Friday, February 3, 2012

Future Force 2020: Army structure - moving away from divisions

Previous posts in this series

-          FF2020: Considerations on Strategy
-          FF2020: Considerations on NATO

Moving away from Divisions

The US Army moved from a Divisional structure with large brigades often not autonomously deployable to a modular, expeditionary army structure already in 2003. Divisions are still present, as are brigades, and both are still named and numbered as “conventional” units, but with the advent of the Brigade Combat Team concept, both kind of formations have changed deeply. The essence of this transformational design is a new force (the BCT) that can be deployed singularly or in groups – ready for employment in a variety of designs as self-contained modules over a dispersed area.

10 Divisions and 14 independent brigades in 2003 morphed into 33 Brigade Combat Teams, with a force variable from 3000 to around 4000 men. The Army Reserve and the National Guard were transformed as well, and all the BCTs of the same type (Infantry, Stryker or Heavy) are structured in exactly the same way. They all are identical modules, that can be pieced together to form a force adequate for the task at hand, in a much more flexible way than was ever possible before. In addition, the Army grew by more than 30.000 men, with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as main motivation. 

The new US Army, with Maneuver and Support brigades. Had the Future Combat Systems program not been cancelled, one day there would have been FCS BCTs.
This model significantly reduces the stress on the force as well, because of a more predictable rotational cycle, coupled with much longer dwell times at home station. Units are prepared, deployed, drawn down, rested, and trained again, organically and according to a very precise plan.
Modularity does not apply only to the BCT, which is now the basic maneuver unit of a deployed US Army force: the Divisions themselves now are flexible “containers” of, nominally, 4 BCTs each. Again, supporting elements are organized in modular brigades as well: for example, each Division has 4 “Land” BCTs, one Combat Aviation Brigade, one Fires brigade, and there are Sustainment brigades, Combat Enhancement formations, Battlefield Surveillance brigades all the way up to Medical Brigades to be assigned depending on the needs of the moment.

The transformed Divisonal Headquarters (still 10) now operate as plug-and-play headquarters commands (similar to corps) instead of fixed formations with permanently assigned units. Any combination of brigades may be assigned to divisions for a particular mission up to a maximum of four combat brigades. The headquarters is designed to be able to operate as part of a joint force, command joint forces with augmentation, and command at the operational level of warfare (not just the tactical level). It will include organic security personnel and signal capability plus liaison elements on deployment.
When not deployed, the division will have responsibility for the training and readiness of a certain number of modular brigades units, but the tied with said brigades will be much weaker than in the past, and almost non-existent. The re-designed headquarters module comprises around 1,000 soldiers including over 200 officers. It includes:

  • A Main Command Post where mission planning and analysis are conducted
  • A mobile command group for commanding while on the move
  • (2) Tactical Command Posts to exercise control of brigades
  • Liaison elements
  • A special troops battalion (NOTE: Special Troops Battalions have NOTHING to do with Special Forces, but are containers for specialized troops such as MPs and Signallers) with a security company and signal company

Divisions continue to be commanded by major generals, unless coalition requirements require otherwise during an operation.

In 2007, the US Army regular force had grown to 42 BCTs and 75 of the aforementioned Modular Support Brigades, of which 11 are Combat Aviation Brigades. But with Iraq and Afghanistan on the agenda, President Bush launched the “Grow the Army” initiative, announcing a further uplift of around 75.000 men for the army, and 20.000 for the USMC. By 2013, the Army would line 45 BCTs and 83 Modular Support Brigades, including 13 Combat Aviation Brigades. The Army reserve would add a further 59 Support Brigades of the various kinds, and the National Guard would supply 28 BCTs and 78 Support Brigades, for a final combined total of 73 BCTs and 212 Support brigades, with a requirement for fielding simultaneously up to 20 BCTs.

The US Army guidelines for deployment are more flexible than those of the British Army, and much heavier on personnel. A US Army regular serving in a BCT is expected to deploy once in every 3 years period, with a tour lasting 12 months, followed by 24 months R&R, even if said months include the “zeroing” of the brigade post-deployment and the successive reconstruction of skills and equipment, which prepares the formation for its successive deployment. And if 12 months in warzone feel like a lot, consider that in 2007 the US Army tour length was extended to 15 months, with as few as 12 months between a deployment and another, as the effort of Iraq and Afghanistan stretched the force almost to breaking point. Only last summer, with Iraq coming to an end and the Afghan drawdown beginning, the tour length has been brought back down to 12 months, going down to as “few” as 9 (with 18 months break) for a part of the personnel.
A British Army regular soldier is expected to serve 6 months in war zone, followed by 24 months at home, giving the Army a “1 in 5” rule, in which, to sustain a long-term, enduring deployment, it takes five soldiers/formations to keep 1 soldier/formation in theater.
The US Army works on a 1 in 3 rule, like the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Tour guidelines are different, but the endgame result is the same: RN and RM personnel can be deployed for 660 days in each 36 months period, which means that they are available for tour of duties 60% of the time, and for each man deployed there’s 2/3 men resting and preparing to take his place.  
US Marines normally deploy for 6/7 months and enjoy a 14 months break between tours.

The US Army “Tour of Duty” guidelines are:

One year deployed and two years at home station for the Active Component;

One year deployed and four years at home station for the Reserve Force;

One year deployed and five years at home station for the National Guard Force;

Within the Army Forces Generation (ARFORGEN) model, brigade combat teams (BCTs) move through a series of three force pools; they enter the model at its inception, the reset force pool, upon completion of a deployment cycle. There they reequip and remain while executing all individual predeployment training requirements, attaining readiness as quickly as possible. Reset or "R" day, will be marked by BCT changes of command, preceded or followed closely by other key leadership transitions. While in the reset pool, formations will be remanned, reaching 100% of mission required strength by the end of the phase, while also reorganizing and fielding new equipment, if appropriate. In addition, it is there that units will be confirmed against future missions, either as deployment expeditionary forces (DBFs-BCTs trained for known operational requirements), ready expeditionary forces (REFs-BCTs that form the pool of available forces for short-notice missions) or contingency expeditionary forces (CEFs-BCTs earmarked for contingency operations).

Based on their commanders' assessments, units move to the ready force pool, from which they can deploy should they be needed, and in which the unit training focus is at the higher collective levels. Units enter the available force pool when there is approximately one year left in the cycle, after validating their collective mission-essential task list proficiency (either core or theater-specific tasks) via battle-staff and dirt-mission rehearsal exercises. The available phase is the only phase with a specified time limit: one year. The other two phases take up flexible amounts of time in a 24 month timeframe. Not unlike the division-ready brigades of past decades, the formations in the Available Force pool deploy to fulfill specific requirements or stand ready to fulfill no-notice deployments within 30-days notice.

In the end, this means that, in any given year, the force of 73 BCTs (45 regular, 28 National Guard) can generate 15 deployable regular BCTs in the Available Force Pool, plus 4/5 National Guard BCTs, meaning that the US Army can deploy and sustain in the long term a force of 20 BCTs supported by an ample range of Modular Support Brigades, from Aviation to Engineer to Fires brigades.
A surge capability exists to deploy, in case of emergency, around 18 to 20 further brigades from the Ready Force Pool.
The cuts to the budget recently announced will reduce the Regular BCTs to around 38, which should be able to generate 12/13 deployable brigades per year. Expansion of BCTs to a 3-battalions force is being considered, in partial compensation.

For non-war deployments oversea, the US Army soldier can expect to spend 2 years away from home and family, posted in an oversea base. The deployment time grows to 3 years, instead, if family follows the soldier into the new base.
The recent announcement of the Pentagon which will see two of four BCTs based in Europe withdrawn and replaced by rotational presence is likely to mean that one or two BCTs will come to Europe for 2 years tours, as considerable savings are connected not so much with the withdrawal of brigades, but with the elimination of costs connected with housing for the families of personnel.

If the US Army shift to Brigade Combat Teams has probably reached most ears, less known is the fact that even the Russian Army recently broke away from divisions. Between 2008 and October 2009, an ambitious restructuring took place, trying to erase the legacy of the dissolved Red Army of the URSS, breaking away from an unsustainable and absolutely inefficient Army based on 203 Divisions (one, the 18°, remains, on the Kurili Islands. Of the others, less than 50 (!) were operational), often hollow containers heavy with officers but literally without troops to command, unless a major war started and mobilization kicked in to fill them up: and even in this case, due to the drop in population (and due to the fact that the URSS included a lot more nations and men than today’s Russia), many would have still been empty.

202 Divisions were replaced by 83 Brigades of 4500/5000 men each, which Russia plans to put on 24 hours permanent readiness by 2012. The overhead organization (Districts, Armies, Divisions, Regiments) has been effectively erased and replaced by a streamlined systems on four Commands (East, West, North, South): each Army command has its own brigades and controls, on its territory, all Air Force and Navy forces, but also non-military corps such as border guards, police and emergency services. The only forces that remain under Moscow direct control are the Strategic Missile forces (nuclear deterrence) and the Space assets. Each Command sector will have at least one Brigade configured for rapid reaction and airmobile.

This reform, on paper, is about to be completed. Reality is very different. The problem is that the Russian Army has been so far unable to break away from conscription. Despite reducing the duration of the conscription from 24 to 18 months (2006) and from 18 to 12 (2008), conscription remains the main way for the army to fill up its posts, since the drive for getting more volunteers signing in for a long-term military career has so far failed to generate the results hoped. Out of a force that is mandated at around 1 million, only 90.000 are long-term professionals. Consequently, most of these have taken up the role of officers and have had to spread out over all of the 83 brigades to try and give them all a minimum level of effectiveness. Not even a single brigade is fully manned with volunteer, professional soldiers. The Russian Army reform, as such, is still faced by real challenges, and if far from delivering the effects wanted. However, the Brigade drive remains.

Australia just released its new defence strategy, and the Multi Role Brigade is the new way for the Army, which will see the Reserves forming homogeneous MRBs, two per each regular brigade. The British Army should soon announce a restructuring that will have many points in common with the Australian structure. Indeed, it is hard to say who copied who: the Australians have made the (detailed) announcement first, but considering that the British Army has been preparing for adopting the Multi Role Brigade concept ever since 2008, they should still be (likely) the ones who copied. The Australian MRB will number 3685 men, coming with its HQ, Signal squadron, Armoured Recce Battalion  inclusive of a MBT tank squadron, 2 Infantry Battalions, one Artillery regiment with two towed and one self-propelled/armored battery plus Observation Posts (again 2 and 1), Engineer Support regiment and Sustainment battalion. The 3 regular brigades (1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades) and 6 reserve brigades of the Australian Army will take on this structure, and each brigade will be supported by two reserve brigades. Adapting to a mission dependent formation, each brigade will be able to generate 7-10 subunits/battlegroups. Again, as with the US Army, the homogeneous, modular brigades are intended to enable enduring operations abroad within a 36 months force generation cycle. The reserve bridades will be structurally aligned with their regular counterparts and through the training cycles they will be involved in major exercises with their partnered Multi-role Maneuver Brigades. In addition, 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment will leave the 3rd Brigade to become the core of the new Australian amphibious force.

Australia identified its optimal force generation rule in “1 in 4” (four available for one deployed), but, like the UK, it realized that to properly sustain such an approach, it could not stitch formations together prior to deployment by removing battalions from armored or infantry, heavy or medium or light brigades. The Australian army, and the British one as well, are too small to afford the distinction in Heavy, Medium and Light Brigades: they could never sustain enough brigades of each kind to be able to face an enduring operation. To be able to sustain in the field one single brigade of any of the three types in the long term would take 5 brigades of the same kind. The solution, to avoid as much as possible the constant moving around of battalions from this to that role and formation and to allow each brigade to be as flexible and unitary as possible, is the Multi Role Brigade, including armour, artillery, communications, engineers, infantry and logistic elements. Self sustained as the BCT from which it takes inspiration, but not as rigidly classified.
The US can afford many BCTs of each kind. The UK cannot.

The US Brigades: a closer look

So, what’s a BCT like?

An Heavy Brigade Combat Team comes at around 3800 men, with two Combined Arms Battalions each on four companies: two tank and two armoured infantry. Each tank company lines 14 Abrams tanks, each Armoured Infantry coy has 14 Bradley IFVs. The two Battalions have 4 M1064 mortar carriers each. The vehicle carries a 120 mm mortar. 

The reconnaissance squadron, 383-man strong, has 26 Bradley vehicles, of which 21 in the M3 Cavalry variant (carries 2 Scouts) in 3 Recon Troops which number 84 men each in total. Each recon troop also has 2 M1064 mortar carriers with 120 mm mortars.

Each recon troop lines, along with the Bradley M3s, long range sensors (Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System - LRAS3) and laser target designators (Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder - LLDR) on armored Hummers (2 + 3 in each RECCE Troop). 
The Recce squadron uses the Scout UAV Raven used by teams mounted in Bradley. Note however that the LRAS3 sensor program has been terminated as part of cuts in the FY2013 budget, so here there will likely be some change.

The Brigade's Military Intelligence coy has an organic UAV formation with towed launch catapult and 4 Shadow drones.

There is also a brigade artillery regiment, with 16 Paladin self-propelled 155 mm howitzers in two batteries of 8, supported by 3 Joint Tactical Air Control Teams for the direction of artillery fire and air attacks and by one Joint Fires Coordination Cell. One JTAC team is present in each Combined Arms Battalion and the third is within the Armed Recon formation. 

A Heavy BCT thus lines:

-          56 M1 Abrams MBTs
-          85 Bradley IFVs
-          14 120 mm Mortar Carriers
-          40 “Heavy Humvee”
-          16 Paladin howitzers (155 mm)
-          2 Sniper sections (10 men each, 3 sniper teams of 3 men – Sniper, Spotter, Security - )
-          Some 870 vehicles of all classes in addition to around 180 armored vehicles from MBTs to M1114 Heavy Humvees

In addition there is an intelligence company, engineer support, NBC recce and the necessary logistic sustainment elements.

A Stryker Brigade Combat Team can count nearly 4000 men and (3850 indicatively), only one between all BCTs, it lines 3 Maneuver Units plus a Cavalry formation, making it the largest kind of BCT in the Army. A Stryker BCT is estimated to mean a load of over 13.300 short tons, and when volumes are kept in consideration, it is estimated that 288 C17 loads are required to transport the formation by air, a feat that the USAF counts to be able to accomplish in 96 hours if needed.

A Stryker brigade has 3 Mechanized Infantry Battalions, each on 3 Companies. Each company has a Direct Fire platoon with 3 Stryker M-1128 Mobile Gun System. The Recce/Cavalry regiment uses armored Humvees and Stryker Recce (variant M-1127, externally practically unrecognizable from the basic APC (M-1126). There is also the Radar troop for battlefield surveillance, drones, and all supporting elements that can be found in all BCTs.
A Stryker brigade comes with an artillery regiment with 3 Batteries, each on 8 M777A2 towed 155 mm howitzers.  

In 2007, the mass-production of the Stryker was ongoing and the unitary price stabilized on an average of 1.42 million dollars each, a very competitive price. The hull offers protection against 14.5 mm rounds on the frontal arc and 12.7 mm rounds all around, and is resistant to 152 mm artillery shrapnel at distance of 10 meters. Add-on armor is available, and includes SRAT (Stryker Reactive Armor Tiles) against RPGs and HPK (Hull Protection Kit) against IEDs and EFPs. Underbelly anti-IED protections, including a V-shaped shield, are being applied. Commonality between the 10 variants is extremely high, and although Strykers are procured and delivered “as they are”, any vehicle of any variant can be converted into another.  All Strykers come with a M151 Protector RWS as standard fit, and they normally have a manned ring mount in the back as fall-back option, normally mounting a 7.62 mm machine gun. The APC variant has a crew of 2 and carries 9 dismounts.

The Infantry Brigade Combat Team consists of approximately 3,242 soldiers and is composed of:

  • One Brigade Troops Battalion including the UA staff, a military police (MP) platoon, a signal company, an intelligence company, an engineer company, and a fire support coordination cell.
  • One Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Battalion with both motorized (2 Humvee-mounted Recce Troops) and dismounted (1 Recce Troop) reconnaissance units; a surveillance unit including ground radars, sensors, and unmanned aerial vehicles; and a forward support company.
  • Two Infantry Battalions consisting of three rifle companies and one combat support company each; and a forward support company, capable of moving one company by truck.
  • One Strike Battalion consisting of a target acquisition platoon, an unmanned aerial vehicle unit, a forward support company, and two batteries of towed artillery, normally each with 8 M119A2, the US variant of the british L118 Light Gun.
  • One Support Battalion consisting of a transport platoon capable of moving almost an entire infantry battalion by truck.

All Infantry BCTs are fully airmobile and can be moved by helicopter. A list of the BCT equipment reports:

High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) (all variants)
Medium Tactical Vehicles (MTVs) (all variants)

Engineer Equipment
SEE Tractors
2.5 Cubic yard bucket loader

Weapon Systems
M119A2 105 millimeter Howitzers
Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided missiles (TOW) (HMMWVs mounted)
M24 Sniper rifles
Grenade Launchers

Intelligence Systems
RQ-7A Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (TUAVs)
Prophet signals intelligence systems

Headquarters and Headquarters Company

 Brigade Troops Battalion

Headquarters and Headquarters Company

Signal Company

Engineer Company

Military Intelligence Company
Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Battalion

Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Troop

Reconnaissance Troop (Mounted)

Reconnaissance Troop (Mounted)

Reconnaissance Troop (Dismounted)
Infantry Battalion

Headquarters and Headquarters Company

Infantry Rifle Troop (Company)

Infantry Rifle Troop (Company)

Infantry Rifle Troop (Company)
Infantry Battalion

Headquarters and Headquarters Company

Infantry Rifle Troop (Company)

Infantry Rifle Troop (Company)

Infantry Rifle Troop (Company)
Brigade Support Battalion

Headquarters and Headquarters Company

Forward Support Company

Forward Support Company

Forward Support Company

Forward Support Company

Field Maintenance Company

Distribution Company

Medical Company
Field Artillery Battalion

Headquarters and Headquarters Battery
Field Battery
Field Battery

According to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Army had 40 infantry, 8 Stryker and 25 heavy brigade combat teams between Regular and Reserve. The Infantry BCTs include Airborne and Air Assault formations.
In a 2007 document is evidenced how the US Army planned for 48 Regular BCTs for a period. It is extremely hard to keep track of all changes in plans, effective structure and all the rest, so the actual data today is different, at least here and there, but for historic interest the 2007 plan called for: 

There have been changes to this plan. Even the last independent Armored Cavalry Regiment was mandated for BCT transformation, the Styker BCTs grew to 8 and the number of regular BCTs was eventually capped at 45. The latest cuts will remove at least 8 of these 45 BCTs, however.
There have been changes to this plan in the meanwhile. Aviation Brigades have been given priority, and there are now 13 regular formations, confirmed even in the latest planning. None of the Aviation brigades will be cut.
A Combat Aviation Brigade is assigned to each of the 10 Division, one is based in Europe (12th, in Germany), another in South Korea, and the 13th formation is assigned to 101 Air Assault Division which uniquely has 2 CABs. There are 12 Regular (the 13th will arrive by 2013) and 8 from the National Guard. This modular aviation formation is composed by General Support Aviation Battalions, Assault Battalions and Attack/Reconnaissance Battalions. The number of battalions of each kind can vary from brigade to brigade, but their structure is normally identical.
Indicatively, a General Support Aviation Battalion has:

-          12 Chinook
-          12 Black Hawk in MEDEVAC configuration
-          8 UH-60 Black Hawk flying command post

An Assault Battalion has 30 Utility Black Hawk helicopters in three companies of ten each.
An Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion has three companies each with 10 Kiowa Warrior scouts and Apache helicopters.

The sole National Guard Brigades have the Aviation Service and Support Battalions, each on three companies of UH72A Lakota light utility helicopters for MEDEVAC, homeland security and other supporting roles.

The elements within each aviation brigade are organized into, companies, and platoons or squads. The aircraft and aircrew composition of each of these brigade sub-elements can be adjusted to meet the specialty needs of each division, be it an airborne (parachute assault infantry), airmobile (helicopter assault infantry), heavy (armor-artillery- infantry), or light (infantry).

An example of Combat Aviation Brigade organization is the 12th Brigade, based in Germany: it has one General Support Battalion, one Assault Battalion and two Attack Battalions.
The limit case is the unique organization of the 101 Airborne Division (now, actually, the Screaming Eagles are an “Air Assault” Division, with the sole 82nd Division classed as airborne). This Division has been given not one but two Combat Aviation Brigades (101 and 159), each with 1 Attack Battalion (on deployment, normally, this doubles), one Medium Lift Battalion and one Assault Battalions.

The 82 Airborne Division only has one Combat Aviation Brigade, the 82nd. The “Screaming Eagles” of the 101 Division are thus unique, and represent the most deadly and well equipped air assault formation in the world.

A Fires Brigade is the modular, modern-day offspring of the old Divisional Artillery Group. Normally, a Fires brigade lines 1200/1300 men and has a Target Acquisition formation, HQ and support units, plus three “shooter” regiments. Normally, two of these regiments will be armed with GMLRS rockets (indicatively these will be mounted on HIMARS wheeled base for Stryker/Infantry divisions, on tracked M270 vehicles for Heavy brigades) and one will have guns (Paladin self-propelled howitzers for heavy divisions, towed M777A2 howitzers the others). Some Fires brigades have an Air Defence Regiment. Ground Based Air Defence in the US Army is in evolution and has experienced cancellation of several programmes in the years, but anyway today’s plan should be that of bringing together in AD regiments batteries of Avengers (stinger missiles on Humvee vehicles), Patriot and perhaps even THAAD.
In 2007 the plan was to have Air Defence brigades on call, supplying battalions to the deployed force as needed, with cessation of provision of organic AD formations to Divisions and consequent disbandment of a quite large number of AD battalions.

Indicatively, a Combat Support Brigade (Maneuver Enhancement) consists of 435 personnel, and has engineer, military police, nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) defense, and air defense units assigned to it. In addition, the brigade could also have explosive ordnance disposal and civil affairs units.

Again indicatively, a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade consists of some 997 personnel, with an intelligence battalion, support troops, and a long-range surveillance detachment.
In addition, the brigade can be augmented with special forces units as well as additional unmanned aerial vehicles.

A Sustainment Brigade has around 487 personnel, with medical, finance, human resources, ammunition, transportation, maintenance, and supply and service units.

In addition, the US Army still has Functional Support Brigades in the active and reserve components. These come in the following roles:

-          Air Defense;
-          Engineer;
-          Military Police;
-          Chemical;
-          Military Intelligence;
-          Signal;
-          Explosive Ordnance Disposal;
-          Quartermaster;
-          Medical;
-          Logistics Regional Support Groups;
-          Civil Affairs; and
-          Psychological Operations.

The British Army post cuts: my vision

Now I’ll outline the first element of my long-due “SDSR 2015” series of posts, by explaining my vision for the future British Army. To do so, I’ll use the (little) information currently available on the Future Army Structure (Next Steps) process and add my own personal interpretation and ideas. It is a speculative exercise, but based on an as solid base as I could manage to form.


The Army is to be reduced to a single Deployable Divisional HQ (widely expected to be 1st UK Division), with 3rd UK Division’s HQ needing augmentation prior to any deployment. The Allied Rapid Reaction Corps HQ is also being reduced and made “static”, while kept for use in Multinational Operations as part of NATO and supporting units are being cut back (namely, for example, 7th Royal Signals Regiment).
The maximum level of ambition envisaged for future ops is the deployment, one-shot, of a force of 30.000 men in 3 brigades under a Division HQ, given “suitable warning”. The French, from an 88.000 men regular force ready for operations, have a 30.000 men deployment ambition at six months notice: the British Army will need at least as long a warning, if not longer, due to a regular army of 82/84.000 at most.  

The main unit of the Army post SDSR is certainly the brigade, the new focal formation and the basic unit of action and dictates the level of ambition, exemplified by the defence planning assumptions, which mandate that the UK will be able to conduct the following kind of operations:

·         An enduring stabilisation operation at around brigade level (possibly up to 6,500 personnel) with maritime and air support as required, while also conducting:
·         One non-enduring complex intervention (up to 2,000 personnel), and
·         One non-enduring simple intervention (up to 1,000 personnel)
or alternatively:
·         Three non-enduring operations if the UK Armed Forces are not already engaged in an enduring operation

The model has been, simplistically, described as “One Afghanistan and One Libya, at slightly smaller scale”.

The Army will work and plan, like the US Army, on three force-pools:

-          The Deployed Force
-          The High Readiness Force
-          The Lower Readiness Force

The Deployed Force will consist of those forces that are actually engaged in operations. Therefore aircraft engaged in operations (including the defence of the UK’s airspace), forces involved in operations in the South Atlantic, forces operating in Afghanistan and other expeditionary operations plus the nuclear deterrent will all form elements of The Deployed Force.

The High Readiness Force will consist of a range of maritime, air and land based units capable of deploying at short notice to meet the requirements of the Defence Planning Assumptions. Such forces enable the UK to react quickly to a range of scenarios that might threaten the UK’s national security interests. These force elements would be capable of operating with allies or where necessary on ‘stand-alone’ UK operations.

The Lower Readiness Force would consist of elements that have either recently returned from operations or those that are preparing and training for inclusion in The High Readiness Force. Many Lower Readiness Force units would be involved in supporting The Deployed Force.

16 Air Assault Brigade will be permanently at High Readiness, and will generate on rotational basis from its units an Airborne Task Force of up to 1600 men. It will also be able to deploy as a brigade and self sustain for short periods.

From the Navy, 3rd Commando Brigade is described as 5200 strong in its entirety. With the reduction in amphibious fleet, however (one LPD put at very low readiness and one LSD sold) the Brigade is now asked to provide, on a rotational basis, a Lead Commando Battlegroup, 1800 strong, with vehicles and related support. This force can be landed and sustained from the sea and will be at Very High Readiness/Extremely High Readiness, with one Battlegroup taking to the sea each year. A RM battlegroup later this year will, for example, deploy into the Mediterranean and move East, along with a French marines battlegroup and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.   
3rd Commando Brigade, despite the reductions, remains fundamental and it will be able to provide a 2-star HQ capable of operational level command in Maritime, Land, Joint or National Component Command Element (unique formation with this capability) as first alternative to the Joint Forces HQ (JFHQ).

The Regional Division HQs will also vanish this year, replaced by a single 2-star HQ UK Support Command, based in Aldershot. All ten the regional brigades (Territorial Army) are now expected to stay, and a few more TA units could be raised as part of the restructuring: in particular, some of the regular battalions being cut might become TA formations.

The five MRBs will be based: 2 in the Salisbury area, one in Catterick, one on the ex RAF base of Cottersmore and one up north, centered around Kirknewton, even if this last location is being reconsidered and the barracks in Edinburgh might be about to get a reprieve: the Army assessment of Kirknewton is said to be negative.
A new “Salisbury Plain of the north” will be created to partially remedy to the loss of the Germany training areas and to allow the units based in the north to train properly.

The Land Maneuver Elements

In my 82.000 strong Regular force there are a maximum of 29 and a minimum of 27 battalions of infantry, with the number dictated by some enduring commitments and planning assumptions that, until cancelled from the UK Defense Strategy, pretty much dictate the strength of the Army.

The infantry battalions include:

-          5 Armoured Infantry Battalions, Warrior-mounted (confirmed in the Army plan) plust a 6th Battalion working as Infantry Demonstration Battalion in training and force preparation. The Infantry Demonstration Battalion role is taken up, for 3-year rotations, by 3rd York and 2nd Welsh battalions. The role is certain to be kept rotational, with a battalion from the Armoured pool taking up the role for 3 years before returning in a frontline brigade to be replaced by another.
-          5 Mechanized Infantry Battalions (not yet confirmed, but expected to be part of the Multi Role Brigades and mounted in FRES UV, when it eventually arrives, with Mastiff and Bulldog used in the interim) 
-          10 Light Role Infantry Battalions
-          5 Air Assault Infantry Battalions
-          2 Parachute Battalions (1st PARA is the nucleus of the Special Forces Support Battalion [2 PARA companies and F company Royal Marines, parachute-capable] and is not counted as Army battalion)
-          1 Amphibious battalion attached to 3rd Commando Brigade and under Navy command

The four battalions of the Footguards, (Coldstream, Grenadiers, Welsh and Irish Guards) operate a two-battalions rotation, which sees two of them serving into the frontline MRBs for 3 years with the other two battalions in London on public duty. Every three years, the battalions trade positions.

1st and 2nd Gurkha Rifles battalions also rotate every three years, with one battalion in Nepal and one in the UK. Under the FAS restructuring, the Gurkha battalion in the UK would fit into 16 Air Assault Brigade (for 2 years, with one year taken up by training for the Air Assault role). The Gurkha battalion would fit into a rather complex rotational mechanism that was meant to include 1st Irish and 5th SCOTS as well, with each of these two battalions spending 5 years in 16 Air Assault Brigade followed by 2 years inside 52 Infantry Brigade. A rather expensive and dispersive method that I think was changed already. In my future Army vision, there will be 5 Airmobile battalions in-role. They will not be rotated, trained and re-trained to waste time and money. To minimize the amount of refresh training needed by the Gurkha battalion returning to the UK, the UK-resident Gurkha formation will work as Light Role infantry within an MRB.

Two further Light Role infantry battalions will also rotate every 3 years, moving from MRBs to Cyprus and back. For a long time, 1st YORKS, 2nd LANCS and 2nd YORKS have rotated into Cyprus for 2,5 years postings, separated by 5 years in the Uk and 5 in Germany. The rotation to Germany will vanish as troops are brought back in the UK by 2020.
Each Multi Role Brigade will have this structure:

1 Signals Squadron and one Electronic Warfare Troop from 14 EW Signals Regiment.
1 Tank Regiment (likely Type 38)
1 Brigade Recce Regiment (2 Squadrons on FRES SV, one on Jackal)
1 Armoured Infantry Battalion on Warrior
1 Mechanized Infantry Battalion on FRES UV [eventually, one day. Until then, FV430 MK3 Bulldog and Mastiff will probably be used. Only 3 Mechanized Battalions exist today in the Army, on Bulldog. Two more could be mechanized retaining the Mastiff in best conditions at the end of the Afghan effort. This seems to be the current plan/wish]
1 Light Role Infantry Battalion with a share of Protected Mobility given by Foxhound vehicles
1 Brigade Artillery Regiment (2 AS90 batteries and 1 L118 battery)  
1 Brigade Engineer Regiment [21, 22, 26, 32, 35 RE Regts, plus 23 Regt in 16 Air Assault and 24 Commando regiment in 3rd Commando Brigade]

Each MRB in my plan will be organized on a Land Maneuver Element and a Combat Support Element. The Support element will include a Medical Regiment and a Field Hospital assigned from 2nd Medical Brigade when needed, a Royal Military Police company, teams from the Military Intelligence Brigade, and RLC supporting formations. The Land Maneuver Element will include, of course, the already listed combat units, plus eventual additional attachments.

In addition, two Reserve Brigades will be assigned to each MRB as direct support. Ideally, the Reserve brigade would be structured to mirror the brigade it supports, to be able to provide all kinds of needed personnel and expansions, from Challenger II crews to Warrior IFV crews to, of course, gunners and infantry. However, it is unlikely that this will prove possible. Besides, it is not yet clear how effectively deployable the Reserve personnel will be.

From a force of 15 brigades (two reserve brigades originally were expected to be cut/amalgamated, [see SDSR document] but this plan was changed and all 10 Regional Brigades are to remain), to be able to sustain in the field only one is, frankly, obscene. A 1 in 15 rule has to be the worst availability in the whole world, and while the TA contribution is very respectable and relevant as it is now, it is also not all what we’d want, especially when the Regular force shrinks.
I’d want to be able to deploy at least a couple of brigades, either side by side in the same area or in two very different locations. I’ve tried to come up with a possible method for making it possible while:

-          Keeping the Regular deployments guidelines at 6 months tours and 24 months of break between tours
-          Ensure that Reserve personnel deploys only once every several years, as with the US reserve, to make the role of part-time soldiers as sustainable as possible in terms of impact on civilian work careers and families
-          Not deploying a Brigade manned entirely or almost entirely by reserves, as I think that would increase risks, despite all my genuine trust in reserves.

I’ve very soon realized that it is not easy. Not at all.
In terms of equipment, I don’t think the Reserves will ever have their own heavy kit, at least not in sufficient numbers. The Whole Fleet Management approach, indeed, has made sure that not even regulars have all of their kit, not until they deploy or enter a major exercise. The kit used for training by regulars and twinned reserves will be the same, from a properly configured pool of vehicles, with a correspondent holding of units in storage that can be brought out of the garages for deployment.
It will be necessary to time and structure the exercises so to allow Reserves to train on all the kit, and, whenever possible, do it alongside regulars.

The idea is that, once the regular MRB goes in the field for deployment, the first reserve brigade supplies roughly half of the deployed manpower. In all formations of the brigade. The kit used is the same, requiring no additional buy of vehicles and weapons. But 50% of the infantry, of the gunners, of the tank crews, come from one of the two reserve brigades. 
After six months, the personnel in the field changes, and again we have a roughly 50% mix of regulars and reserves: men continue to be out in the field for approximately six months (some flexibility will be in order, because the reserve brigade, as you can imagine, is asked to be at a very high level of readiness compared to today’s standards) but a single brigade is out in the field for one full year instead of half. (this will also require a larger Brigade HQ, but I expect the modular Divisional HQ to fill the posts)
For the next two years, the brigade won’t be deployed again, so the 24 months break is safe. When the brigade finally deploys again, is the second Reserve Brigade which provides the force, while the first is still resting and re-manning and re-training. Two more years of break follow before the first Reserve brigade is asked to deploy personnel again.
In other words, Reserve personnel will be asked to deploy at most for 6 months every 5 years. Currently, a TA volunteer who deploys does a 2-3 weeks training, 6 months in theatre and 7 weeks of rest and relaxation, for around 8.5 months in total, before going back to his work. This is likely to have to be increased because additional pre-deployment training is going to be requested for most roles due to the much greater use of reserves on the field that I envisage. It will challenge them more, and increase the risk they have to face, so additional training will likely be needed.  

Assuming it works, in this way we cut the Rule of the 5 to a 1 in 3 posture, with three Modular regular MRBs capable to cover an enduring deployment for a virtually unlimited number of years. We’ve almost doubled the possibilities of the Army, while still cutting the regulars to 82.000: the overall force is smaller, but the deployed force now can count two brigades instead of one, and this is what matters the most.
The issue with this model are:

-          The lack of a 6th Maneuver Brigade with supporting reserve brigades. To sustain two long-term deployments abroad with a 1 in 3 rule, it takes 6 MRBs. Still, we’ve potentially leaped forwards massively in terms of army availability. 16 Air Assault could fill part of the gap, but the brigade does not have dedicated reserve brigades and lacks many capabilities (MBTs, AS90, Warrior…) which likely couldn’t be sustained. If both theatres still required enduring, full-capability presence, lengthening the tours would be unavoidable. This is a bit of a limit-case, though, unlikely to ever materialize.
-          More worrisome, the high readiness level requested to the Reserve Brigades remain a concern, particularly in roles that currently aren’t very represented in the TA (armoured infantry, tank squadrons, AS90 gunners…).  
Perhaps more realistic in terms of reserves readiness, would be to have the Reserve brigade provide just around a third of the personnel deployed.
However this would require a part of the Regulars to stay in the field for 8 or even 12 months, like US soldiers, as rotating only a third of the force out, every 4 or 6 months, does not allow to do differently. Someone would have to do the long stay. Worse, some of the regulars might spend four months in theatre, 4 at home, and 4 more deployed. This is to be avoided absolutely, as spending 4 months at home this way, knowing that soon you go in again is destructive on a lot of fronts. Soldiers will perform less, their morale will suffer more, costs would go up due to the increase in rotations. Air transport resources would be heavily taxed.

The first method is the one with the greatest hopes of success. It will require the TA to give its best, but at least there are, thankfully, good signals in this direction: the uplift in funding for reserves have already brought forwards the re-instating of Overseas Training Exercises for the Regional Brigades, with 22 planned for 2012, mainly in Cyprus, Italy, Germany but also in Denmark and Norway.  

My proposal, while very ambitious, tries to keep faith to the Army’s current indications and to the recommendations which stemmed from the Future Reserves 2020 study and gave us the 30.000-strong TA plan, inclusive of an indication of a 1:8 rule being an optimal target for Reserve Force Generation. On a 30.000 strong trained force (Phase 2 ready), this would mean deploying, at once, some 3750 men per tour, well over half of an indicatively 6000-strong MRB. If this target can be met, and the men spread on the many roles needed, my plan should be affordable in the long term, even if perhaps the TA will only enable the Army to deploy simultaneously not 2 MRBs, but an MRB and a makeshift “light” brigade, infantry-heavy, due to the difficulty (and cost) of having reserves trained for the armour roles in addition to regulars. 
The pairing of 2 Reserve brigades to each Regular MRB has been hinted at by the Army chief speaking on SOLDIER magazine of January 2012. My proposal also builds on what Australia is planning for its own reserves. It remains, of course, a speculative proposal. To know more about the road that the British Army actually takes, we’ll have to wait at least until April 12, when the New Force Structure should be announced.

Moving onwards, 16 Air Assault Brigade is the formation that has given me the most issues. I can’t come up with a single scenario in which the brigade could realistically be used the way it is configured now.  And the rest of the time its uses and configuration also puzzle me: effectively, parachute launches have happened only on small scale worldwide, and for the UK in particular, the last time that a sizeable army force (Special Forces excluded) launched with parachute in enemy territory was in 1956 during the operations against Suez. Even then, it was a small force, around 600 men, less than a full battalion, which was launched near Port Said, taking a considerable risk as they would have been exposed to full enemy reaction for at least 24 hours: success of the operation was assured by the constant presence of Fleet Air Arm aircrafts and French navy fighters from the carriers at sea. There were never less than twelve aircraft patrolling above the British troops, plus six Corsairs for the French force, even smaller, that had paradropped near the same town. Missions could be effectively planned, on a minute-by-minute basis. Wyvern airplanes from 830 NAS squadron, from HMS Eagle, bombed and destroyed a fortified egiptian position which blocked the progress of paratroopers, and it was only the constant air support offered by the near-by carriers that made the operation possible. By noon on the following day, 40 Commando, after landing on the beaches, advanced south to reach the paratroops.

Following the end of World War II, the largest parachute assaults have been carried out by the US, and again, we are looking mostly at small or very small launches, with only a few major airdrops to be remembered: two brigade-sized launches happened in Korea in 1951, three separate battalion-sized airdrops in Vietnam, one Ranger battalion launched in 1983 into Grenada, in 1989 a further two Ranger battalions made combat airdrops into Panama, with a Brigade-sized, 3-battalions launch being faced by the Ready Brigade of 82 Airborne Division into Panama on 20 December 1989. In 2001, 299 US Army Rangers parachuted into Southern Afghanistan for a 5 hours raid south of Kandahar.

The largest and most significant airborne operation worldwide in recent times has been the March 26, 2003 airborne insertion of US soldiers from 173 Airborne Brigade into Northern Iraq. It involved over 900 soldiers from the brigade and was the largest airborne assault since D-Day, but it was an insertion into an area controlled by friendly forces – Kurdish rebels – planned with expectations of little resistance and executed without any resistance actually being opposed. The operation was meant to open a Northern front for Iraq, drawing combat forces away from the main area of operations in the south: it was carried out since the original “North Iraq” attack option (which would have involved the UK division too) had to be cancelled when Turkey refused basing rights and support. Paratroopers came from Aviano air base in Italy aboard of C17 cargo planes, landing in the area of Bashur, where they secured the local airfield. It took 15 hours to regroup the force after landing, and 96 hours to airlift with C17 cargo planes the rest of the over 3000-strong brigade and, more importantly, the attached Armour units, including M113 and Abrams tanks, that were assigned to the brigade to allow it to maneuver out of the LZ. By the end of the month and into early April, the reinforced brigade was defeating the local Iraqi forces and capturing Kirkuk.
The March 26 launch was classified as “Combat” only in early 2004. 

In many occasions, parachute insertion was ruled out, such as in the first Gulf War: 82 Airborne Division was part of the US force, but never parachuted into Iraq and its light equipment and lack of vehicles relegated the formation to a largely secondary role. One option said to circulate in the planning stage of the second gulf war would see 82 and 101 US divisions and the british 16 Air Assault brigade capture Baghdad’s international airport with a huge air assault. I don’t know if this is a wild voice which escaped control, or if an option like that was effectively considered, albeit briefly: for sure, it was soon discarded as the wet dream it is, in any case.

The US have resources infinitely greater than the UK, including 2 full airborne/air assault divisions (82 and 101), one Airborne brigade forward-stationed in Italy and an airforce lining more than 240 C17 and countless C130s and, significantly, a large number of huge strategic cargos, the C5. They have, in other words, such possibilities that they can realistically deploy a brigade force and above, and reinforce it in the field with heavy armor and firepower.
The UK lacks this level of capability.

16 Air Assault Brigade is used to provide the nation with an Airborne Task Force (ABTF) held at very high readiness, which can arrive to 1600 men, all-ranks, all roles, ready to be airlifted to a crisis zone, or inserted via “Entebbe-style” tactical landings (that is, the C130 touches down, and paras and Land Rover jeeps run out of the rear ramp in a hot area) or parachuted into the crisis zone.
The Airborne Task Force is actually made up by 2 components:

-          A Lead Airborne Air Group for early entry, is the proper parachute-assault unit of the force, centered on either 2nd or 3rd PARA (they rotate in the role). It is kept at 2 – 5 days Notice To Move.
-          A Lead Aviation Battle Group, brings forth the helicopters and is available at 5 – 10 days Notice To Move.
In order to provide the Lead Airborne Air Group, the force is built around the main core of one PARA battalion, with 2nd and 3rd rotating in the role. The other two air assault battalions provide reinforce elements, the Pathfinder platoon is involved, and the rest of the force is made up by supporting units, such as artillery from 7 Royal Horse Artillery regiment, Signalers from 216 Squadron, personnel from the parachute trained force of 16 Medical Regiment and 13 Air Assault Royal Logistic Corps and engineers from 23 Air Assault regiment, and so along. An absolutely incomplete list of the parachute requirements of 16 Air Assault brigade (NOTE: they are paper requirement, more often than not they are not met, at least not fully) includes also:

-          One troop from D Squadron, Household Cavalry Regiment
-          89 Intelligence Company
-          No2 Platoon, 156 Provost Company Royal Military Police
-          One troop from 21 (Gibraltar) Air Defence battery, 47 Regiment Royal Artillery [this unit was assigned to 16 Air Assault for air defence role, with the Starstreak LML missile system. The parachute trained troop vanished soon, then the battery was re-roled on Desert Hawk drones for a tour in Afghanistan, and ultimately 47 Regiment as a whole ceased its air defence role, becoming a UAV regiment. 21 Bty has recently been closed down and put in suspended animation, leaving 16AA without an air defence formation at all]
-          No1 troop from 43 Field Squadron, 33 EOD regiment
-          1 Light Electronic Warfare Team from 237 Sqn, 14 (Electronic Warfare) Signals Regiment
-          1 Joint NBCW team from the CBRN defence wing
-          1 company in each of the 2 non-PARA battalions in the brigade were to be trained for parachute, but I don’t think this was ever really done

Not considering 1 PARA and Special Forces-related units, the British Army has nearly 5000 men on the “Parachute” pay book, which means that each of these men gets a 180 pounds of additional ‘danger pay’ per month. In pay alone, over one year the parachute requirement costs nearly as much as running a Bay class LSD vessel. Still, save for Special Forces, british troops haven’t parachuted into battle since 1956, and for a wide range of factors they are unlikely to ever do it again, with the most evident factor being the lack of sufficient cargo aircrafts.
The lack of sufficient airlift means that the full-range of capabilities listed above (and full it really is, it intelligently covers every need, albeit at small scale) for parachute training is meaningless because not only there aren’t enough cargo planes to launch (and then support, more challenging still) such a force from the air, but there aren’t even enough airplanes and time to train said formations.
The case of 21 (Gibraltar) Bty is a grave example.

As to the lack of sufficient airlift, the latest example dates back to last November, when the Airborne Brigade Task Force centered on 3rd PARA was training to prepare for their Rapid Reaction role. A total of 2 C130s could be made available by the RAF, but on the chosen day weather was hostile and the launch was delayed… indefinitely, because the RAF couldn’t spare any of its C130s for even such an important exercise, due to the strain posed on the small fleet by Afghanistan and Libya.
Without said conflicts going on, sure, training would have probably taken place, but the effective possibilities of ever employing the airborne task force wouldn’t rise significantly. The MOD itself is aware of this: in Planning Round 2011, pushed by the need for savings, the MOD put forwards a plan for reductions in the (unrealistic) parachute requirements which would have seen:

-          1 PARA Special Forces Support Battalion, to retain full parachute training and the range of supporting formations, para-trained, that it has.
-          2nd PARA, parachute training to cease
-          3rd PARA, parachute training to be reduced in order to only have, rotationally, a Company trained for airborne insertion
-          4th PARA (TA), parachute training to cease
-          Unspecified but substantial reductions to parachute requirements for RLC, Military Police, 7 RHA artillery, and all other support elements.

In pays alone, that was projected to save a minimum of 4 million a year. The full extent of savings was not specified: the suggestion was soon sunk by the concentrated fire volleys of outrage and protest that came from the PARA regiment and from the press.
Let’s be clear: such a cut would realize small savings, and erase a lot of capability.  But on the other hand, that capability is mostly a paper tiger, and much more tangible (and much more frequently used) capabilities such as AS90, Challenger II and Largs Bay have been reduced or removed for obtaining savings that aren’t very sizeable either (near-cash savings of the 40% reduction in Challenger II fleet and related formations and training is estimated at 10 million per year, Largs Bay cost around 12 millions a year and the 35% reduction in AS90 holding is projected to save between 2011 and 2015, a ridiculous 2 million). Compared to other moves, the reduction of parachute strength would have been, indeed, by far the lesser evil.
Already in 2007 sources internal to the Army expressed skepticism about the consistence and realism of the ABTF, also reasoning on the disarming truth that the Army had managed only around 10.000 parachute descents in training (Special Forces excluded), which means that most 16AA personnel launched only once and many did not launch at all.
But the PARA are very strong politically and on the media, and so far they have been able to resist all attempts to cut back on them (there is ripe speculation and a widespread belief that the formation of the Special Forces Support Battalion was all but an astute move to save 1 PARA from cuts. I don’t know if it is true, obviously, but the voice continues to circulate in the Army and outside it, also because the reform was conceived by General Jackson, who himself had been a PARA for many years!).

As part of a 2-billion efficiency drive for Planning Round 2012, 250 million pounds are to be trimmed out of a per-year budget of 880 million pounds for special allowances in pay, and the “London Allowance” meant to balance the higher cost of life that soldiers posted to London have to face has been removed for the ranks above corporal. Will the option of cutting “danger pay” for parachute units be raised again?
We will see. Probably, no.

In all this, the result is that british brigades and even divisions no longer have their own helicopter formations (1st UK Division technically has the 1st AAC Regiment with 16 Lynx AH7 in 2 squadrons, but future of the regiment itself is not clear with the fleet of helos destined to shrink with the passage to the Wildcat) and 16 Air Assault ends up deploying as a normal brigade, only much more expensive. Helicopters also end up deploying with no firm relation to the brigade and in Afghanistan company-sized air assaults with helicopters are common, but are carried out by non-air specialized infantry unless 16 Air Assault is the on-task brigade in Helmand.

Personally, I do not like it. Personally, I also dislike how the Chinook helicopters and even the Puma and Merlin are into the air force, with all what it entails: to make things work, Joint Helicopter Command had to be formed, the Tactical Suppy Wing is 70% Army manned and 30% RAF manned, and there are all sorts of duplications. I’m a firm believer in the concept of Army Air Force, with the Army owning, manning and employing its helicopters. However, suggesting to transfer the utility helos to the AAC would call for such a huge and expensive shift that it would be anti-economic, even with the prospect of long-term savings.
Still, when Chinook will be eventually replaced, or a new utility/cargo helo is acquired, I would hope it is done under wholly Army management.

For the moment, what I suggest doing is forming 5 Combat Aviation Regiments within 16 Air Assault brigade, controlled by Joint Helicopter Command. Each CAR (no pun intended) would be structured around 1 Air Mobile infantry battalion with attached L118 gun battery and Fire Support Team. In addition, the Regiment would have a Combat Service Support battalion, with REME personnel from 7 Air Support Battalion, RLC detachment, 2/3 MAOTs [Mobile Air Operations Team: there’s 13 of them, from the RAF Support Helicopter branch. Each team includes 1 Team Leader (RAF officer), 1 Master Aircrew (RAF WO), 1 SNCO and 2 Signallers from 21 Signals Regiment (Air Support). These teams direct Landing Zone operations], a Tactical Supply Wing detachment for refueling and rearming of helicopters in the field.
This support battalion would be formed from units that already exist as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade and that shouldn’t need any (sizeable) increase in manpower even with the new approach.

The resulting Combat Aviation Regiment would line:

-          A support element
-          A land maneuver element (Air Mobile Infantry battalion with accompanying L118 battery on, indicatively, 4 guns)
-          An Air Maneuver element

The Air Maneuver element itself would be made up by 1 Attack Helicopter Sqn (8 x Apache), 1 x Wildcat Sqn for scouting, light escort and light utility (6 helicopters, probably, seen fleet size) and one Chinook Sqn (with around 10 helicopters, enough to airlift half of the battalion in one go).
One Airmobile Infantry Battalion can be moved by air in 20 Chinook-equivalent lifts, so as it is proposed, the CAR could in theory launch a battalion-sized air assault in just 2 waves.

I leave out of this plan the Puma helicopter, because the Puma upgrade risks cancellation as of now.  If it survives, the 22-strong available front line strength planned for the HC2 fleet would allow the formation of 6 Flights, 5 of which frontline and 1 OCU. In a long-term, enduring deployment requiring several tours, the deployed Flight would probably number some 4 airframes on average. For a one-shot non enduring deployment, more can be obviously managed in all trades. 
Due to the small number of Puma airframes available on an average day, though, I’d ideally see them assigned more to specific roles, such as MEDEVAC/CASEVAC, than used for general battlefield mission. Sophisticated stretchers with trauma-support devices are available that are completely self-contained and can be carried by practically any helicopter: the Puma would be large enough for most, if not all MEDEVAC missions, but a Chinook could be made available if/when needed just by transferring the stretcher and team.

The point of the move is not so much that of providing a capability currently unavailable, but to restructure the force in a way that, in my opinion, simplifies the provision of said capability and makes it faster and more straightforward.
Now, the whole JHC command picks men and machines from its current regiments (3 and 4 Attack with all the Apaches, 7 REME with the technicians, Tactical Supply Wing personnel, MAOTs from the RAF, Lynx helos from 9 Regiment, and so along) to compose a force that, at the end of the day, ends up being similar to my CAR, only more-awkwardly pieced together each time (Afghanistan’s deployed helicopter force is practically identical to my proposed organization, but since mine is a plane for the future, I’m counting on a 60-strong fleet of Chinooks, which helps). The reasoning is not much different from the one behind the adoption of the Multi Role Brigade.

The Combat Aviation Regiments, 5 of them, become the new 16 Air Assault brigade, which gains an additional infantry battalion overall and remains a reaction brigade, on permanent Very High Readiness. On a rotational basis, one of the 5 CARs becomes the Lead Aviation Battle Group, and stays in Readiness for a 6 months period, keeping in contact with the Army’s MRB on readiness in the same timeframe, with which it would probably work if a deployment became necessary.

5 MRBs and 5 CARs, one of each available for deployment at a few days notice in every moment of the year. The advantages should include a better, more regular life for service personnel, easier planning for the Army top brass, and more efficient training and preparation, since each package, modular and identical to the others, has the time to prepare for its period at High Readiness, ideally training with the MRB on duty in the same period.
If a major deployment call ever arrived, 16 Air Assault Brigade would probably deploy 3 or 4 of its CARs at once, providing a formidable power. In the meanwhile, the new structure would have the advantage of being sized more comfortably around more “normal” deployments.

This plan assumes that the 14 new Chinooks on order are assigned to RAF Squadrons 28 and 78. These two currently use the Merlin HC3/3a, but the Merlin is to transfer to the Fleet Air Arm for Sea King HC4 replacement by 2016. The 60-strong fleet of Chinooks would thus be organized on 6 squadrons on the bases of Odiham and Benson (with Benson being the base with the Simulators and classrooms for training, besides).  A sixth squadron would stand up, giving each squadron a probable complement of 10 airframes on deployment.
5 of the 6 Squadrons would be assigned to the CARs, while 7 Sqn RAF, which is assigned to Special Forces support role, would be linked to Commando Helicopter Force for amphibious operations, the rationale being that, in choosing one specific squadron as “expert” unit in at-sea ops, efficiency should increase. Using the squadron with the SF role will also be beneficial as it ensures that the squadron’s crews are ready to operate from ships as well as from any kind of land base.
Same reasoning for 664 Sqn Army Air Corps with the Apache attack helicopter: it would be paired with Commando Helicopter Force. 664 Sqn has a Special Forces support role from 28 July 2007, even if it is not namely assigned to the Special Forces Support Wing.
Commando Helicopter Force will be a large CAR assigned to 3rd Commando brigade, with a Wildcat Sqn, a Chinook Sqn, an Apache Sqn and 2 Merlin Sqn (plus one OCU). It will also be particularly suited for special operations.
This subject will be considered in deeper detail in the future posts on Navy and RAF issues, anyway.

Ideally, each CAR would be based together on an airfield, but this is obviously impossible, or at the very least more expensive than we can accept. Current basing arrangements will be maintained, including Wildcat based in Yeovilton and Apache in Wattisham. Dishfort will likely be closed as 9 Regiment transfers in Yeovilton: I don’t see any other use for the base, after all.

What about the Lead Airborne Air Group?
Well, on that one I’m full of doubts, for the reasons already explained in detail earlier. I’m reluctant to dispose with the parachute assault concept entirely, so in my “ideal” plan, 16 Air Assault expands to 7 battalions, 5 for the CARs, plus 2nd and 3rd PARA which continue to rotate in the parachute role. 4th PARA ceases parachute training, however, and the requirement is reduced in all other supporting units as well, for example retaining only two 2 small batteries para-trained inside 7 Royal Horse Artillery, since, even assuming we get around to parachute troops into battle, it will be as part of a larger operation, with ground forces, heavier and more equipped, close by and running to establish contact as soon as possible.
This assumes an Army force of 29 Infantry Battalions, a cut of 7 compared to now. If any additional cut is required, 2nd and 3rd PARA would become part of the CARs and 2 battalions would be cut, leaving 27, a cut of nine compared to now.

In any case, full parachute requirement would remain for 1 PARA in its Special Forces Support Role, for II Squadron RAF Regiment, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the small but invaluable Pathfinder Platoon and for a range of supporting personnel from various trades. Detail on the Special Forces Support Group (1st PARA) are very few, as expected with everything related to SF work, but the establishment of the group should include:

-          2 Companies from 1st PARA
-          The third Company is actually provided by the Royal Marines. F Coy is responsible for support to special operations in a sea-related scenario, but they can effectively be employed anywhere and are parachute trained as well.
-          SFSG has its own Combat Support Company  with assault engineers, mortar and anti-armour platoons, can call on the RAF Regiment Strike Flight to cover and protect extractions by helicopter, has a NBC detection/decontamination team, a Tactical Air Control Party, Royal Engineers, Signallers, Royal Logistic Corps and REME personnel, medical teams from the Army Medical Service and even support from the Adjutant General’s Corps, making it a rounded and supremely capable mini-army.

The restructuring I propose for 16 Air Assault would make the Brigade more “Commando-like”: a large force shaped to provide packages of self-sufficient forces, only with helicopter mobility instead of amphibious capability. The CAR will, anyway, be used most of the time in support of MRBs in the Field, acting as an “Air Maneuver Element” for the brigade.
Just like 3rd Commando Brigade, I make sure to give 16AA an Armoured Fire Support/Mobility capability, light and easily deployable by air and sea, by retaining at least part of the Warthog vehicles post-Afghanistan, to give them to the Squadrons of 1 Royal Tank Regiment that are just now leaving the CBRN role following the withdrawal of the Fuchs vehicles.

The Regiment will continue to have Challenger II and recce vehicles (today Scimitar, tomorrow FRES Scout) in it’s A Sqn, part of the Training fleet, while three squadrons will use the Warthog in support of 16AA.
A deployed CAR, in this way, could end up being able to move its whole force at once, over half of it by helicopter, the remaining under armour protection in the tracked vehicles.
The firepower available to a CAR thanks to the combination of artillery, armour and helicopters will make it a formidable maneuver unit.

In terms of Artillery, 7 Royal Horse Artillery regt would be marginally expanded in manpower from its current structure on 3 batteries of 8 guns each. The regiment would then provide small batteries of 4/6 guns each to the deploying CAR, while maintaining two more batteries Parachute Trained for use in the Airborne Task Force.
Each battery will have at least a couple of 6-man Fire Support Teams: these teams are in extremely high demand in modern operations, and can call and direct Mortar, Artillery fire and Air attacks onto the enemy positions.

In addition to the 5 CARs and to Commando Helicopter Force, there will still be the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing, based in RAF Odiham.
This wing will have:

-          657 AAC Sqn, with the famous 8 Wildcat Light Assault helicopters. Said helos are expected to have improved, secure communication fits, 4 seats for troops, a machine gun mount (normally for a M3M .50 HMG) fast roping kit and other special forces modifications.
-          651 AAC Sqn, flies with the Islander planes in light transport and ISTAR role
-          8 Flight AAC, flies 4 Dauphin helicopters in civilian colors for SAS anti-terrorism duty

It will also count on the services provided by

-          7 RAF Squadron, Chinook helicopters
-          47 RAF Squadron, C130 cargo aircrafts

Under 27 Battalions, we cannot go, unless we release the Army from some of its tasks and/or change its structure another time.
A 27-battalion infantry would count:

-          5 Armoured Infantry Battalions + 1 as Infantry Demonstration Battalion in training role. Rotation every 3 years.  One battalion in each Multi Role Brigade.
-          5 Mechanized Infantry Battalions, one in each MRB
-          10 Light Role Infantry Battalions, two in each MRB. Actually, though, the 10 battalions will rotate to cover several tasks, so that each MRB will actually have 1 Light Role battalion available in the UK, and 5 will be busy in London, Cyprus, Brunei. These are likely to figure nominally inside one of the regional brigades, probably 52 Bde, as happens already today:

1)      The 4 infantry battalions of the Guards (Welsh Guards, Irish Guards, Grenadiers and Coldstream) rotate at groups of two every 3 years. 2 of the 4 battalions are in fact busy in London on public role while the other two are in fighting role.
2)      1st and 2nd Royal Gurkha Rifles also rotate every 3 years, with one battalion being resident in Brunei at any one time
3)      2 Light Role Infantry battalions are kept in Cyprus, one in BSA West and one in BSA East. The two battalions take 6-month turns as Theatre Reserve Battalion in the Mediterranean. They rotate with 2 british based battalions every 3 years.

-          5 Airmobile Infantry Battalions, one in each CAR
-          1 Amphibious Infantry Battalion (1st RIFLES) assigned to 3rd Commando brigade

The Multi Role Brigades would take 6-month turns as formations at readiness, and the Light Role Infantry Battalion of the brigade at readiness would take on the role of Spearhead Battalion at 24 hours notice to move.
A Spearhead Battalion spends 3 months training for its role and then stays at readiness for 6 months, ready to deploy. If the call comes, the battalion is ready to move out, carrying with itself 10 days of spares and consumables organized in Priming Equipment Packs ready for shipment.
According to Army sources, a Spearhead battalion with all its supplies and vehicles can be deployed from the UK to Sierra Leone (it is their example) with 5 C17 sorties, 15 C130 C3 sorties, 15 C130 C4 sorties, 1 Tristar and 6 VC10 sorties. The C3 and C4 are the stretched, long fuselage variants of the C130K and C130J respectively: the C130K fleet will be entirely out of service by the end of this year, while the replacement of the C130J will begin in 2014 with the delivery of the first A400, and will be concluded by 2022.

The Tank regiment of the MRBs is still a mystery, but judging from the cuts I expect an ORBAT Type 38, with 38 MBTs in force and the possibility of eventually expanding it drawing squadrons from other regiments if necessary.
The Brigade Recce Regiment is pretty much officially expected to have two Armoured Squadrons on FRES Scout and one on a “wheeled, open-top UOR vehicle which will brought into core”, a description which pretty much frames the Jackal, unless the WMIK variant of Ocelot is ordered before Afghanistan ops come to an end.
The Artillery Regiment announced by the Director Royal Artillery will have 2 AS90 batteries and one L118 Battery (on six or eight guns?). 95 AS90 vehicles are being retained after the cuts, even if other sources mention 87. 

The Combat Support Element of each Brigade will include:

-          One Medical Regiment
-          One Intelligence Company and eventual Psyops team from 2nd Military Intelligence Brigade 
-          One Royal Military Police Company
-          One “Sustainment Regiment” from the Royal Logistic Corps, including Fuel, Transport, Supplies and Tank transport resources and integrating a REME battalion for field maintenance.

The REME Battalion and the Sustainment Regiment might combine to form a “Brigade Support Battalion” like in the US Brigade Combat Teams. This modular battalion contains stores, transport and fuel role, and lines ‘Forward Support Companies’, each with a Maintenance Platoon and a Distribution Platoon. There is a FSC for each Maneuver Battalion of the BCT, and each Forward Support Company is specialized in delivering the maintenance and supplies and spares needed by that specific battalion. A security section provides escort and protection to logistic convoys.
The argument is very complex, and people in the Army, with more direct experience than me, will no doubt be looking into this: however, the American experience in this sense is positive: the Brigade Support Battalion evolved on the field, during the Iraq war and occupation, and the Forward Support Companies were an evolution coming from the bottom and dictated from direct experience on the ground. I find the concept to have merit, and it is probably more than worth consideration.

Indicatively, the Sustainment Regiment for the british MRB could follow the example of the Brigade Support Battalion of the US BCT, so there would be:

-          1 HQ Company, ideally should include a Security Element (escorting force for convoys)
-          1 Distribution Company
-          1 Field Mainteinance (REME) Company
-          6 Forward Support Companies, each supporting a specific formation within the brigade: so there will be one FSC configured for support to the Tank Regiment, one will support the RECCE regiment, one the Armoured Infantry Battalion, all the way to one FSC which is Artillery-oriented.
Useful considerations on the Brigade Support Battalion are also contained in this document.

It is not yet entirely clear what will be the full impact of the new concept of Capability Directorates being adopted by the Army, but REME and Royal Logistic Corps are going to be under the same Combat Support directorate, which should be of help in the “semi-merge” necessary for the creation of effective Sustainment Regiments and for the restructuring of the Logistic Brigades.

It is not yet clear what organization the Brigade Engineer Regiment will have, either. The current regiments are organized on 4 Squadrons each (one HQ & Support Sqn, 3 Armoured Engineer Squadrons – this because 38 Regiment, the only non-armoured, is being disbanded along with the 19 Light Brigade it supports).
In 2008, for example, it was expected that the two Armoured Brigade’s regiments would each receive 6 Trojan and 6 Titan, with the 3 RE regiments attached to the Mechanized Brigades getting 4 of each (all regiments would have Troops of 2 Titan/Trojan each).
One more Trojan/Titan go to the RE Cross Capability troop in the Training fleet at Warminster, 2 vehicles of each kind are in BATUS, Canada, 1 of each is in the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SEME) Regiment and 5 of each are in reserve/maintenance. Even though 50% of the vehicles of each kind will actually be resting in controlled Humidity storage under Whole Fleet Management anyway.

Now, with the brigades having less armour and being all based on the same structure, the distinction in Heavy and Mechanized RE formations will vanish entirely, and probably each regiment will have 4 Trojan and 4 Titan, with more being held in reserve and assigned if and when necessary.
Each regiment should receive 8 Terrier vehicles as well. The FV430 Mk3 Bulldog for the mobility of personnel and kit will probably be used for a long time still due to the difficulty of financing a sufficient number of FRES SV APCs. An Engineer variant of the FRES SV protected mobility vehicle is planned as part of RECCE Block 2, but it will be years, even in the best case, before we get to see them! At best, a number of FRES SV vehicles from the first order will replace the Spartan APCs used in the regiments.
There is also a requirement for Medium Armour Assault Bridging, once expected to be covered by 35 FRES Bridgelayers, now possibly going to be Warrior bridgelayers instead (4 per regiment? Will the order ever be finalized?).
Another possibility is that one of the three squadrons of each regiment reverts from an armoured ORBAT to a lighter one, targeted at supporting the Light Role Infantry component of the Brigade and better suited for air transport and helicopter mobility.

It is not clear what will happen to the Talisman counter-IED and route clearance kit for which several Engineers squadrons have re-trained and that is being exmployed in Afghanistan. In 2015 the system, which is a UOR, might be abandoned.
Ideally, I’d keep Talisman around as a specialized route-clearance capability, used by one Regiment of the reserve, if not by 36 Regiment RE (General Support). Talisman includes the Tarantula Hawk drone detachment (Royal Artillery manned and managed), the Talon UGV, the Buffalo vehicle, the Mastiff Protected Eyes with mast-mounted surveillance sensors, an unmanned reconnaissance asset developed by turning Land Rover Snatch into remotely-operated vehicles (not the best solution, but cheap and readily available), the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (UOR that also serves as interim gap-filler due to Terrier delays, this one I would still abandon when Terrier is available)  and the latest addition, the mine clearance drone Mini MineWolf.  Along with them I’ll also keep dear the Mastiff vehicles still in good conditions, in particular those in the EOD-team carrier configuration.

At Divisional Level there will be a General Support Engineer Regiment (28 and 36 RE regiments). 36 RE currently has taken up the role of IED High Assurance Search Group, and will continue to provide this service until 2015. 28 RE will retain the unique 23 Amphibious squadron with the M3 rigs. These two regiments will be able to provide support to the deployed forces.

8Th Force Engineer Brigade, Royal Engineers will continue to exist as part of Theatre Troops, but with changes to its parts, mainly to 12 Air Support Group:

-          39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) will move from Waterbeach near Cambridge to Kinloss in the summer of 2012, and HQ 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group will move from Waterbeach to RAF Wittering in the summer of 2013.
-          25 Engineer Regiment  (Air Support) will be disbanded within 31 May 2012, with the loss of 43 Headquarters and Support Squadron. Its two Field Squadrons, (34 and 53) will be passed to 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) and move into RAF Wittering.
Unless further changes are announced, this effectively reverses a 2007 decision, which saw 25 ER formed detaching 2 squadrons from 39 ER, funnily enough.
39 Regiment should thus take on this look:

  • 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Kinloss
  • 48 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Kinloss
  • 34 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Wittering
  • 53 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Wittering
  • 60 Headquarters and Support Squadron (Air Support).- RAF Kinloss
  • REME Workshop. - RAF Kinloss 

HQ 12 (Air Sp) Engr Gp should at that point (again, unless further reductions come) command the following force:

39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support)
71 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers)
73 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers)
Works Group Royal Engineers (Airfields)

Waterbeach Barracks will subsequently be closed by December 2013.

Under 8 Brigade control remains also the 29 (Land Support) Engineer Group, commanding the EOD regiments (39 and 101 RE, 11 RLC regiments]. The Group counts on some 11 Regular and 3 Volunteer squadrons. 17 Squadron, 33 Regiment is organized on 3 troops: No1 is Parachute trained and assigned to 16AA Brigade; No2 is assigned to 3rd Commando, No3 is available for the Joint Rapid Reaction Force and could, for example, go in with the Spearhead battalion.

Last element of the 8 Force Engineer Brigade is 170 (Infrastructure Support) Group, a joint regular-TA force highly specialized. It lines 62, 63, 64, 66 and 67 Works Groups (mixed) and 65(V) Group, the sole entirely TA-manned. The Group has responsibility for water infrastructure, power infrastructure, fuels infrastructure, rail infrastructure and ports infrastructure, making its service invaluable and high in demand.

In terms of Medical Support, the Royal Army Medical Corps offers:

·  1 Medical Regiment - 20th Armoured Brigade
·  2 Medical Regiment - 7th Armoured Brigade
·  3 Medical Regiment - 4th Mechanized Brigade (United Kingdom)
With 250 (Hull) Medical Squadron (Volunteers)
·  4 Medical Regiment - 12 Mechanised Brigade
·  5 Medical Regiment - 1st Mechanized Brigade (United Kingdom)
With 64 (Chorley) Medical Squadron (Volunteers)
·  16 Medical Regiment - 16 Air Assault Brigade
With 144 Parachute Medical Squadron (Volunteers)
·  225 Medical Regiment (Volunteers)
·  253 Medical Regiment (Volunteers)
·  254 Medical Regiment (Volunteers)

These regiments will continue to accompany the Brigades as they are restructured into MRBs. At “Theatre Troops” level remains 2nd Medical Brigade, holding the Field Hospitals, most of which are manned by TA volunteers and which will be assigned depending on the needs of the day.

·  2 Medical Brigade
  • 22 Field Hospital
  • 33 Field Hospital
  • 34 Field Hospital
  • 201 (Northern) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 202 (Midlands) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 208 (Merseyside) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 212 (Yorkshire) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 243 (Wessex) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 256 (City of London) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
  • 306 (Nationally Recruited) Hospital Support Medical Regiment (Volunteers)
  • 335 (Nationally Recruited) Medical Evacuation Regiment (Volunteers)
Field hospitals may be regular or TA and all are 200 bed facilities with a maximum of 8 surgical teams capable of carrying out life-saving operations on some of the most difficult surgical cases.

In terms of supporting formations, the current “Theatre Troops”, the British Army will continue to have a single “Fires” brigade, 1st Artillery bde, lining the following regular regiments:

-          39 Royal Artillery; HQ Bty plus 5 frontline batteries, each trained and equipped on both GMLRS and Fire Shadow loitering ammunition
-          5 Regiment, Surveillance and Target Acquisition; HQ Bty plus 5 STA Batteries, each with Radar Troop and Sound Ranging Troop for the detection of enemy fire, plus 4/73 Sphinx Special Observation Posts battery
-          32 and 47 Royal Artillery regiments; combined UAS regiments. Together, they are to field 5 Unmanned Air System Batteries, each with 6/10 Watchkeeper drones and 2 Ground Control Stations, 12 Desert Hawk III detachments and 3 Tarantula Hawk drone detachments. It is expected that, in a few years time, at least part of the Watchkeepers will be turned into ATUAS, Armed Tactical Unmanned Air System, with a couple of LMM missiles.

The Brigade will also draw from 3 reserve regiments:

-          104(Volunteers) RA; reserve UAS regiment
-          101(V) RA; reserve GMLRS/STA regiment, has 2 GMLRS batteries and 2 STA batteries
-          Honourable Artillery Company; provides reinforcement Patrols to the Special Observation Post battery, 4/73.

This brigade will nominally be able to deploy whole or nearly whole for major, division-sized operations, but its most common task will be making available batteries of GMLRS, STA and UAS for deploying brigades. The recent reform of the Royal Artillery saw the adoption of the “rule of the five” in these vital formations, and now there’s 5 batteries in the STA role, 5 in UAS role and 5 in GMLRS/Fire Shadow role, making it possible to cover one enduring deployment.

I briefly considered rising a second Fires Brigade, so to attach one to 1st and one to 3rd Division (the Brigade attached to 3rd Division would have contained 47 Regiment with 2 UAS batteries, 101(V), 104(V) and Honourable Artillery Company) but I believe that the duplication would not be worth its cost.
It has also no economic or military sense dividing the “Fires” element from the UAS batteries (like the US do with Fires and Battlefield Surveillance brigades). If 3rd UK Division was deployable, I’d want two Fires brigades, but with the current army ambitions it is not the case.  

In addition, my Army structure envisions a new brigade to keep under Theatre Troops command, the Force Protection bde. This formation will become a container of specific assets, such as C-RAM artillery and Cortez base-ISTAR sensors, but also direct the Military Working dog regiment and even the RAF Regiment, which will remain a RAF formation but will work within the Army and under an Army commander. The Force Protection brigade will be a unit useful for a whole range of situations, both in peacetime and during deployments. Being meant to provide specific surveillance and defence against terrorism and also against more conventional threats such as RAM (Rocket, Artillery, Mortar), the brigade would be the main player in events such as the Olympics, while also providing deployable defences and ISTAR to main and forward bases established above. It is meant to bring together the force protection expertise of the RAF regiment with the kit and experience of the Army.
Units assigned to the brigade would be:

-          Defence CBRN Wing; following the latest reform, 1 Royal Tank Regiment is no longer part of the formation, which is now wholly RAF and made up by squadrons 26 and 27
-          22 Royal Artillery regiment; 22 RA used to be an air defence regiment until it was disbanded a good few years ago. I’d like to bring it back, as a mixed formation of Regulars and TA soldiers, to assign to it the Cortez base-ISTAR system, that I want to retain in service post-Afghanistan. In addition, the Regiment would operate a number of C-RAM batteries. A C-RAM system was indicated in the SDSR as well as a future investment. 22 RA would operate 5 batteries, each with C-RAM artillery and a full Cortez suite of sensors for base-ISTAR and surveillance.
-          1st Military Working Dog Regiment; formed in 2010 by bringing together the previous five independent Dog squadrons that were separated between 101 and 102 Logistic Brigades. The regiment supplies teams with Search and Guard dogs, including explosive-search.
-          RAF Regiment; slightly reduced in size compared to now (it was expanded to face the Afghan needs), it would have 5 Field Squadrons (roughly 171 strong) plus a sixth, II Sqn, which is PARA trained and can be useful in support to Special Forces or CSAR missions, other than for its main mission that is capturing and securing airflieds, with an airborne assault if needs be.

The Force Protection Brigade is intended to be able to, at any one time, generate “FP packages” including Force Protection HQ, Cortez sensors and related C-RAM battery, a RAF Field Squadron and up to a Squadron worth of Military Working Dog teams. Each package will be in the High Readiness Pool for six months.

Air Defence is also moving out of Divisions. With the demise of the sSHORAD role of 47 Regiment RA, which is moving to UAS and out of 3rd Division to enter 1st Artillery Brigade, the remaining sSHORAD regiment, 12 RA, is likely to move out of 1st Division and into the Joint Ground Based Air Defence Command, which already directs 16 Regiment (with its Rapier batteries) and the reserve Air Defence element, 106(V) Regt.
Around 2018/2020, the Rapier will be replaced by truck-mounted CAMM missile, and by then I’d want 6 batteries to be raised, bring back from suspension animation 20 Commando Battery RA, to ensure that all the MRBs and 3rd Commando as well have an Air Defence formation on call.

The future of Starstreak is not as clear. A replacement missile is not yet on the horizon, but it is likely to be pursued along with the French in a collaboration of which some shy rumors have been heard. The missile is likely to live well into the 2020s, anyway.
Again, ideally, 12 Regiment should be able to generate a battery for all brigades, including 16 Air Assault. 3rd Commando Brigade has its own Starstreak-equipped missile troop embedded.

The current situation of 12 RA should be the following: 

- T (Sha Sujah's Troop) Battery; HQ Bty 

- 12 (Minden) Battery; uses the tripod LML launcher and provides highly deployable light AD troops available for tasking at short notice. 

- 9 (Plassey) Battery; uses the Stormer HVM vehicle and works in support of 1st UK Division (24 vehicles in 3 Troops?)

- 58 (Eyre's) Battery; uses the Stormer HVM vehicle and works in support of 3rd UK Division (24 vehicles in 3 Troops?)

The Royal Signals brigade will go down from 3 to 2 by the end of this year, since 2nd (National Communications) brigade will be disbanded after its role in the Olympic games is over. The formation, mainly comprising TA units, will be broken down and its regiments assigned to the other Brigades (1st and 11). The 1st Brigade itself is being reduced and restructured (by closing 7th Regiment, a supporting element of ARRC HQ), while 11 Signals Brigade is pretty much untouchable in its role of support to Joint Rapid Reaction Force and because of its unique regiments: 14 Electronic Warfare Regiment, 30 Strategic Communications (satellites) Regiment and the 2nd Regiment with the CORMORANT wide area comms system.

1st Military Intelligence Brigade and 2nd Medical Brigade are unlikely to undergo changes, in my opinion. Pretty much untouchable is also the unique 104 Logistic Brigade, which is the key to the Army’s ability of deploying abroad, as it wholly commands Land Force's logistic enabling capabilities: Postal and Courier Services, Movement Control, Air Despatch, Port and Maritime (which includes a Vehicle Specialist and Railway capability) and many Pioneer effects. The Brigade operates both the Sea Mounting Centre (SMC) at the military port of Marchwood and the Joint Air Mounting Centre (JAMC) at South Cerney; ensuring that the UK end of deployments are fully enabled and effective at all times. With these capabilities, the Brigade activates strategic and operational Lines of Communications; mounting and deploying forces that provide specialist logistic support effects in support of joint expeditionary and enduring operations.

Changes could well happen in the 101 and 102 Logistic Brigades,  which have already lost their medical regiments in recent years when the Army decided to reform the Medical Corps and assign a Medical Regiment to each brigade. The two logistic brigades also used to contain the Military Working Dog Sqns, but in 2010 all five the squadrons were finally centralized and put in the 1st MWD regiment under Royal Army Veterinary Corps. As seen earlier, I’d have said regiment into the Force Protection brigade.
Each Logistic Brigade has a Supply Regiment overseeing the delivery of supplies from the UK to theatre, one/two regiment with Transport, Fuel and Tank Transport sqns, one Military Police regiment and one REME battalion.

This is an area where changes could probably come. There might also be a restructuring and downsizing of the related Royal Military Police regiments, since it appears that a Brigade only needs a Company-sized RMP element, and these companies could come from just 2 regiments assigned to the two Divisional HQs.
Currently, 1st UK division has a Logistic Support Regiment (1st LSR), and 7th, 1th, 4th and 12th Brigades also have their own LSR. The rest of the logistics are provided via 101 and 102 Logistic brigades.

101 and 102 Logistic Brigades will be the British Army equivalent to the US Army Sustainment Brigades. They will plan, coordinate, synchronize, monitor, and control sustainment within an assigned Area of Operations. They will Conduct Host Nation Support (HNS) relations and contracting; and they will provide support to joint, interagency, and multinational agencies on order. They will sit above the Multi Role Brigade(s) in the area and oversee Theatre Logistics by ensuring that the Brigade(s) or Division in the field are reached by supplies coming in, by air or sea, possibly all the way from the UK, via 104 Logistic Brigade.

In conclusion   

My vision for the future British Army is a vision of a smaller army, but with very complete capabilities, organized on the basis of a solid structure capable to ensure, as much as possible, the deployability and sustainability of full-spectrum force packages capable to successfully engage in any kind of operation.

As with US Marines and US Army units, the objective of the revised Force Structure is to be able to deploy an effective force with a Land Maneuver element, an Air Maneuver Element and a Combat Support element.
The Land Maneuver element is the Multi Role Brigade, with its balanced mix of capabilities.

The Air Maneuver element is the Combat Aviation Regiment and, eventually, the Airborne Task Force, which can provide a battalion/near-battalion sized screen of paratroops during an operation.

The Combat Support Element contains all the formations that enable the successful employment of the maneuver formations. Its core will be the Sustainment regiment, with Supplies, Fuel, Transport and Tank Transport resources.
Each CSE will work with the single Logistic Brigade, attached to the single deployable division, and with the assistance of the unique services of 104 Logistic Brigade will sustain the deployed brigade in its operations.
There will be a Medical Regiment, a Royal Military Police company, EW teams and an Intelligence Company as well, for each brigade. 

A whole range of capabilities will be available on demand from the Supporting Brigades (8 Force Engineer, Force Protection Brigade, 1st Artillery Brigade, Joint Ground Based Air Defence…). In any moment, a deploying brigade will be able to access to:

-          One RAF Field Squadron for Force Protection and defence of bases.
-          One CBRN formation from the CBRN Wing
-          One Royal Artillery battery equipped with C-RAM artillery and Cortez base-ISTAR sensors for ensuring safety within the Main Operating Base and, as much as possible, within FOBs.
-          One Royal Artillery Depth Fire battery, with GMLRS and Loitering Ammunitions
-          One Royal Artillery UAS battery, with Watchkeeper and Desert Hawk detachments (the latter being assigned, much as done today in Afghanistan, to the various maneuver formations. Today you can expect to find a Desert Hawk III det with the Warthog group and another with the Brigade Recce Force, with a couple detachments in reserve and the others assigned to the various FOBs). Once armed, Watchkeeper will offer hunter-killed capability.
-          One Surveillance & Target Acquisition Battery with radars, sound ranging and Special Observation Posts patrols
-          One very-short range air defence battery with Starstreak missiles
-          One Rapier SHORAD missile battery
-          Infrastructure support, including airfield repair

All of this, save perhaps for the Air Defence bits, which would be more than a tad stretched after years of downsizing, would be available on an enduring basis, with all capabilities spread so to meet the Rule of the 5. In addition there will be RAF and RN supporting units, from helicopters to drones, Typhoons and F35s, as will be explored in the future posts. 

My proposed Army Structure and its six-months force generation cycle, exposing the units available for deployment at any one time.
While a larger force could of course do more, or at least do the same with less effort, the point is that, to deliver a significant expansion in the range of what can be done, the uplift in manpower and investment has to be massive.
Six MRBs, even 7 MRBs would still be insufficient for deploying more than one brigade in an enduring operation, and buying influence with the Army would require the ability of deploying a massive force that the UK simply can’t sustain nor finance.
It makes sense, in my opinion, to size down the Army, to a force that can be properly equipped, trained, deployed and sustained, even if smaller, and buy influence and effectiveness investing more in strategic enablers such as amphibiosity, maritime security and carrier strike.

In the next post I’ll try to explain my plan for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. But since the Army restructuring is probably the most confusing and complex sector of all (and writing this piece has further opened my eyes on just how complex running the British Army must be!), I’m even more open than usual to questions, debate and suggestions. I will add further posts if necessary.

The latest rumors on General Carter’s vision for the Army

Following the SDSR, General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the army, asked Major-General Nick Carter, a former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and the director-general of land warfare, to carry out a review into the Army restructuring, to outline his visions. Ever since, we have heard suggestions that General Carter is going pretty everywhere but down the SDSR path of the MRBs.

In October 2011 general Carter was said to be suggesting an army structure on 2 Armored and 2 Light Brigades with other assets “on call” as needed. It felt weird and unlikely from the first moment (if nothing else, because I really can’t imagine the Army cutting another one maneuver brigade on top of the one already cut by the government, can you?) and it seems to have gone nowhere, thankfully. Was it wrong reporting on the press side? Possibly.

These days we are fed another, and possibly worse, vision of Carter’s plan.

Carter has returned to first principles and asked: what will the army be for?
His answer, intriguingly, is that it will not be for ‘everyday’ use.  He does not believe that Iraq and Afghanistan – enduring operations – should shape the army of the future, for while those operations have both vindicated much and taught much, they are too specific to theatre, type of conflict and political conditions to be of general relevance. Carter believes the army must be an insurance policy for the most difficult operational challenges, not an organization configured for what at any one time appears to be the most likely. The army must give the government genuine options for contingencies it cannot foresee rather than trying to force the square pegs of old structures into the round holes of new operational demands.
Carter believes that such an all-risks insurance policy would first require the army to have a potential ‘warfighting’ capability of such potency that it is a deterrent in itself [see Observation 1] – similar to the classical concept of ‘the fleet in being’. But rather than orderly structures reminiscent of the Cold War, which are neither affordable nor desirable, a looser arrangement of units is needed, trained to a common doctrine and able to combine in a more ad hoc fashion, with the ‘synergy’ created at divisional level and above.

This is a considerable departure from the previous aspirations for five strong, identically configured brigades, each comprising armoured (tank) and armoured reconnaissance regiments, infantry battalions, artillery and engineers, designed to sustain indefinitely a deployment at ‘medium scale’ (like Iraq or Afghanistan). Brigades have become just too big – mini-divisions – believes Carter, with brigade commanders unable to focus sufficiently on either the tactical employment of their troops or the external, ‘political’, aspects of an operation. His concept envisages at least twice as many smaller brigades of up to five major combat units (tank and infantry), with less organic combat support (such as artillery and engineers) than hitherto, or even none at all [see Observation 2]. This increase in ‘first-class’ brigades would be particularly welcome since the future senior command of the army, and the defence staff, would otherwise be built on a perilously narrow ‘one-star’ base [see Observation 3].

[…] Carter vision puts the ‘teeth’ arms – the infantry and the cavalry– firmly centre-stage. One of Napoleon’s generals said of the British infantry that they were the most dangerous in the world, “but fortunately there aren’t many of them”. Carter is determined to keep them at the expense of ‘enablers’ and support units, accepting that contractorization might have to be an option if a deployment runs on. Enablers and supporters could also be transferred to the TA, where the training regime is more suited to mastering complex but narrower tasks, but with perhaps a higher proportion of regulars in the unit than hitherto. [Observation 4]

With all due respect for General Carter, I cannot avoid saying that, in my eyes, this plan is total bull.

-          Observation 1: the beauty of the Army so powerful to scare everyone is undeniable, but it is an illusion, particularly when the regulars are capped at 82.000, the 105 mm howitzers at around 120, the 155 mm self propelled howitzers at 95 and the Main Battle Tanks at just over 200, with perhaps 250 IFVs and perhaps 200 FRES Scout vehicles.
General Carter can suggest a different army concept and structure, but he cannot reverse the cuts nor obtain additional funding, nor buy additional vehicles or get more regulars. When looked at in the right perspective, his observation is nice, but out of reality. What he is going to scare with that force, especially if spread into tiny, unsustainable brigades weak on logistics and artillery?

-          Observation 2: how is he going to form 10 5-elements brigades of tanks and infantry out of 82.000 regulars in 5 tank regiments and 30, if not less, infantry battalions? There are 5 Regiments of tanks (15 squadrons), 5 regiments of Armoured Infantry (15 companies) and only 10 Squadrons on FRES Scout (2 in each RECCE regiment). Is he going to call “brigade” a formation with a “regiment” made up by 1 Challenger II sqn and 1 FRES Scout squadron, plus one enlarged armoured infantry coy and a few battalions of Light Role Infantry? What would such a force ever be able to do?
How does a reduction in Artillery and Combat Support Elements ever justify itself? COIN or State-on-State, you still need artillery. Lots of it. And Logistics, lots of it.  

-          Observation 3: not to be offensive or provocative, but please tell me that we aren’t calling large regiments “brigades” and brigades “Divisions” just so we can retain more top brass and badges. PLEASE.

-          Observation 4: again, it is outside reality. This army structure goes straight against the SDSR assumptions, including generally widespread belief that old style state-on-state warfare is not going to be likely nor common in the coming years. Is he really suggesting losing the Royal Engineers to contractors? Paid with which money? Combat Support Elements in the reserve, cut back savagely and pooled, together with artillery, at Divisional level…? Where is the sense of this suggestion? In the ambition of saying “yes, we still deploy divisions!”.

One has to hope that the press is getting it wrong.
Or that Carter’s review is ignored if the press report is correct. More than an insurance policy, Carter’s army structure feels like a paper tiger of regiment-sized brigades and Divisions with insufficient enablers to do their job.


  1. Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know how many infantrymen there are in the three types of BCTs?

    85*7 in a Heavy BCT just seems very low.

  2. 1330 in an Infantry BCT (2 x 660-strong battalions)
    In a Stryker battalion, the total headcount for the 3 Mechanized Infantry Battalions is 1755.
    In the Heavy BCT the proper dismounts in the Combined Arms Battalions should be around 392 in total, done the math on the vehicles present in the Mechanized Coys. Each CAB also has a Maneuver Scout Battalion with 3 M3 Bradleys + 1 Bradley as HQ and transport for a Raven UAV and 5 Hummers carrying long range optical surveillance system and other kit, however.

    The above figures also do not count the strenght of the foot elements of the Recce formation of each BCT.

    1. I think your ideas are very interesting, especially for CARs, much more rational than what we are supposed to already have.

  3. Gabriele

    All I can say is that it is outstanding. Terrific stuff. I have only had time to give it a preliminary reading so far and it will take me much more time to assimilate it and form the questions I would like to ask. There probably will be many of those if you can bear them.

    Your suggestions about forming 5 Combat Engineer Regiments (CARS) from 16 Air Assault Brigade certainly form a very innovative and imaginative idea. At first I thought you intended to scrap the Brigade, which disappointed me because I think that kind of rapid intervention capability is still needed (e.g. it was in the Sierra Leone operation) but no, you still wish to keep it, which is good (“The Combat Aviation Regiments, 5 of them, become the new 16 Air Assault brigade, which gains an additional infantry battalion overall and remains a reaction brigade, on permanent Very High Readiness.”)

    Two more points if you have time to answer them:

    First, what do I click to get the diagrams to enlarge?

    Second, and this is a bit of a specialist question. You mention how 12 RA, is likely to move out of 1st Division and into the Joint Ground Based Air Defence Command and how it is likely to be able to generate a battery for all brigades, including 16 Air Assault. Would that be based on a SP version of HVM on Stormer? I ask because I think the vehicles have been seen again recently on the Salisbury Plain Training Area.

    Love the comments on General Carter's ideas, by the way.

  4. Hi Mike,

    questions are encouraged, as are suggestions and updates: whatever helps keeping me up to date is always more than welcome, and discussion is good. So ask what you want, and i'll try to answer as well as i can. I'm glad that you appreciate the article, i hope it'll offer good info.

    And yes, i don't want to do away with 16 Air Assault. Indeed, i'd like to have a more powerful and efficient army aviation and a more coherent Air Mobile infantry. The CAR is my answer.
    At most, my criticism goes against parachute ops and requirements and costs, because they do not seem to fit into operational reality. I've added in some quick analysis of parachute role, recent ops and reasons because i don't think the British Army should spend as much as it does on it.
    I fully expect my 16AA proposals to be the most controversial outlined in the article.
    Then again, i have the luck(?) of having few readers and less commenters, which saves me from the worst!

    On the diagrams, you only have to click over the images, but i see where the problem is: Blogger is stupid and does automatically-size down the massive Paint image i did of my force structure. I'll see what i can do about it, if there's a remedy. For now i fear you should save it on your pc and open it there: you should be able to read into it, even if, of course, quality will suck and it is not what i had in mind. Blogger is retarded, sorry.

    Regarding 12 RA, the regiment retains a couple of Batteries mounted in the Stormer HVM, yes, and 2 more on the tripod launcher LMM. Indeed the vehicle and missile system was updated and it is now incredibly capable: the upgrade added surface-surface engagement capability (anti-armour, the Starstreak can "kill" most light armored vehicles easily, was trialed against an FV430 vehicle) and made the vehicle capable to employ the LMM missile that will be used also on the Wildcat helicopters. You will find tons of into on the Royal Artillery in this earlier article i made some time ago. Most of it is still valid, and it contains good info on the Stormer HVM as well. I might update it and propose it again as part of this series, indeed.

    On General Carter's plan, i've been thinking about it all along the day. But it continues to make no sense.
    There's not enough units to form 10 5-formations brigades, and even having some small "Armored BCTs" and "infantry BCTs" instead of trying to have armor everywhere, i don't find a sense for the plan.
    Both end up short of manpower and, worse still, short on enablers.

    End result is that the small brigades get teamed up and deployed together under a Divisional command with divisional enablers. Always. Because they simply cannot do without proper CSS and they can't do without mass either.
    I've been thinking that he might cut none of the 36 infantry battalions, and cut only from the regular CSS units, but this still does not solve the problem, and cutting on CSS scares me more than cutting the infantry.

    I really don't see how the hell it could ever work. In the end, you are back to MRBs, but through a twisted path which i deem more risky.
    The difference is that instead of being a large brigade it is a ridiculously small Division with lots of high ranks in overlapping HQs.
    This of course based on the little that the press has suggested, if the press is wrong, my criticism also is, but this is obvious.

  5. Gabriele

    Thanks for the very detailed reply. Very helpful.

    I shall be back over the next few days with plenty more questions.



  6. Gabriele

    You suggest that the Brigade Recce Regiment in your MRB would have 2 Squadrons on FRES SV, one on Jackal.

    I was wondering about the Scimitar 2 vehicles. Over 60 of those were produced by BAE recently and in most respects they were new-build build vehicles (new hull etc.). Now I know that the rationale behind using a wheeled, mostly open-top vehicle like Jackal is that soldiers can communicate with locals to a greater extent, etc. etc. but would it not make greater sense to use the Scimitar 2 (or CVR(T) 2, I should say, as other variants have been produced) in the 5 Squadrons across the MRBs? I don’t suppose there would be enough, though. About 25 vehicles (all variants) would be needed for each squadron, wouldn’t they? Perhaps they would be better placed with 16 AA Brigade. They are new vehicles and they surely must be made use of somewhere.

  7. Gabriele

    I am still intrigued by the idea of the CARs (Combat Aviation Regiments). I feel strongly that the MRBs should each have an Air Manoeuvre element, certainly an AAC stronger than the detachment which an Armoured Brigade has at the moment.

    However, I am rather concerned that there might be a conflict of interests between 16 AA Brigade and the MRBs. You say, for instance, that “on a rotational basis, one of the 5 CARs becomes the Lead Aviation Battle Group, and stays in Readiness for a 6 months period, keeping in contact with the Army’s MRB on readiness in the same timeframe, with which it would probably work if a deployment became necessary.”

    I can accept that but what happens, for instance, when 16 AA Brigade wishes to exercise as a full brigade, with all its resources (perhaps in preparation for a deployment as a full brigade)? Is the Lead Aviation Battlegroup suddenly recalled to the ranks of 16AA? Not only that, but the other CARs might very well be involved in close contact or exercising with the other MRBs as well. What happens to the coherence and high state of readiness of 16 AA Brigade given those circumstances?

    Another question. Some of the contributors on another site have suggested that as far as the Artillery element in an MRB is concerned, it might very well include a number of GMLRS systems as well. Now that GLMRS has become more of a precision weapon rather than a saturation weapon and has worked pretty successfully in small numbers in Afghanistan, do you think such a idea is feasible? Or should they stay in a supporting formation? (a “Fires Brigade” perhaps?)

  8. Hi Gabriele,

    Well done on a very detailed and well written article.

    I think you’re very close to what the future force army will look like.

    To me that’s a sad future. I know money is very tight, and there are real storages of equipment, mainly new vehicles. I fully support the move towards BCT’s, but other than that I am disappointed in the lack of innovation and original ideas, for the equipment and assets we have.

    In practice the 5 MRBs and 2 specialist brigades, are going to be light role. With most of there vehicles in storage, the lack of training areas in the UK suitable for heavy tracked vehicles adding to that problem.

    I doubt that the vehicles salvaged from Afghan will fill the huge hole there is. It seems that the army will be largely dependant on the Mark 1 boot for day to day training.

    I am glad that you mention the lack of amphibious and air assets for the two specialist brigades.


  9. @All

    Sorry for the silence in these days, but the phone lines had issues with the snow around here and i was without internet for the last two days.


    The Brigade Recce Regiment on 2 FRES SV squadrons and 1 wheeled is semi-official, it was announced by Army sources. They just failed to specify the "UOR-to-core" vehicle of the wheeled squadron, but the description points definitely to the Jackal.

    CVR(T)2 is a UOR. Some 60 vehicles, including a token number of Samson and Sultan recovery and command vehicles were rebuilt and upgraded for afghan usage.
    Unless FRES SV is cancelled, and that would be a major blow for the Army, one going far past the mere force recce problem, i don't see much long term ambitions for CVR(T).

    In the report in which army sources outlined the 2+1 squadron structure they noted also that the Brigade Recce Force for the specialist brigades was still being designed. Normally, 16AA gets the fourth RECCE Sqn of the Household Cavalry Regiment, and a Sqn from another recce regiment is given to 3rd Commando when needed.
    Maybe CVR(T)2 has a chance in this field, but i doubt it.

    Personally, my solution for recce in 3rd Commando uses the Viking Crew Served Weapon carrier as armor element: this latest Viking variant has RWS, mast-mounted optics, Boomerang fire detection system, and would make for excellent fire support, not just good recce. Better than any Scimitar, even more mobile, and common with the vehicles that the brigade already uses.

    For 16 Air Assault i've proposed retaining the Warthog, that also offers the possibility of moving lots of soldiers around under armor.
    There's not going to be funding for everything, and retaining a small fleet of CVR(T) vehicles does not appear, to me at least, cost-effective, as interesting as the upgraded vehicle can be.

    Regarding 16AA and the CARs.
    I honestly don't know if there ever are occasions in which "the whole brigade" would train or deploy together. I don't think there's the capability of deploying 16AA "whole", that is, all soldiers and all helicopters.

    Anyway, i've expanded the brigade from 4 to 7 battalions, and i believe that 16AA could, at a stretch, provide a CAR for the MRB and a "brigade" roughly equal to today's assumption, numbering 2 CARs plus the 2 PARA battalions, or perhaps 3 CARs and a PARA battalion. Would still be 4 battalions with helicopters support.
    Note, however, that regardless of the force structure chosen, there are limits to what can be done, and there's no way around it!

    16AA readiness role (and 3rd Commando too) has been affected badly by operations in Afghanistan. Several commitments at once are hard to support and resource.
    Even when 16AA is at readiness, like now, it is able to deploy a Task Force within some 10 days, not the whole brigade. Other brigade assets follow later, in longer times and literally "as possible".

    My 16AA re-organizes the force into a proper "Aviation/Air Mobile" bit, on 5 force packages. These five packages can ensure that each MRB can be assigned an Aviation element.

    Accepting that a hole is going to come up soon or later unless men and machines are deployed more frequently (or for longer tours, like in the US Army, 12 instead of 6 months), we could deploy a MRB with a CAR and still have 2/3 more CARs working as a Brigade on their own.

    However, in that case, assuming they all get deployed:

    first 6 months period = 1st MRB deploys; with CAR 1

    first 6 months period = 16AA deploys; with 3xCARs

    second 6 months period = 2nd MRB deploys; with CAR 2

    You are covered for one year, but after this extreme-case scenario, all helicopter crews and Airmobile battalions are in their Break period.

    There is only so much that can be done with N resources.


    On GMLRS.
    I think there are no chances at all of dividing the GMLRS and put a rocket battery into each brigade artillery regiment in peacetime.
    The training and management advantages of having them all into 39 Regiment, 1st Artillery Brigade are too great, while dividing the batteries brings no improvement at all.

    Once deployed, things change. A GMLRS battery is at readiness in any 6 months time, ready to be attached to the brigade artillery regiment, along, as i've listed, with a STA battery, air defence and others which are available for deployment: if needed, they go. But only for ops. In peacetime such specialised roles and kit must stay together in their own regiment, in the same place.
    Also because, as with GMLRS, there's no kit for 5 batteries. Only 2 batteries (plus 2 smaller TA batteries) of GMLRS are kept around in peacetime, and the five crews have to use them for their training and deployment.


    Thanks, i'm glad you like this huge work.

    And yes, it sure isn't a happy period, and there are shortages and everything is stretched thin. But, done the math, the Defence Planning Assumptions are right. Until they are respected, the Army has enough vehicles and kit for everyone. The problem only emerges if the Assumptions are breached and a new Blair commits too few troops to too much enduring work.

    But a deployed MRB won't be Light Role if the assumptions are respected.
    It will be a Medium formation, roughly comparable to an American 2-BCTs division on the field: a british MRB will have roughly the manpower and armor force that would result from fielding a US Heavy BCT along with a US Infantry BCT.

    It is not at all a force you laugh of, despite its limitations.

  11. Hi Gabriele

    Sorry to hear about your internet. I hope all is well now.

    On paper, yes all brigades will have vehicles and equipment.

    In practice these will be in storage, any only available for very limited training.(other than light role stuff).
    Therefore, it will take a very long time, for;
    A. these vehicles to be made ready and deployed.
    B. the units to be trained to a good standard to use the above.

    Please note, there is very limited training in the UK for heavy armour!
    So, Challenger, AS90, warriors and bulldog units will have to train outside the UK, either in Canada or in theatre, if they are to be deployed in any numbers or to act as armoured formations.

    For most of the day to day training of these units in the MRB and specialist brigades,
    Seeing there vehicles will be a once a blue moon event, therefore they will be for all intense and purposes, be in a light role, and therefore only trained in light role.

    I would say it could be 6 to 9 months before a MRB could be deployed, with its equipment, maybe even longer, and that’s without in theatre training.

    But if this is the price for 24 destroyers and frigates, and some maritime patrol aircraft ok.


  12. @Phil

    Whole Fleet Management is already at work from years. I don't think it is suddenly going to get that bad all of a sudden. And while Salisbury is small, don't forget that a new training ground is due to open close to Scotland for the Brigades in the north. And of course there is BATUS too.

    The MRBs will use, daily, perhaps 50% of their vehicles, but there are training fleets specifically to fill the holes, and a part of the stored vehicles are on direct call for training needs.

    I don't think it is going to be so bad. And i certainly hope it won't be.

  13. @Gabriele

    Hope your phones are OK now. Thanks for the reply. Most of it seems to contain very convincing arguments.

    You dismiss the idea of using CVR(T) in the Brigade Recce Regiment in quite a credible way but your suggestion of using the Viking Crew Served Weapon Carrier leaves me with some doubts. I wonder whether the Viking variant has the same degree of underbelly protection as the new Scimitars. (I think that some improvement has been made to the protection underneath the latest versions of Viking but given its record against IEDs in Afghanistan, I am rather dubious of its success. On the other hand, it has been chosen to enter Army service as a support vehicle for the Watchkeeper, so I suppose it must have some strengths. By the way, is the Weapon Carrier mentioned above related to the new Viking Fire Support variant, reputed to be fitted with a 12.7 mm Heavy Machine Gun? That could be a formidable vehicle. There is also a mortar variant in preparation, I believe. I certainly hope FRES SV comes in. I can’t possibly conceive how the Army can cope without it. Several weeks ago, Philip Hammond seemed confident that they could manage to bring some into service.

    Your ideas about the CARs and MRBs seem to make sense, although I can’t seem to get my head around some of the figures and combinations of men and equipment. I also thought that 16 AA had deployed as a whole brigade to Afghanistan at least once.

    I accept everything you say about the GMLRS situation. The number of batteries is simply insufficient.

  14. @Mike

    Yes, thanks, things seem to work now.

    As to Viking, the MK1 is essentially constrained, against IEDs, by lack of weight growth margin that, reached one point, made it impossible to add yet more armor. A first solution was a batch of 24 Viking MK2, improved, even though ultimately, when a new order was to be placed and the choice was on Viking 2 or the larger Warthog, the latter was ordered, as we know.

    Again, it is a matter of compromises. Given that the Commandos will continue to use Viking, and given the exceptional mobility and the amphibiosity of it, and being aware that money for a replacement is not there, in 3rd Commando Brigade a Viking recce fits the frame perfectly, in my opinion.
    The Viking CSW and the Viking mortar i both covered in this article:

    We share the hopes on the FRES SV. It is incredibly important to the Army.
    On the DESIDER magazine of DE&S of this month there's a brief article which reports that the modular armor packs for the FRES SV have overcome the blast testings, with some 36 live tests done. So far, things with it are going well, and i hope politics and budget do not screw things up.

    16AA deployed to Afghanistan as a "Light Brigade", providing the framework of the Helmand task force, as 3rd Commando has done. Both brigades did it more than once.

    But that's not how i intend a "full brigade" deployment. A "full deployment" for 16AA, on paper, means a flying brigade that deploys with 20 Chinook, 18 Puma and 3 Attack Aviation regiments each on 2 Apache Squadrons and a Lynx Sqn.
    A deployment that will never happen and that probably would have never happened even with the larger Apache fleet on 91 helicopters and 8 frontline squadrons that was once envisioned.

    I made compromises that i believe would pay out. I It would still be possible to deploy at once a CAR in a location and a 4-battalions 16AA brigade with 20 or more Chinooks and at least 16 Apaches in another area, at once.
    Problem is long-term sustainment of enduring commitments. If the commitments are one-shot, or max 12 months long, they can be managed well.

  15. Gabriele

    Many thanks for the detailed reply. Although we might disagree over some of the numbers and detail, I certainly agree with you about the need for an air manoeuvre element in the MRBs, more than the token AAC detachment in our present Armoured Brigades. I also agree with you about the need for FRES SV. Absolutely essential for the British Army, I would say, in terms of numbers alone.

    I wanted to ask you on or two more questions, if I may.

    Have you any ideas about which vehicle would be best for FRES UV? This is another vehicle that will be absolutely necessary. We cannot have our Mechanized Regiments travelling in Bulldog for evermore. Mastiff and Ridgback could serve a short-term purpose, I suppose, but they are designed for a specific role and have obvious limitations if used in more conventional warfare. The top speed of the Ridgback, for example, is only 64 kph (just above 40 mph?). Would it be better to go for a hybrid, crossover type vehicle like the RG35 or a more conventional 8 x 8 such as the Piranha or the Stryker?

    By the way, there is perhaps some hope for systems such as Talisman. I think the Royal Engineers are looking at which capabilities should be retained after the Afghan campaign. Mention has been made of possibly (and I stress possibly) retaining a Route Proving and Clearance System (Talisman), some gap crossing systems (could be REBS, I suppose) and some armoured plant.

  16. I would certainly hope that a capability such as Talisman is retained. REBS, instead, might end up being a gap filler to replace the medium assault bridge needed for FRES SV, and that would be a bad deal if it was the case. FRES Scout is an excellent vehicle, but there's no turning around the fact that it will weight 34 tons for air transport and probably 38 tons when ready for battle, with growth margin to 42 or even 45. It will need bridging support for its scouting role.
    Good find on those rumors, thanks for sharing.

    As to FRES UV, there's no doubt that the army sees its requirement being met by an 8x8 APC. However, i've looked with interest at the "6x6 with 8x8 performance" that France is developing to replace the VAB in their mechanized formations.
    They will order around 1000, and the requirements for the vehicle are high. If the prototype proves it can work to its promises, it would meet the British Army aspirations. And budgetarily it would likely be a bargain. The timeframe, assuming that work on FRES UV assesment really restarts come 2016, would also be comparable.

    Maybe by 2016 the Italian Freccia will be reconsidered, too. It was kind of ignored in the 2007/8 selection process, but it is proving itself, including in Afghanistan; the italian army is committed to it, and many variants have already been developed with italian money. Might be an attractive path.

  17. Gabriele

    Thanks for the reply. The French vehicle certainly seems an interesting possibility and would seem to fit, as you say, both timeframe and budget. It would be a bitter pill to swallow for some, though, buying from the French, I mean, instead of a domestic product.

    I've other questions to follow but am rather pressed for time at the moment.

  18. Well, the VBCI was on the shortlist in 2008 for FRES, and reportedly was a good deal.
    Boxer, of which the UK had been a part before pulling out, would arguably be an even more embarrassing alternative.

    When the evaluation restarts, selecting again the Piranha V will also present issues, after what's happened.

    But ultimately, the point is that when there's no money, you have no alternative but swallow bitter pills.
    I don't care, so long as the kit needed is delivered.

  19. Gabriele

    “I don't care, so long as the kit needed is delivered." You might very well be right on that. By the way, I seem to have vague recollection of reading a report stating that the British Army selection people (or some of them) last time actually preferred the VBCI and wanted it to enter service (it being available and reasonably inexpensive). I dunno. Perhaps I am imagining the whole thing.

    I wanted to ask a question about the TA. If the idea is to have two Reserve Brigades supporting each of the MRBs, then that raises the whole question of whether the TA can be improved to the necessary level of competence. In particular, can it be brought to the level where it can enter a “state of high readiness” with comparative ease? Is £1½ billion going to be enough to effect the necessary improvement?

    Then there is the whole question of equipment for the Reserves. I remember you saying that you did not think there would be enough money to buy any new kit for them. So what’s the answer? It might be that in some of the CS and CSS formations some of the kit used by the regulars will be transferred or even shared but as far as the Infantry is concerned, can they still be expected to travel in Land Rovers or similar? Perhaps there is a case for making some of the Army’s trucks into armoured or protected versions: e.g. a 6-tonne with armoured infantry-carrying pod on the rear?

    Incidentally, are the Royal Marines down to 5,200? I thought I had read a figure only a few months ago suggesting that they still number around 7,000.

  20. No, the Royal Marines haven't been cut down under 7000, but 7000 includes Fleet Protection Group and all other RM components that are technically not part of 3rd Commando Brigade.
    Deployed fully, 3rd Commando as a brigade numbers 5200.

    The improvements in the use of the Reserves will require funding to stay high. If the 1.5 billion is thrown at the TA but then the commitment to the reserve is abandoned again, it won't work.
    As to whater it will be possible to train it sufficiently and make it work, i really cannot answer. I believe it is certainly doable, but obviously challenges remain.

    As to equipment, there's not going to be TA tanks and armored vehicles acquired. There just is no money. But this is somewhat less urgent an issue, since in training and in deployment the soldiers, regular and TA, will pretty much use the same vehicles.
    As a matter of fact, a lot of people, including the regulars, will continue to travel in Land Rovers until the Medium Multi Role Vehicle Protected is not shaped up, funded and delivered. And money makes it all very challenging.

    As to VBCI, you are not alone in having heard that there was rather wide support for adopting it within the Army. I think back then times were not mature, though, for ordering a French vehicle for such a large and important top class order.
    WHen FRES UV is eventually reopened, though, things are likely to be very different in this sense.

  21. Gabriele

    I have just seen on TD's site your information about how then Stormer-Shielder vehicles have been withdrawn from service. That is a real loss because the time will come when we are fighting an entirely different kind of campaign and will have to lay mines in a hurry. Presumably the mine-laying part of the system has been retained and they will be able to put it back on the Stormer or another vehicle if needed? It's a very recent piece of equipment, isn't it?

    It might of course be similar to the M3 situation where the first news was that they would all be withdrawn (because the unit was needed for Afghanistan), then came news that some of them were still in service.

    As far as the Stormer vehicles are concerned, I read on the ARRSE unofficial British Army site that they had tried many vehicles to replace the Supacat ATMPs withdrawn from Afghanistan , even including the Stormers with the Shielder equipment removed! Where did you find out such info, by the way?

    I hope you see this on here. If not I'll post it again on a more recent thread.

  22. I found out about the Shielder looking into the MOD Accounts reports. I think it is the 2010 report. Each year, the MOD releases an assurate report on its financial management, and this report contained the blunt statement that the Shielder vehicles, mines and canisters had been retired, deemed surplus to requirement.
    I'm not entirely sure, but the statement seems to suggest that the system is retired entirely, with no training and probably no kind of maintenance or storage for the minelaying kit. I fear it is gone.

    I was not pleased, to say the least. The system is indeed very recent still, perhaps dates back to 1999, 1998 at most, and cost over one hundred millions.

    But put in perspective, it is perhaps not so bad. Shielder can create a minefield very rapidly, but it is a minefield extremely easy to delete as the mines aren't even buried, but out on the surface. It is also kind of hard to say when and where such a system could possibly be used. It takes a large, mechanized war to see it happening.

    In terms of replacement, there is (was? it is always so damn hard to know!) a body in the Army research on working on requirements and possible systems for enhancing mobility and countering enemy mobility.
    A Shielder replacement, possibly using remotely-controlled, intelligent mines, and other high-tech solutions (but also more COIN-adequate solutions including the special nets that are put on the road and can tangle into the wheels of vehicles and stop even a truck in just meters) was (is?) on the cards.
    The system was meant for use aboard a flatbed FRES SV platform, as part of RECCE Block 3. We'll see what eventually comes out of it.

    By the way, never worry about me missing comments: no matter how old the post, i do receive a mail warning me of comments, so you don't have to worry. I'll know when i have to reply! :)
    I hope i was of help here.

  23. Thanks very much for all your opinions. I hope they get some kind of replacement bcause sure as hell we're gonna have to fight a more conventional war some time in the future.

    How about the vehicles? A possibility of using them as HMLCs? Th Infantry has been looking for that kind of support for years.

    Thanks for the advice about (not)missing comments.

  24. I honestly haven't heard anything about Stormers being re-used as load carriers.

    The Infantry Load Carrier effort in the interim is to go on with quad-bikes with trailers, Springer/Supacat, Husky and Wolfhound.

    For the future the army would also like to have a load carrying drone. Here i covered in detail the options available:

    According to what i recently read, the Boeing R-Gator was extensively trialed, but judged not mature.
    In the US, the americans have cancelled their MULE, but the LM Squad Mission Support System should be working in Afghanistan by now (a few units, as an UOR/experiment).
    It is not at all a closed chapter, and an Assisted Carriage platform is due to reapper sooner rather than later on the list of plans.

  25. Well, thanks very much for all that information. I was under the impression that both Springer and Supacat (ATMP) had now disappeared from service. Perhaps there is Springer 2 coming along. 16AA would miss the ATMP, there is no doubt of that.

    Interesting news about the load carrying drones.

  26. I don't think the ATMP has been retired entirely. For sure several have been retired, but i don't think the whole force is gone. And Springer should definitely still be out in Afghanistan: what will happen in 2015 when the UOR funding ceases to arrive, i don't know, though.

    The drones are very interesting though. The TRAKKAR, in particular, seems by far the most promising in the list.

  27. You may have mentioned this, but the smaller BCTs were designed with two maneuver battalions to create as many rotational brigades as possbile. Initially, 3ID was instructed to organize into five (pentomic anyone) brigades, each with the firepower and abilities of the legacy three brigade division - they could not do it. Best they could do was four brigades, turning the division artillery brigade hqs into a BCT hqs. The 101st Air Assault was next in line and the rest is history. The Stryker brigades or interim brigades were left alone because the brigades were a model for the Future Combat System.

    Also, the modular BCT supposedly has the command and control capabilities to fight up to five maneuver battalions plus cav, support, arty, etc.

    The modular BCTs did not major combat operations in Iraq until about 2004-2005. A Rand Corporation study put out in June 2011 analyzed the BCTs and surveyed present and former BCT commanders. The majority said they would like to add a third maneuver battalion, but did not feel have only the two hindered their operations. Also, the majority of commanders were unwilling to trade the RSTA squadron for a third maneuver battalion.

    The real downside to the modular BCTs - expense. Every BCT has an organic Special Troops Battalion (soon to be a brigade engineer battalion with opcon signals, MI, combat engineer company and combat construction company, surveillance company), two maneuver battalions, cav squadron, fires battalion and brigade support battalion. All with the same number troops, rifles, trucks, howitzers, etc.

    It seems to me that General Carter is looking to the U.S. Army model, but with modifications such as not having organic engineering and artillery. Also, IMO 10 brigades is possible because not all will have five maneuver elements, but able to fight up to five if necessary.

    There is a good article about the modular army titled, Small Brigade Combat Teams Undermine Modularity. I believe the article was awritten by a retired Army Colonel named Melton.

    Also, check out the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Digital library. One can bring up student papers about the BCTs and recommended changes, structure, future.

    If all this already known I apologize.


  28. A very informative comment, gute! Thank you for it, and welcome on my blog. I hope you'll enjoy it here, and find some good stuff, even if you seem to know more than me, actually!

    Anyway, yes, the third maneuver battalion into the BCTs is probably going to appear soon in the new US Army review, even if it will probably mean going down to 33 BCTs, the same number as in 2003.
    But i totally understand the unwillingness of commanders to trade an additional battalion for the RSTA squadron: that's an immensely useful asset, after all.

    The US Army generals have already said that no Stryker BCT will be cut, because they are the most flexible and regarded as very precious. How far the little Stryker went in these years, considering that it was an "interim" solution, and that many in the Army did not want it at all!

    There is no doubt that the British Army is now following a lot of the US BCT guidelines in the new force structure shaping: Agile Warrior 2011 indications for the Multi Role Brigades paint a picture that, believe me, reminds immediately of the US Army's own structure.

    I've tried to think about what General Carter might have tried to go in order to get 10 brigades, but i find that the game is not worth it. Whenever you try to combine the force available, it doesn't really work. There's just too few stuff.
    I think i might try and write a quick follow up article with my reasoning on BCTs for the British Army, but more for interest and discussion than for anything else.
    In the end, i managed to create 10 brigades myself, and with organic artillery... But there are problems. Again, the RA is going down to 5 Strike regiments, and there are 5 Engineering regiments plust 2 General Support regiments. Cutting further would be just suicidal and pretty much negate enduring operations (would not meet the rule of the five, personnel would have to do longer tours, or spend a lot less than the desired 24 months at home).
    Besides, more brigades means more HQs, more overhead, and as useful as that is, it all has to come from a force capped at 82.000.

    Even assuming that all engineering regiments are passed to the TA (i fear that such a move would have deletery effects on capability, but let's pretend it works) and most of CSS follows, leaving the Regulars doing the fighting, the situation improves only partially.

    Until it meets a new problem: shortages of equipment, of vehicles first and foremost.

    I personally keep believing that the Army will come out of the review with 5 brigades, each with its engineer and artillery regiment and a CSS element.
    But we should know within a couple of months, in any case!

  29. Gabriele

    "Jane's Defence Weekly" has just revealed the the British Army will retire its COBRA counter-battery radars at the end of 2012, without a replacement having been decided on.

    So, where are we now? Within the space of a year or so, the Army has lost the following equipments: the FUCHS CBRN vehicles, the Shielder minelaying vehicles, the M3 bridging rigs (although these might return), the Supacat ATMPs, the RCLs and LCVPs from Marchwood and now the COBRA radars. The DROPS vehicles (both versions)are due to be withdrawn by the end of of 2014.

    All these examples of salami-slicing have been done very unobtrusively. The Army seems to be suffering from death by a thousand cuts, both in terms of manpower and kit. Will it be in any shape to fight any kind of conflict in the future? I am becoming increasingly pessimistic. There's not even the consolation of the prospect of any exciting new kit coming through.

    1. The Common Weapon Locating Radar should have completed the asssessing phase last year, even if there is not a contract. Hopefully it will become a much greater priority programme now.
      The COBRA cut has been kind of on the cards for some time now... the COBRA is said to be very, very expensive.

      For what i read time ago, COBRA was being kept around to temporarily replace the MAMBA in Afghanistan while the MAMBA system underwent maintenance and fixing.
      I'm guessing that, with the MAMBA going back online, COBRA is being sacrificed with the hope of getting the CWLR soon enough to replace MAMBA as well.

      The M3 rigs. I don't really know what's happening with them. After reading of the mothballing plan out to 2015, there was a very large exercise involving the M3s as well, and no mention of abandoning them.
      Later i heard that at least a troop would continue to work with them. I don't know what the current situation is.

      As to the RCL and LCVPs, i must admit i've heard nothing about that ever since you mentioned the possibility of their loss to me. Has it been confirmed?

      As to DROPS, i think a 2014 date is unthinkable in any case. With the withdrawal from Afghanistan to do and 11000 containers to move and uncountable tons of stuff to move, i don't think it is feasible.
      2014 might be an aspirational date for a replacement, since DROPS is a system i highly doubt the army can do without. I think DROPS will eventually be life-extended, but 2014 i just can't see it happening.

      For sure, these aren't good news at all.

  30. Gabriele

    The only evidence I have for the withdrawal of RCLs and LCVPS at Marchwood is that provided by a contributor on the ARRSE website. He worked at Marchwood and seemed to know what he was talking about. He said that their withdrawal was scheduled, that the Rigid Raiders had already gone but that there had been an increase in the number of Combat Support Boats available. Sorry, perhaps I should not rely on such evidence.

    1. It could well be true, but it could also have BEEN true, with how fast things evolve and change these days in Army planning.
      Until we hear some kind of confirmation, i'll keep up my hope that the cut can be avoided. I truly hope it does not come around.

  31. Gabriele

    I don't know whether you have yet seen the "Telegraph" article by Sean Rayment, timed at 9.00pm on the 31st March.

    It is entitled "Britain's most Famous Regiments Spared in Defence Cuts" but goes on to list the most horrific details of forthcoming cuts to the British Army.

    Apparently, no fewer than 11 infantry regiments are to go, many more than I have seen predicted. There are also to be swingeing cuts to support elements, includng the Royal Engineers, REME, the Royal Logisic Corps, etc. etc. Can we give credence to such a report? I wouldn't mind hearing some of your comments on this. How on earth can operations be supported if there are insufficient support elements?

  32. Hey Gabriele,

    I was wondering would it be a good idea to establish the Commando Group as the principle rapid reaction force and have the MRB's attach to it?

    Kind of like a US Marine MEU but with follow on support if needed up securing a beachhead.

    Also I was thinking what's your opinion on taking away 16 AA brigade and creating an Airborne Group in a similar fashion to what the Commando Group is fitted out but with air deployable kit and can be used in a similar way?

    So having 3 Commando Groups (40 Commando, 42 Commando and 45 Commando)

    And also having 3 Airborne Groups (1 PARA, 2 PARA and 3 PARA)

    Yes I have taken away 3 PARA from the SFSG but I think that should be an entirely seperate unit and would be beneficial to have an extra airborne group.

    A Commando Group could rotate every six months of every year and this would be the same for the Airborne Group.

    Just some thoughts from the top of my head about rapid reaction and I hope it's not barmy mad!

  33. Gabriele,

    Forgot to mention THE most important thing!

    Fantastic blog and I thoroughly enjoy reading it!


  34. Thank you and welcome, first of all. I'm glad to hear you find good stuff on my blog. I do my best.

    Coming to the point, technically, the Commando Battlegroup is already the main reaction force of the UK, as it is that kept at highest readiness and, when it takes to the sea, it is forward deployed as well.
    Then there's the air assault battlegroup, which is actually broken down in at least 2 phases as described in the article [airlifted troops, and, later, the true airmobile element including helicopters] and is available within 2 to 5 days.
    Since 1st PARA battalion is in the Special Forces role, the airborne battlegroup is formed around 2nd and 3rd PARA on rotation and with the support of the 2 infantry battalions in the brigade.

    "Attaching" a MRB is an exercise done depending on the needs of the moment and on the scenario at hand.
    It could well happen that the Commando or even the Airborne battlegroup go in first and then are followed by an MRB.

  35. Gabriele,

    Thank you for a good insight and has helped my understanding of the subject.

    What's your opinion on 1 PARA in the Special Forces Support Group?

  36. Its assignment to the SF role was, already when it happened, an imaginative way to save it from the cuts in manpower of the day.
    Overall, it kind of makes sense: parachute capability is good for SF role.

    It would be better to have all PARA battalions in the airborne brigade and have another battalion formed specifically for SF, but then again we'd talk about an expanding army and not one who struggles to survive constant downsizing...

  37. Very good point and no doubt another battalion would be cut!

    What's your opinion on the AS90? I think maybe the adoption of the Archer system or a similar quicker deployable system for both armoured, mechanized and even light would be a better idea for standardization and transport via the A400M which is an added bonus.

  38. There was a requisite for an ultra-light Self propelled howitzer in 2005, LIMAWS(G), but it was cancelled for lack of funding, and the L118 that had to be replaced by 2020 is now expected to last into 2033.
    So i really wouldn't hold my breath for any development in this field.


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