Future Force 2020 - Army

Here i will post all the relevant articles following the development of the Army 2020 plan, with the newest articles on top of the list.

Army 2020: an overview of unit structures 

The Army Reserve plan is revealed - Restructuring of the Reserves; updated integrated ORBAT
From UORs to Core Budget: equipping Army 2020
Gaps become evident: CBRN capability to be rebuilt?
Army 2020 takes shape: roles and basing
Latest details emerge - some more information via IISS
Multi Role Brigades and Army 2020 - details emerge about the concept behind Army 2020
The helicopter attack force's future 2 - the future of Apache within Army 2020
The helicopter attack force's future 1 - the future of Apache within Army 2020
The roles of Reserves within Army 2020 
The UAVs for the forces of 2020
The force of Army 2020: the battalion's establishments and structure
Army Air Corps of Army 2020
The Royal Signals in Army 2020
The Infantry of Army 2020 - lethality
Royal Engineers of Army 2020
Logistic vehicle fleets of Army 2020
Infantry towards Army 2020
Agile Warrior - Informing or Justifying Army 2020?

Army 2020 in detail - putting flesh on the bones of the official announcement
Army 2020 first details
Army 2020 is announced

For historical interest, i've also preserved the original Army 2020 page i had written, at the time in which the plan was for 5 Multi Role Brigades and a force of 94.000 men. It can be found below.

Future Force 2020 – a game of oracle and suggestions

The new Army structure. 2020 and beyond

From the SDSR’s words:

                    five multi-role brigades each comprising reconnaissance forces, tanks, and armoured, mechanised and light infantry, plus supporting units, keeping one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation, and four in support to ensure the ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation;

                    16 Air Assault Brigade, a high-readiness, light, short-duration intervention capability, organised and trained for parachute and air assault operations, with its own supporting units;

                    precision Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets that can strike targets up to 70 km away, and Loitering Munitions able to circle over a battlefield for many hours ready for fleeting or opportunity targets;

                    a new range of medium weight armoured vehicles, including Terrier engineer vehicles and the Scout reconnaissance vehicles and in due course the Future Rapid Effects System Utility Vehicle (FRES UV) which will be the core of the Army’s armoured manoeuvre fleet;

                    protected support vehicles, replacing unprotected versions that are no longer suitable, to move logistic supplies around the battlefield;

                    heavily armoured vehicles, including Warrior infantry fighting vehicle, AS90 artillery and Titan and Trojan engineer vehicles and Challenger tanks, in smaller numbers than now but sufficient to conduct operations in high-threat situations;

                    a range of ISTAR capabilities including: Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicles; man-portable and vehicle-fitted electronic warfare equipment; deployable surveillance to protect forward operating bases; and a force protection system to protect against indirect fire such as artillery and mortars;

                    a range of capabilities to counter explosive ordnance and IEDs;

                    a fully deployable divisional headquarters, with a second headquarters capable of preparing and training subordinate forces for operations which could, with suitable warning, be augmented to deploy in an operational role on an enduring operation;

What does that mean:

-          Armoured Infantry Battalions will go down to 5
-          Mechanized Infantry Battalions will rise to 5 from 3
-          Smaller Tank regiments, but still 5
-          5 Formation RECCE Regiments
-          Acquisition of FRES SV (Scout and other variants) still envisaged
-          Acquisition of FRES UV to be resurrected in the coming years
-          Acquisition of a C-RAM capability and continuation of Fire Shadow loitering ammunition
-          Closure of 19 Light Brigade and 52 Infantry Brigade
-          2nd UK Division to be downgraded to “Force Preparation” task, with secondary deployment capability only for major, enduring operations and with augmentation
-          Reduced size of AS90 Regiments
-          Talisman C-IED troops to be retained and possibly improved
-          94.000 soldiers envisaged as strength level in 2020
-          Allied Rapid Reaction Corp to be downsized and changed to a mainly static divisionary HQ
-          6 UK Division (deployable HQ) will be eliminated
-          A few battalions of infantry will be closed, along with supporting units (up to 6 infantry battalions according to rumors)

The announced cuts:

                    significantly reduce our non-deployable regional administrative structure to enhance our focus on front-line capabilities. We will replace our four regional divisional headquarters with a single UK support command, and close at least two of our 10 regional brigade headquarters;
                    rationalise our deployable headquarters by reducing the communications and logistics support to Headquarters ARRC to reflect its static rather than mobile role; and convert the second of our operational divisional headquarters to a force preparation role;
                    reduce by one the number of deployable brigades, as we restructure towards five multi-role brigades;
                    reduce our holdings of Challenger 2 main battle tanks by around 40%. This is consistent with our assessment of likely adversaries and future types of conflict. However, the tank will continue to provide a unique capability in roles from escorting convoys in high-threat IED environments, deterring belligerents, through to warfighting alongside international partners;
                    reduce our heavy artillery (AS90 armoured artillery vehicles) by around 35%. Precision ammunition allows us to strike targets with one round rather than using tens of unguided rounds. We can therefore reduce the number of artillery pieces;

In numbers, the SDSR document states that by 2015 that Army strength will have been reduced to 95.000, and the paragraph 2.D.8, chapter Two: Defence, page 32, states that “we will also, for now, assume that by 2020 we will require a Royal Navy of 29.000 (down from 30.000 in 2015), an Army of 94.000 (also down by further 1000 men) and a RAF of 31.500 (down from 33.000 in 2015)”. Rumors are that the Army will actually go down to around 80.000 soldiers by 2020, but for now i'll stick to the SDSR figures. 

Note that these modifications built upon studies ongoing from 2008 at least: the plan, known as “Future Army Structure: Next Steps”. Originally, this plan was meant to restructure the Army on 3 Deployable Divisional HQs (1°, 3° and 6°) and 8 Multi-Role brigades, each with a Challenger II regiment, one battalion of armoured infantry on Warrior, one mechanized infantry battalion on Bulldog (and in future FRES UV) and two battalions of light infantry, plus a regiment of artillery with AS90.
The Chief of the General Staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, wanted this restructuring to ensure that soldiers would be able to enjoy 2 years and a half of break between war tours, or at least 2 years (as stated by the current guidelines) when a larger operation was at hand.

Already in 2009 it was reported that at least 3 Infantry Battalions out of 36 risked being merged or closed as part of the restructuring.

The 2010 SDSR, as we know, has conserved the Multi Role Brigade concept, but now the brigades will be 5 instead of 8, and the Divisional HQs will only be 2, with the second deployable only after augmentation.
Both plans also retain 16 Air Assault Bridade as high-readiness rapid reaction force.

Reports now are that 3 to 6 Infantry Battalions are at risk in the next five years. Speculation is mounting over the future of the Highlanders, currently based in Germany, and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who are stationed in Canterbury.

Particular concerns have been raised over the Highlanders, 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who will shortly have to be re-based, as Britain seeks to withdraw its troops from Germany. They have recently been retrained from a heavy armour battalion to more flexible light infantry. As part of the cuts to the armor fleet, the army will lose four Warrior-mounted formations of infantry.
The Argylls are the most junior of the five battalions and survived previous cuts only because of the Northern Ireland troubles. The overwhelming SNP victory in Scotland’s elections and Libya might, once more, have a role in changing the events, as pressure is mounting higher and higher to put an end to the slaughter of the armed forces. The risk remains incredibly high, however.

The New Army Structure:

Basing myself upon these points of the SDSR, I’ve tried to come up with my personal interpretation of what the Future Force 2020 will look like.

My conclusions are as follows:

1st UK Division – The only fully deployable Division of the Army, comprising 3 Bridages (7th, 20th, 4th Multi-Role Brigades) with an ample range of support assets, later explained in detail.

3rd UK Division – Force-Preparation role, secondary deployment capability with suitable augmentation and warning. Available for major operations.

UK Support Command – The new organization will centralize the HQ functions currently provided by 4 regional divisional HQs (2th, 4th and 5th Divisions), plus the London District. Two of the current 10 Regional Brigades will be closed and their units moved into nearby brigades or closed.

Below, I post the graphics of the Current army structure, and further down the revised graphics I prepared to show the change I envisage.  

This graphic from Wikipedia provides a good view of the British Army structure as of 2010, pre SDSR.

This revised graphic provides a complete view of the Future Army Structure as i envisage it, basing myself on the SDSR. While obviously speculative, i believe it should be close enough to the look of the Army after restructuring.

A graphic of the revised, single Divisional HQ "UK Support Command", the new Territorial Army, in my own speculative version, inclusive of the reduction from 10 to 8 Regional Brigades. At least one other brigade might go if 6 battalions are really closed the TA Challenger formations get the chop. 

1st UK Division

Most of the units of the 1st Division are still in Germany, at the moment, but they are expected to be all back in the UK by 2020, which will also mean the end of UK Support Command Germany. It is still unclear where the units will be based on their return at home, but with the closure expected in the coming years of RAF Lyneham, with the retirement of the C130K and the concentration of the Cargo planes at Brize Norton, the base will be available for conversion into a major garrison for at least part of the troops coming back. RAF Leuchars, if it was to close as latest rumors suggest, would also be likely to become an army garrison. Kinloss and Lossiemouth (if it is closed instead of Leuchars) are also possibilities.

I’ll focus on explaining the changes undergone by the 1st UK Division, the main unit of the Army. First of all, each Brigade has gained a second attached Light Role Infantry Battalion, coming from the closed-down 19 Light and 52 Infantry brigades. The 3rd Mercian and 5th The Rifles have re-roled to Mechanized infantry, from their original Armoured status with Warrior. In the near term, these two Battalions will train and operate with the Mastiff and Ridgback acquired for the Afghanistan campaign. In the future, they will transit onto the FRES UV vehicles.

The 1st Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment is already a Mechanized Battalion, operating with the FV430 MK3 Bulldog. However, many of the Bulldogs will be retired earlier as part of the draconian cuts to the armoured vehicles fleet that will come in Planning Round 2011 and be implemented in the successive 18 months. In my plan, this Battalion will thus lose the Bulldog, and become an “elite” “High-Mobility” Mechanized Battalion using the Warthog vehicle. Excellently agile, well protected and strategically mobile, amphibious and all-terrain capable, the Warthog will allow this Battalion to be deployed swiftly in an area of operations, to provide armoured, heavy-duty support to, say, a deployed force from 16 Air Assault Brigade or the 3 Commando. The Warthog is also suitable to use on the snow, in Arctic conditions, and this will enhance the Forces’ capability to face fighting in the extreme cold, an environment where, at the current status, only the Royal Marines can fight efficiently.

The two remaining Mechanized Infantry Battalions, 4th Rifles and 1st Royal Anglian, part of the 1st and 12th Brigades making up the 3rd UK Division, will continue to use the Bulldog vehicle until the FRES UV will replace them.

An in-depth analysis of the vehicles component of the renewal will follow, but for now I’m going to explain the new Divisional structure. 

The new-look 1st UK Division with the restructuring i propose.

Each Brigade will have an organic Formation RECCE Regiment, which will replace its Scimitar with the FRES SV Scout from 2015. A Tank regiment with Challenger II MBTs will also figure in the force structure, and the Brigade will have a Royal Artillery Regiment with the AS90 gun for fire support.

The main change will happen in the Divisionary support assets: the division will receive the 40 Royal Artillery Close Support Regiment, with the L118 Light Gun, to form a stable, division-managed DAG. The Regiment will be available for deployment and its L118 guns could be issued to the AS90 Regiments if deemed more appropriate for the mission at hand, as already happens regularly.

The Division will also receive the 16 RA Regiment, currently armed with Rapier FSC for Local Area Air Defence. Currently, the 16 RA Regiment is part of the “Theatre Troops” division, but with the switch to a single deployable Division, I think it makes more sense to assign the regiment stably to the 1st. The 12 RA Regiment, with the Stormer HVM self-propelled Starstreak missile, will stay as part of the division, to provide defence on the move to troops against pop-up threats such as helicopters and, even more likely in the future, drones.

The Division will also receive the 39 RA Regiment with MLRS. Currently, the 39 RA is part of the “First Artillery Brigade”, but again, with a single deployable division, there’s no real motivation to maintain a separate command controlling the MLRS resource. It is not like there will be divisions between which to chose who gets the rocket artillery in support, after all.  The 3rd UK Division will line the 101 RA Regiment, the TA unit of the MLRS regiment, for support, training, and provvision of personnel to rotate in theater during long-term deployments.

Along with the 39 RA, the 5 RA Regiment ( radar and Surveillance Target Acquisition) regiment will move into the Divisionary support tail from the First Artillery Brigade. The 5 Regiment will continue to be the centre of excellence working and maintaining the Counter-Artillery radars, sound-ranging locators and other targeting systems. Their work will be to be the targeting element of the Divisionary Artillery Group (DAG) and deploy radar troops for tasks such as FOB-protection and C-RAM detection.

The 32 RA Regiment is currently part of the First Artillery Brigade as well. Again, this will have to change with the entry into service of the Watchkeeper drone, that more than a target-spotter for the artillery will be an organic asset to provide the troops on the ground with continuous 24-hours coverage of the battlefield. 54 drones are being acquired, of which 30 will be frontline and 24 for training/attrition. 15 Ground Control Stations are also being acquired, and the Watchkeeper fleet will be able to put in the air up to 12 concurrent missions.
The 32 RA will thus join the 1st UK Division, and re-organize on three drone batteries, each comprising 10 Watchkeeper drones and 4 Ground Control Stations. With up to four drones in flight at once, and an endurance of each drone of around 17 hours, the battery will be able to provide unrivalled continuous surveillance. The 32 Regiment will have a supporting twin, the 104 RA, attached to the 3rd UK Division and consisting of one enlarged battery (or two) of trained crews providing personnel for long-term deployments.

Last comes the Loitering Ammunition. There has been a heated debate about the utility of Fire Shadow to the army, and even here on TD there have been several views that deemed the Fire Shadow unnecessary, and the requirement better served by a greater fleet of UAVs. I don’t exactly agree with this position. More drones such as Reaper would be of course an excellent, more flexible capability. However, they are definitely more expensive. The unitary cost of the Fire Shadow is expected to be lower than that of a MLRS rocket, and this means that we are talking of a very competitive price for  what is a quite high-tech weapon system. I believe Fire Shadow has a very high value, and a great potential. With a range of up to 150 km, and the capability to loiter for 10 hours on the target area, the Fire Shadow will work as a mini-drone for most of the time, providing useful images to the troops on the ground. In the meanwhile, the Fire Shadow will be seeking for targets continuously, and it will be ready to dive at any moment on the enemy as soon as it is identified and cleared for attack. 
The Fire Shadow will work day and night, providing RECCE and searching targets with the front FLIR. This image shows the Fire Shadow still with the launch booster that brings it to altitude. It is then dropped, leaving the loitering ammunition moving thanks to a small propeller.  

My only worry and complaint is that Fire Shadow is set to be NOT recoverable. Either it engages a target, or is destroyed by crash-landing in a safe area at the end of the mission, so once it is launched it is expended anyway. This is the only thing that worries me: had it a parachute system allowing it to be recovered, I’d be happier: cheap as it promises to be, Fire Shadow will still cost a few hundred thousand pounds, and my fear is that the Royal Artillery will be asked to be very, very careful on the use of the Fire Shadow, launching it only when there are very high chances to engage a target.

This is my only worry. The correct use of Fire Shadow, after all, would be to launch a number of loitering ammunitions before a patrol goes out (typical Afghanistan scenario): the drone-bomb would thus scout ahead of the patrol, providing useful imagery from above, that the Patrol leader could see on a portable handheld screen. The Fire Shadow should accompany the patrol, and loiter over the area, ready to engage the enemy if, for example, a Taliban opens fire over the patrol from the distance (the “shoot and run” tactic that has been used more and more frequently lately, and that pretty much caused the acquisition of the L129A1 rifle with longer, better reach). If the Fire Shadow could be recovered at the end of a mission without engagements, refueled and readied for a new launch in theatre, the RA would be more than willing to launch a swarm of drones in the air to protect and support the troops on patrol. Used in this way, the Fire Shadow would be the best weapon of all for Afghanistan. My fear is that the cost and non-recoverability of the system will largely limit the usage, and if we reach the point in which the Fire Shadow is launched AFTER an engagement starts, we truly waste a smart system and the money to buy it, because it makes more sense to fire an Excalibur guided 155 mm round and/or a GMLRS rocket at that point, also because they’d be hitting before the Fire Shadow could arrive. 

Concept art of a wholly mobile Fire Shadow battery, with truck-mounted launchers and Ground Control Stations.
However, providing that the Fire Shadow is used in the right way, I’m a great supporter of the system, that I consider a true force-multiplier. In the graphic, I’ve inserted the 103 RA Regiment (that would re-role from L118 to Fire Shadow) in what had once been the position of the First Artillery Brigade. However, it should be valued if it is not more advantageous to terminate the First Artillery Brigade altogether and have this regiment as well inserted in the 1st UK Division structure. The Regiment itself would have 4 Batteries, and each battery would line at least 4 Launcher Trucks, each carrying 8 - 12 Fire Shadow drones, and two mobile Control Stations. This Regiment is likely to deploy single batteries at a time, each Battery supporting a Brigade-sized operation.    

To each Division will also be attached an EOD Regiment of the Royal Engineers, reinforced by the “Talisman Troops”. The 33 EOD Regiment, attached to the 1st UK Division, will have 4 Talisman Troops: each troop is a complete Talisman system, with T-Hawk drone (2 and a GCS), Mastiff command-post with mast-mounted electro-optic sensors for detection of IEDs, a Buffalo vehicle and the High Mobility Excavators plus EOD-drones included the Talon. The Talisman will have to be expanded, however, first of all with a mobile, protected vehicle equipped with a Ground Penetrating Radar and suitable route-clearance equipment. This argument has already been treated before on TD, and I agree on the conclusion that the Husky is probably the best answer to this requirement. The most recent, two-seats variant appears to be the most adequate: in British service it would replace the US Sincgars radio with a Bowman suite, and the CROWS turret with an Enforcer RWS like those used on Panther and on several Bulldog vehicles.

The Talisman troop could also be equipped with one or two Terrier vehicles now that they enter service: they are well protected, have an excavator/multi-use side arm, a dozer blade and other tools, it can be remotely-operated in cases of extreme danger from a mobile control station and it can tow a Pythoon mine-clearance rocket trailer as well. So structured, the Talisman troop would be an invaluable route-clearance formation, capable to prepare a safe passage in minefields and areas riddled with IEDs.

The T-Hawk drone has been purchased in at least 5 complete systems (each system made up by 2 drones and a Ground Control Station) for a cost of roughly 8 million dollars.

Talisman currently comprises 5 key equipment elements:

  • Buffalo clearance vehicle
  • Mastiff 2 command and control “Protected Eyes”
  • T-Hawk micro UAV System – each T-Hawk system is made up by 2 drones and a GCS
  • QinetiQ/Foster Millar Talon robotic vehicle
  • JCB High Mobility Engineer Excavator

I propose the addition of a Detection/Disposal Husky asset, and a Terrier vehicle or two, with a Pythoon trailer when necessary. 

The latest Husky variant, with two seats and a RWS weapon turret. 
A complete Husky "train" detects, locates and detonates mines, clearing the way rapidly.

4 Talisman troops would allow each Brigade of the 1st UK Division to have a Troop available for use on deployment, and the fourth would be available for Division-level tasks, or to reinforce a particularly complex area, or to be deployed in support of either the 16 Air Assault or 3 Commando brigades.

High Mobility Engineering Escavator
The mighty Buffalo vehicle has a robotic arm to deal with suspected IEDs from under armor.
The Mastiff Protected Eyes acts as Talisman's command post and RECCE vehicle. It has mast-mounted sensors and, often, an RWS Protector turret too, as in this image.
As part of Talisman, the Mastiff Protected Eyes is also fitted with the SPARK - Self Protection Adaptive Roller Kit for protection against mines and pressure-initiated IEDs.
Three more Talisman troops should be formed within 101 EOD Regiment to fully equip the 3rd UK Division, and provide training, support and trained crews for enduring deployments.
The T-Hawk drone fits in a backpack, and provides overwatch and reconnaissance to Talisman troops.
The Talon is a successful drone, used also by american forces. Armed variants, called SWORDS, also exist.
Roughly one hundred of backpack-portable Dragon Runner drones have also been procured and put in use. However, there have been complains about its performances: it is too small and weak to do serious EOD work, especially if rummaging through debris is necessary. Probably, it would have been more useful if acquired in the pure Scout configuration.

Watchkeeper WK450

It is worth giving a better, closer look at the Watchkeeper system, before moving onwards dealing with the vehicle fleet of the Army. 

The Watchkeeper has its origins rooted in the need to replace the GEC/BAe Phoenix drone used as spotter by the Royal Artillery, which never proved really satisfactory, despite providing valuable service over the Balkans and even over Iraq in 2006, before leaving service in 2008.
The Phoenix’s shortcomings had made it obvious that a replacement was needed and as early as 1998 DERA was flying the XRAE1 test UAV, out of this work came the Sender (unit level UAV) and Spectator (formation level UAV) projects. BAe, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Racal were awarded 12 month study contracts. Both sets of requirements were changed and merged and so was Watchkeeper born.

In 2002 it was revealed that the following air vehicles were being considered for the British Army’s Watchkeeper requirement: Hermes 450, Hermes 180, MQ-1 Predator, Boeing Scan Eagle, a version of the Firescout helicopter fitted with a SAR radar payload, Shadow 200, Ranger and Spectre 3. The original Sender and Spectator split was retained.

Two consortia were down selected in 2003 for the Systems Integration Assurance Phase:

Northrop Grumman with General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Ultra Electronics, Detica and STASYS based around the Fire Scout UAV and the RUAG Ranger

Thales-UK with Aerosystems International, Elbit, and QinetiQ, offering the Israeli Hermes 180 and Hermes 450 UAVs

In July 2004 Thales was selected as preferred bidder and contract award was in 2005 with an in service date planned for 2007. It was also announced that the smaller vehicle would now no longer be part of the programme, as the focus was preferred on a single, more capable larger platform.

Actually, things went slower than hoped, and in June 2007, following completion of the critical design review, Thales unveiled the final design which features the dual payload, all-weather operation with de-icing and automatic take-off and landing capability.

First flight of the Watchkeeper UAV was in April 2008, from Megido Airfield in northern Israel. Trials of Elbit's Magic X-band automatic take-off and landing system were successfully completed in August 2008. Trials with the I-Master radar and electro-optic payloads were conducted in late 2008.

Major flight trials of the Watchkeeper were completed in June 2009, allowing for further ground system and flight tests in the UK. These flight tests moved to Parc Aberporth in West Wales in late 2009. The Watchkeeper made its first UK flight on 14 April 2010. Trials confirmed that a full Watchkeeper system can be deployed to theatre in a single C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

As an urgent operational requirement to provide intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) until Watchkeeper enters service, the British Army has in the meanwhile ordered a Hermes 450 UAV (on which the Watchkeeper is based) unit from Thales UK / Elbit. The unit has been operational in Iraq since June 2007 and has completed more than 30,000 flight hours by April 2010, supported and manned by personnel from 32 Regiment Royal Artillery and civilians personnel. One H450 drone has been lost during operations.

54 Watchkeeper WK450 drones are being acquired, of which 30 will be frontline and 24 for training/attrition. 15 Ground Control Stations are also being acquired, and the Watchkeeper fleet will be able to put in the air up to 12 concurrent missions.
Up to 99 drones were once indicated as requirement, with the aim of forming four complete batteries with 16 drones each. Now it is likely that there will be 3 batteries of 10 drones and 4 Ground Control Stations each, plus possibly one or two reserve batteries of trained personnel.

The 2010 NAO Major Projects Report shows an in service date of 2011. Initial estimates put a cost of £860 million, the main investment decision approved a cost of £907m and the estimated final cost will be £889m. The 2011 in-service date should be met, but according to the latest reports it will now be “late” 2011 and not “early”. Before seeing Watchkeeper relieving the leased Hermes 450 drones in Afghanistan, 2012 will have most likely started.

In April 2010, the UK MoD signed an initial three-year support contract with Thales UK for the Watchkeeper UAS Programme.

The WK450 drone

The Watchkeeper air vehicle, designated WK450, will be based on the Elbit 450 Hermes tactical UAV. The Hermes 450 is a proven system with 20,000 flying hours in service. In 2003, the Elbit Hermes 450 system was accepted by the US Naval Air Station Fallon Joint UAV Test and Evaluation Centre in Nevada for joint interoperability trials. A number of Hermes 450 is used to support British forces in Afghanistan under a lease contract that has been lengthened to 2012, to cover the transition to Watchkeeper without having gaps in coverage.

The Watchkeeper can operate off rough, tactical airstrips thanks to a strengthened undercarriage and improved software. It has full de-icing capability enabling it to work anywhere in the world, in all weather conditions. For some time, there was a drive to make Watchkeeper capable to take off and land from the CVF aircraft carriers, but this capability was dropped, officially to avoid “scope-creep”, in practice to avoid risking to push costs up. It is hoped that, with the proper software and perhaps undercarriage upgrades, this capability can be added later on.

The air vehicle can be pre-programmed to carry out fully autonomous missions and can be redirected in flight by the operator on the ground. Take-off and landing can be piloted or automatic using Elbit's Magic X-band automatic take-off and landing system. The air vehicle is equipped with global positioning systems, dual computers and dual datalinks. The electrical and avionics systems have built in redundancy for increased reliability.

The air vehicle is powered by rotary engines from UAV Engines Ltd (UEL), based in Lichfield, UK, and uses a two-bladed pusher propeller.

For long endurance missions the air vehicle can be fitted with two 50l underwing auxiliary fuel tanks. The air vehicle has a typical endurance of 17 hours. Watchkeeper has still an (unspecified) margin of available payload that the Army is considering using for weapons. The very first time that this was pubblically admitted was in a statement by then minister for international defence and security Baroness Taylor, in November 2009. The most likely candidate weapon for use on Watchkeeper is Thales Air Systems' lightweight multirole missile (LMM), which has previously been shown at exhibitions with a model of the WK450 drone. Weighting only 13 kg each and having no launch recoil at all, the LMM can be carried and used by pretty much anything, included Watchkeeper. The first 1000 LMM missiles have been recently ordered by the MOD, mainly targeted for use on Navy’s Wildcat helicopters as the Light segment of the Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon FASGW requirement. However, by late 2010, any plan for the weaponization of Watchkeeper were put on hold because of the budget constraints, and it’ll now be at least a few years before the idea can be brought forwards. It remains non-specified how many missiles the WK450 could transport, and if other weapons systems would be compatible. 

The WK450 drone

WK450 is different from the Israeli Hermes 450 version in its automatic landing capability, multiple payload configuration and rough, tactical airstrip landing capability among other features. WK450 was designed for the "upper range" of tactical missions. Built of a spacious composite structure, it is optimized for long range, long endurance (+16 hours) multi-payload missions. Payloads include the Compass EO payload, comprised of four electro-optical systems (visual, Infra-Red (IR) laser rangefinder and designator), offering advanced scan modes and automatic target tracking, and the Thales I-Master Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Ku-band (12.5 to 18 GHz) Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI)/Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) which can operate in the GMTI, spot and strip SAR modes. WK450 is also kitted for radio relay, COMINT etc. The EO/IR payload is mounted in the lower front section while SAR or other electronic sensors are mounted in the lower aft section. Having both these sensors in the same air vehicle really does extend the functionality. It can be used to determine patterns of life, a reduction in road use might indicate presence of an IED, analyse moving targets, detect changes in the ground (footprints, tyre tracks) and cross cue the visual sensor for a closer look. There is a problem with this though because SAR works best at altitude and offset from the area of interest for a wide area view, the cross cuing currently in Afghanistan takes place between ASTOR/ASaC and Hermes 450 and takes advantage of the optimal operating conditions for these two different sensor types. As usual, trade-offs have to be considered, and indeed SAR missions are expected to be flown at maximum altitude (+16,000 feet) for optimal area coverage while EO/IR are expected to fly at around 10,000' delivering optimal image quality.

Communications and electronic surveillance antennae are mounted on the wings and along the fuselage. Satellite communication support and external stores carrying capability, including extra fuel or weapons are inherent in the WK450 design and have been evaluated in the UK under the JUEP program. WK450 is designed for fully autonomous operation. It can be automatically deployed from short airstrips or catapult, and are retrieved back at the airstrip through automatic landing.

A single Ground Control Section can control three drones and is contained in a single TEU 20-foot container.

The Ground Control Station (GCS), supplied by Marshall SV, is mounted on a standard 20 foot ISO container that will be carried by standard DROPS trucks supplied as Government-furnished equipment. The GCS facilitates workspace for up to four operators, including two image analysts and a communications specialist. GCS performs image processing, storage and intelligence dissemination, as well as ad-hoc mission planning. The GCS also handles interoperability and communications with all supported forces and other ISTAR assets. The GCS is equipped to control three UAVs.

Watchkeeper will use Qubic Common Data-Link (CDL) for the system, which are compatible datalinks used by US forces. Maximum operating range is limited by the line-of-sight datalink to 200 km. When satellite link is used, operational range can be extended. Current requirements do not provide for direct feed of image to helicopters, but such capability could evolve after the initial deployment and will be provided by adaptations to hardware used by its "clients". The main target is the Apache AH1, which the army wishes to upgrade at some point to Block III level, as the US ones. The Block III Apache has built-in capability of receiving direct feed from external sources, such as, of course, Watchkeeper. The airborne segment of the WK450’s datalink has built-in relay capability to enable all airborne UAVs to support each other to overcome topographical limitations. This feature is also supported by the mission planning system providing significant advantage over current systems. Two or even three WK450 air vehicles will be able to operate in tandem, with the second acting as a communications relay in addition to its role in expanding the coverage given by the mission. This will significantly expand mission radius without requiring usage of precious (and finite) satellite bandwidth. The ground control station will be network enabled to ensure comprehensive communications links, for example to airborne stand-off radar, attack aircraft and battlegroup headquarters. 

Watchkeeper systems can be deployed with a single C130 cargo plane.

The Watchkeeper is expected to operate, when necessary, from unprepared or semi-prepared launch sites, but, at least for now, it does not foresee catapult launch. This is however a possibility, as Robonic’s MC2555LLR pneumatic catapult is fully capable to deal with the weight of the WK450, having been extensively tested with the H450 Hermes and being rated for 500 kg. This catapult can be operated from just one or two persons and set up for operations in less than 15 minutes. It is mounted on a trailer that can be towed on road at 80 km/h and overall weights around 5000 kg. Deployed and ready for launch it is 16.7 meters long and 2.27 meters wide, but it can be folded for transportation, fitting inside a standard container 5.65 or 7.14 meters length, 2.27 meters width and 2.21 meters height.
The UK has also funded the Converteam’s electromagnetic EMKIT catapult, that at 15 meters of length is able to launch drones as big as the MQ-1 Predator. From the EMKIT could be derived a road-mobile trailer catapult, was it ever needed.

WK450 Watchkeer drone

Wingspan 10.51m
Length 6.10m

Take-Off Weight 450kg
Payload 150kg

Endurance 20 or 30 hours – Typically 17
Altitude 5,480m
Loiter Speed 100km/h
Maximum Speed 175km/h

UEL AR 801 Engine 38.8kW - Wankel-type rotary, single rotor engine

A new face FRES

The Nimrod MRA4 programme is always regarded as the worst-managed procurement programme ever. It is quite realistic an affirmation, but at least, ultimately, it had delivered a world-beating asset. It is also to be said that the programme was calculated on a 21 airframes convertion, then on 12, then on 9. The unitary cost of course grew immensely, but that was also and most evidently because of the continuous scaling-back of the programme as a false cost-saving measure.

The same can be said for the Type 45, and it is valid even more for the Queen Elizabeth carriers: the navy had always set a clear requirement, that pretty much never changed, and the industry so far has encountered no real problem. However, the unwillingness to foot the bill on time has caused the Labour government to drag its feet for long, long time over “cost-saving” measures, new agreements, and ultimately delays to the building schedule.

A programme managed in an arguably far worse way, and with somehow less influence coming from politics and more from muddy, unclear and ever-changing requirements, is the infamous Future Rapid Effect System or FRES, which is a true never-ending soap opera of changing requirements, of uncertainty, delays, wasted money and that, ultimately, still has to this day nothing concrete to show, and won’t have until 2013 at the least, when the 7 FRES SV prototypes ordered to General Dynamics will be revealed and trialed.

The FRES is an eye-watering disaster. It has been restructured countless times, and separated in elements, such as the SV and UV variants, the two main “families” of vehicles destined to form the backbone of the future army. And it only lead to the UV element being "delayed" (read: cancelled until "later on") with "priority" going to the SV, that now risks being cancelled as well. It is a sore mess.

Under the FRES voice, my proposed, ultimate restructuration of the programme will reunite all of the vehicle-procurement programmes of the army in the coming decade. In the detail, we’ll start by analyzing the likely requirement set, by looking at which units will have to use the FRES vehicles, and how they’ll use them. And we’ll also try and see where FRES isn’t needed, and where the requirements can be met in different, cheaper ways.

Tank Regiments

Currently, the UK has the following heavy-armour fleet:

1 Royal Tank Regiment – 1 Squadron of 14 tanks in Training and Demonstration role

Type 58 armoured regiments;

  • The Royal Dragoon Guards - 58 Challenger 2s, 8 CVR(T) Scimitars.
  • The Queen's Royal Hussars - 58 Challenger 2s, 8 CVR(T) Scimitars.

Heavy armoured regiments; (Type 44 + Interim Medium Armour Squadron)

  • The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) - 44 Challenger 2s, 22 CVR(T) Scimitars.
  • The King's Royal Hussars - 44 Challenger 2s, 22 CVR(T) Scimitars.
  • 2nd Royal Tank Regiment - 44 Challenger 2s, 22 CVR(T) Scimitars.

Two regiments of the Territorial Army, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry and the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry, provide replacement crews for the regular regiments.

In reality, the force structure indicated above is valid only on paper: in peacetime only around 30 Challenger tanks are operative in each regiment, and the others are in storage, ready to be brought out for service in time of need.

As we already know, the SDSR announced:

A reduction of 40% in the holdings of Challenger II MBT.

The 40% reduction is very tricky. It has not been said on which amount the 40% figure is calculated. 386 Challenger II were acquired for the British army, along with 22 Driver Training vehicles. Only one has been lost in action, but at least two more were damaged in Iraq. One figure for current holding of tanks I found online is 345, but I obviously have my very serious doubts about it.

Currently the UK has two Type 58 tank regiments and 3 Type 44 regiments. However, only around 30 tanks are operative in each regiment in peacetime plus 14 or so used for training and demonstration by the 1 RTR, so if the 40% reduction was to be calculated on these “active” CR2 the whole british army would be left with 97/98 tanks, not even 20 for each of the five regiments, with the 1 RTR having none. This does not seem to be the case, luckily. I’ve made two hypothesis, calculating a 40% reduction on a holding of 385 and another on a holding of 232 tanks.

Hypothesis 1:   

385 – 154 = 231

232 Challenger II are retained. 162 Active (30 for each major regiment, 12 in the 1 RTR), 70 in storage/used by TA regiments 
5 Tank Regiments – Type 44. Peacetime strenght of 30 tanks, with the others kept in stowage to be released for operation when needed. 12 more Challenger II used by A Squadron 1° RTR at Combined Arms Training Centre.

Regiment HQ – 2 Challenger II, 6 Sultan, 1 Spartan, 1 Land Rover FFR, 1 Samaritan
Squadron (x3):
Squadron HQ – 2 Challenger II, 1 Spartan, 1 Land Rover FFR
Troop (x4) 3 Challenger II
Admin Tropp 1 Samaritan
Fitter Section – 1 CHAARV, 1 FV430 Bulldog, 1 FV434, 1 FV512 Warrior MRV

The Squadron strength would remain the same. Essentially, the two Type 58 regiments would both be scaled back to the size of the three Type 44. All of the five regiments could later received a Squadron of 12/14 FRES Scout vehicles providing both RECCE and Light-Tank capability while restoring a four-squadrons structure.

The idea is to avoid the closure of Regiments. The 2 TA Regiments, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry and the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry would also both survive, even if possibly made smaller, or even united in a single regimental organization.

Hypothesis 2:  [appears as the most likely after I saw the 345 number for current Challenger II holding reported in recent parliamentary answers]

207 Challenger II remain in holding. Possibly up to 162 Active, 45 in storage.
5 Tank RegimentsType 38. Peacetime strength further reduced (?).
12 tanks in a single 1 RTR’s squadron.

I hope this is the smaller it gets. Even so, without venturing into the even worse scenarios of regiments with barely 30 tanks, it would mean having possibly the smallest Tank Regiment structure in the whole of Europe, and most likely the smallest tank regiment structure worldwide, which I think is both ridiculous and unjustified by the reality of the strategic picture. Last time an Armour Regiment of the UK engaged a full scale tank battle was in 2003, not in the last century. 

This graphic from armedforces.co.uk shows the current Type 58 regiment structure. In reality, the full force shown here is obtained only in wartime, and often by taking a squadron from another Challenger II regiment and attach it to the deployed formation, as was done in Iraq 2003.
This revised graphic shows my guess at the possible structure of a post-SDSR Type 38 Challenger II regiment.

Again, the Commanders in Afghanistan have been reportedly asking, AGAIN, for a small detachment of Challenger II, and AGAIN, the answer was a firm “no”.
Obviously, also because deploying Challenger tanks in Afghanistan while cutting savagely on fleet numbers would look even more stupid to the public, and so it is better to say that “the deployment of Challanger II tanks in Afghanistan would be a logistical challenge”.

Oh, really? Well, of course it is. But Denmark and Canada are capable to sustain deployed Leopard II tanks, and the UK wouldn’t be able to support a Squadron of Challenger IIs…? Obviously, no. The UK is more than perfectly capable to deploy the squadron and more, but it lacks the political/economic will to do it, for a whole lot of different considerations.

Personally, I don’t like how many times the commanders on the ground have been denied what they ask for. The justification that Canadian and Danish Leopard II MBTs are available in support is very weak as well: evidently, the Leopard is faring well enough that the British officers want a small number of MBTs to deploy in similar fashion, but it is also evident that the deployed Leopards aren’t good enough (more likely aren’t NUMERICALLY enough) to provide all the support needed, otherwise I do not believe the commanders would be asking for Chally. I refuse to believe they would ask for them only to try and justify the survival of the heavy armor regiments: it would be appalling, and anyway I find there’s already far better and more convincing reasons to retain armor capability without such a trick. 

And evidently, the 30 M1A2 Abrams soon to be deployed on US Marines request aren’t seen as a sufficient measure to ensure the british contingent has adequate tank support when and where it is needed. I was deeply surprised, and quite disgusted, too, of reading that the request for Challenger II in theatre was once more turned down. I admittedly had hoped, a few days ago when the request became public, that this would be the right time.

I was wrong. Money got once more total precedence.

This reduction, by the way would most certainly spell the end of one, and probably both the TA Armour Regiments.

FRES and Challenger Capability Sustainment Programme

A few things are obvious:

1)      The Challenger II is still expected to last until 2035, and despite the many voices announcing the end of the MBT, I’m firmly convinced that we will see an EVOLUTION, not an extinction of the race. I do firmly believe that, once more, the tank will survive the criticism and skepticism and continue to be a key part of one army’s effectiveness.
2)      The FRES is going to be a lot less revolutionary, a lot less complex, and come in much, much smaller numbers than it was planned

The consequence is that the Challenger II CSP programme regains, to my eyes, great importance, enough to become a part of FRES itself, to ensure it is given funding and attention in the coming years.

As part of the FRES, in the long term the remaining Challenger II tanks will be re-armed with NATO standard smoothbore 120/55 guns. Not so much for seeking an improved tank-killing performance, this move is inspired by commonality: with NATO countries and NATO ammunition stocks to start with, which is an important factor. It is also inspired by the need to ensure the tank regiments are adequately supplied with ammunition in the long term: the current L30 rifled ammunition is no longer in production, and there will be one day in which the ammo in the magazines is all used up. This upgrade might not be really urgent, but it should happen in a few more years time, while the Challenger tanks go into factory to have their obsolescent parts replaced.

The proposed, never-pursued Challenger 2E should and could form the base of a CSP programme that delivers a Challenger platform fully capable to serve at its best well into the 2030s. The Challenger 2E had its powerpack replaced with a new 1,500hp Europack with transversely mounted MTU 883 diesel engine coupled to Renk HSWL 295TM automatic transmission. The smaller but more powerful engine allowed more space for fuel storage, increasing the vehicle's range to 550km. It is more than probable that an even better solution could be chosen now, since a few years have passed, and smaller and even more efficient powerpacks probably exist.

The CSP programme would also involve preparing the Challenger II tanks for the rapid addition of Theatre Standard Entry kits such as those used in Iraq, with Colchester armour blocks and slat armour. An RWS weapon station should also become standard fit to reflect the needs of force protection and to recognize the long-assumed truth that future battles are likely to happen in urban environment, where a Commander handling an MG out of the hatch would survive for a very, very short time.
The Challenger II has been up-armored and improved several times during service in Iraq. In its latest standard, the Chally shown here is fitted with IED-jammers, slat armor around the engine, Dorchester armor blocks on the front, sides and turret's flanks and a Remote Weapon Station Enforcer with a 7.62 mm machine gun. 

Inside the Armour Regiments, to conclude, the Spartan and FV432-series vehicles will be replaced by FRES SV tracked vehicles of the various variants: Protected Mobility, Ambulance, Command Post and Recovery.

In my plan, a Medium Armour Squadron of 12 or 14 FRES Scout would be added to the 3 squadrons of Challenger tanks, to both “make up” for the loss of firepower and provide RECCE service to the formation. However, this is likely to depend on the budget available, and obviously on the number of FRES SV vehicles ultimately acquired.


The Warrior is set to remain in service to at least 2035, together with the Challenger II. Compared to the Challenger, it has even higher chances of living a very, very long life, stretching possibly (probably?) even past the 2035 figure, despite how far away in time it does sound. Besides, the Warrior is far more frequently and widely used in combat, and it is quite astonishing that the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme has been fatiguing so much to get approval and funding.

The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) was expected to be started in early 2010 with an anticipated Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2013. Now it seems to have been delayed to late 2011 or possibly 2012. I believe there can be no further delay, and with the SDSR recognizing that the Warrior will continue to be the main vehicle of the army, it is even more necessary to ensure it is kept up to date and efficient.
The programme was thought to be worth up to GBP1 billion (US$1.6 billion) with a total of 643 Warrior to be upgraded in a number of key areas in order to extend their out-of-service date (OSD) to 2035.

In February 2011, during the IDEX shown in Abu Dhabi, Lockheed Martin (LM) offered a joint approach for the upgrades of Kuwait and UK Warrior infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) should it get the go-ahead for both programmes, according to company officials. In the UK, LM is now the chosen bidder for the Warrior upgrade, and the fact that Kuwait wants to improve its own force of Desert Warriors is seen as an opportunity.

Although UK and Kuwait Warriors comprise different armaments and systems, common areas could be found within the chassis, turret and electronic architecture, Leland stated. More specifically, he highlighted potential UK upgrades to the drive train, weapon systems that could be incorporated into the Kuwaiti programme and generic vehicle architecture (GVA) technology.
The main benefit for the UK, Leland said, would be cost reduction and international co-operation.

Originally, the turret system was due to be upgraded under the Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement Programme (WFLIP). However, this was subsequently combined with the WCSP. The CTAI 40 mm Case Telescoped Armament System (CTAS) has already been mandated not only for the WCSP but also for the Future Rapid Effect System–Scout (FRES–Scout) programme.

A Warrior fitted with the Lockheed Martin turret on trials

The installation of the stabilised 40 mm CTAS will allow stationary and moving targets to be engaged with a high first-round hit probability under almost all weather conditions. In addition to firing an armour-piercing fin stabilised discarding sabot–tracer (APFSDS-T) round, the gun will also fire a general purpose (GP) round, with an airburst capability.

Also now included within the WCSP are the Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture (WEEA) and Warrior Modular Protection System (WMPS), which stem from the WFLIP. Both will allow the vehicle to be more rapidly and easily upgraded as new technology and armour systems are developed, without the need for major rework.

Of the total of 643 vehicles, 449 had to be Warrior ICVs, which would receive all of the WCSP enhancements, while the remainder are specialised versions and would only get the WEEA and WMPS improvements; these including repair and recovery variants and some command vehicles.

It is now sure that the number of Warriors to be updated will be considerably smaller, so the monetary value of the programme is also destined to drop to a more acceptable figure. Unfortunately, a new delay of the programme, by at least one year, appears more than likely, and is expected to be part of the Planning Round 2011’s drive for further cost control. 

With a rapid, empiric analysis:

5 Armoured Infantry Battalions – With the closure of Battalions caused by the reduction in Armour, I suggest mitigating the massive reduction by taking part of the vehicles and men of each disbanded battalion to give each of the remaining formations a fourth Company. This is also compliant with analysis from the Army officers that have concluded that the current battalions are too small. It had been hoped that the SDSR would contain the decision of bringing the all-rank manpower of each infantry battalion to 750 men.

A Battalion on four companies would line a total of 67 Warriors [9 Infantry Command Vehicle, 6 Anti-Tank Infantry vehicle, 52 IFV]    plus 4 to transport the Pioneer element (Scout and Sniper sections). There would also be 5 Warrior Mechanized Recovery Vehicle (Repair) FV513 and 4 Warrior Mechanized Combat Repair Vehicle FV512.

The revised WCSP would thus have to involve: 

-          Around 355 complete upgrades, including the new CTA turret [plus some vehicles for storage as spares, possibly]
-          Over one hundred “partial” upgrades for the FV512 and FV513 variants, plus upgrades to the Royal Artillery-operated Warriors of the Artillery Observation and Battery Command kind.   

With the army very unlikely to be allowed to expand to a Four Companies structure, it is possible that an even smaller number of Warriors would be upgraded.
I’d also like, as part of the changes to the program caused by it becoming a part of FRES, to see a few changes: 

-          Fitting an Unmanned, Remote turret variant of the CTA gun system. This would free space inside the vehicle, reduce the crew to 3 members, and make available more ready to fire ammunition

Indicatively, the currently-planned 2-man turret will have roughly these characteristics:

40mm CTWS new 2-man turret

- 3923 Kg weight
- Length (with barrel) 5.29 m
- Width 2.35
- Turret ring 1.4 m
– Automatic Cannon
– Two natures of ammunition, GPR and AP
– Automatic feedsystem with 42 ready rounds in two feeders [12 APFSDS and 30 GPR] plus 78 rounds in racks.
• Dual Axis Stabilised Power Drive System
• Improved Armour Protection
– Protected against 14.5mm at 200 meters on the whole 360°
– Protection against 30mm APFSDS over frontal arc with add-on armour

An unmanned, remotely operated turret with 68 ready rounds is also available, weighting 1500 Kg. Even with an higher protection level and thus a greater weight, it would still save weight compared to the manned one, weight-growth margin that could be used for improved protection or simply to improve performances (and reduce wear and tear in usage!). At the same time, it will allow an higher number of ready-to-fire rounds to be available immediately on engagement, and put the crew in a safer position, down inside the hull. 

The Toutatis is an unmanned turret weighting 1,5 tons, developed specifically around the CTA gun and targeted at the French VBCI 8x8 vehicle.

I don’t believe that an IFV really needs two men in the turret, especially with modern technology: thermal cameras and flat screens combined will ensure to the vehicle’s commander a formidable sight and targeting capability even if he’s sitting down in the hull and not in the turret. The 2-man turret can and should be used for the FRES SV Scout vehicle, but on the IFV I don’t think it is necessary.

More radical still, my proposal involves the conversion of several Warrior vehicles into new variants, notably:

-          Ambulance
-          Mortar Carrier

Possibly even a command post/communications variant. The idea is that it might be more cost-effective to convert part of the Warrior IFVs to cover these roles, than to buy more new-built FRES SV vehicles destined to the same use.

If it proves to be more economic, it should definitely be done: another advantage coming from this approach would be to create “Fully-Warrior Battalions” of infantry equipped with the same vehicle for all (or almost all) roles. For example, the Samaritan and FV432 Ambulances could be replaced by Warriors, along with the FV432 Mortar Carriers. The Battalion would thus have a single, main logistic task: ensure the spares and knowledge to repair, support and maintain the Warrior’s mechanics.
Ruthless commonality. A favorite on Think Defence, and I’ll admit immediately that i share completely the idea that, were possible, it should always be the approach to take to ensure things work in the best possible way.
The Armoured Infantry Battalion structure that i propose.

The Battalion would thus have (possibly) Warrior, a squad of 8 FRES SV Scout for recce role, a few FRES SV command post vehicles, plus land rovers/Foxhound/Panther or other light vehicles alone, with a consistent reduction of logistic footprint.   


Before looking at the FRES UV, the vehicle targeted at the Mechanized Infantry Battalions, it is worth making a pause to look at what the Mechanized Infantry looks like, how the requirement will evolve, and how the Warthog fits into the evolution and force mix.

Mechanized Infantry: the interim solution

The SDSR 2010 mandates the presence of a Battalion of Mechanized Infantry in each of the five Multi-Role Brigades, thus apparently envisaging the growth from 3 to 5 Mechanized Battalions at the same time in which the Armoured Battalions go down from 9 to 5.
Currently, after the retirement of Saxon, the vehicle of the Mechanized UK infantry is the upgraded, much-improved FV430 MK3 or simply “Bulldog”. It is a very good platform, much better than the Saxon ever was, but it is tracked and it is an upgrade of a vehicle that’s, sincerely, quite ancient. It has been procured mainly equipped with a manned, shielded GPMG mount, but the luckier ones got an ENFORCER II RWS turret making them a quite good platform. 

Most of the upgraded Bulldogs have a manned, shielded GPMG as main armament. They are heavily armored with appliquè Dorchester armor, non-reactive so to not harm the soldiers on foot around the vehicle with explosions and splinters.

A number of Bullgods has been even better kitted, getting an Enforcer RWS.

Around 1000 vehicles got upgraded, as the army took the chance to exploit a UOR born from Afghanistan to get a modernized vehicle for use in the Mechanized formations. However, it is more than possible that many will be retired earlier in the coming months as part of the “2000 vehicles” to be cut from the Army’s holding. We will be lucky if enough survive to equip the current 3 Mechanized battalions, and there are most likely no chances to have enough vehicles to re-role two Armoured Battalions on them.

The Interim Solution I propose is to make good use of the hundreds of vehicles acquired first for Iraq and then for Afghanistan, and of the huge amount of money spent training crews, as well. The conflict in Afghanistan is going to leave the Army with a great number of trained Mastiff, Ridgback and Warthog drivers. The two missing Battalions are thus going to be founded using this experienced personnel and their vehicles: one Battalion will be mounted on Warthog, as an high-mobility, all-terrain formation, a sort of elite that I want to stay in the Army Structure in the future as well, even when the FRES UV will come. The other Battalion will use Mastiff and Ridgback vehicles, along with the Foxhound logistics truck. The original Mastiff (if any is left working at all after all the heavy-duty usage in Afghanistan…) will be retired, but the latest Mastiff 2 vehicles and the Ridgback will be retained, part in storage and part active in this Battalion. Both formations could absorb personnel and equipment from two of the closing Armoured Infantry Battalions that will see their Warriors go into long-term storage. Mastiff, Ridgback and Foxhound are all based on the same Cougar vehicle and on the same mechanics, so the logistic aspect of the Battalion would be very simplified as well. Part of the Ridgbacks would also be issued to EOD teams, replacing the collection of “half-solutions” and “interim-vehicles” acquired in the last years, from the DURO-derived vehicles to the Vector. The Mastiff “Protected Eyes” will also stay in service as part of the precious Talisman troops.

The All-Terrain Elite: Warthog Battalion  

Over 100 Warthog have been procured for the army as UOR, after the Army fell in love with the capabilities provided by the Viking vehicles procured silently and smartly by the Royal Marines in the precedent years. It is impossible to think of just storing them away or worse at the end of the Afghan deployment after all the money they have cost. Besides, they truly do offer some very interesting capability, versatility and true high mobility in all terrains and environments. They could very possibly become the most strategically-mobile armoured vehicles of the Army, and they would give the british army a capability it pretty much lacks, currently leaving the sole Royal Marines as, for example, arctic specialists. Of the five Mechanized Infantry Squadrons envisaged in the SDSR (one for each Multi-Role brigade), one, in my plan, would become an “Elite” battalion with all-terrain capabilities, available to support PARA and Marines, and to cover combat roles in any environment from desert to arctic. The Battalion would be one of the current Armoured Infantry Battalions re-roling instead of being lost. Their training in Armour battle with the Warrior would make the transition easier, and the currently available trained Warthog drivers could form the core of the new capability needed. 

Currently the Army has Warthog in APC, Command, Ambulance and Recovery Variants. In my proposal, we will see a few more variants being developed from the Bronco/Warthog base vehicle, possibly converting part of the APC already bought.

The Requirement to arm a Battalion depends on the number of companies that it is to have: I’d like the fourth company to become permanent, but realism imposes to me to recognize that, with the budget cuts coming and coming, the Army will be lucky at conserving the requirement and the ability to eventually expand to four companies in times of war.

A Battalion on three companies would require, roughly:

39 APC in 3 companies each on 13 vehicles
3 Command Vehicles in the Battalion HQ
4 APC for the Assault Pioneer Platoon
8 RECCE vehicles
6 Mortar Carriers plus 3 Mortar Fire Control vehicles
8 APC-ATGW transports for the ATGW Platoon
4(?) Fire Support vehicles, carrying the Machinegun Platoon.
A number of Logistic Vehicles, from Recovery/Repair to all-terrain, armoured utility carriers

Roughly, we are talking about 80 vehicles. Some of the APC Warthog will have to be modified as part of the FRES programme to produce new variants: the target is to cover ALL roles inside this Battalion with Warthog platforms all with the same mobility capabilities, with the added advantage of an extremely streamlined logistic footprint that can contribute to make this a very easily deployable formation.

So, here we take a look at the Warthog variants:

APC Variant – Obviously the most numerous in the Battalion. Fitted with a turreted .50 MG or with an Enforcer II RWS, it is the basic vehicle and each Warthog APC gives mobility, protection and fire support to a Section of Infantry. 

It would come in 3 main variants of its own:

Anti-Tank carrier

Very similar to the APC, but kitted for transport of two Javelin ATGW teams with launchers and reload missiles. A launcher unit for Javelin could be fitted on top of the Rear Car, but mainly, like the Warrior in ATGW platoon of the armoured infantry, it merely carries two Javelin teams that would dismount from the vehicle to fight. Mainly, the difference from the basic APC is just the internal arrangement to carry the missiles. 
Normally a Battalion would have 6 vehicles of this kind, with the ATGW platoon lining 12 Javelin Launchers in two-man teams.  Two more vehicles provide command and support.

Infantry Command Variant – gives mobility to the Company and Platoon HQs and to the commanders of Mortar, Anti-Tank and Fire Support Platoon. Basically it is an APC variant fitted with the same Bowman radio kit normally found on Panther. 
The Platoon HQ consists of the Commander, Platoon Sergeant, Radio Operator, 60 mm Mortar operator and, in my proposal, a two-men L7A1 GPMG team and a two-men sniper team with L115A3 sniper rifle to reflect the proven need for improved long-range fire support, be it COIN or High End warfare. The Warthog is spacious enough to make this possible. 

Command Post

This vehicle contains a larger suite of communications and command systems, and is found at the Battalion HQ squadron, providing mobility and protection to the command staff.


Capability for four stretchers in the rear car, and seats for 3 attendants or seated patients in the front car. A different variant could receive a rear car fitted as a forward treatment post for high urgency operations.
The already acquired ambulance is equipped with advanced life support systems, patented swing out stretcher system and optional tentage system. The rear cabin is also fitted with air-conditioning providing higher comfort for the injured.

RECCE Variant

A new variant to be developed from the APC Warthog is the RECCE vehicle. This would be issued to the Reconnaissance Platoon of the Battalion, but it could possibly be used in other units as well, building on the success of this kind of vehicle. 

The Forward car is kitted with a RWS turret: either an Enforcer II with a .50 MG, or a Singapore-built double RWS combining a Grenade Machine Gun and a L7A1 GPMG on the same mount to provide a significant fire power, handy for a vehicle that’s meant to go ahead and scout close to the enemy.

The Rear Car carries a Scout team and a Computer post for the mast-mounted ROTAS - Remote Optical Target Acquisition System. The ROTAS is used by the already-in-service Mastiff "Protected Eyes" of the Talisman system and on the proposed Jackal ISTAR, so the commonality drive is respected.

ARV Variant

The REME-Operated Repair and Recovery variant is fitted with workshop facilities such as a 6mt crane, a 10t winch, electric generator, air compressor, work bench and stowage facilities and support tools and test equipment. It is already available.

Fire Support Variant

Operations such as those in Afghanistan have made it clear that, while “conventional” threats such as battle tanks are not frequent or likely encounters, have proved that there’s an enduring – and actually growing – need for owerwatch (a role covered by the Javelin thermal aiming unit, currently) and long-range, accurate fire support capable to take down groups of insurgents, especially if under cover or inside “bunkers” of some sort. There is also a growing presence of UAVs on the battlefield, and this inevitably will, soon enough, become a real threat and issue for british troops, not so well equipped in terms of organic air defence. Iran has its own models already, China has many, Russia is developing some and buying Israeli kit, and so along. UAVs are appreciated for their relatively low cost.
This makes them good for our cash-stripped ministries of defence, but it will also mean they’ll become more and more common and widespread in use with other countries as well, and inevitably will end up in the hands of terrorists one day. Al-Quaeda is not short on money, and it would not come as a great surprise. A defence against this threat will soon be required for real.

The Javelin is working quite well to cover the first role, but there should and could be better – and possibly cheaper – ways to deliver this effect. Javelin is quite expensive, and at the same time not too well suited to hit anything other than an armored vehicle.
Already in 2005, Thales demonstrated its Multi Mission System MMS, a turret weighting no more than 500 kg and offering a formidable array of sensors, from day to night and thermal cameras, and laser target-tracker/rangefinder. Capable to detect, survey and identify a target as far as 15 kilometers away, this array of sensors would work perfectly to give troops an overwatch capability. Instead of having a simple WMIK on the hill a mile behind your back providing a .50 and a Javelin team support, my Battalion will be supported by one of this systems.

Aside from surveillance, the turret could also offer a far greater firepower: currently, it can mount Starstreak, Javelin or even Hellfire missiles, up to four of them. Tomorrow, it could use the Light Multimission Missile derived from the Starstreak as part of the FASGM(L) requirement for the Navy Lynx helicopters. The LMM would be the main weapon employed in my Battalion: it is a very interesting design, with an 8 km range, just 13 kg of weight, and it is being designed to be cheap. The MOD has finalized a first order for around 1000 LMM missiles, by renouncing to the last planned tranche of Starstreak missiles, of which a more than decent stock already exists.

LMM has been optimised to take on a wide range of targets, at sea, on the ground, or in the air - anything from fast in-shore attack craft/fast attached craft, landing craft to wheeled or medium armoured tracked vehicles to unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and helicopters. The missile system is a lightweight, laser guided, missile, which lends itself to being fired on the move from land or naval platforms, or, because of it's light weight and zero recoil, can be deployed on fixed or rotary winged UAVs (helicopter) small ships or lightweight vehicles.

The missile, sealed in its canister, consists of a two-stage motor, warhead and safe arm unit, together with guidance and control equipment. Skid to turn commands to the canards in the nose give extremely accurate guidance of the missile. The blast fragmenting shaped charge warhead, coupled with the proximity fuze provides excellent lethality against a wide range of targets. Initially the missile will be offered with laser beam riding guidance, however there will also be a semi active laser variant. The system will also be offered with a family of warheads to provide maximum effect against the wide target set out to ranges of around 8km.

In both variants, the LMM could make good use of the MMS turret system, and with the promise of new warheads for new roles being developed in time, the combination could provide formidable fire support to infantry maneuver at a very good level of cost-effectiveness.

The possibility to employ the Starstreak further improves capabilities: if drones prove too hard a target for the LMM itself, the Starstreak II can down them at 7 km range. The possibility to fit Javelin and even Hellfire (very possibly Brimstone ground-launch too, if Thales is asked to clear it for use) make this system a battle-winner in a very wide range of situations. A Platoon of 4 to 6 vehicles should be provided, as part of the Maneuver Support. The large rear car should still have enough room to carry one or two GPMG teams with Sustained Fire kit, so the MG Platoon could become a true Fire Support Platoon combining the two capabilities.

As part of my focus on Firepower, the MG Platoon of Infantry Battalions will restructure, from 9 GPMG SF to 6 GPMG plus 3 Grenade Machine Guns in field mode. It will probably mean a further batch of H&K GMG will have to be acquired in the coming years. For the GMG, I also envisage an upgrade from ST Kinetics of Singapore (which already is the MOD’s provider of 40x53 NATO standard grenade-rounds) to the GMG to make it Air-Burst capable. Singapore already employs this capability on their home-built GMG-equivalent, and it would be a massive leap forwards for the British Army.

The upgrade would require a the acquisition of their already-available Airburst grenade-round and the fitting to the GMG of the adequate laser-aiming device and firing computer for its use.

Mortar Carrier

The L16 81 mm mortar remains a fundamental piece of kit, and my Warthog battalion would of course have its Mortar Platoon with 6 Mortars in 3 sections plus 3 Mortar Fire Control vehicles. 

The Bronco in Singapore is already produced in a Mortar varriant equipped with a 120 mm automated high-speed mortar. This is very shiny a weapon system, but the British Army does not operate 120 mm mortars, and the addition of a whole new system does not appear cost-effective, unless the FRES UV Mortar is not equipped with a NEMO or AMOS 120 mm mortar turret as well. Since this is not likely, my proposal is to have the rear car modified to have a relatively simple mobile mortar pit with ammo, mortar and team, using the 81 mm and mount already used in the FV432 Mortar Carriers. Simple and relatively inexpensive solution.
Singapore's Bronco 120 mm Mortar
A simpler carrier for the L16 82 mm mortar is probably the most acceptable suggestion due to budget constraints.


The Warthog is kind of expensive to use as a truck, but the need for force protection dictate that a number are acquired, to support the Warthog battalion of course, but also other units when required.
Singapore already uses a Logistics variant of the Warthog: the rear car hosts a powerful stabilized crane, and large amounts of spare parts (included a Warthog power pack) can be carried in a High Mobility trailer.
This variant could be very useful for the REME, employed together with the Repair and Recovery variant, but could also fullfil a wide range of other roles and resupply FOBs and forces in difficult areas, even under enemy fire threat very high. 

The Bronco Logistic vehicle has a complete, powerful crane in the rear cab and tows a wheeled High Mobility trailer. 
The crane is fully capable of handling loads such a Bronco complete powerpack.

My proposal is to develop a flatbed rear car with an ELPS-style pallet handler system as well, to complete the logistic trail. A section of these logistic vehicles would be part of the support for the Warthog battalion, alongside conventional RLC trucks. 

Budget to convert some of the existing Warthog APC rear cars to the new variants proposed would come from the revisited FRES programme budget.

FRES SV Family

The FRES SV family of vehicles is meant to replace the whole of the CVR(T) family and FV430-series of vehicles, covering all roles inside the Tracked formations of the army.

Mainly, the FRES SV is targeted at the 5 (+ 1 TA) Formation RECCE Regiments, confirmed in the SDSR2010 as part of the Future Force 2020. Other FRES SV vehicles will be required to replace the Scimitar CVR(T)s employed in the small RECCE platoons inside Tank regiments and Armoured/Mechanized infantry battalions and to take on the roles currently covered by venerable FV432-series vehicles.

In March 2010 the contract for the FRES SV family of vehicles was awarded to General Dynamics, with this indication about planned numbers:

The MOD plans to acquire 270 scout vehicles of the FRES SV category. British MOD plans to buy three 'blocks' of 'reconnaissance and support vehicles' totaling 580 vehicles, plus one block of Medium Armor and Maneuver Support vehicles. In total up to 1,300 could be required over the lifespan of the program. The first vehicles are expected to enter service in about 2015, to replace the older Scimitars and Spartans.

In July 2010 came the second, “real” contract, worth around 607 million euro, for the development of 7 prototypes of the contracted variants of the FRES SV family (Scout, Protected Mobility and Recovery for now). Testing is expected to start in 2013 and entry into service will be in 2014/2015.

To answer the question, often formulated, of “why don’t we drop the Warrior upgrade programme and buy new IFVs based on the FRES SV platform?”, the MOD hasdeclared that an internal study on this possibility was launched, and the outcome was that:

“Essentially the reason for rejecting an Off the Shelf vehicle, such as ASCOD or CV90, is down to value for money. The analysis conducted, indicated that the cost of the new Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) is between 1.4 and 2 times the cost of upgrading the existing Warrior vehicle. Therefore the Off the Shelf option was ruled out as a potential approach to meet the Warrior role.”
The Numeric Requirement

Formation RECCE: 5 Regular Regiments, 4 on 3 SABRE Squadrons and one on 4 Squadrons (the HCR has a fourth squadron, which is specifically affiliated to 16 Air Assault Brigade.) plus a single TA Regiment.

Originally, the Wartime establishment of each Formation included the plan to move to a Four Squadrons structure in wartime. This is to be most likely dropped, since there won’t be enough FRES Scout vehicles acquired. An additional squadron might be provided with Light assets such as Jackal, however.
Organic: 36 FRES SV Scout per Regiment, plus additional 12 = 228

Tank Regiments: 5 Regular, 2 TA Regiments. Each regular squadron with a Squadron of 12 FRES SV Scout = 60

Armoured and Mechanized Infantry: 5 + 5 Regiments, each with 8 Scout vehicles = 80 FRES SV Scout

Total: 368 FRES SV Scout

The requirement as it is would not be met by a buy of 270 Scout vehicles. However, the 580 and even more the 1300 vehicles figure, made up by unspecified Medium Armour and Maneuver Support vehicles appear, to me, not needed nor realistic. If the Warrior is to be retained, and the Mechanized Infantry is to be equipped with the FRES UV vehicle, the number of FRES SV Protected Mobility APCs will be quite limited. Even adding the Recovery, Ambulance, Command Post, Bridgelayer and even Direct Fire Support platforms into the mix, I don’t think such an high amount of vehicles answers to any real requirement.

Rough estimates of the vehicles needed for active formations are as follow:

Direct Fire – Supposing to give each Formation RECCE’s SABRE Squadron a section of 4 Direct Fire FRES SV vehicles to replace the Striker-Swingfire ATGW vehicle, and envisaging a section of 8 Direct Fire FRES SV vehicles for each of the 5 Armoured infantry battalions, we have a requirement for:

Direct Fire vehicles = 116

I’m guessing this is included in the “Medium Armour” voice, but consider that the MOD plan might not include this type of vehicle at all. 

Command Post – Even supposing to replace Sultan and FV432-series Mobile Command Posts in one for one basis inside active units (highly unlikely especially for the Sultan, which is far smaller and thus carries far less and needs more vehicles to do the same job), we have a rough estimate of:

74 for the RECCE regiments (calculated as one per one Sultan replacement. It is overall realistic to foresee that actually a FRES SV command post will do the work of 2 Sultan)

35 for the Tank Regiments
Sultan is not listed as part of Armoured and Mechanized Infantry formations.

The requirement for Command Post/Communications FRES SV vehicles might be of 109 vehicles. As I said, I expect the actual figure to be much, much lower, possibly half of this number, even when including replacement of FV432-based vehicles and FV439 Communications platforms.

Protected Mobility – 84 vehicles would replace Spartan in RECCE Regiments, 35 would be needed to replace Spartan in Tank Regiments.

21 FV432 of various versions are reported as part of an Armoured Infantry Battalions. With my proposal to develop Warrior mortar carriers and ambulances from retired Warrior IFVs would lower the requirement, but assuming a one-for-one replacement we have a further 105 vehicles.  

(NOTE: my estimates are done considering as fully vehicle-equipped even the TA regiments, two for Challenger II formations and one for RECCE)

These, that would be the most numerous variants of the FRES SV, in my “abundant” requirement, with TA regiments fully equipped, with 368 Scout vehicles and with 116 Direct Fire vehicles (that I deem necessary but that might easily not be part of the UK plan because of limited budget)  calculation give a total of 817 vehicles. This does not include Recovery vehicles, Ambulances and Bridgelayers/Mobility enablers, but the requirement for these vehicles would be in the order of a few dozen. Even with Driver Training vehicles taken into account, we are still far, far away from the 1300 vehicles figure.
The requirement is still to be drawn correctly, it seems, and it will keep the Army Board busy while the vehicles are developed.

I dare saying that we will never see 1300 FRES SV vehicles in holding. But I also think, calculations at hand, that they are not needed to start with.

General Dynamics image of the FRES SV family. More variants still are possible.
FRES Scout – replacement for the CVR(T) Scimitar. A RECCE platform and a Cavarly combat vehicle with the 40 mm CTA gun in a two-man turret. The Lance modular turret from Germany’s Rheinmetall has been chosen for the FRES SV by General Dynamics. 

A General Dynamics image of the FRES Scout fitted with cage armor.

To believe in any degree of britishness of the FRES SV becomes harder and harder by the moment with every contract awarded, but this is another story I guess.

FRES Protected Mobility – an APC vehicle. Same hull of the Scout, but without 40 mm CTA turret, replaced by a lighter RWS station with machine gun. It will replace the CVR(T) Spartan and a number of FV432 APCs, carrying up to 10 men, opposed to the 4 of the Spartan.

FRES Armoured Recovery Vehicle – fitted with a crane, winches and other gear, it will be able to support the vehicles of the family by towing damaged vehicles, winching them and replacing in-field whole powerpacks, probably towing an high-mobility trailer with a couple of fully operative engines, in the same fashion as the Challenger ARV and Warrior ARV. It is going to replace the Samson and most likely the leftover FV434 as well.

FRES Armoured Repair Vehicle –an armoured, mobile workshop carrying members of the Royal Electric and Mechanic Engineers to carry out repair of damaged vehicles in field. The bulldozer blade in the front of the vehicle will work as an anchor to increase winching power and will also be used to dig trenches and protected positions for the fighting and Scout vehicles.

FRES Mobile Command Post – a fully mobile, armoured and Network-enabled command post to replace the Sultan. Derived from the Protected Mobility, but fitted with the adequate command and communications systems in the back.

FRES Armoured Ambulance – a fully armoured ambulance for casualty evacuation and treatment. It will replace the Samaritan and the FV432 used in this role.

FRES Bridgelayer – a fully armoured vehicle capable to launch bridges over obstacles. The bridge will be strong enough to support the passage of all FRES SV vehicle variants, Warrior IFV, Terrier and all other lighter vehicles. Not contracted for, but shown in the General Dynamics concept pictures and apparently envisaged as part of the programme.

FRES Direct Fire support variant is also envisaged, fitted with a turret with a standard NATO 120 mm anti-tank gun: it would offer the firepower of a Challenger II tank in a much lighter platform. One off-the-shelf solution would be the HITFACT turret from Italy’s Oto Melara: designed for the Centauro 8x8 cavalry light tank, the HITFACT is armed with a smoothbore 120/45 gun that could share the very same ammunition stock of the re-gunned Challenger II and a coaxial 7.62 machine gun. The HITFACT offers also two machine-gun mounts, one of which is remotely operated.

Again, it is not contracted for, but shown in General Dynamics concept art and apparently envisaged for the future.

One day, this “light tank” might entirely replace the Challenger II fleet. In the close future, it could be used in small numbers to provide Armoured Infantry Battalions with a more deployable source of heavy fire support. A Direct Fire section of 4 to 8 FRES SV HITFACT would provide formidable support to the infantry’s operations.

A FRES Mortar platform is also possible: it could be fitted with a NEMO or AMOS turret, the first being a single and the second a twin automated breech-loading under-armor 120 mm mortar, which would be able to provide direct or undirect fire support up to 13 kilometers away, with a rhythm of fire of over 10 rounds a minute. However, since the British army uses the L16 81 mm mortar in the mounted role as well, it is more likely that a simpler mortar carrier with a fire-through-hatch mortar in the back will be the way pursued. This variant would be used in Armoured Infantry Battalions, however, and if a Mortar Carrier Warrior is prepared, the requirement for a FRES SV platform in this role will most likely vanish.

A FRES Anti-Tank vehicle armed with a missile launcher system, carrying either Javelin or Israeli Spike missiles or even ground-launched Brimstone missiles is also a possible future member of the family. It would be a Striker/Swingfire replacement, and again provide good, flexible fire support to the troops.

An easy solution would be the fitting of a Thales MMS missile turret, which can employ Starstreak, LMM, Javelin, Hellfire and Brimstone ground-launched. The flexibility offered by such a system is formidable, and it would offer capability for anti-air and anti-surface role, from COIN engagements (where the LMM missile would be the obvious choice) to High Intensity warfare where the ground launched Hellfire or Brimstone would offer a capability far greater than that provided by the old Swingfire system.

A FRES SV Self Propelled Artillery is also possible in future: GD has already developed and demonstrated a working platform, the DONAR, which mounts a 155/52 howitzer with automated loader on an ASCOD SV chassis. The DONAR would be capable to fire standard NATO ammunition to 30 km range, and ER shells to 40 Km, and it could use the whole range of special ammunitions used by the Royal Artillery. It would be a perfect long term replacement for the AS90, and the commonality of hull and mechanics would be a massive advantage for the army.

In fact, my future British Army will buy 90 DONAR to replace the AS90 in the five regiments of field artillery, instead of spending money in upgrade programmes for the old howitzer. 

The DONAR artillery system is a turret module derived from the proven PZH2000 self propelled gun and an ASCOD chassis. It would provide a great advance in performances compared to the old, short-barrel and low-pressure 155/39 AS90.
DONAR Artillery system features:

Crew: only 2, in a fully separated armoured cab
Combat weight: 32 to 35 tons, allowing for easier air transport
Gun system: turret mounted 155/52 howitzer, NATO standard, with fully automated loading and 30 ready to fire rounds. The gun module is operational without any additional stabilization and provides a 360-degree azimuth range. In addition, the autonomous system character of DONAR allows a consistent step toward networked, centralized command and control (network centric warfare).
Rate of fire: Maximum rate of fire is stated in 6 rounds per minute, however this might be increased to 8 and even 9 in production systems.
The Donar is capable of Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) firing. This artillery system can fire four rounds that hit one target simultaneously.

ASCOD SV performances (estimates based on the little available data about ASCOD SV)

Engine power 600 KW
Maximum road speed over 70 km/h
Range 600 km
Gradient 75%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 0.95 m
Trench 2.5 m
Fording 1.2 m

The FRES SV, fitted with a 600KW engine, is expected to exceed 70 km/h forward speed and 35 Km/h backwards speed, and offer all around protection, with modular and appliqué armor available. Active defence systems and an Electric Discharge armour are also in development and might be fielded at some point.

FRES SV Scout – A rapid analysis

The Scout vehicle shown in the Concept Arts so far is, to say the least, disappointing. It has no real RECCE features, such as a mast-mounted sensor suite. It is unclear what the rear compartment of the ASCOD SV will be used for: transporting scouts? Carrying an Unmanned vehicle, either Ground or Aerial?

It sure should. A look at the polish Rosomak Scout vehicle is a good example of what a modern age Scout vehicle/RECCE asset is like. Hopefully, the standard Scout FRES SV will carry two/four Scouts in the back, along with some portable sensor such as MSTAR radars. In alternative, hopefully, a FAC team with their gear could be carried by the Scout vehicle towards the operations area. 

The polish Rosomak Scout vehicle carries a mast-mounted sensor, and the scout team inside is equipped with a Skylark minidrones and/or unattended ground sensors to deploy in strategic points of interest. This capability is the forefront of modern military RECCE, and the fear is that the FRES Scout won't match this kind of modern requirements.

Worth consideration is the acquisition of some Unattended Ground Sensors, that could be deployed to ensure constant monitoring and surveillance over an area/strategic passage without requiring a vehicle to stay constantly hidden in the proximities.

The Desert Hawk III hand-launched mini-drone is already in service with the UK: now it is a Royal Artillery asset, but it is a simple enough drone that should be given to the RECCE units instead. Modifying ALL Scout vehicles with Mast-mounted sensors and other shiny stuff would be extremely expensive, and not cost effective. But a single Protected Mobility APC in each Support Troop of each Sabre Squadron could and should be converted in a RECCE vehicle with a full asset of Mast-Mounted sensors for enduring surveillance (the suite could include an Optronic Camera Payload and a MSTAR radar). The spacious back could contain an Information-Exploitation system capable to receive and process data and imagery from drones, helicopters and Scout vehicles of the Squadron. The vehicle would also carry a Desert Hawk system (two drones and a suitcase-sized Ground Control Station.

Alternatively, a Drone Troop with Desert Hawk III could be created in the HQ Squadron as a centralized resource. Again, an alternative to Desert Hawk III is the T-Hawk, drone that’s, again, already in service, as part of the Talisman C-IED capability.
The new Formation RECCE structure could resemble this graphic I made:  

Current structure of a RECCE formation on Scimitar vehicles. Note that the Striker swingfire missile vehicle is no longer around, and today ATGW capability would be provided by portable Javelin missiles. 

My revised graphic shows the possible look of a FRES SV-based RECCE formation. Note the addition of organic "mobility enablers" such as FRES Bridgelayers: they are necessary as the FRES Scout is not amphibious, nor helicopter mobile, and a RECCE formation incapable to go past the first river that it meets until engineers build a bridge is totally useless.

Also, it is worth questioning the sense/necessity of retaining an additional RECCE Squadron for the 16 Air Assault Brigade when the change from CVR(T) to FRES Scout will spell the end of any real air-deployability of the Armour Recce, save for transport with A400M and C17.
It would possibly make more sense to create one or more Light RECCE Squadrons, that would be “immediately” deployable by air to reinforce a force of rapid intervention, to deploy in support of Marines or in support of the Para.

The Afghanistan conflict will leave the Army rich of jackal vehicles: they aren’t as mine-proof as the Foxhound, but much better than any Snatch Land Rover. They provide heavy fire-power and great all terrain mobility, they are reportedly a favorite of the Special Forces as well, and they are totally air-mobile. The Army has already launched last January a programme for the acquisition of a mew platform to airdrop vehicles with.
The Main Stores Parachuting programme is intended to replace the ageing Medium Stressed Platform that currently meets only a "fraction" of existing requirements, an MoD spokesman told Jane's on 14 January.

The Supacat 4x4 Jackal weighs around 7,000 kg but has the capacity to carry an additional 3,000 kg payload, including fuel, water, ammunition and weapons for operations in Afghanistan. The Medium Stressed Platform can only carry an all-up weight of around 8,000 kg so the MoD wants to replace or modify it with a system capable of carrying up to 10,000 kg. The new platform would allow parachuting even the Foxhound.

The MoD said the programme represented a "sizeable challenge" and confirmed that an invitation to tender has already been submitted to industry quoting a requirement for a high-altitude aerial delivery system capable of hitting drop zones of unspecified size.
The new platform will thus make airdropping a Jackal or Foxhound vehicle (Foxhound will weight around 7.5 tons) possible, allowing the 16 Air Assault Brigade and the Special Forces the capability to rapidly deploy precious support to the Para on site. The Jackal is already available in numbers, and a RECCE/STA Jackal has already been shown and proposed, fitted with a RWS turret on the main weapon ring and a Mast-Mounted electro-optic sensor system. Marketed as Jackal ISTAR, it is a very interesting piece of kit.
The Jackal ISTAR offers the advantage of being totally parachutable into action, and much more strategically mobile than the FRES Scout. The 16 Air Assault Brigade and the Special Forces have a real need for this kind of mobility, firepower and protection.

Using a Supacat platform in the UK MoD's Jackal 2 configuration, Supacat created a capable ISTAR platform fitted with the Kongsberg Protector Remote Weapon Station (RWS) that has already been procured for two UK MOD programmes and also the newly developed and now in service Remote Optical Target Acquisition System (ROTAS) that incorporates the Catherine Mega Pixel thermal camera, high zoom colour TV camera and the Celt laser. You can see this system mounted on a mast in the Mastiff “Protected Eyes” command-vehicle of Talisman C-IED troops.

This allows for accurate lased ranges to targets combining with the GNAV sat Nav system for precise target and own vehicle grid referencing. The system is fully qualified and now in service on the Talisman Route proving & Clearance programme, so it wouldn’t even be a new system, but one already known and proven, that maybe could be further expanded with the addition or a radar system mounted on top of the mast. 

The RWS allows accurate fire on the move and is an added RECCE sensor to observe the enemy with. Besides, it allows the men that normally mans the top machine gun to sit down low, better protected, and better placed inside the mine blast-resistant frame of the vehicle.
The demonstration successfully proved the maturity of the products for easy installation onto the Supacat Jackal aimed at the recce role of Jackals on operations. The proposition is that teams will install a fleet mix of RWS and/or masts to give the FIND & Strike capabilities at the same time bringing the traditional top mounted pintal gunner into the protected mine blast seating and seat harnessing without compromising his situational awareness. The recent integration has demonstrated the benefits of stabilised weapons systems and also now includes helmet mounted displays for the vehicle commander who presently sits next to the driver. The team has conducted separate live firing trials that have proven the immense capability enhancement offered by stabilised systems with ‘fire on the move' functionality. The system integration has been designed to enable the system or part-system to be easily fitted and removed or re-configured in-theatre.

The Kongsberg Protector RWS has the following functions:

Slew to Cue
Single shot capability modes of fire
Full stabilisation fire on the move
Laser pointer for target hand off etc
High power spotlight with IR filters
Multi weapon fits GPMG,HMG,GMG
Auto tracking
Ballistic calculations so no aim off or correction routine

The RWS might appear an unnecessary luxury for an open-top vehicle, but it is arguably already a big improvement not to have a soldier standing tall over the profile of the car. A Jackal fitted with this kit would be a valuable recce platform for both Special Forces and PARA roles. Form at least one permanent Light Recce Squadron [D Squadron HCR, for example] instead of an additional FRES Scout Squadron seems a sensible approach to pursue. It would also make good use of already-paid-for and already-in-service (at least partially) vehicles and systems, and allow a slightly smaller buy of FRES Scout vehicles.  

My FRES SV Programme:

-          Acquisition of 368 FRES Scout vehicles from 2014 onwards to replace the Scimitar in all formations.
-          Create at least one Sabre Squadron of RECCE mounted on Jackal, some or all of the ISTAR variant. 
-          Acquisition of 244 (?) FRES Protected Mobility to replace Spartan and FV430 Bulldog. A number might need rear compartment turned into a Mortar Carrier variant for use in Armoured Infantry Regiments if a proper Warrior variant is not deemed cost effective. A few more are to be used as a specialized RECCE asset carrying mast-mounted sensors for enduring, long range surveillance, an Informations Distribution System and possibly a mini-drone troop.
-          Acquisition of adequate ARV fleet
-          Acquisition of a number of Bridgelayer vehicles: each Formation RECCE should have a troop of four Bridgelayers available to ensure that the Scout vehicles can do their work as much as possible: with the total loss of Helicopter-mobility (the Scimitar could be under slung from a Chinook) and the loss of any real amphibious capability, this will be a need unless we want the RECCE formation to be stuck at the first river.
-          Acquisition of a Command and Communications vehicle to replace Sultan and FV439 vehicles
-          Acquisition of a Casualty Evacuation/Treatment vehicle
-          Acquisition of 116 Direct Fire FRES SV vehicles.
-          Acquisition, in the long term, of at least 90 DONAR Artillery platform to replace AS90. Each Regiment restructured to 3 Batteries of 6 guns each, for 18 total pieces.

A new face FRES: FRES UV and light vehicles

The SDSR 2010 “confirmed” that a FRES UV vehicle family is still envisaged as part of Future Force 2020. This means we have to expect a resurrection of the programme well before the 2015 SDR, if we want to have any chance of having the first vehicles come (finally!) into service around 2020, if the FRES SV is any clue about how the process would work.

With the Warrior IFV confirmed, we also got an undirect confirmation that the FRES UV is targeted at re-equipping the Mechanized Infantry Battalions of the Army, as everyone would expect. Little clue we have about what the FRES UV will look like, but it most likely going to still be an 8 x 8 wheeled platform, which is, overall, a good complement to the Armoured formations of Warrior vehicles. It is also very likely that the Preferred Bidder General Dynamics with the Piranha V vehicle would, at the very least, be in pole position to once more get the contract when the programme is restarted, despite how things went back in 2008. The only real opposition might come from the French VBCI: if it was offered with a financially-attractive passage and with sovereignty rights sufficient to cover the UK industry needs, the vehicle might have much greater chances this time, considering that the collaboration with France now is a new sacred cow and taking into account that, by then, the VBCI will be a leading, proven formation in terms of “NETCENTRIC” warfare, thanks to its integration with the Fèlin soldier system as part of the Skorpion land-warfare vehicles-modernization programme of the French army.

Either way, we are looking at a vehicle with specifications in the order of:

Configuration 8×8
Crew 3 crew + 8 passengers, possibly 2 + 10/11 in APC configuration


Approximate Length 7.5m
Approximate Width 2.8m
Approximate Height 2.25m
Internal Volume 12m³
Weight 28t baseline

Road Speed 100-105 km/h
Turning Radius 7.5m curb to curb
Vertical Obstacles around 60cm
Trench 2 meters
Fording 1.2/1.5 meters

As with the FRES SV, we are actually looking at a number of variants, making of the FRES UV a family of vehicles covering all sort of roles. But before I start my analysis of how I envisage the vehicles, let’s have a look at the Interim Solutions, and at the users of the system, and in particular at the future I envisage for the Warthog in the force mix. 

FRES UV – Base vehicle

Now onto the real FRES UV vehicle. Again, I’ve drawn a Piranha fitted out to resemble what I expect the FRES UV to look like. I’ve chosen to draw an APC Piranha V because it is pretty much representative of the “baseline” platform.

1)      Rear camera for enhanced situational awareness. It has proven precious, and is by now fitted, after the UORs, to most vehicles in Afghanistan.
2)      Shooter Detection System. Sound-Ranging to detect the source of enemy fire. Might or might not be fitted: personally, I’d want a wearable Shooter-Detection system (the British Army is to field-test the Boomerang X in the coming months in Afghanistan and probably acquire some as UOR later on, finally) to become a part of the FIST kit, and be issued to the Marksman inside each four-man Section. I think it makes more sense and more effect than having the system fitted on a vehicle, since it is the infantry that will get shot from snipers, and it is also to be expected that the dismounts will operate at a distance, possibly even noticeable, from their vehicle.
3)      “Mortar” hatch. Useful for firing the portable, Platoon’s 60 mm mortar from under armor.
4)      Side Cameras for improved situational awareness.
5)      Double-Mount RWS turret. Fitted with a GPMG and a GMG upgraded for Air-Burst ammunitions, it provides capability almost comparable to a full-out IFV turret with CTA 40 mm gun at a fraction of the cost. The double mount could also be exploited, when required, to couple a Lethal weapon and a Less-Than-Lethal device to provide a scalable response capability in riots or other delicate situations. Such a Double RWS turret is available from ST Kinetics of Singapore and already used on the Terrex APC vehicle.
6)      Infantry Commander’s Turret. Latest trend, in vehicles such as the US Marines AAAV8, is to recognize that the APC is a taxi platform for the infantry team on board. The Infantry’s Leaders is thus to be provided with the best possible Situational Awareness, to guide the vehicle where he wants to be dismounted with his men and then supported. The FRES UV APC should thus provide a turret-hatch for the Infantry’s commander, and a large screen for his position that can be used to show him images from the vehicle’s sensors and from other sources, to ensure the Infantry Section, once dismounted, is already well informed on the surroundings and situation. The APC crew would be of only 2 men, driver and Commander, sitting in tandem.
7)      Vehicle’s Commander Turret
8)      Driver’s Turret
9)      Night/Thermal Vision Driving Aid Cameras
10)  Driving Aid cameras.

The FRES Programme should also decide the acquisition of an Hard Kill defensive system. Back in 2008, the concept art of the FRES UV Piranha V showed the LEDS system fitted, and this Anti-RPG device is likely to still be a front-runner. However, whatever device is chosen, it should definitely become a common standard, useable on the whole fleet of vehicles, from Challenger II to Warrior, from FRES SV to FRES UV. Avoid duplications will be imperative.

FRES UV – Variants and numbers

With the number of Battalions unlikely to ever grow from the 5 Mechanized Battalions envisaged in the SDSR2010 (let’s just hope they don’t drop to an even lower figure), and with one, in my proposal, permanently mounted on Warthog, the FRES UV becomes targeted specifically at equipping 4 Battalions of infantry. 

Again, I’d want the Battalions to have each 4 Companies, but they will most likely only have 3, so we have a requirement for roughly:

APC/IFV – Ideally, the FRES UV Infantry Section Vehicle would be an IFV, fitted with a CTA 40 mm gun in Unmanned, Remote Turret equal to the one employed to up-gun the Warrior. This, however, is unlikely. The FRES UV will be an APC, almost certainly. However, to mitigate the difference, a very cost-effective solution appears the fitting of a Double-Mount RWS combining, as standard fit, an Air-Burt capable 40 mm GMG and a GPMG machine gun. The firepower provided would be massive and flexible, capable to take down a wide array of targets at up to 2 km away. This is my favorite approach.
The APC vehicle would have a crew of 2 plus a fully kitted position for the Infantry Section’s Commander, and room for the whole Section. Space inside the vehicle could be sufficient for up to 10 Dismounts, however, in this configuration. Useful room is always welcome, whatever it is used for.
Requirement is for, indicatively, for 180 vehicles.

Skyranger  - Replacement for Stormer HVM Starstreak. To be described properly in one of the next articles. Requirement for roughly 80.

Direct Fire – A section of 6 vehicles would be welcome in each Mechanized Infantry Battalion. (3 Troops of 2 vehicles each, one for Infantry Company) Baseline requirement for 24 vehicles. The vehicle would be fitted with the very same HITFACT turret used on the tracked FRES SV Direct Fire, and both platforms would share the upgunned Challenger II ammunition stock. 

Mortar Carrier – 6 vehicles in each Battalion, for a total of 24.

Recovery and Repair 


Command and Communications

Once more, the FRES shows a much smaller requirement than originally envisaged. Considerable savings can be obtained by buying off-the-shelf and making best use of already available kit, while still delivering the most powerful, effective and functional family of vehicles the UK Infantry has ever had.

Light Vehicles

Under this section, we’ll take a rapid look at a massive range of vehicles that includes SUPACAT ATMP, Panther CLV, Jackal, Foxhound, Husky and Land Rovers. 

Land Rover

Venerable to say the least, an icon of the British Army, the Land Rover in all its variants has provided and continues to provide sterling service in countless roles. However, in the new warfare characterized by the lack of a clearly defined frontline (and consequently the effective absence of “safe” rear echelons), united with the ever growing emphasis on Force Protection and the high political cost of even a single death, the Land Rover is a misfit in frontline operations. It is good to move inside bases and in the UK and for non-combat roles, but the Snatch compromise and the even the WMKIT were destined to bloody failure from the very start, and despite the many alarms launched by the troops, nothing was done to tackle this evident problem, for a very, very long time. It is largely because of the limits of the Land Rover that now the army has the other types of vehicles I listed above.

The Land Rover will have to quit from all combat roles, which means retiring all the WMKIT and Snatch and restricting usage of the remaining Wolfs inside bases and in safe areas.

Jackal and Coyote

The obvious replacement for the WMKIT, it has already been acquired in over 240 units and it is going to remain a workhorse for long time. In an ideal world, the plan would be to retire them all and replace them with the Foxhound chassis fitted with Fire Support Module. This would give us fleet commonality and an even better protected, mine-resistant platform. However, even with the savings connected with fleet commonality, pretend to believe the financial viability of such a move is a joke. For the moment, the Jackal is and will remain “the big thing”.
Use will be:

-          In at least one Light, Airmobile, Special-Forces capable RECCE Sabre Squadron, as earlier proposed and described in my precedent articles
-          Vehicle of choice of the SAS
-          Fire Support Vehicle for the Light Role Infantry Battalions. Each Battalion will receive a Platoon of 8 Jackal and one Coyote 6 x 6 utility vehicle, creating a self-supporting formation that will ensure fire support thanks to: 9 GPMG in forward seat, 6 .50 HMG and 3 GMG in main center mount.

Panther CLV  

The Panther is another vehicle that could likely be replaced by a properly-kitted Foxhound vehicle, but since 400 vehicles have been acquired and paid for and since they are new and overall effective (the main defect being mainly really how cramped they are inside) the Army is not going to get any funding to replace them. For now, they will remain as Command Posts, for example for Mortar and Antitank platoon commanders and as a replacement for many Land Rover and Pinzgauer Fitted For Radio FFR.


Of all the UORs, the one that I understand less. I don’t know much about Husky usage, so I can’t say if the troops are happy of it or not, but I can certainly say I never really approved/understood the acquisition of this platform, also because its effective level of protection leaves me serious doubts. The British Army would be definitely better off using the Foxhound fitted for Utility role with the cargo flatbed in the back, and as part of FRES this will have to be evaluated.


We should wait for operational experience before drowning into euphoria, but this vehicle seems to have all the right characteristics to be a great success. It is a smart design, and it truly could cover all roles into the army Light Vehicles fleet if the funding for acquisition of the vehicles needed was available. If service experience will be positive, the Foxhound should be made the FRES Light Vehicle of choice, and funding made available whenever possible to proceed with further batches of vehicles.

For now we are looking at 200 Patrol Vehicles, true Snatch Land Rover replacements that will have a crew of 2 and will carry 4 Dismounts in the back. An option for 200 more exists. 

Both the Utility flatbed and the Fire Support modules have been already developed, and are available for future orders. Note the Fire Support module's additional machine gun aimed at the back of the vehicle, something that even the Jackal has not.
A FFR variant should then be developed (probably swapping two of the face-to-face back seats to create a Radio and COMMS console with two operators sitting at it, to replace Land Rover and Pinzgaur FFR, and perhaps later on even the Panther CLV.

An ambulance variant could also follow.

The Utility module would make for an excellent, fleet-compatible Husky replacement.

The Fire Support module would instead make for a long-term Jackal replacement.


75 of these fugly dune-buggies have been acquired with an UOR, as a mean to rapidly move a pallet from an Helicopter LZ to a FOB. They are intended as Supacat ATMP replacement, but I personally believe it was a wrong choice. The ATMP is more flexible, and was already available and in service. There has already been an excellent article on TD about this issue, so I won’t spend much time on this. I only think it is worth noticing the many advantages offered by the ATMP, and consider also that, with the modern technology, the ATMP can be easily made into a Remotely-operated platform or an even an autonomous drone literally capable to “walk” behind a soldier leading the way, or “learn” a route (for example between a LZ and a FOB) as it is driven along it and then travel back and forth on that same route in complete autonomy all the times needed. 

The US Marines have taken an interest in the ATMP and Lockheed Martin has already turned some into drones capable to autonomously follow a route while carrying their load to destination. Why pursuing the Springer...?

There are definitely smarter ways to cover this role, and I believe that the ATMP is the right platform to cover this requirement. Think Defence's magnificent look into the ATMP's capabilities will show you why i think so.  

Army Air Corps

AAC manpower is believed to number some 2,034 (early 2009) personnel of all ranks, including about 500 officers. Unlike the all-officer Navy and Air Force helicopter pilot establishments, almost two-thirds of AAC aircrew are non-commissioned officers. The AAC is supported by REME and RLC personnel numbering some 2,600 all ranks. Total AAC-related manpower is believed to be some 4,600 personnel of all ranks.

Attack Regiments – Currently, 6 Apache Squadrons exist, all based in Wattisham and part of two Attack Regiments, the 3rd and 4th . The three main frontline squadrons of Lynx helicopters are based in Dishfort as 9th Regiment.

In a war condition, however, I’d expect three Attack Regiments to eventually form, each with 2 Squadrons of Apache helicopters and a Light Utility/Scout Squadron with Wildcat helicopters. So that 3rd, 4th and 9th Regiments would all be Attack formations. This had been, for some time, the plan, but peacetime economies and efficiencies have suggested keeping Apache and Wildcat concentrated in Regiments of sole Wildcats and sole Apaches, each on a specific base.
This makes sense, and will continue, but I believe that in wartime organization for use with 16 Air Assault Brigade (or in support of other ground forces) the regiments would assume their expected structure. 

Attack Regiment in war: two squadrons of Apache and one of Wildcat as scouts and light utility support helicopters. The Wildcat role includes detecting and tracking targets for the Apache, delivering convoy-escort support, but also transport of small teams, possibly Forward Air Attack Controllers.

1th Regiment – Currently based in Germany with the 1st UK division, this Regiment is the last divisional aviation formation in the UK, last remnant of a past in which each brigade (and moreover each division) was expected to have an helicopter force attached. It is composed by two Lynx squadrons. In the coming years, it will come back into the UK along with the ground troops, and might base on Dishfort.

In the meanwhile, the Lynx AH7 will be retired as the Wildcat enters into service. The 1St Regiment AAC will take on the 22 upgraded Lynx AH9A, and keep flying the two squadrons in direct support of the 1st UK Division, which will become the only deployable division of the army.

The current Out of Service date of the Lynx AH9A is 2019, but the airframe has still life in it, and after the UOR modifications, it uses the same engines of the new Wildcat helicopter. Considering that the Wildcats are a lot less than the conspicuous fleet of helos they have to replace, it is to be hoped that either new Wildcats are ordered in the long run, or the Lynx AH9A are allowed to soldier on for longer than planned. And this is what I expect will happen.

652 Squadron – Lynx AH9A
661 Squadron – Lynx AH9A

Training Regiments (2° and 7°) - 2 (Training) Regiment Army Air Corps provides the command and logistical support to the Army Aviation Centre as well as the ground training for all Army Air Corps personnel. 7 (Training) Regiment Army Air Corps, based at Middle Wallop, provides the flying training that qualifies potential pilots on the Squirrel, Lynx, Gazelle, Bell 212 and Apache aircraft.

2nd Regiment AAC

676 Squadron - The primary role of 676 Squadron Army Air Corps (676 Sqn AAC) is to look after the administration and well being of all Phase 2 Army Air Corps (AAC) trainees at the Army Aviation Centre (AACen). The Squadron provides a base from which all Phase 2 trainees can be looked after and mentored.

668 Squadron - The role of the Squadron is to provide Phase 2 and 3 signals, groundcrew and tactical refuelling training. 668 (Trg) Sqn AAC also provides Junior and Senior Command, Leadership and Management (CLM) courses for Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and the Ground Support Commanders Course for Officers.

7th Regiment AAC

670 Squadron - responsible for the Operational Training Phase of the Army Pilots Course. The Squadron comprises of a Squadron Headquarters and 'A' and 'B' Flights. It uses the Squirrel helicopter.

The MOD is trying to realize massive savings on the cost of training for aircrew of both fixed and rotary wing assets, under an overarching contract signed with ASCENT in 2008 and valid to 2033. Ascent is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and VT Group, now responsible for running the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) programme, providing comprehensive training to all new UK military aircrew across the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army Air Corps.

Under UKMFTS, the MoD maintains the training output requirements and standards whilst providing elements such as airfields, fuel and instructors. Ascent will design the overall system and deliver the training capability including delivering a proven Training Management Information System and the procurement of aircraft platforms and simulators.

This does involve the OCUs and Conversion To Role training, which is obviously platform and role- specific, but comprises the whole of the basic and intermediate flying training. The Squirrels and Griffin helicopters currently used will be replaced by new helicopters supplied by either Eurocopter or AgustaWestland: an announcement about this is expected by late 2011 or early 2012. 

671 Squadron - The role of the Squadron is to conduct Conversion to Type (CTT) training on the Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 for graduates of the Operational Training Phase (OTP) and students on the Aviation Crewman course. The Squadron also conducts Conversion to Role (CTR) training on the Lynx. CTT training on the Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 takes 11, 10 and 12 weeks respectively. Lynx CTR takes a further 12 weeks encompassing detachments to Kirkcudbright Ranges (air live firing), RAF Valley (mountain flying) and Europe for a navigation exercise. The final exercise for CTR training, Exercise Tiger's Revenge, is based in North Yorkshire.

The training for the Gazelle will cease with the retirement of the type. The training for the Wildcat Lynx will be a joint effort with the Navy: for what I understood, the 700W Naval Air Squadron on Yeonvilton will be a common OCU/OEU that will train pilots for both services. The 671 Squadron will then likely complete the training phase with Conversion To Role training, so I suppose they’ll get 4 Wildcats for this task. The 700W NAS squadron will have 5. 

673 Squadron - 673 Sqn AAC is the Attack Helicopter Training Squadron of the Corps. The role of the Squadron is to conduct Conversion to Type training on the Apache helicopter for both newly qualified and experienced Army pilots. Once this training is complete pilots are posted to their respective regiments to complete their combat training.
The Squadron also conducts Qualified Helicopter Instructor training as well as refresher training for qualified pilots after non-flying tours of duty.

No changes are to be expected in this squadron anytime soon.

5th Regiment – this regiment, based in Aldergrove, is at serious risk. It flies one Gazelle squadron, the 665, that will most likely vanish along with the helicopter it uses. The only other squadron of the Regiment is the 651, flying Defender 4S AL Mk1 spy-plane and light transport. The Squadron is part of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing composed by RAF and AAC squadrons mostly based in Odiham. The 651 Squadron might reach them there and the 5th Regiment be closed, but that would entirely end the british presence on Aldergrove, the only and last airbase in Northern Ireland. I don’t know if this is politically acceptable.

6th (Volunteer) Regiment - The role of 655 Sqn AAC (V) and 677 Sqn AAC (V) is to deliver Attack Helicopter (Apache) and Light Utility Helicopter (Lynx) trained groundcrew for individual reinforcements who are able to deploy on operations and in support of exercises in order to meet designated military tasks. they are trained in the loading of missiles, rockets and refuelling of aircraft in various locations around the world as part of the Forward Arming and Refuelling Point. Also Command Post Operators and Signallers, Drivers, Logistic Specialists (Chefs & Supply) and Clerks. The unit recruits both Officers and other ranks. The Territorial Army, Army Air Corps only recruits groundcrew and support elements.

655 Squadron (The Scottish Horse) Middle Wallop

677 Squadron - (Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry) - detachments in Bury St Edmunds, Swaffham and Norwich
This regiment proved invaluable in sustaining the operations in Afghanistan by providing much needed personnel to rotate during Herrick. The 655 Squadron was indeed raised on 1 April 2009, to comply with Afghan pressure. The value of a proper reserve of personnel is clear to everyone, but this regiment remains vulnerable to future cutbacks when Afghan commitments end. At that point, budget will decide.

9th Regiment – based in Dishfort, the 9th Regiment is the true “Home of the Lynx”. In the future, it will receive the Wildcat Lynx, which is to replace the Lynx AH7. However, only 34 Wildcats have been acquired, so if all squadrons are to be re-equipped, they’ll have to drop in force from 8 to no more than 6 helicopters each.

With a rapid analysis:

(At least) 4 Wildcats due to be used in the 7 Training Regiment for Conversion To Role.

6 Wildcats are going to go, according to the latest reports, to the 847 Squadron Commando Helicopter Force for use in support of 3 Commando Brigade.

Next priority is to re-equip the 657 Squadron AAC, part of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing, on RAF Odiham. Let’s say 6 Wildcats.

Then comes the 9th Regiment, with the squadrons 659, 669 and 672: 6 Wildcats for each formation.

All 34 helicopters are given a role. It is a tight fit. Original Army Wildcat order was for 40 Wildcats plus 10 as option. We can only hope that, at some point, a little additional tranche of helicopters is ordered, otherwise the risk is to truly massacre with blows of axe the fleet of helicopters available for operations, that we all deem insufficient already now.  


8 Flight – Hereford A little-known and rarely spotted fleet of 4 Eurocopter Dauphins and 2 Gazelle helicopters that support the Special Air Service. The two Gazelle, if already haven’t been, should be retired soon.

29 BATUS Flight – Canada Currently uses the Gazelle AH1. In the future the easiest solution might be a PFI involving a civilian contractor making a small number of helicopters available to the unit.

25 Flight – Belize To disband this year with the downsizing of British presence in the BATSUB. Uses Bell 212.

7 Flight – Brunei The flight supports the resident infantry battalion from the Brigade of Gurkhas and Training Team Brunei (TTB), which runs jungle warfare training courses, as well as supporting the Jungle Search and Rescue Team (JSART) and selection for 22 SAS.
The flight use Bell 212 light helicopters that have been in service since 1994.

Independent Squadrons

Blue Eagles - Army Air Corps Display team

674 Squadron – elementary fixed wing flying training. Uses the same Grob 115E Tutor plane of the RAF.

667 Squadron – Development and Trials squadron.

660 Squadron -  Army Air Corps contribution to the tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury. The 660 flies the 10 week basic training course for helicopters, and currently uses the Squirrel helicopter.

The Infantry

Modernization of the infantry is an obvious objective for the Army. The infantry still bears the brunt of the fight (in COIN more than ever before, arguably) and the need to provide them with better equipment is evident.

Personal Equipment and Common Operational Clothing (PECOC) is expected to enter service with the whole of the Army in 2012. Its early incarnations are the new multi-pattern camouflage already operative in Afghanistan and destined to become the new UK standard next year and several other improvements such as the “Assault Osprey” and MK7 helmet. 

From right to left, the progression in the quality of the kit is very evident. The middle figure is representative of current kit, the forefront figure is representative of what is emerging from the PECOC trials.
One of the improvements has been in eyewear too, with 92.000 Revision Eyewear Sawfly kits, with Bullet Ant googles featuring interchangeable, high-impact polycarbonate lenses (clear, solar and low-light), a broad field of view, maximum ventilation, a filtration lining that protects against small particles and adjustable strapping for over- and under-helmet use. The lenses are the top in terms of ballistic protection eyewear, being trialed against shotgun blasts no less. They are meant to protect the soldier's vision against slivers, debris and bullets. 
PECOC is currently planned to provide a comprehensive range of clothing for the future soldier, from items including body armour through to garments like trousers, helmets, protective eyewear, and footwear. However, the programme's reach may go beyond this and will offer operational clothing to all of the armed services operating in rugged environments in the land domain.

The above image shows a Marksman with the L129A1, the new “mask” for the MK7 helmet, the revised design of the Osprey body armour and the new MOLLE-type carrying gear and belt. I don’t know the details, but lately some quite great kit has been turned out: from the MK7 helmet, that has already saved several soldiers, to the side-plates arrangement on the Osprey to the latest, much needed and long-requested Groin protection kit. Further improvements, mainly to comfort and weight reduction, are being pursued by a team of researchers at the MOD.
The Osprey's side-plate arrangement.
The pelvic protection has been the latest addition to the soldiers' protective gear, and has caused envy even in the US Marines, which have already ordered over 27.000 kits! The imahe shows the Tier Two armor piece in use.

The three-tiered system of clothing and armour consists of special protective underwear and detachable armoured modular trousers. It has been designed to integrate with current kit being used by troops on operations.

The MOD has spent £10m on the new armour system to date. It balances protection with the necessary comfort and manoeuvrability for troops to undertake operations, enabling them to wear one or more of the protective layers depending on the task. They are already being worn by troops on operations, with 45,000 pairs delivered to Afghanistan and another 15,000 ready to be issued to deploying troops. A further 60,000 are to be manufactured and delivered to troops early next year.

The first layer of protection is a pair of shorts, which troops wear as underwear.
Using cutting-edge science and technology developed by the MOD and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the underwear is manufactured from scientifically-tested ballistic silk material that provides an initial level of protection to mitigate against the effects of blasts, including shrapnel.

Tier One "Ballistic" underwear
They have been bought as an Urgent Operational Requirement worth £6m and are being manufactured by Northern Ireland-based Cooneen, Watts and Stone.

A second layer of detachable pelvic body armour, designed to meet the greater threats faced by soldiers on the ground has already been successfully trialed by the MOD. It can be rolled up and clipped to a belt and then pulled through the legs to form a protective pouch - meaning troops' mobility is not impeded. It was issued to all troops operating outside the wire from Spring 2011.

The Tier Two Pelvic protection element
The £4m contract for 25,000 sets of the second-tier body armour has been signed with Northern Ireland-based Hawk Protection Ltd.

For troops whose role demands even greater levels of protection, such as those operating hand-held metal detectors to search for IEDs, a third tier of pelvic protection is being developed to offer even greater coverage - including the upper leg and wider abdominal region. Design trials took place in early 2011 and now the MOD announced that it will be available to troops deploying on Herrick XV in October 2011. The final design consists of ballistic knee-length shorts with high-level protection plates.

The Tier Three pelvis protection kit
This kind of improvements are much needed and much appreciated. Also, the photo seems to suggest a system that hampers mobility a lot less than the US IOTV groin plate: hopefully, feedback from the front by the users will be positive. 

Private Scott Littleton, 2 Mercian Regiment, wearing the new pelvis protective clothing, Tier Three included. He's armed with the L129A1 7.62x51 rifle. 
For now, we can observe that the system has gained the admiration /  envy of the US Marines, which have immediately asked their commanders to put forwards an order of their own for the very same protective underwear: this already is a good sign!

PECOC is also about to deliver further improvements in the form of the new Personal Clothing System - a tougher, more comfortable and efficient combat uniform that can be easily adapted to suit the many different environments troops face on the frontline and which has, importantly, been designed to be comfortable and effective also when wearing full armor.

The multiple layers of clothing making up the system include a T-shirt, thermal shirt and windproof thermal smock and take advantage of developments in material technology to provide both thermal insulation and sweat wicking.
On the Multi Terrain Pattern camouflage outer layers, buttons have been replaced with Velcro for greater comfort under body armour. Additional panels reduce wear and tear and pockets are positioned for efficient use even when troops are wearing body armour. There are also new bacteria repellent socks - which are completely waterproof. The knee-length socks will help to keep troops feet dry when they are wading through ditches and streams. To keep feet hygienic, they have antimicrobial properties similar to those found in medical dressings.
They are also superior to conventional socks, keeping feet warmer during the winter months. The new Personal Clothing System will also be issued to troops deploying to Afghanistan in October.

The FIST Future Integrated Soldier Technology so far has delivered the FIST STA Surveillance and Target Acquisition, a contract awarded to Thales On 8 september 2009. This was acquired as urgent requirement to improve the capability of troops deployed in Afghanistan, but the optics used are most likely destined to be used as the first incremental capability of the FIST programme as well. For now, the acquisition has been sized for the Afghan theater force, with around 10.000 sights procured, but the FIST programme aims for 35.000 (perhaps down to 30.000 with the reduction in deployable force envisaged in the SDSR) complete kits in the long term. 

The system includes the following best-in-class equipment and services, which have been selected by Thales UK’s FIST Prime Contract Management Office (PCMO) through open competition involving extensive field trials and independent assessment processes:

Qty (incl Training)
FIST thermal sight
Lightweight day sight
Close quarter battlesight
Underslung grenade launcher (UGL) sight
UGL fire control system
Commander’s target locator
Lightweight infantry periscope
Ruggedised digital camera
Olympus UK
Conversion of existing Maxikite 2s &
common weapon sights to meet FIST
Provision of warehousing, distribution &
asset management services
Thales UK
Provision of training services
Selex SI
Provision of technical publications
Allan Webb

The un-cooled Thermal Weapon Sight units, designated 'FIST Thermal Sight' (FTS) is to equip the gunner in FIST fireteams. The FTS is equipped with a 640x480 format un-cooled thermal core. Tailored specifically to meet the FIST requirements, the FTS provides enhanced man machine interface (MMI) an integrated Infra Red Laser Aimer (IRLA) for enhanced target identification, along with an integrated Close Quarter Battlesight (CQB) red dot sight. In addition, Qioptiq will convert over 4,000 existing Common Weapon Sights (CWS )& MAXIKITE2 night vision sights adapting them for operation with the Close Quarter Battlesight (CQB) red dot sight.

All FIST team members will also be provided with new day sights - the MOD selected the SpecterOS x4 lightweight day sight made by Elcan, Canada. In total the company plans to supply 10,835 sights as part of the program's first phase. In addition, over 19,000 red-dot close quarter battle (CQB) sights will be delivered by Shield of the UK to equip the weapons of all FIST team members. The CQB will operate in tandem with day or night sights, improving instinctive fire and target acquisition, primarily in close combat conditions.

Grenadiers will be also be equipped with underslung grenade launcher sights and fire control systems. The sight will be supplied by optical sight specialist Istec Services of the UK with fire control module delivered by Vectronix of Switzerland. Known as 'Rapid Acquisition Aiming Module' (RAAM shown on the left picture) , the device, jointly developed by Vectronix and Wilcox Industries of the UK, fulfills the FIST Underslung Grenade Launcher Fire Control System (UGL-FCS) requirement. The system instantly calculates the distance to the target and computes the angle of declination or inclination, required for accurate fire adjusting the point of aim displayed on the sight. The device performs in daylight as well as darkness and drastically increases the hit probability of identified targets. 
The grenadier's Rapid Acquisition Aiming Module.

Team leaders will receive the Moskito ' Commander’s Target Locator (CTL ), also built by Vectronix. The company will deliver about 2700 such devices. The system combines all essential day and night viewing, measuring and geo-location functions into one compact device, weighing about 1.2kg, powered by commercially available batteries. Team leaders will also carry a folding lightweight infantry periscope (LIP) supplied by the Israeli company Uniscope. This folding periscope enables the conduct of surveillance whilst under cover or from around corners. This simple, yet effective apparatus has a field of view of 12 degrees and x3 magnification. It has been suggested that later, as the STA package interacts with the yet-to-be-definited Situational Awareness suite and eventually with the FIST helmet-mounted screen visor, the capability currently offered by the periscope will be replaced by a digital camera built into the aiming sights of the weapons issued and linked to the helmet visor. This will also allow firing from behind cover or over a corner, in fact making solutions such as the Israeli CornerShot obsolete.

A solution could be adopting the French Fèlin suite solution: the new lightweight helmet of the Fèlin kit provides ballistic protection and is fitted with Sagem’s monocular oculaire de vision déportée (OVD) optronic system with light intensifying camera to provide night vision. The helmet has two LED displays, each 3cm².
The headband of the helmet is fitted with a OH-295 osteo-microphone which picks up speech by sensing the vibration in the wearer’s skull. The OH-295 is supplied by Elno of France. The osteo-microphone and a vibrating speaker provide good voice communications even in a noisy battlefield environment.
Collaboration with France as suggested in the SDSR should make it easier to evaluate and eventually pursue a similar arrangement for the UK FIST. The same kind of electronics could most likely be fitted to the excellent MK7 helmet, and benefits would come from exploitation of French experience and feedback in the usage of the kit.

The commander's gear also includes a commercial off the shelf (COTS) based ruggedized digital camera produced by Olympus. This camera, part of the commercial 'μtough' series, a lightweight, compact COTS piece selected for the FIST program by its ability to collect, and retrieve digital images along patrols. Weighing only 200 grams, μtough is built for operation in rough environmental conditions – it continues to operate even after being immersed in water up to 10 meters deep or dropped from a height of two meters. It will be mounted on the helmets.

Other weapons available to the soldier include the MBT LAW, Javelin anti-tank missiles in the Battalion’s Anti-Tank platoon and high-explosive fragmentation grenade (HEFG) launchers. The Anti-Structure Ammunition will also be available. Currently in Afghanistan is actively used the Interim Anti-Structure rocket, the Light Anti-Structures Missile (L72A9), that’s the old "Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1" M72 LAW, that has been replaced in the Anti-tank role but has been modified for structure demolition purposes, the main difference being the warhead, that in the LASM contains about 1 kg of an enhanced blast explosive, whereas the LAW contained about a third of a kilogramme in an armor piercing role. The definitive ASM ammunition is a man-portable infantry weapon specifically designed to defeat hardened structures. The contract for development of the system was awarded to Dynamit Nobel Defence in 2006. Originally it was expected in-service sometime in 2010, but it was a little late. It is a specially-designed Anti-Structure variant of the Israeli MATADOR missile. The British Army selected the  MATADOR-AS, an Anti-structure weapon with an advanced tandem warhead that can also be set between two modes. The anti-emplacement mode uses an enhanced blast effect to defeat structures and fortifications, while the penetrating/mouse-holing mode defeats light armoured vehicles and creates mouseholes in urban walls. It weights around 9 kg.

The new FIST grenade launcher will also give the Grenadier the capability to engage defilated targets. To engage targets hidden in trenches or behind shelters, the soldier can measure the range of the target with a laser rangefinder. The range data is downloaded to the weapon's round and the overflying weapon round detonates at the designated range to strike the hidden target. In this regard, I suggest a capability upgrade available now as off the shelf solution: STK Kinetics, the Singapore-based supplier of 40 mm Grenades for the UK Mod, already has Airbursting grenades in its inventory. An Airburst update to the Grenade Machine Guns and to the UnderSlung Grenade Launchers is the obvious solution.

New high-velocity 40 mm grenades that could be fired from the UGL with a range of over 800 meters and with improved lethality already exist in the US, so this area of Lethality is easily enhanced.

The current British standard in terms of night vision is the Head Mounted Night Vision System (HMNVS), which is none other than the AN/PVS - 14, in widespread use with the US Armed Forces. At least 11.000 kits have been acquired for Afghanistan, and many more should have already been available. It uses a third generation image intensifier tube, and is manufactured by Litton Industries as well as the ITT Corporation. It is often used 'hands free' using a head harness or attached to the combat helmet, but it can also be used as a weapons night sight. In starlight, it allows detection of personnel at 350 meters and recognition at 300, with a 40° field of view. It weights 392 grams, is 4.5 inches long, 2 inches wide and 2.14 inches tall. 

Shooter-Locating devices will also be part of the sensors worn by the FIST soldier. In this sense, on 15 november 2010 was announced that the BBN Technologies' Boomerang Warrior-X wearable shooter-detection system has been selected by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD) for field trials related to urgent operational requirements. This system will be fielded as soon as possible for use on operations in Afghanistan, and its use will also provide considerable feedback to inform the FIST team on improvements to this area of capability. The Warrior-X, possibly in an upgraded variant, might then become the baseline shooter-detector for the FIST soldier kit. 

The selection follows an assessment by the MOD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory that included Boomerang Warrior-X and several other wearable shooter-detection systems. The study found that Boomerang Warrior-X was the most effective system tested. Now Boomerang Warrior-X will be assessed in theater conditions.
"Individual dismounted soldiers are the most vulnerable," said Mark Sherman, general manager, Boomerang, Raytheon BBN Technologies. "Sending Boomerang Warrior-X to the field will provide U.K. troops with the very best protection available."

Boomerang Warrior-X is a compact shooter-detection system that is easily integrated into the tactical vests of dismounted troops. Weighing less than 11 ounces, the system delivers an alert through an earpiece and provides details of the shooter location on a matchbox-sized display. It incorporates the technology used in the vehicle-mounted Boomerang III system.

Other devices, included small, portable radars that can see through walls, are used to scout a building’s insides before the soldiers burst inside.

One interesting device is the Eye Ball: it is about the size of a baseball (roughly 3.25 inches), weighs less than one pound and is encased in a rubber and polyurethane housing that enables it to be thrown through windows or doors and bounced off walls. It’s when the Eyeball lands that it becomes incredibly useful as it can capture video up to 25 metres distance and audio up to five metres, and then wirelessly send that real-time info up to 200 metres to handheld device. An omnidirectional lens rotates at 4 rpm and provides a 55-degree horizontal and 41-degree vertical field of view. It doesn’t even need daylight as it also has night vision capability. Warfighters or Law enforcement officers can roll, toss, or drop the rugged Eye Ball into virtually any hazardous situation - providing the immediate visibility required for users to make safe, intelligent decisions in dangerous environments.

A complete Eyeball R1 kit comprises all it is needed to turn the little sphere into an unattended ground sensor too.
The Eyeball being used in an exercise.

Once deployed, the Eye Ball captures and transmits real-time audio and video to the Eye Ball's Personal Display Unit (PDU). In addition to serving as a wireless receiver, the easy-to-use PDU enables users to direct the Eye Ball with precision, focusing the video camera throughout the Eye Ball's 360-degree viewing area. The PDU also activates the Eye Ball's near-infrared "night vision" for dark operations. The Eye Ball streams audio and video up to 200 yards away from the PDU. The Eye Ball orients itself automatically to provide users with a clear picture. Users control the Eye Ball's 360-degree rotation via the PDU and gaining visibility through its 6.4 inch color screen. Internal Eye Ball near-infrared LEDs illuminate dark environments and can be set manually or automatically.

The Eye Ball R1 is also quite versatile and attaches quickly to a pole - providing visibility into ceilings or attics, looking around corners, down hallways, or into rooms.
The Eye Ball and PDU use lithium ion batteries and maintain battery power for up to four and two and one-half hours respectively. The Eye Ball and PDU units are easily rechargeable to ensure they are always ready for deployment.

Ideally, a FIST team would have an Eyeball to aid irruption into buildings, (it is a good alternative to a larger, bulkier and heavier mini-drone such as Talon) and one soldier wearing a portable shooter-detection system. My Fireteam would see the Leader issued with an Eyeball and the Marksman would have the Shooter detector: issued with the L129A1, the Marksman is arguably the soldier better equipped to quickly return fire once the enemy sniper is located. And if things are complex, he can ask the grenadier to fire a grenade in the right window.

There’s certainly scope to study the possibility of issuing each section (or at least each platoon) with a mini, portable ground drone for scouting ahead of the soldiers. Such as the Israeli Elbit Systems VIPER: designed to act as a partner to dismounted troops in urban environments, the 9-in.-tall, 25-pound VIPeR can accept various sensor packages, including infrared cameras and software that maps buildings as the drone moves through them, as well as an explosives sniffer and a device that shoots jets of water to disarm bombs. But it also can open fire with a mini-Uzi submachine gun or release grenades from a 4-ft.-long robotic arm.

At just 18 in. wide, and equipped with innovative treads that change shape to help boost it over obstacles, the tiny drone can navigate cramped hallways and climb stairs to seek out targets. It can't open fire autonomously, like South Korea's Intelligent Surveillance & Security Guard Robot, essentially an armed guard tower that can target potential intruders. VIPeR is remotely controlled via a harness and helmet-mounted display, with a human operator ultimately deciding whether to pull the trigger. According to its manufacturer, Elbit Systems, VIPeR will be deployed by Israel Defense Forces infantry after field testing.

For now, a lot less ambitious but still useful system is used in Afghanistan: on Sunday 20, 2011, the MOD announced that a number of mini-drones Recon-Scout XT would be issued to troops in Afghanistan to aid compound-clearing work, one of the most dangerous tasks for the infantry, and one of the most common, unfortunately. It is the world’s first throwable, mobile, tactical reconnaissance robot that can see in complete darkness. Its infrared optics automatically turn on when the ambient light is low, and immediately begin transmitting clear video to a small hand-held operator control unit (OCU) and nearby command post. The drone is meant to be thrown it into any dangerous or hostile environment – day or night – and supply the soldier with real-time information that will hopefully save lives, reduce damage to property, and help resolve the situation more quickly. The robot is 7.4 inches long and weighs just 1.2 lbs, with the handheld
OCU weighting just 1.7 lbs and with a 3.5-inch backlit video screen. The drone is sturdy, and can survive a 30 feet direct drop and many 120 feet throws. Its 60° field-of-view IR camera transmits image to 300 feet of distance outdoors and 100 indoors, across walls. 

The Recon Scout is a first step in the direction of mini-drones used by infantry sections.

My suggestion for the future Army is to give to the Infantry battalion an organic Unmanned Ground Vehicle section. And this should be done now, as a UOR, because the drones could save lives in Afghanistan. In 2010, there was reportedly interest in the MOD for the G-Nius AvantGuard, a powerful, large drone produced in Israel. The vehicle, currently being evaluated by the Israeli Defence Forces as well as the UK MOD, is based on the Tactical Amphibious Ground System (TAGS) built by Dumur Industries from Canada. I was disappointed when the order did not concretize, because I personally believe that this vehicle, scouting ahead of a patrol of soldiers on foot, would be wonderfully effective in saving lives, providing recce imagery, detecting mines and IEDs and providing heavy-duty firepower when needed, while carrying part of the heavy equipment of the soldiers. 

Building on the autonomous capabilities developed by G-NIUS for the earlier Guardium UGV drone system, as well as the TAGS inherent maneuverability in harsh terrain, the AvantGuard UGCV expands the applications envelope of unmanned vehicles to encompass Counter IED (CIED) and ground maneuvering combat missions.
The Avant Guard drone is almost certainly the top of the tops at the moment in terms of ground drones.

The autonomous vehicle configuration utilizes advanced robotics and sensor technologies, allowing it to "think", avoiding obstacles and communicating with the operator or other vehicles. The AvantGuard is controlled by a mobile or portable Operational Control Unit (OCU), and can also operate with dismounted or mounted combat teams, in a 'Follow-Me' mode, where it is autonomously trailing a foot soldier guide.

The vehicle uses a sensor package which can identify and avoid obstacles, along a pre-planned route. The navigation system uses Differential GPS (DGPS) with three control levels. Other sensors include front and rear cameras, mounted on a 360 deg. omni-directional pedestal.

Based on the mission profile, AvantGuard can carry various payloads - including electro-optical, communications relay, jamming and weapon stations. The AvantGuard can be deployed in a variety of combat missions including: Counter IED, Advance Guard, Armed Sentry, Combat Logistic Support, CASEVAC and more. Fitted with a RWS turret with an heavy machine gun, earth-penetrating radar and ElectroOptic sensor turret, the drone could scout ahead of dismounted soldiers, detecting mines and suspected IEDs and contacts, and it could also carry part of the soldiers’ loads while supplying fire support when needed. One or two injured soldiers could be carried back towards the base in CASEVAC role. 

A Drone Troop inside an infantry platoon would be a force-multiplier of great effect, in particular if equipped with the Avant Guard, here shown with mast-mounted EO/IR sensor, .50 machine gun RWS and ground-penetrating radars (folded) in the back. Scouting ahead of a patrol in Afghanistan, this drone would deliver heavy fire support, recce, and protection from IEDs.

Even if so far there has not been a firm order, the AvantGuard is a candidate for future fielding with the British Armed Forces. Even before this relatively ambitious drone system, there’s an useful companion the troops could and should have already been given for the Afghanistan theatre: the Supacat ATMP can easily be converted in an autonomous UGV capable to follow a soldier walking ahead, while carrying the heavy kit and supplies of a squad out for a patrol. It is a capability that the soldiers on the ground would absolutely love, it would lighten their loads, make them more mobile and rapid, and it would make good use of platforms already available and in service.

In the long term, the “drone troop” of an Infantry battalion would include 3 or 4 AvantGuard, thus giving one available for each company, plus perhaps a number of ATMP converted in drones, useful to carry the kit of troops on long patrols or to go back and forth from a LZ to a FOB carrying supplies brought in by the helicopters, quickly and without putting soldiers in the fire line at all. A smarter way of doing it than buying 75 lightly-armoured, horribly expensive Springers. 

Ideally there would also be a Fire Scout-like helicopter-drone to provide enhanced scouting, light fire support and transport of supplies to FOBs. The use of drone-choppers to resupply FOBs is something the US Marines are eager to do, and they have already been planning for it in Afghanistan, with plans for acquisition of an optionally manned helicopter platform. Arguably, the UK needs this kind of capability even more than US Marines do, mostly because the British Army is shorter on helicopters, and offload basic resupply work, with its wear-and-tear and stress for the crew and dangers, to an unmanned platform would make more helicopters available for moving troops around.

Besides, drones, while not exactly cheap at all, cost a lot less than new Utility Helicopters.  


If not from day one, the infantry will patrol and move on protected vehicles, in high-intensity warfare and COIN alike, because soldiers on foot are obviously more vulnerable, and they are also capable to cover very modest distances without a proper support of transports, in particular for the heavier part of the kit. 

To equip the Light Infantry, the revised FRES programme will of course look at the Foxhound vehicle, which has to become the main protected vehicle used by the infantry. For many years in the future, besides, the Mastiff and Ridgback vehicles will be available for deployment when needed: as part of my earlier-discussed approach, a part of the most recent vehicles would be operative in Mechanized Infantry formations until FRES UV comes, with the others being kept in storage, ready to be rolled back in service to equip a force in theatre of operations.

The Light Role infantry battalions that, during the rotation of units, enter in the High Readiness state should be allowed to train operatively with a fleet of Foxhound vehicles: despite the Light Infantry philosophy of no-vehicles, minimal logistical footprint, we are by now clear that reality pretty much rules that approach out in most, if not all, the cases, because any kind of operation is faced will require protected mobility.

The Fire Support Platoon in a Light Role Infantry Battalion will be issued in the form of 8 Jackal jeeps and 1 Coyote 6x6 truck carrying ammunitions and spares. The Platoon would offer a formidable amount of fire, being structured around 6 L1 .50 heavy machine guns, 3 Grenade Machine Guns and 9 GPMG, all vehicle-mounted.

Jackal ISTAR vehicles could be a good asset for Battalion-sized RECCE role in area of operations. 

Future Integrated Soldier Technology

It is worth taking a better look at this vital programme, its history, progress and current status.

The first major experimental trial for the FIST project under the assessment phase took place in January 2005 at the army's Salisbury Plain training area. 70 soldiers took part and each soldier was equipped with experimental systems including 'off-the-shelf' radios, computers, GPS, weapon sights and cameras. Effectiveness was compared with soldiers equipped with conventional infantry systems.
Trials data has been used to inform design decisions for the development of the FIST V2 system, which began trials in October 2005.

Main gate approval for increment 1A (surveillance target acquisition, STA) was expected in mid-2008 and for increment 1B (C4I) by the end of 2008. These had to be followed by the demonstration and manufacture phase, in which up to 29,000 soldiers would have beem equipped with FIST, out of a target of around 35.000 complete kits for Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment. Initial operating capability (IOC) was planned for 2010.

In June 2005, Thales announced that the following would be providing services for the FIST V2 trials: AEA Technology of Thurso (power management including batteries); Chelton Defence Communications of Blackburn (section commander's long range radios; NP Aerospace of Coventry (helmets and body armour); Police Resource International of Exeter (load carriage subsystem and integration of body armour); Selex Communications of Chelmsford (individual soldiers' short-range radios); Thales UK of Wells (command and control software for dismounted close combat, including mission planning and situational awareness).

An extension to the FIST V2 trials took place in November 2006. Four teams competing for the command, control and communications system took part: Selex Communications – soldier system radio (SSR) and advanced situational awareness software; Thales – Vector Tetra radio and soldier integrated combat system (SICS); ITT soldier radio and Cobham integrated digital soldier system (IDSS); Raytheon MicroLight radio and Cobham soldier radio and integrated digital soldier system (IDSS). In May 2007, Raytheon's MicroLight radio was chosen as the communications system for FIST V2. FIST in-service date became the period between 2015 and 2020.

An image from FIST trials. The crouching soldier is aiming his SA80 rifle looking into his Head Mounted Display, which allows firing from under cover.
The FIST Increment 1A contract, covering the Weapon Sights for the Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) requirement,  was signed during DSEI 2009, on 8 september. The contract value is of 150 million pounds, and around 10.000 / 11.000 complete STA kits are to be issed.

FIST Sights – Increment 1A

Daylight Engagement: Elcan Specter OSX4 optic, 10.853 ordered

Night Sights:

Commander and Gunner – FIST Thermal Sight, 4111 on order

Grenadier – Common Weapon Sigh + CQB red dot and RAAM (Rapid Acquisition Aiming Module) for the grenade launcher, 2090 on order.

Marksman – Maxikite 2 + CQB red dot

In total, 4176 CWS and Maxikite optics are going to be upgraded and issued. These optics had already been procured as UOR for Afghanistan ops, and their selection for FIST involves an upgrade comprising the fitting of a CQB red dot sight on top for instinctive engagement.

Qioptic has upgraded 4,000 existing Common Weapon Sights (CWS )& MAXIKITE2 night vision sights adapting them for operation with the Close Quarter Battlesight (CQB) red dot sight.

Numbers in the current contract were most evidently targeted at equipping the force in Afghanistan, (roughly 10.000 soldiers to be completely kitted, with the provision of training as well) but  FIST however officially aimed, in the long term, for around 35.000 complete suites of kit. I guess now the correct target would be for around 30.000, coherently with the maximum deployable force envisaged by the SDSR, with the kit going to the Royal Marines and PARA in recognition of their role as High Readiness force, with the remaining kits used for training and issued to each Army Multi-Role Brigade as it enters its own period of High Readiness status. 

The Elcan Specter is the SUSAT replacement, and appears to be the new standard sight.

The Elcan Specter is a daytime replacement for the old SUSAT sight, weights 528 grams, has 300 hours of battery lifetime, 4x Magnification and 6.5° nominal field-of-view. It offers a bright red spot with LED illumination for close quarter engagement and a reticule tweaked for NATO 5.56 ammunition performances for precise engagement from 400 up to 800 meters away.

The FIST Thermal Sight is meant to allow accurate aiming at night, into dust and smoke, in adverse weather and in zero-light conditions. A Thermal sight has been selected after experience in afghanistan demonstrated the limits of IR sights: in nights without stars, if there's no light at all coming from houses or other sources, the night vision alone is not enough.

The FIST Thermal Sight offers thermal imagery for accurate engagements at night, in adverse conditions and in “zero-light” condition. It also integrates a CQB red dot sight and an Infra Red Laser Aimer.

The Commander will be issued with the Moskito target-locator device: weighting less than 1.2 kg, it offers a x5 Day Channel and a X3 Night Channel with image intensification, Class 1 Laser Rangefinder (up to 4 km) with Digital Magnetic Compass, GPS receiver and elevation measurement. Detection, Recognition and Identification ranges go from 2.7 km, 1.7 km and 1.1 km during daytime to 1.8, 0.6 and 0.3 km at night. 2471 pieces ordered. The commander is to have a ruggerized, sturdy digital camera (most likely helmet-mounted, I’m guessing) and a hand-held periscope for past-corner surveillance. 856 Infantry periscopes on order. 3rd Scots was to be equipped by November 2010, with completition of contract order by June 2014.
FIST C4I – Increment 1B

Increment 1B is expected to provide the soldier with his own Situation Display. Both Head Up and Head Down displays were trialed already back in 2005 and then 2007, but the only thing that really was evident is that the British Army did not love the idea of screens as much as French, US, Italians, Germans and others: while all the major soldier modernization programmes around the world seem to consider helmet-mounted screens, particularly “eye-patch” sized screens the preferred solution, the British Army reportedly was less enthusiast, with soldiers in the trials lamenting several drawbacks, mainly loss of Night Vision after looking at the screens. This problem, apparently, never proved to be a concern for programmes such as US Land Warrior, French Fèlin and Italy’s Soldato Futuro and others, so I wonder if it really is so much of a defect compared to the advantages. Anyway, it is probable that the effect can be mitigated, if not resolved… and even an Head Down display would still cause the same problem anyway.

It is thus to be hoped that the FIST does not turn like being the only one “futuristic” kit lacking an handy Helmet Mounted Display, particularly because the other nations are including the capability to show on the display imagery from micro-cameras built in the rifle’s aiming sights, allowing fire from behind corners and cover. Such a capability is most evidently very precious, and it will make both the Infantry Periscope and the Israeli CornerShot rifle obsolete.

Advanced kit for Forward Air Attack Controllers, with Helmet Mounted 'eyepatch' display, head-down display and computer and communications.

An example of kit of this kind was provided already a few years ago at an exposition, where this portable Forward Air Attack Controller kit was showcased for the british army. Very evident is the “eye-patch” Helmet Mounted Display and the portable, ruggerized computer carried for the direction of air attacks. This is an example of what an “head-down” display is like.

Commanders will be networked to the status of their men and will be able to employ target hand-off. Equipment will include a Digital Data Personal Role Radio with integrated GPS. It is hoped/expected that this new Personal Role Radio will make use of in-development body-worn cable antenna that will mesh into clothing/body armour, making it both more comfortable and better capable to transmit and receive from greater distance and even with the soldier laying prone, something that current radios struggle to accomplish. The Commander will receive a Display Unit and Vehicle-Networking will be implemented.
It was to be ordered by the end of 2010, with Full Operational Capability by 2017. The order did not come, silent victim, no doubts, of the SDSR fears and uncertainty. But since it appears highly unlikely that the Soldier Modernization programme can be axed, we can only hope that this new programme gets the go ahead during 2011, now.

It is unclear if the BISA system will be rolled out during this or later increments. BISA stands for Battlefield Information System Applications. BISA, under development by SciSys, operates on the Bowman communications system and is linked to the Royal Air Force command control and information system (CCIS), the Royal Navy command support system (CSS) and the joint operational command (JOCS) structure. It will be used, between other things, to timely warn soldiers of a nuclear, biological chemical warfare (NBC) hazard in their area.

Increment 2

Expected not earlier than 2015 at best, this will again split into two increments, improving Surveillance Target Acquisition and C4I, expanding the Network’s capability and synchronization and better tying vehicles and dismounts. It is to be hoped that this programme, despite the inexorable budget struggles that are the only certainty of the future, can exploit at the best the fortune of sharing the timeline with the introduction of FRES SV and later FRES UV. This should help ensure that FRES and FIST actually dialogue as expected. The STA2 is expected to coincide with the planned replacement of the SA80 small arms weapons family, but if you want my opinion, the SA80 will live on for many more years. And sincerely, I don’t think anyone will be too displeased of it: the problems of the SA80 have been solved, and the rifle is now faring excellently. The only real defect that remains is the considerable weight, but this appears largely insufficient to beat the more than likely lack of funds in the order of importance in the list of elements that will influence the eventual (probable) delay to the Small Arms replacement programme.

Increment 3

Another phase is already envisaged, obviously, and many more will follows in the years, as the system is kept up-to-date with the acquisition of new kit and technologies.

Weight Reduction

FIST aims for a reduction of up to 10 kg of the soldier’s load in the “next five years”. This was the official statement already back in 2005, and with how much the programme has been lagging, we can definitely say this has not happened yet. New target being a reduction by 2015, I guess. Just hoping that this is met, and I continue to make the case for Unmanned Ground Vehicles, such as “drone-ized” Supacat ATMP platforms for carrying the load of a Patrol following automatically the lead soldier, or up to something more ambitious such as the G-NIUS AvantGuard, capable to provide RECCE, fire-power and even ground-penetrating radar for the detection of IEDs while still capable to carry some of the kit of the boys following it.

FIST – What are we looking at?

The FIST has, in my opinion, been lagging considerably in development and even in the requirement-definition phase. While I’m confident that this will ensure that the kit delivered will be in the end very good and possibly better than that of other nations, I’m admittedly perplexed at the apparent lack of ambition of the programme so far, and surprised at how little it has shown in these years. Contrary to Land Warrior (which, by the way, was already used on operations), Fèlin (hitting Brigade-sized operational status this year) but even “in development” programmes such as Germany IdZ and Italy’s Soldato Futuro and many others, the FIST has never had much to show so far.

Soldato Futuro's eyepatch display and helmet-mounted camera.
Soldato Futuro demonstration of the firing from cover mode, aiming through the HMD.

This has admittedly been more than balanced by the fact that, while Italian soldiers in Afghanistan still fight from Lince vehicles (the UK’s Panther base vehicle) that possibly have no IED Jammers and certainly still have no shielded gun turrets and definitely no remote-turrets,  having only Gucci prototypes of future soldiers back at home training while the 81 RWS and Protected Turret mounts still are months away from delivering, the British Soldiers are arguably very well equipped compared to any other soldier of ISAF, following the many UORs. The protection supplied by the latest models of Osprey vests, too, is incomparably better and more complete than that offered by most vests, and as Italian I can certainly admire that, especially while still we see an Italian soldier coming home dead because of lack of adequate side-plates in his vest. In other words, the UK is lagging some on “future” visions, but going much faster at covering the needs of the day, and this is most likely the best way to go. 

Italy's Soldato Futuro is a very ambitious programme, and it is going strong. But the cost of developing the high-tech future is that italian gunners still ride in Afghanistan this way for the most part. Horribly exposed. Luckily, Herat is a paradise compared to Helmand, otherwise... The first 81 protected turrets and RWSs have begun to arrive only in 2010!

However, it would be nice to see FIST progressing, because early deployment would considerably help the troops in Helmand and at the same time provide invaluable feedback for later phases of the development. The difference in approach to the Future Soldier problem in the British Army is quite evident from the very first assumptions that the Trials back in 2005 shaped:

-          No one can get everything
-          Not every single private needs full C4I coverage
-          Soldiers must be informed of what they need.

Post Trial report contained, evidenced in Red, the observation that FIST-issued soldiers had shown an alarming tendency at checking more the status of their own Section on display than looking out for the enemy, which is obviously no good. Besides, drowning the soldier in information he does not need just make his work harder, slows him down, and contributes to leading to another observation of the report:

Display-related problems were eye relief, headaches and loss of night vision, to both eyes, even with the use of eye-patch screens.

Other problems that became evident were tied to supplying power to the kit, and how to connect the various components and computers: wiring was a major issue, and how the Americans experimented with the never-really-loved Land Warrior kits fielded early, the cables (in particular the Chest-to-Weapon one) were absolutely hated by the soldiers, who were constantly hampered by them. Similarly, using a Wireless connection between the components of the kit, while resolving the cables-problem, was reported (obviously) as being much more vulnerable to ECM, to interferences, failures and other issues of reliability.

These problems are being issued with several research and development programmes the UK is funding/supporting/collaborating in. In early 2004, for example, the UK MoD announced a bilateral information exchange agreement with USA, covering development of power sources, power management, fuel cells and batteries. QinetiQ is investigating FIST power supplies, including fuel cell configurations and the application of QinetiQ's ammonium borate hydrogen generator.

ABSL Power Solutions Limited (formerly AEA Technology Battery Systems) produced a modified power system for the FIST V2 trials in October 2005, which included two lithium ion battery packs, each integrated in the SA80 rifle magazine pouch and connected to the power anagement unit (PMU). The PMU provides power for the GPS receiver, the situation awareness computer, thermal imaging and image intensification sights, and voice/data radios.

The UK MoD is funding the development of a handheld fuel cell for recharging conventional batteries by an industrial team including Black and Decker, Ineos Chlor, Intelligent Energy, and QinetiQ. Other options being pursued go from flexible, wearable solar panels to mini generators in the heel of the boots, capable to generate electricity with each step.

To tackle the Wiring problem, the last development came in these last few days, as on 13 January 2011 the MOD assigned funding for research and development to seventeen companies: between portable Oxygen Generators for medical support of casualties on the battleground and other technologies, the one that caught my eyes the most, (and that undoubtedly had the FIST team’s attention too) was a prototype Combat Vest in ‘Intelligent Textiles’, which imbues into the cloth whole electronic circuits capable to feed and connect anything from portable torches to GPS systems. The potential of this is clear, and development of this technology is ongoing by a few years already, just as the Body Worn antenna for the Personal Role Radio, that promises to improve both range (up to 1.3 km) and reliability. As part of FIST  the soldiers will have a new Data Capable Personal Role Radio with integrated GPS and with the body worn antenna ensuring that communications do not interrupt even when the soldier is laying prone, or behind cover. The patrol leader's radio will communicate with the forward operating base, completing the network: as part of the RAF Scavenger requirement, there’s a “Communications Relay” role requirement, that the Zephyr extreme-long endurance drone would cover excellently (trials flight with UK MOD Communications Relay platforms seem to suggest that I’m not the only one impressed by the capabilities of the Zephyr, after all), allowing smaller radios a much improved coverage and range. The network system will reroute automatically to allow continuity of operation when a communications link is broken, for example when a soldier moves over a hill or ridge.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12184319 [Link to video including the Wired Armour] 

The body armor with built-in circuitry is a very promising development, and it will be extremely precious to make FIST work.
The FIST is also envisaging Role-Specific kit, for personnel employed in Forward Air Attack Control, for Mortar Teams, Medics and Assault Pioneers. This has a great potential: linking medics together and connecting them to the ambulance vehicles will be an obvious advantage. Similarly, the Mortar Team being in better contact with the infantry requesting fire support and having a clear image of the position of friendly and enemy forces both will improve and make safer the close fire support, dramatically reducing the chances of Blue on Blue events.

Ultimately, the FIST main concept is that:

-          There will be a “General Purpose” kit that everyone gets.
-          There will be role-specific tailored FIST kits
-          It is not envisaged that each infantry soldier will be issued with a FIST system. The unit commander will specify the FIST systems tailored to the operational and mission requirements.

So, let’s have a look at what a MOD-released FIST update presentation had to show, and reason some on it.

Essentially, the Load Carriage, Wiring and modified Osprey body armour will come out of the parallel, more advanced PECOC programme, expected to get into service in 2012. The helmet will eventually have to fit the FIST-mandated HMD screen when and if it will be chosen. The GPS and Data/Voice Personal Role Radio seems to be heading in a direction that merges them in the same main system: this has already proven its value, making it easy to know self position and the location of comrades, greatly enhancing night-time ops, collaboration even when the soldiers aren’t in direct sight of each other, and making casualty location much easier and faster, with obvious advantages.

The most tricky and complex element to tackle about Lethality enhancement will be the Weapon Link for transmission of Data and Power, because as we have said, (and as we can imagine) a cable connecting the rifle and the soldier’s chest is never going to be loved. A wireless link for Data transmission would be ideal, if it could be made reliable enough, while power remains an issue. It is probable that the weapon sight will have to continue working on batteries, with the soldier using a portable mini fuel cell at the belt to recharge a battery while another is in use. Not really weight-efficient, admittedly, but I can hardly see it being hated more than the damn cable, honestly. The Ammo Load will be, once more, a PECOC matter: it seems we are heading for a MOLLE style Load Carrying Gear, but we’ll have to see exactly what comes out. The voice “Other Modules” fits perfectly the Fist Thermal Sight I described earlier into the article.

Another area that this page does not describe is about Grenades. FIST is expected to field Airbust grenades to engage targets hidden in trenches or behind shelters.  The Grenadier can measure the range of the target with a laser rangefinder. The range data is downloaded to the weapon's round and the overflying weapon round detonates at the designated range to strike the hidden target. Currently, this capability already exist for the 40 mm rounds of the “long” kind, the 40 x 53 High Velocity round fired by the GMG, but I think it has not yet been properly developed for the “short”, Low Velocity 40 mm round (40 x 46 mm). The SA80 uses (and will likely continue to use) the AG36 Under Slung Grenade Launcher from H&K, that is capable  of firing almost all 40x46mm grenade rounds, including plastic training cartridges, flexible baton rounds, CS gas, and OC (oleoresin capsicum, the same chemical used in pepper spray) gas cartridges, white phosphorus, and HE ammunition.

The AG36 is a single-shot weapon with a break-action steel barrel and unlike its American counterpart, the M203, the AG36 swings out laterally for loading, allowing for the use of longer rounds when necessary, e.g. baton or flare rounds. When open, the breech is on the left. This should make it possible to adopt larger 40 x 51 mm Low Velocity grenades: South Africa developed this new caliber, which extends the range of the 40 mm grenade from 400 m (440 yd) to 800 m (880 yd). The larger body of this grenade would make it easier to fit an Airburst fuze into the round.

The US Army is following a different route, developing a dedicate 25 mm Airburst Rifle weapon, last incarnation of the OICW that proved unfeasible and was abandoned. However, I believe that adopting this weapon in an Infantry Section of eight men would not be efficient. It would ideally require a larger section, and I deem this too problematic. The Airburst 40 mm round should be feasible with the progress of miniaturization, and I believe it would make more sense to move on this path, while simultaneously acquiring off the shelf the Singapore-engineered upgrade kit for field grenade launchers, making the GMG Airburst capable. 

The Commander will carry most of the computer equipment, plus the Company-role radio. As you can see, there’s not yet a real firm decision on the kind of displays to be used: the use of helmet displays, wrist-mounted displays, hand-held and laptop computers and communications systems will be considered. I still think the Helmet Mounted Display will end on top, because of the advantages it offers. The helmet-mounted display can show the battlefield situation, with wearer's position, positions of friendly and hostile troops and equipment and prioritised targets, as well as the downloaded imagery from his weapon sight. In Map-mode, it makes a lot easier to locate and reach Waypoints during the march. Connected to body-worn  Shooter Detection system, the screen could also show cueing to the source of the enemy fire, allowing for rapid reaction. It is hoped that closer collaboration with the French, and direct experience in joint exercises with their Fèlin kit will provide useful data to shape the FIST as well.

FIST and FRES are to be the main targets of the Army in next years, up to 2015 and beyond. And arguably, progress should be made FAST. By 2015, as much as possible of this vital programme must be refined and requirements streamlined and drafted as definitively as possible, to help the Army ensuring the maximum possible support for this vital process during the next SDR.

Air Defence:

This is an area in which the British Army is extremely weak. Once, perhaps, it could be said that the RAF could remedy by gaining air superiority and protecting the troops itself, but with how shrunken down it is, now this is an even weaker excuse. We can’t expect future conflicts to be without air opposition, like in Afghanistan: be it Iran, Argentina, or a totally unexpected menace, chances are that, at the very least, drones of some kind, either suicidal bomb-drones or UCAVs, will be flying above. In the case of Iran, a quite sizeable air force would have to be considered as well, and I think no one is comfortable with the idea of sending troops in the area unprotected with the “certainty” that the air force(s) will gain total control of the sky. This is a very optimistic assumption, the kind of things that in war normally prove horribly wrong.

Most likely threats:

Rockets, Mortar, Artillery – be it COIN or anything else, these are CERTAINLY going to figure as a threat to any military mission.

Helicopters and drones – in the coming years, possibly more drones than helicopters. Many nations, included Iran, are already developing home-grown models, and they also show much less hesitations than western countries in arming their drones. The relatively low cost of drones is also a major factor in making them attractive to users, included potentially terrorists. And then of course many attack choppers, included the always-frightening Hind.

Theatre ballistic missile – the old SCUD-like threat. It is growing more and more common. Russia deploys the Iskander, a modern and formidable missile system. North Korea, China, Iran and many other nations are developing many and different missile systems, or building/fielding Russian ones. This is a much more realistic threat than most people believe, I think, and the RAF’s raid over Libya’s FROG-7 and SCUD missile launchers and warhead depots should serve as reminder of how real this risk is. 

Fast jets – from the Su25 Frogfoot to much worse threats coming from the sky with loads of bombs.

The Requirements

SHORAD, mobile air defence: protection of troops on the move and convoys against pop-up threats at close range such as helicopters, drones and, to a limited degree, missiles and RAM (Rocket, Artillery, Mortar) threats.

Essentially, the Starstreak’s job. I don’t envisage a replacement of the Starstreak anytime soon, but the Stormer vehicle is going to need a replacement compliant with the rest of the army’s larger fleet of vehicles to better fit into the force structure, and have less impact on logistic footprint.

AREA Air Defence: ideally, this requirement should be covered by a powerful, long-range missile system with the reach to cover forces deployed in a wide area, and possibly provide protection from theatre ballistic missiles as well. The best answer would be acquiring the SAMP-T, the land variant of the PAAMS – Sea Viper missile system of the Navy. Ordered to equip 6 french and 5 Italian anti-air missile batteries, it is a proven and available missile system that would offer a coverage of a 100 km-wide area, and give a basic anti-ballistic capability.

However, the British Army has no funding for such a procurement program, currently uses the endlessly less-ambitious Rapier and tomorrow will use the CAMM, so I will base my plan on this missile system, despite its limits.

C-RAM force protection: defending bases and troops on the ground from Mortar fire, Artillery and Rockets attacks. The need became evident in Iraq in 2003, and eventually lead to the leasing of an undisclosed number of Centurion systems, developed in the US from the well-known naval Phalanx CIWS. The UK-used systems were built from Phalanx mounts provided by the Royal Navy’s already small and insufficient pool.

The numeric aspect
The UK is heading towards an Army with a single Deployable division, with a second one operating in Force-preparation, training and support role, with a secondary role as deployable unit only in case of major enduring operation. The requirement is to have one SHORAD Regiment and one Area Air Defence Regiment for each division: two fully operative units, and two deployable but training-oriented formations.

The plan for Air Area Defence

16 Royal Artillery Regiment – Current Rapier missile user, this regiment will be the main units using CAMM, and the deployable regiment attached to 1st UK Division, the sole fully deployable division of the new army structure. The 1st UK Division will include 3 Brigades, so the Regiment will retain the exact same configurations as now:
  • 11 (Sphinx) Headquarters Battery
  • 14 (Cole's Kop) Battery                    
  • 20 Battery Royal Artillery                    
  • 30 Battery (Rogers's Company)     
  • 32 (Minden) Battery                        

4 Missile Batteries, each of two Missile Troops, will be enough to ensure that each brigade has an assigned Battery for air defence, with the fourth one available to protect the Division’s HQ and depots and other sensible assets.

With the advent of CAMM, each Battery will receive a Giraffe ABM radar in the HQ troop. Each missile troop will field 4 missile-launcher trucks, a Dagger towed radar for surveillance and a Blindfire 2000 towed radar for Tracking the target. The launcher vehicles have no on-board radars, and receive cueing from the externally deployed radar.

The range of action of the missile is of around 20 kilometers, and CAMM is a fire-and-forget missile that will acquire the target with its own active radar seeker after launch. The Blindfire 2000 and Dagger radars are those currently used with the Rapier missile system, and 5 Giraffe radars have already been acquired as part of the LEAPP program for improving the integrated air defence picture generation, so we are talking about systems already known and operated by the army, with virtually zero added future impact on logistics.

The CAMM is fired “cold” by its own canister/launch tube, and can so be fired by a very simple flatbed truck launcher, since it does not need a complex VLS system capable to cope with the exhaust and rocket’s power at launch. This should also make the launcher vehicle far more “stealth” in the Infra-Red thermal spectrum.

The launcher system will be mounted on a flatbed and moved by standard MAN trucks already in use in the army. Each launcher has 12 ready-to-fire missiles in two cluster of 6 that can be erected prior to launch. The truck is also equipped with its own crane for reloading, and this seems to suggest that a simple flatbed truck will be enough to act as mover for reloads. 

The FLAADS truck launcher carries twelve missiles ready to fire in two clusters of 6, and has its own crane for lifting up missile canisters for reloading. The trucks are fitted with a secure datalink for communications with the command and control element and for the external-targeting. It is likely that an even safer wired connect with optic fibers will also be available, like with SAMP-T system.
Overall, the CAMM should be a very economic missile system compared to any rival on the market.

Each troop could field 3 or 4 launcher trucks.

The CAMM will be launched using a "soft vertical launch" system, whereby the missile is ejected “cold” from a tube by a piston and high-pressure cold gas. This allows the missile to be fired from its own container-canister without the need for an expensive VLS system capable to deal with the blast and the disposal of the enormous amount of exhausts. The missile is launched 100 feet into the air before its rocket engine ignites, making the launch sequence also a lot safer for the launching platform, that risks less from potentially disastrous malfunctioning.

Small guidance jets roll the missile into the correct orientation before the main motor ignites and four small fins control manoeuvering. This makes launches safer, as there is no exhaust generated until the missile is clear of the ship. This also results in a slight increase in range, as the most energy intensive portion of the missile's flight path, the launch portion, will no longer require rocket activation. The missile is guided by mid-course corrections supplied via a datalink from the launching ship's medium-range or air search radar, and an active homing radar seeker head. This means that differently from Sea Wolf and from any other SAM system currently in service, there’s no need for a dedicated missile-targeting radar system on the ship, allowing for consistent savings.

The Army's Future Local Anti-air Defence (Land) system, or FLAADS (L), is intended to replace the Rapier missile from 2020 onwards. At present, 12-round vertical launchers integrated with Command and Control (C2) units are mounted on various truck chassis for firing trials. The launch vehicles will not be fitted with guidance or surveillance radar, but will receive guidance information via data-links from remote sites or vehicles until the missile's own active seeker head takes over.

Mounted on a 6 Tonnes MAN SV standard truck, the CAMM Land launcher has two six-missile packs elevated side-by-side; each can be split in half horizontally to reload with the help of a small crane. The FLAADS Land fire units, as their naval counterpart, are not planned to be fielded with their own organic radar packages, instead being designed to operate as the kinetic portion of an integrated air-defence network, helping to keep the launcher vehicle's location covert. As such, they are to be fitted with a secure MBDA-developed datalink and are essentially open architecture and sensor agnostic. The FLAADS Land will make use of the LEAPP and Giraffe ABM radars to search and track its targets. Images released by the MOD also show the FLAADS Land operating with the Blindfire search-radar of the Rapier, which suggests that this powerful system may stay in service even as the missile system itself is phased out. 

This image shows a CAMM missile as it steers towards its target after vertical launch. Beneath, a Giraffe radar can be seen hiding behind an abandoned building (Left) and a portable Dagger radar (the search radar used currently by Rapier batteries) is also present, to the right. CAMM launchers receive cueing from external radars, and CAMM has not, uniquely for a SAM system, a dedicated, purposefully-designed radar system.
The missile will be common with the Navy’s own stock, adding further logistic and economic advantages, and it will also share quite a lot with the RAF’s ASRAAM, on which it is based. It is also expected that the CAMM will inform, and possibly shape, the future mid-life upgrade of the ASRAAM missile system.

The CAMM is short on range and in Anti-Ballistic capability, but offers its own advantages in economic, logistic and running aspects, and it has been said that MBDA has been asked to see if it is possible, within available funding, to make the CAMM capable to strike land-targets as well. If this comes true, the CAMM will have a major advantage on comparable missile systems of this class.

106 (V) Royal Artillery Regiment – The other Regiment based around CAMM. Currently it is a mixed TA regiment operating 3 Batteries, two with Rapier and one with Starstreak. 

- 210 (Staffordshire) Battery equipped with Rapier in Wolverhampton
- 265 (Home Counties) Battery also equipped with Rapier based in Grove Park, South East London
- 457 (Hampshire Yeomanry) Battery equipped with the High Velocity Missile (HVM) system based in Southampton

In the future, the Regiment’s three batteries will all be equipped with CAMM, and a fourth battery should be resurrected. Despite its main role as training unit, the 106 Regiment would in fact assume the task of providing air defence batteries to the two brigades that will make up the 2nd UK Division, plus a battery for each of the High Readiness brigades (16 Air Assault and 3 Royal Marines).

If each missile troop was to count on 3 launchers, this would still translate to a very acceptable 48 truck launcher vehicles to be acquired and run, plus a further batch of Giraffe ABM radars, possibly for a total of 10, compared to the 5 currently available.

The plan for SHORAD

The Starstreak, cued automatically by an Air Defence Alerting Device, is still a potent and very effective weapon, perfectly capable to contrast both helicopters, drones and even low-flying fast jets. It has an extremely low reaction time thanks to its incredible speed, and it is thus perfect to continue to cover the requirement for a timely defence against targets such as helicopters “popping up” to fire missiles on a convoy.

In its latest evolution, the Starstreak II, range is around 7 kilometers, and the accuracy has been greatly enhanced exactly to face small, difficult targets such as drones. The Starstreak is also accompanied by the new LMM, that’s a derivative, simpler, low-cost precision attack missile that will be used as the (light) offensive weapon of the new Lynx Wildcat helicopters. Instead of the peculiar three darts of the Starstreak, the LMM has a HE-Frag warhead that it can deliver up to 8 kilometers away.  The new laser beam-riding missile would be able to defeat a "sensible target set" including rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), jet skis and small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as most targets regularly encountered on modern battlefields, from bunkers and light vehicles up to and including tracked armoured personnel carriers, with a relatively light, flexible warhead. Cost is said to be “in the region of 50 to 60 per cent of the cost of Starstreak”. The Starstreak is quite expensive, but such a figure still seems to suggest we are talking about a very economic and good capable weapon, with low collateral damage and ample possibilities of use. It is expected to fly at mach 1.5 or more with pin-point accuracy, and weight just 13 kg. Who read my analysis of the future of FRES already knows that I have an high idea of this weapon, and I envisage a very ample use of it.

So, what will my Stormer HVM Starstreak replacement look like?

It will be mobile. FRES UV-based. And it will cover both the SHORAD and C-RAM requirement with a single gun-missile platform, using components already proven/available off the shelf.

Rheinmetall Oerlikon Skyranger Unmanned Turret - Originally developed as the 35 mm AHEAD Turret, this weapon system was designed to be a component part of an integrated gun/missile/radar air defence system. Now known as the Skyranger Turret, the system has evolved into a multimission system capable of engaging airborne, seaborne and terrestrial targets as part of a greater defence system or independently. The Skyranger turret is designed to be mounted on high-mobility wheeled or tracked platforms allowing the system to be deployed rapidly and to keep pace with a fast moving battle group. To date it has been exhibited and demonstrated on a MOWAG Piranha IV 8 × 8 chassis.

With the FRES UV likely to be based on the Pirhana V, despite the 2008 setback, the turret is perfectly compatible and easily integrated. Rheinmetall ensures that the turret, normally comprising the gun and the Optical targeting device only, can be upgraded to have its own radar and missiles as well.

The FRES UV Skyranger will be a vehicle using a 35 mm AHEAD gun, perfect to take down aerial targets at up to 4000 meters away, but also capable to provide extremely effective C-RAM protection to both a moving convoy or to a FOB. The vehicle uses the ADAD optic device already employed with the Starstreak to acquire and track its targets, and the turret is fitted with side-launchers for two clusters of 4 Starstreak or LMM missiles, useful for both surface-surface and surface-air engagements. 

This Skyranger is shown in sole-gun mode, but the turret can take SAM missiles clusters too. For the UK, those would of course be Starstreak.
The combination comes on the vehicle platform destined to be the most common in the Army’s holding, a platform with excellent mobility both on roads and cross country, capable to keep the pace of the moving formations and accompany a convoy from FOB to FOB.

12 and 47 Royal Artillery Regiments – again, the replacement program will involve equipping two operative regiments, one assigned to each division.

The 12 Regiment would line 4 Batteries, each with 3 troops, each made up by 3 Skyranger vehicles, for a total of 36 vehicle/launchers and 288 missiles.

The 47 Regiment would line two Batteries with FRES UV vehicles, plus two more batteries of Starstreak missiles, one equipped with the THOR lightweight missile turret mounted on top of “air-mobile” light vehicles such as Ocelot, so to be deployable by parachute or with a Chinook helicopter. The other battery would have the THOR turret mounted on the rear car of Viking vehicles, so to integrate perfectly into the 3 Commando Brigade existing logistic trail while retaining deployability and mobility. These two lighter batteries would be available to support the 16 Air Assault brigade and the 3 Commando Brigade. The THOR turret weights only 500 kg, and it is so easily fitted on most vehicles. It was demonstrated mounted on a Pinzgauer vehicle back in 2007.

Deployable Base Protection – The UK has expended considerable amounts of money and material in the Centurion C-RAM system leased for service in Iraq. My proposed STORMER HVM replacement offers excellent capability for the C-RAM role, but it is evident that the Skyranger would be wasted sitting around in a base. It is made to accompany the troops.

To fullfil the enduring requirement for the protection of bases, the UK could make good use of the money and resources already spent and acquire definitively the leased Centurion C-RAM systems, which could be issued to a RAF Regiment Field Squadron tasked with Force and Base Protection role. The RAF Regiment, as we have already said, will be RAF only of name, since it will be actually controlled by the Army: this will make it easier to have Royal Artillery personnel providing support and targeting. RN personnel with experience in the Phalanx CIWS system would continue to provide the support needed. This is a viable alternative because, so long as Phalanx stays in Navy service, ammo and support will not be a problem. However, the Centurion is mounted on a trailer with a typical gross weight of about 24 tonnes, which has its own power unit and is based on the US Navy Phalanx Block 1B CIWS. It has search-and-track radars, FLIR sensors and a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling cannon with 1,550 rounds of high explosive incendiary tracer (HEIT) self-destruct ammunition. The rate of fire is 3,000 or 4,500 rounds per minute. It is big, heavy, and difficult to deploy and move around. 
The first Centurion system has been a Phalanx 1B ex-navy mounted on a trailer along with ammo, cooling, energy, command post and other equipment. The trailer weights 24 tons!
The US Marines came up with a better Centurion installation on the back of a diesel-electric, 14-ton Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) 8x8 vehicle. Still, total weight is close to 21 tons, which is a no-no for C130, and quite a load for an A400. 

Still a good 21 tons of 8x8 vehicle, but at least this Centurion is easier to move around.
Further development has resulted in the Laser Area Defense System (LADS), which is being developed by Raytheon to provide close-in protection against asymmetric threats. This consists of the Phalanx mount fitted with an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) 20 kW IPG Photonics fibre laser and a bench-mounted beam director.
AFRL testing has verified the ability to propagate the laser beam and achieve the desired effect to counter a 60 mm mortar in a real-world environment.
In addition to the C-RAM role, the LADS can also engage other targets such as UAVs, multiple small boats, floating mines and unarmoured vehicles, but it will likely be years before it is fully ready and powerful enough to take on the whole spectrum of C-RAM defence: for now it might not be a mature enough choice. And anyway, it is not any more deployable than Centurion, for now.

In Germany, Rheinmetall Air Defence has completed the development phase of its Oerlikon Skyshield C-RAM 35 mm gun-based system, which was originally funded by the German Federal Agency for Defence Technology (BWB) early in 2007. The Skyshield is probably the best C-RAM system out there at the moment, and it would be perfectly compatible with the mobile Skyranger system earlier discussed. The Luftwaffe has acquired two complete systems for 150 million euro. Each system consists of a container-based command-and-control system, two fire control and surveillance systems and six 35 mm gun mounts. All of these elements have been designed for ease of transport and can be carried by truck or slung under a helicopter. The system will be manned by the German Army and called the Indirect Fire Protection Capability, Networked Enabled Air Defence and Surveillance System. In a typical FOB, the gun mounts will be positioned close to the perimeter wall and the fire control systems with associated sensors (radar and electro optics) will be positioned higher up for improved surveillance and target acquisition.  For short periods of time, the latest model of Skyshield gun mounts can be mounted on the back of a MAN truck and operate from there too. 
The Skyshield battery is probably the most effective C-RAM system in the world to date.
This is the Sensor module that directs the battery's fire.
Up to six turrets with 35 mm gun make up the "punch" of the battery.

One system would provide a large FOB with a full C-RAM capability through 360 degrees on a 24-hour basis under all weather conditions. During trials in Turkey in 2009 the system was used to track and engage unguided 82 mm and 120 mm mortar bombs and 107 mm rockets, with the latter being launched from a range of 8,000 m. The 35 mm AHEAD ammunition has a maximum interception range of about 4 km, with each 35 mm gun mount having 250 rounds of ready-use ammunition but with growth potential to 500 rounds.
Typically each 35 mm cannon would fire a burst of 36 rounds at each target, although this may be reduced in the future.

The latest Skyshield turrets can operate even on the back of utility trucks, at least for some time.

The 35 mm revolver gun mount used in the Oerlikon Skyshield C-RAM system is similar to that used in the Millennium Gun, which is already in service with the Royal Danish Navy on ships such as the Absalon.

Another contender is the Italy’s Oto Melara Porcupine system, using the combat proven General Dynamics 20 mm M61A1 Gatling cannon was selected, firing the already type-classified 20x102 mm M940 multi-purpose round with a self-destruct fuze. This weapon has a cyclic rate of fire of 3,000 to 6,000 rds/min. The gun and ammunition is the same used by Phalanx and Centurion, allowing commonality and savings in scale.

A typical Porcupine C-RAM battery would consist of three/four firing units, one command-and-control post for target designation and weapon control, as well as a 3D radar system for surveillance and target tracking. The radar is of the 'track while scan' type and has the ability to track multiple targets and determine which targets are the greatest threat for subsequent engagement. Targets can be engaged automatically with no man in the loop. The operator is present only for safety reasons.
Each remote firing unit consists of a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling cannon, 1000 rounds in cylindrical feeder and ammunition handling system and a stabilised optronic infra-red (IR) tracking system to provide a 24-hour target engagement capability.

The command-and-control post would allocate targets to the appropriate firing unit with the incoming threats being engaged at a range of between 1,000-1,500 m, with a burst of rounds sufficient to neutralise incoming threats such as a 60 mm mortar bomb.

One Porcupine C-RAM system would typically cover an area of 400 m2 but additional remote firing units could be added to extend the protected area or defend against higher intensity attacks.
The Porcupine system can be integrated with other weapon systems and radars in order to extend its capabilities.

The main advantage of the Porcupine, however, is its deployability and strategic mobility: the whole battery can be transferred into just 4 standard TEU 20’ containers. Each gun turret has a weight of 2350 kg, plus 450 kg of ammunition, for a total weight of 2,8 tons, making it extremely easy to redeploy slung from helicopters. The first container would contain the 3 gun mounts, one the radar and targeting system, one for the Command post and one more for spares and logistics.

For the C-RAM task lately there’s been some real heavy development: one, also from Oto Melara, is the Multirole Weapon System (MWS), which uses a 76 mm gun derived from the world-famous Super Rapido/Strales/Davide series used by 56 navies all over the world. The MWS, also known as DRACO, is fed by a 12 round drum and has further 24 rounds at the ready in the turret, with reload of the drum taking one minute. The gun fires Oto Melara radar-guided Dart ammunition like those used by the CIWS Strales/Davide (Davide is the name for the Italian navy, Strales the export and France mandated name, as the gun is the CIWS system of the FREMM frigates), with the complete system being installed on a tracked or 8x8 wheeled armoured vehicle chassis. The 76 mm gun is a valid anti-armor weapon at 3000 meters, can strike surface targets up to 15 kilometers away and fire at UAVs and cruise missiles, helicopters and airplanes at 6000 to 8000 meters. The rate of fire goes from 80 to 100 rounds for minute, and the two-man turret comes with a standard Level 2 protection which can be increased. The turret weights 5.5 tons and can be installed on any wheeled or tracked vehicle of at least 15 tons, which means it can go on almost all 8x8 vehicles around the world. The Draco requires external cueing, but is fitted with a foldable radar antenna that, once deployed, tracks the target and supplies guidance correction to the Dart guided shell. Oto Melara offers the possibility of fitting a search radar too onto the vehicle, making it wholly independent. 
The 5.5 tons DRACO turret is more than a C-RAM system: derived from the 76 mm naval gun, it fires up to 100 rounds for minute, can engage airplanes or shoot at a building or at other armored vehicles, but it can even fire ballistically like an howitzer and strike targets 22 Km away. It does a bit of everything, and this qualifies it as a true Multi-Mission system, halfway between tank, AA gun and self propelled artillery piece.

The Draco is a very powerful system, and very flexible if we consider that soon there will be a 76 mm round designed to search surface targets with a Semi Active Laser seeker, allowing for precision attack at range with ballistic flight profile (22 km). An HE, unguided, cheap munition specifically thought for use against incoming mortar rounds is also being developed.

I did not suggest using the DRACO because, differently from the Skyranger’s 35 mm, a 76 mm gun would enter in competition with the FRES Direct Fire support vehicle. This, however, might not be a bad thing in itself, since the DRACO would be eventually able to cover with honor both the roles of Air Defence and C-RAM (stationary and on the move) and infantry direct fire support, with the acquisition of a single vehicle/platform. 

Meanwhile, German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) is developing, as a private venture, a C-RAM capability for its 155 mm/52 calibre Autonomous Gun Module (AGM) DONAR, the vehicle I proposed as AS90 replacement. This is being marketed by KMW as Smart Camp Defence and is claimed to be the ideal solution to protect FOBs against rocket and mortar bomb attacks, but I have doubts on the use of a 155 mm howitzer for air defence. We’ll see if such idea progresses at all, but it is not the option I’d pick up myself. 

A last option would be a development of the 40 mm CTA gun of the Warrior and FRES SV. Industry has already proposed an anti-helicopter guided round built around one of the three laser-guided darts used by the Starstreak’s warhead (!) and an AHEAD-like ammunition could also be undoubtedly developed, along with a proper high-elevation mount for the gun. However, this system would enter a market already quite bloated with good offers, and, moreover, it has yet to be developed. It is hard to see UK and France willing to start putting money into such an idea, so unless industry takes the lead, I don’t quite see this happening.

Even if the commonality is tempting and potentially source of big long-term savings.

The Royal Artillery
I’ll take a rapid look at the future of the Royal Artillery regiments in conclusion, spacing past the air defence and into the Howitzer’s domain.

Main target for 2020 must be the COMMONALITY OF AMMUNITIONS WITH THE NAVY, and the passage to the use of the 155 mm NATO STANDARD CALIBER ACROSS THE WHOLE ARMED FORCES.

The Navy will adopt the 155 mm MK8 TMF gun for the Type 26 frigate, allowing the use of a common stock of ammunitions as the Type 45 are retro-fitted as well.

The Army will replace the 105 mm L118 with the M777 155 mm howitzer. This british triumph of engineering is battle proven, used by Canada and by the US Army and Marines with great satisfaction, and has already enjoyed hundreds of orders. It is the lightest 155 mm artillery piece in the world, extremely mobile and extremely powerful at the same time.

Field Regiments – 5
Each on 3 Batteries of 6 AS90 each. Replacement in the form of the DONAR/FRES SV vehicle, with same numbers, for a total of 90 vehicles.

Close Support Regiments – 5
Each on 3 Batteries of 6 L118 Light Guns each, with wartime strength of 8 guns for battery. 122 guns in holding plus 16 saluting guns.

Replacement of the L118 by 2022 with 120 M777 Ultralightweight Howitzers, in time for standardization on 155 mm NATO artillery caliber across the whole of the Army and in the Navy. While obviously heavier than the L118, the M777 is by far the lightest howitzer available, will offer greater performances, ammo commonality, is battle-proven and appreciated by its users, and the US armed forces are making it a standard. It is the most logical choice for replacement of the light gun inside the Commando and PARA artillery and in the other close support formations. Weighting 3175 kg, served by 7 but also by as few as 5 men, the M777 cost should be in the order of 4.5 million dollars for gun, based on a figure from the Indian tender, that saw 145 M777 valued 647 million dollars. 

A canadian battery of M777 in action.
The US Marines have also developed a light, ultra-mobile Prime Mover vehicle for their deployable M777 batteries. The truck weights even less than the gun it is meant to tow and rides on a height-adjustable chassis, which allows for unmatched all-terrain capability. The vehicle accepts appliqué armor, significantly improving troop safety and survivability. The vehicle features improved rollover protection, fording and braking capabilities, and a central tire inflation system that automatically adjusts air pressure to terrain and payload needs. It provides air mobility for deployment, and then mobility to the whole battery once on the ground. It is an ugly and unglamorous vehicle, but mobility is gold for the troops!      

The M777 Lightweight Prime Mover of the US Marines is ugly and unglamorous, but fast and powerful: it weights less than the howitzer it is meant to tow, and is perfect for batteries that need to deploy quickly and be moved around by planes, helicopters and ships.

5th Regiment Royal Artillery

5 Regiment Royal Artillery is the Army's Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) regiment, and is a singleton regiment - the only unit which provides the vital capabilities that "STA" comprises. The Regiment has a constant commitment to deploy one sub-unit every six months as the Theatre STA Battery, supporting operations in Afghanistan. On operations, the Theatre STA Battery acts as the eyes of the troops on the ground. The 5th provides three main capabilities: Counter Indirect Fire, Base ISTAR and Theatre Surveillance Troop, all in very high demand. 

Counter Indirect Fire (C-IDF) - this is a process of identifying where a projectile such as an artillery shell, mortar or rocket is fired from. We do this using several weapon locating radar and acoustic systems. This information can then be passed on to other units to observe or strike.

Base ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) - surveillance equipment that provides protection to our Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and Patrol Bases (PBs). This is done with several cameras and sensors that relay information to a command and control centre where information and images are gathered. This information is used to protect troops on the ground, spot insurgent activity, and build up a picture of the local normal activity in Afghanistan and then warn if something unusual occurs or pass the information on to other units who can take the process further either by collecting intelligence or striking the enemy. 

The Regiment also provides the Theatre Surveillance Troop, a group of specially qualified soldiers who are trained and equipped to get close to targets and points of interest to gather information. All the soldiers come from 4/73 Battery and they must have passed the Patrols Course, a 13 week long arduous course which trains the soldiers to use some very sophisticated image gathering and surveillance equipment. In addition, 4/73 Bty also provides Fire Support Teams to the Close Support Artillery Regiment for each tour of Afghanistan.



Q Battery; regimental HQDespite being the Headquarters Battery of 5th Regiment RA, the battery successfully deployed as the STA Battery on Op HERRICK 9.


53 Battery - Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Role. Soldiers in 53 (Louisburg) Battery have the opportunity to become Weapon Locating Radar operators, Acoustic Weapon Locators, Communicators or Logisticians.


4/73 Sphinx Special Operations Battery - special observers, trained to operate hidden deep in hostile territory. They are dismounted and with lightweight cameras, lasers and sights they find the enemy, and, co-ordinate a strike using artillery guns, mortars, attack helicopters and fast jets.  The battery was formed in 1992 as an amalgamation of two numbered batteries; 4th Battery originated as Captain Bowater's Company, 1st Battalion Royal Artillery in 1742 and 73rd Battery originated as Captain Sproule's Company, 5th Battalion Royal Artillery on the 1 October 1794. Both batteries held the Sphinx Honour Title that celebrated a successful expedition against the French in Egypt in 1801.

Since its formation, 4/73 (Sphinx) Special OP Battery has deployed on every major operation the British Army has been involved in, with the exception of the small scale intervention operation in Sierra Leone in 2000. The battery is currently deployed on operations in Afghanistan in both a surveillance role and as Fire Support Teams in support of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force. The battery is a volunteer organisation that recruits from all 3 services of the British Armed Forces. Before deploying as an STA Patrol soldier, every member of the battery must complete the 13 week STA Patrol Course, which earns soldiers the right to be called 'Special Observers'.



K BatteryThe battery will deploy again to Afghanistan this year, replacing Z battery.



P Battery - The battery group deployed to Afghanistan in April 2010 and had a very successful tour.


Z Battery - reformed as part of 5th Regiment, Royal Artillery on the 8th July 2009 at Marne Barracks, Catterick almost 50 years after it was last on parade, as an indispensable expansion to the Regiment, which is constantly committed to all Army deployments in the world and thus fatigues to provide its men with breaks between a tour and another.







101 (Northumbrian) Regiment RA (V) 
Territorial Army formation of vital importance for the Royal Artillery, it is the only MLRS/STA formation of the reserve. Its 203 and 205 batteries are equipped with M270 MLRS launchers, and 204 and 269 are two STA batteries that provide reinforcement personnel to the 5th Regiment.




Notable Royal Artillery STA systems and future programmes 



The upgraded ARTHUR Mod B meets the British Army's MAMBA (Mobile Artillery Monitoring Battlefield Radar) requirement for locating guns, mortars or rockets and provide light forces with a deployable, mobile artillery-locating system for the direction of counterbattery fire. MAMBA locates guns at 20 - 25 km and 120 mm mortars at 35 - 40 km with a circular probable error of 0.35% of range. It can process 100 rockets, mortars or artillery shells and provide the operator with 8 Point Of Origin (POO) grids all within one minute.



MAMBA was successfully used by the British Army in Iraq and still is in Afghanistan. The MAMBA radar, mounted on the rear cab of a Bv206 vehicle, was ordered in 2002 and entered service in 2004. As a stop-gap measure, the British Army leased a less-performant but readily available Arthur A system until MAMBA was ready.

The Army acquired 4 systems, for an unknown cost, even if sources indicate the 4 UK sets were a total of £30 million.  The MAMBA requires a crew of 7, a commander plus two shifts of 3.


The 5th RA Regiment also uses the COBRA COunter Battery RAdar, born from a UK, France and Germany agreement dating back to 1998 for the designing and  manufacture of a highly capable counter battery radar. It was to be managed by Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement (OCCAR) as one of the launch programmes. The manufacturer is Euro-Art, a consortium based in Germany, whose partners are EADS, Lockheed Martin, Thales Defence and Thales Air Defence. It is unclear how many systems the UK has acquired, the number varies from source to source from 10 to 7. For at least some time, it is believed the 5th Regiment RA operated 9, so the 10 figure seems the most likely. 


The MOD states that the In-Service date for COBRA was 2004, but this is rather incorrect. COBRA has been used, according to sources, by the Army since 1999.

COBRA is designed quite simply to track airborne artillery shells/rockets, from their trajectory calculate the source location and pass this information on to other systems. The location of the launchers can then be targeted, usually with counter battery fire either using the MLRS/GMLRS, conventional artillery or airborne system.

COBRA requires a crew of 7, a commander plus two shifts of 3. Mounted on Foden heavy truck it can get in to action within 5 mins normally.

COBRA mainly delivers:

  • Detection, location and classification of hostile mortars, rocket launchers and artillery batteries. In less than two minutes, more than 40 six-gun batteries can be located and reported to a higher command or other system.
  • Prediction of shell impact points.
  • Registration and adjustment of friendly firings.
  • Creation of battlefield intelligence.
  • Determination of jamming source.
  • Communication with battle force.

Cobra (Counter Battery Radar) is a 3-D Phased Array Radar, with the complex antenna believed to make up for 70% of the system’s cost. It is believed to contain an amazing 20,000 Gallium Arsenide integrated circuits into each. The 5th Regiment was believed to have 3 Cobra troops, each with 3 radars, but the MOD page suggests that the number has been reduced to just two troops.  




Future Weapon Locating Radar 

Although COBRA and MAMBA have both worked very well, the Army wishes to find a common system with which to replace both radars, achieving efficiency and savings by standardizing on a single system, to put in service as soon as 2012.
The requirements are quite high, since the new radar is wanted to replace the still very sophisticate COBRA:

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is currently evaluating options for providing the Future WLR capability for the Land Component Commander (LCC) and, subject to an investment decision, plans to conduct an Assessment Phase.

A capability to detect, locate and classify simultaneous Indirect Fire events, to a probability of 85% (minimum acceptable)/100% (most desirable) within at least a 90 degree arc with a single system and generate Point of Origin (POO) and Point of Impact (POI) for these in ##; 8 seconds (minimum acceptable)/ ≤ 5 second (most desirable) to provide a Circular Error Probability (CEP) of ≤ 50 mtrs to a distance of 30km (minimum acceptable)/ 100 km (most desirable). Operate in day and night and in all weather conditions in the following climatic conditions A2, A3, B1, B2,B3, C0, C1 and C2 (minimum acceptable)/threshold plus A1 (most desirable) ( as defined in Def Stan 00-35) with a time into and out of action of less than 2 minutes and for more than 12 hrs continuously.

Deploy on current and planned future air transport, namely A400M as a single load. Tactical mobility to be provided preferably on current or planned UK Land in-service vehicles so as to achieve Improved Medium Mobility and underslung CH47 (minimum Acceptable)/High Mobility (most desirable) (as defined in Def Stan 23-06/4). Integrate with LCC’s Command and Control (C2) data network.

Planning Assumption for Service Entry (PASE), is currently 2012.

Lockheed Martin, SAAB Electronic Defence Systems, EUROART and Northrop Grumman were selected as bidders.

Think Defence reported on May 22 that the Future Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) – Assessment Phase (AP) had been completed and Saab Electronic Defence Systems selected as preferred bidder to fulfil the requirement with its Arthur Mod C system. Which does not mean that the programme is safe and will reach the “order placed” status (remember FRES UV – Piranha V?) but is a step forwards in the right direction.

WLR will replace the existing MAMBA and COBRA systems currently in service and provide 12 systems and 2 trainers.

ARTHUR Mod C has a larger antenna (60 cm taller than MAMBA’s), it can detect a mortar bomb at 55 km, shell at 31 km and MLRS-like rockets at 50 - 60 km depending on their size. It can locate targets at a rate of 100 per minute, with a storage capacity of 10.000 targets, with a CEP 0.2% of range for howitzers and rockets and 0.1% for mortars. It expands the field of view from 90° to 120°.

The radar uses closed-loop liquid cooling, that also delivers the cooling of the crew cabin, keeping the whole cycle closed to keep dust and dirt out of the circuitry. The liquid cooling is important for ensuring that the radar continues to operate at its best even in Middle East scenarios: earlier systems are simply air-cooled, but while this works very well in Europe, it causes troubles in the hot climates.

The ARTHUR Mod C can be fitted in a self-supported container weighting less than 4200 kg and portable by a DROPS/ELPS truck, or fitted to any vehicle with 2500 kg payload and suitable volume available. The UK system might find installation on the Viking or Warthog vehicle. It can be carried by a C-130 or slung under a heavy lift helicopter such as a Chinook. Its air mobility allows it for use by light and rapid reaction forces such as airborne and marine units.
For training, the ARTHUR radar has a built-in simulation mode, and a Classroom Trainer fitted at the main base can work to simulate a major operation involving 3 or more radars. 



MSTAR – Man-portable Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar  

MSTAR is a Lightweight Pulse Doppler J Band All Weather Radar that has replaced the ZB 298 in the detection of helicopters, vehicles and infantry. Powered by a standard Army field battery, MSTAR is used by artillery Observation Parties (OPs) to detect where artillery shells are landing in relation to the target (fall of shot).


MSTAR team directing support fire on the enemy.

The electroluminescent display that shows dead ground relief and target track history, also has the ability to superimpose a map grid at the 1:50000 scale to ease transfer to military maps. MSTAR can be vehicle borne or broken down into easily transportable loads for manpacking purposes. Weighing 55.5 kg when bagged up (97.7 boxed for shipping), the radar breaks down into four man-portable loads; a 13.8 kg aerial assembly, a 15 kg main electronic assembly, a 16.6 kg control and display assembly and a 10.5 kg mounting tripod. All given weights include ancilliaries and carrying cases.

Indicatively, MSTAR detects personnel sneaking at 100 m and walking at 5 km, vehicles at 10 km and further away for the larger targets. The display is separated from the radar by up to 66 ft (20 m) of cable. The solid-state system has five multi-layer signal-processing boards and can handle up to 99 target tracks at a time, displaying 10 of them at once. 


The little known FV514 Warrior MAOV is fitted with sensors, software and communications for the direction of artillery fire, including a mast-mounted MSTAR radar (here shown deployed). The MSTAR can also be easily dismounted and operated away from the vehicle if and when needed.


MSTAR is used by Forward Observation Officers. Up to 100 MAOV (Warrior Mechanised Artillery Observation Vehicles) equipped with MSTAR are thought to have been originally acquired, now the active ones are undoubtedly much less numerous. MSTAR is believed to cost about £50,000 per unit at mid 1999 prices and in total as many 200 MSTAR equipments are in service throughout the British Army. It was first unveiled in 1987 and hit Initial Operational Capability in 1990.



Lightweight Counter-Mortar Radar (LCMR)

34 sets of
the LCMR have been ordered by the army for operations from the US. It is use in the US Armed Forces as AN/TPQ-48 and was one of the “Top Ten Greatest Inventions” in the US Army awards in 2004.

The Lightweight Counter-Mortar Radar, or LCMR, provides continuous 360° Azimuth, 30° Elevation surveillance and mortar location. It detects and locates mortar firing positions by tracking the mortar shell to the weapon it was fired from. When a mortar is detected, LCMR sends a warning message indicating a round is incoming, and provides predicted point of impact. Range of detection against mortars is 6 km, and the target locating error TLE is at worst 100 meters at 5 km. The Version 2 of the system, greatly improved, includes the capability to surveil the air space as well, detecting planes up to 18 km away while looking out for mortars. In a sole air-surveillance role, the range is 30 km. 


The LCMR system is compatible with airborne operations, can be deployed in a door bundle, and assembled/disassembled quickly by two soldiers. It weights 120 lbs, can be broken down for transport in 5 minutes and prepared for use in 20.

As long as Afghanistan operations continue, the LCMR will kept being funded as UOR, but the Army plans to retain it and bring into the core equipment set. It will cover the short-range detection requirement and provide FOB-sized protection areas, while the Future Weapon Locating Radar will serve at brigade, battlegroup and divisionary level.

Sound Ranging

Sound Ranging (SR) locates the positions of enemy artillery from the sound of their guns firing. Microphones are positioned on a line extending over a couple of kilometres to approximately 12 kilometres.

As each microphone detects the sound of enemy guns firing, the information is relayed to a Command Post which computes the location of the enemy battery.

Enemy locations are then passed to Artillery Intelligence and counter battery tasks fired as necessary. Sound Ranging can identify an enemy position to within 50 m at 10 kms.

The only Sound Ranging assets remaining in the Royal Artillery are those with 5 Regt RA at Catterick.
The UK has one battery equipped with Mark 2 HALO ASP (Hostile Artillery LOcating - advanced sound ranging system), an acoustic weapons locating equipment specifically for use in out of area or sensitive operations where flying UAVs might be sensitive. The ASP system was deployed in March 2003 and is expected to be in-service until 2017. It is used by 5 Regt RA and personnel from 101 Regt RA (Volunteers).


Base  ISTAR 

To cover this important role in Afghanistan, the Cortez integrated ISTAR system was developed and fielded. Cortez combines a variety of surveillance systems into a single computer display that can detect and identify threats over a 24-hr. period and in all weather conditions. Notably, the system is composed of:


Both are static systems fitted with a suite of cameras and sensors that when deployed in FOBs can be used to provide situational awareness, over watch, protection, target identification and tracking. It also has the capacity to provide cross-cueing for other systems, that is the information gained on a target can be easily passed on to other tracking systems.  A number of AIRLINERs and LIVINGSTONEs are deployed in Afghanistan, in FOBs and PBs throughout Helmand province. The commander of each system is provided by 5th Regiment RA, however, to provide 24-hour manning of the cameras and screens, the remaining users are provided by troops in the FOB.

A trailer-mounted mast system with a camera suite, providing a surveillance picture over the local area.  A number of REMOVERs are deployed in Afghanistan, in FOBs and PBs throughout Helmand province. The commander of each system is provided by 5th Regiment RA, however, to provide 24-hour manning of the cameras and screens, the remaining users are provided by troops in the FOB.


A trailer-mounted aerostat (balloon), fitted with an under-slung camera, providing a surveillance picture over the local area. Seven REVIVORs are deployed in Afghanistan, in FOBs and PBs throughout Helmand province. Configured with an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optic/infrared sensor, as well as optional full-motion video and acoustic sensors, the Revivor is the UK variant of the Persistent Ground Surveillance System (PGSS) already in service with the U.S. following a fast-track development led by the U.S. Navy and sponsored by the Army, while the Canadian forces also employ a version of PGSS at forward bases. The PGSS aerostat is a 25,000-cu.-ft. helium-filled tethered blimp that can remain on station for up to two weeks. The Revivor is fully integrated with the other systems such as Remover, Airliner and Livingstone, as part of the Cortez base-ISTAR architecture.  



The commander of each system is provided by 5th Regiment RA, however, to provide 24-hour manning of the cameras and screens, the remaining users are provided by troops in the FOB. 

The information gathered by these systems on operations have undoubtedly saved the lives of many British soldiers. It is to be hoped that Cortez will not be thrown away at the end of Afghanistan’s operations only to be re-created and the lesson re-learned during the next deployment abroad with FOBs under enemy fire. It is certainly a precious capability to preserve, just as important as the C-RAM battery promised by the SDSR.


Indirect Fire, Precision Attack capability – Royal Artillery’s future


The Indirect Fire Precision Attack (IPFA) project is designed to give the Royal Artillery the ability to strike out to targets at ranges of 150 kms with pinpoint accuracy - up to four times the range of current in-service systems. It is capability delivered through a number of different systems and improvements, and much as it is not a headline-hitting project, it is a long running effort going on a decade, and that will continue to stretch forwards in the coming years, delivering new capability.

Artillery has always been a cost effective way of destroying or neutralising targets. When the cost of a battery of guns, (approx £15 million) is compared with the cost of a close air support aircraft, (£25 million) and the cost of training each pilot, (£4 million +) the way ahead for governments with less and less to spend on defence is clear.  When possible, an artillery strike is a way cheaper way to achieve the effect required than calling an air strike. Systems such as Fire Shadow will reduce the need for UAVs, and the reach and accuracy of a GMLRS rocket, that can reach a target with pin-point accuracy at 70 km of distance in a minute, is a valuable substitute to Close Air Support in a lot of situations. Longer range MLRS, and ideally batteries more strategically mobile, would also improve coverage, and adoption of systems such as the ATACMS artillery missile would allow the Army to hit strategic targets at up to 300 km of distance without having to call the air force for doing it. And as expensive as the ATACMS is, it is still cheaper than a fighter aircraft or even a Predator delivering a Paveway bomb.

Despite the artillery’s continuing importance, the IFPA project has delivered little, so far, of what it aimed to. Artillery has not been spared by the axe blows that have chopped programme after programme in the constant search for “savings”.  



Light-weight Mobile Artillery Weapon System LIMAWS – Cancelled

The LIMAWS(G) and (R) have both been cancelled as cost savings measures. They would have been Chinook-mobile, highly deployable self-propelled howitzers and Guided MLRS for light and medium formations. The LIMAWS(G) was likely to be a Supacat high mobile truck with a mounted M777 ultra-lightweight howitzer, while the LIMAWS(R), which was the last to die, would have been similar to the American HIMARS, but lighter and more mobile still, while carrying the very same firepower, in the form of a single, 6-rockets MLRS module, compared to the two notoriously fitted to the M270 tracked launcher we all are familiar with. 


The M777 Portee was extensively trialed.
The LIMAWS(G) Supacat Portee combined a M777 howitzer (which could be dismounted and operated normally, or fired from the vehicle) and a 8 x 6 High Mobility Truck Supacat 800 vehicle. It fired over 350 rounds in tests, demonstrated C130 compatibility and was trialed on Landing Crafts successfully as well. On reaching the combat area the howitzer was quickly dismounted, allowing it to be towed rapidly into and out of action with up to 3 ammunition containers carried in its place allowing a total of over 70 readily available rounds. Cab of the M777 Portee provides light armor protection and NBC protection for the crew (5 men, sufficient to operate the M777). Separating vehicle and gun, the system could be deployed under-slung from helicopters.

For the UK trials the M777 was fitted with the SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing System (LINAPS), which is in service with the Royal Artillery on its 105 mm L118 Light Guns. The complete system was 12.3 tons, not Chinook capable, but still supremely mobile. France’s CAESAR was the other contender for this role. 


The M777 Portee would have massively increased the mobility and survivability of Field Artillery regiments. It would have been a perfect replacement for the L118 Light Gun, and a partial replacement of the heavy and difficult to deploy AS90.


The LIMAWS(R) weighted just 8.8 tons, and was Chinook portable. The LIMAWS(R) 6x4 chassis design is a modified and lightened version of the 6x6 chassis and levers technology from the HMT designs. The four-wheel drive is on the first two axles. The 6x4 chassis provides significant weight saving compared to a 6x6 chassis but it reduces cross country mobility. Trials were still successful, though, and the mobility was judged more than good. 
The LIMAWS(R) on mobility trials.

The vehicle is designed and built with four lifting points so it can be carried underslung by a Chinook CH-47 helicopter. The total vehicle weight, including a 2.3t rocket pod, is approximately 9t. Two could have been carried into a C130J.
The cab is air conditioned, fitted with a CAFU (chemical air filtration unit) system and accommodates three crew and their battlefield kit. The cab is fitted with armoured glazing and internal flash blinds, which are lowered before firing. The vehicle has fixing mounts for appliqué armour.



AS90 Braveheart upgrade – Cancelled

BAE Systems was awarded a contract to upgrade 96 of the British Army AS90s with a 155mm/52-calibre extended-range ordnance / modular charge system (ERO/MCS). The Royal Ordnance division of BAE Systems would have manufactured the new 52-calibre barrel which was to give an increased range of at least 30km with standard ammunition (from 24.7) and up to 60 with ER shells, and Somchem division of Denel was responsible for the modular charge system which will be manufactured in South Africa. 

One of the AS90 re-gunned with the much longer 52 calibers barrel. The increase in all gunnery-related performances was quite massive.

The upgraded AS90s were expected to enter service in 2003, but the programme was first halted and then cancelled due to the inability of the selected bi-modular charge system from Somchem of South Africa to meet the requirement for insensitive munitions. As a result, the AS90 is lagging heavily behind more modern self propelled guns both in terms of range and rate of fire.

Guided Anti-Tank Ammunition – Cancelled.

In November 2007, the UK MoD awarded a contract to Gesellschaft fur Intelligente Wirksysteme GmbH (GIWS) of Germany for the ballistic sensor fused munition (BSFM) SMArt 155 to equip the AS90. BSFM is a precision attack weapon with a range of 22.5km. Each BSFM contains two Sensor Fused Munitions which deploy on parachutes and, while slowly descending, the submunition rotates, scanning the area below with a combined infra-red and millimeter wave radar sensor.
 The sensor system relying on several types of sensors give SMArt 155 the ability to be used in every type of terrain independent of the weather conditions, and the ammunition self-destroys if no suitable target is detected, so that it is not subject to the Treaty for the elimination of submunitions,  which the UK has signed.
A GMLRS rocket carrying the same submunitions is also offered, but the British Army has not acquired it yet.

Despite the contract having been signed, procurement didn't go ahead and the purchase was cancelled.  

Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System – Delivered

In June 2007, the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) awarded Lockheed Martin three contracts for the delivery of Guided MLRS systems. The contracts are part of an incremental, multi-year acquisition program worth more than £250 million. The current contracts include rockets, upgrade kits, spares and support, including12 MLRS M270B1 launcher upgrades and Guided Unitary rockets.

The UK has acquired, put in service and used in Afghanistan the Guided MLRS M31 rocket (nicknamed “70 km sniper” fitted with the unitary 89 kg Enhanced Blast Warhead (EBW) developed by Lockheed Martin. When exploded, this warhead creates an over-pressurization effect (similar to a thermobaric charge). This effect devastates enclosed structures but has less effect on adjacent buildings, therefore, reducing the risk of collateral damage. This version of GMLRS is designed to strike targets at a range of over 70 km. EBW also has improved penetration capability, enabling the rocket to go through several floors of conventional buildings before exploding in the basements. 
Despite the nickname, the rocket is able to go further than 70 km: in Afghanistan, ranges of up to 93 Km have been demonstrated. More than 800 rockets have been used in theatre by the british army. 

Another unitary warhead option is the BANG warhead, already used by the French Army. BANG uses insensitive explosives and multi-effect fuze, featuring airburst, impact and penetration modes of operation. MBDA and Aerojet are jointly proposing BANG to the five nation's unitary warhead program. GMLRS loaded with BANG warhead was tested in 2005 as part of UK MoD evaluation, but has not been acquired yet, most likely because the urgent need for a Guided rocket directed the MOD to the already-available LM variant.
Further tests demonstrated extended range capability, firing the rocket to over 103 km using modified flight controls. Further enhancements considered for the rocket are the inclusion of semi-active laser homing device. The BANG has certainly potential for future adoption.

Though the accuracy of the weapon is not widely disclosed, one source suggests that it is around 10 to 5 m CEP. The missile has a length of 3.94 m, a body diameter of 0.227 m and a launch weight of 296 kg. The missile uses a single-stage solid propellant engine and is carried in sets of 6.



ATACMS – considered and trialed

M270B1 is the designation for the U.K.'s Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launcher, which has been in use with U.K. Forces since the early 1990s. The current M270B1 allows the firing of all MLRS rocket munitions, but not ATACMS, which is not fielded by the U.K. A firing test in January 2009 at the US Army firing range of White Sands, New Mexico proved that with a simple system upgrade, the M270B1 can broaden its MLRS-based capabilities to include ATACMS. 


The MLRS system. In the background, the M270 launcher vehicle, with space for two ammunitions module. In the middle, a standard 6-rockets module is shown. Currently, the UK rockets are mostly M31 guided unitary warhead rockets. In foreground, an ATACMS missile. One can be fitted in place of a 6-rockets module, and allow strategic stike up to 300 km away.


The block IA ATACMS extends the range to more than 300km by reducing the submunition payload and adding GPS guidance. The block 1A unitary-warhead missile, with a single-burst warhead, was first deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March / April 2003. It features a vertical target strike mode for maximum accuracy and minimum collateral damage even in urban areas. A variant with Sensor Fused Submunitions for area-attack with a range of 165 km is also available. 

As of now, the british M270B1 vehicles are "fitted for but not with" ATACMS. It seems that, for the moment, the "Large Long Range Rocket" program has been deferred and put on hold, so the Royal Artillery won't be procuring ATACMS for the moment.



M270B1 launcher vehicle upgrades – delivered

The UK Launchers have gotten a Lockheed Martin Improved Fire Control Systems (IFCS) and improved launcher mechanical systems (ILMS). The first 15 systems for the UK were ordered in March 2005 for delivery by the end of 2006. 
In 2010, 36 launcher vehicles had been upgraded, and 4 vehicles had been converted in Recovery and Repair (RRV) platforms, enough for 4 batteries. The TA regiment is probably using non-upgraded M270 vehicles.

M270 RRV

The IFCS provides additional capacity to accommodate complex munitions and modern computer electronics, including video display, onboard navigation with global positioning system, architecture for ultrafast signal processing and advanced mission software. ILMS reduces the time to aim the launcher to 16 seconds (compared to 93 seconds). The reloading time is cut from four to three minutes.

Afghanistan experience has dictated further upgrades for the british M270B1: for example, air conditioning isn’t critical in Germany’s Fulda Gap, for instance – but it is critical in Afghanistan’s Helmland Province during the hot months. The collapse of the very idea of ‘front lines’ changes vehicle protection requirements. So, too, does the prevalence of mine threats in Afghanistan, whether placed by deliberate enemy action, or present as leftover ordnance from the USSR’s long war.

In response, the GMLRS team, located within the Artillery Systems Integrated Project Team at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol, worked on a modification set. Bar armour and applique armor now surround the cab, to provide protection against small arms fire and even odds against RPGs. Wire cutters have been added. Some mine protection was added under the vehicle, and energy-absorbing seats minimize the shock transmitted from an underbody blast into the backs of the 3-man crew. A machine gun is mounted on top, supported by 3 thermal imaging cameras with driver and vehicle commander screens for night-time operation and better awareness of nearby threats.
Turnaround was quick, and upgraded M270 vehicles began deploying to Afghanistan in May 2008. Contractors included Lockheed Martin UK Insys (armor, seats, night vision), Dytechna (electronics), and Qinetiq (electronic and automotive trials).
This image allows an easy and fast confrontation between standard "Europe" GMLRS M270B1 launcher and "Theatre Entry Standard" launcher vehicle for Afghanistan.

The effect was very good: on November 23, 2009, the three crew members of a M270 vehicle survivedunscathed a mine blast that would have killed them in a non-upgraded vehicle.

“The blast blew off the vehicle’s left-side track, separated three wheels from their axles and ripped off the bar armour. Shock absorbers and armour sponson plates were also damaged. However, the crew survived without a scratch thanks to improved ballistic and mine protection which included underbody armour and better protected seats in the cab, fitted to the system over the last year as part of an Urgent Operational Requirement.”



Fire Shadow Loitering Ammunition – in development 
Already treated in earlier parts of the article. 

Excalibur guided 155 mm shell – trialed

The M982 Excalibur (previously XM982) is a 155 mm extended range guided GPS/INS artillery shell developed by Raytheon Missile Systems and BAE Systems Bofors. It is a precise GPS-guided munition capable of being used in close support situations within 150 metres (490 ft) of friendly troops. It costs between 50 and 80.000 dollars apiece, but delivers a CEP of 20 to 5 meters at 23 km range, while unguided 155 mm shells have a CEP of 200 to 300 meters. The difference is very relevant, and the Excalibur has solved a lot of problems to the US and Australian army. The US Army made the Excalibur its top invention for 2007. 


The Excalibur artillery shell shows the variety of fins and flight control surfaces that make it so accurate.


Variant I is fitted with a Unitary warhead, while Block II can arrive as far as 40 km with two Sensor Fused Ammunitions as payload. 

The Excalibur was successfully fired in trials at Yuma’s firing range in the US by a british AS90 and the round has the Royal Artillery’s attention from quite some time. Unfortunately, funding had already gone into the SMArt round, which, to add insult to injury, is definitely not being used in Afghanistan, where the enemy has no armor to target, while Excalibur would have been plenty helpful.


IMPAQT – Joint development programme. Current status? 

The IMPAQT consortium includes MBDA UK, MBDA France, BAE Systems, Bofors, Nexter Munitions and QinetiQ, set up to meet customer demand in the area of 155mm precision artillery ammunition offering increased ranges of over 60km from a standard 155/39 howitzer such as that of the AS90. This result was achieved by adopting the concept of “cargo ammunition”, in which the outer shell is not in heavy steel, but in light, high-resistance composites.

In September 2005, Nexter Munitions, as the chief agent representative of the consortium, was awarded a contract by France’s DGA defence procurement agency to design an increased range precision artillery round, called MPPA. The contract should be followed in 2007 with a production and firing stage.
The consortium has also submitted its 155 IMPAQT offering to the “precision-guided ammunition” component of the UK Ministry of Defence Indirect Fire Precision Attack (IPFA) programme.

The IMPAQT programme involves two shells, the Impaqt Mk I with a range greater than 60 km and Impaqt Mk II whose range is greater than 75 km. A longer term rocket-assisted guided round was to offer ranges of “up to 150 km”.

IMPAQT is able to engage a variety of targets at very long range and with very high accuracy:
the built-in flight control module enables accuracy of around 10 m (Equi-Probable Circle Radius),
the improved safety parts and loads enable accuracy and maximum reduction in collateral damage,
the concept of the cargo ammunition enables to have a family of shells delivering effects adapted to each mission (neutralisation and destruction firing or targeted firing on armoured vehicles).

IMPAQT can reach very long ranges thanks to the combination of effective aerodynamics and the selection of innovative composite materials.

IMPAQT has never been a really noisy programme, but from quite some time there’s no news of further developments, which makes me suspect that this programme has probably been another of so many “silent victims” of budget cuts on both sides of the Channel. 

Army Updates

Here i will follow the future events and announcements about the Army, as the SDSR becomes reality with time, hoping that it does not make for a too depressing read.

15 June 2011 - Vectronix confirms it has received a UK MOD order for a further 1400 MOSKITO Commander’s Target Locator (CTL) devices, bringing the order to 4000. The unique multi-function device combines all essential day and night viewing, measuring and geo-location functions into one compact and user friendly device weighing less than 1.2kg, including its commercially available batteries. This order is part of ongoing FIST work.

Interesting developments on the front of Ballistic Protection for soldiers too: Dr Hywel Jones at Sheffield Hallam University's Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) and Dr Anthony Pick, a ceramic consultant from Barnsley, scooped the £25,000 Venture Prize awarded by the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers for developing a new light-weight, low-cost, environmentally friendly ceramic body armour. The new material is made using a combination of several ceramic systems, a carbide, a nitride and a number of oxides, forming a novel, strong, hard but light ceramic composite.

The early development work has been funded by the MoD through its Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE).

Currently the ceramic composite demonstrates a 30 per cent weight saving compared with an armour plate of the same size made of alumina ceramics and is 15% lighter than another widely used ceramic armour, silicon carbide. It also requires a much lower furnace temperature meaning less energy is used and less CO2 is produced in manufacture, making it an environmentally-friendly product.
The feasibility stage, funded by the CDE, resulted in MoD ballistic results which showed sufficient promise for further funding to be awarded enabling the manufacture of enough components for full scale ballistic trials.

If trials are successful, this new material will be welcome as it will allow to make Osprey vests delivering the same protection, at lower cost and lower weight. 

17 June 2011 - For not the first time, the MOD confirms that it is looking at Micro (and for the future even Nano) UAVs for the infantry, but this time they announced that they want the capability to come online "by the end of the year".
The requirement is for a 'rapid, reliable and organic' system allowing ground forces to 'see into the compound when they need to and find the firing point when they're getting shot at'. The army is also looking at a micro-ground control station and battery technology in order to lower the burden carried by dismounted soldiers.

Maj Matt Moore SO2 UAS HQ Director Royal Artillery said that the MoD's Urban Warfare Exercise (URBEX) on Salisbury Plain last year, had tested Night Hawk; AeroVironment's Wasp III; Datron's Scout; and Cyberflight's Maverick. Nighthawk and the new Maverick from Prioria, both represent a new concept of an 'always ready' UAV carried in a tube, with wings wrapped around the fuselage. When needed, the UAV is pulled out of tube, the wings automatically snapping into position making the UAV is ready to launch.
The Maverick micro UAV and its container-tube.

'Night Hawk performed the best at the Micro-UAS trial at URBEX last year,' Moore observed while describing how the MoD was also looking at nano technology for UAS.


  1. Hi Gabrielle, great article. Just a few thoughts (from a civy) on pecoc - how difficult would it be to make 40mm grenade throwable? This could make the regular hand grenades redundant and provide more ammo for the ugl. Also, if ballistic glasses are being used, why not incorporate the hmd into these, there are plenty of them on the market.

    Final note, the new "mask" on the mk7 helmet looks ridiculous, is way too large and totally impractical (surely this affects aiming?)


  2. Thank you Andy!

    As to your questions:
    Change a 40 mm UGL round into a dual-purpose grenade that could also be hand-thrown should be feasible, but would require quite a dramatic redesign over current 40 mm rounds, and it is also unlikely to be cost-effective, even if a single kind of grenade, launchable in both ways, would have obvious advantages inside a Section of infantry.
    I don't think anyone has ever been planning such a development, though, and it is hard for me to provide a realistic assesment of the feasibility and effectiveness of such an approach.

    The British Army has recently ordered 92.000 pieces of Revision Eyewear ballistic eyepieces, to equip with them not just the forces in afghanistan but most of the infantry.
    But integrate the HMD on them... well, it would require a new kind of lense and a new HMD system. And while it would have the advantage of combining two things into one, it would make upgrades and replacement more complex and expensive during the HMD system life.

    As to the mask on the mk7 helmet, many have been puzzled by it already. But since PECOC is being trialed and informed by soldiers and frontline feedback, it appears unlikely that the design of the mask affects aiming. It is the first thing the guys trialing the kit would have pointed out.
    It is unclear if the mask is a final decision, it may still not be accepted into service, or, as some sources say, the mask kit might be issued only to soldiers on particular duty kinds. Someone suggested it might be used by gunners on top of vehicles such as Jackal, for example.

    Details aren't totally clear yet about that.

  3. Nice article.
    I just want to pick on one thing you say pay in the FAA and AAC is lower therefore reducing costs. The reverse is true, they all tend to be on the same pay band, but promotion is far quicker in the aac and faa than the raf.

  4. The proportion of "officers", especially high ranks, in the AAC and FAA is lower, though, and so are the manning figures, while harmony guidelines are more challenging.

    When things are combined, AAC and FAA still result cheapter.

  5. The cut the raf into two has done to death. It's very very difficult to compare manning figures, it's easy to pick up numbers from the internet manpower and a/c, in reality it's far far harder to make a direct comparison. The way each service is structured makes it difficult, if you were to merge, you would still need people from support trades medics and so on, in similar proportions.
    I doubt any of this will make much of a difference as you seem wedded to the idea of getting rid of the raf, I don't think there is anything anyone could say to convince you. I suppose it makes no odds either way as it won't ever happen.

  6. I'm not wedded to any idea.
    But since people launches absurd proposals based on thin air about giving carrierborne aviation roles to the RAF or taking the AAC and FAA and getting them into the RAF, i provide the evidence of why such an idea is demented and based on no real fact at all.

    And i've once made, provocatorily, the point that perhaps having the FAA and AAC take over the RAF would work better than doing it the other way around.

    Everyone says it would not work, but no one has provided much in terms of evidence to support such a sentence.

    Carrier ops are Navy job, and Marittime patrol also should have always been.
    Helicopters should be worked by the Army.
    That's how the world works, and the fact that the RAF does it differently does not mean it does it in a smarter way by default.

  7. Maybe there are people who say such things, but it's still no good reason to make up equally absurd ideas of cutting the raf into two.

  8. Maybe no. But i still feel it is right to make the point that the RAF operating Chinooks, carrierborne airplanes and Marittime Patrol Assets is nor logic, nor effective.

    Put the assets where they belong: Chinooks to the Army aviation, and whatever MPA is acquired in future must be worked by the Navy. And same goes for the F35C.

  9. I see people say that quite often that helicopters should go to the army. But I'm not sure why, I think it's an emotional issue rather then anything logical. Like any issues would be solved if only the AAC ran it, or some such idea or that it would recieve higher levels if the army ran it. Neither based on past experience would be true.

  10. It only happens in the UK that the army has to ride in air force-supplied utility helicopters, and the rest of the world does not have any "emotional" reason for this to happen. It is only logic to have army personnel (soldiers) work with other army personnel (crews), on army assets.

  11. Looking from the outside in it may seem logical but all the ills wouldn't be solved in reality. The main effort in the army isn't the aac, it's a side show to them. JHC budget was put under the control of land at wilton barracks one of the first things done was to cut the budget. They wouldn't get the high ranks needed to be heard about the noise. Look at the top posts in the army how many are ex-aac carear officers very few. Someone who was aac said ' we're the ginger stepchild of the army.'
    There's a link to a report on the internet, that I can't find, it details how the army used helicopters in op telic 1 it doesn't make for good reading.
    Have a read of Magic Mushroom's post on arrse, he used to post on TD, he's been around buoy a few times.

  12. Hi Gabriele,

    Could we fit jump in the rear "car" of the Warthog?

  13. Sorry I realise my last post says Jump instead of Jumper - it should make sense now!

  14. Actually, i must be having a problem of memory. I can't quite understand what you are referring to. What is the Jumper you mention?

  15. Sorry,

    I was referring to the IAI Jumper missile, the picture of Warthog with a flat bed suggested there was enough space to fit the 8 pack VLH.

  16. That's a quite brilliant piece of kit, and yes. It should be more than feasible, as the Jumper launcher is 1.4 meters x 1.4 meters and is two meters tall.
    I believe that the rear car of Warthog could be modified with a flatbed on which the launcher can rest laying on a side, being erected before launch, so to keep the height of the vehicle acceptable.

    It is another good variant of many that can be quite easily realized on a vehicle such as Warthog, indeed. And would be quite a firepower boost. Good idea.

  17. great article gabriele, i'm still lost amid the detail but it is a fantastic read.

  18. Thank you a lot Jedi. I hope the other sections will prove just as interesting.

    Now i'm engaged in gathering up info for an article about a possible overarching "strategy" for the UK military, as i've noticed that, correctly, on Think Defence a lot of people is concerned by the lack of a clear line of thought. It made me want to see what i can come up with.

    Inexorably, the more i study the UK's international ties and interests, the more i see that it is mostly a Naval factor.
    I'm not surprised. But it makes me even more worried about the sea-blindness of which so many suffer these days.

  19. Hi Gabriele

    Excelent article, first time i have commented i normally just read,but i really do enjoy your work its so well researched without daft statements, as well as your conclusions being almost the same as mine lol. In this article i think we should scrap FRES UV and go for warthog for the 5 mech battalions with either the IMI wildcat or Bushmaster for the light battalions with one brigade fitted out with mastiffs

  20. Thanks for reading, and thanks even more for commenting, you are very welcome.

    I believe in the FRES UV... the 8x8 platform, mainly thanks to the Stryker but now thanks to vehicles such as the Boxer too, has proven its value. There's a reason why almost all armies are pursuing a 8x8 vehicle of some kind for their medium weight formations. From Italy's Freccia and Centauro to France's VBCI to the many russian models to the Singaporean's Terrex to the already mentioned Boxer, the Patria models in east europe, the BAE Hagglunds SEP, and so along.

    Warthog has many good qualities, but i don't think it is a good platform for the whole of the mechanized force.
    It is not too fast, and not too adequate to moving on road and into urban scenario. It is an off-road absolute winner, but to enter an hostile town i'd prefer a well-kitted FRES UV.

    As to the Mastiffs, i'd keep them mothballed for use by the Light Infantry, yes... But i'd check the Ranger vehicle too. It is not battle-proven, but on paper looks like an excellent design, very promising. And far more british than Mastiff could ever be.

  21. I am very much a pragmatist and tend to build on what the army has now rather then scrap whole fleets of equipment which certain commentors on Think Defence would like, how can we improve in the here and now which is lacking in the MOD. Stryker failed in tactics and armour, which led to the hiatus in FRES UV program, better vehicles like Patria AMV (which i like alot) are now proving themselves in A-stan.
    My first comment was trying to work with the limited objectives of the army and trying to replace like with like the warthog for the bulldog for better cross country mobility and a infantry mobility vehicle with good IED protection for Urban/Road travel (i must admit to a fondness of the Israeli Wildcat )
    Though if left to me i would have:

    1 x improved warrior battalion
    2 x SA Patria AMV Badger battalions with 40mm cta turrets
    1 x IMI wildcat battalion for peacekeeping

    but then i would also keep as much heavy armour/artillery as possible for when the s*** hits the fan

  22. Dear Gabriele, thank you for article. You can find 40 MBT Challenger II on BATUS, Canada. It seems to me this is the difference between 385 and 345.

  23. Good article, good read.

  24. Thank you, glad you appreciated the stuff.

  25. It is sheer stupidity that no Challengers are deployed to Afghanistan


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