Sunday, June 5, 2016

Army 2020 Refine: a proposal

This post summarizes, in broad points, my proposal for the reworked structure of the British Army as the forces try to turn Joint Force 2025 into a reality.
So far, very little, if anything, is known about "Army 202 Refine", the internal British Army effort to try and make sense of the SDSR's "Strike Brigades" and other changes that were announced before being properly thought out.
My proposal attempts to close some capability gaps and bring a better balance to the force structure, correcting several weaknesses of Army 2020.

The main assumptions behind this proposal are:

- Regular Manpower capped at 82.000
- No real additional resources

As such, it can only be a case of shifting resources from an area to the other to achieve a better end result. Army 2020 is poor of supports and deployable brigades, with over half of its (understrength) infantry thrown messily into that big bag that is the current "Adaptable Force".

Rationalize HQs

Army 2020 has a recognized shortage of Signal specialists, which have been sacrificed in 2010 to avoid cutting other infantry battalions. The shortage is making it complex to support brigade and division HQs, and the Multi Role Signal regiments rotation is already in crisis. Last year, after a brief experience of regiments rotating in and out of role, the army made a U-turn and 3rd Signal Regiment resumed its “Divisional” title, returning full time to division support.

Army 2020 and the other internal studies carried out by the Army have reaffirmed again and again the importance of having a 2-star HQ level to handle the “strategic” picture and allow the brigade(s) to focus on the tactical side. But for all the good intentions expressed, the British Army is nonetheless down to a single deployable division HQ (3rd UK Div) while 1st UK Div would first require augmentation and the generation of a supporting signal regiment from the little resources available.

On the other hand, the Army is working to generate a new “Standing Joint Task Force HQ”, and maintains support for the ARRC and two small “Early Entry HQs”.
As for brigade-level communications and ICS support, the Army has a single sqn in support of the Air Assault Task force generated from 16 Air Assault brigade and 4 Multi-Role signal regiments to cover for the three Reaction Force brigades and everything drawn from the Adaptable Force.
The shortage is real: the whole Adaptable Force, with its 7 “brigades” does not include a single assigned Royal Signal formation. Not one.
With the Army moving to a 4 reaction brigades structure (2 armoured and 2 “strike”), the Multi-Role Signal regiments will probably stop pretending to rotate in and out of role and will end up aligning permanently each to a particular brigade.

It is fundamental to rationalize the HQs and the (insufficient) resources that support them. The largest deficit is in Royal Signal regiments. Entire formations are needed yet inexistent, and there are obvious difficulties in trying to re-generate such specialized, training-intensive formations, even if Light Role infantry battalions were cut and manpower allocations shifted. It would still be complex, expensive and slow to recruit, train and organize the very many communication specialists needed.
So, how do we improve the current situation?
By cutting the ARRC. Or, at least, by removing the signal resources assigned to it.

Sometimes, when talking about defence, the infamous “vanity project” accusation comes up. I despise that kind of argument, but if there is one area where it is applicable, it is in the area of big, hulking NATO Corps level commands. Europe is crammed full of 3 Star land HQs, as everyone wants to get the chance to be the leader in a large NATO operation. The UK has the ARRC, France has its own 3 star HQ, Italy has another, Spain has one, Germany and Netherlands maintain another, one is in Greece, one in Poland, one in Turkey. And there is the Eurocorps too, which is not a NATO formation but is linked by an agreement that allows its employment.
There is a shortage of deployable Divisions to populate army Corps, but HQ-wise, we are well covered.
It is my opinion that the UK and NATO would both be better served by a more rationally structured and equipped British Army, better able to support enduring operations.
Re-roling and re-assigning the resources of 30 and 22 Signal Regiment would greatly ease the Royal Signal crisis, and reduce the amount of extra formations to be rebuilt. It would still be necessary to raise a number of squadrons to complete the force structure:
-          The two Early Entry HQs would become aligned with the HQs of 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando brigades. Being the early entry formations, they are best placed to be the first Joint Forces command deployed in a theatre of operation. This will also restore both formations to “true” brigade status, from their current resourcing more adequate to just generating and supporting a battlegroup.
-          The two Deployable Division HQs would become the frameworks of two Joint Task Forces HQs. They will have a “traditional” manoeuvre division HQ element and a more capable Joint Force main HQ element within the same organization, and will each have a Divisional Signal Regiment as enabler.
-          244 Sqn, 30 Signal Regiment is currently the only formation tasked with providing communication support to aviation elements. A second Av Sp Sqn would be required, and would have to be formed, in order to assign one formation to each Combat Aviation Brigade.
-          216 Signal Sqn should be expanded to a Multi Role Signal Regiment. This would require taking command of 250 Gurkha Signal Sqn (currently part of 30 Signal Regiment, but already tasked with support to the Air Assault Task Force) and of at least part of 258 Sqn (also from 30 Regiment), which is tasked with supporting and enabling the Early Entry HQs. 3 Commando brigade’s signal element will get a similar reinforcement.
-          30 Signal Regiment will need, effectively, 3 new squadrons to replace the existing ones, which will keep their specialization and will move towards the relevant supported HQs. 30 Signal Regiment will become a Multi Role Signal Regiment of the brigade type.

The end result should be:

-          6 Brigade-level Multi Role Signal Regiments (2, 21, 22, 30, 16 and another formed with 216 Parachute Signal Sqn as base). Two regiments in heavy armour role, two in mechanized role and 2 Light / Air Assault.
-          2 Divisional Signal Regiments (1, 3)
-          2 Aviation Support Squadrons

These resources are meant to enable the re-organization of the Field Army upon two identical Divisions, on the same general model followed by the French Armee de Terre, with each formation including one Light / Air Mobile formation (parachute role to stay focused within 16 Air Assault Bde only); one Medium (or Strike, if you prefer) bde and one Heavy bde. The Division will have its own Logistic Brigade, an Artillery Group and an attached “Combat Aviation Brigade.
The two divisions will alternate yearly into readiness.
HQ UK Support Command would control the remaining elements of the Army, with “London District” replaced by a Brigade-level HQ, the Guards Brigade.

Combined Arms Regiments

Resources available: 227 Challenger 2; 245 Warrior CSP in IFV configuration; FV432 Bulldog then ABSV

Army 2020 has 3 Type 56 tank regiments, each with 3 large squadrons of 18 tanks plus 2 for the RHQ. Exercises have shown that this arrangement (and in general the number of tanks available) is not sufficient to provide MBT support to all battlegroups generated from the brigade.
The Warrior CSP programme will retrofit 245 vehicles with the new turret and 40mm gun. This number appears insufficient to equip 6 armoured infantry battalions, especially considering a healthy number of vehicles is assigned to BATUS.
Each tank and armoured infantry regiment should enjoy a recce element with 8 Ajax vehicles, but this will become hard to accomplish now than a fourth cavalry regiment is required for the 2nd Strike Brigade.

One solution to these issues is the Combined Arms Regiment, already adopted years ago by the US Army and, in several variations, by Israel, Italy and others.
The existing 3 tank and 6 armoured infantry regiments / battalions would be integrated to generate six new units, named “regiments” and formally composed of two “battalions” (for capbadges preservation, mostly):

-          1 “battalion” with 2 tank companies, each with 14 Challenger 2. Ideally, 2 more tanks would be required for the HQ
-          1 “battalion” on 2 armoured infantry companies, each with 14 Warrior CSP
-          1 regimental HQ Coy
-          1 regimental Support Coy with mortars and ATGW
-          1 regimental Reconnaissance Coy with 3 recce troops (8 Ajax plus as many Ares APCs and/or Warrior CSP carrying dismounts) plus Sniper platoon and Pioneers (the snipers commonly end up working in close collaboration with the recce platoon anyway)

This extremely powerful formation is, in practice, a formed, stable battlegroup. Each of the two armoured brigades would have 3 of these, which could alternate regularly in the role of Lead Armoured Battlegroup at high readiness. Supplemented by one squadron from the brigade’s Cavalry regiment; one artillery element from the brigade’s Fires regiment and one logistic and support group, it would make for a very capable early entry heavy force.
Having three in each brigade could allow an 18 months readiness period, in which each battlegroup is at high readiness for 6 months.
This should enable a somewhat reduced pressure on personnel, which could otherwise end up facing a demanding schedule in the passage from a 3-brigades to a 2-brigades rotation model.


The centralization of supports that took place in the last few years will be, in good measure, reversed. Signal Regiments first of all: it has already become evident (arguably, it always was, if you ask me) that the “rotation” does not really work. My suggestion for the future army assumes that signal regiments will be closely related to a brigade or division HQ.
1 Signal Brigade would be disbanded as a consequence of the end of the ARRC mission as detailed earlier.

Artillery regiments will also return to a formal alignment with the respective brigades. 1st Artillery Brigade will be replaced by two smaller Artillery Group HQs attached each to a Division. This group will have much the same functions as the resurrected Div Arty commands in US Army divisions, ensuring both coherence in training, force structure and methods and a greater connection with the division’s commander and the maneuver forces.
The Div Arty group will also regularly control the assigned Air Defence Regiment generated from Joint Ground Based Air Defence, with 12 and 16 Regiments alternating in readiness and coming with a mix of Stormer HVM and FLAADS Land Ceptor batteries.
3 AS90 batteries will re-role on L118 as one Heavy brigade converts into a mechanized / Strike formation.
A 4th Precision Fires battery on GMLRS and Exactor should however be formed, so that each Heavy and Strike brigade have one.
Reserve Artillery regiments on L118 will be disbanded and the batteries assigned directly to the currently small and rather under-strength Adaptable and Air Assault artillery regiments on L118. These regiments currently have only 12 guns each (in two batteries of 6 in the case of 7 RHA, possibly in 3 batteries of 4 elsewhere, a final decision might not have been made yet).
They should be ideally uplifted each to 3 batteries of six guns, but it might only be possible to achieve a 3x4 structure due mainly to manpower problems. The two Light / Air Assault regiments should receive two reserve gun batteries each.
4 Royal Artillery Regiment is currently classed as “Adaptable Regiment – Large”, as it has 6 batteries, having an extra Tac Gp Bty in force. It is the obvious candidate to become the Fires element of the second Strike Brigade, converting its “extra” bty to GMLRS.
Some manpower will become available thanks to the downgrade of one of the regiments currently on AS90. It should be enough to make the extra GMLRS Bty possible.
7 RHA should also see V Parachute Battery brought out of Suspended Animation to return to a 3 gun batteries structure.

Close Support Engineer regiments will also be aligned to the brigades. The current two adaptable regiments only have two regular squadrons, plus 1 or two reserve squadrons. The Parachute and Commando regiments also have only 2 regular squadrons each, plus 1 reserve. An uplift would be required, but the manpower margin from “downgrading” one regiment from Heavy Armour to Mechanized will probably only suffice to fix one of the two Adaptable regiments, to cover the second Strike brigade. Additional manpower can only be obtained at the expense of infantry posts, if the total is to stay at just 82.000.
The uplift would be needed as currently 21 and 32 RE have each only two regular squadrons and one reserve sqn. 23 PARA and 24 Commando are in the same situation, and all would benefit from an extra regular sqn.

The logistic element requires a rethink. Army 2020 leaves the Army with the Reaction Brigades well supported each by a Close Support, a Theatre support and a Reserve transport regiments, while the support available to the Adaptable Brigades is made up by two bare-bones “Force Support” regiments.
A re-organization is needed, to create a modern “Brigade Support Regiment”, in Heavy, Medium and Light variants, thought to cover the needs of a maneuver brigade in the field, with the Theatre level of support held back at divisional level, within the Logistic Brigade.
It is important that the Brigade HQ is not detached from the logistic element of maneuver: the brigade commander must be very much involved in the logistical aspect, always. He cannot and should not attempt to maneuver without having a clear understanding and grip over logistics in his area.
At the same time, the commander must be relieved of theatre-wide considerations, which must be handled at a superior level.
Close Support Logistic is a brigade task, Theatre Support should be a Division task, handled through the Logistic Brigade.
Close Support Logistics must also include the maintenance of vehicles and equipment, so that the brigade’s REME battalion is also an important part of the restructuring. Closely related is also the medical aspect: the experience of brigade logistic support in other countries (but also, to stay within the UK, in 3 Commando Brigade) shows that Medical, Equipment Support, Fuel and general stores are so closely related to be pretty commonly reunited inside the very same regiment (It happens in 3 Commando but also in US BCTs and in Italian army brigades, to make a few examples).
Each Brigade should have its own “Support Group” comprising a capable Brigade Logistic Regiment, a REME Equipment Support battalion and the Medical Regiment.
Theatre-level support, movement of supplies, transport of heavy vehicles, reception staging and onwards movement (RSOM) and field hospitals are instead better left at the Divisional Level, via Logistic Brigade.
The relevant elements will be generated from Force Troops Command to compose the Vanguard Enabling Group.

The Brigade Logistic Regiments would be built from the existing Close Support Regiments (1, 3, 4 RLC) and from the Adaptable Force Logistic Regiments (6, 7 RLC). The latter will need expansion, as currently they are composed only of one supply sqn and a Fuel Sqn plus HQ.
13 Air Assault Regiment RLC would be restructured to accommodate a wider brigade role compared to its current structure, optimized for support to the sole Air Assault Task Force.
The three Theatre Support Regiments would redistribute part of their manpower and capability and would become two, held at Logistic Brigade level.
Currently the Army has a single Tank Transporter Sqn. It might make sense to recreate a second sqn, so each Division has its own. This will also depend on the future face of this capability, as the current PFI arrangement ends in 2024 and there is no info yet on what will be done next.

REME resources would also need to be redistributed and re-arranged. Each brigade should have a capable Equipment Support Battalion, which would be obviously larger in equipment-intensive Heavy Brigades and smaller in the Light Brigades. The current 3 armoured close support REME formations (3, 4 and 6) can cover the two Heavy Brigades and one Strike Brigade (one regiment will become a bit smaller as it is “downgraded” to mechanized). 1 and 2 REME battalions currently are 2-companies formations assigned  to the Adaptable Force. Each would need uplift, with one being assigned to the second Strike Brigade and one to the Light Brigade.
16 Air Assault Brigade currently only has 8 Field Coy REME, under command of the RLC Regiment. This needs to be uplifted to a light role REME battalion by adding two extra coys and one HQ.

Finally, each Division should have its “Theatre-level” Force Support battalion. Currently, only one exists (5 REME). Another should be raised, with both becoming Hybrid formations with 2 regular and 2 reserve companies.
This substantial restructuring would be eased somewhat by the fact that at least 6 regimental Light Aid Detachments would become available for reassignment as the Tank regiments are incorporated into the Combined Arms Regiments and at least 3 Light Role infantry battalions are disbanded. The RLC restructuring could also possibly free up some resources.

Combat Aviation Brigades

Despite the efforts of Joint Helicopter Command, the integration between aviation and land forces is still cause of concerns, as evidenced in the Operation Herrick lessons learned report. To try and improve the alignment of precious helicopter resources with the readiness cycle of the land forces, my proposal is to form two deployable Combat Aviation Brigades. Their structure would make force structure of readiness mechanism that, in large part, already exist. Under Army 2020, for example, the two Attack Helicopter regiments alternate yearly into readiness, and align one squadron with the Air Assault Task Force and one with the Amphibious Task Force.
The Attack regiments are also tasked with generating a deployable Aviation HQ element, and another is generated by the RAF’s Support Helicopter Force.

The Aviation HQ, in my proposal, would be enhanced and removed from the regiments, to be concentrated at brigade level with the formation of the two CABs.
Each CAB would have:

-          One HQ, structured to support 2 deployable elements alternating into readiness
-          One Signal Sqn (the existing 244 and another)
-          One Reconnaissance, Command Support and Light Utility regiment with two WILDCAT Sqns
-          One Attack Regiment with two APACHE Sqns
-          One Support Regiment with one CHINOOK and one PUMA Sqns
-          One Aviation Support Battalion, composed of elements from the current Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (LZ management, underslung loads); logistic element from 132 RLC Sqn, Fuel element from the Tactical Supply Wing and Aviation Support Coy REME.
-          One RAF Regiment Field Sqn for force protection and for MERT defence
-          One Watchkeeper battery, in close contact with the ISR brigade

Joint Helicopter Command would maintain direct control of the Joint Special Forces Support Wing (including one CHINOOK Sqn) as well as of the training units, including 673 Sqn (APACHE OCU), 653 Sqn (APACHE Conversion to Role), 652 (WILDCAT OCU) and 28 Sqn (Puma and Chinook OCU). The two deployable brigades would be aligned each to an Army Division. The elements needed for the CABs are mostly already existent, although adjustements would be required.

Mechanized and Light brigades

Each mechanized brigade should have one Cavalry regiment on Ajax and three infantry battalions mounted on MIV vehicles. These infantry elements should be large and capable, and be built to the numbers of the Army 2020 Heavy Protected Mobility Battalions. This means being established for 709 men and women, and currently there are only 3 such battalions planned: 3 more will need to re-role and expand in order to form two brigades.
Obviously, the required manpower will have to come out of other battalions. The fourth and additional Armoured Cavalry regiment will also require a shift of resources within the cavalry. The formation of the Combined Arms Regiments in the Armoured Brigades should help in freeing up some personnel both in the Cavalry, Infantry and REME domains, but wider restructuring will be required.

Two Light Cavalry regiments would be assigned to the Light / Air Assault brigades. The third would give its Colours to the resurrected CBRN Regiment, and part of its manpower would shift towards 3 Commando Brigade to help form a Cavalry element within 30 Commando IX.

The Light Brigades would be structured on 4 regular infantry battalions each. 16 Air Assault Brigade would keep the 2 PARA battalions (and with them, the Parachute entry role and capability) and add two Light Protected Mobility battalions. 51 Brigade would have two Light Role / Air Mobile battalions and two Light Protected Mobility Battalions.
The Light role and Light Protected Mobility battalions should receive a manpower uplift to at least restore the lost rifle platoons that were sacrificed within Army 2020 planning.

16 Air Assault needs extra REME resources: it has been given 8 Field Company, removed from 7 Battalion REME, but needs to receive further resources to form a Lightweight Equipment Support Battalion commensurate to the task of supporting the enlarged brigade’s capability.

In order to make possible the restructuring of the Army, manpower margins have to be created, and the only way to do so while preserving wider capability is to cut a number of Light Role infantry battalions. At least 3 battalions would be removed from the ORBAT, resulting in over 1600 posts “recovered” and available for other uses. Of these, 450 would go to beef up three battalions for the second Strike Brigade, and another 600 to reinforce the Light Protected and Light Role battalions in the two Light brigades. The Royal Signals expansion would absorb much of what’s left, and any remaining margin would be useful in Royal Engineers, REME or Artillery figures.  

28 battalions are enough to sustain the proposed force structure and continue with all other commitments (1 Special Forces Support Group, 2 Public Duty battalions, 2 battalions in Cyprus, 1 in Brunei), with a margin of 2 Light Role battalions (at Army 2020 establishment) for Defence Engagement and other tasks.

So I believe that, overall, this proposed structure delivers the best balance of capability and makes the best possible use of available manpower, vehicles and equipment. It closes some of the worst gaps that Army 2020 created, and does so at an overall acceptable cost for the infantry.


  1. It's a bloody devil's bargain but you've managed to think it it out in a manner that's much more logical than any of the Army brass or MOD idiots could ever do. I don't like it- not your attempt to rationalise the proposals (which are devoid of reason IMO) - but the whole imbroglio. The military means are woefully inadequate to accomplish the "strategic" (I use that word with no little sense of sarcasm) ends set out in the SDR (or even reality for that matter). But you've done a sterling job of trying to shoehorn it into a workable structure (which is still, IMHO, too far from the needs of securing a "secure and prosperous" environment for the country) . Top marks.

    - Tukhachevskii

    1. Yes, call Generals idiots. Storm the barricades.

  2. An excellent post as ever. Couple of quick questions if I may?
    1. What is the rationale for having 4 infantry battalions in each of the Light Brigades? If push really came to shove could these not be reduced down 3 Battalions each, thus freeing up even more resource?
    2. The Aviation Brigade concept is excellent. For my own understand what numbers of operational aircraft are we talking about in each (ie Wildcat, Apache, Puma, Chinook, Watchkeeper). As we all know, squadron sizes can vary considerably between RAF and Army. In addition, what numbers are you assuming for Spec Ops support
    3. On the vanity project point - I completely agree with your logic, but this is the one area of concern I have with the approach - not because of the logic of it, but because of the politics. I doubt very much the UK government or the Army would be willing to not have a 3-star badge for the UK, hence my suggestion that the cutting of 2 further infantry battalions might have to be considered to make this work?

    As every - great and if only this would actually happen....

    1. Cutting two more infantry battalions is a possibility, but i'd rather not to, also considering that Northern Ireland has to have its resident force, even though, from a force generation prospective only, having battalion(s) parked up there is not helpful.

      4 battalions in the Light Brigades is to give them numbers to compensate the fact they are light in protection and firepower. Also, the 2 PARA (and 2 light role in the other brigade) would be used to generate the air mobile element, while the Light Protected would take and hold the terrain.

      Regarding aviation, the squadrons should have the greatest number of aircraft possible. The Apache sqns should deploy with 8 each, the Wildcat sqns at least with 6. Chinook, from 12 to 20. Special Forces support would be made up by 7 Sqn, with the 8 HC3 (becoming HC5) long-range Chinooks.

      As for your concern with politics, i certainly understand it, and it is one obvious problem with my plan. It assumes that politics and capbadges can be finally shoved to the side for a while. Army 2020 does not work exactly because the army was forced NOT to cut more than 5 infantry battalions in total, when it was always clear that, being ordered to go down to 82.000 soldiers in total, 31 infantry battalions could only be kept by cheating, making them ridiculously small and cutting much needed supports in their place.

    2. Thanks Gabriele. The light brigade structures make sense in that context.
      To summarise,on the aviation front, given total available aircraft numbers, per brigade it feels like we are talking about -
      16 Apache
      12 Wildcat
      18 Chinooks (it would be great to get it to 20, but with a total of 60 airframes, unlikely)
      10 Puma (a stretch given 24 airframes - probably going to be 8)
      This is a strong force.
      On the politics front, we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, since having that UK 3-star general is probably as emotive as cap-badges....

  3. Gaby

    A very fine attempt to re-organize manpower and equipment in order to deliver “the best balance of capability” within the Army. A considerable amount of original and penetrating thinking has gone on here.

    I am very much out of touch, as I have been involved in another project altogether recently, one far removed from the Armed Forces, so you will have to forgive me. I don’t know whether I am right but we seem to have moved from the concept of 5 All-Arms Brigades,

    to one involving a Reaction Force (3rd UK Division), consisting of three Armoured (Armoured Infantry) Brigades and 16 Air Assault Bde,

    to one involving 2 Armored Brigades and 2 Strike Brigades and 16 Air Assault Bde (SDSR 2015),

    and now, under your suggestion, to one involving a different arrangement altogether, involving two identical Divisions, with each formation including one Heavy Bde, one Medium (or Strike) Bde, and one Light / Air Mobile formation . Am I right so far?

    If I am, you appear to have been able to increase the number of quickly deployable formations from four (3 Armoured and 1 Air Assault Bde) to no fewer than six (three formations: one Armoured, one Strike and one Light) within each new type of Division ). If so, that is a distinct advantage. Although I do regret any loss of infantry, I suppose it could not be done without such a reduction. There was an M.P who, when a Defence Review over a decade ago took place, shouted out: “What bloody fool has gone and cut the Infantry? (under the quite correct belief, I suppose, that the PBI do most of the fighting!) However, your theory makes the very best of the bad hand we have been given.

    I do have two more questions: one involving the direct fire support for the proposed Strike Brigades and the other involving the concept of the Combined Arms Regiment, as opposed to the Combined Arms Brigade but I’ll leave those till a later post.

    1. I won't presume to answer the direct questions you pose to Gaby, but to address your note of "regret" on the infantry. The MP's belief was correct on in so far as infantry remains at the core of any armed force, but only when it is infantry that is
      1. Actually deployable (ie with the required level of signals, logistical, engineering, artillery and armour support)
      2. It has the right level of equipment (ie personal and transport - either APC or Aviation) itself.
      The British Army now appears to be the only major NATO force (indeed it always has been, but perhaps less so than today) that still thinks primarily in terms of infantry battalions, as opposed to deployable Battlegroups, Brigades, Divisions and Corps capabilities.
      What is required now is a once and for all squashing of this false view of the world. Infantry numbers (absolute and grouped as battalions) are totally unimportant - deployable Battlegroups and above are what counts.

    2. You will remember that Army 2020 has 3 armoured Reaction Force brigades and the ability to generate 2 so-so deployable brigades out of the 7 paper brigades in the Adaptable Force, to keep true to the "Rule of the 5". Army 2025 converts one armoured brigade into a Strike brigade, and also enhances one "so-so" brigade into a Strike Brigade. I'm assuming, although we can't be sure as of now, that the remaining 6 "Adaptable" brigades will still be required to be able to form one deployable formation to cover the 5th tour. And then there is 16 Air Assault brigade. So, no. I'm not creating whole new deployable brigades, but merely enhancing and completing existing formations by sacrificing some infantry to fill the worst holes.

      My structure is a possible solution (and, i believe, a good and well balanced one) to achieve the SDSR 2015 stated aims, which include:

      - Being able to deploy a division of 3 brigades
      - Having not one but 2 (1 armoured and 1 strike) brigades at readiness at any one time.

      I'm spreading the pain and difficulties of such a proposition while making a better use of the resources currently messily piled up into the Adaptable Force.

  4. Lot´s of good ideas, but I don´t think the plan that is eventually going to be unveiled will do away with the Adaptable Forces all together, particularly since the SDSR promised to use the Army to add more resilience to homeland defence to the tune of 10 000 soldiers - there wouldn´t be that many in the UK if both your deployable divisions deployed! I think its more likely (and more preferable) that 3 Commando Brigade will make up the 2nd light brigade, at least operationally. If both the light brigades are maintained at 3 battalions (I´m not sure having one more battalion would make any difference against an armoured enemy formation, and it will just mean that some of the elite forces aren´t all that elite), that would free up 6 battalions (2 from 16 AAB and 4 from the other light brigade) for the Adaptable Force, which would give it approximately the same strength it has now in terms of light infantry (6 full-strength battalions instead of 9 2/3 strength ones). The only difference would be that there would be fewer (or no, depending on the need for extra posts, etc) light protected mobility battalions in the reserves, but these shouldn´t be needed for homeland defence anyway.

    I also think it´s unlikely that they will strip AARC of its signal elements. Since the second division would only be deployed in major crisis, which would almost definitely involve NATO and therefore possibly involve the AARC, there doesn´t seem to be much need for a second deployable division. If there is ever a purely national need for it, couldn´t they just strp AARC of its signal elements at that point?

    1. You are pretty much never going to be able to deploy both divisions at once. Never. The point of having two deployable divisions is that, in this way, there is a rotation rather than a constant squeezing of blood from the same HQ, while the other is non-deployable most of the time.
      This is also because one of the main points raised by the doctrinal documents backing Army 2020 is that, even when deploying a single brigade, it is highly desirable to deploy a 2 star HQ above it, to handle the strategic and politic bit while the brigade handles the actual ground ops. I agree that the division HQ is important, and i think we need to act on this assumption. If the Division is so important, can a single deployable HQ do all the work? I think not.

      I'm also completely non impressed by the "Adaptable Force" concept. It is a container with all the units that survived the cuts but couldn't be resourced and tied together well enough to build up brigades. As i said earlier, the Adaptable Force is tremendously poor of REME, engineer, artillery and entirely devoid of Royal Signal. At present it contains a lot of (tiny) infantry battalions but can pretty much go nowhere risky without someone filling the many gaps.
      I prefer an approach that faces the truth and tries to generate deployable formations, not infantry battalions. 500 men "battalions" of foot infantry, frankly, are good for the 1800s.

  5. You are pretty much never going to be able to deploy both divisions at once. Never. The point of having two deployable divisions is that, in this way, there is a rotation rather than a constant squeezing of blood from the same HQ, while the other is non-deployable most of the time.
    This is also because one of the main points raised by the doctrinal documents backing Army 2020 is that, even when deploying a single brigade, it is highly desirable to deploy a 2 star HQ above it, to handle the strategic and politic bit while the brigade handles the actual ground ops. I agree that the division HQ is important, and i think we need to act on this assumption. If the Division is so important, can a single deployable HQ do all the work? I think not.

    I'm also completely non impressed by the "Adaptable Force" concept. It is a container with all the units that survived the cuts but couldn't be resourced and tied together well enough to build up brigades. As i said earlier, the Adaptable Force is tremendously poor of REME, engineer, artillery and entirely devoid of Royal Signal. At present it contains a lot of (tiny) infantry battalions but can pretty much go nowhere risky without someone filling the many gaps.
    I prefer an approach that faces the truth and tries to generate deployable formations, not infantry battalions. 500 men "battalions" of foot infantry, frankly, are good for the 1800s.

  6. @Anonymous (the one at 1.21 pm)

    “The MP's belief was correct on in so far as infantry remains at the core of any armed force, but only when it is infantry that is
    1. Actually deployable (ie with the required level of signals, logistical, engineering, artillery and armour support)
    2. It has the right level of equipment (ie personal and transport - either APC or Aviation) itself.”

    Absolutely. Wouldn’t argue with that at all. It was recognized fairly early, for instance, that combined Arms formations are particularly useful in urban warfare, later to be known of course in British Army doctrine as FIBUA. What I am arguing for is a greater global number of personnel in the Army. With 100,000 Regulars we could provide the “support” you talk about for all the Infantry regiments we have, plus plug all of the ‘holes’ in infantry units that Gaby talks about later. I know that mine is, at the moment anyway, a “Cloud Cuckoo Land" view but it was a real mistake to cut so savagely back in 2010 and we are paying the penalty for it now. What use, for instance, would a couple of battlegroups (even enhanced ones) be if the balloon really went up in somewhere like the Ukraine? They’d be rolled over by Russian armour within days, wouldn’t they, or am I being completely alarmist and unreasonable about it?

    1. The battlegroups would at least be credible in a range of situations, even in high end war. The current mass of Light Role infantry battalions is good just to play teachers to soldiers in Sudan or Kabul in defence engagement, non warlike operations.

  7. Mike W has had trouble with the comments tool, but writes:

    I was going to mention the kind of units we would be sending to southern Sudan and Afghanistan. Good job I didn’t!
    Anyway, I wanted to ask you a question about the equipment of the Mechanized and Light brigades. You say “Each mechanized brigade should have one Cavalry regiment on Ajax and three infantry battalions mounted on MIV vehicles..” So is the entire Direct Fire capability of the Strike Brigades to consist of the 40mm cannon on Ajax? Is that really going to be sufficient? If not, what do you think is planned? Some kind of gun on the MIV or what? An ATGW as an alternative? Perhaps the rationale is that it is hoped that the Strike Brigades will not come up against any heavy armour?
    Also, why are you proposing that the Infantry elements in such Brigades should be so big (over 700 personnel)?

    1. As for the Strike Brigades, against heavy armour they would have to be accompanied by the Heavy brigade. If there were more Challenger 2s, something could be done, but that's not the case.
      Direct, heavy firepower in a vehicle lighter than CR2 is highly desirable and was once a part of FRES, but there is obviously no money to procure anything like that. Putting a 120mm gun on a number of MIV hulls would be great, but, again, money is the problem.
      ATGW is a needed component, but not a replacement for direct fire.

      As for the mechanized battalions, 709 men is the Army 2020 establishment for such units. As well as being complete battalions (unlike light role ones which lack a good company worth of riflemen) they also have more REME and supporting elements within them due to the vehicles they use.
      700 men is a good number. You'll find that most NATO armies have more men that that in their own units of the same type.

      As a reminder, the all-ranks, all-trades establishment of infantry battalions in army 2020 is:

      -Armoured, 729
      -Mechanized, 709
      - Para 660
      - 581 Light Protected Mobility
      - 567 Gurkha
      - 561 Light Role

      A Jackal light cavalry regiment 404, an Ajax regiment 528 with CR2 regiments at 587.

      As a matter of fact, the assumption regarding Light Role battalions is that they would be 750 strong on deployment, thanks to the paired Reserve battalion filling the holes.
      In my proposal, i've assumed an uplift at least to the same 660 as the Parachute battalions. The reserve will add what it can (as depending on it to provide entire companies does not look realistic, i'm trying to avoid that).

  8. Gabrial as usual your article and comments are very informative. But the fact is the numbers do not add up in a number of areas.
    1. In vehicles. I am sorry but the arm high command and the ooliticians need to accept that every Armoured Infantry Brigade needs 57 Warriors and that is with support companies using 50yr old F432's. So 57 x 6 = 342. Really the 21F432's need replacing with Warriors which is another 126. In total you need at least 466 Warriors and allowing Batus and other odd squads mounted on outdated vehicles you really need 500 plus.
    2. When you look at cvrt replacement we have 2 heavy cavalry units thats at least 160 Ajax plus 160 in the 2 strike brigades. Thats 320 plus you need at least 8 per infantry battalion with 12 battalions is another 96. Thats at least 420 say without any items at batus and replacing all the other vehicles ajax is supposed to replace.
    3. Take then the 6 strike brigades. At the moment the 400 Mastiffs in the British Army only generate 3 Heavy Protected battalions. Since each battalion needs about 50 Mastiffs remembering that not one order for a mystery 8x8 vehicle has even been suggested that is 6 strike infantry battalion x 50 = 300 vehicles. If you robved every support element etc of their Mastiffs you'd be lucky to get 300 vehicles from the original 4 brought into core from Afganistan purchases.
    4. Direct fire. If the worst ever happend and the strike brigades had to engage red forces it will need tanks. We have 1 reserve Challenger Regiment, but each Strike Brigade needs to be paired with a reserve tank force. We don't have enough Challengers to do this.
    I could go on. But the fact is the British Goverment needs too decide if it wants an effective armed forces and resource appropriately. That means money on giving tropps proper equipment even at 82,000 level. Some of the work comming out of lessons learnt in the Ukraine makes it clear that light 8x8 IFV's may not survive in a modern battlefield. Further the lack of artilery, rocket, anti tank and artillery.
    The list goes on but moving the chairs on the Titanic didn't save the passengers.

  9. Hi Gabriele,
    As usual, a great post, full of sensible idea’s, thank you.
    I would like to raise few points;
    1. Sorry but I have to mention the ongoing problem of under strength infantry battalions.
    As some have pointed out, the infantry battalion is the at the core of any deployment.
    (General Carter of course thinks it’s the warrior, maybe he is after a job at Lockheed Martin).
    Reducing the number of infantry battalions is only going to add to this problem and may even make it worse as there will be less of a pool to rob Peter to reinforce Paul. Having said that, I agree that we only need maybe as few as 14 deployable battalions, but they must be kept at a deployable strength.
    2. We have not heard a whisper of the formation of the first strike brigade. As I understand the plan, if there is one, this should start next year. No notice of unit moves, change of command. This leads me to believe that the planned two strike brigades with the Ajax acting as the heavy support is ‘under review’, my own opinion is that we will end up with just one strike brigade, and a single division of 2 armoured and one strike brigades, 24 brigade acting as a QRF and providing an airmobile battle group to support this division.
    3. Armoured brigades seem to be settled on 3 battle groups, each of 2 Warrior Company’s, 1 Challenger squadron and one Scimitar/Ajax squadron. I don’t expect that to change.
    4. I watched the defence committee interview Mr Fallon last week. I noted that in thinks that NATO will have a quick reaction force, deployable within hours, of 5 battalions, one of which will be UK. Also, a permanent force stationed maybe in Poland; again the UK will be part of that force. I assume from that 24 Brigade will provide the QRF and one of the armoured brigade battle groups will be stationed in Poland?
    5. I have to say, that of course if the UK votes to leave the EU and there follow’s a fall in the UK GDP, in my own humble opinion further cuts to defence cannot be ruled out.

    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

  10. @Phil

    Interesting post.

    You say: “This leads me to believe that the planned two strike brigades with the Ajax acting as the heavy support is ‘under review’, my own opinion is that we will end up with just one strike brigade, and a single division of 2 armoured and one strike brigades, 24 brigade acting as a QRF and providing an airmobile battle group to support this division.”

    Soon after the 2015 SDSR, Earl Howe in the House of Lords stated: The Army is able to deploy a division now with sufficient notice and has been able to for some while. .......... This division could consist of an armoured infantry brigade, 3 Commando brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade as well as forces from other nations. This SDR is investing in improving the readiness level and upgrading the capabilities of the division, so that by 2025 we will be able to deploy a division comprising two armoured infantry brigades and a strike brigade.”

    I don’t know whether the last sentence is significant or not. I think he was just making the point about when the first Strike Brigade would be ready, not that the second one would be cancelled. I thought that 24 Infantry Brigade was an Airmobile formation, which is now long gone (about the turn of the century) but apologies if you were thinking of another formation. I have probably got it horribly wrong!

  11. Mike,
    Yes, sorry I meant 16 Brigade!
    Getting old and my typing is never that good!
    I don't think 3 Brigade will deploy as a brigade, maybe it could deploy 2 battle groups.
    That's why Gabriele (I assume), would like to increase both 16 and 3 brigades to 4 infantry units, so they could deploy as a 'standard' 3 infantry umit brigade.
    Cynical Phil

  12. Have been attempting to understand the written submission made by the MOD to the House of Commons Defence Committee. As expected I am confused on a couple of crucial points. First, the 2025 division will be made up of 2 armoured-infantry brigades and 1 of the Strike brigades -if this is the case, what is the role and place of the 2nd Strike Brigade. Secondly. the Formation Readiness Mechanism is to be extended from three years to four, and, that this will 'double the number of brigades held at readiness'. My understanding of the current three year mechanism is that it provides 1 armoured infantry brigade at full readiness, 1 in preparation for full readiness, and 1 in recovery from high levels of readiness. My assumption about the 4 year cycle would be that there would be one brigade at each of four stages of readiness in any given year. For example, 1 armoured infantry brigade at full readiness, 1 strike brigade at advanced training, 1 armoured infantry brigade at early stage of retraining, and 1 strike brigade at recuperation. Unless I cannot count, this does not appear to be a doubling of strength ,as only one brigade will be at the highest level in any given year. The same as at present. We shall see if General Carter can shed some light on this tomorrow-or is that being too optimistic. graham

  13. Hi Gab,

    Late to comment on this but i have been on the same page as you with this for quite a while.

    The even spread between heavy, medium and light formations seems similar to how the French Army and a few of the other larger Western ones are restructuring themselves.

    Apologies if you have already covered this but what would you do with the remaining adaptable brigades? Would there be any brigade level formations left within your new structure to take on the local contact and domestic taskings in the way the regional brigades previously did?

    If so would they be entirely composed of Army Reserve battalions/regiments or would you have any left over Regular units which could rotate in and out of the deployable element?

    1. As you can see in the graphic, there would still be a 3rd divisional command, the existing UK Support Command, for in-house work and defence engagement. It would have 38 Bde and 160 Bde (also for political reasons, NI and Wales both need a brigade HQ) plus 4 Bde and the Guards brigade replacing the current 2-star London District. There would be 8 regular battalions within this force at any given time, but of those, 2 would be on Public Duty, 1 in Brunei, 2 in Cyprus.

    2. Sorry, that would be, obviously, 7, as the 8th battalion is actually the UK Special Forces Support Group / 1 PARA.


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