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.

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.

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.

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 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!


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?

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?

Numbers again…this time regarding CTA 40mm cannons…

A couple of weeks ago, the UK moved forward by purchasing 515 CTA International CTA 40mm cannons for both its upcoming SCOUT SV vehicles, and its Warrior Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs)/Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC). The cannons are part of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (also see page 184 and related pages of this this National Audit Office (NAO) appendix .)

There was some confusion on my part if the number of cannons ordered was sufficient to meet the requirements of both the future SCOUT SV and Warrior fleets. A twitter chat (this specifically) revealed the actual number. According to Nicholas de Larrinaga , “The order for the cannons is evenly divided between the two vehicles, with 245 cannons destined for the turreted versions of the Scout SV and the Warrior CSP vehicles…the remaining 25 cannons would be used for “ammunition qualification, trials, and training”.”

Going back to another report of de Larrinagareport of de Larrinaga’s , 245 SCOUT SV variants would be of the turreted kind. This includes, “198 Reconnaissance and Strike variants, designed to operate as armoured cavalry; 23 Joint Fire Control variants, for use by artillery forward observers; and 24 Ground Based Surveillance variants, equipped with a man-portable radar system.” So that’s pretty interesting. I didn’t expect the Joint Fire Control vehicles and the Ground Based Surveillance to be equipped with a cannon, since their role is not that of infantry support or light armour attack. I suppose these two variants will hold less 40mm ammunition that the main Reconnaissance and Strike variants, or their overall tonnage would be huge.

Anyway, it seems like cannon order for the SCOUT SV matches the number of turreted SCOUT SV ordered. The trouble I see, is with the Warrior APCs. The NAO appendix above and this news release states that there will be 380 upgraded Warrior vehicles in the future. That certainly doesn’t match 245 CTA 40mm turrets. But according to the twitter debate that I had with Nick, not all of the 380 vehicles will be of the conventional FV510 Infantry Section Vehicle. Some will still be V512 Mechanised Combat Repair Vehicles, FV513 Mechanised Recovery Vehicles (Repair), FV 514 Mechanised Artillery Observation Vehicles (not the same as the SCOUT SV Joint Fire Control vehicles, or maybe a duplication), or even FV 515 Battery Command Vehicles (more unlikely). Some of them will be converted to the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (ABSV). So altogether, 135 out of the new 380 ariors will be of these variants and won’t receive the CTA cannons. They may, as in the past, receive dummy cannons, well not the ABSV.

So 245 turrets warriors. But wait, the old Army 2020 report (now no longer found but there’s a soft copy), say that there will be a basic number of 14 Warriors per Rifle Company in each of the 6 Warrior Armoured Infantry Battalions. (This is also confirmed in this slightly inaccurate ORBAT and page 85 of Charles Heyman’s book The British Army: A Pocket Guide, 2012-2013). 14 x 3 equals 42 per battalion. 42 x 6 equals 252 warriors across all 6 battalions (Rifle Companies only). That’s a shortfall/deficit of 7 warriors with(out) CTA 40mm cannons. If we include the Warriors in the Manoeuvre Support Compamny and Battalion HQ, the shortfall/defict is even worse. Heyman’s and ORBATs give 57 x Warrioprs per battalion. Even if e cut down by considering the support Warrior variants and the ABSV, I would wager say just over 50 Warriors with turrets needed per battalion. This gives a shortfall of 55 or so Warriors !!!!

Ok maybe my figures are off and that 245 cannons fits perfectly well for all six Warrior Armoured Infantry battalions. Also it’s worth noting that even in major conflicts such as Operations Granby, Tellic and Herrick, not all Warrior Armoured Infantry Battalions were deployed at once.

I’m not the kind to fuss around with exact numbers, but surely there’s a mismatch here?

From SDSR 2010 to 2015: The “positives”

Well the Conservatives are in full power and they will dominate the decision making for the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). People of course will remember the Treasury-led 2010 SDSR which was more of a review to find monetary savings, not to instruct defence plans and to consider security threats. Inasmuch as it wasn’t really a review, the years after until 2015 saw several “positives” for UK defence assets and policies. Below is a (quite incomplete) list of UK defence procurement and initiatives that hae take place, due to the 2010 SDSR as well as the security threats subsequently.

Royal Navy/Royal Marines

* The creation of the annual COUGAR task force/the Response Force Task Group (RFTG)

See for example COUGAR 11




* The ordering of the four MARS Tankers (under the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA))

* The ordering of the Lynx Wildcat

* The ordering of the Sea Venom and Martlet missiles

* The planning of the Type 26 Frigate

* Bringing both QECs into active serivce.

* Arming up to 4 x Type 45 Destroyers will Harpoon ASuW missiles

British Army

* Forming Army 2020

* Bringing Herrick Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR)s into core

* SCOUT SV planning and contract

* The ordering of the Lynx Wildcat

Royal Air Force

* Planning and ordering of support aircraft such as the Voyager, A400M, Rivet Joint

* Typhoon enhancements

* Chinook JULIUS project

* The Taranis demonstrator/Unmanned Combat Aircraft (UCAV) project

Joint Forces

* The creation of Joint Forces Command (JFC)


* Levene Reform (which resulted in the the creation of the JFC)

To be updated

British Army Vehicles OSD–Out of Service…

More often than not, the House of Lords doesn’t churn out interesting defence or foreign affairs-related debates or questions-answers. A recent question by Lord Moonie however, breaks the norm. Check it out below :

Armoured Fighting Vehicles
To ask Her Majesty’s Government which of the following vehicle types are still in service with the British Army and what were or are their anticipated out of service dates: Challenger 2, Driver Track Training Vehicle, Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles, Trojan, Titan, Warrior, Saxon, Samson, Spartan, Scimitar, Samaritan, Sultan, Snatch Land Rover, FV430, Mastiff, Jackal, Vector, Bulldog, and Panther.

The out of service dates of the vehicles specified are as follows:

Vehicle Type Planned Out Of Service Date
Challenger 2 2025
Driver Track Training Vehicle 2025
Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle 2040
Trojan 2040
Titan 2040
Warrior 2025
Saxon Out of service
Samson 2026
Spartan 2026
Scimitar 2026
Samaritan 2026
Sultan 2026
Snatch Land Rover (1, 1.5, 2 and Vixen variants) Out of service
Snatch Land Rover (2A and 2B variants) 2024
Snatch Land Rover (Vixen Plus variant) 2024
FV 430 Out of service
Mastiff 2024
Jackal 2030
Vector 2015
Bulldog 2030
Panther 2037

Well, the above say “anticipated Out of Service Dates (OSD)” but planned may well just be actual. Whatever it is, the table raises worries for the whole Army 2020 and Future Force 2020 equipment plans. Reaction Force (RF) vehicles seem to be leaving pretty early–Challenger 2 and its “Driver Track Training Vehicle” will be OSD by 2025, along with the British Army’s only Armoured Personnel Carrier, the Warrior. These two vehicles are part of the Armoured Infantry (AI) Brigades in the RF. Of course both variants are to upgraded–the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP)and the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (LEP). Neither programme is completed and both are facing challenges. A key issues is also the firepower of the Challenger 2 tank–the L30 rifled gun is great, but eventually it should be replaced with something like other NATO armies smoothbore guns in order to tackle adversaries such as the Russian T-90 or the new Armata tank.

Moving down, the Mastiff was to continued be part of the “Heavy Protected Mobility Regiments”. The Mastiff 2 or 3 vehicle is great but the table says “bye bye” to it by 2024. Mastiff is to be replaced by the yet-to-be-shown Utility Vehicle (UV). UV was originally FRES UV, which was to be a similar design to the FRES SV (now SCOUT SV) vehicle. So it is crucial that the UV programme stays on track, or either the Mastiff 2/3 continues beyond 2024.One positive note from above is that the Bulldog armoured/mechanised vehicles will stay at least till 2030. Originally the FV 432, these upgraded vehicles serve as mortar carriers in the Warrior Armoured Infantry Regiments, possibly troop-carrying vehicles for Support Companies and medical armoured vehicles in the Medical Armoured Regiments. If the UV vehicle fails to materialise, perhaps the Bulldog could be an interim. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… Bulldog may also help as an interim vehicle until the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (ABSV) is finalised. A Warrior without its 30mm/40mm gun, this vehicle is suppose to act as a mortar launching vehicle/sniper/anti-tank troop carrier, recovery and repair and even medical evacuation vehicle. Another programme that must be kept on track.(Also see page 184 of this NAO report regarding the ABSV).

The CVR (T) family will all go by 2026 but they have a stated replacement in the form of the SCOUT SV variants. This heavy armoured infantry fighting vehicle seems to be on track, but one may never know. The Royal Engineers (those supporting the RF) may heavy a sigh of relief as their vehicles wont go out until 2040. These mine clearing, route-clearing vehicles are great, not just in conventional warfare but counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. The Challenger 2 recovery vehicle will still stay around till 2040, so maybe the upgraded Challenger 2 will. Or its successor…

Moving down to the Adaptable Force (AF) vehicles, we see that the Jackal Vehicle (and perhaps its longer Coyote variant) will bow out by 2030. So the Light Cavalry Regiments are fine for a while. Jackal/Coyote is also used in the Mastiff/UV regiments, so that’s also not too bad. They are also crucial reconnaissance vehicles for the Royal Marines and the 16th Air Assault Brigade/Air Assault Task Force. This is especially so for the 16th AA Brigade/AATF, since this unit no longer has Scimitar vehicles supporting it. The lighter-than-the-SCOUT-SV (or even ABSV) Panther Command & Control  vehicle appears to have long “shelf life”, OSD-ing only in 2037. Some commentators I have talked to says this is an over-exaggerated target date. Exaggerated or not, it ensures that AF (and possibly some RF battalions) have some Command and Control vehicles. Panther is nice, though a new variant or vehicle should be procured. One that allows more command staff to sit at the back–2 at the back is far too little. What else? ah, of course the hated Vector vehicle gets OSD this year, 2015. One of the many creations or Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) during the Afghanistan Campaign, it wasIED-prone despite its supposed armour and hated by troops. It’s supposed replacement is the Truck Utility Medium Heavy Duty. Hopefully it will far better in conflict–if it is used in conflict.

Conclusion: The table above, if the data is correct, means the upgrading programmes for the Challenger 2, the Warrior, the UV programme and even the SCOUT SV programme need to be on track. The Defence Equipment and Support (DES) will have lots of pressure on their hands. With a highly possible defence budget decrease, some numbers of these upgrades will be cut, as seen in this IHS Janes report regarding the Challenger 2. That’s pretty sad. Many other key vehicles such as the AS-90, the Alvis Stormer (for the Starstreak HVM), the Foxhound Light Protected Mobility vehicle aren’t in the above table. It would be interesting to see their OSDs, as they are part of Army 2020 or Future Force 2020.

Update: I made and received an FOIA regarding other other key Army 2020 vehicles. Part of the FOIA (I will not publish the full document) is reproduced below.

A search for the information has now been completed within the Ministry of Defence, and I can confirm that information in scope of your request is held. The answers to your questions are in the table below:

Vehicle Out of service date
FUCHs 2020
Warthog 2024
L131 AS-90 Self Propelled Artillery 2030
M270 GMLRS 2030
Alvis Stormer 2026
Ridgback Battlefield Ambulance 2024
Husky TSV 2024
Foxhound 2030

Well it looks like the major artillery pieces for 1st Artillery Brigade’s Close Support regiments will stay on till around 2030. There is a high probability that the UK will replace the M270 GMLRS with whatever the US Army replaces theirs with, or even buy the (better) HIMARS. As for the AS-90, well I would recommend they just improve the calibre or the type of artillery shell.

The UOR bought from Singapore, (yes Singapore, an ex-British colony), the ST Kinetics Bronco ,or Warthog in the British Army, will will serve in the Watchkeeper WK450 regiments–they act as launching platforms. More specifically, they will probably be allocated in 47th Regiment, Royal Artillery (RA), the regiment for RF brigades. The Bronco/Warthog served well in Op Herrick, and transferring it to a UAV role, is well, the least they could do. With an OSD in 2024, the RA or rather DES needs to find a replacement vehicle or work with ST Kinetics to extended the lifespan of this vehicle. Possible replacements could be the BvS 10 Viking (which means ordering more), or using the yet-to-be seen Utility Vehicle (UV).

The earliest vehicle about to exit is the FUCHS (in 2020). This as stated in an earlier post (or here) returns to be be the primary vehicle of Falcon Squadron, Royal Tank Regiment (RTR). With CBRN being a hot issue for UK defence (or rather suggested as a key topic by the HOC Defence Select Committe), nine FUCHS vehicles will be refurbished. Yet, with the vehicle predicted to be OSD by 2020, it possibly has no replacement (a A letter by the RTR Commandant suggests it may be replaced by a UAV ). I personally would want a FUCHS-like vehicle replacement for the FUCHS, possibly a modified UV.

Next, the Alvis Stormer will bow out in 2026. Although not spelt out directly in the Army 2020 document, it is used to give mobility for the Starstreak HVM missiles in 12th Regiment Royal Artillery. I can’t immediately think of what can be used to replace the Stormer; the SCOUT SV base for example is too heavy for a mobile SAM platform. Thy might want to buy the US AN/TWQ-1 Avenger vehicle from the US or mount them on Coyotes. The wheeled ambulance, the Rigdback Ambulance exits in 2024. Don’t worry, the UV medical variant might replace it, maybe. The Husky TSV, another piece that sprung up from Afghanistan, is important to both the RF and AF units. I hope there’s a replacement in the works, or it gets extended beyond 2024. Finally, the good ol’ Foxhound, which will dominate six regiments/battalions in the AF. 2030 eh? Matches its friends the Jackal and perhaps the Panther. Still sometime to think of a better replacement, hopefully one that can sit more than four soldiers.

OK folks, that’s it for now!

The Security Assistance Group, now the 77th Brigade Part 3

This third part of the series goes into simple question-and-answer mode regarding the 77th Brigade/SAG. I could write it in proper prose/essay style, but that would take a longer time and I have other committments.

1) Is the 77th Brigade a unit for Psyops? Will it really be a “Twitter Troops” unit, ie. “attacking” adversaries via social media?

A: A big No and Yes. As explained in the earlier 2 articles, the SAG, now re-titled as the 77th Brigade, was formed under the Army 2020 concept to match the UK government’s Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS). In simpler terms, it is a formation dedicated towards conflict prevention and (state/regional) stabilisation. Yes, 15 POG, one of its sub-units, and the MOG and the MSSG (to a lesser degree) are (or have been involved) in PSYOPS. Their grouping together DOES NOT mean that is is going to be one big PSYOPS family. Rather, in the course of stabilising areas or preventing large-scale conflict, psychological means might be a good or plausible means to reach objectives. Now, I am a critic of the BSOS concept. But that is a debate for a separate article. What the 77th Brigade’s mission will be is to help to tackle the non-conventional threats of the present and the future (as its units have done in Iraq and Afghanistan). Regarding social media, it is again undoubtedly a domain which the British Army (any other armed forces) will have to address. That does not mean “normal” media channels will be ignored. But yes, in the course of conflict prevention and stabilisation, “attacking” or influencing others via social or normal media can be a means to and end.

2) Even if the 77th Brigade is not a PSYOPS-only unit, is is a form of “Big Brother”?

A: Spare me the extremist anti-monitoring, anti-government control talk. The simple answer is no.

3) Why form the SAG or the 77th Brigade and have a Brigade-sized unit or a Brigadier, in the light of cuts to the armed forces?

A: As noted, several of the sub-units of the SAG/77th Brigade were from pre-Army 2020 units. The MSSG was broadly under the Royal Engineers; the 15 POG was under the 1 or 1st Military Intelligence Brigade. During the course of the Afghanistan campaign (and other simultaneous British Armed Forces operations), these units appeared to be addressing the same problem–non-conventional threats or (post)-conflict work. With the BSOS idea and the existing FCO-DFID-MOD partnership (especially through the Conflict Pool or in the future, the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund), a new unit dedicated towards BSOS objectives would further enhance the MOD’s work in stability and security. Placing it under the land forces/Army is/was a no-brainier, but drawing a talent pool from all three services would be practical.

4) But, this is the British Army which fight wars. Which other armed forces has created such a unit focused on this task?

A: Conflict prevention has been a historical issue, although no army or armed forces or country has solved it effectively. The end of World War II, the Vietnam War, Cold War conflicts, post-Cold War conflicts all drew out the issue of conflict prevention or pre-conflict prevention. The US Army, during or post-Vietnam War, has created several units dedicated towards the topic of conflict/post-conflict work. These are termed as (pretty cutely) “civil affairs units”. Such units reside under the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), not as a separate-brigade sized unit. You can view the Facebook pages of some units such as the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion – Airborne or the 8th Military Information Support Group – Airborne. There’s a U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), the (higher) command which teaches civil affairs units how to conduct their missions. Within the US Army’s Brigade Combat Team structure, there are teams dedicated to civil affairs (see US Army FM 390.6). Civil Affairs may not be as dedicated towards conflict prevention and stabilisation, so perhaps the 77th Brigade has the upper hand (the US armed forces has never been a great agency for development work).

5) If the 77th Brigade is not a PSYOPS unit, why was it said to be so?

A: Blame the media (the social and normal media) for casting in in an inaccurate perspective. Ok, blame the British Army and the Ministry of Defence for not releasing a full and proper media release on their websites (which aren’t very updated). Only if you read back through the articles I posted in the earlier 2 posts can you draw the connection between the SAG and the 77th Brigade.

This will probably not be the last article on the SAG/77th Brigade, but I hope I corrected all misconceptions. Note: As stated on twitter, facebook and here, I am not affiliated with the British Armed Forces, or the UK’s Ministry of Defence.


Update: The Brigade (@77th_Brigade) has blocked me (@ForcesReviewUK) for NO CLEAR REASON. May it never achieve it goals.