Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Maritime Electronic Warfare Programme

The Maritime Electronic Warfare Programme (MEWP) has entered the Major Projects spreadsheet for the first time in the issue published earlier this month. This project has been in existence for multiple years already, but only now that various portions of it are about to progress it has started to be covered by the annual report. 

 MEWP is actually split into two Category A (which means their value is greater than 400 million) projects: MEW System Integrated Capability and EW Countermeasures Project. MEWP is described as a project intent on modernizing the Royal Navy’s Electronic Warfare capability through the adoption of open architectures with the potential to contribute to the development of shared Situational Awareness and Automated Cooperation in responding to missile attacks. 

Increment 1 of the Maritime Electronic Warfare System Integrated Capability (MEWSIC) should go under contract in the third quarter of this year, according to the report. Increment 2 is in its Concept Phase, while a 3rd Increment has not yet seen activities begin. We don’t know much about what these Increments involve, but we can assume that Increment 1 is likely to be the open architecture command and control element of the EW suite, to enable the later integration of new sensors and of the new countermeasures to come from the parallel project. 

Back between 2017 and 2018, two different industrial teams formed up to pursue MEWSIC and the wider MEWP opportunities: BAE Systems, CGI and Thales form one team; Lockheed Martin and Elbit form the other. Elbit UK is not too subtly offering its eM-e dominate system of systems for maritime EW. This is an adaptive, open architecture system split in its Command and Control element, sensors element and countermeasures element. 

The Royal Navy is unlikely to be giving maximum priority to the sensors at this stage since it has already completed some efforts in the previous decade to modernize these elements, mainly through adoption of the Thales VIGILE D fully digital Radar ESM system. 

On the other hand, a notice has been published calling for a new Communications ESM (CESM) capability for the Type 23s, under Project ARDENT WOLF. Invitation to negotiate is expected in September 2021 with contract signature penciled in for April 2022. The new CESM will be fitted to a minimum of 7 frigates (accounting for the fact that, while it will happen over more than a decade, the Type 23 fleet is on its sundown path) and will replace the HAMMERHEAD CESM, which is around one decade old. 

It will be very interesting to see exactly what Increment 1 will cover. It is obviously intriguing to see the Royal Navy hanging on to hopes to develop a better capability for automated cooperation against missile attacks. The Navy notoriously wanted the US Cooperative Engagement Capability on the Type 45 destroyers but was never able to fund its adoption. The requirement has not gone away, however, and the Navy probably wants to acquire the means to connect into today’s Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air architecture at the heart of the US Navy efforts. 
Cooperative engagement prominently features in the slides published a while ago by the Navy and highlighting its priorities on the way to 2030. 
In may and june, during exercise FORMIDABLE SHIELD in the Hebrides range, both SAMPSON and ARTISAN radars were put to the test tracking ballistic and supersonic sea skimming targets, but it was the dutch HNLMS De Zeven ProvinciĆ«n that was able to share tracking data from its upgraded SMART-L MM/N radar to enable the “launch on remote” of an SM-3 missile from the USS Paul Ignatius. It is important that the ability to cooperatively deploy countermeasures and fire interceptors timely is developed as soon as possible. 

Coming to the EW Countermeasures project, we are told that Increment 1A should see the competition start in September this year ahead of a full business case in August 2022. 

This first increment involves the acquisition of a “trainable launcher” for the decoys. Currently, the Royal Navy uses fixed, six-barrel launchers bolted on deck which cannot “aim” autonomously to launch a decoy in the most convenient direction to face an incoming threat. The ship thus has to manoevre to make best use of the cloaking effect generated by the deployed countermeasures, but this wastes precious time that, in particular against supersonic, and even more so hypersonic, threats is simply not available. The trainable launcher is a key upgrade to enable a quicker and more effective deployment of countermeasures. 

This is a requirement the Navy has felt for many years now and which generated response in the industry: Chemring notoriously developed the CENTURION system and SEA developed its own take. From France, Lacroix can offer its DAGAIE / New Generation Dagaie Systems (NGDS®), while Italy employs the SCLAR, marketed today in its ODLS incarnation by Leonardo. The Chemring and SEA products might be favorite in the Royal Navy contest because they are designed around the 130 mm decoy that is the standard caliber for the RN, US and multiple other countries, while the DAGAIE goes hand in hand with SEACLAD rounds also from Lacrois, and SCLAR / ODLS is mostly about 105 to 118 mm rockets, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see both producers offering a variant compatible with the 130 mm SeaGnat format.

The CENTURION launcher delivers a beneficial impact on Radar Cross Section. It has also been demonstrated as a missile launcher, firing JAVELIN back in 2013 as an anti-FIAC option. 


Increment 1B remains “subject to the outcome of a feasibility study”. 
A november 2020 tender gives us a pretty good idea of what Increment 1B might be about because it was split in two parts: a trainable launcher and a new Radio Frequency Active Decoy. For the Trainable Launcher, Invitation to Negotiate was expected in May 2021 with Contract Award in December 2022. The Major Projects spreadsheet suggests these timelines have slipped, but hopefully not by too much. 

For the Radio Frequency Active Decoy (which would effectively replace the current MK251 SIREN) the notice said 2021 would see a Feasibility study, with an Invitation To Negotiate target of April 2022 and Contract Award expected in August 2023. Overall, things match. 

Loading of a MK251 SIREN decoy in the current fixed launcher barrels. 



The Royal Navy has been working on a new active RF jammer decoy for multiple years. Under the ACCOLADE project, France and UK collaboratively designed a Manoeuvring Expendable Airborne Carrier round fitted with a Thales-developed RF ECM payload. The ACCOLADE round was test fired on Salisbury Plain, but the technology demonstrator phase ended in February 2016 and was not followed by adoption. The RF payload from ACCOLADE is still around, however, and in 2019 was actually demonstrated to the Royal Navy installed on the HALCYON Unmanned Surface Vehicle, the prototype of the USV that is the core of the MMCM counter-mines system. This was a demonstration of the concept of Recoverable Offboard Decoy System which might well bring results in the coming years, although, of course, an 11 meter USV is clearly oversized in comparison to this particular payload. The choice of boat was probably made out of sheer convenience; a much smaller one would be used in an operational system. Or, conversely, one could seek a much larger payload. 

ACCOLADE test firing on Salisbury Plain 


During 2019 the Royal Navy had also put up a notice for the replacement of the current Outfit DLF (3B) inflatable floating decoy. A Naval Passive Off-Board Decoy (N-POD) of similar concept is wanted from 2023. 






An airborne corner reflector decoy, of similar concept to the DLF (3B), has possibly entered service. A DSTL document mentions a MK217 “mini corner reflector” decoy round. In 2018 Chemring unveiled its TORERO 130 mm ammunition which, fired into the air, deploys a Fast-Inflating Airborne Corner Reflector to passively seduce missiles away from the ship. Airborne Systems and Rheinmetall offer their ADS 103 round, very similar in concept. The corner reflector begins its seduction in the air and floats on the surface of the sea after coming down.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the BOXER purchase

 

A Written Answer has finally provided interesting details about the british purchase of BOXER vehicles. Minister Jeremy Quin, on 9 June, said:

 

Details of the variants of Boxer currently on order by quantity can be found in the table below. The Department is looking to enhance and uplift the size of the total UK Boxer order as we work to implement the Integrated Review. This may include new variants and partnering opportunities with industry and our Allies.

 

First, the Good: the Minister gives up new hopes that an expansion of the order might still happen. For a while, MOD talk had pretty much killed off any hope in this sense, but the answer is pretty univocal in suggesting that there will be adjustments.





The list offers many surprises because so far we had been given very little reason to believe there would be such a wide range of sub-variants. An Engineer Section vehicle was expected, but nothing had so far been heard about a Mortar Carrying vehicle. A Repair sub-variant is also an interesting semi-surprise.

It is interesting to note that the “Command Post” is expected to come in a significant number of sub-variants as well, including OPV (a surprisingly old fashioned definition) for Fires direction; an Electronic Warfare & SIGINT sub-variant and a BLOS comms carrier.

The inclusion of these sub-variants is, for the most part, Good. How good, we will only know when the effective mission fit becomes known. The mortar carrying vehicle, for example: will it an APC giving mobility to a L16 81mm mortar team? Will it at least have a turntable and roof port for firing from inside the vehicle, or not even that…? Or maybe there is scope to finally adopt a turreted, heavy mortar…? Unlikely, but it would be a great capability boost and, for the moment, we just don’t know what might or might not happen.

The “Recce / Fire Support Vehicle” is probably the APC “up-gunned” with JAVELIN on the RWS. Around 50 such enhanced fits were expected, and the removal from service of WARRIOR has given new impetus to attempts to further improve the otherwise pretty dismal firepower of MIV.

A notable aspect is that several of these sub-variants will bring entirely new capabilities that the BOXER family, at present, does not offer. The development of the relevant modules should happen in the UK, according to know commercial agreements, and there could be some genuine export potential as well, if the resulting product is valid. 


While it remains dubious, at best, that BOXER's modularity will ever have a usefulness in terms of "on the battlefield re-roling", the possibility of developing mission modules in isolation from the base vehicle should greatly ease the creation of new variants and sub-variants 

The Bad is undoubtedly the tiny number of Infantry Carriers, an incomprehensible 85. Even assuming the Fire Support Vehicle is effectively an upgunned infantry carrier despite being counted in with the “Specialists”, the combined number of 147 vehicles is still insufficient to equip 4 infantry battalions.

They are numbers more appropriate to just 2 battalions… which is what Army 2020 Refine needed, since the plan specifically called for the ability to deploy only one of the 2 STRIKE brigades at a time. 1 Brigade, 2 battalions.

 Indeed, this might be the explanation for the tiny number of ICVs in the order.

The loss of WARRIOR means that such a plan no longer makes any sense, and adjustements are indispensable.

And this leads us straight to the Ugly side of this list: the overlap / confliction with AJAX.

Until a short time ago, the UK was of course planning to equip 2 armoured brigades and 2 STRIKE brigades on top. Although AJAX itself was going to be in the STRIKE Brigades for the most part, it appears clear that the support variants of the family (ARGUS for the engineers, ATHENA command posts, ARES, APOLLO, ATLAS) were primarily destined to units aligned with the tracked, armoured brigades.

ARGUS would work alongside TITAN and TROJAN in the two heavy engineer regiments, for example, with BOXER ESV working with the 2 engineer regiments of the STRIKE brigades instead.

Now, however, there will only be 2 heavy mechanized Brigade Combat Teams in total, with the other two BCTs being Light Role. Clearly, you are not going to put the engineers in BOXERs while the infantry of the brigade moves, at best, in FOXHOUND with JACKAL for fire support.

This means, effectively, that the 52 ARGUS and the 60 BOXER Engineer Section Vehicles are now virtually overlapping directly, as there are only 2 Engineer regiments of this weight class to re-equip, not 4. The OPV variant, similarly, is increasingly overlapping with the number of AJAX to be kitted for Joint Fires direction.

The sum of 112 ATHENA command posts and 123 between BOXER command posts and command-utility vehicles also leads to a frankly absurd situation in which the UK will have a Command Post vehicle virtually for every single Infantry Carrying vehicle in service army-wide (up to 147 BOXER, as discussed earlier, plus 93 ARES, vs 112 + 123 command posts). A 1:1 ratio is clearly insane.  

I think it unavoidable that this overlap will need correcting, somehow.

We have all been following with increasing despair and rage the embarrassing situation of AJAX and it is hard not to muse about the implications of these sub-variants. if there are only two “heavy” regiments to equip, you suddenly only need one of the two sub-fleets, not both. In practice, if AJAX was to be cancelled, the loss of ARGUS would not be an immediate issue.

This generates unpleasant thoughts.




A more optimistic way of looking at it is that, if AJAX survives and the BOXER sub-variants are acquired in these numbers,  the Army then “only” needs to procure more Infantry Carriers to get back in a position in which it can properly mechanize all 4 Brigade Combat Teams. The 2 armoured brigades would keep the AJAX-based support variants, for obvious reasons, while the “Light BCTs” could be progressively uplifted with BOXER to become fully-wheeled formations.

Third option: the current balance of variants and sub-variants is modified, drastically reducing the number of BOXERs to be used as “Command Posts” and Engineer Section Vehicles, in favor of more ICVs / FSVs.


One thing is clear: this is the Army's position in regards to BOXER at the moment 


Judging from the list, an increase in the number of ICVs is both urgent and unavoidable. What’s left to be discovered is what adjustments will be adopted to make that increase possible.

 


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Combined Arms Regiments on the way to the Future Combat Team

I’ve already written a first piece about the (limited) options available to the Army for the future in light of the cut of the whole WARRIOR fleet, but it’s time to go a bit more in detail about the topic. The reason to return on this topic is the fact that we have basically been told in no uncertain terms that there is no additional purchase of BOXERs on the way, and that out to at least 2030, AJAX and BOXER in the current numbers and shapes are all there is to work with.

As we try and think of where the Army might go from here, we cannot ignore what the minds of the Armed Forces have indicated, in the Integrated Operating Concept 2025, as the necessary attributes of the future force:

 

Have smaller and faster capabilities to avoid detection

Trade reduced physical protection for increased mobility

Rely more heavily on low-observable and stealth technologies

Depend increasingly on electronic warfare and passive deception measures to gain and maintain information advantage

Include a mix of crewed, uncrewed and autonomous platforms

Be integrated into ever more sophisticated networks of systems through a combat cloud that makes best use of data

Have an open systems architecture that enables the rapid incorporation of new capability

Be markedly less dependent on fossil fuels

Employ non-line-of-sight fires to exploit the advantages we gain from information advantage

Emphasize the non-lethal disabling of enemy capabilities, thereby increasing the range of political and strategic options

 

The Army’s “Conceptual Force 2035”, which very much doubles down on the same kind of design drivers. This study imagines an army of 3 smaller but capable divisions made of lighter, faster, more deployable, largely independent battlegroups, with dispersion being the norm. Conceptual Force 2035 specifies that the disaggregated fighting requires Combined Arms capabilities to be organic at lower level, to ensure the dispersed Battlegroups do not have to wait for a superior echelon to make supports available. This includes having more organic Indirect Fire capability and employing it alongside greater ATGW capability to offset the capability currently delivered by MBTs through “lighter” vehicles.




The BGs will be expected to carry out, and I quote, deeper, more risky and aggressive manoeuvre. Robotic, sacrificial systems will be used to press on reconnaissance, and I quote again, to the point of destruction, in order to enable the BG to use frenetic op-tempo to make up for the lack of mass.

The resulting BGs would be around 500-strong but are supposed to match the current mission set of a 1250-strong armoured BG though the use of robotics and higher op-tempo. The Conceptual Force imagines that, from around 82.000 regulars, the British Army would be able to form some 48 such Combined Arms battlegroups. The organization would work to the Rule of 4, with an Assault Force, Covering Force, Echelon Force and Reserve Force. These BGs would be grouped in Brigades with enough CS and CSS elements to fight, again, largely independently from the Division level.

The key attributes described above, for me, are the key to the whole concept: if you want to fight dispersed and be lighter but still capable, you must pack a serious punch and have far more capability pushed down the levels of command. This is something that in STRIKE we are just not seeing in any meaningful way. Firepower has been dead last in the list of priorities so far, and that makes the whole thing not credible.

In fact, what is most striking about the Conceptual Force 2035 is that it is so entirely alien to what the British Army actually looks like today, in structure, “culture” and programmes. For example, Permanent Combined Arms Battlegroups are anathema in today’s British Army and among the purists of capbadges and specialty separations. CS and CSS are a scarce resource completely out of balance with the number of infantry battalions. Indirect Fires and ATGWs are weaknesses, not strengths. The Rule of 4 is nowhere to be seen, and indeed resources in multiple areas are spread so thin than even the Rule of 3 is dubious.


Future Combat Team

2035 is not that far away, especially in terms of defence procurement timelines. The current BOXER procurement effort will end in 2030, for example (having been accelerated, as we know: it was 2032 until a short while back). It is not clear if the Integrated Review has actually done anything to accelerate the Mobile Fires Platform program to replace AS90, which had once aimed at 2026 but then had IOC moved to 2029. For all the hints dropped so far, the Review has not changed the 2029 target. CHALLENGER 3 itself starts going operational only in 2027, and so on.

The Conceptual Force 2035 is not a far flung future: is the immediate future that is being slowly built right now. The glacial pace of Defence procurement means that this decade plus equals to a virtual “tomorrow”.

We have to face one painful reality: BOXER and AJAX are what the Army must work with. Before 2030 there is little to no possibility of seeing any major addition, such as a second batch of BOXERs being ordered.  

Trying to reconcile the equipment available and the current army structure with the above described aims is thus the most urgent undertaking facing the Army.

The STRIKE brigade is dead, but many of the underlying concepts live. This is not a bad thing in itself: the British Army is small and does need to try and fight in a different, more “insurgent” way. So long as it doesn’t lie to itself about what is achievable, and the means it would take to fight in that different way, the drive for innovation is commendable.

My readers know that I’ve opposed the STRIKE brigades relentlessly over the years. I did it because, the more the project “progressed”, the clearer it became that it did not deliver a formation that matched the idea. Moreover, it was clear that it would bring about disaster in an already overheated modernization plan. And sadly, the cancellation of WCSP followed, as was entirely predictable.

My readers already know that I do not believe that wheels in themselves are key to adopting a more dispersed kind of fighting, and certainly I will never side with the British Army in pretending that having wheels is sufficient to change battle dynamics. Fighting dispersed is complex, dangerous and demanding. It requires more capability, not less. It requires capabilities currently relegated at higher command levels to be distributed far more widely, at far lower level. One such example is air defence: dispersion alone, in the age of the UAV and airpower in general, cannot possibly be a solution to anything if the dispersed groups have little to no ability to defend themselves from threats from the air.

I also do not agree with the Army’s latest apparent pretention that it can just decide to “fight the deep” with less care for the “close”. It started with STRIKE itself, of course: depending on the day and on who you talked to, STRIKE sounded exactly like a force pushing deep into a disorganized enemy rear line, but without an earlier phase of combat to punch a breach in the enemy’s positions. And as I’ve written many, many times, I just don’t see how you could do that: having BOXER riding on wheels is definitely not enough to think that, however fluid the battlespace might be, your battlegroups can just infiltrate unseen and always pick their targets at leisure in an imaginary rear area where you get to target A2AD platforms without the enemy picking you apart.

However dispersed notional Russian battlegroups might be in a region, after all, they have access to such amounts of artillery that they will have a much easier time closing up “gaps” than the British Army in trying to exploit them. Not to mention that most, if not all peers and near peers have wheeled formations of their own, invariably more heavily armed by far, which can at least match, if not exceed, any perceived mobility advantage given by BOXER.

Wheels, however, do have unquestioned merits in making a ground force element more readily capable to move independently over long distances without depending on semi-trailers and trucks. Wheeled armour also tends to be less thirsty, which means it can do with a smaller logistic train. For a small Army with a (relatively) small budget, wheels can represent a serious advantage.

I have not changed my mind: ideally, tracks go with tracks and wheels go with wheels, so that each formation can maximize its best characteristics. I’ve always criticized the STRIKE brigade’s half-track nature, and I continue to think it is a mistake.

Yet I’m about to call for the permanent, organic mixing of AJAX and BOXER.

I do it purely because I don’t think there is a better alternative possible with what the Army has and will have in the future. If there is no chance to get any significant new purchase of combat vehicles of either kind before 2030 at the earliest, then I don’t think there is a way to keep AJAX and BOXER apart, because taken in isolation they are both inadequate.

One could envisage an effort to maintain separate tracked, heavy formations, but not without tweaking and probably expanding the AJAX order. If AJAX was an IFV, it could replace Warrior. But AJAX has no room to carry infantry and there is no real way to change this fact. The structure of the vehicle and the vast turret ring (specified in part because there once was to also be a Medium Armour variant with 120mm smoothbore gun) prevent any conversion to an IFV. It is also probably next to impossible to pursue a “rewriting” of the contract that de-scopes some of the AJAX to make room for a new IFV variant, which General Dynamics is ready to offer and has tried (and failed) to sell to Australia.

However, the ARES APC already on order could easily be delivered with internal arrangements for carrying 7-8 dismounts. If more ARES were ordered and configured accordingly, it would be possible to create Combined Arms Battlegroups by mixing AJAX and ARES. Such BGs of AJAX and ARES carrying infantry could become a prototype for the Future Combat Team of 2035, adopting the Rule of 4 and beginning to develop true “Find, Fix and Strike” mechanisms by adding in organic Indirect Fires.

If more ARES could be squeezed in to make this happen, it would be possible to hang on to the superior all-terrain mobility of tracks and ensure that the remaining CHALLENGER 2s have appropriate intimate support. The two Heavy brigades could thus consist each of a single tank regiment and 2/3 AJAX/ARES BGs.



FRES SV could have been a true engine of evolution for the armoured component, but that ship has now sailed and the Army has jumped into the wheels camp 

But sadly every evidence at the moment suggest that this is not going to happen.

And even if that option was to materialize, it would be very difficult to create wheel-only battlegroups out of the current BOXER purchase because plenty of key variants are not included (above all, nobody seems to have thought about what happens with the mortars, for example). The Army has quickly killed off any hope that a significant change might be on the cards. While heavier weapons on some of the APCs are likely (alleluia!), we have been told in no uncertain terms that there will be no big turret and cannon retrofit.

The BOXER battalion will in other words continue to lack the means to support the infantry fight directly onto the target; and will also lack the superior sensors and communications fitted to the AJAX. While it is to be hoped that MORPHEUS and LeTacCIS will upgrade army comms and make it much easier to coordinate indirect fires from just about any combat vehicle, the BOXER battalion will continue to have limited capabilities in this sense.

I can’t imagine BOXER fighting “on its own”, organized in battalions of extremely lightly armed APCs. The resulting formation is way too weak, and BOXER takes the place of WARRIOR but does not replace it, as the Army insists it can’t be an equivalent IFV.

As for the tracked counterpart, the AJAX “cavalry” regiment with little to no dismounts is not a credible formation, in my mind. We have to face the truth: AJAX has been purchased as a like for like CRV(T) replacement, only much larger and heavier. ARES is just a supersized SPARTAN, with the same number of dismounts. The regiments have been planning to essentially keep the Sabre squadron structure unchanged, with a tiny number of dismounts in ARES/SPARTAN APCs supporting the Troops of AJAX/SCIMITAR. For all the talk of innovation, the AJAX project is one of the most conservative ones in history.

The difference with what the US Army is doing, to make just one example, is stark: the cavalry variant of the BRADLEY, the M3 with only 2 dismounts, has been progressively abandoned and the Squadrons are moving to the 6-36 model with 6 BRADLEY IFVs each with 6 dismounts in the back.

AJAX looks even more retrograde if compared with plans for Italian cavalry formations combining a squadron of CENTAURO 2 8x8 tank destroyers with 120/44 supported by a combination of FRECCIA 8x8 in Far and Close variants, the first equipped with battlefield surveillance radar and optics for use dismounted or on telescopic mast, the latter with UGV and SPIKE anti-tank missiles.

The STRIKE designers had already realized that, given the characteristics of the two purchases, AJAX and BOXER would have to operate together. Sadly, while this remains suboptimal in many ways, it remains in my opinion true. Neither of the two fleets can go far on its own.

Where I diverge from the Army on this point is on the belief that, once we have accepted this is the reality, we should not insist in keeping the units apart during “peacetime”. Especially since, as we have been told in no uncertain terms in the Review, there no longer is a peacetime. We are in the age of constant competition: if we accept this is true, then we need to adapt.

The increasingly artificial separation of “cavalry” and “infantry” in the British Army causes all sorts of historical limitations that really have no reason to exist. During the whole STRIKE brigade experience, to make but one example, it was tacitly understood that the Battlegroup to be formed on the base of the single Cavalry regiment on AJAX would have no Support company with mortars, snipers etcetera. Why? Because it is not needed? No, of course not. Because infantry battalions have those things; cavalry doesn’t.

The Household Cavalry regiment, truth be told, has been laboring for several years now to “experiment” with an added Sniper troop and, incredible innovation, a mortar troop that it was “trying” to stand up back in 2019. Reading of these “groundbreaking” innovation measures, year after year, has been frankly incredibly depressing. It gives a sense of an army that really, really struggled to move on past deeply ingrained but often utterly stupid habits.

I can already hear the many voices that will insist that we keep the infantry battalion and cavalry regiment well separated, and rely on battlegrouping to mix the pieces together only “in time of need”. But I personally insist on saying that this practice is no longer acceptable, as it seems to only ever perpetuate bad army habits and tribalism between capbadges.

I don’t see a single genuinely good reason why we should continue to keep separate formations that will never deploy on operations without being broken apart and reassembled in combined arms battlegroups.

All too often, when looking back to operations, the post-action analysis contains the passage “the units in the battlegroup had only been together for a short time and didn’t know each other enough”, or similar remarks. Lieutenant M. Dewis, on TANK 2020 (volume 102, No 801) makes a series of recommendations to try and save the Regimental system while enabling the creation of effective Combined Arms Teams.

He stops short of advocating for permanent overarching formations, but he underlines the need for broader, more stable affiliations and more cross-training. At the same time he can’t help but note that Battlegroup level training is expensive and an increasingly rare commodity at a time in which it is more desperately needed than ever. It’s all good to insist on social networking and “forming and storming” by “intruding” in each other’s low level training events as much as possible, and simulation and tabletop wargames obviously help, but I don’t think half-measures are adequate.

The Army’s Conceptual Force 2035 is clear in its working assumption that the future is the combined arms Future Combat Team. It is time for the Army to move in that direction in a serious way, if it believes its own innovative thinking.

 

Combined Arms Regiment: the stepping stone to the Future Combat Team

The main physical problem to overcome in creating a permanent Combined Arms Regiment is the fact that AJAX and BOXER will not be based in the same place.

Or will they…? BOXER was heading to Catterick until WARRIOR was supposed to carry on, but now I’m finding it hard to imagine that the plan won’t change. I’m expecting the WARRIOR barracks in and around Salisbury plain to become the BOXER barracks under the new plans.

If I’m right, the number one problem disappears as BOXER ends up living next door to the AJAX.

The rest is primarily a matter of Regimental tribalism and career management.

Does the Regiment need to vanish to allow the formation of the permanent Combined Arms Team? The US Army experience suggests that it is not necessary, as the Regiment could still connect together elements that are parceled out into the Combined Arms Teams.

Indeed, such parceled elements are smaller than a current, formed regiment/battalion, but not by too terribly much. There should be plenty of options to preserve career options, if not to improve them. The geographical proximity in basing should also alleviate any perceived damage to regimental unit and ethos.

The Combined Arms Regiment I propose bear resemblance to the Combined Arms Battalion of the US Army of a few years back, and are essentially permanent Square battlegroups, immediately familiar to the British Army as well. 2 Squadrons of AJAX supporting 2 infantry companies in BOXERs, with a third AJAX squadron for reconnaissance and screening (borne out of what would have once been the Recce platoons of WARRIOR battalions) and a Fire Support Company.

Since then, the US Army has taken the, debatable, decision to go from Square to Triangular organization in no small part in order to move one company of M1 MBTs into the Brigade’s cavalry Squadron, to beef up its ability to fight for information.

In practice, the Combined Arms Regiment would be composed by 2 closely integrated and aligned “battalions”, one of infantry, one of cavalry. Each battalion could maintain its ties to its own Regimental system, but on the battlefield it would of course be the CAR that would be in control.

JAVELIN missiles would be pushed down to the companies, with at least some of the BOXERs also equipped with the single launcher on the RS4 PROTECTOR RWS. Apparently some 50 such up-armed RWSs are planned, and their number might increase.

About 50% of the BOXER APCs should come equipped with the Grenade Machine Gun, and in Germany they have developed a system that couples the RWS with GMG to a Spexer 2000 3D Mk III AESA radar. Using air-bursting grenades, this combination is able to provide anti-UAV defence, and the British Army should urgently adopt it. It is a very basic solution, pretty limited, but it is at least a first step in the right direction and one that can be brought online with minimal expenditure and impact on the BOXER procurement.


The AESA radar, coupled with the GMG with airburst grenades, offers some protection from incoming drones / loitering munitions 

The Army hopes to “improve” firepower on some of the BOXERs in as-yet undecided ways. The adoption of the M230LF light 30x113 mm gun might be an option; if we are really lucky they will consider going with a Moog modular turret that would open up possibilities to boost not just anti-surface capability, but anti-air as well. The STRYKER for Manoeuvre SHORAD, the “MARAUDER” for the US Army, is an example of what can be achieved with such systems.

The Support Company will ensure that each CAR has its own mortars, snipers, UAVs / UGVs in good time, and missile Overwatch. With JAVELIN pushed forth into the infantry companies, the current anti-tank platoons would instead operate the Mounted Close Combat Overwatch capability which is to come from the Battlegroup Organic Anti-Armour programme.

To ensure the group has access to better organic Indirect Fire capability, the aim would be to acquire a turreted 120mm mortar as well, keeping pace with what is by now a standard pick for mechanized formations.

Like in the STRIKE brigades, the task for AJAX would be in no small part to intimately support the infantry. An IFV without ability to carry infantry, by all means. Its sensor suite, in addition, would have to be exploited to the max to ensure that Indirect Fires, organic and non-organic, can timely be brought to bear.

The “Cavalry battalion” would thus have up to 3 Squadrons, 2 of which aligned with the infantry companies and another “free” to scout ahead and provide screening and targeting.

The “infantry battalion” would have responsibility for the 2 infantry companies and the Support Company.

It should be possible, without acquiring any additional BOXER or AJAX, to form at least 6 such CARs. Not “cavalry”, not “infantry”. Permanent, combined arms BGs that will have to deliver that mix of “Find, Fix and Strike” capability by progressively integrating more indirect fire options, and the ability to target them from, if not any soldier, certainly from pretty much any squad and combat vehicle.

These BGs will have to progressively evolve towards those “Future Combat Teams” envisaged by the Conceptual Force 2035. A key capability to bring in as quickly as possible to enable that evolution is the Land Precision Fires system, which is meant to succeed EXACTOR MK2 and eventually expand striking range towards the 60 km mark. Land Precision Strike is an Artillery program, but this should not be allowed to stovepipe it away from the combined arms BGs. Land Precision Strike must become an Army-wide effort to give battlegroups a new and enhanced lethality.

Short Range Air Defence will also need to move forwards to become an organic component of the dispersed battlegroups, because UAVs are going to be everywhere. The SHORAD platform, ideally, must become a more multi-purpose system. Equipment-wise, STORMER HVM already is a multi-purpose system since LMM MARTLET missiles would be plenty good against surface targets as well, but there does not seem to be any real willingness to exploit this possibility. It is no good to claim that air defence is too complex and specialized and must remain stovepiped within specialist formations: if there is one thing we must squeeze out of digital technology and potentially AI is the ability to spread out “complex” mission capabilities across a wider user base. Otherwise there will never be enough to truly pursue dispersion.

The Army has lost mass and has lost many tanks as well; lethality cannot continue to be an afterthought. It is time to seriously approach the problem of how to increase it to compensate the other weaknesses. It is no good to only ever talk about compensating loss of armour with Indirect Fires while doing absolutely nothing to make it a reality. The Army needs to demonstrate that it is doable and that it is committed to a dramatic increase of firepower at lower command levels.

In order to ensure that as much money as possible goes towards the new capabilities, vehicle variants and additional vehicle purchases needed, the Army will have to get better at setting its priorities.

It remains foolish, in my opinion, that the British Army has prioritized ambulance and command post variants for the BOXER over more “fighty” frontline roles. I’ve already asked this question in the past, but I will formulate it again: does the ambulance vehicle really need to be a BOXER…? I fully understand it is desirable, but I don’t think it is necessary.




Again, a priority for me would also be to re-evaluate the variants of MIV to be procured, reducing to the bare minimum the number of ambulances and command posts in favor of instead pursuing, with maximum urgency, a 120mm mortar and an ATGW variants. With a wiser choice of priority on the variants to include in the order, the 508 BOXERs already on order could equip more than just a paltry 4 battalions. I’ve written about this in greater detail in a previous article.  

 The Ambulance role and, wherever possible, the C2 role should be “offloaded” onto much cheaper Multi Role Vehicle Protected (MRV-P) variants.

I understand the allure of having everything on the same vehicle base, and I realize that there is no safe rear echelon when fighting dispersed and dealing with enemies who can contest, if not win control of the air and dominate the Fires battle. But I still don’t see “BOXER-for-everything” being in any way a solution.

Moreover, it is painfully obvious that the money is not and will never be enough for such an approach. Surely it makes sense to be very selective when it comes to what should ride in an extremely expensive BOXER and what can make do with something else. In fact, this is exactly what already happens in other countries: France definitely does not have an ambulance variant for VBCI, but rather for the less expensive GRIFFON. Italy, similarly, has limited its FRECCIA 8x8 almost exclusively to combat, frontline roles, using the Iveco ORSO for the supporting roles.

BOXER and Multi Role Vehicle – Protected should, similarly, ensure they work together to cover all bases, so that the BOXER purchase can be laser-focused on the combat roles, maximizing the mechanization of the army while keeping costs as low as practicable.

In the previous article, already mentioned and linked, I offer a more detailed discussion of what France and Italy are doing, so I won’t repeat the same things here. I will note that, finally, the British Army has last year tested the Elbit RHINO armoured shelter / container kitted out as command post. I’d like to see a lot more effort going in this direction, rather than in hundreds of super-expensive BOXER and ATHENA vehicles.

What practical problem is solved by putting the command post into a BOXER, at the end of the day? The main enemies of the command post in a high intensity scenario are Fires and Air attacks, and BOXER is not really going to give you a relevant survivability boost against those.

Being able to command and communicate on the move by ensuring the new data-radio systems have the relevant capabilities is going to make much more of a difference than BOXER’s armour does.

If the Army truly believes in innovation, it must be ready to truly revolutionize the command post, exploiting modern comms on the move and the possibility to reach back for support. Last year, the Royal Marines had their experimental exercise in Cyprus and their command and control on the ground was both slimmed down and revolutionized, and enabled by reach-back all the way not just to the ships, but to the homeland. The 1st Sea Lord himself was able to connect directly from his own station.

There are increasingly effective ways to ensure that the command function can be disaggregated, dispersed, handled faster and on the move, and with the support of staff physically located far enough from the battlefield to be safe. Naturally, this opens up new vulnerabilities in broadband, communications, risk of jamming and cyber attacks, but the Army itself is saying they prefer to wrestle in this domain rather than in the physical one. They did so in the moment they wrote down their guidance for the future by claiming that disaggregate operations and indirect fires are to counter the lack of heavy armour. That approach will inexorably mean the ability to communicate and share data and targeting third-part weapons becomes even more crucial than it already is.

Like everything else in life, it’s a compromise, but perfect solutions don’t exist. There are just good and bad compromises.

Combined Arms Regiments are needed to truly drive on this revolution within the Army, by unifying the efforts and ensuring historical, unreasonable divisions are effectively removed. 


Thursday, April 1, 2021

"After the Wall Came Down": a journey through decades of constant change

Andrew Richards retired from the Army in 2002, but the Army never really leaves you. It is an experience that inevitably leaves memories, some of which dear, some less so. And so, keeping in touch with other soldiers and friends made during Service, and following the events of the last two decades, he has come to realize that the British Army has, truly, gone through a period of change the like of which was never seen before. 

In his book, aptly titled “After the Wall came down”, he leads us on a journey through these decades of frenetic action and constant change, thanks to interviews to dozens of soldiers from across every Corps. It is a journey that begins in the last few years of what was, overall, a period of strategic and organizational stability with little precedent in history. Between 1945 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, despite the progression of technology, the Army was largely the same. Successive intakes of soldiers were instinctively familiar with an organization that had enjoyed a long period of stability and carried on in its traditions. And so in the 1980s the reasons to join were often reasons of true loyalty to the historical regiment your family had served into in generations past. It was a matter of pride and adventure, especially as the campaign to retake the Falklands focused and galvanized the Country’s interest in the Armed Forces. 

The rhythm of change has become faster and faster since the late 80s. The bullying scandals of 1987 were a major drive for change in some of the Army’s ancient ways, but the focus on more or less improper “initiations” and bullying of rookies nonetheless pale in front of everything that followed. With the dramatic reduction in size and the restructuring of the Army’s very fabric with “Options for Change” and the hunt for the Peace Dividend afforded by the sudden fall of the Soviet Union begin a spiraling series of new wars, new scandals, budget cuts, constant reorganizations and a race to keep pace with a changing society. 

The Gulf War of 1991 is followed not just by the shock of 1994 as redundancies hit hard, severing many of those historic ties between families, counties and Regiments, as 50 infantry battalions turn to 38 and the proud Cavalry and RAC are hit just as hard between disbandment and amalgamations that changed the Army’s cosmos forever. The aftermath of the Iraq war is also the impact with the “Gulf War Syndrome” and with the mental scars of that experience, which have taken a long time to be understood and accepted rather than belittled and frowned upon. 

The experience of peacekeeping in Bosnia comes across as another shock to the system, as the reality of the thankless, dangerous job of trying to prevent genocides while being restricted by Rules of Engagement sinks in. The experiences of The Cheshires of Lieutenant Colonel Bob Stewart, and the reportages from burnt, deserted villages of Martin Bell for the BBC put the Country, and not just the Army, in front of the shock of the worst war crimes since the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany, and the failure of the UN and of the international community to put a timely stop to the atrocities. 

The Army at the same time has to deal with war at home in the 38 years of Operation BANNER, and soldiers faced for many more years, and still face, the shock of being hounded for alleged crimes while hundreds of convicted terrorists have been given an easy way out as a price to pay for the Belfast agreement. Afghanistan and Iraq loom large in the 2000s, with all their implications, from the shameful failure of the “mobile coffins” kept on the frontline for far too long despite their inadequacies in a world of mines and Improvised Explosive Devices to new cuts and downsizings in the middle of such a demanding campaign. 

And still, in the middle of it all there are the Commission for Racial Equality and the transformation of the army in an inclusive force, opening up the door for minorities that for many years were concentrated away in a few specific regiments, and subject to undeniable discrimination. The long march of change touched the Service of homosexual personnel as well, and in parallel there is the long process of opening up the Army to women. From the disbandment of the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1992 and the full integration of women in non-combat roles, all the way to the announcement in the recent 2018 that all combat roles will also be open. 

Even so, much remains to be done for example to eliminate the stigma and coldness that faces too many soldiers suffering from PTSD who feel that they have been left along to walk out of the door, forgotten and ignored. And a common theme is the burden that Army life places on families: a burden that can unite even further, but can also in many times be destructive. 

The last few decades have been a frenetic succession of change and upheavals. Yet, the author finds that many, indeed most of the soldiers he asks the question to, say that they would join all over again if given the chance. Even those who choose not to answer, or those who are adamant that they would not, tend to have at least some form of special, deep bond that the Army experience generated. 

This book tries to show why. 


Sunday, February 28, 2021

The British Army: where do we go from here...?

The reckoning 

We are weeks away from the publication of the long awaited, much anticipated and very much feared Integrated Review and, in particular, of the Defence White Paper which should provide “details”. I think that previous experiences have made us all wary about what the MOD considers “details” and one of my greatest fears is that we will, in fact, be given vague promises that will keep us all wondering for the next few years.

Most of the other fears have, as was always predicted, the British Army at their centre. My increasingly exasperated battles in the last 5 years over the shocking self-harm that the Army was committing in pursuing the half-formed STRIKE at the expense of everything else are, sadly, looking likely to be vindicated. The questions that I’ve been formulating for 5 years are still without an answer, and the Army is reportedly about to pay dearly for its failure. If the leaks to the press are accurate, the British Army will disband at least 4 infantry battalions and will progressively settle downwards to a trained strength target of around 72.000, rather than 82.000.

And if that seems a painful price to pay, be wary that there will potentially be far more pain caused by the other reported cut: the loss of the whole WARRIOR fleet, mitigated apparently by a wish to “accelerate” the procurement of BOXER.


I made this scheme in November 2015. The ink on the SDSR's pages was virtually not dry yet, but already there were questions and risks evident in the just announced Force Structure. The following years have not provided answers; just evidenced further problems. 

There are key things we still don’t know, so estimating the full magnitude of what will happen is not yet possible. Chiefly, we do not know if there will be additional purchases to expand the BOXER fleet. This becomes the absolutely key question, followed by the determination of which roles BOXER will go on to cover. Will a turreted variant be added? Will a mortar variant appear?

The MBT – IFV combo is the heart of any modern army. CHALLENGER 2 LEP+ appears to be going ahead, according to the latest reports, and this is a great relief. Apparently, around 150 tanks will receive the new turret with the smoothbore 120mm cannon and all the new sensors and electronics. This is a remarkably small number but not truly surprising: the British Army has been planning for just 2 regular tank regiments for the best part of 5 years now. As the Army pursued its STRIKE dream, it instructed the 3rd MBT regiment, the King’s Royal Hussars, that it would eventually convert to AJAX.


A more recent scheme i produced to try and help people realize just how far the ripples travel through the armour if you cut CHALLENGER 2, WARRIOR, or both. They are the heart of everything the Army is, and you can't expect to rip the heart out without causing consequences. 


The British Army has recently reverted to its traditional Type 58 structure for MBT regiments, so the regular fleet will number 116 tanks, with a small reserve fleet on top. Too small, in fact, to even contemplate the possibility of rebuilding a third frontline regiment from the single Reserve MBT formation, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry.

A very questionable approach to that “regeneration” capability that the Army only ever pays lip service to, but this is how things stand. After the LEP+ upgrade, at least, the CHALLENGER 2 will finally live up to the otherwise largely undeserved hype that surrounds it.   

Losing the IFVs is however going to create massive headaches and a ripple of problems that will travel far and wide.

The above graphic, which I first made back in august 2020, hopefully helps in visualizing the ramifications of such a cut.

Just how bad it will get, we will only know once we are told if new BOXERs are happening, or not. The British Army will be keenly hoping for permission to commit money towards additional BOXER purchases and more variants.

They have always hoped that this would eventually happen: the MIV programme tender documents specify that arrangements have been made to keep the door open for the purchase of more vehicles. There are enough options for getting to a fleet of some 1500 vehicles in total, with specific mention that more variants could be added, and indeed developed in the UK.

All the way back in 2018, when those documents were published, I wrote a post about it, noting that it very much suggested a serious appetite within the Army to “go wheeled”, the way the French did with VBCI and then with GRIFFON/JAGUAR/SERVAL.

Back then I noted:

 

The notice specifies that additional variants and requirements could follow, and it specifically mentions the adoption of a “medium gun”, basically implying an IFV variant.

Moreover, the notice specifies that the MOD is asking for the option of ordering up to 900 more vehicles, for a total of 1500.

1500 does not appear to be a casual number: the Army has been planning for 380 upgraded Warriors; declares on its website 409 FV432 still in use; and fields / stores a fleet of 305 Mastiff Troop Carrier Vehicles plus 127 specialistic variants (Enhanced Communications Variant, Interim ECM, Interim EOD [possibly 23], ambulance, Protected Eyes / Praetorian) plus 118 Ridgback Troop Carrier Vehicles and 51 specialistic variants (Command, Ambulance), supported by 125 Wolfhound (Utility and at least 44 between Military Working Dog and EOD).

The total is 1515. Coincidence? Probably no.

It seems more and more likely that the troubled Warrior CSP will, in the end, be cancelled. This MIV notice seems to prepare for a WCSP cancellation scenario by making provision for the numbers and the addition of a medium gun.

 

In 2018, the increasingly dire situation of the Army’s plans was already pretty painfully evident and I urged the then Modernizing Defence Program to take a good, hard look at the whole mix of Army capabilities and choose a direction of travel. If tracks and wheels can’t be properly funded at the same time, and it was absolutely clear that they could not be, it only takes rationality to know that you have to pick one.

The French consciously picked the wheels side and have put all of their resources in building up a powerful wheeled force around their MBT fleet, which is pretty much the last tracked element in the Armee de Terre simply because it remains unreplaceable, regardless of the usual takes on how MBTs are supposedly obsolete.

The British Army could well have taken a similar decision.

But, and again I quote from my 2018 post, because the reality of facts is unchanged:

 

The replacement of WCSP with more MIV would put the British Army on the same path chosen by France with the VBCI, which entirely replaced their own tracked IFVs. Moreover, the replacement of FV432 with MIV variants would represent a rather dramatic shift in favor of wheels, completely changing the scenario that currently exists within the British Army.   

Such a change of heart would do wonders for commonality and obsolescence removal from what is an aging fleet of fleets, but it would also sideline Ajax even further, leading to further questions about where the tracked heir to FRES should sit.

Ever since the SDSR 2015 was published, Ajax has looked more and more lost, ultimately resulting in its “re-branding” into a “medium armour” capability which has, it is fair to say, convinced very few people.

 

AJAX, not WARRIOR, is the problem the British Army has created for itself.

To understand Army's pain in trying to shape its own vision for the Integrated Review, consider this: its absolute most expensive program is for a tracked family of vehicles, the AJAX gang, which delivers only a few roles, and is no Infantry Fighting Vehicle. In itself, it solves "nothing”, because you need WARRIOR, carrying the infantry, to give true meaning to the whole force.

The second most expensive program is for a wheeled APC which, by itself, also solves "nothing" because out of 523 BOXER, 15 are training vehicles and the 508 frontline ones are split between APCs, APCs with different internal arrangement for carrying engineers, artillery fire directors, JTACs and other “specialists” with related equipment, ambulances and command posts.

Once you put AJAX and BOXER together, you have burned over 10 billion pounds of budget room, but are left with a dysfunctional mix. There are a ton of tracked roles left uncovered, beginning with the absolutely key IFV but expanding to mortar carriers and supporting roles currently covered by FV432 in the hundreds.

And a ton of wheeled roles remain just as uncovered .

And the money is not enough to do both.

What is now happening in the Review was entirely predictable. As i've been writing for 5 years, the problem of how to mix AJAX and BOXER in a force structure that makes some kind of sense while also preserving at least the CHALLENGER MBTs is demanding an urgent answer. And poor WARRIOR is the designated victim at this point, because unlike BOXER and AJAX it is not yet under production contract.

It is merely the simplest one to cancel.

But make no mistake: WARRIOR is not the problem. AJAX is. Or BOXER, depending on whether you side with the track or with the wheel.

The truth is that the Army had the money and "ingredients" to outfit at least 3 excellent tracked, heavy brigades. In September 2014 it put AJAX under contract, and 2-3 more billions would have seen enough WARRIOR and CHALLENGER 2s upgraded to complete the renewal of 3rd Division as had been imagined in the original Army 2020 plan (published 2011).

Alternatively, the Army could have chosen to “go French” and bet big on wheels, beginning a wholesale restructuring by going for a huge BOXER purchase to effectively drive WARRIOR, FV432 and CRV(T) out of the door over N years.

But the Army did not want to pick just one side. The Army wanted to have both, and while I can see why they would want that, I cannot forgive them for ignoring the evidence and putting themselves into this mess.

In September 2014 they committed the biggest chunk by far of their future budget on AJAX.

In November 2015 they made wheels their absolute priority, and ever since, STRIKE had dominated the Army’s vision, all the way up to the signing of the BOXER contract at the end of 2019. Just in time to arrive at the Integrated Review with CHALLENGER 2 LEP+ and WCSP still uncommitted and thus extremely vulnerable.

In the middle there was the whole saga of the “delayed Review” and the Review to stop the Review, also known as “Modernizing Defence Program”. What that saga did was signal, without any possible doubt, that the money was not there to pursue both tracks and wheels at once.

The Army made its choice in late 2019, putting all the money on BOXER. Considering the situation, this was a suicidal choice. With AJAX in place, the Army needed WCSP and CR2, not BOXER. Splitting an already insufficient budget inexorably condemns the Army to a sub-optimal mixture of tracks and wheels which will drag on for decades into the future.

The time for a big change of heart was before the AJAX contract was signed.

The moment AJAX was put under contract it should have become a fact of life that the time for adding an 8x8 fleet could only ever come after WCSP and CR2 LEP had been secured.

And the British Army itself used to know this basic reality: up to 2015, the MOD Major Projects Spreadsheet contained a single title that summarized the whole modernization of the Army’s armour fleets. The Mounted Close Combat Capability Change super-program was started March 16, 2010 with a Project End Date set for December 21, 2033. The budget over that timeframe was given as 17.251,81 million pounds.

In April 2014 that colossus was split into its different components: Armoured Cavalry 2025 (AJAX), Armour MBT 2025, Armoured Infantry 2026 (WCSP and ABSV) and Mechanised Infantry 2029.

A telling indication, which the SDSR 2015 and the STRIKE obsession eventually turned on its head, trying to get MIV into service from 2023, with operational capability for the new brigades in 2025. This change of heart is now having its entirely predictable consequences.

Now we are in the worst possible limbo, with a force that doesn’t have the tracked vehicles it needs for holding on to Armoured Brigades and at the same time doesn’t have the wheeled vehicles needed for a true Medium, wheeled force. Where do we go from here?

 

 

A look at the budget figures

The annual major projects spreadsheet from the MOD helps us track what the situation is.

The Armour MBT 2025 program started in 2014 and currently has a Project End date set for July 31, 2028.

This represents a 791 days extension  on the previous target of June 2026 and is due to the fact that in Financial Year 2019 the Army turned the original CHALLENGER Life Extension Program in LEP+.

Specifically, the latest Major Project spreadsheet, released in July 2020 and current to September 2019, reports on the sudden realization within the army that just upgrading the thermal sights was not going to do much.  



The scheduled baseline project end date at Q2 1920 (30th September 2019) is 31/07/28, has lengthened by 791 days since last year's Q2 1819 date of 01/06/26, due primarily to the following factors;

 

In this period the programme's scope was expanded from obsolescence only to include enhancements to its lethality and survivability. The expanded scope has also lengthened the time to complete the work and increased cost over the assessment, demonstration and  manufacture phases.  These dates are currently subject to negotiation and will be confirmed when the full business case has been approved. 

 

The baseline Whole Life Cost at Q2 1920 (30th September 2019) is £1,304.19 m, due primarily to the following factors;

 

 This reflects the financial position following the capability uplift endorsed by HMT. This sees a capability uplift and extension to the Main Battle Tank out to 2035.

 

 

The above restructuring of the program was confirmed in an utterly shambolic intervention of the Chief of the Defence Staff, previous Chief General Staff and mastermind of Army 2020 and Army 2020 Refine, General Sir Nick Carter, in front of the Defence Committee. From his words, it appears the Army was essentially unaware of the lethality issues of the multi-piece ammunition of the current cannon until 2019. This is, of course, completely false, considering that the Army was, in fact, looking for solutions already in the early 2000s, when the Challenger Lethality Improvement Programme was tentatively launched. It was in 2006 that a CHALLENGER 2 was first retrofitted with a 120mm smoothbore gun, in fact. Swapping the gun was never an issue: the issue was in the complete redesign needed to fix ammunition storage spaces and make room for the much longer single-piece rounds. This is the main issue to this day, and the chief reason for swapping out the entire turret. 

Have they forgotten everything about that phase? Was Carter being overly kind to his political masters, to the point of having the Army shouldering more blame that necessary? He was not shy earlier in the same hearing saying that some decisions depend on money: why, then, say something as hopelessly stupid as this about CR2 lethality problems suddenly "dawning" on an oblivious Army...? 

It’s one of the many mysteries of the last few years of Army decisions.

 

Armoured Cavalry 2025, also launched in 2014, is supposed to end on April 30, 2025 although this seems optimistic considering the current delays in acceptance for the turreted AJAX variant and the fact that only handfuls of ARES, APOLLO and ATLAS have been delivered. Fair to assume that the end date will change.

Budget over the period is given as 6.288,95 million. As of 19, despite the deliveries having barely started at all, the MOD had already paid 2,78 billion pounds, which is part of the reason why AJAX is not being cancelled. In 2019/20, the MOD paid 643 million, down from a planned 694, exactly because of the delays with AJAX and with the consequent cancellation of expenditure connected with getting training in BATUS up.


Armoured Infantry 2026, also started formally in 2014, is due to end 31 December 2026. The last time we were given an indication about the total budget for WCSP is in the Spreadsheet released in 2017. Back then, the expectation was for 1612,72 million pounds.

Up to 2016 the budget had been 2176,45 million pounds. The difference was caused by the decision, in 2016, to de-scope the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle, which remains an “aspirational” requirement. Essentially, the Army has no clue how it will replace the ancient FV432.

From 2017 onwards, the numbers associated with the WCSP programme have been hidden for commercial interest as negotiations have dragged on to try and get to a contract.

As of financial year 2019, at least 474 million pounds have already been expended on WCSP. It is extremely likely that, if the program is indeed cancelled, the Army will have wasted another half a billion in exchange for nothing.


Finally, Mechanized Infantry Vehicle, launched in April 2018 and with a currently planned end date of 31 December 2032. Budget over the period: 4663,31 million pounds.

It is painfully evident that the money committed on MIV would have gotten WCSP and ABSV going. There was room to go with the 2010 target of 6 WARRIOR battalion sets, in fact, rather than the 4 that have been the reduced ambition since 2015 in order to accommodate STRIKE.

It also seems that some of the money once associated to the Mounted Close Combat Capability Change program is missing. The current budgets add up to 13,867 billion, rather than 17,251. This apparently vindicates the Army’s claims that it has been robbed of money to pay for cost overruns in the other Service’s programmes.

However, the budgets listed above give us no visibility on how much money was expended between 2010 and 2014 (admittedly unlikely to be very high as all programs were in very early stages) and also leave out several years. The 17,251 billion were to be expended out to 2033, while the current projects end dates (2028, 2026, 2025, 2032) all stop well short of that point. It is entirely reasonable to assume that the missing 3,384 billion will be expended across the various fleets in those missing years. Indeed, might even be more. We also do not know where programs like Multi Role Vehicle – Protected have their budgets: it seems reasonable to assume that this program in particular might have originally been part of what used to be “Mechanized Infantry 2029”. This adds further uncertainty.

Also, there’s no way to tell if the Army received formal indications in 2015 that it would get more money, and this eventually failed to happen soon afterwards.

We can’t say for sure if the total out to 2033 has really shrunk, and if so by how much. We can be sure that the Army has seen significant fluctuations in the amount of money allocated to it year on year, which might well have complicated project management and forced delays to the signing of contracts.

But I’m not prepared, given the figures above, to side with those who claim the Army’s woes are due to the other Services and to Government. I’m not sure they have had it that much worse than the other Services, nor are we in a position to determine if, and how much, the totals available out to 2033 have truly changed. The data available to us outside of the MOD is, simply, insufficient for determining that.

The data that is available is incomplete, but suggests the Army bears enormous responsibilities for its own troubles. AJAX is the most painful and undeniable demonstration that the Army’s own inability to set priorities has been destructive: the fact that, while deliveries have barely even started, the vehicle already is basically a square peg in a world of round holes, is damning.

Whatever is done now, AJAX is here to stay. But in the Army that is taking shape with the loss of WARRIOR, it looks like a orphan. Something that no longer has a truly good collocation anywhere in the force. And this is an obscenity. Your biggest, most expensive programme CANNOT be a problem. That it now is, is the measure of your failure.

 

 

What next?

Decisions should, as I already said, have been taken earlier. Now it is very difficult to imagine a truly “good” outcome.

Things will get spectacularly ugly if there are no further BOXER / AJAX purchases. Such a scenario would truly mutilate the Army, which would see a net 50% cut in the already insufficient number of infantry battalions it planned to mechanize.

The original Army 2020 Refine, in 2010, was based on 6 armoured and 3 heavy protected / mechanized battalions. In other words, 6 on WARRIOR and 3 on MASTIFF, later to be replaced by an 8x8 around 2029. Each of the 3 armoured infantry brigades would have 2 battalions on WARRIOR and a battalion riding on wheels, not unlike what happens in the German army where a single JAGER battalion (on BOXER APC) is integrated in heavy brigades.

But as we know, in 2015 Carter decided that the future was all about STRIKE, even though right from the start the cost of such a change was heavy: one tank regiment to go; one AS90 regiment gone; one armoured engineer regiment also gone. The Army 2020 Refine plan now called for 4 brigades, albeit individually smaller. Of these, two would be armoured and would have 2 battalions on WARRIOR each, and 2 would be STRIKE brigades, each with 2 BOXER battalions. Net result was a drop to 8 mechanized battalions in total.

Now, as Army 2020 Refine falls apart, if there are no new vehicle purchases, the Army will have managed the spectacular feat of crashing all the way down from 9 to 4 mechanized battalions, and all of them on lightly armed APCs, thus with an even more dramatic loss of firepower. And as we have seen in the Budget section of the article, it won’t be for lack of spending, to add insult to injury. It will have paid a sweet 10+ billion pounds to create this mess.

With just 4 mechanized battalions, it is likely the Army will collapse all the way down to a force of just 2 brigades worth of their title. Brigades with 2 infantry units are already sub-optimal; splitting 4 battalions across more than 2 brigades appears pretty much impossible.

I can only think of one way to do it in an acceptable fashion, and that is by adopting Permanent Combined Arms Battlegroups: instead of forming 4 AJAX regiments, as planned under Army 2020 Refine, some of the AJAX would instead be assigned directly to the infantry battalions, to create “square” battlegroups with 2 AJAX Squadrons in support of 2 Infantry companies on BOXER APCs. This, in theory, allows you to form 6 permanent BGs, which you can then spread across up to 3 brigades.

But this is, literally, the math of despair.

New vehicles are desperately needed for the Army to remain functional.

 

 

The French way…?

The British Army is likely to be headed the French way, since BOXER is all the rage these days. This will however happen more by accident than by design, with AJAX destined to remain pretty much an orphaned oddity in such a “new” army.

As I’ve written multiple times, I think the “French model” is very much an acceptable compromise. Not perfect, but good enough provided that the Army buys many more BOXERs, and suitable wheeled vehicles (through a revamped MRV-P) to support it, over the coming years. The last 30 years have seen the Army change its mind constantly, with utterly disastrous results: it has run around in a tortuous circle which has brought it back literally to the starting block (the BOXER saga is absolutely terrifying), but with several missing limbs and a scrawny body which has lost all muscle along the way.

If the Army is to recover, it will need to stabilize its aims.

My readers already know that I do not believe that wheels are key to adopting a more dispersed kind of fighting, and certainly I will never side with the British Army in pretending that having wheels is sufficient to change battle dynamics. Fighting dispersed is complex, dangerous and demanding. It requires more capability, not less. It requires capabilities currently relegated at higher command levels to be distributed far more widely, at far lower level. One such example is air defence: dispersion alone, in the age of the UAV and airpower in general, cannot possibly be a solution to anything if the dispersed groups have little to no ability to defend themselves from threats from the air.

Wheels, however, do have unquestioned merits in making a ground force element more readily capable to move independently over long distances without depending on semi-trailers and trucks. Wheeled armour also tends to be less thirsty, which means it can do with a smaller logistic train. For a small Army with a (relatively) small budget, wheels can represent a serious advantage.

Moreover, as we try and think of where the Army might go from here, we cannot ignore what the minds of the Armed Forces have indicated, in the Integrated Operating Concept 2025, as the necessary attributes of the future force:

Have smaller and faster capabilities to avoid detection

Trade reduced physical protection for increased mobility

Rely more heavily on low-observable and stealth technologies

Depend increasingly on electronic warfare and passive deception measures to gain and maintain information advantage

Include a mix of crewed, uncrewed and autonomous platforms

Be integrated into ever more sophisticated networks of systems through a combat cloud that makes best use of data

Have an open systems architecture that enables the rapid incorporation of new capability

Be markedly less dependent on fossil fuels

Employ non-line-of-sight fires to exploit the advantages we gain from information advantage

Emphasize the non-lethal disabling of enemy capabilities, thereby increasing the range of political and strategic options

 

Arguably, the above aims are not conceptually too far apart from the same drivers that were being FRES and the US Future Command System. Even in more recent times, If we take a look back at what FRES SV/AJAX was originally meant to eventually grow into, we can easily identify a future in which all capabilities, potentially including the MBT role, would have been delivered with FRES SV/AJAX variants. Tracked, but still much lighter than current MBTs (although very much not lighter than WARRIOR).

The AJAX family was supposed to be just the first capability Block within a larger programme that should have eventually included another two Blocks, introducing more variants. One such variant in particular, the ambulance, had been close to being purchased. It had already been named, even, as the ASCLEPIUS. But then 2015 happened, and any hope of further Blocks for the AJAX family has evaporated.


Looking back at what the Specialist Vehicle (then AJAX) was meant to be is a painful exercise. Had the Army persevered in this direction, very capable tracked brigades would be taking shape right now. It is very hard not to get Future Combat System vibes from this scenario. 

It is fascinating to think of what the British Army could have achieved by carrying on with the original FRES SV/AJAX plan, indeed expanding it to replace WARRIOR as well. Such an approach would very much replicate what the US Future Combat System used to be like. As you might remember, FCS was all about medium-weight tracked platforms.

While the IOC2025 directions do not openly favor wheels above tracks, however, the additional logistic weight imposed by tracked vehicles the size of AJAX, and the consequent financial penalty, very much suggest that, just like France, the UK would not be wrong in settling for wheels instead.

If we accept the design drivers identified by IOC2025, BOXER is probably the correct vehicle for the future. It is not “light” in a literal sense (the UK’s BOXER, built to the latest A3 configuration, can reach 38.5 tons) but it does come with greater, “faster” ability to move to and across the battlefield, while also being “lighter” in logistical terms. A battle force made up of BOXERs would certainly be easier to deploy and sustain than a tracked one, even one built entirely on AJAX as base.

This is especially true if we also consider the Army’s “Conceptual Force 2035”, which very much doubles down on the same kind of design drivers. This study imagines an army of 3 smaller but capable divisions made of lighter, faster, more deployable, largely independent battlegroups, with dispersion being the norm. Conceptual Force 2035 specifies that the disaggregated fighting requires Combined Arms capabilities to be organic at lower level, to ensure the dispersed Battlegroups do not have to wait for a superior echelon to make supports available. This includes having more organic Indirect Fire capability and employing it alongside greater ATGW capability to offset the capability currently delivered by MBTs through “lighter” vehicles.


Conceptual Force 2035 described in the British Army Review, issue 177, Winter/Spring 2020


The BGs will be expected to carry out, and I quote, deeper, more risky and aggressive manoeuvre. Robotic, sacrificial systems will be used to press on reconnaissance, and I quote again, to the point of destruction, in order to enable the BG to use frenetic op-tempo to make up for the lack of mass.

The resulting BGs would be around 500-strong but are supposed to match the current mission set of a 1250-strong armoured BG though the use of robotics and higher op-tempo. The Conceptual Force imagines that, from around 82.000 regulars, the British Army would be able to form some 48 such Combined Arms battlegroups. The organization would work to the Rule of 4, with an Assault Force, Covering Force, Echelon Force and Reserve Force. These BGs would be grouped in Brigades with enough CS and CSS elements to fight, again, largely independently from the Division level.

The key attributes described above, for me, are the key to the whole concept: if you want to fight dispersed and be lighter but still capable, you must pack a serious punch and have far more capability pushed down the levels of command. This is something that in STRIKE we are just not seeing in any meaningful way. Firepower has been dead last in the list of priorities so far, and that makes the whole thing not credible.

In fact, what is most striking about the Conceptual Force 2035 is that it is so entirely alien to what the British Army actually looks like today, in structure, “culture” and programmes. For example, Permanent Combined Arms Battlegroups are anathema in today’s British Army and among the purists of capbadges and specialty separations. CS and CSS are a scarce resource completely out of balance with the number of infantry battalions. Indirect Fires and ATGWs are weaknesses, not strengths. The Rule of 4 is nowhere to be seen, and indeed resources in multiple areas are spread so thin than even the Rule of 3 is dubious.



A LM proposal for a vertical launch missile module for BOXER, complete with mast-mounted radar and EO/IR. 

One key question ahead of the publication of the White Paper is whether the shock of this Review finally gets the Army to move from its current indefensible obsessions, or if the new manpower reduction results in just “more of the same”, through the loss of yet another “brigade-set” of CS and CSS. As I said, the sheer scarcity of combat vehicles to mechanize the infantry with suggest a reduction to as few as 2 brigades. Currently the British Army has Combat Support and Combat Service Support resources sufficient to aim for 4 brigades. My worst fear is that, consequently, the Army will go for the “easy” solution of removing up to 2 Engineer, Artillery and perhaps Signals and Logistic units, rather than go for a wholesale rebalancing and reorganization. This would only exacerbate the inbalance, rather than address it, and would inexorably prepare the stage for a further manpower reduction a few years on, when politicians will (rightly) observe that an output of some 2 brigades does not require 72.000 personnel.

The Army needs to decide, quickly, if it believes in the findings and directions of its own studies for the future, and start acting accordingly, reorganizing its structures and reassigning manpower to the capabilities that need to be expanded.

As a first step in a transition process to something resembling the Conceptual Force 2035, the Army should work to increase its ability to field combined arms brigades. The Corps of 3 Divisions and 48 battlegroups imagined by the Conceptual Force 2035 is very hard to imagine, as manpower is just one ingredient and the other expensive ones are all missing; but the British Army should be more than capable to put together 6 brigades, spread under 2 divisional HQs, mirroring, again, the French model. Each Division would have a Heavy, a Medium and a Light/Air Mobile brigade, one a revamped 16 Air Assault Bde, the other built by restructuring resources already available but tied down in the current 1st Division. Such lighter brigades would seek to fight dispersed primarily by exploiting Light Cavalry support, Foxhound and, even more so, the RAF's very precious and very significant fleet of 60 CHINOOK. Obviously, they would be limited in what they could achieve in the highest intensity scenarios, but they could find plenty of use across a multitude of cases. 

A third Division would continue to group up the rest of the force: the battalions busy on garrison / forward presence roles; the Specialised Infantry Group. Ideally, said Division should also serve as a Regular core force which a restructured Army Reserve should "regenerate" for action in times of need. But this is a complex topic better left for future discussions. 

The resulting division would be lighter than the 3rd Division as envisioned by Army 2020 Refine, but it is more realistically sustainable and having 2 of them make it possible to sustain an effort over time, rather than fire a silver bullet once and have nothing else left.

 In order to achieve this, more vehicles will be a non-negotiable requirement. Most likely, all efforts will go towards new BOXERs, although this is not necessarily the only option on the table. Obviously there will be no new tracked IFV purchased anytime soon (if ever again) if WARRIOR is cut. 

Even so, one could envisage an effort to maintain tracked, heavy formations by ordering more vehicles of the AJAX family. If AJAX was an IFV, it could replace Warrior. But AJAX has no room to carry infantry and there is no real way to change this fact. The structure of the vehicle and the vast turret ring (specified in part because there once was to also be a Medium Armour variant with 120mm smoothbore gun) prevent any conversion to an IFV. It is also probably next to impossible to pursue a “rewriting” of the contract that de-scopes some of the AJAX to make room for a new IFV variant, which General Dynamics is ready to offer and has tried (and failed) to sell to Australia.

However, the ARES APC already on order could easily be delivered with internal arrangements for carrying 7-8 dismounts. If more ARES were ordered and configured accordingly, it would be possible to create Combined Arms Battlegroups by mixing AJAX and ARES.

I don’t think, sadly that this is likely to happen. But it is a possibility worth considering. Permanent Combined Arms Battlegroups of AJAX and ARES carrying infantry could become a prototype for the Future Combat Team of 2035, adopting the Rule of 4 and beginning to develop true “Find, Fix and Strike” mechanisms by adding in organic Indirect Fires.

If more ARES could be squeezed in to make this happen, it would be possible to hang on to the superior all-terrain mobility of tracks and ensure that the remaining CHALLENGER 2s have appropriate intimate support. The two Heavy brigades could thus consist each of a single tank regiment and 2/3 AJAX/ARES BGs.

Otherwise, said BGs will inexorably have to be mixed, with AJAX supported by BOXERs.

On the BOXER front, an absolutely priority should be the acquisition of a turreted, well armed variant.

Ideally, the 40mm guns already procured and paid for WCSP should be used to create this new variant. The WCSP turret is, as we speak, close to completing extensive reliability trials. There’s no way to know how the turret behaved, but if it is doing well it would be wise to migrate the whole turret towards a suitable module to be developed for BOXER.  



LM's work in 2015 to demonstrate that a turret derivated from the WCSP's one could indeed work on BOXER. 

Such an enterprise would require some time, but should not be overly complex. Lockheed Martin fit one of its turrets onto a BOXER and carried out some early trials, including weapon firings, already as far back as 2015. While these industry-led demonstrations involve integrations that are far less mature than one might think, there should be no reason for the turret not fitting on a troop-carrying module.

Acquisition of such a turreted BOXER would enable AJAX, with its mobility penalty, to be taken out of the “STRIKE” / Medium brigades without a loss of firepower. The Medium force could then enjoy all of the advantages of being a purely wheeled formation, with the same level of mobility across all of its components.   

The turreted BOXERs would have to be mixed with the APCs already on order with the aim of forming the highest possible number of Combined Arms Battlegroups.

Not “cavalry”, not “infantry”. Permanent, combined arms BGs that will have to deliver that mix of “Find, Fix and Strike” capability by progressively integrating more indirect fire options, and the ability to target them from, if not any soldier, certainly from pretty much any squad and combat vehicle.

These BGs will have to progressively evolve towards those “Future Combat Teams” envisaged by the Conceptual Force 2035. A key capability to bring in as quickly as possible to enable that evolution is the Land Precision Fires system, which is meant to succeed EXACTOR MK2 and eventually expand striking range towards the 60 km mark. Land Precision Strike is an Artillery program, but this should not be allowed to stovepipe it away from the combined arms BGs. Land Precision Strike must become an Army-wide effort to give battlegroups a new and enhanced lethality.

The Army has lost mass and has lost many tanks as well; lethality cannot continue to be an afterthought. It is time to seriously approach the problem of how to increase it to compensate the other weaknesses. It is no good to only ever talk about compensating loss of armour with Indirect Fires while doing absolutely nothing to make it a reality. The Army needs to demonstrate that it is doable and that it is committed to a dramatic increase of firepower at lower command levels.

In order to ensure that as much money as possible goes towards the new capabilities, vehicle variants and additional vehicle purchases needed, the Army will have to get better at setting its priorities.

It remains foolish, in my opinion, that the British Army has prioritized ambulance and command post variants for the BOXER over more “fighty” frontline roles. I’ve already asked this question in the past, but I will formulate it again: does the ambulance vehicle really need to be a BOXER…? I fully understand it is desirable, but I don’t think it is necessary.




Again, a priority for me would also be to re-evaluate the variants of MIV to be procured, reducing to the bare minimum the number of ambulances and command posts in favor of instead pursuing, with maximum urgency, a 120mm mortar and an ATGW variants. With a wiser choice of priority on the variants to include in the order, the 508 BOXERs already on order could equip more than just a paltry 4 battalions. I’ve written about this in greater detail in a previous article.  

 The Ambulance role and, wherever possible, the C2 role should be “offloaded” onto much cheaper Multi Role Vehicle Protected (MRV-P) variants.


The Iveco ORSO (Bear), on the left, is pretty much the italian equivalent to what Multi Role Vehicle - Protected Group 2 hopes to be. 

I understand the allure of having everything on the same vehicle base, and I realize that there is no safe rear echelon when fighting dispersed and dealing with enemies who can contest, if not win control of the air and dominate the Fires battle. But I still don’t see “BOXER-for-everything” being in any way a solution.

Moreover, it is painfully obvious that the money is not and will never be enough for such an approach. Surely it makes sense to be very selective when it comes to what should ride in an extremely expensive BOXER and what can make do with something else. In fact, this is exactly what already happens in other countries: France definitely does not have an ambulance variant for VBCI, but rather for the less expensive GRIFFON. Italy, similarly, has limited its FRECCIA 8x8 almost exclusively to combat, frontline roles, using the Iveco ORSO for the supporting roles.

BOXER and Multi Role Vehicle – Protected should, similarly, ensure they work together to cover all bases, so that the BOXER purchase can be laser-focused on the combat roles, maximizing the mechanization of the army while keeping costs as low as practicable.

In the previous article, already mentioned and linked, I offer a more detailed discussion of what France and Italy are doing, so I won’t repeat the same things here. I will note that, finally, the British Army has last year tested the Elbit RHINO armoured shelter / container kitted out as command post. I’d like to see a lot more effort going in this direction, rather than in hundreds of super-expensive BOXER and ATHENA vehicles.


The Elbit RHINO is built inside a protected shelter that can be moved by trucks like a normal container. The Italian Army, as well as others including recently the US Army, has been putting quite some work into HQs-in-shelters. 

What practical problem is solved by putting the command post into a BOXER, at the end of the day? The main enemies of the command post in a high intensity scenario are Fires and Air attacks, and BOXER is not really going to give you a relevant survivability boost against those.

Being able to command and communicate on the move by ensuring the new data-radio systems have the relevant capabilities is going to make much more of a difference than BOXER’s armour does.

If the Army truly believes in innovation, it must be ready to truly revolutionize the command post, exploiting modern comms on the move and the possibility to reach back for support. Last year, the Royal Marines had their experimental exercise in Cyprus and their command and control on the ground was both slimmed down and revolutionized, and enabled by reach-back all the way not just to the ships, but to the homeland. The 1st Sea Lord himself was able to connect directly from his own station.

There are increasingly effective ways to ensure that the command function can be disaggregated, dispersed, handled faster and on the move, and with the support of staff physically located far enough from the battlefield to be safe. Naturally, this opens up new vulnerabilities in broadband, communications, risk of jamming and cyber attacks, but the Army itself is saying they prefer to wrestle in this domain rather than in the physical one. They did so in the moment they wrote down their guidance for the future by claiming that disaggregate operations and indirect fires are to counter the lack of heavy armour. That approach will inexorably mean the ability to communicate and share data and targeting third-part weapons becomes even more crucial than it already is.

Like everything else in life, it’s a compromise, but perfect solutions don’t exist. There are just good and bad compromises.