Saturday, March 4, 2017

Army 2020 Refine detailed


HQ 102 Logistic Brigade, 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery, 35 Engineer Regiment, Headquarters 64 Works Group Royal Engineers, 2 Medical Regiment, Headquarters 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, 33 Field Hospital and 104,105 and 106 Battalions of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reserve will be rationalised, with all manpower in those units being redeployed to other areas of the Army.

Armoured Infantry Brigades

The armoured brigades of Army 2020 Refine will be 20th and 12th Brigades. 1st Brigade will convert into a Strike Brigade.
The armoured brigades will have two armoured infantry battalions and a tank regiment each. The transfer of Ajax into the Strike Brigades apparently leaves the armoured infantry brigades without a cavalry element, with an obvious negative impact on the overall capability of the formations.
The loss of a tank regiment (King’s Royal Hussars, to convert into a “Medium Armour” regiment mounted on Ajax) is also a particularly negative development.
To this day it is not clear whether anything will be done to expand the surviving tank regiments and/or remedy somewhat to the loss of organic recce cavalry.
The heavy brigades of the French army do not have a dedicate cavalry regiment for reconnaissance, but they have two tank regiments and each formation includes a couple of 117-strong reconnaissance squadrons. The British Army might or might not attempt a similar mitigation of the problem.

The MOD says that the Challenger 2 LEP programme has a 700 million budget, which is, depending from where you look at it, both small and gigantic, since on the other side of the Channel, France is paying a third of that sum for a very substantial update to as many as 225 Leclerc. The extent of LEP modifications isn’t clear yet, and the MOD is of course not saying how many tanks will be life extended. Army 2020 downsized the active fleet to 227, and a further shrinkage seems assured.

At the same time, the Army is giving vague hopes by dropping messages such as:

“The Army has conducted initial planning to understand how a further armoured or medium armoured regiment (equipped with Challenger 2 or Ajax) may be generated from both the Regular and Reserve component. This work will inform the final decision on the future Challenger 2 Life Extension Project fleet size.”

A number that has circulated is 160 to 170 tanks retained, one of the smallest fleets in the world. As for the LEP, although everyone knows that the rifled gun and the powerpack are big weaknesses, there are currently little hopes to see big changes.

Strike Brigades

The Strike Brigades will be 1st Brigade, converted from the armoured role, and a "new" brigade. 
This year will see the Scots Guards and the Household Cavalry move into a "Strike Experimentation Group. In 2019 they will be joined by King's Royal Hussars and 4 SCOTS, and at that point the Group will become a brigade, picking a badge. To me, 4th Infantry Brigade, being based in Catterick, continues to seem the best positioned candidate, but it seems the deal is not quite sealed. 
The planned structure of the two brigades is as follows: 

Specialised Infantry Group

The newly formed Specialised Infantry Group will take command of 4 RIFLES and 1 SCOTS in April this year, to achieve an IOC hopefully by the autumn. The Specialised Infantry Battalions are expected to take a permanent regional focus. 4 RIFLES has been assigned to the Middle East.
1 SCOTS will move from Belfast to Aldershot in 2019, to be co-located with the Specialised Infantry Group and its other constituent units.
There is uncertainty still about how large these “specialized” infantry units will be in the end, with figures having given as 200, 270 or 300. There is much still to do to actually build these units and their very peculiar role.

In 2019, two more battalions will join the group: 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (currently Light Role) and 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (currently Light Role). The requirement for a fifth battalion hasn’t yet been ruled out.

Royal Armoured Corps

The Queen’s Royal Hussars and the Royal Tank Regiment will continue to employ Challenger 2. As said before, there is no telling at the moment if they will see any expansion to compensate somewhat for the loss of a tank regiment and the absence of dedicate recce cavalry in the armoured brigades.

The King’s Royal Hussars will convert from Challenger 2 to Ajax during 2019 and are now expected to be the first operational formation on the new vehicle. Their new role will be “Medium Armour”, which the MOD describes by saying that “specific tasks are expected to be similar to those conducted by Challenger 2, albeit against a different threat”. They’ll have, in other words, to play tanks with Scout vehicles.
This is one of the most extraordinary blunders of all times in British Army history, and a spectacular example of utter confusion on the future of the force, because a specific “Medium Armour” variant of FRES SV, then Scout, then Ajax, used to exist. It was part of the requirement, and the base hull was specifically given a very wide turret ring to support a variant armed with large guns, up to 120mm smoothbore.

The Medium Armour Segment was however sacrificed to pursue a large purchase of vehicles in Recce configuration and Recce support only. The contract was signed in September 2014, and the vehicles aren’t even in production yet, but already the army has managed to completely change the requirement that shaped said contract, and now the Scout will be rammed into a completely different role, for which it is ill suited. That the Army could, from within, mess up its biggest contract in decades in about two years is the demonstration that not all problems in the UK armed forces are due to politicians. The services sure know how to create chaos in their own plans.

Four, rather than three, regiments will be mounted on Ajax: Household Cavalry, King’s Royal Hussars, Royal Lancers and Royal Dragoon Guards. Two regiments will be tasked with reconnaissance, and two with “Medium Armour”. One between RL and RDG will join KRH in the Medium Armour role.

In theory, with Ajax not having entered production yet, as I said, it would be possible to procure a true medium armour variant, which General Dynamics is offering to the US Army for their Mobile Protected Firepower requirement. However, there is no sign of willingness on the MOD part to try and renegotiate the contracts and change the number of variants. In addition, 245 CTA 40mm guns have already been ordered for the Ajax programme.
In the land of dreams, a part of those guns would be directed to a turreted MIV variant and a part of the Ajax vehicles would get the 120mm smoothbore, but in the land of harsh reality MIV will have nothing more than a Protector RWS and Ajax will be a Scout out of role.

FRES SV when it was a much larger programme. In 2013 it became evident that the Medium Armour and Manoeuvre Support segments had been abandoned, as well as Recce Block 3. Recce Block 1 and Block 2 were then merged together, and a Ground Based Surveillance sub-variant of Ajax added, to be purchased in very little numbers in the September 2014 contract. To this day it is not clear what kind of sensors the GBS will come equipped with. Curiously, both the GBS and Joint Fires sub-variants, once expected to be variant of the turretless APC variant (now known as ARES), are now sub-variants of the turreted Ajax.  
General Dynamics, and maybe the Army itself, continued for a while to hope that bridgelaying, ambulance and direct fire / Medium Armour variants of Ajax would one day follow.

General Dynamics is now capitalizing on work done initially for the British Army to propose the Griffin, a medium tank with 120mm gun, on Ajax hull base, for the US Army's Mobile Protected Firepower requirement. 

Nothing has emerged about the remaining regiments, currently in the Light Cavalry role with Jackal: Royal Scots Dragoon Guards; The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and the Light Dragoons. They will probably stay more or less as they are, lost in those six highly questionable, support-less  infantry brigades that will be part of 1st Division. However, there have been reports in the past of CBRN returning from the RAF Regiment entirely to the green army, while the future of the Protected Mobility fleets (from Foxhound to Mastiff) is still up in the air. Among possible outcomes, it cannot be ruled out that one regiment becomes a "protected mobility provider", driving Foxhounds and Ridgback and Mastiff in order to provide lift, mobility and protection to supported infantry formations. 


The introduction of the Specialised Infantry capability will be accompanied by a restructuring of the infantry divisional structure, within which infantry regiments are administered, from seven to six divisions. The Scottish and The Prince of Wales’s Administrative Divisions of Infantry will merge, incorporating The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Welsh Regiment and The Royal Irish Regiment. This administrative division will be called The Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division. The Mercian Regiment from the Prince of Wales’s Division will join with the King’s Division. Army administrative divisions of infantry are the groupings within which the Army manages its infantry soldiers and officers to give them the necessary broad spread of relevant career experience from across a number of different units and activities. They have no operational role. There will be no changes to the names or regimental construct of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Mercian Regiment, The Royal Welsh Regiment, or The Royal Irish Regiment as a result of these administrative changes. 

1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment) will re-role from Warrior-equipped Armoured Infantry to become a Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV)-equipped battalion. The change is expected to happen in 2020 and will also see the relocation of the battalion from Warminster to Catterick.

1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will re-role from Warrior-equipped Armoured Infantry to become a Light Role infantry battalion.

The MOD says that: “A2020 Refine force structure will have sufficient Warrior platforms to field two armoured infantry brigades each containing, amongst other capabilities, two armoured infantry battalions. Should the Army require additional personnel capable of operating Warrior, they would be trained as individual battle casualty replacements to be employed within these battalions and might initially be drawn from their paired Reserve battalions.

At the same time, the MOD refuses to provide numbers for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme. 245 guns have been ordered for it, and 245 IFV and IFV-command variants are more or less what is needed to support the four battalions planned, plus a margin for training and support.
The remaining uncertainty is almost certainly not on the number of “turreted variants”, but on the number of the supporting variants: Repair, Recovery, Artillery Observation Post, and, hopefully, Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle.
The Warrior CSP programme is part of a wider “Armoured Infantry 2026” programme, which should modernize the capability as a whole. Clearly, the replacement of the FV432 in its sub-variants (command and communications, APC, mortar carrier, ambulance) is necessary but the status of this workstream, as always, is mysterious. The Army has allocated designations for an APC and an Ambulance variant of the Warrior, however; the FV525 and FV526, in a confirmation of what, for well over 12 years, has been the general direction of travel for the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle. Turretless conversions of surplus Warrior hulls, in addition to the supporting variants of Ajax (Athena and Argus, mostly), should eventually replace FV432 and CRV(T) vehicles (Spartan, Sultan, Samaritan).
Considerable uncertainty surrounds the FV514 variant as well, the Artillery Observation Post. The Royal Artillery wants to transform the vehicle in a modern Joint Fires direction platform able to direct mortar, artillery and air attacks, and was experimenting for a suitable mission kit already back in 2010 and before. Funding and timelines, however, were up in the air: the Royal Artillery needs to find the money for its own specific upgrades and additions, and hopefully have them included in the final manufacture contract.
Warrior CSP and ABSV are key elements of the future armoured infantry brigade, which will only work if the programme is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

FV510 Warrior Section Vehicle ----- FV520 after CSP
FV511 Warrior Infantry command  ----- FV521
FV512 Warrior Repair   ------ FV522
FV513 Warrior Recovery   ------- FV523
FV514 Warrior Artillery Observation Post  ------ FV524
FV515 Warrior Battery Command Post  ------ no longer employed
Conversion of surplus hulls  ------  FV525 Warrior Ambulance
Conversion of surprlus hulls ------ FV526  Warrior APC (and sub-variants such as mortar carrier)

245 between FV520 and FV521 are expected. The FV514 has the turret as well, but the gun is a dummy. 
Warrior bridgelayer. It is tracked, but so is Ajax: can it be the Strike Brigade's close support gap crossing capability? FRES once called for several medium weight bridgelayers.  
From FV514 to FV524. One of the most complex and uncertain elements of Armoured Infantry 2026. But the ability to direct supporting fires from under armor is absolutely crucial. 

Light Protected Mobility battalions seem to entirely vanish from the ORBAT, reverting to Light Role infantry. The future role and employment of Foxhound has yet to be determined.  

Light Role battalions will rebuild the 3 rifle platoons they lost in the original Army 2020, thanks largely to manpower released with the creation of the tiny Specialised Infantry Battalions. The establishment for Light Role battalions grows from 561 (580 for those currently on Foxhound) to around 630.

In connection to the “Better Defence Estate” review, a good number of battalions will have to move to new bases over the next decade and beyond.

Royal Engineers

Royal Engineers are working on their own restructuring plan for Army 2020. What is already decided is that 35 Engineer Regiment, on return from Germany, will re-role to EOD & Search. As part of the process it will lose 29 Sqn, re-subordinated to 21 Engineer Regiment; and 37 Squadron, which will go to 32 Engineer Regiment. This will bring the future Strike Brigade engineer regiments up to strength. Currently, as part of the earlier Army 2020, both 21 and 32 are severely understrength, missing a whole regular sub-unit, although they control a reserve squadron each. 
At the moment they are under control of 12 Force Support Engineer Group, but they continue to support the brigades in the Adaptable Force.

The enlarged EOD & Search group will be reorganized, but details are still being worked out. However, the hybrid Regular – Reserve regiments created by the original Army 2020 plan are already coming to an end. The four reserve squadrons (217, 221, 350, 579) will re-subordinate under a newly formed Reserve regiment HQ, which will take the already existing 101 Regt title.
35 Engineer Regiment will take the place of the current 101 and will apparently be composed of regulars, not reserves as it initially appeared from the announcement made by the secretary of state for defence. At the moment, the EOD regiments are structured as follows:

33 EOD & Search Regiment

-       58 Field Sqn
-       821 Sqn (Very High Readiness, contains two PARA and two Commando elements that support 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando Brigades)
-       217 Sqn (R)
-       350 Sqn (R)

101 EOD & Search Regiment

-       22 Sp Sqn
-       17 Field Sqn
-       21 Field Sqn
-       221 Field Sqn (R)
-       579 Field Sqn (R)

29 EOD & Search Group as of now. 35 Regiment coming in and all reserve EOD going into a new 101 (Reserve) Regt. 

The transfer of the Reserve squadrons will, I assume, be compensated by increasing the regular component. 35 Regiment currently includes, in addition to the already mentioned squadrons headed for re-subordination, 44 HQ & Sp Sqn and 77 Armoured Engineer Squadrons, and their fate hasn’t yet been detailed: they might convert to an EOD role.
While waiting for details to emerge, my comment to this restructuring is that the Strike Brigades, if they are to be anywhere near as independent and highly mobile as Carter seems to expect, will need greater availability of crucial Route Proving and Clearance capabilities, because mines and EODs are not going away.

This EOD restructuring might be connected to this need. If this is the case, 20 Squadron, currently part of 36 Engineer Regiment, Force Support, and in charge of the TALISMAN equipment and Route Proving & Clearance know-how, might be involved in the reshuffle. If it depended on me, I would want a TALISMAN squadron for each Strike Brigade.

Growth is expected in Wide Wet Gap Crossing, which might be a way to say that some regulars will get back in the M3 rig business, after it was offloaded to 75 Engineer Regiment (Reserve) in the earlier version of Army 2020. Another effect of the "return to East Europe"?
Again, no details have been released yet.

Another requirement that the Strike Brigades re-introduce is one that was once part of FRES: the need for a medium weight close support gap crossing capability. TITAN is tracked and Challenger-sized, so is obviously not an option, while REBS and ABLE are too vulnerable on their current truck bases. Will a MIV, Ajax or perhaps Warrior-based bridgelayer emerge? The Warrior bridgelayer has already been demonstrated to the army, but did not receive funding. This is one of the areas in which 21 and 32 Engineer regiment will have to try and find solutions.

Works Groups will also face yet a new reorganization as HQ 64 Works Group disbands.

170 Engineer Group, the changes it was undergoing as part of Army 2020. Now it will have to reorganize again as 64 Works Group disbands and Better Defence Estate measures hit home. 

Royal Engineer Reserve units will be realigned to better support the new structure and new aims. An unknown number of reserve squadrons will be aligned, for the first time, with the Heavy Armour regiments. At the moment, however, the Royal Engineers have very little in the way of reserve field squadrons: 131 supporting the Commando regiment; 299 supporting the PARA regiment; 103 and 106 in the Field Army. 71 Engineer Regiment is part of Force Supports (Air) and 75 Regiment is currently in the Wide Wet Gap Crossing and Land Force support role, so there aren’t many squadrons to re-role or move around unless new ones are formed or the reserve regiments get re-focused.

Royal Artillery

The Royal Artillery of Army 2020 Refine will have:

2 “Heavy” Close Support regiments on AS90: 1 Royal Horse Artillery and 19 Royal Artillery. Their structure is planned as follows:

- HQ Battery
- 3x AS90 batteries of six guns; 3 Fire Support Teams and 1 Tactical Air Control Party. Each FST will include 1 JTAC.

The current Tac Group batteries will be re-absorbed and the manpower used elsewhere.
1 Royal Horse Artillery will leave Tidworth for Larkhill in the Easter period of 2019.

2 “STRIKE” Close Support regiments, initially with L118 and then with a future Medium Wheeled Gun. 3 Royal Horse Artillery and 4 Royal Artillery. Their structure includes:

-       HQ Battery
-       2x Gun batteries of six guns; 3 Fire Support Teams with 2 JTAC each; and 1 TACP.
-       3x Tac Group Batteries with 3 FSTs each, including 2 JTACs each, and 1 TACP

The Reserve gunners in support will be expected to man a third battery of six guns and an expanded echelon during operations. Probably each regular regiment will continue to be paired to a reserve regiment (103. 105, 104).

4 Royal Artillery will joint 3 RHA in Newcastle during 2026.

1 “Division Fires” regiment, obtained by removing AS90 from 26 Royal Artillery in exchange for a re-centralization of GMLRS and Exactor. 26 Regiment will have 3 batteries of GMLRS each, plus two Exactor batteries. This replaces the earlier Army 2020 de-centralization that had attached one Precision Fires battery of GMLRS and Exactor to each of 19 RA, 26 RA and 1 RHA regiments. I assume the regiment will employ 18 GMLRS in batteries of 6.
The regiment will be paired with 101 RA, in the Reserve, also on GMLRS, but with a smaller manpower count than currently. The structure should remain on HQ plus four batteries, however.
26 Royal Artillery will arrive in Larkhill from Gutersloh during 2019.

32 Royal Artillery will have 1 HQ Battery and 4 Batteries of Desert Hawk III mini UAS, but, and it was one of the most surprising decisions of Army 2020 Refine for me, the regiment has no future beyond 2021, the expected Out of Service Date for DH III. There will no longer be a dedicate UAS regiment, and currently the plans for the replacement of DH III in the Find role at Battlegroup and Brigade level are completely up in the air.
The current infrastructure used by 32 RA will be taken over by 5 Royal Artillery, which will so be able to move out of Catterick in favor of Larkhill.
It seems unthinkable that in 2021 the Army will want to be without a mini-UAS for battlegroup level FIND functions. The Royal Marines were trying to kick start a Desert Hawk III replacement already last year, and while that failed to progress due to lack of money, new attempts can be expected as time progresses. 
Could the mini-UAS mission end up in the Cavalry, as part of reconnaissance tasking? 

47 Royal Artillery will continue its Watchkeeper build-up to deliver 1 HQ Battery and 4 UAV batteries.

5 Royal Artillery will deliver an HQ Battery, a “General Support” Surveillance and Target Acquisition bty, 3 Close Support STA batteries and 4/73 Sphinx special observation post battery. This is more or less today’s composition, but one battery today (53 Louisburg Bty) is aligned with 16 Air Assault brigade, while Refine seems to do away with that in favor of a “Divisional” approach with a battery in the General Service role.
The Honorable Artillery Company, in the reserve, will provide support with three surveillance squadrons and it will also continue to provide an Air Assault gun group in support of 7 Royal Horse Artillery.

7 Royal Horse Artillery and 29 Commando are not formally touched by Army 2020 Refine and remain “unchanged”. In reality, the structure of the latter is under pressure and the loss of an artillery battery cannot be ruled out, amid uncertainty that lasts since the SDSR 2010. 29 Commando is also in search of a new base as part of the Better Defence Estate review, that decided to sell their current home but hasn’t yet shaped an actual plan for providing new infrastructure.

Bittersweet news come from the air defence regiments: 12 Regiment and 16 Regiment will return to be fully independent and deployable regiments by splitting the currently shared Support Battery (42 Alem Hamza Bty). However, one Stormer HVM battery in 12 Regiment will convert to LML.
12 Regiment will have 2 Stormer HVM batteries, one for each armoured brigade, and 3 LML batteries, presumably one for each Strike Brigade plus 12 Bty in the Air Assault role that it already covers in support of 16 AA Brigade.

16 Regiment will have 1 HQ Bty, 49 Inkerman Bty with LEAPP and 4 batteries with Rapier (then Land Ceptor) and the new Sky Sabre air defence C4Inode.

The precise role and composition of 106 Royal Artillery, the reserve Air Defence regiment, has yet to be determined.

Royal Logistic Corps and REME

The Strike Brigades will, for whatever reason, be supported by a "super" CSS regiment formed by merging one RLC and one REME battalions.
One such regiment will be formed by 2 REME and 27 RLC. 2 REME will become part of a regiment in combination with 27 RLC in 2021, but it'll be 2030 before the REME element leaves Leuchars to join the rest of the unit in Catterick.

The other CSS regiment will be born out of 1 RLC and 1 REME. The ministerial statements names both units as parts of the 1st Strike Brigade but fails to mention the merging.

The merging of RLC and REME does not seem to extend to the rest of the Army. Support to the armoured brigades seem set to stay "in traditional format".
7 RLC and 6 RLC will transit into 101 Logistic Brigade, presumably to become Force Support elements for 3rd UK Division:
7 Regt RLC will remain in Cottesmore until 2029, when it is due to move to Topcliffe. The Regt will come under command of 101 Log Bde in 2019. The detailed structure and role are still being worked on.

6 Regt RLC will also come under command of 101 Log Bde in 2019. The Regt will remain in Dishforth until 2030 when it will move to Topcliffe along with 7 Regt RLC.

I've seen suggestions that 9 RLC will move to 104 Logistic Brigade instead, but i have no way to confirm this as of now. Much has yet to be announced.

Army Reserve

According to MOD written evidence, changes to reservist roles include the following:

- Reserves will be paired for the first time with the Armoured Infantry (Warrior)
- Reserves will be paired for the first time with the Armoured Artillery (AS90)
- Reserves will re-role to support the Armoured Engineers.
- The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will re-role to form an Off Platform Repair Battalion. This will provide essential capability to the Army and will be vital for the deployment of the Division.
- Removing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) from the Reserve Artillery and re-rolling 104 Regt RA to light gun.

The new Reserve organization has yet to be announced in full, but 7 RIFLES has been paired with 5 RIFLES, which is an Armoured Infantry battalion. 
5 FUSILIERS is being paired with its parent battalion, 1st FUSILIERS, also in the Armoured Infantry role. 

Other pairing changes are to be expected. The artillery regiment to pair with the AS90 formations has yet to be chosen.

The infantry component of the Reserve undergoes the changes detailed below: 

The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, the reserve tank regiment, is being expanded with an extra crew in each tank troop and has seen its role expanded: it now supplies both Armoured Reinforcements and Armoured Replacements.
105 Battalion REME will change its name to 101 Theatre Support Battalion in 2019 (the name 105 will cease to be used, as will 104 and 106). It’s new role will be to support 5 Theatre Support Battalion REME in the regeneration of theatre-level equipment during a time of war.

It will consist of Bn HQ and four sub-unit locations as follows:

· HQ 101 Bn REME will be in KEYNSHAM
· Sub-unit 2: SWINDON & BRISTOL


  1. Excellent re-organisation to provide a concise summary. Just one small correction. There are three Light Cavalry regiments in 1st Division-Queens DG, Royal Scots DG, and Light Dragoons.

  2. So if I am following this correctly the British Armed Forces are going to end up with the following
    - 60% of a Corps Headquarters
    - 1 Deployable Division Headquarters
    - 1 Special Forces Group (SAS etc)
    - 6 Deployable Brigade Headquarters (3 Commando being increasing questionable)
    - Within the above, 20 deployable Battalions -
    2 MBT Regiments (with questionable MBTs)
    4 Light Cavalry Regiments
    4 Armoured Infantry Battalions
    4 Mechanised Infantry Battalions (assuming they appear)
    6 Light Infantry Battalions (3 Air Assault, 3 Marine)

    I would argue that the balance of the Army and Marines is non-deployable and hence of questionable military value in any situation more than low-threat peace keeping / training scenarios.
    Pretty damning for a power which "claims" very significant defence spending and capability.
    I would suggest that such a force has combat power below that enjoyed by France, Germany and Italy, all of which have defence spending below the UKs.

    Would welcome thoughts on all of the above.

    1. Corrections:
      4 Heavy Cavalry on Ajax and 3 Light Cavalry on Jackal/Coyote.
      6 Brigades are the ones complete with support elements. The remaining infantry brigades will only be deployable if supports for them can be generated from within the units into the other brigades.

    2. Thanks Gaby. I guess my questions are two-fold -
      1. For the 6 Deployable Brigades do you actually consider them fully deployable (for example their artillery appears inadequate and lack of cavalry for the armour appears to raise a question for them)
      2. On the balance of forces, ie the 3 Light Cavalry Regiments and the (xx?) Light Infantry Battalions I am not sure on your comment? If there are no supports for them in the Orbat than by default they are non-deployable are they not? They are just bodies of personnel with no real capability?

    3. The 6 brigades are deployable with weaknesses. The lack of cavalry i simply do not understand. I'm waiting for an explanation of how the crap it is supposed to work.

      The six infantry brigades, too, i'm waiting to understand what is the new concept for them. Normally, no, they will not have any real value as brigades unless someone comes up with the missing pieces, but Carter is still saying that they can reorganize to support a brigade in the field after the division comes back home. That can only be possible if the 1 in 5 harmony principle is abandoned.

  3. From MikeW

    I think that Anonymous (same person at 10.27 am and 12.13 pm?) has it absolutely right.
    “I would argue that the balance of the Army and Marines is non-deployable and hence of questionable military value in any situation more than low-threat peace keeping / training scenarios. “Pretty damning for a power which "claims" very significant defence spending and capability.”
    Future British ground forces are looking incredibly thin at the moment, if what you yourself, Gaby, and Anonymous have delineated is correct, and I am sure it is.

    Like you, Gaby, I simply find the new organisation beyond belief. It would seem that it has left both the Heavy Armour formations and the Strike Brigades unbalanced and weak. The former have no Cavalry and depleted numbers. The latter suffer from what a lack of firepower which could prove to be fatal.

    Of course it could be that the top brass know far more than we do about what equipment is in the pipeline but at the moment the whole picture looks not only exceptionally dispiriting but positively dangerous.

    Actually, one question which I would like answering concerns the point you raise when you say: “the future of the Protected Mobility fleets (from Foxhound to Mastiff) is still up in the air.” You answer it by saying: “Among possible outcomes, it cannot be ruled out that one regiment (from the Light Cavalry?) becomes a "protected mobility provider", driving Foxhounds and Ridgback and Mastiff in order to provide lift, mobility and protection to supported infantry formations.”

    The whole question of the future of MRAPs in the British Army is actually an intriguing one. Originally selected for specific roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have now been adopted for different tasks as the Army reverts to more traditional roles. However, there are those who believe that such vehicles might very well be needed again before long if we have to fight another campaign where there is a danger from ambushes involving mines, IEDs etc. Of course explosives technology might have moved on by the time we fight such a campaign, in which case they might prove obsolescent/obsolete but such vehicles, I believe, could be useful for a long time. Would it not be better then, rather than using Light Cavalry units, to issue them to some of the Infantry battalions, who could take them out and exercise in them, thus following the practice of conservation through use? I am not talking about large numbers of units.

    1. Mastiff and Ridgback are probably going to continue to fullfil a variety of support roles, particularly within the Strike Brigade. There are never going to be enough MIVs for all roles. The exact mix has to be found, too, also considering that Mastiff truly has mobility problems on soft terrain.

      The APC variants, including Foxhound, however, are in search of a new role. Why not creating mechanised infantry battalions, as would seem most logical? For lack of REME resources and difficulty in training enough drivers and commanders. Army 2020 saw a lot of REME resources shifting away from LADs to battalions, in what some call "empire building" by the corps of REME, who wanted a force structure based on battalions for ease of career management. The shortage of equipment support capability is reportedly one of the main reasons why the Light Protected battalions are going to vanish. Too few resources to support said vehicles. Putting them in a regiment, without infantry, just with the vehicles and crews, would perhaps work. It is not a new thing: the British Army used to have Royal Corps of Transport units crewing APCs such as Saxon. The Royal Marines have their Viking group which crews three companies of vehicles which are then assigned to a Commando when needed.
      In Afghanistan, RAC personnel crewed the Viking, the Warthog Group and the Mastiffs, and infantry got to work with them on deployment. So it might be more sustainable to create such a permanent "taxi service". But that is all to be discovered still.

      As for Army 2020 Refine, my opinion is well known. Trying to form Strike Brigades at all costs generates far too many holes and gaps.

  4. Hi Gabriele and guys.
    I thought it time for another rant.
    I have to agree with MikeW and many other replies.
    In my own humble opinion, if this is the best the army can do, I would give it 2 out of 10.
    (One for saying something, and the other one for trying).
    I doubt that Carter will be offered the job of organizing the Carlsberg Christmas party.
    Unless, there is more to come, Like;
    A 120mm Ajax for the 'medium regiments'.
    Extra recce vehicles for the armoured brigades.
    And of course some MIV's for the infantry.
    All of which I have varying degrees of doubt about.
    Just a note, is it me or have the 'strike brigades now become medium brigades? I detect a move away from the strike concept?
    I think it would be crazy not to use the Foxhounds.
    Can't they be used in the land rover role in the Light Role battalions?
    Talking of Light role battalions, thanks Gabriele for not using the title 'Light Infantry'.
    Did you know that an another reserve battalion of the Rifles is to be formed?
    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    1. An extra RIFLES reserve and an extra PWRR reserve battalion, yes. It is all in the article.

      As for Foxhound, it is one of the puzzles of this whole thing. I would think that, if not for anything else, it could be used for Multi Role Vehicle Protected Group 1 requirement, rather than go with a purchase of US JLTV just to add yet another fleet to the way too many different fleets the army already has.

    2. Just to add, to my earlier rant.
      I don't understand why more battalions are not included in the deployable brigades?
      We seem to have lots of light role battalions that could be used to support the armoured brigades and 16 AA.
      At present a battalion equipped with Mastiff's support each of the armoured brigades to cover rear area security and provide the 3rd battalion if not deployed in the armour role. Like wise, I would suggest that 16 AA could do with more infantry units. Both 3 CDO and 16 AA seem to have just battle group size deployable formations at the moment, when they have 2 of the 5 deployable brigade HQ's?
      However Gabriele, much of what you say in your article confirms all our fears and none of our hopes.
      Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

  5. From MikeW

    Hi, Phil. Nice to hear from you again. Needless to say, I agree with everything you state. You are hoping for “a 120mm Ajax for the 'medium regiments'. I would think that that is one of the top priority requirements (together with a vehicle-borne ATGW).

    Now don’t laugh (and Gabriele can come in on this one too, if he feels that I am being too fanciful!) but would there be any mileage in transferring some of the 120mm guns from redundant Chally 2 chassis and fitting them on Ajax, as a very temporary solution, that is. There must be some in storage from the Challengers that have already been withdrawn)

    Now, I know that it is an ageing gun and I know too that it is rifled. However, apparently the AJAX has been fitted with a turret ring that can take a 120mm tank gun. It might prove a temporary solution anyway for a few years, until funds are available for a modern fire support vehicle. A few (say 15 to20) of a gun version or AJAX in each Strike Brigade would make one hell of a difference. It might even be possible to ask whether the Army's own workshops could fit them.

    Perhaps you think I am barking mad and that it is impracticable but it is only a suggestion.

    Agree with you about Foxhound but isn’t one of the problems with it that it carries only 4 (soldiers) and the infantry wants a vehicle that can deposit more infantrymen (say, a section) from each vehicle at a time? Some use must surely be found for it, though.

    1. It might be possible to recover some guns, but you still need a new turret, and at that point there is no real gain in going with ex-Challenger guns.
      Besides, it will still be a tracked vehicle in a brigade that should be wheeled.

      In an ideal world, here is what i would do:

      - Purchase a wheeled medium tank with 120mm smoothbore on MIV hull.

      - Convert some more of the Ajax into the Joint Fires sub-variant, enough to replace all FV514 rather than upgrading them. FV514 would then not be upgraded and life extended, and the hulls might go into ABSV.

      - Descope 80 Ajax, in favor of more turretless variants (remember that the base hull is the same and they are not even in production yet). Chose the most complex ABSV variant (medical treatment? ATGW?) and cover it with these hulls rather than try to squeeze a lot of modern systems into old Warrior hulls. In this way you eat into the ABSV requirement and keep the number of Ajax-familyvehicles on order the same, hopefully easing the challenge of contract renegotiation.

      - Take the 80 or more guns and turrets "saved" modifying the Ajax programme and move them into MIV to have at least one platoon of gun-toting vehicles per company.

      Of course, it takes:

      - Money
      - Clear ideas
      - Swift action

      So it will never happen.

    2. Love the above idea. Which MIV would you go for? Off the shelf Centauro 2 and Feccia with the 40mm would appear to tick all of the boxes (thus keeping costs as low as possible) and the Italian government has shown itself more than happy to do reciprocal deals on defence (thus keeping the "how is it good for the British economy hawks" at bay)

    3. Anything but Boxer is a possible answer. In my opinion, going Boxer would be a mistake.

      I'm attracted by the AMV, personally, and by perhaps collaborating with Poland, which bases its Rosomak 8x8 on the AMV and has produced all sorts of variants.
      Italy could be a good source for the 120mm gun and turret. Rheinmetall has a 120 for this kind of installations but i don't know if it is quite mature yet, while the 120/45 on Centauro II is something that is going into production already.

  6. Hi Gabriele and MikeW.
    I was thinking along the same lines about adjusting the Ajax types.
    Reducing the number of armoured brigades from 3 to 2 must mean that there are some spare Ajax hulls that would have gone to the 3rd brigades RE and Recce platoons/troops etc?
    As you say Gabriele, it would take some swift action to change the order now. So never going to happen.
    I am also disappointed that the Ajax order counldn't be increased by a few hulls to replace some of the older APC's.
    As to Foxhound, yes it can only carry 4 passengers, but so can a land rover. I can't believe they are going to withdraw them after taking them into general service and buying some more!
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

  7. One further, related question, which I would love to ask you Gabriele. I have been reading up on the Orbat of the Italian Army / Marines. It appears to suggest the following structure -
    1 Deployable Corps Headquarters
    3 Deployable Divisional Headquarters
    2 Deployable Alpine Brigades
    1 Deployable Airmobile Brigade
    1 Deployable Paratroop Brigade
    3 Deployable Medium Brigades
    2 Deployable Armoured Brigades
    1 Deployable Marine Brigade

    All of the Army Brigades follow a 4 Battalion structure and these appear larger than their UK equivalents.

    All of this is achieved with a personnel strength of approx. 105,000 (including San Marco).

    How is this possible and are these units all really deployable?

    1. The deployable division is essentially one, with the second HQ at lower readiness and needing uplift to deploy. The Alpine division HQ is not really deployable on a normal day, it is not thought for that.

      The Corps HQ is the italian NATO contribution, and is like the british ARRC.

      The Medium Brigades will only be 2. The earlier ambition to have 3 clashed with the cost of purchasing so many 8x8. "Pinerolo" and "Aosta" are the two medium brigades.
      The "Sassari" is a light brigade, mounted essentially on Lince (the Panther, in british service).

      The airmobile brigade has only two battalions: one of proper airmobile infantry and the other is the Lagunari unit, an amphibious regiment that was once tasked with battling back the russians in the lagoon areas around Venetia, essentially. Now it is the army's counterpart to the Navy's San Marco amphibious regiment.

      The brigades otherwise have 3 manoeuvre units plus cavalry regiment. The Ariete armoured brigade has 2 tank and one infantry, while the Garibaldi, old-style mechanized, has 2 infantry and 1 tank.

      The "amphibious brigade" is still half-formed. The Navy claims it has a San Marco "brigade", but that is optimistic. They have split the San Marco into 2 battalions (plus a third which has tasks similar to the british 43 Commando, minus the nuclear arsenal protection), but the "brigade" only comes together when the airmobile brigade (Friuli) sends along the cavalry, the Lagunari battalion and the supporting elements including artillery.
      You could say that the airmbobile and marine brigades are, in deployable terms, the same thing. The Friuli's main output, taken on its own, is packages of airmobile platoons or companies plus attack and transport helicopters. Currently they sustain one such group in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

      How is this possible? Italy does not have to sustain 2 battalions of infantry in Cyprus, 1 in Brunei, 2 on public duty. It has only the battalions needed to form the brigades it has. There are a couple of "useless" brigade HQs, non deployable, that had to be disbanded but are still there, clinging to life through political pressures of various kind: the Granatieri di Sardegna and the Pozzuolo del Friuli. But in general, the army effort is the brigade: this is the brigade, here are the three battalions for it. And that's it.

      There is no REME corps, which i suppose removes a fair bit of overhead. Admittedly, though, recovery and repair might be a weakness in the italian army: we don't have as much of a culture for recovery vehicles. There still isn't a Freccia or Centauro recovery variant, something that in the british army would be unthinkable, for example.

      Also, the San Marco regiment, like the Royal Marines, is actually Navy, not Army.

    2. I assume that a lack of REME means that the Italian army must use some sort of Light Aid Detachment system except have it integral to their units in order to keep their vehicles repaired?

    3. They are integral to the Echelon of the units. Our REME is just a component of the TRAMAT (TRAnsport and MATerials) Corps. Think of it as RLC and REME merged together.

      And, by the way, I know there are some who think the combined CSS regiments in the Strike Brigades might end up being a step towards a future merge of RLC and REME, but we'll see what happens. 19 Light Brigade had a combined CSS battalion too, but that did not swallow the separate corps.

  8. Looking at the lines to take, 227 CR2 are in line to be upgraded as part of the LEP. I only saw them the other day so shouldn't be to out of date.

  9. Why does there have to be 2 battalions in Cyprus? Could one of the battalions not be drawn from the Army Reserve as a 3 month posting, giving the personnel an excellent opportunity to work along side their full time colleagues on a large scale.

    1. The Reserve's maximum accomplishment so far as been the delivery of the Falklands Islands Infantry Company, from 4 PARA. One company, and it is already an half-miracle.

  10. I suppose my follow-up is why does there have to be 2 battalions there anyway?

    1. Garrisoning and Theatre Rapid Reserve force. When UK troops went to the ground in Iraq (briefly) during earlier phases of the ISIS affair, they went from Cyprus, and from there they'd come again.

  11. Surely if an armoured brigade needed to deploy either a strike brigade unit would have arrived ahead or be deployed with to perform the cavalry function. It seems to me an attempt by the army to face the reality of funding and likely deployment scenarios. The force structure can be flexed between light, medium and heavy intervention. My point being greater flexibility rather than an unrealistic focus on armoured manoeuvre at the expense of other more lokely intervention. Sorry if I'm way off but I'm just a xivvy trying to get my head round the army's place in our future defence posture.


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