of the troops themselves. Hope that came into your thinking somewhere.

    1. I wouldn't like to comment on the perceived quality of the Gurkha's compared to the wider British Army. Hand-picked para's and marine's etc aside i'd hope and expect every line battalion to be of a high standard. A total force of 80,000 or so regulars doesn't leave much room for mediocrity.

    2. Guys,
      As a former infantry soldier myself, I have to agree that every unit in such a small army should be of a high standard.
      The Gurkha's have a good reputation, but they are an infantry unit and they do have there limits and they now cost as much as a British soldier, maybe even more.For every Gurkha you save a British soldier has to be made redundant.

    3. I would be more sympathetic to the "save british battalions" argument if british battalions weren't so often undermanned and the army didn't already have a 2000 men deficit in manpower.

    4. Gabriele,
      Under strength infantry battalions is something I have been whinging on about for years.
      It's a problem that could be solved, if the army had better leadership and the infantry organized itself better.
      But that's never going to happen.
      Phil still cynical

  18. Hi Gabriele,

    I know this is never going to happen. But as the Army is so pathetic in organizing itself, its leadership so weak and forward planning so poor, is it time to cut our losses and cut the armies budget? The money could be better spent elsewhere?
    The RN could really use and increase in manpower and an increase in the RM of another commando unit would give them the capability to deploy as a brigade. A couple more OPV’s would make a difference to taking the strain of the escorts in my opinion.
    The RAF could increase the number of F38 for the carriers, even if this a small number say 8 it could give another squadron. They could also take over 16 AA brigade and merge it with the RAF Regt, (The Para’s in my day never thought of themselves as part of the army anyway and it would give the RAF Regt a role.). For the RAF running 16 AA brigade would be cheap!
    That would just leave the army to carry out public duties and garrison stuff; maybe they could manage to organize that? I know both the RN and RAF are not without guilt in wasting money, but at least we seem to get a better deal out of these two who get much less of the MOD cake.

    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

  19. What would you title these new combined arms regiments ... numbers 1st car, 2nd car etc ...or another name Guards Regiment ?

    ps. I know that the regimental identites is a subject that will cause some arguments

    1. I'm sure the choice of badges would take some time and would probably (sadly) be given more scrutiny than operational aspects.
      But it would be a good chance to resurrect some glorious names. The regiment could be given a new, number-based name, but the infantry elements could keep their current battalion identity, and so could the tank elements. Which would thus double from 3 to 6, allowing some happy returns.

    2. Indeed, thinking about this, if we are saying that the each combined arms regiment will be formed from 2 cap badges each.... Which means that with this approach we could cut 3 "actual" cap badges with no political fallout if we went down this approach....

  20. Gaby

    I realize that this is probably not exactly the right thread in which to post this but I have just read your tweet on the decision by the British Army to retire the Warthog vehicle. As I am not a member of Twitter, I cannot access you comments in full. No doubt they would be quite interesting!

    I’m sure that I have read somewhere that Warthog was to take over the role of support vehicle to Watchkeeper in 47(?) Regiment. If that were to happen, then the Vikings, at present earmarked for the role, could be transferred to the Royal Marines. Or, alternatively, the Warthogs, as you suggest, could possibly have their amphibious capability restored and be given to the Marines. It seems a shame to lose them. They were very effective in Afghanistan and I got the impression that a lot of effort (and possible money too) was put into retaining them. And now this volte face.

    1. I don't think Warthog would have replaced the Viking, which are used in support of Watchkeeper. The Warthog was expected to carry Desert Hawk teams around the battlefield and replace the BV206 as carrier for the MAMBA radar. But it seems DH teams are making do with FV432 APCs when in Armour role and on Husky or others.
      Also, the Army is shifting stuff around and now 32 Regiment will have the mini UAVs, and 47 will have the three Watchkeeper batteries instead. The hybrid batteries are no more now that they are not locked in a force generation cycle for Afghanistan.

      As for giving Warthog to the Royal Marines, everyone seem to think it is unlikely, but the guy at Jane's says the army hasn't yet dismantled or sold the vehicles yet.

  21. Many thanks for your reply, Gaby.

  22. The UK currently has 34 Regular and 14 Reserve Infantry Battalions including 3 Royal Marine, 3 Parachute, 6 Guard and 2 Gurkha. There are also 3 Heavy Cavalry, 6 Light Cavalry and 3 Armour plus 2 Reserve.

    A new structure could be:

    5 Armoured Brigades - each of 1 Tank, 2 Mechanised, 1 Artillery, 1 GMLRS, 1 Aviation (Apache), 1 Heavy Cavalry and a reserve battalions

    5 Light Infantry Brigades - each of 2 Regular and 1 Reserve battalion, Artillery and a Light Cavalry.

    1 Guard Brigade - 5 Regular and 1 Reserve Battalion

    1 Strike Brigade - 3 Regular (on new MIV) and 1 Reserve, 1 Light Cavalry, Artillery etc.

    1 Royal Marine - 3 commando, 1 Reserve, artillery etc.

    1 Air Assault - 2 Para, 1 Air Assault, 1 Reserve.

    This would provide a 1/5 ratio for Armour (Lead brigade rotates every 12 months), 1/5 for Light Infantry (1 Brigade assumes the deployment garrison cycle every 12 months - Cypress/Gibraltar/Falklands).

    The Parachute and Royal Marines would have to provide 1 battalion on immediate response. The Strike brigade would provide immediate (ish) reinforcement to any Armour deployment. The Guards can draw 1 battalion for Public duty and provide a second for immediate crises response.

    As for firepower the UK would have to reactivate some Challenger 2 to get enough for 5 type 56 battalions plus Reserve and training. The artillery could be re-equipped with M777 155mm guns on a 1-1 basis thus providing a huge increase in hitting power. Enough Warrior would be required for at least 5 of the mechanised battalions (the most preferable would be enough for 10 battalions) with the other being heavy protected mobility.

    The UK could then form up to 2 Divisions of armour (1 would contain the strike brigade) and even another 2 of Light infantry if necessary. This would be a credible force with good balance.

  23. Gaby

    Are they going barmy at the MOD?

    First of all we get the withdrawal of the Warthog from active service. Now Janes has run a report that the British Army is to review the use of belt-fed weapons and light mortars in infantry sections.

    What exactly is going on? Is it all a part of a subtle plan on the part of the Government to reduce expenditure in departments, even after SDSR 2015, which was supposed to increase it!

    Both the Minimi and the 60mm Mortar are very important in providing firepower for the section. As infantry units have lost manpower already, the retention of the extra firepower provided by these weapons must surely be retained.

    I look with great trepidation for the next cut that will be made to the Army's capability. Is it a case of give "extra" money with one hand and take it away with the other?

    1. Not just at the MOD. The Army top brass must shoulder the blame for a very questionable series of decisions and never ending confusion. Until a few months ago, it was L129 that looked on the way out. Now Minimi. The 60mm mortar has already survived one or two assassination attempts since 2010.
      They have NO idea what they are doing. Only scrambling to save pennies for... doing i don't even know what, since it is unlikely to be a significant saving anyway.

  24. Gaby

    Many thanks for your reply. As usual, you manage to put things into perspective. Sorry about the nonsensical clause: " . . . the retention of the extra firepower provided by these weapons must surely be retained." I was in a hurry.

    Perhaps the reduction in the Army top brass as a consequence of defence cuts has resulted in a decrease of the intellectual pool of officers available to make important and sensible decisions.

    The 60mm mortar was introduced as a UOR in Afghanistan, then when the war was over, it was announced that it would serve only in 16 AA Bde and 3 Commando Bde. Then it seemed as if it was after all to be kept by line regiments and now this. Madness!

    The Minimi was pressed for by the Infantry itself, was introduced and served successfully and now is possibly to be withdrawn. It beats me.

    Perhaps you could keep a list of such decisions and eventually, when you have enough examples, write an article on the subject? No, I wouldn't put you through the pain!

    1. I could write a few lines, i've been thinking about it this afternoon. But the information available is fragmentary, and so i don't know how helpful it would actually be. It would however underline the state of confusion the army is in, though, with the succession of u-turns, "reviews", "experiments" that have been going on.

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