Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Few revelations, lots of questions

The chief of the general staff, general Nick Carter, has spoken today to the Defence Committee within the frame of the Army 2025 inquiry. Unsurprisingly, very few solid answers have come out of the long session, and the few which did arouse even more questions and worries:

- The general has confirmed what was clear all along: the "Defence Engagement Battalions" will be tiny and the manpower recouped from their downsizing is what will be available to beef up the units needed for the Strike Brigades. N battalions (2 to 5) will go down to "around 300" personnel, from the current 560 (Army 2020 Light Role battalion establishment, all-ranks, all-trades). The DEBs are tiny, but don't you go thinking it is yet another fudge to avoid disbanding unsustainable battalions! No, they are just going to be "very specialized", with more officers and NCOs, linguists etcetera, according to the general. We'll see. 

- The Strike Brigades are apparently going to have a very questionable structure: Carter talked of 2 regiments on Ajax and "probably" 2 mechanized infantry battalions for each brigade. 
This suggests a very modest uplift of one battalion compared to earlier plans for 3 mechanized / heavy protected mobility units. What cost will be paid by heavy armoured infantry and tank units, we do not yet know. 
With 4 regiments of "50 to 60" Ajax vehicles planned as key parts of the Strike Brigades, we are most likely looking at armoured brigades without a heavy cavalry formation: 4 regiments is already one more than earlier planned, and with no extra vehicles on the horizon it is hard to imagine any more regiments using the type, unless all recce troops within armoured infantry and tank regiments are sacrificed to scrape up enough Ajax to build up some kind of recce formation. 
The Ajax will be the "medium armour" element of the Strike Brigade, and this is incredibly annoying because FRES SV did include an actual Medium Armour segment, which envisaged a medium tank with a 105 or even 120 mm smoothbore gun, but it was cancelled and it is not coming back.
Ajax was then designed and built for reconnaissance, and now will be squeezed into a medium armour construct, with reconnaissance a distant second and with the heavy armour formations apparently cut out.
The whole Strike Brigade concept appears to be built upon the french army operations in Mali, which have evidently fascinated Carter to no end. Supposedly, the Strike Brigade will be a self-contained, self-deployable formation able to move "up to 2000 km" on its own, covering a large battlespace, "dispersing and regrouping" as necessary.
This is what the french did in Mali with their mechanized, highly mobile battlegroups, but whether that experience is in any way indicative of future scenarios and needs is up for debate.
The french in Mali have enjoyed the firepower of 105mm guns on AMX-10 and 90 mm guns on Sagaie. In the future, they will have the EBRC Jaguar with the 40mm CTA plus 2x anti-tank missiles, so they won't have the same kind of direct fire punch. They might very well feel the loss.

Ajax comes with no anti-tank missiles, as of current plans, so it'll have even more of a firepower deficit. That Medium Armour element would be very handy now, if this is the plan the british army thinks it needs to follow.

Also, it is worth noticing that the french medium brigades will have 2 cavalry regiments, but more than 2 infantry units. In addition, french infantry regiments are much, much larger than british ones.
The Strike Brigade seems an imitation made by the poor cousin.
Again, the french have taken the "self-deployable", "highly mobile" part of the concept very seriously by introducing combat squadrons in the logistic regiments to ensure that supply convoys have a permanent, organic escort.
Again, the french can count on mobile, mechanized artillery in the form of CAESAR, while the British Army is most likely going to count on towed L-118.

Having to rely on Ajax for the Medium Armour capability also goes against another of the British Army's own recommendations from the Agile Warrior experiments: do not mix track and wheel in combat formations.

Many, many doubts remain. The price that the heavy armour will pay to allow this to (try to) become reality will be the measure of the wisdom of this plan. If the cost is contained, it'll be somewhat acceptable. Otherwise, it'll be a disaster under a fancy label.

- Force generation cycle. According to the written evidence submitted to the Committee, the army will adopt a new 4-year cycle, with 2 armoured and 2 strike brigades, alternating in such a way to ensure that one of each type is always at readiness. 
How it is supposed to work, i sincerely can't quite imagine. There are only so many ways you can try and keep at readiness 2 out of 4 brigades, year after year. 

- Reserves. The Army has suddenly awakened to one fact: it is not realistic to expect that reservists will be available in sufficient numbers to routinely complete understrength, mutilated regular units.
The Reserve will still be "integrated", but it'll return to a "warfighter reinforcement" model, as well as continue to be a supplier of specialists (for example, 80% of the medical capability, as already happens).

I'm not paid by the Army or MOD, nor am i inside their secrets, but if you read this same blog in November last year, you were faced by the prophecy about the true nature of the Defence Engagement Battalion and by the problem of force generation cycle and all other adjustements needed for this 4 brigade approach.
Had the defence committee read my post, they would have had today's answers with greater detail and background, several months early.
And this should be a reason for concern all by itself, because the MOD and Army top brass are supposed to do a little bit better than me on my own in my spare time... 

The little we learned today, in practice, is enough to confirm that we are heading into a new questionable castle of fragile compromises, as was easily predictable. And we still do not have a measure of the other stealthy cuts that will be involved in this exercise of make believe. What will be the two armoured brigades look like? Will the number of MBTs fall further? What about reconnaissance in the heavy formations?
And what will be the capability of the 6 remaining infantry brigades? What will their role be in the force generation cycle, and will the UK retain the ability to sustain an enduring brigade-sized deployment?

Meanwhile, from Eurosatory we hear that the expected date for the first MOD choices regarding the Multi Role Vehicle - Protected has come and gone in the silence, with no decisions evident. 

The Royal Artillery is expected to put out an Invite To Tender early next year for two precision artillery solutions for the 155mm calibre: one requirement is for "Near Precision", and will be most likely fullfilled (assuming it receives funding one day) with course-correction fuzes that can reduce the CEP of standard, unguided shells. 
The "Extreme Precision" requirement would be met by a guided shell, which could be Excalibur, or Vulcano, or the Standard Guided Projectile, or any of the other contenders on the market. Even if the ITT goes out early next year as now apparently planned, it'll be 2019 before a choice is made. Don't hold your breath. The Royal Artillery has been trying to get this programme to progress for so many years that it isn't even funny anymore. 

Industry is forming teams that will compete for the Challenger 2 LEP programme, but, again, it'll be a while before anything happens and for now, apart from the pricetag, there is nothing particularly exciting in this obsolescence-removal programme of desperation. 

ABSV, as always, tends not to make any news, ever. 


  1. Hi Gabriele,
    I am sorry, but I can't make any positive comments.
    But thanks for the update.
    Please could General Carter and the rest of the general staff resign then we could replace them with MR Potato Heads, they couldn't do a worse job and they would cost less.
    Phil (the ex pongo now even more cynical after reading that last article)

  2. Resign? So undemocractic. Why not move to North Korea? They have a large army ready to invade.

  3. Any thoughts on Brexit and its potential impact on UK defense & security outlook? A yes vote definitely affect close collaboration with France.

    1. The only honest answer is that i can only guess. The SNP has made it clear that they would use a Leave vote as an excuse to call for another Indy Ref, and that would be horrible news in itself, even if the Union was to win again.
      Frankly, i very much sympathize for the Leave option: i hate the EU's guts. But it is clear that the transition phase would require renegotiating a number of key agreements of objective importance to the economy, and that would take a maturity that i don't really see, on none of the two sides of the Channel. That scares me.
      Spain would also be even worse arseholes when it comes to Gibraltar, and that could be hard to counter if the EU wanted its petty revenge. They are already very annoying, but they could well become much worse.
      It is hard to tell quite what it will be.

      The last of my worry is the impact on collaboration with France. I don't believe there would be much change in that particular area.

    2. The SNP have actually been pulling back from linking a new referendum with the leave vote in the last few weeks.

      There are a number of reasons for this. Including that the polls in Scotland don't support holding another referendum for that reason and those polls suggest the result would be the same as the last one.

      Another reason is that it was feared that some pro Scottish independence supporters were planning to vote for leave even if they didn't want Scotland to leave the EU, just so there would be another independence vote.

      Other reasons are that the polls in Scotland for the EU vote, aren't massively different to the rest of the EU. The leave vote in the polls has gone up quite a bit in Scotland in the last few weeks. Some parts of Scotland are as strongly in favour of leaving the EU, as England.

      Also the SNP don't have a majority in the Scottish parliament anymore, so it is far from certain that they could get any plans for another referendum through that parliament, never mind the UK parliament.

    3. That is all true, but nonetheless Scotland remains high on the list of the concerns, for me.

      If you ask me, to crave "independence" and then argue about staying in the EU makes absolutely no sense... but since the SNP makes little sense anyway, you can never exclude anything. They can cause far more damage than they are worth.

    4. Gabriele,
      What worries me about an EU exit, and likely recession;
      a. MoD spending is 2% of GDP. GDP fall's MoD spending will fall.
      b. The MoD is almost certain to face cuts if the Mr Osbourne needs to find some saving's,
      (20 to 40 billion has been mentioned).
      c. If the pound falls a lot against the dollar, everything we buy in dollars is going to cost more. F35, P8 etc.
      Phil (the cycnical is pongo)

    5. A interesting question might be what the reaction will be if England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a very small majority to leave, but Scotland votes to stay and the Scottish vote is enough to give a overall majority to Staying. With the division that the politician have created over the last few weeks, that could be as worrying as a overall lave vote and a Scottish stay.

  4. Gaby

    You say,

    "Meanwhile, from Eurosatory we hear that the expected date for the first MOD choices regarding the Multi Role Vehicle - Protected has come and gone in the silence, with no decisions evident."

    I'm pretty sure that I have read elsewhere (it wasn't in one of your articles, was it?) that the reasons for the above might very well include the fact that the Army was possibly looking for one vehicle to cover both heavy and lighter ranges (i.e. I suppose to replace i) the Landie and ii) the Pinzgauer) and that they had not been able so far to light on a common vehicle. I think they might have to go for two separate vehicles. I'm not sure whether the Eagle (a strong contender)has both a 4 x 4 and a 6 x 6 version.

    1. A 6x6 Eagle is offered, yes.

      Let's hope they can make the ends meet without major delays...

  5. Hi Gabriele,
    I watched the repeat of the defence committee interview General Carter last night.
    Strike brigades, 2 Ajax units, maybe 2 MECH INF BNS.
    With a total of 500 Ajax family vehicles ordered,
    I have no idea how this going to workout. But, as only ONE strike brigade being deployable, not the structure of the war fighting division, I think there will be a vehicle sharing going on.
    However, with 4 cavalry units in the armoured brigades and 4 in the strike brigades, total 8 out of 10?
    My own view on the maybe two infantry battalions, is that means one.
    Most of the armoured vehicles are going to remain in Germany. I assume this is because we don't have anywhere in the UK to store them?
    I was very disappointed with the committee questions.
    Why when both the US and French strike brigades use wheeled armour is the UK going to use a heavy tracked vehicle?
    This war fighting division will only have 4 warrior, maybe 2 mechanized, and maybe 1 airmobile battalions. That's a total of maybe 7 deployable battalions out of how many 30 odd?
    Is it true that the UK has more soldiers on public duties that it can deploy on an enduring operation?
    I must have missed the 4 year rotation remarks.
    I guess this will work like this.
    Battle group 8 months on, then 16 months off.
    3 battle groups per brigade 24 months.
    Then the second brigade doing the same, gives you 4 years. That would give you a battle group from each type of brigade.
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    1. From MIkeW (i received a mail from Blogger saying the comment was posted, but for some reason it does not actually show within the blog)

      “With a total of 500 Ajax family vehicles ordered,”

      Actually Phil, I think the overall number of AJAX family vehicles ordered is nearer 600 (589 to be precise).

      However, no wonder you are wondering, like me, about whether the number of vehicles will be sufficient without sharing. I think that General Carter has said somewhere (might even have been in that interview) that the number of Ajax in each Armoured Cavalry regiment will be approximately 50. Now, did he mean just the Ajax vehicles (reconnaissance) themselves, in which case there would not be enough for the two Cavalry regiments in the Armoured Infantry Brigades (one each) and the four in the Strike Brigades (two each), if I have what he said right). That would be 6 x 50, which is 300, well over the 198 vehicles planned for the pure AJAX reconnaissance version.

      Surely he must mean the 50 for each regiment to include some of the variants; e.g. the PMRS (256 planned ), which includes the APC version (Ares)(59 ordered) or whatever? The present Armoured Cavalry regiments operate something like 66 Scimitars but I think that the AJAX recce vehicle is not a straightforward replacement for the Scimitar.

      Like me, you seem surprised that so many AJAX tracked vehicles will be used in the Strike Brigades. I fully expected the emphasis to be on wheeled vehicles in those formations but maybe they are having difficulties in finding the money for a sufficient number of wheeled 8 x 8s. The last figure I heard, though, was a planned (initial) purchase of three hundred, which ought to go a long way towards solving the problem.

      Maybe Gaby can throw some light on all of this?

    2. For all i know, the Cavalry regiments on Ajax were going to have a structure on 3 squadrons of 16 vehicles, of which (probably) 12 Ajax and 4 Ares. Add Repair and Recovery and some more Ajax for Surveillance Troop and more Ares for the Guided Weapons sections, and we are above 50 vehicles.

      There will be 245 Ajax, of which 23 in Joint Fires sub-variant and 24 in Ground Based Surveillance sub-variant.
      The 198 Ajax were enough for the 9 squadrons of 12 in the cavalry regiments plus 9 recce platoons of 8 in each tank and armoured infantry formation. Now the numbers do not add up anymore.

  6. Hello Gabriele,
    First of all well done Italy in the football!, my question is in regard to the recent news of the UK MOD looking at the new lightweight vehicle from the United States, is it cheaper than Foxhound?, and more importantly from a made in the UK point of view would a large vehicle purchase like that be politically acceptable?
    Again a fantastic blog, many thanks

    1. The JLTV should definitely be cheapter than Foxhound. The MRV-P requirement is for something costing 250.000 pounds apiece (which might be asking too much, but that's the number the MOD is seeking), and the JLTV cost emerging from the first US Army purchase is in that range.
      With the US planning to purchase some 60.000 of them, once production line is hot the cost should drop further.

      As for politically acceptable, i suppose it would be. There would be some noise about not chosing a british option, but that has rarely been sufficient to stop things from happening in modern times.

    2. For comparison, the MOD has paid some 370 million pounds for 400 Foxhound.

  7. Gabriele and MikeW.
    Mike sorry you are unable to post, its good to hear another opinion other than my cynical one.
    The whole strike brigade plan is rubbish in my humble opinion.
    The idea of the strike brigade is to be easier to deploy, work with and fit into the US and French armies strike brigades.
    They both use wheeled vehicles with an infantry heavy force.
    Our plan, if that's what you can call it, is to have two tracked recce units, and maybe two wheeled infantry units.
    These light cavalry recce regiments are designed to locate and track enemy formations. They are very lightly armed and have few dismountable soldiers.
    The advantage of wheeled vehicles and why they are used by the US and French, is they can self deploy using roads for some distance.
    I have assumed that neither the recce regiments organization will change and that the strike brigades will share they Ajax vehicles.
    I think the person who thought up the idea of using Ajax for the strike brigades was to put it bluntly,
    was an idiot.
    The spare Ajax's should have been given to the Household cavalry, they could have then been used to support 3 and 16 brigade.
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

  8. Phil

    Yes, the post appeared, then disappeared and then re-appeared. Strange. Everything seems OK now, though.

    Well, I wouldn't dismiss the whole Strike Brigade idea as rubbish. In theory, I think it is quite a good idea. As you say,"The advantage of wheeled vehicles and why they are used by the US and French, is they can self deploy using roads for some distance." If you meant that in their latest form (with two Ajax-based tracked recce regiments each, the Strike Brigades are not what the original concept was all about, I would strongly agree.

    Perhaps the rationale behind the decision was something like this. We are sure of having the Ajax vehicle. It has been ordered and full-scale production in South Wales is due to start before long. Before long, we have to start work on the form the new Strike Brigades will take. However, we are sure about the MIV vehicle yet. It is only at the pre-concept stage and probably many years away. So let's put the Ajax vehicle to good use by including two Armoured Cavalry regiments in each Strike Brigade. That obviously does not impress you (and me neither!)

    "The spare Ajax's should have been given to the Household cavalry, they could have then been used to support 3 and 16 brigade."

    As for giving them to light, fast-moving formations such as 3 Commando Bde and 16 Air Assault Bde, I think they are way too heavy (40 tonnes plus?) I would, though, be all for retaining the CVR(T)2 family. We have about 60 of them (obtained as UORs for Afghanistan) and they are relatively modern vehicles. Giving them to the above formations would provide some very much needed light armour for them.

    1. Hi Mike,
      Good to see you back!

      I think the idea of strike brigades is a good one. But as always, the army has gone about it the wrong way.
      We already have wheeled armoured vehicles, not ideal, but they could have been used until an alternative could have been found.
      The Mastiff units are have already been strike brigade training using there vehicles. We have 6 battalions with Foxhounds and some light cavalry with Jackal. These could have formed a strike brigade now. They could be training as a brigade.
      I really don't understand why two Ajax units have been included in the strike brigades.
      Another point which I forgot to make, is were are these now tracked strike brigades going to train? It will have to be on the plain and BATUS.
      Your point about Ajax being to heavy for £ and 16 brigades is a fair one, I keep forgetting how heavy the Ajax is. Maybe someone else in the army should note that too!
      But I am sure Gabriele could have come up with a use for the spare vehicles?
      Glad to see you back posting Mike.
      Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    2. There wouldn't have been many spare Ajax, actually. Probably just some reserve, although an extra "early entry" squadron wouldn't have been bad at all.

      Re the Strike Brigades, give us back Saladin and Saracen! That combination at least would make sense.

  9. @Phil

    “I think the idea of strike brigades is a good one. But as always, the army has gone about it the wrong way.”

    Well, wouldn't quarrel with that.

    “We already have wheeled armoured vehicles, not ideal, but they could have been used until an alternative could have been found.”

    I think that probably the Mastiff would be too heavy and cumbersome for the Strike Brigade role. It is, after all, essentially a protected patrol vehicle, deriving from the American Cougar MRAP, probably nowhere near a modern 8 x 8 wheeled vehicle (scheduled for MIV), in terms of speed and mobility. It would therefore militate against the idea of fast self-deployment. Perhaps Foxhound might find a role somewhere.

    “I really don't understand why two Ajax units have been included in the strike brigades.”

    We also agree on that. I expected 95% of the work in the Strike Brigades to be done by wheeled vehicles (including recce), so much so, in fact, that I thought David Cameron had got it wrong when he announced that such brigades would be based on the Ajax.


    “an extra "early entry" squadron wouldn't have been bad at all.”

    Well, yes, I agree. A small part of the Strike Brigades could embrace that idea, using Ajax.

    As for Saladin and Saracen, an ideal combination! I remember someone who had served in Cyprus telling me that those two vehicles survived for years in Cyprus after they had been withdrawn from mainstream British army service. In fact, he said, it was like “All our Yesterdays” out there!

  10. "Gabirelle

    I believe we should operate a 5 Division Army structure that is fully funded and rests at the 90k personnel mark (18k personnel per division)

    Each Division would have 4 brigades of 3,060 combat personnel spread across 4 battalions. In addition there would be 2 Brigades of 3k personnel offering core logistics and command.

    Each Division (2*) would have 1 elite Brigade, 2 Mechanised Brigades and 1 Light Infantry Brigade (1* command).

    HQ Division would consist of 6k core logistics, 9k combat specialists and 1.5k Special Forces and 1.5k CnC.

    I would put command and budget into the divisions and make sure that each division has an identity to foster a competitive atmosphere to spur what is still a small force onto ever greater things.

    If the RM is put into this command structure (creating 4 elite Brigades/ 1 Division) then this is within current manpower numbers.

    A 5 divison structure allows a 4 cycle rotation of a division providing a 2 year full dep. cycle and also gives volume in all areas.

    A clear dependency would be on using the excellent UK wide commercial logistics industry to help improve overall logistics and fill in in times of crisis.

  11. Hello Gabriele,
    Just seen your twitter feed news on the ARES vehicle, i cannot understand how the army see it as a ' strike ' type of vehicle, surely it has to be wheeled, i know you have discussed this before but if senior figures are saying it will be at the heart of these Strike brigades then they must believe it.

    1. I would suggest that the army see it as a "strike" vehicle for two reasons -
      1. Significant elements of the army (not least the head) remain convinced that the "medium weight" formation is what is required for conflict both now and in the future, in the same manner as US Stryker Brigades and French and Italian medium weight brigades
      2. It is the only armoured vehicle on order or likely to be ordered in the next 5-10 years for the UK, therefore it HAS TO fit into the medium weight formation if you believe that to be the future. To suggest that an 8x8 vehicle is what is now required would be to make it very likely that the whole Ajax procurement would be cancelled and it would not be replaced by anything - hence better to have something than nothing.

      This whole argument and mess has been bubbling for 2 decades and surely the question is after 20 years how has the British Army ended up with a warmed over Warrior IFV and a total different armoured recon vehicle both in tiny numbers and at the expense of any hope of a new or updated MBT and no 8x8 for the medium weight concept....

  12. Hi Gabriele,
    Just looking at the “Strike Brigades” from another angle.

    Having thought about what has been said and what numbers of Ajax vehicles will be available.
    I have come up with another possible scenario. Taking the following into consideration;

    General Carter seemed to suggest that the priority for the Ajax was the strike brigades.
    The order for the Ajax family is to replace the Scimitar family.
    3 Reconnaissance regiments, 3 Reconnaissance troops, 6 Reconnaissance platoons,
    BATUS training vehicles.
    There are 10 armoured Corps regiments.

    My current view is that:
    The two armoured brigades are to loose there Reconnaissance regiments.
    These will now form the first strike brigade, with maybe 2 infantry battalions.
    The second strike brigade will have the remaining Ajax, but there will be a certain amount of vehicle share so that one brigade will be deployable.

    I am not sure what the military term is for a brigade of 2 Reconnaissance regiments and maybe 2 infantry battalions in some sort of wheeled vehcile, but its not a strike brigade as in the US and French army as we were led to believe was the objective.

    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    1. The military term for such a formation is "a typical UK bodge" whose very incoherence and adhoc nature will no doubt be celebrated as "making the best of what we have" as well as "value for money".....

  13. @Phil

    "My current view is that:
    The two armoured brigades are to loose there Reconnaissance regiments."

    That seems a very drastic move, Phil. I cannot imagine modern Armoured formations deploying without a reconnaissance element. What are you going to use instead? MBTs for recce? Mind you, I think that has happened in the British Army e.g. in the Second World War, when Cromwell tanks were used in the recce role. Correct me if I am wrong.)

    But you're right, numbers of vehicles are a problem. We are going to be short of Ajax family vehicles, if they are to play such a prominent role in the Strike Brigades as well as in the Armoured Infantry formations.

    1. Mike,
      I agree with you, it seems a drastic step to remove the reconnaissance regiments from the armoured brigades, but, one of the reasons I came up with that opinion is there is only 10 RAC regiments. The household cavalry counts as two regiments, but in effect its just one.
      a. 2 Challenger 2 regiments.
      b. 4 Ajax regiments.
      c. 3 Jackal regiments.
      The strike brigades are getting 4 Ajax regiments, therefore there is no Ajax or RAC units left for reconnaissance role in the armoured brigades.
      I only thing I can say, is maybe the strike brigade is going to perform the reconnaissance role?
      I would like to know Gabriele's thoughts.
      Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    2. A fascinating (but is it realistic?) hypothesis could see two "hybrid" heavy cavalry regiments formed for the Armoured Brigades. Less Ajax, but, say, 28 Challenger 2 as a complement. As the US Army is finally putting tanks back in armoured reconnaissance units, the British Army might feel inspired enough to try its own variant.

      Not to mention that such a hybrid regiment would make it possible to keep the same number of Challenger 2s as now, by giving each brigade a Type 56 regiment and a Hybrid regiment for recce and screening.

      Or you could form 4 hybrid units of Challenger 2 and some Ajax, and have two in each brigade. Since tanks and heavy cavalry regiments are all going to be based in Salisbury Plain (with the exception of the Household, a bit further away...), creating mixed units would not present big challenges in terms of storage spaces and training areas. Which is part of why i proposed the Combined Arms Regiments. Having the heavy armour more or less in one place allows you to think about mixes.

    3. One Light Cavalry regiment MIGHT also change shape entirely if a CBRN regiment returns, with the RAF Regiment handing back the role to the Army. This appears to be a done deal (or at least it appeared to be a while ago) even though no one is talking much about it in public. Either that or a return to a joint arrangement of some kind: the current, separated Falcon Sqn and 20 CBRN Wing RAF Rgt cannot possibly be satisfactory, i would think.

    4. Thanks for your thoughts Gabriele.
      But if you kept 4 RAC regiments in the armoured brigades, and there are to be 4 RAC regiments in the strike brigades, that would just leave one outside the armoured division?
      As I understand the situation:
      HC, RDG and RL.
      QDG,RSDG and LD.
      Challenger 2;
      QRH, KRH and RTR.
      It seems reasonable to assume one Challenger regiment will convert to Ajax.
      4 Ajax strike brigades.
      2 Challenger armoured brigades.
      3 Jackal other brigades.
      I can't see how else it could work?
      I don't really think that they have thought, Oh the armoured brigades. don't have any reconnaissance apart from 8 Ajax from reconnaissance troops/platoons remaining within the armoured brigades.
      Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    5. Having only one regiment outside of the deployable division might not be so much of a problem depending on what the six "infantry brigades" will be asked to do. And the answer might be "not much at actual brigade level", since Carter went at the RUSI land power conference to say openly that the army is no longer planning on a force structure supporting an enduring, long-term brigade operation. You can work out by yourself what this might actually mean. Perhaps the deployable brigades are about to go down from 3+2 to 4...

  14. Gabriele

    I did not know that the US Army is putting tanks back into armoured reconnaissance units. Interesting! Will they be equipped similarly, i.e. with tank guns as at present?

    When you say:

    A fascinating (but is it realistic?) hypothesis could see two "hybrid" heavy cavalry regiments formed for the Armoured Brigades. Less Ajax, but, say, 28 Challenger 2 as a complement."

    you use the term "Less Ajax". Does that mean "fewer Ajax" or "without Ajax altogether"? If the latter, in what sense would the heavy cavalry regiments be "hybrid"?

    1. There would be some Ajax / Ares, but in fewer numbers. And it would probably require mounting the armoured infantry battalion's recce elements in Warriors.

      As for the US Army, they are restructuring their armoured brigades, and a company with 14 M1 Abrams is being moved into the cavalry sqn.

    2. Gabriele,
      Are you suggesting that Jackal will be scrapped?

    3. No. But i'm not sure if regular "Light Cavalry" regiments will endure, since i'm not sure the Infantry Brigades will retain a deployable capability other than for non-brigade operations, defence engagement and all that. Jackal could just be shifted to the reserve Light Cavalry regiments and / or used to replace Land Rover fire support platforms in Infantry units. Isn't it rather absurd to use land rovers as weapon carriers within battalions mounted on Foxhound, for example...?

      But of course, perhaps the most realistic outcome is that the British Army will lose another 50 MBTs and the reconnaissance cavalry in armoured brigades and just carry on with the dog's breakfast force structure.

    4. Gabriele,
      My money is on
      "dog's breakfast force structure"
      Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

  15. A general question for all (and Gabriele in particular). Is there any reason why either the two armoured brigades (or the two mech infantry for that matter) should have an independent recon regiment of any sort? Could an armoured brigade not simply have 4 permanent composite regiments of the type outlined by Gabby previously, ie 2 MBT Squadrons, 2 IFV Companies and 1 Recon Squadron? That would give the army 8 deployable armoured battle groups and make the best of the Ajax, Warrior and Chal 2 assets already to hand.

    1. Reconnaissance is a key task in any operation, so it is never a bad idea to have a regiment tasked, training and structured to do it. What i think is not necessary is to have regiments of sole Ajax-and-family. Reconnaissance will still require a dedicate battlegroup, but structure-wise it might well be a more mixed units, with MBTs and more infantry. It could actually be a good thing, since a real battlefield will more often than not require the creation of exactly such a hybrid unit for reconnaissance. In Afghanistan, the Brigade Recce Force was tipically built up stealing pieces out of infantry battalions as well as cavalry regiments. With the heavy armour elements more or less all based in the same area, it could make a lot of sense to create combined regiments.

      The truth is that it is difficult to guess what the Army might be trying to do, as it is trying to square a circle in moving to the new 2025 target structure. What happens with Challenger 2 numbers and with their distribution? Will the Armoured Infantry still aim for 6 battalions, or will they become 4...? It's all very unclear at this stage.

  16. Hi Gabriele,
    Looking at your tweets, you seem to have more information on the armoured and strike brigades?
    Could you please enlighten us?
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    1. Not really. Just heard that the Royal Tank Regiment is back to practicing square battlegroups on 2 tank sqns and 2 armoured inf coy plus support; and i continue to think that this structure could and should be made permanent in the new plan. RTR also tasked (not sure why them...?) to help with experimentation and planning for how to use Ajax in view of the Strike Brigade problem. Other than this, we are at the same point as before.

  17. Like Anonymous, I have been reading your tweets, and am particularly interested in the concept of the battlegroup.

    You mention how the British Army is back, after years, to "battlegrouping with 2 tank sqns, 2 armoured Inf coys and Fire Support Coy." I am just wondering how much of a reconnaissance element such a formation would have. I believe that in a battlegroup containing only one Armoured Squadron (they are flexible) there might be just one Close Recce Troop, consisting of as few as 4 x Scimitars. I suppose that if you had 2 Armoured (Tank) Squadrons the number would increase. If we are dealing in battlegroups with such small numbers of recce vehicles, might it not be possible for the number of Ajax vehicles ordered to cater for the recce needs of both the Armoured Infantry formations and the Strike Brigades? i.e Would there have to be one Cavalry(Recce)Regiment in every Armoured Infantry Brigade?

    Also, could you please provide some information on what exactly the Support Coy would consist of. Would it be Artillery and mortars? If so, what kind of Artillery equipment do the battlegroups contain?

    1. The recce element was not detailed, but depending on the circumstances it could be made up by the recce platoons of the infantry and tank battalions / regiments involved.

      The Fire Support Coy in this case is mortars, sniper, pioneer, Javelin, and comes from the infantry battalion. Widening the scope, a deployed battlegroup would receive an artillery battery and an engineer sqn.

      Why is this important? Because it might signal which direction the army is looking in when it comes to the current re-orbating. So far, battlegrouping has been mostly practiced in Army 2020 format (1 tank sqn, 2 arm inf coy, one mech inf coy on Mastiff) and the Army 2020 format was never really found effective. With the mech inf moving to the strike brigades, square battlegroups of heavy armor become the next obvious construct.

      As you know, if it depended on me, that kind of structure would become permanent.

      As for recce in the armoured brigades, yes. I think it is highly desirable to have a regiment specializing in reconnaissance, if it'll possible.

  18. Gaby

    Many thanks for your detailed reply. You may well be right.



  19. Gaby

    Just one question that intrigues me. You say:

    “So far, battlegrouping has been mostly practiced in Army 2020 format (1 tank sqn, 2 arm inf coy, one mech inf coy on Mastiff) and the Army 2020 format was never really found effective.”

    The Army 2020 format, as far as the Armoured Infantry Bde is concerned, is not dissimilar to that of the old Mechanized Infantry Brigade (1 Armoured Regt, 1 Armoured Infantry Bn, 2 Mechanised bns with support from Artillery, Engineer Logistics etc. units). That appeared to work successfully for many years. I have also read in “Soldier Magazine” reports of the Mech Infantry units in Mastiffs proving very successful in early exercises (unless that is propaganda). What has changed to make such a structure not so effective? Is it the non-purpose- built nature of the wheeled vehicles with which the Mech Bns are equipped? e.g Mastiff being a somewhat cumbersome, lumbering vehicle which is essentially an MRAP and not nearly as agile or fast as the 8 x8 we are likely to get? Or is it more to do with the structure of the formations themselves?

    Lastly, is the increased “popularity” of the battlegroup” as an organisation more to do with financial resources likely to be reduced or are there good military reasons why you think it should become permanent? Seems rather small to me.

    1. Mechanized Infantry in itself has nothing wrong, but the Army 2020 battlegroup was unsurprisingly found too light on tanks, while the Mastiff coy, between Warrior and Challenger 2, just didn't fit that well.
      Mechanized Infantry was good as a medium weight force to link up with early entry units such as paras, but that was expected.

      The Combined Arms Battalion permanently made up of tanks, armoured infantry and supports is the current favorite in the US and in Israel, and it used to be employed in Italy as well.
      For the British Army at the moment there are also other considerations supporting such an approach:

      - the stuff is all heading for Salisbury Plain, so logistic considerations are no longer a valid concern when thinking of mixing up

      - The planned number of Warrior CSP is insufficient for six battalions. Most graceful way to adapt without re-roling battalions is to adopt the combined arms structure, so "only" the number of coys changes.

      - Three tank regiments are due to fit into two heavy brigades. How do you do it, assuming you don't want to cut the number of tanks further?

      I just think it makes a lot of sense.

  20. Gaby

    Many thanks for the reply. Seems convincing but I'll have a further think about it.

    One point is that with only two tank squadrons in each battlegroup, the total would be 36(2 x 18), which would outnumber the Warriors' 28 (2 x 14). It also poses the question of how many of the just over two hundred MBTs available to the British Army at the moment would still be employed under your battlegroup system.

    I imagine that depends in part on how many battlegroups you have per brigade. I suppose a brigade could have up to three or four. Say if you had three per brigade, that would amount to 108 tanks per brigade (3 x 36) and with two Armoured Brigades, that would amount to over two hundred, just about the total number of tanks available. Or have my calculations become silly?

    That would leave few,if any MBTs available for your recce formations However, I suppose the idea is that the organisation would be so much more fluid and flexible than that and vehicles could be "swapped".

    1. I assume the Combined Arms Regiments would have smaller sqns, of 14 tanks each. And there would be 3 combined arms regiments in each of the two brigades, for a total of 12 tank squadrons, with 168 tanks. That is exactly the same number as you have with 3 Type 56 regiments. Not one more, not one less.

      The problem is that i would really, really, really like to put tanks in two recce regiments as well, and that would require a greater number of tanks being kept operational. Which, in theory, is not impossible. But, we both know it, financially it is unlikely.

      Since the Army has 227 tanks, there are 59 for attrition reserve, back-up and training fleet (example, BATUS). In theory, a different Whole Fleet Management approach would allow shaping the recce regiments to include tanks, since anyway in peacetime no regiment has its fill of vehicles, but just a token fleet for training.
      However, Army 2025 is supposedly meant to be able to deploy the two armoured brigades together, so Whole Fleet Management can't be an answer. "virtual" tanks do not deploy: if they are serious, there must be enough tanks to equip both brigades for deployment.

      They can achieve that by increasing the number of tanks kept in the operational fleet... or by cutting the number of tanks in each brigade. I'm sure you can guess which is more likely.

  21. Gaby

    Many thanks for the reply. The whole theory is becoming a lot clearer now.

    "They can achieve that by increasing the number of tanks kept in the operational fleet... or by cutting the number of tanks in each brigade. I'm sure you can guess which is more likely."

    Yes, the cut seems far more likely but they can't keep on and on cutting, not with world security in its present extremely fragile state. Or can they? Thanks once again.

  22. Hi Gabriele and MikeW.
    Thanks for the reply Gabriele.
    How I would love to know more detail on the battle group. How many Challengers and warriors for instance?
    My feeling is, the 2 warrior company's supported by support company is pretty normal anyway. Forming infantry combat teams. If the whole of support company is just supporting 2 infantry company's, I would find that worrying.
    Not sure how many scimitar family vehicles there are in MBT regiment to play at strike brigades?
    However, adding an extra recce troop to an MBT regiment could go someway to make up for the loss of the brigade recce regiment. Remember those 'lost' recce platoons and troops?
    Please Gabriele if you hear anything more on this exercise let me know.
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)


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