Queen’s Speech 2015: The foreign affairs, security and defence parts

Well, not too shabby Brits may put it. The Queen’s Speech 2015, written by a Conservative majority government, did not just focus on Osborne’s cuts, debt and deficit reduction and the European Union (EU) plans or exit. There was a substantial but still not that detailed section on foreign affairs, security and defence. I paste the relevant part of the speech below, with my brief comments in bold:

My Lords and members of the House of Commons

My government will continue to play a leading role in global affairs, using its presence all over the world to re-engage with and tackle the major international security, economic and humanitarian challenges. (This is more a reference to the work and challenge of the Department for International Development (DFID), along with say the Stabilisation unit, the 77th Brigade, the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff.)

My ministers will remain at the forefront of the NATO alliance and of international efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat terrorism in the Middle East. (Note: Ministers, not military leaders.)

The United Kingdom will continue to seek a political settlement in Syria, and will offer further support to the Iraqi government’s programme for political reform and national reconciliation. (FCO work, along say with DFID but FCO first.)

My government will maintain pressure on Russia to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and will insist on the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. (FCO, plus maybe, just maybe, military might. No mention whatsover about a committment or some adherence to the NATO 2% target.)

My government looks forward to an enhanced partnership with India and China. (Military? Remember this post I made? There’s conflicting information which brigade is aligned to India. The British Army Journal said 11th Infantry Brigade but now 8th Engineer Brigade says 22 Engineer Regiment, a smaller unit. In any case, the “enhanced partnership” with India will primarily be foreign affairs, economic/commerical and non-aid development. China? No British Army units appear to be aligned with China. Links will China will be diplomatic and economic/commerical. Once in a while, maybe a Royal Navy ship visit or maybe, maybe RAF Typhoons.)

Prince Philip and I look forward to our state visit to Germany next month and to our state visit to Malta in November, alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. We also look forward to welcoming His Excellency the President of The People’s Republic of China and Madame Peng on a state visit in October. (See the linkage with China will be diplomatic.)

My government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year. (Amber Rudd’s purview.)

My government will undertake a full strategic defence and security review, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that our courageous armed forces can keep Britain safe. (The famous and dreaded Strategic and Security Defence Review 2015. Cuts? Increases (haha), you name the gloom and doom.)

My government will work to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons, cyber attacks and terrorism. (Vague, but remember the Joint Cyber Reserve?)

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Musings of the Foxhound Regiments/Battalions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The British Army in the future: Regional Alignment

The world’s so-called superpower, the United States, has long had its units deployed globally. Even with the US Brigade Combat Team cuts and overall US Army cuts, the US Army is still poised to project itself globally. Certain units such as the 2nd Infantry Division are of course deployed beyond US shores. In fact, the US Army has aligned several of its other divisions/corps to certain regions, see this link.

The British Army does have troops and equipment deployed globally in key areas such as the South Atlantic Islands, Brunei, Cyprus, Canada and other countries. These are of course for tranining and deployments and defence. With the onset of Army 2020, one key theme was to have “overseas engagement and capacity building”. (See page 3 of the July 2013 Army 2020 report and This conversation with then Lt. Gen. Nicholas Carter.) In the future Army 2020 format, this goal for the Army would be undertaken primarily by the “Adaptable Force”, or in the British Army’s ORBAT terms, the 1st (United Kingdom) Divsion (see my ORBAT). Such an explanation has been vague until the British Army released its 2014 edition of its British Army Journal. Page 140 has a map on which of the brigades in 1 UK Division will be aligned to which region. I’ve kindly provided a summary below:

Alignment of Adaptable Force Brigades:

4th Infantry Brigade: Northern Africa (from Western Sahara (or so) to Libya)

7th Infantry Brigade: Egypt

11th Infantry Brigade: India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (or so)

42nd Infantry Brigade: East Africa (from Sudan to Kenya and Somalia (or so)

51st Infantry Brigade: Arabian Peninsula (Entire Arabian region including Iraq, excluding the Western side, ie., Israel, Lebanon, Syria)

160th Infantry Brigade: Central and Eastern Europe (up to Kazakhstan)

102 Logistics Brigade: Western Africa (appears to cover North-central Africa, from Senegal to Chad, excluding Mauritania, which is under 4th Infantry Bde’s region)

Alignment of Force Troops Command Brigades:

11th Signal Brigade: Southern Africa (from Angola in the West to Tanzania and Mozambique in the East down to South Africa and including Madagascar)

8 Engineer Brigade: Southeast Asia (excluding the Philippines–maybe)

The above does not cover as much of the globe as the US plan does. First, there are no forces aligned with Central or Southern America, nor with the wider East Asian region (I exclude Russia for quite obvious reasons). There’s also a big blue “blob” in the African continent–there is not Brigade/Brigade aligned to countries from the Chad to Congo region. (I’ll touch on this below).Even so, this alignment uses up almost all of the brigades from 1st UK Division, excluding 38 (Irish) Brigade, which definitely must remain in Northern Ireland in the future to curb any troubles. With 38th (Irish) Brigade remaining at home, the plan draws 2 brigades from the new Force Troops Command, namely 11th Signals Brigade and 8 Engineer Brigade to parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. This thius leaves the remaining FTC Brigades to work with the Reaction Force Brigades. 1st Artillery Brigade for example, can’t really be involved with defence engagement since its units are in support of 3rd UK Division’s brigades (Light guns, AS-90s, GMLRS, air defence). Neither can 1st Signal Brigade be involved since it is in support of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. Similarly with 1 Intelligence and Surveillance Brigade. The remaining FTC brigades such as 2nd Medical Brigade, 104 Logistics Brigade are not included in the map but could possibly be needed to support the Reaction Force.

A second issue regarding this alignment is the specifics of each brigade to each region. One wonders for example, why the lightly armed 160th Brigade is targeted at Eastern to Central Europe, especially with the intensifying crises in Ukraine/Eastern Europe. 160th Brigade in the future will contain 1 and 6 RIFLES, as well as at least 1 R IRISH, a Foxhound battalion. There’s no need to aim for direct conflict. but this is lightly armed compared to the armies of allies and adversaries of that region. Still, that’s just adequate for defence exercises with countries or UN/NATO/whatever IO-backed peacekeeping forces. In the case of 4th, 7th and 42nd Infantry linked to North and East Africa and Egypt, well not all of either brigade will be able to participate in regional engagement/peacekeeping/intervention.

This is due to the fact that several units, namely, 1 and 2 LANCS, 2 YORKS, 2 PWRR, 1 and 2 R ANGLIAN will be rotated to Cyprus. Or maybe these Cyprus-based units will deploy to the regions when required. As with 160th Brigade, a lightly staffed brigade, 11th Infantry (resurrected), gets to focus on the volatitle area(s) of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It could be that the UK just wants minimal engagement in that area of the world, regardless of how volatile the region becomes. post-2014 The unit will the most number of “stable” troops in the Adaptable Force, 51st Infantry Brigade, gets the Arabian Pennisula and maybe even Iraq. Not really enough for engaging new factions like ISIS/ISIL, but well none of the A Force brigades are properly staffed or armed with equipment for direct conventional warfare. Interestingly, 8 Engineer Brigade gets SEA, where, despite the dynamic economic growth, is still a region with potential and existing hotspots. Maybe its role there is post conflict or local reconstruction/training. As with some A Force/FTC units. not all of the brigade can be deployed to the region. The 25 Close Support Engineer Group units are need to support the Reaction Force Brigades (well at least the regular units).

A third area from this alignment is the overall context. The UK appears to be, well nautrally, concerned with the African and Middle Eastern region. Whether the near or distant future, it is expected these areas will face some form of conflict, whether in one area, country, between countries or worse region wide. The brigades centred towards thme may not be sufficiently shaped to engage with them, but it is a small start. As noted, the map shows there is not engagement to the Latin/South American region or the wider Pacific. The wider Pacifc of course is a bit too far away geographically. The A Force is too small to cover all the globe so I guess Latin America was left out, even though is is not conflict-free. Still, engagement to Latin America can happen via other government departments such as the FCO, DFID, DEFRA and others. Plus, the MOD always has its wide range of Defence Attaches, and almost all Latin American countries have a UK Defence Attache attached.

So in conclusion, the Army 2020 plan is more than just cutbacks and the formation of the Reaction, Adaptable Forces and the FTC (and Support Command). The map in the British Army’s 2014 Journal shows there will be regional (Europe, Africa, Middle East and SEA) engagement, with A Force units and FTC units targeted towards a specific region. The wait now is to see how this is implemented and whether the next UK government after the 2015 government changes this plan.


The 2015 British Army Journal has provided inaccurate figures regarding the alignment. Yours truly made a FOIA request and this is the accurate list:

4th Brigade – Northern Africa
7th Infantry Brigade – Western Africa
102 Logistic Brigade – Southern Africa
42nd Brigade – Eastern Africa
51st Brigade – Gulf Region
8th Engineer Brigade – South Asia
160th Infantry Brigade – Europe and Central Asia
11th Infantry Brigade – Southeast Asia