Sunday, May 8, 2022

Everyone is recce, everyone is strike: an organisation for a small but tough British Army


As I’ve made hopefully clear on Twitter in several different occasions, I am convinced the Integrated Review was very good. The Defence Command Paper had a lot of good things about it too, although it is clear that some things would need more funding to truly get moving according to stated ambitions.

Future Soldier is the one document that is not just disappointing but flat out concerning. It is to be hoped that a “Refine” will come swiftly, because the plan feels like it was written by "2 guys" wanting fundamentally different things. Brigade Combat Teams and combined arms integration at lower levels on one side; preservation of increasingly artificial barriers and tribalism between Corps and Regiments and specialties on the other. The end result is an awkward compromise that fails to deliver “conventional”, solid brigades and equally fails in progressing new ways of operating.

The Army is “lucky” in that the events in Ukraine represent a perfect chance to save face and justify the changes without admitting that the problems were all there from the get go. 


Future Soldier fails to articulate a new concept for how to structure, field and employ force in the field.

The Army’s “Conceptual Force 2035”, which up to at least 2017 was looked at very seriously, imagined an army completely reconfigured to deliver 3 smaller but capable divisions made of lighter, faster, more deployable, largely independent battlegroups, with dispersion being the norm. Conceptual Force 2035 specified that the disaggregated fighting requires Combined Arms capabilities to be organic at lower level, to ensure the dispersed Battlegroups do not have to wait for a superior echelon to make supports available. This includes having more organic Indirect Fire capability and employing it alongside greater ATGW capability to offset the capability currently delivered by MBTs through “lighter” vehicles.


Apparently, Conceptual Force 2035 has since lost traction, and that actually saddens me, because at this point the army is in such miserable shape that it was arguably the one model it could follow to try and regain some effectiveness. On the other hand, 2035 was always way too close in time for many of the things imagined to actually happen. Robotic and Autonomous Systems, for example, are nowhere near as mature as needed for the full vision to take shape, and without pervasive use of ground combat uncrewed vehicles it’s easy to imagine that the main difficulties experienced in the simulations will have been infantry shortages and resupply problems.


Whatever vision takes shape next is anyway unlikely to stray too far away from Conceptual Force 2035 ideas, because rebuilding a large “conventional” force would require manpower and money that simply isn’t going to be there. While I am not expecting new IFVs to come into service anytime soon, the Fires "ingredients" that would be indispensable for CF35-like combat groups are in the plan, and there are promising signals that the number of BOXERs will continue to grow.

Ultimately, the Integrated Operating Concept 2025 has set out the following list of attributes for the future force:


Have smaller and faster capabilities to avoid detection

Trade reduced physical protection for increased mobility

Rely more heavily on low-observable and stealth technologies

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

Include a mix of crewed, uncrewed and autonomous platforms

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

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

Be markedly less dependent on fossil fuels

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

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


Unless these attributes are quite drastically revised, the new concepts will necessarily have a lot in common with CF2035. I think the army need to accept this, because “mass” will never be there.

What we see in Ukraine is that not even the Russians are achieving the kind of mass needed to create a “traditional” continuous front. The British Army, with far less troops and material, won’t be able to create a front either, unless it’s ridiculously narrow.

Dispersion these days is unavoidable, not only to reduce vulnerability against enemy Fires, but also simply to cover ground.  


STRIKE was way too optimistic in imagining huge tactical advantages to be secured by a force which was going to have no particular mobility advantage on comparable formations and certainly no firepower advantage whatsoever. It imagined an enemy paralyzed by dispersed STRIKE elements advancing on multiple directions simultaneously, completely failing to appreciate that dispersed elements can very easily and quickly become isolated and very difficult to resupply. For years, STRIKE literally assumed that there would be no need for it to conduct bridging operations in the direct fire zone, which was one of the wildest, most absurd assumptions ever.


Ultimately, too much about STRIKE was just not credible, but dispersion is something we will have to deal with, by necessity if not by choice.

The challenge is defining a workable British Army organization that maximizes the survivability, lethality and usefulness of its small force.

Some starting assumptions:


-          Long range Fires are arguably the only way to “close the gaps” between dispersed force elements and ensure that small deployed contingents have disproportionate effect.


-          The ability of Fires to truly “close the gaps” depends on their responsiveness and on the ability to provide targeting from a multitude of sources all across the manoeuvre force.


-          For the foreseeable future at least, the tank remains a fundamental  capability. Its survivability, combined with the high number of “stored kills” can hardly be replaced by volleys of missiles. It is reasonable to assume that in the future tanks might shed weight as piling up passive protection simply becomes counter-productive and we might see Robotic / Autonomous vehicles taking up more of the MBT role, but until technology matures we have to make good use of what is available and works.


-          Air defence must be much more widely distributed, otherwise all sorts of threats will have an easy time targeting troops in the field.


-          Recce by stealth is increasingly unlikely to be feasible. Land manoeuvre can be observed by a multitude of drones, space, air and ground based sensors, and the widespread availability of all sorts of communication systems make it pretty much impossible to imagine small armoured vehicles sneaking unobserved on the enemy.


That recce by stealth is no longer feasible is something the British Army, just like other armies worldwide, has de facto accepted quite some time ago. Recently, the Royal Dragoon Guards have provided some welcome clarity on how the Cavalry regiments are attempting to confront the combination of the AJAX disaster, the CRV(T) imminent retirement and further manpower reductions. The latter has the inexorable consequence of leading from a 4 Sabre Squadrons structure down to 3.


SCIMITAR is going to be replaced by WARRIOR, which has already seen some use with the cavalry since at least 2018 as an AJAX surrogate. But of course, since there are nowhere near enough working WARRIORs, they are concentrated in just ONE Sabre squadron, albeit enlarged to 5 Troops. Interestingly, WARRIOR cavalry will, in field, mix with CHALLENGER, with the RDG forging a close relationship with the Queen’s Royal Hussars.

This is the only logical consequence of accepting recce by stealth is (mostly) dead, and follows examples from other parts of the world. Notably, the US Army has re-introduced a company of M1 tanks into its cavalry squadrons, and also grouped the Styker MGS and ATGW into the reconnaissance squadron of the Stryker BCTs, until it decided to remove the MGS from service.

In Italy, to give another example, CENTAURO/CENTAURO 2 support FRECCIA in the Cavalry regiments doing reconnaissance for the brigades.

In truth, there’s no need to wander the world at all: the UK’s original FRES SV plan notoriously included a true medium armour variant with 120 mm smoothbore cannon, which would have accompanied the SCOUT.

There really is nothing new in all of this: it is just another sad and self-destructive circle that the British Army has walked.

It really is sobering that, after 30 years and billions of expenditure, the Army’s future is a team of CHALLENGER and WARRIOR. When one looks back at WARRIOR demonstrators for the recce cavalry role, and at high-tech experiments such as VERDI, and thinks about all that followed, it’s impossible not to get emotional.  


The Guided Weapons/Javelin Troop is enlarged into Sabre Sqn mounted in "variety of armoured vehicles", which presumably means anything from JACKAL to Mastiff to have some mobility. The Squadron will de facto fight dismounted and in close liaison with the infantry (in the case of the RDG, specifically alongside 5 RIFLES), employing JAVELIN, NLAW and LASM / ASM.

There has been no increased allocation of JAVELIN. Of course, one bitterly adds.


The final Sabre Squadron groups the Sniper troop, Surveillance Tp, Assault (pioneer) Tp and C2 Tp. This seems to build upon work Household Cavalry’s B Squadron has been doing for the last several years, ahead of what was supposed to be the first conversion in the Army from CRV(T) to AJAX, and the assumption of their role within STRIKE.

Adding snipers is, apparently, a major revolution that took a long time. In 2020 B Sqn HCR formed an Anti-Tank Troop and had worked for a while to “try” and form a Mortar Troop as well. Sadly, this seems to have been way too ambitious a revolution, and there is no sign of mortars in the new cavalry structure.


In general, the new Cavalry organisation is all about forming combined arms groups in the field, but without adopting it in the barracks. And once again I ask: why? Why can’t the British Army make that final step and try to give itself a structure which is more in line to how it actually expects to fight?

The main reason not to do it, the logistic complication of having regiments home-based far from each other, is gone, with the heavy forces all centered upon Bulford, Tidworth and Warminster.


Structures must change because the current ones are simply not fit for purpose and they unnecessarily complicate future planning, training and operations by maintaining artificial separations in roles and capabilities.



An organisation for dispersed, heavy hitting forces

The Reconnaissance Strike Group imagined and championed by retired US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor remains, in my opinion, the most promising force structure to face the current challenges of land warfare.

It is, obviously, presented at “American scale”, so with numbers that the British Army could never match, but  conceptually it is a valid framework that is centered on manoevre forces capable of dispersed, mobile, operations across a wide area in presence of capable enemy forces. It is meant to survive and fight in the modern battle space where ISR and EW are pervasive and Fires are a constant threat.


-          This new battle space demands self-contained independent battle groups; formations that operate on land the way the Navy’s ships operate at sea: within the range of their organic ISR and STRIKE capabilities.


-          RSG suppresses or destroys enemy air defense and missile assets-RSG is effective when immediate responsiveness is required, in complex terrain or in poor visibility.


There is no separation between Manoeuvre and Reconnaissance forces in the RSG. The entire force is about recce and manoeuvre. It uses 4 battalion battlegroups to jointly Find, Target and Manoeuvre, and has a Fires battalion at its core.

As the expectation is to operate dispersed, the RSG is deliberately conceptualized as a sort of mobile fortress in which the battalions surround and protect the Fires element, feeding it targets to destroy.


The Integrated Operating Concept 2025 guidance, the Conceptual Force 2035 assumptions and the equipment programmes underway are all very attuned to an RSG-inspired force structure for the main combat formations.

The new USMC Littoral Regiment has its own lesson to give, in how it produces a self-contained manoeuvre formation with its own “Anti-Air Battalion” (which is actually a more multi-role unit than the name suggests, delivering also air control and Forward Arming and Refueling Points for the supporting aviation element) and Sustainment Battalion.


The RSG as imagined for american use is a huge formation which contains a number of armoured vehicles an UK formation wouldn't possibly match, just like the US Armored Cavalry Regiment of the 1990s was comparable to an entire british Division, but the concepts are what matter

Imagine the British Brigade Combat Team as a formation of 4 Combined Arms Regiments arranged around a Fires formation. Each Regiment would have a Manoeuvre Battalion with Infantry mounted in BOXERs and, in the “Heavy” variant, cavalry squadrons with CHALLENGER 3.

One of the roles of the Manoeuvre battalion would be to Find targets and direct Fires. The current Tactical Group Batteries of the Royal Artillery, and indeed Surveillance and Target Acquisition sensors, including SERPENS counter-battery radars and the new portable battlefield surveillance radar, would be pushed directly into these units.


AJAX is really a thorn. Obviously, if it survives and enters service it will have to be used, both alongside Challenger in mixed Recce-Strike Squadrons within the manoeuvre battalion (heavy) and without tank in (medium) configuration. But in truth, if I could have one wish granted, it would be to make AJAX vanish and get back the money to fund the upgrade of more CHALLENGERs and the procurement of more and better armed BOXERs.

A possible template for the Cavalry squadron could come from the old US Armored Cavalry Regiment, in which troops combined Scout platoons on BRADLEY with tank Troops with M1. Each Troop had 8+1 ABRAMS and 12+1 BRADLEY, and this could be a possible mix to practice with WARRIOR and then with AJAX if it really comes.


Alongside the Manoeuvre formation there would a Combat Support Battalion delivering Pioneer and engineer capabilities as well as organic Fires. The kind of reach imagined by Conceptual Force 2035 could easily be achieved by adopting 120 mm mortars carried in BOXERs, and BRIMSTONE-based MountedClose Combat Overwatch (MCCO).

There would also need to be a SHORAD troop, initially equipped of course with STARSTREAK/LMM, on STORMER self-propelled launchers wherever possible.


There would then be a Sustainment Battalion combining REME and Logistic elements.


The Fires Battalion at the center of the Brigade would ideally revert to the mixed format of Artillery regiments in Army 2020, so with a GMLRS Battery in addition to the AS90 (and then Mobile Fires Platforms) batteries. This would give the BCT the ability to strike out to at least 150 km with GMLRS ER. The Precision Strike Missile would ideally be held at Division level in another GMLRS regiment, able to strike out to well over 500 km, with strategic relevance that will increase in the coming years as spiral development of the missile delivers a seeker for striking mobile targets, from Air Defence units to warships at sea, to ranges of 700 km and beyond.

To hopefully reduce costs, the Division’s GMLRS regiment would use a truck base, with the M270 launchers given to the Brigades. In the US, work has started on a Palletized Field Artillery System which is a 2-pod GMLRS launcher that can be used stand-alone or carried on a EPLS-type truck, or even on the deck of a ship. Germany hopes to soon add a truck-based, GMLRS compatible, 2-pod launcher, so there are options for the UK to procure more rocket launchers, with wheeled mobility and beyond, without going anywhere near HIMARS that comes with a single pod due to C-130 volume and weight constraint considerations.


The proposed "early entry" vanguard element of a RSG is arguably not that far away, Robotic and Autonomous Systems aside, from what the Conceptual Force 2035's Future Combat Team aspired to be.

At brigade level would also sit an Air Defence battery with SKY SABRE, with CAMM ER missiles planned to be available from 2026.


A Division of 4 BCTs in this “Heavy” configuration would be a good start. Hopefully a second Division could then follow, in a “medium” configuration without the CR3s.

At Division level, remaining Light forces, either air mobile or mounted in vehicles (if you expect to operate dispersed and over a wide area, moving on foot just won't give you the tempo you need) would be chiefly tasked with ensuring supplies to get to the BCTs across theatre. Ensuring the safety of the supply flow is going to be an absolutely key task, and Ukraine only goes to prove this. 

The "operational reserve" that Future Soldier is supposed to create should have this as its primary mission: each Division should have a Reserve brigade which, while undoubtedly light for lack of enough vehicles and heavy gear, will have to possess credible protected mobility to literally plug holes in the flexible, shapeless front and ensure supplies get through. 

The Vanguard Light Brigade in Army 2020 Refine, and arguably the whole of what remained of 1st Division, had a rear area security role in a major operation, in which they would operate to secure the rear of 3rd Division. This requirement is also recognized by the new WAYPOINT 2028 organisation of the US Army, most evidently in the presence of the Force Protection brigade in the Penetration Division. 

The British Army will have to ensure this key role is adequately covered. Expanding the fighting role of the Royal Military Police, in a way similar to what the US Army does with its own MPs is possibly part of the answer. The Reserve should be part of the Answer, too.  

Forget about even trying to procure a new tracked IFV, focusing instead on BOXER coming with the appropriate variants and firepower, so for example the already mentioned 120 mm mortar.

In early May, Rheinmetall published a periodical accounting report outlining potential deals that must legally be communicated, and it notably includes a 3rd Lot BOXER order for the UK, numbering c 400 vehicles. If this does indeed happen, it would push the UK purchase above the 1,000 threshold (523 in the 1st Lot ordered in late 2019; 2nd Lot of 100 added in April), and there’s a lot of good things that can be done with a thousand high end vehicles if you are laser-focused on maximizing combat capability.

My recommendation is always the same: Ambulance and Command Post and other supporting roles mostly do not need, or do not really benefit from being on a precious BOXER base. That is exactly what Multi Role Vehicle Protected should exist for. That’s how France, using Griffon alongside VBCI, and Italy using ORSO alongside FRECCIA, are maximizing the combat output of their 8x8 fleets.


The Patria 6x6 is being adopted by Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden as Common Armoured Vehicle System. It is an example of a good, cheap candidate to be the perfect supporting vehicle to BOXER in a multitude of roles. 

Ideally, I repeat, I would also forget about AJAX, if there really is the chance to claw back the money, and the Treasury is willing to let the MOD invest in advance. There is no overstating how helpful it would be to get more than 5 billion pounds to invest on programmes that are actually in step with the Army’s conditions.


  1. Thanks, that was a very interesting read. Just a couple of Qs, if I may:
    1 - The US model you refer to and your supporting comments explicitly favour a lot of manoeuvre over defending fixed positions: but political considerations often necessitate the taking or defending specific terrain, usually but not always urban areas.
    2 - Do you still envisage a role for dismounted recce, given the high dispersal of forces on the one hand and your lack of confidence in mounted recce by stealth on the other?
    3 - Have you seen any strong counter-arguments about why ambulances, command vehicles etc. *need* Boxer (or any high-end base)? Were any published during the procurement discussions? Or was it just a case of Samaritan was a CVR(T), so why not?

    1. Glad you appreciated. If the force had to go static, i think it would still work effectively. If it can successfully acquire targets for the Fires during manoeuvre, it should all the more easily be able to leverage missiles in defence of a position. Taking cities will always be complex and i don't know if force structure can really do much to change that, specifically. Hopefully as RAS matures something like an uncrewed SCIMITAR can appear, which would really be a decent companion both to infantry and heavier AFVs with great all terrain mobility and even helicopter under slung mobility.

      Dismounted patrols will of course have their own value in the appropriate circumstances, as will concealed OP, but in manoeuvre the achieving of the kind of high tempo that is currently envisaged as key factor probably doesn't match well with trying to walk close to the enemy for covert observation. That's a bit more of a niche role to be handled separately, really.

      As for why they insist in wanting so many BOXER ambulances and command posts, i wouldn't say there has been any real explanation. I mean, i get it: it's nice to have the exact same protection and mobility, but... do you really need that? I don't think you do. SAMARITAN to BOXER is a huge leap. Even FV432 ambulance to BOXER is quite a leap. WARRIOR made do with being supported by much cheaper FV432 ambulances, i don't see a good reason why BOXER must be different. If the army wasn't so full of capability gaps, sure, it's nice, but since there's gaps everywhere, i'd really rather use the money elsewhere.

  2. As a bit of a thought experiment imagine a Post-Ukraine crisis British army that might need to keep a sizeable screening force in both Central/Eastern Europe (Baltics) and in South Eastern Europe (S.Poland, Romania), work out what those forces would need to contain and then what overall army size would be needed to support / reinforce these and this might affect structure.

    1. Why, in any circumstance, would you want to split up already finite forces in two entirely different areas...? It's already bad enough that the Army is sending 72 tanks and 120 Warrior to the continent this year but spreading them all over the place. It was the perfect occasion to do a decent, actual brigade-size exercise for once, and instead it'll go to hell once again. It'll screw up the schedule of every single armoured formation left in the Army, and the same crews will spend a lot of time away from home. It's another thing that might be fixed by having actual, permanent combined arms regiments that could act as "task forces", self-contained and good enough to throw at different exercises / presence tasks at the same time without messing up the entire army's force generation cycle and equipment holding in the process...

    2. You'd do it if the strategic situation required so.

  3. In terms of the Fires element assigned to each brigade, is being able to get out to 150km useful? Given the likely drone resources and the abilities of mounted recce aren't we looking at something more like being able to "see" not much more than 15km?

    I think the idea makes a tonne of sense generally, but wondering about your opinion on whether or not it'd make more sense if the precision fire element was a Brimstone platform? Not the 4 bin launcher concept seen on the AJAX chassis but something more like the 25 in an iso container/Boxer type platform.

    It seemed to me that GLMRS will be specifically keyed from Watchkeeper/Wildcat/Apache/Protector... unless there is an uplift in drone capability at lower echelons? British Army could probably do with something that fits between Desert Hawk and Watchkeeper? A catapult launched system available at battlegroup level that allows it to fill gaps between BGs and see out to 60-70km which would make having GLMRS at brigade level worth it?

  4. Whilst I feel Future Soldier has a long way to go to devlope capability through equipment delivery and upgrade, as well as defining an effective doctrine, it is a major step forward.

    Army 2020, and the attempt to correct the worst failures through 2020 refine, I believe left the British Army disorgasised and dislocated.

    A plan " written out of pure despair on the back of a paper napkin during a lunch in the mess at Andover. " would have been more preferable than Army 2020.

    The internal conflict I think was more tribal. Each arm trying to protect their own interests and a framework driven by the Army Basing programme, everyone vying for reduced funds and realestate.

    A concept of 'train together - fight together' replaced by the thought that pulling together ad hoc formations for operations would work. A structure that was hard to understand with some brigades have a few units others having many more. The combining of UK regional roles and operational roles for a single brigade HQ, a cost cutting excercise which comprimised operational focus.

    The Future Soldier at least produces a structure. Brigades are now defined by function. This must increase focus on a primary task for which doctrine can be established, training undertaken, and operational capability devloped.

    Home Command can also function more effectively in the support role. Regional Command provides vital firm base and community engagement as a primary task, not an activity that the old regional / operational brigades would have to juggle with devloping operational capability.

    The Future Soldier I feel does mean we will actually devlope the soldier lof the future, rather than seeing the demise of the operational capability of the British Army.

    1. Interesting. I don't see where the progress is, sincerely. A lot of things have just gotten much worse and Combat Teaming remains at best partial, while some of the ever fewer meaningful brigades lose their CS and CSS altogether, or end up depending 100% on the Reserves.

      I suppose that your points about Army 2020 mainly related to the fake brigades in 1st Division. 7 brigades to make 1 for 2 roulements was always... unnecessarily convoluted, yes. But it's something that could and should have been fixed internally, and years ago.
      Now the situation is generally so degraded that i wish the problem was still confined to the absurd use of brigade HQs in 1st Division... good times those, i'm tempted to say.

    2. I agree with Capt Zeus that Future Soldier makes a reasonable attempt to produce a credible force within resources available. An interesting question is if more pounds and people were made available then where would they be added to the FS structure; more enablers or more formations?

    3. The most logic thing would be to hang on to 4 RLC for 4 Light BCT, and the other missing supports, while also reducing the need for the Reserves to achieve a full ORBAT, such as in the tank regiments...

    4. Lessons from Ukraine seem to be ensuring air superiority followed by logistics, so GBAD, RLC etc. Then there's ISR (inc drones) followed by precision indirect fires. After that I'd ensure that existing planned manoeuvre formations are sufficiently survivable and lethal (Boxer into an IFV?). After that I would look at whether one of the planned light BCTs would be better as a manoeuvre support formation (e.g. strike bde without tracks), and that 1 & 3 Div units had appropriate readiness (regular vs reserves question); comfortable with SFA, 6 Div, and GRF. Finally I would then look at whether a third armoured BCT is needed. I'm guessing all that could come to 10,000 odd more regular troops (& around £2Bn extra annually?).

    5. .... and remembering of course that its Ukrainian misadventure might well leave Russia incapable of anything other that grey zone operations for a long time to come, as well as accelerating its long term decline.

  5. A reminder that the US Army is moving away from the BCT-centric model, with artillery, reconnaissance (cavalry) and engineers being regrouped at divisional level.

    That said, the British Army should follow the US Army combined-arms battalion approach, combining armour and infantry...

    1. Their Division's recce formation is not replacing the cavalry element in the BCTs, but is intended to be additional. Same for the engineers. DivArty is the only real case of centralisation, but in the Penetration Divisions also comes with 1 extra, long-range battalion with ERCA.

    2. Andrew said "British Army should follow the US Army combined-arms battalion approach, combining armour and infantry..." I'm not vehemently against permanent combined arms battalions, but bear in mind you don't get something for nothing. A UK Bde or Div commander won't necessarily look upon formed battalions or regiments as his/her unit of currency but rather the number of subunits (batteries, squadrons, companies) and tactical unit/formation HQs which can be formed into battlegroups as the tactical situation demands. Little point in having a formed 2+2 armour/ infantry battalion if Bde or Div then decides they need to form a 3+1 battlegroup to pursue an op branch or sequel, and then perhaps a 1+3.

    3. There is all the point in the world, actually, regardless of whether you might or might not need to further alter the balance once on the field. At least you would HAVE those units to begin with. As of now, you only have an Army that will cling on to infantry "battalions" with zero regard for everything else. The current structure exacerbates to the extreme possible consequences the culture of having to rob pieces from sometimes literally 13 units or more to form one which is half decent.

    4. Don't disagree with your logic, indeed I don't mind formed all arms units at all. It's just I don't think that the disadvantages of the current system are that significant in practice. It's a secondary or even tertiary matter. Far bigger fish to fry!

    5. For how i see it, it's absolutely one of the biggest problems at hand. The tribalism seems to dominate everything the army does. Survival of "the regiment" trumps survival of capabilities, and that is not how it should work.

    6. Is there any real evidence that defence of regimental cap badges is actually driving make structural decisions? Or is it perhaps a way of dismissing realities we feel unpalatable?

    7. If you have an alternative explanation for why they are calling company groups battalions rather than accept a reduction in the number of battalions and a more rational distribution of manpower that doesn't leave "brigades" like 4 Light BCT entirely missing regular CS and CSS, i'm all ears.

  6. Genuine question, but what enemy is your proposed force designed to fight?

  7. Saying that conceptual force 2035 has lost traction is perhaps a bit premature. Future Soldier essentially implemented in the 2025-30 timeframe, whereas conceptual force is looking a decade later. Plenty of time.

    1. CF(L)35 authors rewrote Newton's laws of motion. They can write that rubbish but it's not going to happen.

  8. Different subject but what's your view on this? A secret plan so secret that only has heard of it.

  9. #futurearmy 1 July 2022 ?

  10. So what do you think the extra £55 billion is going to be used on?

  11. Out of interest when's your next article? And what will be the subject?

    1. Honestly, i don't know. I'm back in full depression mode over what might come next. I liked where policy was going, but if Sunak clinches it, everything might crumble under his obsessions about debt.

  12. Hi Gabriele.
    Thanks for your very interesting articles.
    I always enjoy reading them and
    reading your comments on twitter.
    I noticed you mention the extra NATO commitments made,
    recently by the UK, and how there is simply not enough vehicles or manpower to cover these under the current plans. I agree, and maybe the 3rd armoured brigade will have to be 'reformed' to cover this?
    Also, chatting to my bootneck mate, he informs me,
    that 42 CDO had no heavy weapons troops,
    and there is no support company. So, i am assuming they don't have javelins?
    Phil, (the cynical ex pongo)

    1. 42 Cdo aren't designed to do proper fighty stuff on the ground anymore. They send smaller teams out to perform Maritime Security operations out (hence the lack of CS) so i'm guessing javelin isn't very useful to them

    2. Thanks Anonymous.
      I was highlighting this out to Gabriele, as he was working out who was getting the new launchers that have just been ordered.
      Just to add, that the other 2 CDO units, are likely to adopt there own 'special' unit structure as future commando force develops, according to my bootneck mate.
      Phil (the cynical ex pongo).

    3. Phil, enduring deployment of 2 armoured battle groups with 1 in 5 requires a pool of 10 ABG. It is difficult to see where these come from in Future Soldier. With 3 brigades of 3 ABG each, 2 in 9 might be used as below.

      Year1 Year2 Year3 Year4 ½Yr

      Op: Operational deployment
      HR: High readiness
      CT: Collective training
      IT: Individual tasks

      Forming the armoured battle groups requires companies and squadrons at different readiness levels within single units. Having permanent battle groups - Combined Arms Regiments - would be better.

    4. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree.
      I cannot see under current plans, the extra commitment made by the UK to NATO can be achieved. In my view, there is simply not enough manpower and importantly vehicles available.
      The increase in manpower could be done,
      by not making such deep cuts, but the increasing the number of vehicles, will require more money and challenger 3 numbers are a problem.
      As to combined regiments, I would like to see hybrid Armoured units, made up with mix of MBT's, personal carriers recce and over watch. Similar to US armoured cavalry.
      Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    5. Background to future commando force quite interesting. Driver to have 2 well supported commando forces actually operating in different theatres, rather than a larger traditional battlegroup sized force at readiness, but potentially a long way away, plus the ability to rapidly scale up one of the deployed forces. Result has been described by some as a 'company group', but in reality is more like an RM version of the army's Conceptual Force 35, with each deployed force coming in at WW2 Commando unit/ US Ranger Bn size but truly all arms.

  13. The Army web site is not reliable but I occasionally look at it.
    12TH ARMOURED BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM web page lists all the units given in Future Soldier minus 2 Medical Regiment plus 3 Rifles.

    The web text says the Headquarters and 11 units are under direct command. If 2 RAMC is omitted in error then that makes 11.

    A further 3 units come under command when deployed. These are presumably the 3 units at the bottom of the list: 15 Signal Regiment, 19 Regiment Royal Artillery, 26 Engineer Regiment: from respectively: 7 Signals Group, 1st Deep Recce Strike Brigade Combat Team, and 25 Engineer Group.

    1. Adding 1 Rifles makes 12 Brigade look more like 20 Brigade with 3 infantry battalions. But, the 3 battalions in 20 Brigade are all designated to receive Boxer - 1 Rifles is not. 1 Rifles is designated to go to Cyprus in 2023. Coincidently, or maybe not, 1 PWRR should go to Cyprus in 2024 so there will be one battalion from each brigade there.

    2. The web page for 12 Brigade has 3 Rifles, as I wrote on 7th Aug. Then on 10th Aug I wrote about 1 Rifles. This was a mistake.

      3 Rifles was destined to become Security Force Assistance, now apparently not.

  14. A number of important senior level statements lately:

    1) In May, the (now former) CGS was reported as saying "I’m not comfortable with an Army of just 73,000. It is too small. That was never part of our proposition going into the review." "In fact, I was working to direction that we regrow the Army to 82,000 - as we have done that successfully over the past four years." "So being limited to 73,000 people was quite a surprise - and it is a bit of an arbitrary figure because it is just a price point."

    2) In June the new CGS said "From now the Army will have a singular focus – to mobilise to meet today’s threat and thereby prevent war in Europe." "I am prepared to look again at the structure of our Army".

    3) In July the 1st Sea Lord said "You will have heard the thoughtful speech put forward by my colleague General Patrick Sanders where he sets out the Army’s need for a fundamental change in how they think and structure themselves. An Army prepared for a prolonged fight in Europe. It is a profound moment for them." "fundamentally this isn’t an either/or issue, continental or maritime. It’s both." "As the Foreign Secretary remarked two weeks ago, we need to learn the lessons of Ukraine and the importance of deterring aggression and apply them to protecting “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” "

    4) In July the defence secretary was reported as saying ""I think you would see an increase in the numbers of the army, but not necessarily where people think," "The lessons from Ukraine are … you are better off having small but perfectly formed armoured infantry units… than you are having lots and lots of vehicles with none of those protections because they just get killed on a modern battlefield."

    Debate in press largely about whether spending should be 2.5% or 3% of GDP. I suggest that given the breadcrumb trail there is quite a conversation to be had about what this would mean for the three services. One suspects any further significant monies going into the army might have a very specific European theatre feel about them, but not necessarily abandon the basics of future soldier. Of course none of this invalides Indo-Pacific ambitions with the RN/RM/RFA and RAF's ability to deploy there rapidly and to persist.

  15. So following on, it's entirely apposite for blogs like UK Armed Forces Commentary (UKAFC) and UK Land Power (UKLP) to speculate about what a bigger army might look like:

    My only caution would be assuming a bigger army naturally means more close combat manoeuvre brigades (at least in the short to medium term). Rather why not pay attention to the headline future soldier structure, with that filled out (e.g. CS, CSS) and made more robust (e.g. lethality) before attention is given to generating more formations. Unsurprisingly I think the force structures both UKAFC and UKLP suggest would demand a pre-2010 SDSR sized army.

    It would however be good to see views on what the post-Ukraine crisis British Army/RN/RAF might look like.

    1. I can't see a way to fill out the future soldier structure because there is no structure. It's not a framework, it's a pile of sticks. Every formation is different. Even the 2 armoured brigade combat teams are different from each other.

      My headline view on what the British Army should look like is 3 armoured brigades. That's 12th, 20th, & 7th with the supports assigned in future soldier. Each brigade has an armoured regiment. That's the current 3 regiments, with 42 MBT each to fit within the Challenger 3 order. Each brigade has 2 battalions with Boxer. That's 1 mechanised battalion more than future soldier but still possible within the 2 Boxer orders. I would also like to see a light mechanised battalion in each brigade.

  16. What would the light mechanised infantry battalions in the armoured formations be for?

    1. Future Soldier has one light mechanised formation, said to be "held at high readiness". In practice that may mean one high readiness battalion at any time. That battalion can be provided from the high readiness armoured formation for the same missions as a Future Soldier light mechanised (LM) battalion.

      The LM battalion can be a vanguard for the armoured formation, quickly securing critical points. For the deployed formation, the LM battalion can provide rear area security, operate on the flanks, or patrol between dispersed armoured units. In urban areas, the LM battalion might be the lead combat unit with suitable support.

      It all depends on the mission and an LM battalion gives extra flexibility to an armoured formation.

  17. I actually think that future soldier is quite a reasonable force structure for an army of 73,000 regulars, in particular the deep recce strike brigade is welcome. The big linked questions are however what's the threat and where is it, and the required army size? The answer to the former is by now pretty clear, the answer to the latter is almost certainly not 73,000 and possibly even significantly greater than 82,000.

    1. 1st Deep Reconnaissance Strike Brigade Combat Team is fundamentally not usable, having a lot of artillery and no ammunition supply. This is partially alleviated by close support artillery not deploying under 1st Deep Reconnaissance Strike Brigade Combat Team command, For example, 19 RA will deploy under 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team and have some support from 4 RLC.

      The GMLRS regiments, with no support, could launch a couple of salvos and then go home leaving the deep recce with no strike and no role.

  18. I disagree. The deep strike bde is conceived not as an independent formation but as an integral part of 3 div's deep capability. GMLRS, and successor guided weapons, have a far smaller CEP, and therefore lesser OTR (in simplified terms OTR being proportional to the square of CEP) and thus far less demanding logistics requirements than earlier MLRS 'unguided' rockets.(also an argument for 'guided' shells for tube artillery BTW). Where there is a debate to be had is whether the reliance upon the army reserve, which provides significant CSS (inc logs), has struck the right balance; all predicated upon a suitably long mobilisation period. The question here is thus regular army size versus contribution from the reserves. IMO the linking of deep recce to deep strike is fundamentally sound and one should look at how it might be enhanced.

    1. You make several points and I will try to respond with several comments that can be discussed and clarified separately.

      The defence command paper states "The new
      structure will reorganise the Army into more self-sufficient Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) able to
      meet demand by drawing on their own
      dedicated logistics and combat support units". By this definition, 1st Deep Recce Strike Brigade Combat Team is not a Brigade Combat Team, not an independent formation. The Army has been rightly criticised for the lack of dedicated support that would make a BCT. The discussion can move on.

    2. Anonymous writes: The deep strike bde is ... an integral part of 3 div's deep capability.

      As far as I can see from the Future Soldier structure, 1DRSBCT has 3 div's only deep capability.

    3. CEP is a simple measure of accuracy and alone is not a good synthetic to estimate rounds required. For example, a tented HQ is likely to require less rounds than counter battery against armoured artillery.

    4. Didn't say CEP is itself a measure of rounds needed, I said it leads to a lesser OTR which on average it does. Your example is similar to that used by proponents of retaining unguided bombs in the air force, trying desperately to hang onto their 1000 & 500Ib HEMCs; I recall one argument was area effects. Inexorably they moved to guided munitions (with a far lower logistic footprint) as the evidence became overwhelming. The exception to this was of course Russia that's now wreaking havoc, to relatively little military effect with unguided munitions. Let's just be careful we don't talk ourselves into an updated version of the past.

    5. I am not a proponent of area effects. I did not respond to your argument for guided shells for tube artillery but I agree and specifically would like to see BONUS procured by the British Army.

      You didn't say CEP is itself a measure of rounds needed but you did quote a square law reduction based on CEP. In my view that is too simplistic, too optimistic. Whatever the reduction, it is not to zero.

      That brings me back to 1DRSBCT, described better by you as deep strike bde, needing a logistics regiment. Gabriele proposed simply retaining 3 RLC. Finding the personnel is not so simple, but I am coming round to that way of thinking.

    6. After consideration, I think 1DRSBCT needs an RLC regiment more than a REME battalion. I would disband 6 REME and use the personnel allocation to retain 3 RLC.

      This is not just about personnel. Abingdon barracks are being sold and 3 & 4 RLC have to move. I would move 4 RLC to Tidworth, replacing 6 REME, to support 12 Brigade. Then 3 RLC moves to Catterick instead of 4 RLC.

  19. I did qualify by saying originally 'in simplified terms OTR being proportional to the square of CEP'. It's not always the case, however in practice it holds well when averaged over a reasonably large sample. The benefits include cost reduction (believe it or not a smaller number of expensive weapons that have higher probability of hitting can have total whole life costs less than countless unguided weapons), collateral damage minimisation and thus the ability to use when unguided would make a kinetic solution non-permissive, and significant reductions in logistics requirements.

    I agree about the logs point. What I don't know however is what scale is needed. Seem to recall that RA used to have their own drops trucks within their regts a long time ago. But deep strike also needs to think about targeting needs (e.g. UAS) and what should be OPCOM (versus OPCON) of the bde.

    1. Agree entirely on the need for accuracy both in high intensity for effect vs logs and in collatoral aspects for other ops. I think RA DROPS were in the Div GS Regts? Certainly my trg was these were something like 80% focussed on arty spt.

      In terms of targeting, I think UAS at Watchkeeper level need to handed to AAC and held in the aviation Brigades. There is an unacknowledged flight safety / airworthiness crisis in the background and those aspects will never get adequate attention in “land” brigades because the land army will never have the SQEP to understand it. So absorb into AAC and a rebranded JHC (which should also incorporate maritime helos and be under stratcom as LAND just cant manage it properly).

      It also ties them into AH to create a more flexible aviation ISTAR/fires force.

  20. Its ironic the British Army has adopted Brigade Combat Teams just as the US starts to abandon them to focus again on the Division. Except of course we havent as half of them arent actually a full team so its gibberish.

    It just shows the damage done by the “strike” groupthink and the subsequent lack of thinking / desperation for something “new” to show in the IR. Politics as ever.

    I’ve been looking at Sika/Lancer recently. They were awesome - yes a lot of tech to be developed but had we gone ahead with those the Army would have been in a fantastic place. Instead the PoS known as Ajax which needs to be eliminated. Meanwhile in the same timeframe MRAV aka Boxer was developed.

    The Army of the 1990s knew what it was doing. And then threw all of that out.

    Lessons of Ukraine do seem clear:

    1- air defence both area and short range including C-UAS. A combined HVM-cannon (and MG plus EW) system is the solution (aside to more sky sabre), probably Boxer mounted for blend of mobility, protection and capacity - call it “Starfire” or something. Reuse kit from Stormer HVM if possible. Will likely have utility in direct fire fight so not as niche specialised as present (read usless outside of air theat).

    2- artillery. light gun is good, esp for light forces so leave that alone / further improve. Get a decent SPH new if AS90 really cannot be leveraged (disapointing a UK system developed elsewhere is being abandoned). GMLRS/PSM is a Div/Corps level “operational” asset not a Brigade one (although via DAG sryle centralised Arty control must still be able to support Brigades - just not owned by them). By all means supplement with Truck mounted. Also get Brimstone ASAP for Brigade level fires, probably truck mounted also.
    (I disagree with Gabrielle - Cd and Amb are very good uses of Boxer in ensuring adequate protection and mobility for these vital functions as Ukraine have shown you are fkd without robust C2 and the morale element of properly getting wounded out) - but we do not need Boxer mounted missile fires (let alone Ajax) when 8x8/10x10 trucks can do that as HIMARS shows).

    Dont follow russian practice of too much artillery - focus on it being accurate so guide is essential. Don’t wast precious logistics moving craters around fields.

    3- infantry. The British Army’s obsession with keeping quality inf ironically pays off albeit for wrong reasons (to be fair, capbadge politcs take centre stage but speak to any infantry and they will assert the reason for keeping the Bns is because you can never have too many trained infantry for the million+1 tasks that pop up and history backs that).
    Ukraine inf has been highly effective whether IFV, APC, HUMVEE or anything providing they’ve ATGMs and effective arty spt and air defence. Russia has failed because amongst other things, it lacked Inf spt and focussed too much on “shock and awe”. I personally would like a 6x6 Foxhound variant as a Light Mech Infantry Section Veh (Foxhound is expensive I know but its UK and having been the first op users - it’s awesome! but 2+4 capacity is inefficient for an Inf Bn rifle elements) but Light Mech (or Motorised as a better name) can if properly supported by fires, clearly be hugely effective in both defence and offence.

    4- tanks. The sheer number of tank kills shows these still have a place. As in fact are the repeated Ukrainian views on Russian IFV autocannon fire being effective showing we need IFVs - and Boxer is not and cannot be that.

    So we need armd inf as we had, we need mech and light mech inf to reinforce and fill around that (noting they offer options for non high intensity conflicts also hence we need to have variety). We need accurate tube and missile fires. We need flexible gun and missile VSHORAD. We dont need an uber recce vehicle - although I would like to know much more about what Ukrainian mech/mounted recce exists and has done - but I suspect the answer is it uses the same platforms as mech / lt mech inf and heavily uses micro UAVs rather than vehicle based sensors.


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