Thursday, December 15, 2016

Army 2020 Refine: even worse than expected - UPDATES

23 February 2017 UPDATE: the Royal Engineers are working on their own restructuring plan for Army 2020. What is already decided is that 35 Engineer Regiment, on return from Germany, will re-role to EOD & Search. As part of the process it will lose 29 Sqn, re-subordinated to 21 Engineer Regiment; and 37 Squadron, which will go to 32 Engineer Regiment. This will bring the future Strike Brigade engineer regiments up to strenght. Currently, as part of the earlier Army 2020, both 21 and 32 are severely understrenght, missing a whole regular sub-unit, although they control a reserve squadron each. 
At the moment they are under control of 12 Force Support Engineer Group, but they continue to support the brigades in the Adaptable Force.

The enlarged EOD & Search group will be reorganized, but details are still being worked out.

Growth is expected in Wide Wet Gap Crossing, which might be a way to say that some regulars will get back in the M3 rig business, after it was offloaded to 75 Engineer Regiment (Reserve) in the earlier version of Army 2020. Another effect of the "return to East Europe"?

Works Groups will also face a reorganization, and Royal Engineer Reserve units will be realigned to better support the new structure and new aims.

16 February 2017 UPDATE: the composition of the STRIKE Brigades artillery regiments (3 RHA and 4 RA) will be: 

HQ Bty
2x Gun Bty
3x Tac Gp Bty

3 RHA is ending the 3 gun batteries "experiment" (an attempt to avoid shrinking to just two gun batteries by having 3 batteries on 4 guns rather than 2 on 6 guns as for initial Army 2020 thinking) and is pulling the guns out of J (Sidi Rezegh) Bty.
The regiment expects to grow by some 110 posts.

1 February 2017 UPDATE: the Attack Helicopter Force 

While the Army Air Corps waits to learn the fate of its bases, which is being decided in a separate and specific review of infrastructure and could still result in closures (Middle Wallop, close to Salisbury Plain but with less machines than ever because of the smaller fleets under UK Military Flying Training System Rotary Wing; or Wattisham, less geographically fortunate but full of stuff that would require quite a few quids to relocate...?), the Attack Helicopter Force is being asked to modify its Readiness mechanism to deliver even more with, if not less, the same. 

Up to the end of 2016, 3 and 4 Regiment have been alternating yearly in High Readiness. During the year at High Readiness, each regiment aligned one Apache squadron with the Lead Air Assault task force and one with the Lead Commando Battlegroup.

From 2017, the mechanism is changing towards one of "permanent readiness". Gone is the training year, and the demands increase a lot as 4 Regiment is assigned permanently to support of 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando, with 664 Sqn specializing in Land Air Assault and 656 Sqn in Maritime operations.

3 Regiment, on the other hand, will align with 3rd UK Division. Details are still to come, but it seems reasonable to assume that its two frontline Apache squadrons will be required to align to the Armoured and Strike Brigade that will hold Readiness every year.

31 January 2017 UPDATE: some confirmations. 

SOLDIER magazine of February provides another partial update on Army 2020 Refine, which contains confirmation to some of my assumptions. Among these, the role of 3 RIFLES, 21 Engineer Regiment and 3 Medical Regiment. 
Some unit moves are detailed, although not with dates. All should happen within 5 years, apparently. The new readiness mechanism, with one armoured and one Strike brigade at readiness at once every year, should become operational around 2023.
Some moves were already known and planned, some others are new.

Household Cavalry Regiment will move to Bulford from Windsor

Scots Guards to Catterick from Aldershot 

1st RLC from Bicester to Catterick 

3 Medical Regiment from Preston to Catterick (this is the image of the Army's incoherent planning: from Catterick to Preston and back again) 

21 Engineer Regiment, from Ripon to Catterick 

Royal Dragoon Guards, from Catterick to Warminster

1st YORKS, from Warminster to Catterick 

Royal Lancers, from Catterick to Warminster

4th Royal Artillery, from Topcliffe to Newcastle 

2 Close Support REME, from Leuchars to Catterick 

16 January 2017 UPDATE: The Army finally speaks. 

The armoured brigades of Army 2020 Refine will be 20th and 12th Brigades. 

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

The Specialised Infantry Group will form during January and will take command of 4 RIFLES and 1 SCOTS in April, to achieve an IOC hopefully by the autumn. The Specialised Infantry Battalions are expected to take a permanent regional focus, and probably, for obvious reasons, the first two will probably be Middle East and Europe. 

Nothing on the surviving Armoured and Infantry brigades. Note that Strike Brigades are peculiarly described as something that will "enable maneuver at Division level", which reinforces my feeling that these weird things are supposed to be kind of like the Division's reconnaissance element. 

The first announcement about Army 2020 Refine is out, and the news it brings are even worse than expected. General Carter apparently wants to shed Challenger 2 tanks quickly, before his successor can perhaps think again about it: the King's Royal Hussars will be put inside the first Strike Brigade, which can only mean losing Challenger 2 to get Ajax instead. Rushing the cut through is the only explanation for converting one of just 3 tank regiments before converting the cavalry formations that were due to get Ajax in the first place.
The Royal Lancers were planned to be the first regiment to get Ajax, and this statement throws that very much in doubt. Why should the few and precious Challenger 2s go out of the window before Scimitar does, considering that it is the latter that badly needs replacement and is supposed to be entirely gone by 2026? 

There is no telling yet whether or not the armoured brigades will get their own cavalry regiment, and how Ajax will now be distributed and employed. Horribly, the Chief of Staff now openly calls it a "medium tank" in its video to the troops.
A MOD-supplied written evidence paper draws a line between "cavalry" (reconnaissance) Ajax regiment and "Medium Armour" regiment, with each Strike Brigade to have one of each.
What the actual differences will be isn't easy to guess. Unless the Army is in the budgetary position to resurrect the Medium Armour variant of the vehicle, which was to be armed with a 120 mm smoothbore gun, the key piece in either formation will be the same Ajax in Scout configuration. Same protection, same firepower. Same thing. The difference could thus be mostly about numbers, sub-variants distribution (the very few Joint Fires and Ground Based Surveillance vehicles would go to the recce cavalry, one would guess) and the number of Ares APCs and, consequently, of dismounts.
Of course, if the Army had the money to procure an actual "medium tank" or direct fire vehicle for the Strike Brigade it would probably purchase a wheeled one based on the MIV hull, so i don't expect Ajax Medium Armour to return. That means Scouts will become "medium tanks" by virtue of empty words. This is a lie that will break the army's back with this ill informed reform and that will one day cost lives if some politician unaware of what a tank is ever believes to the statement.

The other Ajax regiment will be the Household Cavalry (no change, it was already going to be an Ajax regiment), with the infantry represented by the Scot Guards and 4 Scots. Both battalions were already planned as Mechanized infantry as part of Army 2020.
The Household will move out of Windsor, heading probably for Salisbury Plain, and the Welsh Guards will move in to replace them. 

No clue to the identity of the brigade, but it seems pretty much certain that it'll be either one of the currently armoured brigades or 4 Brigade by virtue of its base already being Catterick.

Whether the RLC regiment(s) assigned to the Strike Brigades will be suitably restructured to give a bit of credibility to the talk of these brigades moving rapidly back and forth across as many as 2000 km on land to dominate "vast battlespaces" is an open question. The French have created combat companies within each logistic regiment so that they can self-escort and fight through, and this appears to be one of many key requisites for the Strike Brigade concept to make any kind of sense. We'll see if anything is done about it.
The direct mention of RLC units is interesting in itself, however: is the Army backtracking on its earlier decision to pull the supporting regiments out of the manoeuvre brigades? Is it true only for the Strike Brigades due to a "french-like" approach for them? We do not yet know, since nothing else is said about the shape of the Strike Brigade and even less about the future of the remaining Armoured brigades.

Strike Brigades: the first Strike Brigade will operate from Catterick and Salisbury Plain and will be composed of the Household Cavalry Regiment, The King’s Royal Hussars, the 1st Battalion Scots Guards and The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. A number of Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (REME) units will be allocated to provide close support logistic support, beginning with 1 Regiment RLC and 1 Close Support Battalion REME.

UPDATE 23 December 2016: 

Collating together the various news and an ORBAT table for the second Strike Brigade which the MOD passed along to Jane's, the intended structure for the two Strike Brigades is as follows in the tables:

CORRECTION: The 1st Brigade will eventually convert from Armour to Strike. 
The other Strike Brigade (which might actually be the first to form, though) will "pick a badge" in 2019, evolving from what will start this year as "Strike Experimentation Group". 

20th and 12th brigades will stay in the Armoured infantry role.

I also don't yet know the identity of the medical regiment that will be aligned with the first Strike Brigade, although 3rd Regiment looks to me to be relatively well positioned for the role. 
There is no official confirmation of 21 Engineer Regiment being assigned to the first Strike Brigade either, but being already based in the right place it seems an obvious pick. 

UPDATE: the reserve tank regiment, Royal Wessex Yeomanry, a 3rd Division asset, is getting a modest uplift in manpower, in no way substitutive for the loss of a regular tank regiment. 

Message from the Commanding Officer of the RWxY.

On Friday, the detail of Army 2020 Refine was announced. For our Regiment, it is excellent news that sees you and RWxY rewarded for all of your individual and collective efforts. You have demonstrated that the Reservist can train on and operate the CR2 platform with a success that has attracted CGS' attention. From 2017, the RWxY will continue to deliver the Armd Reinforcement Regt, but will also take on an additional Armd Replacement role. Y (RWY) Sqn is now a fully established sub unit on our orbat with the benefits of Perm Staff that that brings. Each Sqn will also grow in size by an additional tank crew per Troop. This will strengthen each of our Sqns by another 20 Officers and Soldiers. This is exactly what we asked for and have worked hard for.

For sure, 1st YORKS is due for transition from Warrior to MIV in 2020. Remarkably (but unsurprisingly), the commanding officer himsef knows little of what is to come:

I have received orders yesterday confirming that 1 YORKS will redesignate to the Mech Inf role in 2020. The Bn is expected to relocate from WARMINSTER to CATTERICK in 2020.
At this time, we understand little about the detail of this change and I would encourage you not to speculate. I have been told that our establishment will grow, with bigger rifle platoons and a larger REME Light Aid Detachment. There is more work to come to confirm our mix of vehicles, which barracks we will occupy in Catterick and the finer details of the move.

The Fusiliers will retain the Armoured Infantry role on Warrior and will see their reserve battalion strenghtened: 

First Fusiliers will remain in Tidworth in the Armoured Infantry role. Part of 20 Armoured Infantry Brigade it will remain on the tip of the spear for the UK Reactive Force. Fifth Fusiliers will grow to incorporate MG Pl in Bury, A Company in Sheldon and C Company in Balham. This is a significant win and will see us once more with a Regimental C2 node in each of our recruiting areas. The Fifth Battalion will also become officially 'paired' with First Fusiliers, presenting further opportunities for training and operations.

UPDATE: Within 1st UK Division, the 1st Royal Irish will lose Foxhound and re-convert to Light Role, rebuilding the 3 platoons lost with the Army 2020 downsizing. It will also move to a new home which has yet to be chosen.

Basing: Barracks will close in 2022 and 1 R IRISH will move to a new location. There has been no decision yet as to where this will be.

Role and establishment: 1 R IRISH will convert to Light Role Infantry. The battalion will also increase in size, growing by 3 rifle platoons and some positions within the Quartermaster’s department. The regular/reserve partnership with 2 R IRISH will remain and 2 R IRISH will also grow by 3 platoons.

Infantry division affiliation: Both 1 and 2 R IRISH will remain under operational command of 1 (UK) Division. The administrative infantry division - which coordinates career management and appointments - will change. The Regiment will become part of a new infantry division, with the Royal Welsh & the Royal Regiment of Scotland. This new division will bring Regular and Reserve posting opportunities for our soldiers within the Armoured, Mechanised, Light Role and new Specialised Infantry career fields.

UPDATE: the Mercian regiment enjoys stability and will keep its two regular and one reserve battalions. It is also confirmed in the current roles, (1st battalion is Armoured Infantry and 2nd is Light Role). 

Two battalions will be downsized and transformed into Defence Engagement / "Specialized Infantry" battalions during 2017:

The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland    (Light Role) 4th Battalion The Rifles   (Mechanized Infantry / Heavy Protected Mobility infantry) 

4 Rifles is a Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Army 2020, so a unit of 700 men. It'll be savagely slimmed down to 300 with excess manpower progressively redirected elsewhere.
Come 2019, they are due to be joined by

2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Light Role)2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (Light Role) 

UPDATE 16 January 2017: The Duke of Lancaster's regiment future has emerged thanks to a House of Commons Written Answer which also provides useful information that probably applies to all battalions in similar roles: 

1st Battalion will stay as a Light Role formation and will rebuild the missing Rifle Platoons lost under the earlier version of Army 2020. Its regular liability is exected to go from 560 to 630 men as a consequence of the restructuring. All Light Role infantry battalions should be rebuilt in similar fashion. 

2nd Battalion will become a Specialised Infantry formation, as announced, and will drop from 560 to as few as 270 regulars. 

4th Battalion, in the Reserve, is expected to grow from 400 to around 500 men. 

The regimental headquarters is based in Fulwood Barracks, Preston, which is planned for disposal under the Better Defence Estate Strategy in 2022. A future location for the regimental headquarters will be determined following a process of detailed assessment and planning.

UPDATE 16 January 2017: It is not yet possible to confirm this news, but it seems that Army 2020 Refine intends to reconvert all Light Mechanized Battalions into Light Role infantry battalions. Foxhound-mounted battalions would cease to exist as a permanent ORBAT feature very soon after appearing. 
The future of the Protected Mobility fleet (Mastiff, Ridgback and Foxhound, chiefly) remains uncertain at this stage. 

Specialised Infantry Battalions
In 2017 the Army will also create the first two new Specialised Infantry battalions to pioneer this new capability. These units will be The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and 4th Battalion The Rifles, the former relocating to Aldershot from Belfast by 2019. A new Group headquarters for the units will be established, initially based in York alongside the 1st (UK) Division of which the Group will be part, before moving to Aldershot by 2020. To reinforce this capability the Army plans to create two further Specialised Infantry battalions by 2019. These units will be the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment both joining the group in Aldershot by 2020.

Let's recall Carter's words about the Specialised Infantry Battalions: 

General Sir Nicholas Carter: Putting that smartly to one side, what it actually means goes back to when I talked about specialised infantry battalions in answer to the very first question. These creatures, which will only be about 300 strong, allow me—because they will be built from battalions that are 550 strong—to be able to reinvest over time the 250 saving which you make into the other infantry battalions around them to make them more resilient.

General Carter oral evidence to the Defence Committee

"Adjustements" are to follow within supporting units and it is here that the pain spikes up, as the Army seems to be rushing towards the loss of the capability to work to a "1 in 5" rule as it has so far. The pain hits all trades but the Signals, with regiments "rationalized" to feed what remains: 

32 Royal Artillery  (currently one of the 2 UAV regiments, alongside 47 RA) 

35 Royal Engineer  (currently an armoured engineer regiment) 
2 Medical  (Adaptable Force) 
33 Field Hospital (one of only 3 regular field hospitals) 
HQ 4 Regiment Royal Military Police
HQ 64 Works Group Royal Engineer 

102 Logistic Brigade HQ will also be "rationalized" as had already been reported. 

21 and 32 Engineer Regiments, based in Catterick, are in the intended "Strike Brigades" home, so they can expect a manpower, equipment and structure uplift as they feed on the remains of 35 Engineer Regiment. A number of Titan and Trojan will no doubt be lost as a consequence.

UPDATE: 35 Regiment will become the new EOD unit to be formed in the reserve.

In the artillery, the loss of 32 Regiment is curious, given that it currently operates Tactical Batteries equipped with the Desert Hawk III mini-drone. The UAV mission is not going away, i assume (you never know, in these days no decision is too insane, apparently...) so either 47 regiment will be enlarged to take on the totality of the UAV role or something else is brewing. Probably one of the other regiments will replace 32 RA in the role, i'm guessing. The selection of 32nd RA for disbandment is probably mostly tied to the fact that it will be easier to convert one of the gun regiments already in place for the Strike role. 

UPDATE: 32 Regiment won't be cut before 2021. Until then, business largely as usual although the Force Generation cycle will change in 2019 to follow the army-wide change to a 2-brigades-at-readiness stance. 

UPDATE: a letter from 1st Artillery Brigade HQ has been published that provides some more information about the future of the Artillery. 
The Precision Fires Batteries that have been built within the heavy artillery regiments after 2010 and which are equipped with regular-crewed GMLRS and EXACTOR will be removed from the regiments and concentrated into Larkhill, under 26 Royal Artillery which becomes a Division Fires Regiment, with 101 Royal Artillery keeping the reserve GMLRS role. 

26 Royal Artillery will take under command H Bty and 176 Bty, while its AS90s and Tac Group will be redistributed. The change of role comes in 2019. Equipment will be GMLRS and EXACTOR. 

"Subject to further planning" 101 Regiment's future will be as follows: "Regimental liability will be reduced to better reflect a modern expeditionary division. The Regimental structure of 4x Sub Units and an RHQ will remain the same.

3 Royal Horse Artillery and 4 Royal Artillery will become the Strike regiments and a "new medium weight wheeled gun" will be put into service before 2025". STRIKE 155, the artillery programme for the Strike Brigades, maybe has a budget after all. 
If i have to guess what will be picked, i say CAESAR or M777. If the Royal Artillery is extremely lucky, it will be able to purchase the proposed 8x8 CAESAR, which unlike the variant already in service in the Armee de Terre is a true self-propelled gun, automated and with no requirement for the crew to leave the armoured citadel. The BAE-Bofors Archer would be better, but cost and political considerations probably mean CAESAR is the favorite. It has also already been trialed by british gunners in several occasions. 
Both regiments to be based in Albemarle Barracks in Newcastle, but 4 Royal Artillery will not move there before 2026. 

The CAESAR 8x8 with autoloader and increased protection and mobility, in a photo from Eurosatory by Army Recognition

UPDATE: Jane's says it has been given a briefing about the new Army structure and is reporting that 3 RHA and 4 RA will lose their guns for good and that 155 STRIKE is not happening.  
I have no reason to doubt of Jane's word, yet the report clashes with what the COs of both regiments have been saying in the last few days and also with the 1st Artillery Brigade's letter to the troops. 
The COs messages: 

4th Royal Artillery

Army HQ has confirmed that 4 Regt RA will convert to become a STRIKE close support artillery regiment. This means that over the next 10 years or so our Light Guns will be replaced by a new medium weight gun and our tac gps will be mounted in a combination of brand new wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles. This is great news and an exciting time for the Regiment! The Army has also confirmed that we will arms plot to Albemarle Barracks in Newcastle, but NOT BEFORE 2026. Full details will be briefed to the Regiment in the New Year. This announcement brings stability in the short term and some fantastic opportunities in the longer term.

3rd Royal Horse Artillery 

The Army 2020 Refine announcements will hit the press in the next couple of days. We have time scheduled in the New Year to brief in detail, but I wanted you to know the headlines for Our Regiment now:
- 3 RHA will stay in Albemarle Barracks. 4 Regt RA will join us here in around 10 years time.
- We will become a Strike Regiment, affiliated to a Strike Brigade. I'll brief you in more detail on this but essentially we retain the same capabilities but grow a little.
- PF will move South in 2019. We will fully support our Gunner brethren in the interim and in the move.
- Training programmes will change slightly to enable us to more efficiently support affiliated Brigades.
That's all you need to know for now, it's all good and the Mighty Third goes from strength to strength. More to follow, and have a great Christmas and New Year!

Note that, whatever happens to 3 RHA and 4 RA, the regiments will indeed not be organic to the Strike Brigades: they are part of 1st Artillery Brigade and only "aligned" to the Strike Brigades. The same is true of 1st RHA and 19 RA in the Heavy role. 
Also note that Jane's talks of a reduction from 6 L118 regiment to 4. This is again puzzling: the british army has 4 regular and 2 reserve L118 regiments, so it would in theory go down to 4 if the guns are removed from 3 RHA and 4 RA. But since 104 RA is being converted to L118, we get back to 5. 
Somewhere, there are misunderstandings at play here. 

If Jane's is right, the Royal Artillery officers and units have been fed with horribly inaccurate information in these days. 
What i think can be said with confidence at this point is that the Army 2020 Refine "announcement" is a monstrosity, a crime and a complete failure. The CDS posted a useless two minutes video on Twitter and provided no information at all; the secretary of state provided a statement completely devoid of detail and officers have been left in the dark. In the last few days there have been COs writing that they literally don't know what is going to happen to their units and that they were looking into the announcement. 
This is amateurish at best, and criminal at worst. This is not how you deliver such important news to thousands of families and to the country. 

UPDATE 22 December 2016: 3 RHA reaffirms that it and 4 RA will field guns and that STRIKE 155 is funded.

Just to make you aware, there is an article circulating that suggests that ourselves and 4 Regt RA will not be equipped with guns under the A2020R structure.
The journalist has got his facts wrong and the Chain of Command may consider a rebuttal or correction to the story. Rest assured, A2020R structures see us still equipped with guns as part of our larger Joint Fires Orbat, and the Gunners have a funded medium-weight gun capability to replace Light Gun.

103 Royal Artillery will stay as a Close Support gun regiment, paired with 4 Royal Artillery. 
105 will continue to support 3 Royal Horse Artillery.  

104 Royal Artillery, currently the reserve ISR / mini-UAV regiment will convert to the Light Gun. Again, this is the biggest surprise in the plan for me. I did not expect the ISR component to suffer, and now the question is how the capability will maintained in the future. Apparently, nobody yet knows what (if anything) comes after Desert Hawk III in 2021, and there is a need for "resilience" in the Close Support role right now. 

It has now been confirmed that as part of the Army’s reorganisation, 104 Regiment RA will be re-designated as a Reserve Close Support (CS) artillery regiment and will re-role to light gun. This will take place from 2017 (date tbc) and will see the Regiment re-subordinate to 1 Artillery Brigade and provide support to an Armoured Infantry Brigade. The construct of the Regiment will remain unchanged with a HQ Battery and 4 equipment batteries and there are no associated basing implications (less those already announced concerning the Royal Citadel and 289 Tp). In due course we will be paired with a yet to be confirmed Regular CS Regiment.

Many of you will no doubt be asking what has brought about this change. Simply put, it is because the wider restructure of the Army, and the rationale underpinning aspects of that change, requires a Reserve component structured to meet the demands of a modernised expeditionary division. For us as a Regiment, at a time when the delivery of future MUAS capability was still to be determined and the need to enhance resilience in CS artillery was apparent, redesignation was the most sensible course of action. As we look forward, it is also opportune to reflect and you should all be immensely proud of what has been achieved both on operations and in training as a MUAS regiment. Make no mistake, you have proven the provision of MUAS capability was well within your gift. 

UPDATE: My personal attempt to divine the new role of 104 Regiment leads me to guess that it might provide reserve support to 29 Commando and 7 RHA. Both regiments are known to need such support: 7 RHA has recently formed a reserve gun troop within the Honourable Artillery Company and 29 Commando was looking at the possibility of forming its own Reserve troop. 
Of course, if 3 RHA and 4 RA truly do lose their guns, the role of the reserve Close Support regiments will get even more demanding and vast.

1 Royal Horse Artillery and 19 Royal Artillery will stay in the armoured role and will keep AS90. 3 batteries each, apparently re-absorbing the Tac Group battery within the gun batteries and the wider artillery brigade. 1 RHA will lose H Bty to 26 RA and L Bty (Tac Gp Bty) to 3 RHA, but not before 2019. 

Exactly how it all will work out is all to be seen, but a cut to the number of AS90 is assured as one armoured brigade vanishes. Hopefully GMLRS will escape undamaged by virtue of 26 Royal Artillery becoming a Div Fires regiment.

The letter provides hints of what happens to the Royal Artillery

UPDATE: regarding the Royal Signals, there is no certainty yet that there won't be cut backs, but there should not be. The 5 multi-role signal regiments are barely enough to assign one to 3rd Division HQ and one each to the major brigades, so i wouldn't expect cuts. General Carter also went on record saying that they would "think long and hard" about how to improve manpower figures for the key signal brigades, so he is at least aware that this area is particularly problematic. 

Announcements on the future of the Royal Signals might have to wait until sometime in early 2017 when the "Information Manoeuvre Command" is expected to stand up to manage all things Signal, ISR, Cyber. 

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

Only the reserve gets somewhat good news. 3 REME battalions (104, 105 and 106) will be rationalised, but two new infantry and one EOD regiments will be formed beginning next year. 

UPDATE: 105 REME battalion will change name and will be restructured into a new "101 Theatre Support Battalion", tasked with supporting 5 TSB REME, a regular unit supporting 3rd UK Division.  

105 Battalion REME will change its name to 101 Theatre Support Battalion in 2019 (the name 105 will cease to be used, as will 104 and 106). It’s new role will be to support 5 Theatre Support Battalion REME in the regeneration of theatre-level equipment during a time of war.It will consist of Bn HQ and four sub-unit locations (names not yet known) as follows:

HQ 101 Bn REME will be in KEYNSHAM

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

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

The merge of RLC and REME does not seem to extend to the rest of the Army. Support to the armoured brigades seem set to stay "in traditional format".
7 RLC and 6 RLC will transit into 101 Logistic Brigade, presumably to become Force Support elements for 3rd UK Division:

The Army 2020 Refine (A2020R) results are out. The key points are:- 7 Regt will continue to exist under A2020R.- It will remain in Cottesmore until 2029, when it is due to move to Topcliffe (near Dishforth).- The Regt will come under command of 101 Log Bde in 2019.- The detailed structure and role are still being worked on but will likely require only a small adjustment.

- 6 Regt will continue to exist in the future.- The Regt will come under command of 101 Log Bde in 2019 (102 Log Bde will disband).- The Regt will remain in Dishforth until 2030 when it will move to Topcliffe along with 7 Regt RLC.

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

Army Reserves. As part of our continued investment in the Army Reserve we will build on the success of the Future Reserves 2020 plan. We will optimise reserve structures to better support the modernised division, embed the successful pairing of regular and reserve units and increase the number of reserve combat units supporting the division. As a result, two new reserve infantry battalions will be created from 2017. These are 4th Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and 8th Battalion The Rifles. A new reserve Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) regiment will also be created.

4th PWRR is expected to be formed around one company taken from the LONDONS and two newly formed companies: 

Battalion Headquarters and Headquarter Company will set up in Crawley on the site of 103 Bn REME. 
A Coy, 3 PWRR in Farnham will re-subordinate from 3 PWRR 
B (Queen's) Coy in Edgeware will re-subordinate from the London Regiment 
A new Company will then be created in either Southampton or Portsmouth. 
A replacement company for 3 PWRR will be formed, again location still to be decided. More detail to follow as it becomes known.

The London Regiment will take back a company from 7 Rifles and create a new one to make up for the losses, It will also be more formally aligned with the Guards battalions: 

B and C Companies will transfer next year to, respectively, a new 4th Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. In partial replacement, we will welcome back F Company 7th Battalion The Rifles in 2017 as an integral part of the Regiment. We have also been tasked to generate a new company next year, in a new location, which raises exciting possibilities.The reformed London Regiment will retain its historic name but will become known colloquially as the ‘Guards Reserve Battalion’ and will become a single-capbadge Regiment, grouped within the Foot Guards Division of Infantry.

8 RIFLES will include existing RIFLES reserve elements in the North East, Yorkshire, Shropshire and Birmingham. 

A number of batteries, squadrons and companies across the army are going to re-subordinate over the next few years and at the moment it is not possible to track all moves from outside. 

Changes are coming in the Administrative infantry divisions as well, with regiments being grouped differently: 

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

A lot of things continue to be shrouded in mystery and we've not heard the last of the bad news for sure. The prominent thing that emerges so far is CUTS. Regiments, tanks, heavy artillery. All cut back. 
And this is just the beginning. A bad one.

UPDATE 27 December: Army 2020 Refine's big day is January 17, when CDS is planned to finally unveil the new "Land Operations" doctrine. Not clear how public that will be, but hopefully some information will be released.
Briefings for the army personnel seem scheduled to begin from 4 january.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Guest post: Mesothelioma Warning Signs & Symptoms

Today i'm giving some space to to raise awareness of the dangers of mesothelioma. I've asked them to provide a guide to symptoms that might alert people that something needs treatment. Military personnel is very likely to have been exposed to asbestos at some point, considering how widely employed it used to be, so they are particularly at risk and need to be aware.

Mesothelioma Warning Signs & Symptoms

Know Them, Learn Them, Then Teach Someone Else.

Mesothelioma is rare form of cancer that attacks the protective layer, or better described as the thin tissue lining that surrounds most internal organs. This fluid sac-filled tissue lining is known as the mesothelium to which mesothelioma got its name.  There are three main types of mesothelioma with a fourth type not having enough data to really share beneficial information on as it is extremely rare and accounts for 0 – 1% of all mesothelioma cases.  The organs attacked along with their medical names are listed from most common to least.

Types of Mesothelioma:

The two main purposes for this article is to spread awareness on the warning signs and symptoms of mesothelioma so you can catch it early on and get treated right away and to share that ANYONE IN THE WORLD is susceptible to developing mesothelioma.  This rare, specific cancer is 100% disabling and although there has been an extreme amount of effort put into clinical trials with many medical advances over the last 10 years, there is no cure for mesothelioma.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

The main cause of mesothelioma and from what we understand, the only cause is from a person either inhaling or ingesting is asbestos dust and/or fibers. Asbestos is a mineral that has thin, microscopic fibers and was used widely before being banned in the late 1970’s and 80’s. Common industries that used asbestos containing materials include the automotive, shipbuilding, and construction industries.
Asbestos fibers are usually released into the air during the manufacture, construction and remodeling processes when asbestos containing materials were moved around or disturbed. Once released, the fibers are ingested or inhaled by workers, property occupants or people near the point of release. The reason we bring up the cause of mesothelioma before the warning signs is because these signs and symptoms are often, VERY OFTEN confused with the symptoms of other ailments and common colds.  Therefore, the first thing to ask yourself is, “Have I ever been exposed to asbestos?”  If your answer is yes but you have no symptoms… that is warning sign number one.

Common Mesothelioma Symptoms

As recently mentioned, most mesothelioma symptoms resemble the symptoms of other ailments. In fact, most people experience mesothelioma symptoms for a few months before actually even seeing a doctor.  Once the general physician is informed about the symptoms, sometimes it takes even a couple months after that until the true diagnosis is made.  That is why it is so vital to know whether or not you have been exposed to asbestos.  Knowing this could extend your life by 5+ years. Mesothelioma warning signs may vary depending on the type of mesothelioma that an individual is suffering from. The following are the most common symptoms a person would face if mesothelioma were developing in their bodies.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
§  Shortness of breath
§  Pain in the lower back or side of the patient’s chest
§  Cough
§  Fatigue
§  Fever
§  Excessive sweating
§  Weight loss
§  Hoarseness
§  Trouble swallowing
§  Swelling of the arms and face

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal fluid accumulation or swelling
  • Abdominal pain

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic cough
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue after light exertion
  • Murmurs
  • Arrhythmia
  • Dyspnea
  • Orthopnea

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms
  • Fluid buildup in the scrotum
  • Mass development in the testicles
  • Testicular swelling
It is crucial that you consult a doctor if you have any of these symptoms especially if you have an asbestos exposure history.  Visual learner perhaps?  Here is a video to learn more about the symptoms and warning signs of mesothelioma: Mesothelioma, the symptoms. 

Factors that influence mesothelioma symptoms

How and when mesothelioma symptoms develop depends on several factors.
They include:
  • Duration for which a person was exposed to asbestos
  • The amount of asbestos fibers that a person was exposed to
  • Type of asbestos that a person was exposed to
  • Stage of mesothelioma
These factors as well as the cell types affected will determine the strength and severity of the warning signs. Seeking medical guidance immediately when these symptoms are detected can lead to a person having the best possible mesothelioma prognosis. This is due to the fact that if mesothelioma were caught in stage 1, the patient would have all mesothelioma treatment options available to them.  Having all treatment options available is extremely beneficial as this leads to a higher chance of a successful treatment and will allow the patient to not simply live longer but to enjoy the life they live free of all the negative side effects from chemo and radiation therapy. 


Friday, December 2, 2016

Strategy is a long term vision

There is not too terribly much that can be said on sir Parker’s review of the UK shipbuilding situation, at the moment. His is merely a list of suggestions, an independent report which might or might not generate policy changes. To know whether his recommendations have changed anything, we’ll have to wait for the actual Shipbuilding Strategy which the government has promised to publish sometime in “spring 2017”.
That document is the one we want to read, and the one from which answers should come. We can only hope that something serious comes out of the whole exercise, but skepticism is more than justified.

The single most important recommendation formulated by sir Parker, in my opinion, is this:

The MOD Sponsor should establish a transparent Master Plan for naval shipbuilding that lays out Defence’s procurement plans for each series of naval ships over the next 30 years. This should be backed by “set and assured” capital budgets for each new series of ships. The Master Plan should be reviewed at each SDSR.

The importance of an overarching, long term vision cannot possibly be overstated. What sir Parker denounces in his report is that the Royal Navy’s future is dependent on a series of programmes that almost come out of the blue. There is no master plan, there is no long term vision guiding the succession of studies, assessments and attempts to launch a new shipbuilding programme of any kind.
The result of the short-termism is evident in today’s frankly desperate situation, in which the Royal Navy, at very short notice, has been saddled with 5 OPVs that it didn’t really want nor yet need (the current ones could easily last another decade, as was planned until recently); while at the same time seeing its main frigate programme not only delayed, but broken into two halves, the second of which has no defined shape, role, budget. RFA Diligence is gone without replacement, RFA Argus is very much at risk of ending the same way within the next 4 years, and the future of everything else is still vague and indefinite, subject to the shifting fortunes of yearly budget negotiations.

Ultimately, the current process involves many people and too many ‘hand-offs’. Too many think they have a vote, or even a veto, in the process. Current governance is not sufficiently clear. There is no assured “Capital budget” for a RN project which means programmes are subject to arbitrary intervention and delays adding to cost. Senior Responsible Owners’ objectives and accountability are not always properly aligned. There is a clear system of financial approvals via the Investment Approvals Committee, but the system is not always applied intelligently to ensure that good quality information and early engagement with decision makers results in well evidenced and timely decisions. The result is a lack of empowered project grip.  

Sir Parker talks of “set and assured” capital budgets for the 30 year plan, and this would clearly be helpful, but it is also evidently very complicated. Even just a more flexible commitment would help, however, as it would help the Royal Navy’s struggle to preserve what’s left of the fleet.
The navy itself needs to plan that far ahead, not so much in terms of what the singular ship will look like that far away in time, but in terms of how to retain and possibly enhance a capability. There are, in my opinion, two critical cases in which long term planning is long overdue: one has to do with the role of the MCM, Hydrographic Capability (MHC) mothership expected to eventually replace current Hunt, Sandown and Echo classes, beginning in 2028. The MHC mothership plans have taken, this far, a very far back seat, with all MHC attention going to the payload development and test.
There are certainly good reasons for focusing on the new unmanned vehicles and the new kind and breadth of stand-off mine clearing they enable. It is a great innovation, with all the risks that innovation entails, and until the system is proven the Royal Navy cannot take a final decision on whether the future mothership will be a steel-hulled, multi-role vessel or a novel edition of the super-specialized GRP hulls in use today.

The Royal Navy, however, needs to take a decision quickly because as Type 31 drops down the capability ladder to become a “light frigate”, or a General Purpose vessel, the fields of usefulness of Type 31 and of the potential MHC Mothership begin to overlap.
Without a plan, there is a very real risk that the Royal Navy, within a decade, goes from having no “second line” flotilla to having three classes of second rank ships: Type 31, River Batch 2, MHC. It would be an incredibly bad use of money, because it would leave the high end fleet of escorts short of numbers and capability, while overcrowding the lower segment.
Sir Parker mentions that containerized MCM kit could one day be deployed from Type 31, and while this might well be, the point that needs to be made, very quickly, is what overlap exists between Type 31 and MHC – Mothership. Can they become the same programme? If not, how can the RN make sure that the Type 31, while being “light” is an escort oriented towards the high end of warfare, with MHC covering the low end, rather than duplicating a same set of limited capabilities?
This is how wasteful procurement is born: lack of clarity, lack of long term vision.

The Type 26 itself is already suffering from severe lack of long term vision. The Royal Navy arrived to the Type 26 programme after close to two decades of desperate attempts to get a new frigate programme on the move. Countless efforts began and died without ever generating a single ship, and the last of the big studies had eventually come up with a fleet-wide plan for 10 “C1” high-end ASW combatants supported by 8 “C2”, simpler “general purpose” frigates, with a third class, the “C3” for OPV roles and MHC mothershipping.
Type 26 came out of the killing blow dealt to that tentative long term plan: C1 and C2 were merged into Type 26 and their cumulative total was reduced to 13, with any C3 equivalent deferred to a vague future.
Then, just a few years into the Type 26 programme, the Royal Navy has been effectively kicked back to a C1 and C2 situation, where 8 Type 26 are supposed to be the C1 element and the Type 31 the C2.
This is an example of catastrophic long term planning failure, and the Type 26 now arguably suffers of design imbalances caused by having to be the “one and only”. The Type 26 has been designed with extremely long logistic endurance, a vast defensive armament spread in two different areas of the ship, a very large mission bay and a Chinook-capable flight deck, and thanks to the MK41 it has the potential to be very well armed as well (overlooking for a moment the fact that right now she is far more likely to have empty cells than filled cells, again for lack of clarity on the future and cash shortage). Was all this necessary in an ASW-roled escort which, by virtue of its role, would spend most of its time in task group? They are all very helpful attributes, but being in task group means having relatively easy access to extra firepower from the other vessels; access to fuel and stores replenishment; aviation support.
Currently, the RN is facing the prospect of having a large, multi-role ASW vessel inside the task group and a cheap, light frigate doing solo deployments. One is left to wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense to have built a somewhat simpler ASW escort, more rationally thought out for Task Group roles, and a capable “global combat ship” as supporting element, designed to be a capable “solo player”.
Imbalances caused by lack of long term clarity, again.

Another area that needs long-term clarity is the amphibious capability, left in disarray by the loss of HMS Ocean without replacement, which damages very badly the UK’s capability in the sector and imposes a hybrid use of the new aircraft carriers, under the acronym CEPP, for Carrier Enabled Power Projection.
The long term solution, if a realistic amphibious capability is to be retained, is to replace the current LPDs with LHDs, combining aviation spaces with well dock and large landing crafts. But this will be extremely complex unless a coherent plan is worked out well beforehand and the government endorses the requirement. As of now, would you be willing to bet any money on the LPDs being replaced at all…? I would be very torn.

The lack of a long term plan inexorably makes it almost impossible to sustain the shipbuilding sector. How can a serious industrial and infrastructural project be put together if there is not a realistic idea of what it is that the Navy will buy, how it will do so and when? Who could ever seriously invest in shipbuilding if the only thing somewhat assured is that a few frigates will, indeed, one day be built again, while everything else might simply be replaced by vessels built abroad, if not by nothing at all?
A long term plan is desperately necessary. Everything depends on such a plan, and on decisions to be made. If we look ahead, we see that a shipbuilding plan for the surface fleet includes:

-          3 large Solid Support Ships, probably close to 40.000 tons each, to be built between 2020 and 2025
-          8 Type 26, between 2017 (hopefully) and the 2030s
-          N Type 31 between X and the 2030s
-          N MHC ships, to be defined, from the late 2020s onwards

The LPDs should enter “replacement age” around 2030 – 2032. Now that they alternate in and out of service in 5 year intervals their useful life might be effectively stretched out, but their lack of aviation facilities and overall insufficient troops and vehicles capacity, in light of the loss of Ocean, suggests that a replacement is needed sooner rather than later, so the carriers can eventually concentrate on being carriers, rather than LHAs. Depending on the choices that will be made, building the LHDs would also help sustain the whole shipbuilding sector.
By 2039, the Type 45 will all have gone out of service too, unless their 25-years life is extended. The Royal Navy is currently planning to have them gone by 2039, taking the last MK8 Mod 1 guns with them (there is currently no money for ever retrofitting the 127mm gun on Type 45).
Depending on how the government wanted / was financially able to proceed, there is no real shortage of work: these programmes often overlap, suggesting that for many years there could be a relative abundance of orders. Assuming all programmes eventually start and that ships are not procured abroad. And this is what the strategy needs to say.
In the early 2020s, the RFA Argus question will resurface as well, and a successor to RFA Diligence is highly desirable, so there is in theory a need for a couple of large civilian ship conversions or new builds, if the government is willing to endorse the requirement.

The Venator 110 is sir Parker's idea of what a Type 31 base design could be. Hard not to agree with him, especially since the two BAE alternatives seen so far, the Avenger and Cutlass, have little good to offer, particularly the former. 

The Royal Navy desperately needs a long term plan for weapons, too. VL or canister? Type 23/45 would need the latter, Type 26 the former, Type 31? Land attack? Anti-ship? Currently, only confusion is apparent. 

All decisions about the future of the shipyards can only be taken if there is a long term master plan upon which assumptions and plans can be built.
If the three MARS SSS ships were built in the UK, in Blocks and Super Blocks, even Rosyth could have a future as the yard of assembly. As of now, Rosyth does not have much of a post-carriers future, with the Goliath crane already expected to be sold once the work on the flagships is over and all that remains is nuclear submarine dismantling and, maybe, the carrier refits over their service life.
A decision to have the SSS built in the UK could change the situation entirely, and the LPD replacement could slot on the back of the three ships (with a bit of a gap in the middle, admittedly, but probably manageable).

The recommendation to assemble the Type 31 away from the Clyde is a political hot potato. In some ways it is highly desirable, in others it is a problem. The SNP will be given something to moan about if the Clyde does not assembly the new frigate. On the other hand, if a yard down south does the job, the SNP can be told, much more credibly, that if they play their independence stunt, the flow of work for the yards will dry up and construction will move south.
It is also evident that trying to built two different frigate types at the same time in the same yard could cause all sorts of problems, including the transmission of delays from one programme to the other whenever something does not work as intended. It might be reasonable to assume that BAE systems will attempt to craft out a plan to use Govan and Scotstoun differently, perhaps assigning a frigate type to each site. What will happen with the Type 31 is, at this moment in time, anyone’s guess.

The exportability bit is the one that leaves me shaking my head. It is hard to imagine that Type 31 will turn out a great export success. The market is already quite saturated with “cheap” warships which come with extremely good capability and a very heavy load of weaponry. If the Royal Navy insists on its usual trend of trying to contain cost by shredding sensors and weapons rather than adjusting building standards and other areas, the Type 31 will never sell. Look at the ships that are being sold, or seriously considered by this nation or that: they are capable vessels. They have probably cut corners somewhere, otherwise they would cost more, but they carry sensors, they tipically have an ASW capability, perhaps not always exploited by the customer, but present. They are heavily armed. The MEKOs sold to Algeria, for example. Or the Aster-armed ships recently sold in the Gulf.
Extremely well armed and cheap vessels from Russia and China are an increasingly attractive proposition.
And there is now a strong political pressure on the US Navy calling for the design of a new “small” surface combatant to build in place of the LCS-derived Fast Frigates in the 2020s. If such a ship was to emerge, it could deal the killing blow to any Type 31 export hope before Type 31 even becomes a thing.
For a variety of good reasons, it is very hard to imagine the Type 31 actually selling, especially if it is built as something which is little more than an OPV.

The Royal Navy needs to get a Type 31 which is actually useful at escorting. It also needs, possibly, to reconsider exactly how Type 26 and Type 31 will be used to cover future requirements. Perhaps it makes more sense to have Type 31s with variable depth towed sonars doing Task Group escort work and Type 26 in solo deployments.
The Royal Navy needs escorts that are credible and that respond to the two greatest dangers out there: air and sub-surface attacks. Type 31 must focus first of all on this simple truth, like the French FTI “intermediate” frigate is doing. The lower end constabulary tasks should not be a design driver, nor, arguably, should they be the Type 31’s concern. What kind of role will the MHC mothership be able to play in that area? Knowing it in good time is fundamental.

The Marine Nationale has been clear all along about what it wanted out of FTI: a ship with capable AAW defences and a good ASW capability, at a lower cost than that of a FREMM. The Type 31 should follow the same path rather than venture in "General Purpose" non-ASW land which will never deliver what the navy effectively needs from its escorts.  

Two other recommendations stand out to my eyes: that the MOD and Navy should be more intelligent buyers of ships; and that a marine design centre of excellence is missing from the picture.
There is a bond between the two things, I feel: the Royal Navy needs to be part of such a design centre of excellence, and it must probably have its own design office inside the organization. Much, if not all, of the Royal Navy’s internal know how and capability in designing warships was lost years ago, leaving the service more or less completely in the hands of industry. This was supposed to save money, but it has probably generated more trouble than benefit.
A Navy able to design its own solutions is a more capable and intelligent customer by default. It will not need to buy the solution to every problem: it can design it and then have it realized. The Italian navy is currently kicking off a major shipbuilding programme building 7 PPA, “light frigates” that will complement the FREMMs and replace everything from two of the old Destroyers down to the current OPVs. The programme also includes a massive and very capable LHD and a supply ship. The cost of the entire programme is lower than the Type 26 alone is expected to cost, and this is extraordinary.

Only 2 of the 7 PPA will be fully equipped with sensors and weaponry, at least initially (torpedoes, towed sonar, Aster missiles, Teseo SSM, 127mm, 76mm CIWS), with a few more having an intermediate fit including 76mm CIWS on top of the hangar, 127mm gun and Aster missiles and the remaining having lighter sensors fit and only the guns, with no Aster. But all come with significant innovations in their design, from the bow to their high speed, from the mission spaces under the flight deck and amidship to the new fixed-face radars to the impressive two-man "cockpit". 

One of the “secrets” of the current Italian shipbuilding programme is that the new ships have largely come out of the work of the Navy’s own design office. Industry is involved, of course, but in a very good way: the new ships introduce a large number of new systems (a new CIWS 76mm turret, new IRST, new radars, new towed sonar, a modular and multi-mission design, an innovative wave piercing bow for very high speeds (PPA is meant for 35 knots speeds) and others) designed by the nation’s industries. Why the UK can’t put together something as ambitious? Why has the Type 31 to be affordable only through being a depressingly low capability hull?

The long-term shipbuilding strategy for the UK must include a real centre of excellence in shipbuilding design, and the Royal Navy probably needs to have its own office inside. Shoulder to shoulder with industry, but with doors that can be locked when the moment calls for it.