Not a 404: But service websites that are not updated

They say social media provides more instant up-to-date news and that this more of information better suits today’s world or at least the current, perhaps Millennial Generation. Yet, websites, a source of information that arose in the 1990s, are still a vital source. Most advanced militaries in open, democratic countries wish to get accurate information out and to connect with the civilian/political community. Yet, the UK’s three services websites lag behind in this area.

I suppose I shall start with the most incomplete and hardly updated website: The British Army or https://www.army.mod.uk/ . This service was the last the update its website to a more modern, tech-savvy kind of website in around 2017/2018. With this update, it finally released the new structure of the Army, seen under the ‘Who We Are’ Structure’ here (I won’t put up the full picture for fear of copyright violation). The picture, however, has long had some errors. First, it sorts of incorrectly suggests that the Deputy Chief of the General Staff (DCGS) is a four star when only his boss is. Ok, that is a small error. Second, it says that there’s a command called ‘Army Recruiting Training Division’ under Home Command. This training command has been, since 2018, been re-named as ‘Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command’ since 2108. It is also jointly held by the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Sandhurst Group, indicated in the in the chart, is actually under a Brigadier/One-Star command. You can google around and find this fact such as here or check the good Colin Mackie, http://www.gulabin.com.

Second, there are errors in the ‘Equipment’ section. Under ‘Small Arms and Support Weapons’ they still list the Light Support Weapon and Light Machine Gun, even though these weapons were phased out by at least in April 2019. They also have not listed anti-materiel rifles like the L135A1 LRPAS or ‘other weapons’, though these other weapons are used by UK Special Forces. Under ‘Vehicles’, the TpZ Fuchs, is not listed although it and the numbers of such vehicle are supposedly top secret, though easily found. There are also a couple of minor vehicles such as Pinzgauer (though now mainly used by the Royal Marines) which aren’t listed. Correctly, the ‘aircraft’ sub-section does not list fixed-wing aircraft like the Islander and Defender; the squadron they are under are transferred to RAF command and control.

The biggest incomplete section that has not been updated for at least a year is the ‘Who we are’ section. Under ‘Our people’, there is only sections of ‘ranks’ which is so commonly known, and ‘a soldier’s standards’. There is absolutely, as of 16 June 2019, no biographies of senior officers, not even of the CGS, who has been in position for just over a year. This in sharp contrast to the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Air Force (RAF) websites. The RN has biographies of its top three senior leaders–First Sea Lord, Second Sea Lord and Fleet Commander. The RAF goes even further, listing all, or maybe almost all the senior commanders, including members of the Air Board. The British Army’s website is most likely still under development, but the lack of any simple information like senior commanders is explicitly damaging in terms of image. How long does it take to take a picture of top leaders and write their biographies?

Other missing or incomplete information rest in the ‘Corps, Regiments and Units’ section. Initially, only units from the Infantry and Royal Armour Corps were linked when the website was updated to its more modern look, and not all of them were listed. It took ages before various combat units, combat service support and other units were added. It also took ages before they created another section called ‘Formations and Divisions’ but initially erroneously added sub-units like the 77th Brigade there. Many battalions and units under ‘Corps, Regiments and Units’ are still without pages/websites. These are:

Army Air Corps: One of the last sections to be added since website was re-designed. No sub-units added.

Royal Artillery: It took them weeks before 5 RA, 7 RHA, and other regiments were added. 106 RA is still missing. 32 RA still listed but supposedly will go in 2021. Supposedly.

Royal Signals: As with AAC, one of the last corps added and no-sub units added at all.

Corps of Royal Engineers: Very incomplete, missing the new 28 RE, 32 RE, 35 (EOD) RE, reserve units like 71, 75, 101 (EOD) RE and Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia).

Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: Listed only 6 Close Support Battalion REME recently. The rest from 1 to 7 Aviation Support and the reserve battalions, all missing.

Royal Logistic Corps: All complete and was the fast to be completed. Some units like training units may still be missing though.

Intelligence Corps: 1 Military Intelligence Battalion is missing or will it disband under Army 2020 Refine?

Infantry: Regiments are fully listed but not individual battalions. Exceptions are Royal Regiment of Scotland–just a general list, The Rifles and the Yorkshire Regiment. Even the Royal Gurkha Rifles don’t have separate pages for their two battalions, but that’s a minor squabble.

Adjutant General’s Corps: All complete and completed in a short time. The Royal Military Police page however gives you information not many know of–that the 1st Military Brigade is under the operational control of 3rd UK Division. More about this below.

Army Medical Services: All complete, even including unit(s) that will disband under Army 2020 Refine.

All the other regiments/corps/units are minor units. In summary, there is a whole list of uncompleted units, and to a normal, non-military observer, he/she would believe the British Army has shrunk. Overall, listing 230 units (as of 15/6/2019) doesn’t give a very positive image to the wider public.

Under Formations, Divisions and Brigades: The information again took long to complete and there was a misleading idea that HQ 1st Artillery Brigade was under Force Troops Command, as it was stated in the original Army 2020 Plan. Then, the website shifted it under 3rd UK Division, as your truly noted. Was there a change of operational command? Yes, but no official announcement was made. I only found proof of this via a FOIA and made the British Army webmaster change the wording. The biographies under Home Command also may need updating.

Another area I’m critical about is the news section. The British Army. along with the RAF (as I’ll detail below), hardly post news events, as compared to the senior service. British army news articles come like once every few days, sometimes one or two articles after a week or worse, a fortnight. The best source of news then comes from not even the monthly Soldier Magazine (which isn’t always updated immediately), but from individual corps or regimental websites or charities or association. These are sadly, harder to fine.

Enough rating about the Army. The senior and junior websites are better in terms of style but still lack in accurate content. In the Royal Navy, under ‘Equipment’ and under ‘Ships’ they still list Landing Platform Helicopter although HMS Ocean has been decommissioned and sold to Brazil. Under ‘Submarines’, the style for the ‘Astute Class’ isn’t presented in the main page; you have to scroll down to find it. Ok, that’s a very minor squabble. Under “Commando’ and ‘Troop’ weapons, they still the L110A2 5.56MM LMG although as with the British Army, this weapon has been phased out of service. They also don’t list all the vehicles used by the Royal Marines, just the Viking All-Terrain Armoured Vehicle. More significantly, in recent weeks, the webmasters have removed the profiles of commanding officers of ships, submarines, FAA squadrons, bases you name it. They also temporarily removed the senior 2* posts–COMUKMARFOR, RADM FAA, CGRM and Commander, RFA–and only just replaced them. The search function in the website, as well as the British Army’s, also isn’t very user friendly.

Other than this, the Royal Navy website is top notch. As stated, it is the leading service website that updates its news section like around at least three or up to five articles a day or nearly more than ten articles across the working week. The style of all sections of the website is appealing to users of generations. Perhaps they could, as with the British Army, merge the news and Navy News much closer and get the former to publish the monthly edition online much earlier.

The RAF’s website, with a dark blue (I doubt it is trolling the Royal Navy) background, has quite up to date information. Previously, the old, 1990s-style RAF website had more detailed information on RAF weapons from guns to bombs to missiles. In this website, that information is mostly removed but in place, the images of all, or almost all RAF aircraft are of higher quality and some have individual 3D images or videos. Squadrons and groups are neatly detailed there are biographies of the commanding officers, and as noted, of the senior officers who mostly make up the Air Force board. What is lacking is updates–the current or recently new officers like Air Marshal Gerry Mayhew and Air-Vice Marshal Ian Gale did not have their biographies published until very recently. Under RAF Police and Regiment, the information about 26 RAF Regiment was only just removed, giving an incorrect impression that there’s two RAF Regiment still conducting CBRN ops.

There are more minor mistakes but the point is very clear: UK Armed Forces just don’t have up-to-date websites. Don’t get me started on the MOD’s gov.uk site; that is just as terrible. But is this worthy criticism or just ranting? For sure, many say website work isn’t a core function for officers, ORs, or civil servants. The whole of defence and the armed forces have better issues to worry about but having incomplete or worse, stagnant websites adversely affects the whole force. Having up-to-date websites with accurate contents has several benefits:

1) As I harp on above, it helps inform the public about the armed services. Not everyone is social media-savvy and social media has more often than not, created disinformation or as Donald Trump has supported, created fake news. By having properly updated websites, any of the three services could rightly counter, yes, we are conducting ABC, no, we have unit XYZ, it has not disbanded, and so on. Those without social media, and even those who don’t go to the library (!!!) can look up the website and check what’s happening to this regiment or what is being procured. This would be more for veterans of past decades. Say you served in the Royal Engineers. Hey, why isn’t there a page on 32 RE? Did they disband the unit under Army 2020/Army 2020 Refine? I’m angry! This response would not be so if there was a unit webpage/website. Or say you are interested in joining up, especially to a regiment/corps you father/grandfather was part of. Would you like it if you check and not find the webpage/website on army.mod.uk?

2) The image of a proper updated website brings value, or even soft power to the service and the UK as a whole. Allies may not be always so privy to the any of three services and may often check their websites rather than tweet or Facebook them. What sort of image would it bring if an ally of the UK finds an Army website lack unit information or new updates? Or cannot find the biography or a senior Royal Navy officer? In sharp contrast, the US has quite informative and quickly updated military sites for its four main armed services, the DOD and other defense-related agencies. Alright, it’s the world’s superpower and each service has a regiment-size media and webpage team. The British aren’t that far behind; for the army, there’s a Major-General holding the appointment of Director Engagement and Communications (D E&C) and a Colonel as Assistant Head, Army Media & Communications. Surely, they have a team working on webpage development. What’s taking them so long from fixing the British Army’s website.

3) The image it provides adversaries. Ok, perhaps the army’s incomplete website, the minor missing content in the Royal Navy and RAF’s website is part of a larger disinformation campaign against UK adversaries such as Russia, China, Daesh, you name it. I do not buy this at all. Even at the height of Op HERRICK, the government still published which units would deploy for that operation and publicise new equipment like Mastiff and Foxhound vehicles. A complete, up-to-date website would add more to the soft power element, informing or perhaps scaring the enemy of the lethality the British Armed Forces. Alright, there’s nothing scary really since most outsiders know the army isn’t even close to the 82,000 figure, the Royal Navy is still small in terms of surface warships and the RAF isn’t that huge in size or firepower either. But websites that don’t contain the simple information of units or weapons further degrade the whole picture.

It’s up to the three services if they want fix up their websites or plod on with not even a half full glass.

Welcome back 28 Engineer Regiment and British Army control of CBRN

1 April 2019 marks, no, not April Fools Day, but the re-formation of 28 Engineer Regiment (RE) which disbanded back in 2014. This reformation re-creates a Counter-Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment for the British Armed Forces, totally under British Army control. The unit used to command wide-wet river crossing squadrons in British Forces Germany.

History of CBRN capability in the British Armed Forces

The UK had some foresight in creating a unit to counter or at least detect CBRN agents. This was the result 1998 Strategic Defence Review, which foresaw such a need (see paragraph 35). The outcome was the Joint CBRN Regiment, which consisted of the then- 1st Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) and as well as reserve elements from 2623 Squadron RAuxAF Regiment and the Royal Yeomanry. In 2010, with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government came the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which saw military unit cuts due to a inaccurate prediction of a peace dividend after the Afghanistan campaign. Those cuts saw the removal of the Joint CBRN Regiment and the Fuchs vehicles,  with all 11 of them slated for disposal, see also this answer in 2011. The 1st RTR would merge with its sister, the 2nd RTR, to form up a whole Challenger 2 Regiment. After some consideration, CBRN capability was retained at a smaller capability, from joint to purely under the RAF Regiment’s control. 27 Squadron RAF Regiment would join with 26 Squadron RAF Regiment (see this and this), and 2623 RAuxAF to maintain CBRN capability, with the Fuchs vehicles most definitely shelved.

Sniff, sniff. Then came the Arab Spring and then Syrian Civil War which saw Assad using chemical weapons on his own people and maybe the ISIS group. MPs questioned why the UK removed its essential CBRN capability in a debate. A couple years later, Falcon Squadron from the RTR was re-formed along side the other squadrons of the merged RTR. The squadron’s role was officially known as a ‘CBRN Area Survey and Reconnaissance Squadron’ and you can read all about it in this article. The Fuchs vehicles were recommissioned or regenerated at a price of £7,115,941 in 2015, with a simulator already ordered in 2014. The RTR official Facebook page later showed pictures of the vehicles in action, including a Husky and a unidentifiable vehicle – check out this picture, this picture and this one.

Ok, so Fuchs had returned and the RTR was proud of it. The RTR Association website used to have newsletters – its now updated and they are sadly gone – and one of them described the structure of Falcon Squadron:

CBRN Area Survey and Reconnaissance (AS&R) Capability
Falcon Squadron RTR provide defence’s CBRN Area Survey and Reconnaissance capability. Manned by the RTR they are under the command of 22 Engr Regt in Force Troops
Command. Falcon Squadron is equipped with two troops of four German Fuchs TPz vehicles. Each Fuchs is capable of chemical and radiological hazard detection and is crewed by four CBRN Specialists who are able to operate in CBRN hazard areas due to the vehicles

Ok, so the British Army restored its CBRN capability, and it would fall under 22 Engineer Regiment. Nevertheless, this was only a squadron or company-sized unit and the RAF regiment still held the bulk of CBRN capability. Fast forward to SDSR 2015, and if you look closely at the Joint Force 2025 graphics, you would realise the future RAF Regiment size would be slightly smaller. Yours truly guessed rightly and confirmed by a FOIA that the Army would fully take on the responsibility of CBRN. This was further confirmed in the Royal Engineers Association Management Committee minutes: 1) 23 February 2018 minutes stated the creation of “a Counter Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Regiment” by 2019 under the name and 2) this was also confirmed in the 29 January 2019 minutes.

Organisation and shape of things to come

Welcome back 28 RE and British Army Counter-CBRN! The first question that came to ‘wannabe military experts’ or ORBAT-crazy people (not me) was: What is the structure of this new regiment? Thankfully and quite willingly, the answer was revealed in this tweet:

64 HQ & Sp Squadron (C-CBRN)
42 Field Squadron (C-CBRN)
FALCON Squadron (C-CBRN)
77 Field Squadron (C-CBRN).

64 and 42 are former squadrons from the former 28 RE, Falcon we know where it’s from — will it get a number under its new parent regiment? 77 Squadron was from 35 RE which was a close support engineer regiment but under Army 2020 Refine, that regiment is now an Explosive Ordnance and Search (EOD&S) regiment. Beyond 28 RE, the Defence CBRN Centre at Winterbourne Gunner has shifted command from the RAF Regiment to the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) Group, further cementing the Army’s control of CBRN away from the RAF — you can see further tweets about the transfer here and here

This RAF to British Army control of Counter-CBRN and ‘new’ formation didn’t occur peacefully as Russia, mostly definitely through President Putin, released Novichok in Salisbury, nearly killing former GRU Colonel Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yuulia and accidentally killing Dawn Sturgess and affecting Charlie Rowley. Falcon Squadron and the respective RAF regiments were in fact used in the cleaning up of Salisbury. So the British Armed Forces rightly restored its Counter-CBRN capability, but its adversaries are certainly moving at a faster pace.

So what next for 28 Engineer Regiment? For one, with the strained personnel shortfall in British Army recruitment, retention and training, the first challenge is whether there is really enough qualified – Counter-CBRN work is ‘rocket science’ – personnel to fully man each squadron as stated above. 28 RE, now sitting under 12 Force Support Engineer Group will not just have to deal with future CBRN attacks on British soil but help detect and clear paths for the Army’s single ‘warfighting’ division in any operation. The second most pressing challenge is which vehicle will replace the Fuchs vehicles, which are old and, via a FOIA, will likely go out of service (OSD) in 2019/2020. Oh yes, they did issue a Prior Information Notice in March 2019 to to upgrade 10 Fuchs and 1 simulator hoping to extend the OSD to 2024 or even 2027. A much newer vehicle would be rather welcoming. The Army is in the process of acquiring Ajax, Boxer and much later, the MRV-P Group 1 and Group 2 vehicles. MRV-P Group 1, which sadly or thankfully, will be the US-made Oshkosh L-ATV might be a possible choice, or even Boxer, in the same fashion as the US M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, Reconnaissance [Stryker] Vehicle. Or even something else. Personally, the personnel issue will be the most challenging part first. This discussion would require another post.

Anyway, welcome back 28 Engineer Regiment.

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.

Army 2020 Refine: The changes

Delayed post. Still it is up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infantry
Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) Battalions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armoured Infantry Battalions

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

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

Specialised Infantry Group (SIG)

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

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

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

Army 2020 Refine Regular Infantry Units

(Take from this Facebook status.)

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

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

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

Ok, on to the support units…

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

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 1

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 1

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 2

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Artillery Future Roles

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

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

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

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

Update: According to the Minutes of the 128th Meeting of the Management Committee, held on the 16 January 2018, they will be forming a RE CBRN Regiment, reviving the title of 28 Royal Engineers which disband under the original Army 2020 plan. This is great news but likely would group Falcon Squadron, Royal Tank Regiment and the RAF Regiment CBRN assets into this new unit.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?