The Security Assistance Group, now the 77th Brigade Part 1

Well everybody across the 30th January-1st February 2015 weekend was (on social and normal media) talking about #twittertroops or the 77/77th Brigade, supposedly a “new unit”. So many have been wondering why should the “Chindits” unit be revived, why create a unit under Army 2020 (which was formed in 2013). Why use twitter/social media?

The fact is it is NOT A UNIT ABOUT Psychological Warfare, depsite what idiots on Wikipedia say it is. this is just a re-branding/re-naming of the Security Assistance Group (SAG), which was formed on 1 September 2014 and located under the new Force Troops Command. Below are a series of links related to the SAG/77th Brigade and its sub-units. Anyway, let’s take a look at the 77 Brigade units and I hope to argue its critical importance in UK defence  and security policy here, unlike what Tango Delta and its readers assert.

The 77th Brigade, former the SAG, officially consists of:

Headquarters Element
The Media Operations Group (MOG)
The Security Capacity Building Team (SCBT)
15 Psychological Operations Group (15 POG)
Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG)

Page 4 of the 2012 Army 2020 brochure shows that the SAG then was (and quite correctly) is a “regiment”-sized unit (it is shown with the III NATO symbol).
According to page 8 of this newsletter, it is commanded by a  1 * (Brigadier), with a headquarters (HQ) “41 military personnel (16 Officers, 16 SNCO, and 9 ORs).” The MSSG will have 60 military personnel (20 Officers, 40 ORs). A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by yours truly (yes me!) revealed closer details about each of the sub-units. As of October 2014, there are only 50 personnel in the HQ element (which means it is still understaffed), 50 in the 15 POG, 50 in the MOG, 10 in the SCBT, and 120. The FOIA replied stated these numbers will increase as the sub-units and the entire unit forms up.

The first and probably biggest question is: What is the 77th Brigade/SAG for? The Force Troops Command FTC) website states that:

Building on the recent cross-Whitehall International Defence Engagement and Building Stability Overseas Strategies, the Security Assistance Group (SAG) will have close links with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Stabilisation Unit.

General Role of the 77th Brigade/SAG

The Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) refers to this 2011 policy paper produced by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID). Basically BSOS is a general outline on how the UK will deal with conflict states/failed states or war zones. It is quite obvious that the FCO and DFID would be involved in preventing or solving any conflict state. The MOD, much to the displeasure of warfighting troops, has to be involvement in conflict destabilisation/stabilisation. Conflicts or growing conflicts such as Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq War I and II (yes both Gulf Wars), Afghanistan and even the Israel-Palestinian Conflict have included non-conventional actors. Battles or objectives are no longer just about militaries or armed forces verses each other. Battles are not not won by just hard aggressive force but also through information deception or the loose term of “psychological warfare”. In proper academic circles, it is the usage of “soft power”.

After all, page 27 FTC media release (another possibly fake document) mentioned the term soft power in relation to the then SAG. “[It] will deliver the application of Soft Power at the strategic and operational levels and soft effects at the tactical level…[the] SAG will provide Force elements to Reaction and Adaptable forces, and be the principal Defence partner for the Stabilisation Unit at the tactical level, contributing to the Coalition, Joint, inter-agency, inter-governmental and Multinational Approach.” In this manner the SAG is your MOD/Army tool to help secure, stabilise and rebuild societies, regions and even countries (if you want to use the layman’s terminology). This FTC release also stated at the intelligence-centred Land Intelligence Fusion Centre will be linked to it via a small section, possibly through the HQ element.

If the above paragraph still doesn’t sufficient describe the 77th Brigade, now the SAG, you should read pages 119, 121-122 of the 2014 British Army Journal gives probably the most detailed information on the SAG (then). Page 119 says the unit will be be focal point for levers of soft power (see the term again!) or persistent “engagement”. Pages 121-122 is a article by the CO of the SAG, then Colonel Alastair Aitken (now Brigadier). Aitken stresses how the boundaries between regular, irregular, political, economic and social activities have been blurred. As in the paragraph above, Aitken indicates the Army needs to address the blurred lines in order to gain the upper hand. A unit, and thus the SAG, is needed to deter pre-conflict events and post-conflict actions for the long term. Aitken also notes that the SAG will not operate with just its sub-units but with FTC’s 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade (1 ISR Brigade), especially 21 and 23 SAS Regiments, the new Human, Environment, Reconnaissance and Analysis (HERA) patrols.

These paragraphs thus show that the SAG and now the 77th Brigade is not a unit for psychological warfare, no matter what some on wikipedia or the mainstream or social media claim it to be. Yes, as shown above and below, several of the units are dedicated to psychological warfare, but this is not their only goal nor is it the primary mission of 77th Brigade. The unit is to aid in the mission of stabilisation. To further substantiate this point, the next section delves into the roles and part of the histories of 77th Brigade’s sub-units.

Update 1: A parliamentary written question by MP Jim Shannon finally revealed the role of the 77th Brigade. Minister Mark Francois stated that:

“77th Brigade is the new name for the Security Assistance Group. Its continuing role includes:
Providing support, in conjunction with other Government agencies, to efforts to build stability overseas and to wider defence diplomacy and overseas engagement;
Leading on Special Influence Methods, including providing information on activities, key leader engagement, operations security and media engagement;
Military capacity-building at various stages in the cycle of conflict, through mentoring, support and training, including providing training support to Force Elements to enable delivery of security assistance tasks.
There will be 440 military posts in 77th Brigade.”

Quite simply then, the Brigade is the renaming of the SAG and continues its stated objectives. IT IS NOT A UNIT FOR FACEBOOK WARRIORS OR JUST PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS.

Update 2: MP Kevan Jones asked about the number of reserves in the 77th Brigade. Answer by Julian Brazier:

“As the reorganisation of this formation is taking place, we do not yet have any figures for recruitment but at 1 January 2015, there were 160 members of the Army Reserve (Group A) in the Units that make up the 77th Brigade.
We intend to expand the number of Reservists to 235, some 53% of the total.”

End of Part 1

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Musings of the Foxhound Regiments/Battalions

Towards the end of the Afghanistan Campaign, the British Army fielded the Foxhound or Force Protection Ocelot vehicle as one of its final means to protect personnel from Taliban/insurgent Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). In its 2012 Army 2020 brochure, Foxhound was stated to be part of the 1st (United Kingdom) Division or the Adaptable Force (AF). In total, six infantry regiments would become Light Protected Mobility Regiments, with troops primarily mounted in these vehicles (more details below). Each of them will be paired with an Army Reserve (AR) (formerly Territorial Army) battalion. These Light Protected Mobility Battalions will be :

1) 2 YORKS, paired with 4 YORKS (4th Infantry Brigade)

2) 2 R ANGLIAN, paired with 3 R ANGLIAN (7th Infantry Brigade)

3) 1 R IRISH, paired with 2 R IRISH (7th Infantry Brigade)

4) 1 WELSH GUARDS, paired with 3 R WELSH (or any of the Guards regiments on rotation) (11th Infantry Brigade)

5) 3 RIFLES, paired with 5 RRF (51st Infantry Brigade)

6) 3 SCOTS, paired with 7 SCOTS (51st Infantry Brigade)

Now, the 2012 brochure gave only a vague idea idea what a Foxhound/Light Protected Mobility Battalion would be like. It showed the generic Infantry structure: 3 Rifle Companies, 1 Support Company, and missing but needed, a Headquarters company. That’s fine. Yet, unlike the Armoured Infantry (Warrior) and Heavy Protected Mobility Regiments, no number of vehicles per Rifle Company is specified. (These mentioned regiments have the long standing 14 vehicles per regiment). The Foxhound/Light Protected Mobility unit is a new British Army unit. Looking at the not-so-updated armedforces.co.uk website (see this), there is no former equivalent to a Light Protected Mobility Infantry unit. The Warrior Armoured Infantry remains, and the Mechanised Infantry Regiments/Bulldog Regiments will be the Heavy Protected Mobility/Mastiff unit. Each of these will have a basic 14 vehicles per Rifle Company. But there is no stated number in the 2012 or 2013 Army 2020 brochures/documents.

There was a MOD news article that stated more Foxhounds were purchased, bringing the total to 400. There could be less in service, as there usually are with British Army/MOD numbers. But let’s assume for the moment that there are enough for all six regiments (excluding the paired AR units). Let’s do Assumption 1: 14 Foxhounds per Rifle Company. That means plus Support and HQ Companies, multiply by six, say about 300 needed. That rests comfortable within the 400 figure. But wait, this ignores the number of personnel in each Foxhound Rifle Company. A 3 September 2012 written question by the very active Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Angus Robertson revealed a rough number for Army 2020 units. Foxhound battalions would have 581 men. However, this number includes “All unit strengths include other arms attached to the units such as Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps, Adjutant General Corps (Staff and Personnel Support), Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Army Physical Training Corps and Royal Army Chaplains Department personnel.” Another written question by the same MP revealed a figure of 505 men, excluding personnel from other branches.

Now, the official General Dynamics Lands Systems (GDLS) Ocelot or Foxhound and the Army Recognition datasheet says a Foxhound Protected Patrol Variant/Vehicle (PPV) seats a 2 (driver and commander) and 4 troops/personnel/passengers. I assume with confidence Army 2020’s Foxhound regiments will be the PPV variant and not the recce or utility variant (perhaps these still will be used). Now, one section in the British Army’s infantry consist of eight men, although a Warrior armoured infantry section is seven (eight I guess if you counted the vehicle commander .) A Mastiff 2/3 can hold up to eight soliders, but I’m guessing it will be seven like with the Warrior section vehicle. (It might be less, since the Combat Capability for the Future document said 30 men in 4 Mastiffs.). Given a 2+4 configuration for the Foxhound, that covers half to three-quarters of a section, depending if you consider the driver and the vehicle commander as part of the section. There would be at least two to four soldiers missing, possibly making it two (2) foxhounds per section, meaning at least six (6) Foxhounds per platoon. Giving that there might be only two platoons of Regular Army platoons per Rifle Company (if we trust the Combat Capability document.).

That means at least 18 Foxhounds per Company, 54 per Rifle Company…that will almost burst the 400 vehicle mark. So ok, 1 Foxhound is 1 infantry section of 6 soldiers the most. Maybe the driver may have to dismount for close combat operations–I can’t imagine the section being just five men! So that reduces to three (3) Foxhounds per platoon, six (6) per Rifle Company, 18 per battalion (excluding Support Companies), and at least 108 for all six regiments. That’s not bad.

I’m not sure if the AR platoon joining each Rifle Company will mount on a Foxhound or a maybe a RWMIK (Revised Weapons Mounted Installation Kit) vehicle (which sits only three.). Nah, could be be a Foxhound. I can’t imagine them “torturing” the AR platoon by making them walk…There is still a fourth Regular Army Platoon in each Rifle Company, but its not mounted on Foxhounds. Instead as the 2 YORKS November 2014 update states, the third platoon in each Rifle Company will be a re-roled as a machine gun platoon (“re-roling the third platoon in each rifle coy as a machine gun platoon”). Following from the Combat Capability document, this machine gun platoon (possibly using the Heavy Machine Gun while the normal Foxhound gets a GPMG) will be mounted on RWMIK vehicles.

This mention of AR platoon shows that the The Foxhound Light Protected Mobility unit is unique and one of the distinguishing features of the Army 2020 concept. The Army Reserve ORBAT shows that AR infantry units will contain three companies, down from four. Beyond just providing a platoon to Foxhound they have to provide “sections to Support company [platoons]”. This is very general–is it one section of AR troops to the assault pioneer, reconnaissance, sniper, mortar and anti-tank (Javelin) platoons, or some of these units. This pairing would mean an increase in the overall Foxhound Light Protected Mobility unit to beyond the basic 505 or 585 figure.

This of course assumes that the AR infantry units attached to the regular Foxhound units are at full (100 %) staffing. As noted above, I can’t see the AR platoons/personnel walking on foot while the regular army guys (and girls) ride on Foxhounds and other vehicles. After all, the Combat Capability document states “Initially, all PM vehicles will be held in the Regular [Light Protected] battalions but as capability increases it may become possible to transfer elements to Reserve units.” So maybe they will get to ride on Foxhounds. But more crucially, the AR personnel have to be there to fill the gaps. Foxhound or no Foxhound, or even if there’s no other vehicles like the Ridgeback or Husky , the AR troops numbers must be there, especially for the Support Company. I can’t imagine deployments where there aren’t enough pioneers, reece, sniper, mortar, or anti-tank troops. (If there’s no AR Rifle platoon no so bad, since there’s 2 x Foxhound platoons and 1 x machine platoon in the regular force.)

I wish the British Army updates it’s website to inform interested people like me on the Foxhound Light Protected Mobility battalion.

SCOUT SV: Are (my) numbers correct?

I know this is news from last year but its been bugging me again lately. The much delayed Future Rapid Effects Systems (FRES) (Scout Vehicle) (SV) became the SCOUT SV and finally had a contract signed last year. The Coalition Government of course used it as a sign to say they were really spending on and focused on defence. What is interesting, or more interesting to military nuts are the exact break down of numbers. The good old JANES.com website broke down :

589 SCOUT SV vehicles to be built for the British Army.

244 of the turreted Scout SVs, which holds a three-man crew, in three variations: 198 Reconnaissance and Strike variants, designed to operate as armoured cavalry; 23 Joint Fire Control variants, for use by artillery forward observers; and 24 Ground Based Surveillance variants, equipped with a man-portable radar system.

The remaining orders are for the [Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support] (PMRS) type, which holds a crew of two and four passengers. These include: 59 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) variants; 112 Command and Control (C2) variants; 34 Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch variants; and 51 Engineer Reconnaissance variants, which have specialist engineering equipment but cannot carry dismounts.

Another 88 engineering vehicles based on the PMRS type have been ordered for use by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). These comprise 38 Recovery Variants, designed to recover and tow damaged vehicles, and 50 Repair vehicles to support the remainder of the fleet in the field. The Recovery variant holds a three-person crew, with space for a fourth, while the Repair variant carries a four-man crew.

 

 

What has been bugging me are whether the numbers above match the numbers for the Army 2020 units, especially those in the Reaction Force (RF). Let’s look at the turreted and PMRS types, including the cutely named Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch variants. The old 2012 Army 2020 brochure, 1 x Armoured Cavalry Regiment (Reconnaissance Regiment in the RF) is suppose to have 3 x Sabre Squadrons of 16 vehicles each, and a Command and Support Squadron. The no longer posted on the British Army website, possibly a fake article, Combat Capability for the future, provides a more detailed ( or perhaps too detailed) organisation of the Army 2020 Calvary Regiment. The Document states that:

Each Armoured Cavalry regiment will be structured around three Sabre squadrons, optimised for reconnaissance tasks, a Command and Support squadron and a Headquarters squadron. The Sabre squadrons will have three Reconnaissance troops, each with four vehicles, and a Support troop. The Command and Support squadron will contain three Guided Weapons troops and a Surveillance troop (p.4)

Working on this “information”, it means that 1 Troop will have 4 x SCOUT SV turreted vehicles. 3 Troops, 12 x SCOUT SV (this excludes the Support Troop, which will be covered shortly). 3 Troops (excluding the Support Troop) makes 1 x Squadron. 3 x Sabre Squadrons makes 1 Armoured Cavalry regiment, or 36 SCOUT SVs. Multiply that by another 3 (the total number of Armoured Cavalry regiments in the Reaction Force), and you get 108 SCOUT SVs. But that’s not all the trurrets SCOUT SVs. The Command and Reconnaissance Squadron of the Challenger 3 Type 56 Regiments also have reece vehicles. So far as I can gather, there are 8 of them (Scimitars CVR(T) at present then SCOUT SV). So 8 x 3/4 Type 56 Regiments (including the Army Reserve Royal Wessex Yeomanry). This means 108 + 32 or 108 + 24 meaning, 140 or 132 turreted SCOUT SV.

SCOUT SV (turreted version), according to the Combat Capability for the future document, also is found in the Reconnaissance Platoon in the Support Company of Warrior Armoured Infantry Battalions (see this link). The link says 8 x recce vehicles, so with 6 armoured infantry battalions, that means another 48 x turreted SCOUT SV vehicles allocated. This brings the total to 140+48= 188 turret vehicles, or if you ignore the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, that means 180 vehicles. Against the total order of 198 matches. Of course, the Battation HQ squadrons in each regiment would probably get 2 or 3 turreted vehicles, meaning 189 or 197 active turreted vehicles.

Let’s skip down to the cutely named “Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support (PMRS)” units. The 2012 Army 2020 plan and its final 2013 version gave the impression that 1 armoured cavalry squadron would have 16 turreted SCOUT SVs. We now know from the unofficial Combat Capability for the future document that there is 1 Support Troop in each squadron. This is similar to this old layout, where there are 4 x Spartan Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) vehicles in a support troop. It is therefore inferred that there are 4 x PMRS vehicles in each support troop. That means for a full regiment, 12 PMRS. And for all three cavalry regiments, 36 x PMRS. With and order of 59, that 23 for spares, training, etc. (Perhaps they will still be allocated amongst the RF units). Or do any PMRS vehicles go to the HQ Squadron of the Armoured Cavalry units (HQ meaning HQ Squadron not the Battalion HQ).

That’s ok for the moment. But there’s still the Command & Support (C&S) Squadron vehicles to worry about. The old ORBAT by armedforces.co.uk says “Expect the Command and Support Squadron to include a ground surveillance troop, a TACP/FAC party and an NBC protection troop in addition to the normal command and control elements.” Well, I don’t think the Army 2020 ORBAT or even present ORBAT includes a NBC troop. Instead, the Combat Capability report says “[the] Command and Support squadron will contain three Guided Weapons troops and a Surveillance troop“. Now, within the PMRS numbers ordered, there’s also another variant with an even cuter name–the “Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch (my acronym FRO)” variant. Official sources have not identified what a FRO does or contains, but chatter online by “experts” say that it is for anti-tank personnel, or colloquially, Javelin troops.

Now, the order is for 34 FRO PMRS vehicles. With a total of 9 Guided Weapons Troops amongst the 3 cavalry regiments, that would be either 27 FRO PMRS (3 SCOUT SV vehicles per troop) or 18 FRO PMRS (2 vehicles per troop). It can’t be 4 vehicles as per the old ORBAT where there were 4 x Striker CVR(T)s, because that would demand a total 36 FRO PMRS, 2 more than the total order of 34. These suggested numbers mind you just over the “Guided Weapons Troops”. There’s the “Surveillance Troops”, one per C&S squadron. In the CVR(T) world, I’m not sure which of the variants were used as ground surveillance, or whether that existed. But the SCOUT SV ordered “24 Ground Based Surveillance variants” under the turreted version. With 3 “Surveillance Troops” in the RF, that means around 12-18 surveillance variants. (What exactly is ground surveillance will be ignored for now, I may write another short entry on it). It should be noted that the surveillance variant comes under the turreted group. I don’t believe that type of SCOUT SV would have both the CTA 40mm gun and a man-portable radar. Perhaps the gun part will be a dummy gun.

Any other numbers? 112 Command and Control PMRS. That’s a mouthful, covering enough for the RF 3rd (United Kingdom) Division core regiments/battalions, and possibly even 101 Logistic Brigade Regular Army units, if you spread them out. SCOUT SV weighs a pretty heavy basic weight of 38 tonnes, but the PMRS version sits four (4), one more than thePanther Command Liaison Vehicle, which it will definitely replace in the RF units. So that’s a plus, even though 4 personnel in my view is still to small for a C2 vehicle. Then there’s “51 Engineer Reconnaissance variants”, most likely going to the Close Support Engineer units in 8 Engineer Brigade under Force Troops Command. If you divide equally, that might man around 15 such Engineer variants in operation amongst 22, 26, 35 Engineer Regiments. Finally, 88 PMRS types for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). There are distinct REME units in 101 Logistic Brigade, and REME Light Aid Detachments (LADs) in the armoured cavalry, armour and warrior armoured infantry and even heavy protect mobility units. These 38 Recovery Variants and 50 Repair vehicles could either be spread between the REME units and the LADs or just stay in the REME units. 88 such vehicles should be just sufficient for the RF.

Anything else? 23 Joint Fires Control variants, again under the turreted variant. Divide by the close support artillery regiments, say about 7 such vehicles per regiment, again the gun as a dummy. One missing variant is the ambulance variant. Some debate whether there could be a SCOUT SV ambulance variant, but it has to hold more than 4 personnel and needs medics inside. 38 tonnes is rather heavy for a medical armoured vehicle. Others say that the future medical vehicle could be from the yet-to-be finalised Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (Warrior without turret) or (in my view) from the FRES/SCOUT Utility Vehicle (UV) variant.

In any case, I hope my numbers are correct.