Army 2020 Refine: The changes

Delayed post. Still it is up…

So, the news about Army 2020 Refine and the Strike Brigades is out via a written statement and the Chief of the General Staff (CGS)’s Christmas greetings video. Mind you, this is still not the full picture of either–the British Army promises to present a wider new army doctrine in January 2017. I will do a review and a short commentary of most of the corps and regiments affected. There will be a second part to this talking about the impact of Army 2020 Refine and the future firepower of the British Army.

The initial Strike Brigade and the changes to the Royal Armoured Corps

We understand from the above statement and a previous written evidence (see Q15) that one Strike Brigade will consist of “a brigade headquarters, an AJAX equipped armoured regiment; an AJAX equipped armoured cavalry regiment and two Mechanised Infantry Vehicle equipped infantry battalions; along with associated close support and combat service support units”. Looking at the written statement, the “AJAX equipped armoured regiment” will be the King’s Royal Hussars and that the “AJAX equipped armoured cavalry regiment” will be the Household Cavalry. Ajax will, as CGS mentioned in his video message, a “medium tank”. (see the message and this written evidence.)

The written statement fails to mention what will happen to the other armoured cavalry regiments. A FOIA answer and page 22 of the February edition of Soldier Magazine reveals that the Royal Dragoon Guards and the Royal Lancers will also move to the Strike Brigade Headquarters/Strike Experimentation Centre at Warminster (only KRH will be based at Bulford for some strange reason). This explicitly means there will not be any Cavalry or reconnaissance battalions for the two remaining armoured infantry brigades in Army 2020 Refine. There still might be Ajax squadrons for recee in individual Challenger 2 and Warrior Armour infantry regiments but with four regiments/battalions in for the Strike brigades they might just ‘suck up’ all ‘the Ajaxes’.

Remember, only 198 vehicles will have an armed CTA 400mm (not including the “Joint Fires Control” and “Ground Based Surveillance” versions). If you look back at the original Army 2020 plan which called for 16 Ajax and only Ajax per sabre squadron and do a little maths (not math!), you will get a perfect number for the 198 Ajax and 589 total variants. Now with two squadrons as medium armour or tank and two as reconnaissance cavalry, this most probably means a smaller number of ‘Ajaxes” per squadron. Time for a FOIA on this…

Update: A parliamentary written answer states the First (1st) Strike Brigade will now consist of the Household Cavalry Regiment, the Royal Dragoon Guards, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, and 3rd Battalion The Rifles. Funny this is not consistent with either the very first Army 2020 Refine announcement nor the FOIA answer. Will the Strike Experimentation Group consist of Household Cavalry Regiment, the Royal Dragoon Guards, 1st Battalion Scots Guards, and 3rd Battalion The Rifles or is this the composition of the Strike Experimentation Group? Which is which? Typical MOD.

Armour
With regards to the armoured regiment, well it is very sadly, that the Type 56 Challenger 2 Regiment formation will wither disappear and drop in numbers or there will be a slight increase in the number of Challenger 2s for the Royal Tank Regiment and Queen’s Royal Hussars. Challenger 2 as we know it, is undergoing a and the MOD has yet to determine which company will form the upgrade and the total number of Challenger 2s that will be upgraded is yet to be confirmed, with a possible reduction from the current number of 277. The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, the only Army Reserve unit that supports the Challenger 2 regiments, will see upgrades with each individual squadron to increase by one tank troop each. I’m not sure the RWY gains the Challenger 2 vehicle as an organic asset or only does so on training or operations. Nor am I sure under Army 2020 Refine, will they have distinct Command & Reconnaissance and Headquarter squadrons, not am I sure if they gain the Ajax vehicle which is part of the C&R squadron. So, it’s just two (2) Challenger 2 Regiments and 1 Army Reserve Challenger 2 regiment. Problems? Will examine this later.

Infantry
Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) Battalions

For Infantry, I’ll first skip down to the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) battalions. The four ‘lucky’ infantry regiments to gain the yet-unknown MIV are 1 SCOTS GDS, 3 RIFLES, 4 SCOTS and 1 YORKS. Previously, 3 Rifles was destined or was a Foxhound-equipped battalion or ‘Light Protected Mobility’ battalion. 1 YORKS was a Warrior Armoured Infantry battalion which featured much on media and social media.

What remains really is unknown is the type of vehicle for the MIV. A news article from IHS Janes on the much-awaited Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (link is now dead; you have to search for it in the archives) revealed the shortlisted “candidates” for the MIV are namely: the Finnish Patria Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV) XP variant, the French Nexter Systems VBCI, Singapore Technologies Kinetics Terrex 3, the ARTEC Boxer, the General Dynamics (GD) Piranha 5, the GD Land Systems LAV, the LAV 6.0 or the LAV 700 or the Stryker double-V-hull (SDVH). That’s quite enough for the shortlist and the top choices would be either the AMV or the Boxer. Of course, it is up to MOD Ministers and/or HM Treasury (HMT) to decide, based on suggestions from military officers–if they bother to listen. There was a Times Article saying the British Army was leaning towards the Boxer vehicle. ST’s Terrex may well be thrown out given the logistical difficulties and the compromising of Terrex by the Hong Kong or PRC authorities. But as you know, the UK could just end up with the VBCI given the Lancaster House Treaty….

The murky issue of which vehicle aside, vehicle numbers are a big concern if they want to have two MIV battalions in each STRIKE brigade. The Janes article suggests that:

…it is expected that between 300 and 350 MIV would be required with a potential initial operating capability of 2023. The vehicles will…equip two battalions from within the new Strike Brigades that the army is to form, these brigades will also include the Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicle.

Another article from Defensenews suggest that “more than 500” Boxers would be purchased as the MIV. If we are to assume the MIV battalion is the same vehicle size as the old Mastiff/Heavy Protected Mobility regiment, then it should consist of a minimum of 42 MIVs, no including support vehicles and a maximum of around 48-50 MIVs or also including support vehicles. So, for four MIV battalions, I would expect around 200 plus vehicles at the very least. The 500 plus or more figure is really ambitious, but remember a battalion requires support vehicles, namely, “other versions including a command and control (MIV-CC), ambulance (MIV-A), repair (MIV-REP) and recovery (MIV-REC)” not just the APC kind, the “MIV (MIV-PM)”. So as with STRIKE brigade structure and vehicle type, the vehicle numbers are unconfirmed.

This snippet on other variants of the MIV also brings up questions on the support company vehicles in the MIV battalion. The Janes article states that “The baseline MIV is planned to be fitted with a Kongsberg Protector RWS armed with a 12.7 mm (.50 cal) machine gun although there is potential version with a heavier armament”. That is well expected for the PM/APC version but there most likely will not be any Support vehicle that can 1) launch the L16A2 81mm mortars from the vehicle, that is, the organic mortar platoon will have to dismount to fire the mortars; 2) fire Javelin ATGMs from the vehicle 3) provide mobility for the pioneer and sniper platoons. I say this is likely despite the line from the British Army’s website “The mortar platoon, in mechanised and armoured infantry battalions, are mounted in and fire from armoured personnel carriers, increasing mobility and enabling rapid disengagement and movement to new fire positions.”

Why? Because of a snippet from that not-published-on-the-British-Army’s-website document “Combat Capability for the Future”. In page 12 of that document it says:

Heavy PM battalions will be equipped with a full spectrum of PM vehicles, including Mastiff for Rifle companies, Ridgback ambulances, Husky for CSMs and the Mortar platoon, Jackal for the Reconnaissance, Anti-Tank and Machine Gun platoons, Wolfhound for the CQMS and Panther for battlegroup headquarters.

This can also be confirmed by this Scots Guards news link. So, it appears other vehicles, currently Huskies and Jackals, will carry ATGMs and Mortars in the Mastiff/MIV battalion, not the MIV. The weapons will not be “mounted” on the vehicles, but rather, personnel have to dismount to fire them, another weak spot for a mobile regiment. One positive point worth noting is that most of these vehicles except the Ridgback will be replaced by the Multi Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P) family vehicles. According to this parliamentary reply and the answer to my FOIA, the MRV-P family will replace the rest of the above vehicles. MRV-P is another challenging no chaotic matter for another entry. But just imagine, the enemy can tell what kind of weapons will be facing them just by looking at the different vehicles rather than a unitary set. Of course, if suddenly there’s more budget and more proper foresight, they could buy a support variant for the MIV that can launch 81 mm mortars (like the Bulldog in the armoured infantry regiments) and ATGMs, preferably on the move.

Armoured Infantry Battalions

That’s quite a bit on the MIV battalions, more latter in a second part to this article. Now, the remaining Warrior armoured infantry regiments, once you manage to sift through the FOIA answer above and other social media sites are: 1 MERCIAN and 1 R WELSH under 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade and 5 Rifles and 1 RRF under 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade. Two former Warrior Armoured Infantry regiments will change; as noted 1 YORKS becomes a MIV battalion and 1 PWRR converts to a light infantry unit.

At least 245 Warrior vehicles that will or may be upgraded via the under the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) and gain the new CTA 40mm cannon. I said ‘may’ because the WCSP is well a hugely delayed project mainly because of the complexity in fitting new turrets. Other defence bloggers have written about WCSP, so I shan’t go in detail in this entry.

Specialised Infantry Group (SIG)

Army 2020 Refine brought about further focus on defence engagement with 4 infantry units designated as ‘Specialised Infantry Battalion[s] (SIBs)’. They are namely, 1 SCOTS, 4 RIFLES, 2 PWRR and 2 LANCS. They aren’t battalions per se in the normal sense but will consist of around 300 soldiers see Qs 76-77 with Companies commanded by Captain with a 2WO as 2IC and support weapon specialists in each team. So, these SIG units will as CGS Carter pointed out:

be able to go into the heart of Nigeria and be able to train a Nigerian division to go into the fight against Boko Haram…be able to train the Kurds to go and fight against Daesh in Iraq…to be able to train the Ukrainian armed forces to be able to provide an effective deterrent to Russia…

One should also note this is not a British-only move; the US Army has also formed Security Force Assistance Brigades, though these are larger in personnel number and scale. On that note, the specification of four infantry regiments under the SIG means a really low number of infantry regiments available for immediate warfare or what they call warfighting. This picture by the Facebook page, ‘Rifles Jobs’, gives you an idea of how the British Army’s infantry (regular) is today:

Army 2020 Refine Regular Infantry Units

(Take from this Facebook status.)

More about the effect of this small infantry regiments size in the next piece.

Light Infantry units no longer Light Protected Mobility
The picture above classifies the majority of the infantry units as “light infantry”. Strange you might think since the original Army 2020 plan envisioned six regiments–2 YORKS, 2 R ANG, 3 RIFLES, 3 SCOTS, 1 R IRISH and 3 RIFLES–mounted on Foxhound vehicles. Well as we know, 3 RIFLES will be mounted on MIV. Foxhound will be withdrawn from these six regiments and only to units on operations or training. This is also to cut financial costs but will allow all the light infantry units (I mean excluding 2 & 3 PARA) will all be able to mount on Foxhound; for example, 2 RGR for force protection in Kabul and 2 LANCS to Iraq. What is interesting then is the size of these light infantry units if they gain Foxhound or if they are on foot. A parliamentary answer in 2014 gives the strength of a Foxhound infantry battalion as 505 soldiers while a pure light infantry battalion’s strength would be around 501 soldiers. How will this change under Army 2020 Refine if all this infantry units can gain Foxhound vehicles? Questions again…

Army Reserve Infantry units
Army 2020, the original Army 2020, had a novel design of pairing regular army units with Territorial Army, now Army Reserve units, especially in 1st (UK) Division. With the musical chairs of Army 2020 Refine, now 3rd (UK) Division regularWarrior Armoured Infantry units will be paired with Army Reserve units, regiment by regiment. 1 FUSILIERS will be paired with 5 FUSILIERS, the latter originally paired with 3 RIFLES in the original Army 2020 plan. The rest continue as follows: 1 MERCIAN will be paired with 4 MERCIAN, 1 R WELSH will be paired 3 R WELSH and 5 RIFLES will be paired with 7 RIFLES. These Army Reserve units will undoubtedly rest under the OPCON of 3rd (UK) Division, reducing the size of 1st (UK) division. Impact to be discussed later. Other Army Reserve infantry units that see a change include the London Regiment. You can read more changes to various regiments in these links: (Fusiliers regiment and their newsletter, the Irish Regiment, and 3 R ANG. Finally, two new Army Reserve units will form, 8 Rifles and 4 PWRR but actually, their infantry companies are really just a movement of companies from other infantry regiments, see my Orbat.

Ok, on to the support units…

Royal Artillery
First off are changes to the Royal Artillery. This first appeared in a tweet from the CO of 19th Regiment, Royal Artillery. Since I doubt it is under copyright, I shall post it here:

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 1

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 1

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 2

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 2

If you can’t read it properly, I shall summarise: the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) and Exactor batteries, H Battery (Ramsay’s Troop) (from 1 RHA), 176 (Abu Klea) Battery Royal Artillery (from 19 RA) will move to 26 RA and join 132 Battery (The Bengal Rocket Troop). Together, they will form up as 26 RA’s batteries and the whole of 26 RA will be a Divisional Fires Regiment in support of all brigades in 3rd UK Division. 26 RA will lose its Tac Group battery to possibly 3 RHA. 1 RHA and 19 RA will be CS artillery regiments for the two armoured infantry brigades, only armed with AS-90 guns and possibly no TAC batteries (or maybe there will be TAC yes), see 1 RHA’s Facebook update. The AS-90 and TAC equipment from 26 RA’s AS-90 and TAC group batteries will be reinvested across the 1st Artillery Brigade regiments. It is unknown whether the AS-90 batteries from 26 RA will disband or be re-allocated under Army 2020 Refine. 101 RA will be the reserve divisional fires regiment.

Strike Brigade Artillery
3 RHA and 4RA may see a big change in terms of equipment–they may be armed with a new wheeled gun and their Tac Groups will be mounted on wheels. The bigger surprise is the 104 RA, the Army Reserve UAS regiment, will convert to a light gun brigade in 2017, leaving the 1 ISR brigade with no reserve UAS regiment.

OK at first, this announcement seemed promising. IHS Janes reported on 26 September 2016 that:

IHS Jane’s has learnt that the Royal Artillery is looking at replacement or significant improvement of all its main weapon systems, artillery and mortar locating radars, as well as its fire control communications networks…These include ‘Strike 155′, which aims to field a new wheeled or towed 155 mm artillery gun system to operate alongside the wheeled armoured vehicles of the British Army’s two new Strike Brigades…’Project Congreve’, named after the rockets used during the Napoleonic wars, is looking at how to improve, supplement or replace the Royal Artillery’s existing Lockheed Martin Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Exactor (Spike) non-line of sight missile…A new towed artillery system is also being explored to replace or supplement the BAE Systems 105 mm Light Gun…Other work under way includes examination of a New Generation Weapon Locating System to replace the Saab Mobile Artillery Monitoring Battlefield Asset (Mamba) radar, and developing fire control applications for the Morpheus communications systems that is being fielded to replace the General Dynamics Bowman system.

(note: dead like again, you have to see the article on this forum page)

So, there may be a new gun for 3 RHA, 4 RA and maybe so for the reserve regiments 103, 104 and 105 RA (and possible for the rapid reaction artillery units 7 RHA and 29 RA). A wheeled gun with 155mm would be a welcoming gift as it means better mobility and firing range. First thoughts: it could well be the CAESAR (CAmion Equipé d’un Système d’ARtillerie) gun used by the French Army, although there are other possible contenders. This wheeled gun though must be easily transportable by air, that is, via the A400M and C-17 and sea and have not such a heavy logistical footprint. If all goes well, there may be a replacement for the GMLRS and Exactor, though the former won’t OSD for a long time. The quote also says a replacement for the Mamba counter fire radar. That’s great. The announcement also said there would be new rocket artillery replacing the GMLRS and Exactor missiles. Wonderful…

Update: A new Janes article (now a dead link, or see this tweet) says that 3 RHA and 4 RA will hand over their 105mm guns to the higher 1st Artillery Brigade “and their personnel will operate from a mix of wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles”. The Strike Brigades “ill each have an artillery regiment that comprises only artillery fire observers, joint terminal attack controllers, intelligence, surveillance, targeting, acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) operators, and fire-planning staff.” (You can view the article on this forum .) This is further confirmed by the FOIA answer which states that 3 RHA and 4 RA will gain the Mastiff vehicle then MIV. The FOIA also indicates these CS artillery units will gain the Joint Fires Control variant of the Ajax vehicle. This is interesting, definitely suggesting that there will be a joint fires/artillery observation MIV variant. A facebook posts by 3 RHA provides the future Army 2020 Refine organisational structure for these Strike Brigade CS: HQ Battery, 2 x Gun batteries and 2 x TAC batteries. After the original Army 2020 plan and before Army 2020 Refine, J (Sidi Rezegh) battery of 3 RHA was trial the 4-guns-across-3-105mm-batteries trial. Apparently, it now reverts back to the ‘traditional structure’ of 6 guns across 2-gun batteries. The question still remains: What type of artillery will these two regiments get?

CS artillery for the armoured infantry brigades
I can’t immediately see the use for a rocket launcher-only artillery regiment (ie. 26 RA) and would much prefer the former Army 2020 version. The term “re-investment” or “reinvestment” is most likely a polite way of indicating cuts to the small number of AS-90 and TAC equipment. This possible drop is worsened by the fact the L118, AS-90 and GMLRS are increasingly outdated compared to several other country’s artillery systems. One small ray of news is acquiring an immersive Joint Fires training capability though this could be standard practice.

UAS/UAV
One of the most horrifying parts of the Army 2020 Refine announcement is the 32 Regiment Royal Artillery will disband in around 2021, the year when Desert Hawk III goes out of service (OSD). This means there will not be any more short-range Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) for 3rd and 1st UK Divisions, including the lead reaction force, 16 Air Assault Brigade, which depends on 21 (Gibraltar 1779-83) Air Assault Battery for UAV support. 32 RA also provides short-range UAV support to the lead battlegroup and other formations. This sad disbanding leaves the British Army with only 47 RA for long-range UAV (Watchkeeper) and 5 RA for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) work. Interestingly, a Janes article many months later stated that the British Army indicated that the British Army wished to replace the Desert Hawk III and that this would be a core theme in the 2018 Army Warfighting Experiment. So now it is a wait-and-see for the future of short-range UAVs for the British Army and a thin hope that 32 RA could still carry on after 2021.

The changing roles of royal artillery units is best summarised in this parliamentary answer. Here’s a snapshot of it:

Royal Artillery Future Roles

RLC
RLC merging with REME
The written statement stated that “a number of Royal Logistic Corps (RLC)…will be allocated to provide close support logistic support…[to the STRIKE brigade]”. The first such is 1 Regiment RLC and not mentioned in the written statement but in the FOIA, is 27 Regiment RLC. The former will merge with 1 Close Support Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) (which is originally from 102 Logistic Brigade) to form a joint RLC-REME unit (will it be battalion-sized?) that will support 1 Strike Brigade (or the SEG; can they every provide an accurate structure?!). Similarly, 27 RLC will merge with 2 CS REME (again from 102 Logistic Brigade) to provide joint logistics and mechanical repair to 1 Strike Brigade/SEG. The FOIA indicates 1 RLC and 27 RLC will see a manpower decrease of 120 and 230 respectively. In contrast, 1 CS REME will see a manpower increase by 76 and 2 CS REME by 14. It will be really interesting to see how these units join up and work in harmony. This merger might not mean the end of cap badges for the two RLC and two REME units in my view. Will they be another classic joint work just like Joint Force Harrier and Joint Force Lightning?

Other RLC units
Again, not mentioned by the written statement are changes to other RLC units. 6 RLC and 7 RLC will changed operational control (OPCON) from 102 Logistic Brigade to 101 Logistic Brigade because the former will cease to exist–again more about that in a future post. This brings in five close support logistic units into 3rd UK division. The FOIA also indicates that 9 RLC, currently under 101 Logistic Brigade, will move to Logistic Brigade. A host of reserve RLC units will also be part of the “musical chairs” of Army 2020 Refine; you can find the whole host of changes in my detailed orbat.

Other REME
The written statement further states that “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.” Cute word “rationalised”. After some re-reading, in layman’s terms it means these REME units will be DISBANDED, an ugly word, shades of SDSR 2010. But wait. The Courier article says that 102 and 106 REME will be merged together, but it doesn’t say which regular unit it will be paired or merged with. 105 REME has an update to share. The unit will NOT disband but rather “change its name to 101 Theatre Support Battalion in 2019” and “support 5 Theatre Support Battalion REME”. According to the old Army 2020 plan, 5 Force Support REME (I suppose the name will be change) was to be paired with 104 REME, the other reserve unit to be “rationalised”. The FOIA finally clarifies the issue: 101 REME will disband and merge with 105 REME, 102 REME will disband and merge with 106 REME and 103 REME will disband and merge with 104 REME, 101 REME will disband and merge with 105 REME. 5 Force Support REME, now Bn REME, will shift to 104 Logistic Brigade.

Royal Engineers
The written statement states that 35 RE will no longer carry out CS engineer role for 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade and will disband. Don’t cry yet, it will reform in name as 35 Engineer Regiment (EOD) (also mentioned at the end of the written statement). 35 RE will no longer command 29 and 37 AES–these will move to 21& 32 RE respectively (both REs will support the two Strike Brigades). Instead the ‘new’ 35 RE will command regular EOD squadrons–see my British Army Orbat for details–while some more ‘musical chairs’ shuffling will place all reserve EOD units under a ‘new’ 101 Engineer Regiment (EOD). This tweet sums it all nicely. Other changes to the Royal Engineers include the disbanding of HQ 64 Works Groups RE, which means its sub-units will have to find a new home–still not yet clear where that will be.

Medical units
The written statement said that 2 Medical Regiment will disband (let’s cut out the term “rationalised” shall we?) The remaining medical regiments are all allocated to 2 Medial Brigade which in turn will report to Force Troops Command (FTC). 3 Medical Regiment will get the honour of operating the medical variant of the MIV. Reserve medical unit and the field hospitals will also be lumped under 2 Medical Brigade, see 335 MER’s CO letter for example. Bringing all regular medical units under one main division surely has some impact–more later.

Military Police
HQ 4 RMP will disband. The FOIA gives more detailed information, stating that 4 RMP “[s]ub-units [will be transferred to 3 RMP”. In turn, 3 RMP will transfer one sub-unit to 1 RMP, which one is anyone’s guess. This actually means a shrinking size of RMP which can at best provide military police support to one division-sized unit, even in peacetime.

Army Air Corps (AAC)
Changes to the AAC aren’t mentioned in either statement or FOIA but reported in defence circles. Under the original Army 2020 plan, 3 AAC and 4 AAC would rotate to support the reaction force, their Apache squadrons splitting up each supporting the lead battlegroup and the lead commando group respectively. IHS Janes reported in February 2017 that the structure now will be 3 AAC to provide Apache support to the armoured infantry, and strike brigades of 3 (UK) Division while 4 AAC will provide support to 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade. This means neither Apache regiment will get a rest although individual squadrons will be placed on various levels of very high readiness.

A more disappointing news reported by the wider UK media, especially the Times, is that 657 Squadron, the unit that provides support to Tier 1 UK Special Forces, will disband this year (2018). It is the last Lynx unit and many expected it to convert to the Wildcat, however, it seems like cost-cutting and budget saving moves means this will not be the case. As an alternative, “a small flight of 2-4 Wildcat AH.1 helicopters” will be reserved for Special Forces duties. The other main element of the AAC, 651 Squadron, will also disband most likely due personnel shortages. The squadron’s really-critical Defender (and maybe still Islander) aircraft will be manned by RAF pilots and crew. Another impeding lost will be the Gazelle helicopter. Although not a major frontline asset, this has proven its worth in British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) and even Brunei. You can read the news here, here and here.

Royal Signals and Intelligence Corps
There is no indication in the written statement or FOIA that the Royal Signals and the Intelligence Corps units will change under Army 2020 Refine. IHS Janes, however, reported that

the Royal Signals and Intelligence Corps will be amalgamated under a shared command.

Observers believe the move is more about cost cutting than doctrine. Senior posts will be reduced, diminishing career prospects in both services.

Also stated in this news article.

This may not apply to all Royal Signals and Intelligence Corps units, but certainly has ruffled up worries of cap badges disappearing as seen here and here. Neither link, however, provides any indication what this joint unit’s organisation will be.

I think that covers it for Army 2020 Refine changes to units. I don’t think there will be any drastic change to the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department (RAChD) or the other components of the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC). Oh wait there is for the RAChD . Neither will there be for the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Royal Army Physical Training Corps and Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC). So, there you have it for the list of changes, do await the second part!

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ACM Peach as CMC: A review of senior NATO posts held by British Officers

The latest news that Air Chief Marshal Stuart as the next Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee or CMC has been hailed by journalists and watchers as a success point for Brexit and helps strengthen the UK’s position as a leading power.

This has, however, made me think back as to the UK’s personnel contribution to NATO’s military structure. The UK has, since NATO’s founding, held the number 2 position in the Headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, or Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) or Allied Commander Operations (ACO). In easier terms, it is the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe or DSACEUR for short. During much of the Cold War, a German General also held such a post alongside his British counterpart but now it is just a British four-star officer (usually from the British Army). Scarmonger and chief rumour maker for the Sunday Times Mark Hookham wrote that the British position of DSACEUR would be threatened with Brexit but that is TOTAL RUBBISH. The UK will undoubtedly hold this position unless the UK government turns ala pacifist.

Dropping down the NATO military forces structure, senior British military officers have held the positions in the NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) and the land-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). Both, like DSACEUR, have historically been UK-led commands because of NATO’s historical structure: MARCOM sort of  originated from Eastern Atlantic Command or EASTLANT which was under the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). Actually, both SACLANT and EASTLANT were four-star commands (The former UK Commander-in-Chief Fleet was the head of EASTLANT). A post-9/11 structure saw EASTLANT evolved into Allied Maritime Component Command Northwood (MCC Northwood), sharing maritime operations with what was then MCC Naples. Finally, in 2012, all NATO Maritime planning, operations and advice was centralised at MARCOM. Having stayed in the UK’s maritime area and city, MARCOM continued to be led by a Royal Navy ViceAdmiral, only one-star lower than the Commander of EASTLANT. (Update: MARCOM could have also originated from Allied Command Channel (ACCHAN), a smaller part of SACLANT and EASTLAnt).

The ARRC, formerly at Rheindalen, Germany, now based in Imjin Barracks, Innsworth, Gloucester, England, has a more British origin, originating from the last British Army warfighting corps, I (BR) Corps which was part of the British Army on the Rhine (BAOR). That unit was a major part of Northern Army Group, or NORTHTAG, the NATO army group that would defend the northern part of West Germany from any Eastern bloc attack during the Cold War. Cold War over/won, I (BR) Corps was dissolved and transformed into the ARRC. Unlike the transition from EASTLANT to MARCOM, the Commander of I (BR) Corps and eventually remained a British Army Lieutenant General. The ARRC is not the solely rapid response force for NATO; ARRC’s website states nine responses forces. ARRC also does have any active units under its control until given warning orders. Nevertheless, it is quite clearly a chief response force, especially given that the British Army is the highest quality trained land force in NATO after the US Army.

So far I’ve shown historical NATO commands that are still helmed by senior British officers. Well, the present Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) in its former namesake, Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE), deputised by an Air Chief Marshal, reporting to the Commander of AAFCE who also was the four-star United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). AAFCE at the height of the Cold War commanded two two Allied Tactical Air Forces, two and fourth. At around the time, NATO’s Southern flank also had and aerial command, AIRSOUTH, commanding two, later three other tactical Allied Tactical Air Forces. Move on to post-Cold War, there wee many NATO allied air forces but the RAF continued to hold the number two position in first Allied Forces Central Europe (see the good historian Colin Mackie or Gulabin’s record under “SENIOR ROYAL AIR FORCE APPOINTMENTS” page 77–he gives different names or see AIRCOM’s own history ), to Regional Command Allied Forces North Europe in the form of a three-star Air Marshal. Just before the formation of AIRCOM, There was Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein or HQ AC Ramstein and another NATO air command in Izmir, Turkey. I don’t think the RAF held the deputy commander’s position when AIRCOM became fully active until August 2016 when RAF Air Marshal Stuart Evans took the position. As AIRCOM’s senior leadership page states, the Deputy Commander’s position is rotated between RAF (UK) and Germany on a regular basis, the last non-British Deputy Commander actually being French Lieutenant General Dominique de Longvilliers. So unlike the Cold War and immediate post-Cold War days, the UK doesn’t dominate AIRCOM.

Moving back up to the naval commands, the Royal Navy sends a Rear Admiral to commands Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), NATO’s premier Maritime Battle-staff and the Alliance’s primary link for integrating U.S. Maritime Forces into NATO operations. This command, directly report to SACEUR, also has historical origins from Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) which commanded Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe or STRIKFORSOUTH. A quick Google search, however, reveals that the deputy commander of STRIKFORSOUTH which later became STRIKFORNATO was an American. The good Colin Mackie, under his page ROYAL NAVY SENIOR APPOINTMENTS, page 220, reveals that a Royal Navy Rear Admiral took reigns on deputy commander onwards since January 200 and remains so up to today. It should be noted that STRIKFORNATO is not the same as the disestablished NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic which was under SACLANT for decades, during and after the Cold War. That command did have a Royal Navy Commodore in charge, but possibly not since inception. Today, that position is now the Deputy Director, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence, of same Royal Navy rank.

Okay. Who else. Ah yes, the Chief of Staff, NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT). Moving back a few years, the UK once held ACT’s Deputy Commander’s position in the form of a four-star officer until July (First Admiral Sir Ian Forbes and then Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope) before the UK was ‘downgraded’ to the post of Chief of Staff. Al of this can again be found on Colin Mackie’s pdf files under : MINISTRY OF DEFENCE AND TRI-SERVICE SENIOR APPOINTMENTS page 36.

Other senior UK officers in NATO commands but not as top-level leaders include the Deputy Chief of Staff – Plans, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, currently Major General Ian Cave. Previously, a British Army Major General Rob Weighill also held this post but I’m nor sure if this post is always given to a British Army officer. The other NATO JFC, JFC Brunssum also recently has a British Army Major General Karl Ford as its Deputy Chief of Staff – Plans as of September 2017 (thanks again to Colin Mackie for the information). Is is always a case there? Not sure. Finally, the Deputy Commander to NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corp Italy or NRDC-ITA has been a British Officer, present holder is Major General Edward Smyth-Osborne, past holders include David Campbell, George Norton and Tom Beckett (all information again on Google). Colin informed me that the UK held this post as far back as 2003, starting with Major General The Honorable Seymour Monro.

As with historical commands, the UK also once held the Deputy Commander of JFC Brunssum and before that, Allied Forces Northern Europe; in fact it held the full commander’s position until January 2004. It held this deputy commander’s position until around December 2015, when its transferred to some Italian Lieutenant General. The UK also previously held the Director General of the NATO International Military Staff position, and held it several times in the past. Royal Marines Lieutenant Generals have also held the the Deputy Commander’s position in Allied Land Command (LANDCOM), specifically Lieutenant General Ed Davis and Lieutenant General Gordon Messenger, who is now full General and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. Land Command was initially Allied Land Forces South-Eastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST) but I’m unable to to find whether any previous UK officer held its deputy commander’s position. There are further other post but I won’t cover them here–mostly Brigadier posts. You can find an extensive list with no names in this parliamentary reply (which funnily forgets to include the head of the ARRC in its table) or this older one (many positions outdated or removed) or check http://www.gulabin.com (his is very messy–you have to find them in each of his pdfs.)

What is the point of all of this? Well, it mostly shows that the majority of historical NATO commands positions given to UK officers since NATO’s formation or since the Cold War are still held by UK officers today. It is definitely or mostly certain the UK will retain the DSACEUR, MARCOM Chief and ARRC positions, unless it retreats from the NATO and global role. It most likely will retain the deputy commander’s in STRIKFORNATO, despite the uncertainty over the size of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Moving down the line again, the UK could move up to ACT’s deputy commander’s position, given that it held that position, as well as previously deputy commander, SACLANT or it could just “hold the line” in the Chief of Staff.

The information above clearly shows the UK only dominates MARCOM and not the two other major NATO services commands. As noted, it once held the number 2 position in AAFCE, lost it around post-Cold War, and now holds it but on a rotational basis with Germany. That could be said to be strange, given the average state of the German Air Force or Luftwaffe (then again, choice of who leads what is also possibly independent of the state of their own armed forces). It is really sad that they UK doesn’t hold the deputy commander’s position in LANDCOM anymore, or even on of the senior leader holders. It could do so, but then this would suck away a 3-star British Army or Royal Marine officer, and lead to calls of “more officers than equipment” (more about this in a later post).

The UK never dominated JFC Naples or its predecessor so that’s ok. It sadly “vacated” the role of deputy commander in JFC Brunssum. I guess that doesn’t matter, since the UK now hold’s the role of deputy commander, Resolute Support (RS) Mission, taking over from the Italians–JFC Brunssum’s core operation is to oversee RS. JFC Naples’ on the other hand is rather long -winded; I don’t think the UK would make much of an impact holding a senior role there. As for the NRDC-ITA, the UK may hold this position until some other European nation sends its equivalent general to take over. For the wider UK appointments to different parts of NATO as mentioned in this parliamentary reply, well the UK will probably still keep those positions.

This is all 1) not considering how NATO appointments are made and 2) what impact these senior British officers can made on these commands. 1) is crucial and I’ve not bothered to go into deep research–I believe the detailed explanation would most probably negate most of what I wrote above. This goes back to ACM Peach’s appoint as NATO CMC. This appointment was and has been through a vote and the UK played it well to win it. If the other positions mentioned above are made by voting, then the UK should strategise to win core NATO post. This could be contrasted with 2) as well, remember these work for NATO, although they originate from the British Armed Forces. Certainly really top figures like DSACEUR, the head of MARCOM and ARRC shape their commands towards a bring a dose of British military ideas to them. Nevertheless, NATO commands are NATO, that is, multinational. Being British matters yes, but being NATO-ish and achieving the objectives of each NATO command and the organisation as a whole. Coming back to the role of CMC, NATO states it as “ the principal military advisor to the Secretary General and the conduit through which consensus-based advice from NATO’s 29 Chiefs of Defence is brought forward to the political decision-making bodies of NATO.“. No where does it suggest the officer uses his country’s origin to shape the Secretary General towards his/her country’s defence policies. Certainly, I haven’t seen General Petr Pavel shaping the Secretary General towards Czech Republic ideas or beliefs. So inasmuch Deborah Haynes and other defence journalists were worrying their hairs of over ACM Peach’s possible loss, NATO would still be NATO and there still would be a size of amount of British officers in NATO and dear old England, oops, the UK.

So here’s my little background of British senior officers in NATO commands, how they remain or change due to historical positions.

British Army top leadership changes

A simple post here.

The British Army under the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) Sir Nicholas Carter KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen has made several changes to the titles of senior British Army Commanders and Commands. First of, Support Command/Commander Support Command, which was the two-star command formed after the disbandment of 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions, has been renamed as Regional Command in around 2015. This command will cover the roughly the same functions of Support Command: It is the Army’s 2* HQ for the UK, Nepal and Brunei. It delivers Real Life Support to the Army and controls the UK Stations and Garrisons. It is also responsible for engagement with the civilian community and acts as the proponent for UK Operations.

Ok, just a name change, nothing special. We all like to be different.

Next up, the traditional post of Master-General of the Ordnance (MGO) has been removed/eliminated sometime after September 2012. MGO was a longstanding senior officer “responsible for all British artillery, engineers, fortifications, military supplies, transport, field hospitals and much else, and is not subordinate to the commander-in chief of the British military” ie, the CGS. In around March 2013, this post was renamed as ” Director Land Capability and Transformation” with still a seat on the Army Board but it was gone after September 2013. The reason? Not publicly stated, but I think CGS thought that post was redundant with the numerous two-star officers around. Artillery, Engineers and Field Hospitals for example were covered by the new General Officer Commanding, Force Troops Command. Fortifications don’t really exist any more and basing I think is covered by Director [of] Support, Director of Capability, Director, Service Operations, Director, Service Operations, Information Systems and Services, Director-General, Army Basing and Infrastructure (all two-star officers) and the higher Commander Home Command (more about this officer later). Or the rest covered by the higher Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) team. Military supplies and transport, well, probably covered by Chief Materiel (Army). So MGO or Director Land Capability and Transformation had really nothing to do.

Ok, another removal. Sad that a traditional post is gone? Yes, the tears and cries can still go on.

Next, another traditional post “Adjutant-general to the Forces” has also been removed. In around June 2015, the post was renamed “Commander Personnel and Support Command”/”Commander Personnel Support Command” (both are “Google-ble). This immediately made me question: What on earth is this command for and how did it differ from the role of Adjutant-general? Yours truly issued an FOIA question and got back this reply:

The 3-star level Commander Personnel Support Command will assume responsibility for the delivery elements of the Adjutant General’s portfolio: recruiting; individual training (officers and soldiers); career management and postings. The Command will therefore include the Military Secretary’s Organisation and the Army Personnel Centre, the Army Recruiting and Training Division and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. For completeness, Personnel Support Command will also include the current Support Command (to be re-titled Regional Command) to provide the Army’s institutional support, including: civil engagement; cadets; Firm Base and Garrisons; Recovery Capability; welfare; and veterans, including the Regular Reserve.

(see fully FOIA answer here)

That’s a mouthful indeed and a rather weird name compared to Adjutant-general. Like it or not, the name change happened and several news articles featured CPC (my acronym). One was about the new commander revealing artwork showcasing the British Army’s links to Scotland. Another was about the still delivering firm base support to the British Army in Germany, despite their drawdown. Yet another was reflected in the Royal Signals publication, The Wire,which showed Lieutenant General James Bashall, CPC, visiting 11th Signal Brigade and Headquarters West Midlands. There are further links referring to CPC’s activities:here, here (government site describing his role), here and here. Somehow or the other, CGS and his top team didn’t think the name Personnel [and] Support Command didn’t fit. So in yet another (pointless???) name changing exercise, it became [Commander] Home Command. There was only one news article about this command or name change (not even on the outdated British Army website), and it signified the command reached its Full Operational Capability. Ok, there are more media and social media news stories about CHC (my acronym again) here, here and here. Most interestingly, a Ministry of Defence “policy paper” listed Command Home Command as “responsible for the planning and execution of civil contingency operations within the UK landmass and territorial waters.”

What do I think about this? Well, it is a bit more than a name change here (if you read carefully). The elimination of the AG post was because “I [CGS himself] no longer have an Adjutant-General. The reason that I [CGS himself] do not have an Adjutant-General is that effectively I[CGS himself] am the Adjutant-General. (Sir Nick to the Defence Select Committee on 14 June 2016). Ok, so he as the sole four-star general wants to act as a the chief officer to all Army personnel. Then now he has a CPC sorry CHC, who controls, people, their promotion, their welfare, their basing and on top of that, engagement with the British public and overall officer in-charge of aid to civil authorities. Step back a bit: A three-star general coordinating relief efforts at home? (Well ok, Chief Joint Operations is also a three star. Even so, lots of questions remain regarding his renaming and responsibility.

Another position removed in around 2015 was “Commander Force Development and Capability” who was responsible for “for training the Army, and developing its capability, sustainability and doctrine”. Why on earth was he removed? I think the MGO, Commander Home Command and Commander Field Army (see below) had something to do with it.

Yet another change is the senior officer who controls all of the Army’s deploy-able forces. Once, there was “Commander-in-Chief, HQ Land Command” from around 1972 to 1995, a four-star post. This then still was for a full General but renamed as “Land Command”. Ok, hardly a difference but Land Command lasted for around thirteen years before becoming Land Forces. Again, not much of a chang in name, responsibility and the officer was still four-star called “Commander-in-Chief”. Then came the cuts to the big cuts to defence and after the Lord Levene report, it was just “Commander Land Forces” with the holder a three-star ie. Lieutenant General. Name change across four decades. No, no, further name change to Commander Field Army in around mid 2015. This guy, still a Lieutenant General will consist of a Command Group plus four one-star branches: Commitments and Support, based in Ramillies, Warfare and Training, based in Warminster. Or basically, he just has a bigger group under his wing but still commands a small deploy-able force.

Finally, Sir Nick decided, oh, I’m CGS and like my other colleagues, the First Sea Lord and the Chief of Air Staff, I’m now really in charge of my own budget thanks to Lord Levene. But no, let’s have another guy deputising for me when I’m away or on leave. Give it to Commander Field Army? No. So Sir Nick created a Deputy Chief of the General Staff (Deputy CGS) post, a three-star command. This holder is “[r]esponsible for representing the Army [Top Level Budget] TLB within Head Office and outwards to relevant TLBs and dependencies, provides oversight of the Army Operating Model and provides overall personnel policy direction as the Principal Personnel Officer] PPO.”

Hey Presto! You have a deputy Sir Nick! But wait, wasn’t the Levene Report meant to reduce the top-heavy leadership not increase the number of senior officers? In the other two services, neither of the two main four-stars have another deputy in this sense. Ok, Fleet Commander (who used to be a four-star Commander-in-Chief Fleet) and Deputy Commander (Operations) (who used to be junior to four-star Commander-in-Chief Air Command) are effectively the deputies for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force respectively. Neither of these two services have a “Deputy First Sea Lord” or “Deputy Chief of the Air Staff” at present (though these post use to exist. So why, Sir Nicholas Carter, did you get a deputy for yourself, even if he’s a PPO, oh wait, didn’t you yourself say you are the chief personnel officer?

Two points I wish to make here: 1) Why hasn’t the British Army explained all these recent name changes and their (new) responsibilities? 2) Nice to have new names, nice to have change, but always ask whatever for?

Women in close combat for the British Armed Forces, approved but questions remain

So the Chief of the General Staff (and possible all service chiefs, the vice chief and chief of the defence staff), along with current Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and soon to step down PM David Cameron lifted the ban of women fighting in close combat in the British Armed Forces. Ex-only-Colonel Richard Justin Kemp must be blowing his top right now.

The arguments for and against aside, it is pretty peculiar that the “test bed” for females/women (possibly even transgender ladies) is the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) and then other regiments/units. The actual quote is

This will begin by allowing women to serve in all roles within certain units of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) from November 2016. This will be reviewed after six months before being expanded to other units of the RAC…n addition to the RAC, the change in rules will eventually apply to roles in the Infantry, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force Regiment which will be opened up to women by the end of 2018.

Exactly which units of the RAC is the missing information. Maybe the new Ajax Regiments (currently operating CVRT Scimitar?) And why the RAC? Are they the most armoured regiment to protect the dear girls?

Questions remain. You can’t just use scientific data.

Doing more with less or rather higher quality

This post by the pretty famous aviation-centred geek Foxtrot Jalopnik takes a critical view of a graphic presented Contemporary Issues and Geography. The picture as show below shows a graphic or rather ORBAT of almost all or all the UK’s active military aircraft, combat, combat air support and even training.

UK military aircraft Feb 2016

UK military aircraft Feb 2016

(All rights go to http://cigeography.blogspot.fr/)

Foxtrot Jalopnik (henceforth FJ) goes on to say:

The Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm and the Army Air Corps have shrunk dramatically over the last decade, but the recent Strategic Defense and Security Review has ordered the UK begin to reinvest heavily into its air arms…Of particular note in this case is just how small the UK’s front-line fighter force is…Even the Army Air Corps helicopter transport fleet looks particularly small…

It does however end on a positive note:

This graphic will dramatically change once again in the coming decade as the F-35 is introduced into the Fleet Air Arm and RAF inventory, as well as other aircraft such as the P-8 Poseidon. Still, its unlikely that the UK’s air combat end-strength will ever look anything like it once did as recently as 2003 invasion of Iraq. Then again, the same can be said for America’s air combat aircraft inventory.

If FJ’s post could be said to be critical, the commentators below are far more acerbic. Sxay91 bring up the common swipe that previous (Labour) governments have destroyed the UK military. Buzz Killington is even more biased, using the “usual” line hat the UK (and European nations) have to spend more on welfare (than the Us, which by the way, has some sort of welfare system in certain areas) and now has to tend to (Muslim) refugees. JohnDiz cites his (possible) own experience saying that UK Special Forces needed UK rotary and aviation support (damn the Special Relationship?), FSBCyberPropagandaDivision calls the UK’s future carriers “useless” (not exactly about UK aviation) the list goes on and on. To sum up, These commentators who I guess are mostly American or Brits who want to jump on the bangwagon, agree the UK military aviation is shrinking, lousy, useless (insert your own negative adjective here).

Ok, fine, it is a small force. It’s smaller than it was during World War Two (where by the UK did get US help through the Lend-Lease Act and the wider Commonwealth), it’s a smaller force since immediate post-World War Two, it’s a small aerial force since the Falklands, Gulf War One, Operation Telic. But ok, since FJ brings up the 2003 invasion. Back then, the UK just did have the Tornado Gr4 and the classic Harrier, but it did not have the high accurate Brimstone missile. It ha only the Tornado ADV, the air defence fighter which was definitely less agile and deadly as the Eurofighter Typhoon or its USAF counterparts. In 2003, the Nimrod was was certainly in the ORBAT and in more than one squadron, but not that it was really need for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The Harrier version in Op Telic was the GR7, not the GR9. There was at best one Army Air Corps (AAC) Regiment there, but not the famous Apache. The UK used its old Lynx AH7 and Gazelle AH1s in the initially campaign. As for Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) assets, Op Tellic saw the ageing Sea King, not the Merlin helicopter.

The bottom line is, in 2003 Iraq War (or previous campaigns), the UK did have a numerically larger force of aviation assets and a larger variety. What it did not have back with those numerical quantity was quality. Today, even with a smaller FAA, AAC, and Royal Air Force, it has far better equipment and weaponry. The UK has Apaches (and soon to be upgraded AH-64s), Merlin HM2 and later HM4s, Lynx Wildcats, Eurofighter Tranche 1/2 and later versions, as well as other support and ISTAR aircraft. One most common touted weapon by politicians and the media is the Brimstone missile, used in Op Ellamy and the present Syria/Iraq campaign, Op Shader. Everyone wishes for a larger force and FJ did mention that the US aviation force is smaller than it was in Gulf War One and Two. Power doesn’t just come through quantity alone. Ok fine, quantity does matter, but as I’ve quickly shown, it matters at best with high quality.

It’s a good ideal world to have large quantities of forces, aerial, maritime or land-based. But that’s an ideal world. For now, a good quality force helps more than just a larger quantity.

NSS and SDSR 2015: My review of the military context

The National Security Review and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 has been published, rather late in the day but nevertheless published. One immediate difference from the 2010 reviews is that both the National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) are combined together. That makes a big difference, but I’ll deal with the strategy part in a later post. First, the military (which forms the defence part):

The Royal Navy:

* Senior service in the NSS and SDSR 2015 stays almost as expected.
* Major ships in surface fleet stay at the small number of 19. But only eight/8 x Type 26 Global combat Ships will be ordered, the anti-submarine variant with Sonar 2087. Five more will appear later, but possibly more with a revised version for “General Purposes”. As many point out, this goes back to the original C1 and C2 variants. Would we thus get more than thirteen/13 type 26 frigates? What exactly will this GP variant be like? Will it have Mk41 Vertical Launch Silos (VLS)? Or are they copying my old idea?
* The graphic shows “up to 6 Patrol Vessels”. Batch 2 River-Class Frigates for sure, plus HMS Clyde, plus the two more that the document (page 31) that will be ordered. I suspect these two/2 additional vessels will also be Batch 2 River-Class? So goodbye to the Batch 1 Offshoere Patrol Vessels (OPV). All seems really good–These can help patrol the Caribbean to some extent and release Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels for other more pressing commitments. It well, also means the Scottish workers have more secured jobs for a while. Lucky them.
* No mention of other patrol vessels, especial the Gibraltar Squadron. Will there be any change?
* Only twelve/12 Mine-counter measure vessels are specified in the graphic, down from the fifteen/15 the Royal Navy has at present. No mention if these are the Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) future variant, though they are likely to be. That’s ok but only if they can extend their reach to the present commitments–the MENA area–or possibly elsewhere.
* Goodbye HMS Ocean. No mention in the graphic or elsewhere. Instead, “We will enhance a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier to support this amphibious capability.” That, as I and many others point out, is not a practical use of the QEC but well has to be.
* The LPDs and LSDs will stay, ok.
* No mention of the Point-Class Ro-Ros, but they will likely stay.
* No mention of the Merlin HM4/Mk4 variants, oh wait, they put that under the Army graphic. Typo or just saying it’s Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) controlled?
* Royal Marines with Arctic capability. Well, not exactly new; they have operated in Norway for a long time.
* Six/6 Fleet Tankers. Is this four/4 Tide-Class tankers plus the two/2 Wave-Class fuel and support tankers/support ships? Will the Wave-Class ships be replaced in the distant future? Ok, not a worry.
* Three/3 Fleet Solid Support Ships. At present it is RFA Fort Victoria, RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Fort Austin. Will Fort Rosalie and Fort Austin be replaced by newer Solid Support Ships, again built in South Korea?
* No mention of a replacement for RFA Argus and RFA Diligence. So sad though you did say it it was to be considered. Liar.
* Likely or most likely no change in the number of Merlin HM2/MK2 ASW/ASAC helicopters. Which you know, means a tight Tailored Air Group (TAG). Boo…
*Type 45s may be part of a future Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
* Not forgetting the Queen-Elizabeth Class Carriers. Still no confirmation how they will operate, especially with HMS Ocean going away. The TAG is questionable even with the 138 F-35B order which will arise only in the distant future. There are still questions regarding the order. For example, this report says “It means the UK will have 24 F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft available on its two new aircraft carriers by 2023.” Does that mean 24 on one operational carrier or 24×2 = 48 on both carriers? Let’s take it as 24 on HMS Queen Elizabeth. What about the 138-24 others (besides OCU and OEU?) As Justin Bronk points out, could they be the A version?
* Of course, Successor-class, that is the SSBNs will be procured. The submarines that cannot do anything.

British Army:

* The Army 2020 model is no more; it is Army 2025. Instead of the austerity-linked but nice plan by General Sir Nicholas Carter (see this), the Army 2025 plan alters the Reaction and Adaptable Forces. Now there will be two/2 x Armoured Infantry (AI) Brigades, down from 3 from the original plan and a change from the typical division size. Wait, two/2 “Strike Brigades” that that could quickly deploy anywhere with independent logistical footprint.
* Strike Brigades?! They want to draw in the 589 Ajax (SCOUT SV) Brigades to form these brigades. But Ajax was to be for the original 3 AI brigades, not playing with a new fantasy fleet concept. What will these Strike Brigades consist of? Say one of the existing AIs and one brigade from the Adaptable Force (AF), maybe 7th Infantry Brigade. What else besides Ajax? Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) formerly UV, formerly FRES UV. Ok. But what else? How on earth are they independent in terms of logistics? And if you need to deploy a division, will the Strike Brigade (single) become a AI?
* A further question: What happens to the third Challenger 2 Armour regiment with these Strike Brigades? Will the disband/stay in suspended animation or will they be re-organised into the two other AI brigades? Good that Challenger 2 LEP will continue but well tank’s gun is outdated.
* Warrior CSP will continue–will all the six/6 Armoured Infantry battalions get the CTA 40mm gun?
* Upgraded helicopters–expected, nothing new.
* “Two innovative brigades comprising a mix of Regulars and specialist capabilities from the Reserves able to contribute to our strategic communications, tackle hybrid warfare and deliver better battlefield intelligence.” From the AF brigades? What will these be? MRV-P centred?
* 16 Air Assault Brigade stays but any change?
* Field Hospitals stay in the Joint Force (Command). See below.
* No mention of the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (ABSV).
* No mention of upgrades or replacement for the Defender planes or Gazelle.
* No core mention of MIV and MRV-P and other key projects that will replace soon to OSD assets.
* Of course, the magical 77th Brigade will remain as a soft-power enabler.
* Hey look, Commander Land Forces is now Commander Field Army. Great priority change.

The Royal Air Force

* It gains the most as it did in the 2010 SDSR. Junior Service wins.
* 20 “Protector” RPAS, basically MQ-9 Repear upgraded. Not new, announced before.
* Nine/9 PBoeing P-8 Poseidon, the expensive US MPA, to be based at RAF Lossiemouth. The usual cheers around, and it shows how incorrect Mark Hookham is. But 1) They wont appear instantly; 2) RAF and the Royal Navy have no air-launched Harpoons left so they can’t conduct ASuW 3) UK Stingray torpedoes and MK 11 depth charges need to be integrated onboard. Its “overland surveillance capability” is questionable.
* Amazingly, Sentinel R1, the formerly to-be-scrapped aircraft, will stay on “into the next decade”. Possibly they will help the P-8s or act as interim aircraft until the P-8s reach Full Operational Capability (FOC).
* They “el-cheapo: Shadow R1 will stay on until 2030. Really not bad for a propeller plane that could be taken up be Defender (theoretically). And the UK will get two more of them, bringing the total to eight.
* Sentry E-3 and the Rivet Joint (not Air Seeker!!!) stay on till 2035. Any upgrades darling?
* Hey, you didn’t want to keep the C-130s before. Hey! You are keeping 14 of the J models. Plus still aiming for 22 A400Ms plus just only 8 C-17ERs. Suddenly there’s the money to keep the C-130s? Ok, the Special Forces are really happy. More on that later…
* Along with the P-8s and keeping of Sentinel R1, you get this new drone that “will fly at the very edge of the earth’s atmosphere and allow us to observe our adversaries for weeks on end”. As Beth Stevenson points out, it is likely to be the “Airbus Defence & Space Zephyr high-altitude pseudo-satellite”.
* T1 Typhoons to form additional 2 x Squadrons, but only around 12 planes each, down from the 13-15 as seen in FOIAs like this. It is yet to be seen where they will be based given that RAF Lossiemouth will be choked full of planes.
* F-35s as above. But with the great projected order, isn’t it time to given all light blues and all dark blues to Squadrons and dark blue FAA Squadrons?
* Voyager Fleet: You get Cameron Fore One or PM Force One. Save money, give prestige it works out well. But please UK, don’t abuse it.
* The Future UCAV research project with France will continue. Yay..

Joint Forces (Command):

* Special Forces will get the most high-tech equipment. But with a shrunken active force, you would (still) struggle to get enough people to operate this. More later…
* Will you even have enough reserve special forces personnel?
* Joint Force Command, particularly, PJHQ, will get more stars (my FOIA). With a shrunken force, don’t try a top-heavy leadership. Won’t sound out well with the lower ranks.
* Space Operations Centre–a mouthful. For non-military means as well?
* How much effort will be place on cyber, since it is a Tier One threat?

Larger questions:

* So much of the SDSR and NSS is on equipment. How about personnel shortfalls? Getting women and minorities into the armed forces is only one bit to gain strength. You won’t get enough personnel for these major high tech assets–the carriers, the surface ships, the submarines, the F-35s, the additional Typhoons, the Army units etc. Personnel shortages hasn’t but must be addressed.
* When will the new equipment and assets be ready?
* Buying Yank stuff. Do you have a plan if prices increase?
* Will you really spend 2% of GDP on Defence and ho much contingency money is there?
* Any plans to increase, not alter, the personnel size? Or will you make cuts to unit strengths? No use claiming to have a division-sized force when the companies or battalions are under-sized.
* Will the joint model between departments (not JFC), ie. DFID, FCO, improve?
* How much change will there be for this Joint Force 2025 between now and 2020?

Next up, reviewing the Strategy…

PS: Did I miss anything out?

What you will likely and may not get from SDSR 2015

I never like rumours or hearsay but I guess it’s not harm jumping on the pre-Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015 bandwagon.

What will likely be mentioned (in terms of Strategy and Security):

Strategy:

* Government will mean 2% of Gross National Product/Income (GDP/GDNI) of spending on defence.
* Budget (for maybe just equipment) will rise to rise in real terms – 0.5% above inflation – every year during the Parliament (as stated previously in the July 2015 Budget statement )
* NATO will be the core alliance the UK will work with for eternity (or for the super long term), not the European Union (EU)
* Government will also mean the (oudated) Official Development Assistance aka foreign aid target of 0.7% of GDP.
* Focus will be on core areas such as the Middle East (Daesh/ISIS/ISIL), Africa (North and Central)
* Falklands Garrison will stay with no immediate change
* US will be the main strategic ally
* Lancaster House treaty will continue
* Focus will be on value for money–efficiency savings as MOD budget is not ringfenced–but value for strong output
*Linking to above, people such as the Reserves will play a core role in Future Force 2020

In terms of armed forces:

Royal Navy:

* 2 Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers will be built
* The Type 26 Global Combat Ship/frigate will be built
* 4 x Successor Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear) (SSBNs) will be built to retain the UK’s strategic deterrent.
* 7 x Astute Ship Submersible Nuclear (SSN) Astute-Class boats
* 3 x River-Class Batch 2 Patrol Boats (likely to replace the older 3 Batch 1 boats)
* The Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) will be considered to replace current Mine-countermeasure vessels
* Merlin and Wildcat numbers will remain
* The Response Force Task Group (RFTG) annual COUGAR deployments will continue, with either Queen Elizabeth-Class carrier joining the RFTG post-2020.
* Unmanned aircraft, surface craft (USV) and undersea craft (UUV) will form the main R&D projects in the future Royal Navy

British Army:

* Army 2020 will continue with some unit changes and some units changing barracks. All units in Germany will return to the UK.
* Ajax (formerly SCOUT SV) production and numbers will continue and stay the same.
* Warrior upgrades aka Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) will continue, except that only 245 of them will receive the CTA 40mm gun/cannon (see this article). That is, not all of the six Army 2020 armoured infantry vehicles will gain the new gun/cannon
* Money will be set aside for the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (former Utility Vehicle, former FRES UV) and the Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P) programmes.
* 50 Apaches will be upgraded to the E version.

Royal Air Force:

* 20 new “Protector” Remotely-Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) will be acquired, a double of the existing number. Basically, updated version of the MQ-9 Reaper.
* F-35Bs will be purchased.
* Trance 1 (T1) Typhoons will be retained to create additional Typhoon Squadrons for UK Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). Tranche 2 and 3 aircraft will thus be free for air-to-ground operations (that is, Operation Shader) (see this link)
* Sentinel R1 aircraft will be replaced.
* Other Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft to be upgraded, except the E-3s.

Joint Forces:

* The range of UK Special Forces will gain new equipment.See this news article
* There will be a Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA), not just a new Maritime Patrol aircraft. (see again this link
* Cyber defences will be strengthened, and the Joint Cyber Reserve will be a key part of this.
* The 77th Brigade (I put this under Joint since it consider of personnel from all services and civilians from other ministerial departments join it) will be a create part of soft power or mechanisms to stabilise or prevent conflict.

These are some of the top issues and assets you may get from SDSR 2015. What you MAY NOT GET or MOST LIKELY WON’T GET:

Strategy:

* Government will not have spare cash or large amount of spare cash to boost the Defence budget beyond 2% of GDP. It may gain funds from the Treasury Reserve, the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). The MOD may not have enough money to contribute to the Deployed Military Activity Pool (DMAP), which is a contingency fund within the CSSF, used to support the UK’s emerging in-year security, diplomatic and aid priorities.
* The UK may not, and has not recently been, the second highly country with the largest number of deployed troops in NATO. This level will unlikely be an issue in SDSR 2015.
* The UK will have to depend largely on the US and France should it find itself in a Iraq (Gulf War I mean) or Afghanistan-style conflict. Daesh seems to creating one. SDSR 2015 may not throw in money or personnel into this.
* Personnel shortages may be addressed but not solved in the short or long-term. It would mean lots of equipment without people to operate. More below.
* Chasing targets like 2% and 0.7% would be lots of changing goalposts and a fixation on money not quality. No change in SDSR 2015 for sure.

In terms of armed forces:

Royal Navy:

* SDSR 2015 will not increase personnel strength so that both carriers will operate simultaneously. In fact, snippets indicate that only 450 more sailors will be added to the Royal Navy’s strength. It might mean that HMS Queen Elizabeth won’t operate at full strength, even minus air group. One carrier at all times will most definitely be in port aka extended readiness.
* There will be no definitely confirmation that 13 Type 26 frigates will be ordered. Mybe there could be, but in “drips and draps”.
* There might be, as there always has been, delays to the Astute SSNs boats coming into service. Same with the never to be used Successor SSBNs.
* HMS Ocean may not or never be replaced as a like-for-like. The Royal Navy will have to depend on an aircraft carrier as a strike carrier and a LPH.
* The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) eldery ships may not be replaced like-for-like.
* The Royal Navy may only end up with the 3 new River-Class Batch 2 ships and HMS Clyde with the Batch 1 ships decommissioned early.
* The MHC project may be delayed.
* Not change in the Merlin HM2/MK2 numbers, so not enough for ASAC and carrier-based ASW roles.
* 809 NAS may have more RAF pilots than Fleet Air Arm (FAA) pilots

British Army:

* No change to Army 2020 in terms of units and personnel. Big adverse implications for units and the Special Forces–see below.
* There may be some removal of 2*s aka Major-Generals or even 1*s Brgadiers who don’t command units. But the Army may still be top-heavy.
* Army Command will change–Deputy CGGS and Commander Personnel Support Command, but that means more money for top commanders not units.
* Challenger 2 will be updated but may not improved or replaced anytime soon unlike this report. So this report is more likely.
* MIV and MRV-P may not appear in the short term.
* No change in CTA turrets or guns/cannon numbers.

Royal Air Force:

* No large order of F-35B aircraft. The orders may likely be in “drips and draps”.
* AMRAAMs may be kept in the long term and there may not be larger numbers of Meteor missile produced or ordered.
* As noted above, there may not be upgrades for all UK ISTAR aircraft or C2 aircraft such as the E-3 which is critical for QRA an operations.
* RAF may end up with more aircraft and still not solving its manpower shortage. This might affect not just the manned aircraft but the 20 new Protectors.

Joint Forces:

* The MMA or at least MPA will not be the highly expensive yet operational P-8 Poseidon. The yet unknown aircraft may not appear in the short term (say 2-4 years) after it is announced.
* The Joint Cyber Reserve may not likely become a full cyber unit despite cyber threats being a Tier 1 threat as identity in the 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS).
* Special Forces will et their new equipment but with the shrunken Army 2020 and Future Force 2020, the various SF units may not be at full strength.

So there you have it folks!!! We wait the announcement around 1530 UK time 23 November 2015.