Does the UK need a Designated Survivor?

tweet by Larissa Brown, the defence editor/journalist from the Daily Mail, started of a serious and playful discussion, with other like-minded journalists thinking they could be Designated Survivors. But seriously, does the UK need a Designated Survivor?

What is a Designated Survivor (DS)?

Mr Wikipedia and Mr Google have lots of information, sometimes exaggerated or inaccurate on this phrase. Anyway, such a term or individual arises in the United States, most notably during the State of the Union Address or a full joint session of Congress and all senior US Government officials including the President of the United States (POTUS). One cabinet member, usually one with a low/minority post and a ‘true-blue’ Presidential Candidate individual–that is, above 35 and USA born–will not attend the glorious session but be kept in an unknown bunker, with a host of Secret Service Agents and a copy of the nuclear football. Should, God forbid, POTUS and or the Congress be killed by a nuclear warhead or warheads or terrorist bomb or end of the world device, this individual will be the acting POTUS. The US of A still has a leader. See this news article for instance and the list of US Cabinet Secretaries who failed to attend the State of the Union Address.

How about the British Context?

A general answer is no, from quick checks, there is no DS equivalent for major UK events, say the State Opening of Parliament. However, in the above twitter thread, this tweet answered that the “Vice Chamberlain of the Household …is the parliamentary ‘hostage’ for the State Opening of Parliament”. Ok yes, by convention, the Vice Chamberlain of the Household, who is is a senior whip, is held captive in Buckingham Palace, that is, he or she does not attending the event. But, there is no clear suggestion that the Vice Chamberlain of the Household will assume the role of acting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, should the presiding Prime Minister, again God forbid, be incapacitated or killed out right during this event or other major events. My good contact, @TheSecurocrat provided his view here, which may be a closer answer but still leaves the debate open.

Back to the question: Isn’t this a worry for the British leadership?

Yes, some may say. Tensions are high right now, threats are coming from Russia, global terrorism and other areas of extremism. The current threat level, as of this post on 21/4/2018, is severe, one level before there is an imminent attack. Should there really be an attack on the senior leadership of the UK, who will replace the PM immediately? Who would advise on leading the country or even detail a retaliation against adversary, perhaps even ordering a SLBM strike from the SSBN on patrol?

The answer, even before the UK gained a nuclear power, is, we don’t know for certain. The UK does not have a fixed constitution like other countries, rather, it is an ‘ uncodified constitution’. The reigning monarch, will ask the winning leader from the British General Election to form a government and that leader becomes the Prime Minister. There is no set deputy or vice to Prime Minister of the day. The 2011 Cabinet Manual, specifically paragraph 3.11, states:

The title of Deputy Prime Minister [DPM] is sometimes given to a senior minister in the Government, for example the deputy leader of the party in government or the leader of the smaller party in a coalition. The role of the Deputy Prime Minister is sometimes combined with other roles, but responsibilities will vary according to the circumstances….The fact that a person has the title of Deputy Prime Minister does not constrain the Sovereign’s power to appoint a successor to a Prime Minister.

The first and last line assets that a) there is no compulsory position for a UK DPM for any PM and b) the Sovereign appoints the next UK Prime Minster and all Prime Ministers even if there is a DPM. The again is the same for the ‘senior’ position of First Secretary of State (Cabinet Manual, 3.12). In the US, it is clear that if the POTUS is impeached, ill, or has passed away, the Vice President assumes his position or in the case of the major events, the DS. This naturally leads to critics wondering again: Should the PM be unfit (eg be medically ill or sick) or really murdered, who will take his or her place? The PM after all, directs the nation, the UK’s position globally, and especially the armed forces. Well, looking down in the history of British PMs, some had Deputy Prime Ministers like Churchill, Atlee, Eden, Macmillian, Thatcher, Major, Blair and of course, Cameron, naturally appointed a DPM from another political party given his coalition government. Macmillian, Wilson, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron all also had First Secretaries of State, many of these were also DPMs before. For PMs without a clear DPM or First Secretary of State, they do still have a designated ‘deputy’, who appears prominently during Prime Ministers Questions when their boss is away. For example, Harriet Harman deputised for Gordon Brown in March 2009. In the case where there’s no clear deputy mentioned by the PM or found by the media, the deputy is usually the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

But really, does the UK need to copy the US and have a Designated Survivor during major events? One must realise that the DS in the US (and maybe in Russia and in China) isn’t just the leader-in-waiting during high-profile events, but part of the wider US Continuity of Government (COG) plan. This link gives a very detailed description of COG and COG is used almost daily, especially when the POTUS travels abroad. A US DS, as mentioned above, will be next to the nuclear football, formally known as the Presidential Emergency Satchel. He or she will be explained by the Football Carrier and possibly nearby senior military officers, the evacuation procedures and quite possibly, the range of targets for a nuclear attack or counterattack using ICBMs, SLBMs, B-2, B-52 bombers and in the future, B-21s. He or she will direct US Armed Forces, the US finances and the the whole might of the US nation after the elected POTUS. This is so because the US, whatever crises or wars it has been through, is still a reigning superpower and COG allows such power to be maintained and therefore a DS plays a crucial part in it.

What about the UK? The UK is not a mighty superpower it once was but is a P5 member on the UN Security Council, a leading member of the World Bank and the IMF, the G7.8/20 and so on. Yet, it nothing on the scale of the US, Russia or China, even as it should not falter in its efforts of being a major power. What I mean is, the UK does not, inasmuch as it tries, match might of the US of A. It does not have a nuclear triad like the US, Russia or China, and therefore there officially does not exist a UK equivalent of the nuclear football for any UK PM. The UK doesn’t have the range of conventional and strategic command and control a US POTUS or DS has or will have respectively. I mean, there is no UK equivalent of the E-6 Mercury or E-4 E4 Advanced Airborne Command Post for the  UK PM. The British PM does not even have a dedicated Air Force One like a POTUS has–don’t try to argue that the Cam or May Force One is the same as the VC-25s!

So really, the DS is not about one person but a range of assurances that yes, whatever happens to the US, there will always be a POTUS for the US of A. For the UK, its government, military/defence, economic and position it not near the size of US to warrant a constant COG. Yes, US COG doesn’t just happen at certain times but 24/7. The POTUS always has nuclear football near here 24/7/365, and people in the US line of succession are always kept in the loop. The UK, in contrast, again has a different and smaller range of leadership and global position and does not have a need for a person to standby to be PM. Having a DS or fixed individual ready to be PM would be not just a political waste, but a financial waste–the maintenance of a the US CG and DS must be really expensive and such expenditure would be better allocated to other areas of UK security. Furthermore, to create a UK DS or fixed deputy or vice PM, it would change the UK’s relationship with other major global powers and even increase the security threats to the UK. In the case of the US, because of its nuclear triad and range of powers, it can maintain a COG and a DS as it does not really change the threat levels towards the US. (This I know is debatable but I’ll leave it here.)

COG and DS usage in reality and well fiction

But, critics cry again, there have been times the UK and US leadership has been threaten and several US Presidents have been assassinated, most famously John F Kennedy. Recent files showed that the Soviets feared a random US General might have launched a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union immediately after his death. COG was more recently used in the September 11 attacks. Richard Clarke, the then National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, initiated COG, which resulted in the then Speaker of the House, Denis Hastert, evacuated to a secure location and other Cabinet officials moved to alternative sites. (Read Clarke R. A, 2004, Against all Enemies, The Free Press, paperback version pp.7-9). Most recently, in fiction, Tom Kirkman, played by actor Kiefer Sutherland, was elevated from Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to POTUS due to an (spoilers!) American terrorist attack during the State of the Union address. If the ‘leader of the Free World’ can be threatened or killed, what about the UK PM?

A Designated Survivor in fiction: Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) as the sudden President of the United States. This is most definitely the TV series Brown was watching and therefore tweeted about it. (All copyright is own by ABC).

On the UK end, luckily and maybe unluckily, there was only one British PM, Spencer Perceval who was assassinated in office. More well-known attempts on British PMs were the IRA attacks on the 1984 Conservative Party Conference in Brighton and the 1991 IRA mortar on 10 Downing Street. I don’t think Perceval had a deputy then or there was really need for the British leadership then to have a DS. Margaret Thatcher most certainly had a deputy, but it was not sure if she had a DS but most probably had a UK type of COG  during her Premiership. (I’m sure there are historians who know more about UK government protective procedures during the Cold War days since I’m not an expert on this.)

Much more recently, after the Cold War, after the September 11 attacks, after the 2003 Iraq War, yes, there was an attempt to structure the British Cabinet and parliament so that there would be a line of succession after the PM. This award goes to Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, who wondered what would happen if the then Prime Minister, David Cameron would be incapacitated or killed. Would Nick Clegg, the then Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Liberal Democrat leader, take over the coalition government which was Conservative Party-led? Drop your “morbid fascination” was the parliamentary reply from Clegg and the then PM. Cameron also added, “[a]ll I can say is that I have no plans to be incapacitated.” Bone still was undeterred and proposed this Prime Minister (Replacement) bill two years later, structuring who would be Prime Minister should the sitting PM be incapacitated or killed. You can review a debate of the bill here. Thankfully, Mr Cameron never got injured (only struck by a jogger) or killed in office. Bone continued to raise this issue with David Cameron again in September 2015 who would replace him if he was was killed. No answer. At present, Bone is still a MP today and still has this bill in mind as of 5 September 2017. One wonders if he will ask Theresa May the same question, give that she has not appointed a DPM or First Secretary of State after Damian Green resigned.

So that’s the recent history of attempts on the lives the British PM. There’s no fictional TV series or movie about British Designated Survivors (I could be wrong though). Do we still worry who will be in charge should there be a disaster or a London has fallen event? (I actually hate that movie by the way.) After 2010, there was the creation of the UK National Security Council which is ministers-staff and has sub-committees on threats and emergency procedures, so that all Ministers work in coordination and known what to do in the event of emergencies. But who does the rest of the wider UK government and armed forces trust during a huge disaster/strike?

In the 1997 action movie Air Force One, the Vice President asks: Who do they [people on Air Force One] trust up there? Who do we trust? (Picture copyright by Columbia Pictures)


A UK-style Designated Survivor for large important events such as the State Opening of Parliament or major events may be relevant. Yet, the UK’s military, economic and political in the the world is not the same as the US of A, and one must remember the Designated Survivor is a position within the wider scope of the constant US Continuity of Government. The UK may have its own version COG, but keeping a DS for events will be costly and quite frankly not needed. Across the UK’s parliamentary and Prime Minister’s history, it has survived through not just State Opening of Parliaments, but two World Wars and a range of other crises. Get a fixed deputy in charge? No,the Prime Minister of the day is decided and appointed by his or her Majesty.

Mr Peter Bone’s queries and plan, as thoughtful and relevant as it is, was more to ensure that no one individual who is not related to the Conservative Party replaces Cameron or May, not so much caring for a true UK-style Designated Survivor. The British Armed Forces, inasmuch as it is under civilian control, looks to the Sovereign of the day as their Commander-in-Chief. In the case of any crisis or emergency, I am sure all participants, from the military to down to the person in the street, will have a PM or leader in charge. Perhaps one day, there will be a changed role for the UK globally and thus a constitutional change that requires an awaiting person to be PM if and if the Prime Minister is insane, injured or killed. As of British political history and now, there is just no need for a Designated Survivor or a US-style Continuity of Government.


Army 2020 Refine: My views

In Part One, I listed out the structural changes or unit changes that are occurring under the Army 2020 Refine plan. In this part, I give my perspectives on the changes in the whole Army 2020 Refine plan and how it might affect the British Army or HM Armed Forces as a hole.

1) Army 2020 Refine, however it is phrased, is about cost-cutting and efficiency. They claim that “continue to sustain a regular Army of 82,000, a whole force of 112,000 regular and reserve troops” and that “existing regimental cap badges will be retained”. Yet, it is a distinct fact that units “rationalised” means units cut and a limitation in power projection. This plan may not be as harsh as the retrenchments during SDSR 2010 and the original Army 2020 plan, but still further reduces the overall combat scope of the British Army. Of course, such personnel shifts and unit disbanding could be said to be due to recruitment challenges as a result of either system problems or low morale. Whatever the reason, it should be stated publicly that Army 2020 Refine plan is about cutting and reducing firepower, inasmuch as that would generate constant criticism. Politicians and leaders should definitely not hide behind the usual soundbites.

2) This smaller-sized British Army is reflected through the placing of the bulk of British army units in 3rd Division or what they call the Reaction Force. The original Army 2020 plane separately out the only two British Army Divisions–3rd Division as the Reaction Force and 1st Division as the Adaptable Force. Despite 3rd Division being the division that could conduction major land warfare, 1st Division’s structure could still be argued to be worthy as a ‘warfighting’ division, with of course from Force Troops Command (FTC). Under Army 2020 Refine, 102nd Logistic Brigade disbands and several Army Reserve units and regular army units get transferred over to 3rd Division, essentially removing 1st Division’s CS and CSS capability and reducing it to a hodge-podge of units only for commitments other than war. Even if deployed as a whole, which is highly unlikely, 1st Division would not be able to successfully contain a given area without assistance from 3rd Division or allied support. This risky move of really place all units in one basket, that is, 3rd Division, negatively affects the image of the British Army as a whole.

Army 2020 Refine indicates that even with “a whole force of 112,000 regular and reserve troops”, the UK can only produce one division-sized unit for defence or external operations, whether just British or allied operations, especially if allocated to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). Second, it means the British Army can only sustain this size for a shorter period of time than say under the original Army 2020 plan, possibly complicating operations as a whole. It further will cause criticism on social media, the wider mainstream media and the British people when they realise that the mighty British Army, after Brexit, and facing what are deemed as state-based threats, is fighting with just one division-sized force.

3) Army 2020 Refine places too much hope/trust on the Ajax vehicle, once titled Scout SV. This vehicle has its origins from the Future Rapid Effects System programme and in turn the whole search for British Army medium weight capability. There has been much criticism and praise over the Ajax by commentators such as Think Defence so I shan’t repeat it over here. What I’m pointing towards the the constant praise by senior military figures like CGS or UK politicians over this vehicle–see for example how many times the Ajax vehicle was hailed by UK parliamentarians or the constant emphasis on AJAX by CGS in this . It does have its strengths over veteran British Army tracked vehicles, but as defence commentators point out, placing it as a ‘medium tank’ and as a tracked vehicle mixed with the wheeled MIV (now revealed as Boxer) isn’t a wise decision. Senior figures should realise one new vehicle is not the golden rod or mighty sword for the future British Army.

4) The new Reaction Force design also places much emphasis on the Strike Brigade concept. Beyond the problems of mixing tracked and wheeled vehicles, the exact question is more about full potential or firepower of this brigade. For starters, as pointed out above, the Ajax vehicle, armed at best with a 40mm cannon, cannot really be act as a ‘medium tank’. At best yes, it can counter light to somewhat medium armoured vehicles but not high-end adversaries, definitely not the Armata MBT and its associated vehicles. As noted in my earlier entry, the CS and CSS areas of the Strike Brigade are still missing, placing the exact effectiveness of the brigade or brigades in doubt.

A distinct example is the grouping of all the GMLRS batteries in 26 RA under Army 2020 Refine. This may be similar to the US Army’s Field Artillery Brigades (formerly Fires Brigades), but more importantly, there is a lack clarity what future vehicle would replace the M270. Also, 26 RA in the future will provide fire support for both the Armoured Infantry (AI) brigades and the Strike brigades. In that case, will it have all tracked rocket batteries, all wheeled rocket batteries or half wheeled and half tracked units? Will the MOD purchase the M142 HIMARS as a possible replacement? Recently, 38 (Seringapatam) Battery, a TAC battery under 19 RA disbanded. With TAC batteries disappearing across all the key CS RA regiments, how can 1st Artillery Brigade successfully provide fire support to the two types of brigades in 3rd Division? Also, what sort of engineering vehicles will support the Strike Brigades? Will they continue to use the current range of Royal Engineers and Argus, the Engineering variant of Ajax, or will there a wheeled engineering variant from the MIV?

5) Following suit, the focus on creating Strike Brigades indicates that two remaining Armoured Infantry (AI) brigades will lose their organic reconnaissance battalions/regiments; all the Scimitar-to-Ajax regiments get transferred over to the Strike Brigades. Don’t start crying yet as there still might be Ajax reece vehicles left in the AI brigades–there might be some Ajax vehicles in the Challenger 2 Regiment Command and Reconnaissance squadrons and similarly in the recce troops in the four remaining Warrior AI regiments. However, it extremely daring for the Army 2020 Refine planners to remove the organic reconnaissance regiment from the AI brigades. This naturally means almost no dedicated scouting units at the brigade-level, reducing the commander’s intelligence ability in the field. Oh yeah, they will say that British forces would harness the use of allied reconnaissance units during operations. However, it is definitely more reassuring for AI brigades to operate with their own dedicated scouting unit rather than depend on allied support which still may be alien to them, despite years  of interoperability. There may be some method in their madness in this planning, that is, just depending on squadron or troop-level scouting units, but it is clearly not stated on paper. Perhaps the AI Brigades will ‘share’ the reconnaissance regiment/battalion from the Strike Brigade but that again is a big question mark. What have the planners actually devised?

6) Back to the Strike Brigade: Another novel idea for the Strike Brigades is for two RLC brigades to merge with two REME brigades to provide a mega CSS brigade. This is clearly a move to reduce costs and/or improve efficiency despite all the claims it helps meet the rapid deployment of the Strike Brigades. The first major question is how exactly will it be structured given that (supposedly) no cap badges will be lost? Second, there are undoubtedly be two Lieutenant Colonels in each RLC and REME unit–will both act as co-commanders or will one lose his post? Third, how will the sub-units within this merged unit appear like? Will some sub-units disband as a result?

7) The removal or disbanding of 32 Regiment Royal Artillery means that the whole of Field Army (funky name for a small one warfighting division force) will lose a short to medium range UAV for ISTAR capability. This is extremely damaging especially since they removed the platoon-level Black Hornet from service in 2017. Once again, this disbanding could be attributed to low recruitment and troop retention levels in this regiment, but you don’t throw away a good axe just because you can’t sharpen it well. A Janes report said they are looking for a replacement for Desert Hawk III but that is not a confirmation there will actually be a replacement. Therefore, the British Army or what they term as ‘Joint Force 2025’ will be stuck with Reaper, later Protector and the the much-delayed Watchkeeper as Unmanned ISTAR in the future. Update: Protector’s in-service date has also been pushed back to 2024. Yours truly made a FOI request and learnt that they have not decided if the batteries in 32 RA will actually disband/placed in suspended animation. This still does not provide any comfort that there will be an organic medium-range UAV capability at all. Yours truly also asked about the personnel strength and established strength of 32 RA before Army 2020 Refine was announced. The answer was 509 for the former and 550 for the later. This doesn’t really suggest that 32 RA was slated to disband because of low personnel recruitment. In any case, the loss or impending loss is definitely a big worry, again indicating that Army 2020 Refine reduces the capability of the future British Army.

8) Before Army 2020 Refine, there were several equipment projects run by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S)  that were aimed to create a more lethal British Army. As in the case of many big corporations, there are always ineffective and delayed projects. Unlike such corporations, such delayed projects do cause massive worry amongst defence analysts and commentators likely yours truly and should worry senior military leaders and politicians. A core example is the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project (WCSP) which has been marked Amber/Red in the
latest Major Project Portfolio Data Report. WCSP is critical for the two future AI brigades but its delay or constant delays could mean the two AI brigades would operation 1980s-type Warrior vehicles well into the middle of the 21st Century. The Major Project Portfolio Data Report also indicate that the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (ABSV) was removed from the WCSP. ABSV is crucial vehicle–basically a turretless Warrior that would serve as a mortar-carrying vehicle replacing the FV430 Mk3 Bulldog and a medical variant for the remaining two armoured medical regiments as well as perform other support roles–think something like the US Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. This removal of the ABSV (also see the difference in the 2015 and 2016 Defence Equipment Plans) opens queries about the fire support or medical evacuation for the two remaining AI brigades. The last known information is that Bulldog has an out of service date of 2030. Surely the British Army isn’t going to stick with a nearly fifty year old vehicle into any future operation?

9) From the rise of Strike Brigades, gutted AI brigades and equipment delays, there is also the question about the simple structure of the Field Army (again a terrible name for a small force). What has not widely broadcast since 2015 is that 42nd Infantry Brigade is no longer a brigade but a Regional Point of Command (RPoC) under British Army Regional Command (the brigade was ‘removed’ in around late 2017). The full name is simply Headquarters Northwest (all this information is via a FOI again). That thus reduces the number of brigades under 1 Division by one, leaving 4th 7th, 11th, 38th, 51st and 160th Infantry Brigades. Yet, they want to have two Strike Brigades, meaning they have to ‘move’ a HQ from 1st Division into 3rd Division. That would leave 1st Division with only five brigades. At the same time, they want a Specialised Infantry Group–that is currently command by a 1-star officer according to Gulabin. So what will be the formal title of the second Strike Brigade and/or Strike Experimentation Brigade and how many brigades will there actually be in 1st Division? Update: the question is partly answered here but if 4th Brigade remains in 1st Division, then a new brigade name must be allocated to the second strike brigade.

10) Re the Specialised Infantry Battalions/Group: This is a really novel idea, which eases the burden of regular British Armed Forces units from training other weak militaries (or may not since). The SIG/SIB isn’t just a British Army concept; the US Army for example has its Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB) and aims to create six such SFABs. The first main problem, however, is that creating SIBs for the British Army or 1st Division or the Adaptable Force further reduces the number of active regular infantry units. Look at the image below:

Army 2020 Refine Regular Infantry Units

(Take from The Rifles twitter account)

The number of armoured infantry (Warrior) units have been reduced to 4 (originally 6 under the original Army 2020, the MIV units increase from 3 to 4, the Light Protected Mobility concept has been removed, and crucially, the number of light infantry units decrease by 4 (not counting the air assault infantry but including the Gurkha Rifles regiments). This means 1) there won’t be enough light infantry units to sustain a major COIN conflict like OP HERRICK, 2) there will be a smaller pool of infantry soldiers to choose from for the Special Air Service and 3) again, the lethality of 1st Division has diminished. This re-structuring might improve recruitment for the specific regiments that produce the SIBs, namely: The Rifles, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Princes of Wales Royal Regiment and the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. This however is not certain.The second problem is how effective the SIB/SIGs will actually be in training foreign armies. In my view, these defence engaging units should no just be infantry units but a host of infantry, signals, engineers and other CS units so that the armed forces targeted are not just trained in simple infantry.

11) As noted in my previous article, there are no more Light Protected Mobility Regiments; instead infantry regiments on operations will receive the Foxhound and perhaps the MRV-P Group 2 vehicle only if necessary. Again, this is for the increasing efficiency and save up money. It is not exactly a wise move, as it means all the light infantry units will have to be trained to operate the Foxhound/MRV-P. Perhaps there will be massive training for all but that would result in a) shifting personnel to a particular training ground b) spending more money that was otherwise allocated for saving. Also, if any light infantry regiment/battalion can be allocated such a vehicle, are there enough drivers in each battalion? I made a FOI request (yes, you can see that I love sending FOIs) and got the answer that a light infantry unit under Army 2020 Refine will have a strength of 628 soldiers, not including attached personnel. Will these battalions gain attached drivers (likely from the RLC) or will the drivers come from amongst the 628 soldiers?

12) Again, due to the “piling” of CS, CSS and Army Reserve units in 3rd Division, 1st Division is ’emptied out’, with basically scattered light cavalry and light infantry units. This was already the case in Army 2020, and Army 2020 Refine hasn’t improved the sub-unit structure at all. As before, the majority of light cavalry and light infantry units are located in 4th, 7th and 51st brigades, while the others are just scattered in the remaining brigades. With the ‘demise’ of 42nd Infantry Brigade, this again really means 1st Division is constrained in fielding whole brigades for operations, even simple peacekeeping or HADR. My suggestions on how to re-structure 1st Division can be seen below.

13) There are many excellent qualities of the Wildcat AH1 reconnaissance helicopter but there can be much more for it in terms in firepower. It’s naval counterpart will be armed with two missile variants: the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) FASGW(L) or what they call the Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) or Martlet and the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) FASGW(H) or Sea Venom. If you look at Think Defence’s article, LMM does have a ground-launch capability and can penetrate extremely-light armoured vehicles and useful to take out buildings. As I see it, the British Army could expand the Wildcat AH1’s capabilties by including a missile launcher and similar load of LMMs as with the naval variant, the Wildcat HMA2. They must work with DE&S and DSTL to re-structure the LMM into an air-to-ground missile. This would provide some form of additional strike capability for the Army Air Corps, freeing up the 50 Apache Es on actual anti-armour duty. LMM might even be a future air-to-air missile to shoot down UAVs but give the Wildcat some missile capability first.

14) 16 Air Assault Brigade (16 AA) comes under Commander Field Army’s operational control now and there was no actual specific mention of it in Army 2020 Refine, well indirectly we know that 21 (Gibraltar 1779-83) Air Assault Battery might disband, leaving 16 AA with out a reconnaissance UAV. 16 AA seems to be partnering with allied forces since 2010, namely from across the pond and across the English Channel. This partnership could be expanded. Suggestions for 16 AA detailed below.

15) The whole set of senior officers for a future army aimed at 82,000 soldiers is still too many. I do not subscribe to Andrew Mark Dorman’s weird idea of putting Captains instead of Majors in charge of Rifle Companies, but seriously, even post-Levene, more reforms are needed to balance the number of high-ranking officers and British Army positions.

My recommendations for Army 2020 Refine and the Modernising Defence Programme:

A big note: As you might gather, besides listing the Orbats of the three main services, I don’t like to play the role of a ‘keyboard warrior’, inasmuch as I’m a junior defence commentators. I know some defence commentators are such as have fantasy ideas of what the British Army and Armed Forces should look like but I’m not like them. I a good spirit, I shan’t name them but you can problem guess who. Anyway, here are my not-play-fantasy-fleet (or should it be army?) recommendations and I should also say I submitted these to the Modernising Defence Programme consultation.

1. The Army 2020 Refine plan/exercise is about cutting the size of the Army and the government should be clear about this. The original Army 2020 plan was much better in terms of structure and lethality.
2. Even if the MOD/British Army wishes to place the bulk of units in 3rd Division, it should not just have a single warfighting division. This is quite insulting for the UK as a NATO member and one claiming to have a very close relationship with the US.
3. 1st Division should still be classified as a warfighting division, with 3 RHA and 4 RA still tasked to support 1st Division brigades (when not supporting the Strike Brigades). Ideally, 1st Division should re-structure to have 2 to 3 infantry brigades with 1 x light cavalry regiment and 2 x light infantry battalions, both with paired Army Reserve units. The remaining infantry brigades should contain 2 x light infantry units, again paired with Army Reserve infantry regiments, all trained in helicopter airborne assault. Army Reserve engineers and signals units, even though allocated to 101 or 104 Logistic Brigades, should be tasked to 1st Division to provide it with credible CSS support. 1st Division HQ should also be deployable for Peacekeeping or COIN missions, as was the case for HQ 6th Division during the Afghanistan campaign.
4. There needs to be a wider top-level restructuring. The role of a Deputy CGS is questionable and possibly unnecessary as it keeps a separate 3* in Army HQ with no clear counterpart in the Royal Navy or RAF. Merge this role with, for example, Commander Home Command to cut down senior officers and actually save money.
5. Commander Home Command as a 3* is too high a rank for the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) commander. Give this position to Commander Regional Command and slowly merge the roles of Home Command with Regional Command to cut the number of high-ranking positions.
6. Similarly, HQ London District has a 2* and 1* mainly for ceremonial roles. This is what maybe be termed as a ‘ sacred cow ‘ that need to be changed. HQ London District could be more financed by non-MOD funding such ass from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) or the Cabinet Office rather than the pressured Defence Budget. The number of ceremonial units should be reduced in HQ London District and it should be turned into a deployable unit to support 16 Air Assault Brigade or the Lead Armoured Battle Group.
7. Merge or restructre the Army Personnel Centre, the Sandhurst Group and the Army Training and Recruiting Division. This helps to reduce the number of 2*s.
8. The British Army might want to revamp the Other Ranks structure so senior WO1s have a distinction in terms of responsibility.
9. I see nothing wrong with Majors commanding company-level troops but more Captains in CS and CSS units.
10. As with the Royal Navy, it is extremely essential to close the gap between equipment that will go out of service (OSD) and their replacements. Some UORs brought into the core budget still do have capability such as Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle and the Mastiff variants. This doesn’t mean they should be kept for a longer period but they can be retained perhaps for the Army Reserve units.
11. On this point, paired Regular-Army reserve units must have similar equipment, especially those allocated to 3rd Division. It is not right to have Army Reserve units without, for example, Warrior APCs or Artillery and only allocated them when on operations.
12. Some Army/Land projects are stalled or falling behind schedule, for example, the Warrior CSP and the Watchkeeper UAV. It may be time to consider alternatives than may not be cheaper or are cheaper. The UK cannot afford to have an outdated force.
13. The British Army should rethink the positioning and role of the Ajax vehicle as a medium tank, especially since it means mixing tracked vehicles (Ajax) with wheeled vehicles (MIV). Ajax should just revert to the role of reconnaissance and a separate vehicle (MIV variant) used as anti-armour/quick strike.
14. MIV variants (now Boxer) should include mortar (a wheeled variant of the Bulldog armoured vehicle), anti-tank/ATGM, HMG, CBRN (for Falcon Squadron), anti-aircraft (replacement for Stormer). The Strike Brigade MIV battalions should not use MRV-P for these roles, especially mortar. Mortars must be able to be fired on the move.
15. The Army should rethink the 2 x Armoured Infantry Brigades and 2 Strike Brigades concept. Even in the 2003 Gulf War, it had a better structure of heavy and light tracked vehicles. I suggest reverting to all tracked vehicles for 3rd Division, 3 battlegroup-sized units and allocate the Strike Brigades and MRV-Ps to 1st Division to have all wheeled battalions/battlegroups there.
16. 16 Air Assault Brigade should ready 2, not just 1 x air assault and parachute-capable companies on stand-by. They should expand the P Company parachute course.
17. The Army must increase its size. Possible quick areas to increase personnel numbers include bringing back 42nd Infantry Brigade (while cutting 2* and 3* posts) and by changing 5 SCOTs from a ceremonial company into a mixed Regular-Reserve Battalion.
18. There are far too small number of infantry regiments, cut further by Army 2020 Refine. The Specialised Infantry Group is a great idea, but it should not be just for the infantry, which is heavily-tasked. Instead, a mixed force of infantry, engineers, signal and other CS personnel should for a Specialised Unit to train other militaries.
19. Section sizes in the future should be a minimum of 7 or best 8. A section size of 6 is far too small.

Army 2020 Refine was largely General Nick Carter ‘s idea, constrained by SDSR 2010 and SDSR 2015. Now that he will be CDS, it will likely carry on, unless the new CGS, who we do not know who as yet, has the courage and refine it (but don’t call it Army 2020 Refine Refine or Refine 2.0) to better structure the small/82,000 (or less) British Army to meet today’s and tomorrows threats.

The National Security Capability Review, the Modernising Defence Programme: Common accusations

The UK since July 2017, has been conducting a National Security Capability Review or NSCRS. In brief, is a short revision of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), shaping this SDSR under the era of Brexit and new security threats. The 2015 SDSR was cheered by military people and defence commentators, however, the NSCR is getting constant criticism by this same group of individuals. The NSCR is viewed as a means to cut the defence budget and reduce the power of the British Armed Forces. Last week, on 25 January 2018, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson offered a sub-review within the NSCR, titled a Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) as a means to placate these critical commentators. As the debates and criticisms drawn on over both reviews, out appear three common accusations.

The very first accusation and often heard of is the ‘blame DFID, it takes away money for the MOD’. Post 2010, the Department for International Development (DFID) aid, or officially Official Development Assistance (ODA), was ringfenced at 0.7% of UK GDP and then enshrined into law in 2015. This has caused much dissent amongst the media and commentators, who view DFID as a government department sucking away money that could rather be given to the MOD and the British Armed Forces. The reason for any decrease in UK military expenditure is often attributed to DFID and high UK aid levels.

The second, and this more relating to SDSR 2015, is placing the blame on individuals or organisations for not funding the forces. There the ‘blame HM Treasury review, MOD doesn’t get enough money’ accusation. This was often mentioned and brought up in a recent Defence Committee hearing.[1] Such an accusation may be separate or linked to the above review regarding DFID. If HMT Treasury as a whole doesn’t get the blame, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who gets the blame; he is said to have little care for funding the armed forces. Another individual who is recently targeted for all the ‘low’ defence spending is the British National Security Adviser (NSA). In the Defence Committee hearing mentioned above, the questions appear to indicate that either the NSA has little appreciation for the MOD and the armed services, or that SDSRs should be mainly MOD-led and not by some civil servant who has never served a day in combat.

The third sort of accusation or rather belief, as just mentioned, is that defence reviews or SDSRs should be mainly about the British military and the MOD. An example is from this Telegraph article which asserts that the NSA is aiming to place more funding towards the intelligence and security services and away from the armed forces.[2] Another Telegraph article quotes the Chair the Defence Committee, who is relieved that the formation of MDP means a review lead by the Defence Secretary.[3] Clearly to such pundits, any defence review equals to a review about the armed forces, and that’s final.

All this of this accusation must come to a halt. First, regarding the accusation that HM Treasury or the Chancellor is not caring about defence. It is certainly not the case there there’s this evil organisation or politician, snatching money from the MOD and channelling to some other department. There certainly are threats facing the UK, directly and indirectly, and a good number of them can be addressed by strong armed forces. It, however, doesn’t mean, that you should spend to excess on the military with no regard for the economy.[4]

Second, it should be clear that ‘defence of the realm’ today, or even in the past, cannot just be addressed through large navies, massive armies and swarming planes. Intelligence, cyber defences, and well UK assistance for development do help address military and other security threats alone. If the MOD or defence ministers lead SDSRs or defence reviews, such reviews might even reduce the funding and role of UK intelligence services and weaken UK response and defences. The NSA may be a career civil servant and not always have a military or security background. Even with such lack of experience, he should not be characterised as one with no care for armed forces. It is right to critically analyse his performance, but not to accuse him because of individual beliefs.

The case of DFID and UK aid is slightly more controversial. I do disagree with a parliamentary law regarding aid. As for the aid target, it is outdated although there are merits to focusing on a percentage figure. On the same note, the UK also is focusing on meeting the NATO target of 2% of GDP on defence. Yes, there are claims the UK isn’t meeting that figure but as with 0.7% it is a target the UK adheres towards. In the bigger picture, the accusing of DFID fails to consider that UK aid and aid policy directly and indirectly addresses threats to the UK which complements military expenditure and action. Furthermore, blaming DFID often ignores why the department was founded in the first place and wishing the department to be dissolved would not stop the UK from providing aid for development or foreign policy purposes.[5] Commentators should rather focus on how DFID can add to British defence policy rather that use it as an easy target for accusation.

British SDSRs or national security reviews always generate debates from a wide audience. The constant cacophony of accusing DFID, blaming government officials or believing defence reviews are just about the military. The NSCR is much delayed and the MDP will follow suit. Both of them need rational debates and criticism, not long-standing accusations that do not add to British defence policy.

[1] . Especially see Q39.



[4] The quote behind this paywalled article says “Political masters need to understand that the defence you need is dictated by your enemy, not by economics”.

[5] A good history of DFID’s creation can be found here .

Bye Hollern, welcome David and Hamilton

By Kate Hollern, welcome toWayne David and Fabian Hamilton as junior Shadow Ministers for Defence. Does this increase in shadow ministers mean anti-military, anti-war Jeremy Corbyn is now focused on defence?

David and Hamilton’s CVs don’t really say much (as was the case for most of the shadow ministers in defence under the bearded man). The former has some time as Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) but that’s not golden factor for shadowing UK defence and the armed forces. The latter sat on the Committees on Arms Export Controls (formerly Quadripartite Committee), the National Security Strategy (Joint Committee), and the International Development Committee but again, it doesn’t mean he’s a pro-military or focused on UK defence person. In an case, like their boss Griffith, they haven’t asked a SINGLE WRITTEN QUESTION ON DEFENCE AS ON NOW, 4 NOVEMBER 2016.

Do your jobs!!!