Army 2020 Refine: The changes

Delayed post. Still it is up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infantry
Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) Battalions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armoured Infantry Battalions

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

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

Specialised Infantry Group (SIG)

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

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

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

Army 2020 Refine Regular Infantry Units

(Take from this Facebook status.)

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

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

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

Ok, on to the support units…

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

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 1

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 1

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 2

1st Arty Brigade Reorganisation 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Artillery Future Roles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also stated in this news article.

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

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

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The Security Assistance Group, now the 77th Brigade Part 1

Well everybody across the 30th January-1st February 2015 weekend was (on social and normal media) talking about #twittertroops or the 77/77th Brigade, supposedly a “new unit”. So many have been wondering why should the “Chindits” unit be revived, why create a unit under Army 2020 (which was formed in 2013). Why use twitter/social media?

The fact is it is NOT A UNIT ABOUT Psychological Warfare, depsite what idiots on Wikipedia say it is. this is just a re-branding/re-naming of the Security Assistance Group (SAG), which was formed on 1 September 2014 and located under the new Force Troops Command. Below are a series of links related to the SAG/77th Brigade and its sub-units. Anyway, let’s take a look at the 77 Brigade units and I hope to argue its critical importance in UK defence  and security policy here, unlike what Tango Delta and its readers assert.

The 77th Brigade, former the SAG, officially consists of:

Headquarters Element
The Media Operations Group (MOG)
The Security Capacity Building Team (SCBT)
15 Psychological Operations Group (15 POG)
Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG)

Page 4 of the 2012 Army 2020 brochure shows that the SAG then was (and quite correctly) is a “regiment”-sized unit (it is shown with the III NATO symbol).
According to page 8 of this newsletter, it is commanded by a  1 * (Brigadier), with a headquarters (HQ) “41 military personnel (16 Officers, 16 SNCO, and 9 ORs).” The MSSG will have 60 military personnel (20 Officers, 40 ORs). A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by yours truly (yes me!) revealed closer details about each of the sub-units. As of October 2014, there are only 50 personnel in the HQ element (which means it is still understaffed), 50 in the 15 POG, 50 in the MOG, 10 in the SCBT, and 120. The FOIA replied stated these numbers will increase as the sub-units and the entire unit forms up.

The first and probably biggest question is: What is the 77th Brigade/SAG for? The Force Troops Command FTC) website states that:

Building on the recent cross-Whitehall International Defence Engagement and Building Stability Overseas Strategies, the Security Assistance Group (SAG) will have close links with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Stabilisation Unit.

General Role of the 77th Brigade/SAG

The Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) refers to this 2011 policy paper produced by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID). Basically BSOS is a general outline on how the UK will deal with conflict states/failed states or war zones. It is quite obvious that the FCO and DFID would be involved in preventing or solving any conflict state. The MOD, much to the displeasure of warfighting troops, has to be involvement in conflict destabilisation/stabilisation. Conflicts or growing conflicts such as Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq War I and II (yes both Gulf Wars), Afghanistan and even the Israel-Palestinian Conflict have included non-conventional actors. Battles or objectives are no longer just about militaries or armed forces verses each other. Battles are not not won by just hard aggressive force but also through information deception or the loose term of “psychological warfare”. In proper academic circles, it is the usage of “soft power”.

After all, page 27 FTC media release (another possibly fake document) mentioned the term soft power in relation to the then SAG. “[It] will deliver the application of Soft Power at the strategic and operational levels and soft effects at the tactical level…[the] SAG will provide Force elements to Reaction and Adaptable forces, and be the principal Defence partner for the Stabilisation Unit at the tactical level, contributing to the Coalition, Joint, inter-agency, inter-governmental and Multinational Approach.” In this manner the SAG is your MOD/Army tool to help secure, stabilise and rebuild societies, regions and even countries (if you want to use the layman’s terminology). This FTC release also stated at the intelligence-centred Land Intelligence Fusion Centre will be linked to it via a small section, possibly through the HQ element.

If the above paragraph still doesn’t sufficient describe the 77th Brigade, now the SAG, you should read pages 119, 121-122 of the 2014 British Army Journal gives probably the most detailed information on the SAG (then). Page 119 says the unit will be be focal point for levers of soft power (see the term again!) or persistent “engagement”. Pages 121-122 is a article by the CO of the SAG, then Colonel Alastair Aitken (now Brigadier). Aitken stresses how the boundaries between regular, irregular, political, economic and social activities have been blurred. As in the paragraph above, Aitken indicates the Army needs to address the blurred lines in order to gain the upper hand. A unit, and thus the SAG, is needed to deter pre-conflict events and post-conflict actions for the long term. Aitken also notes that the SAG will not operate with just its sub-units but with FTC’s 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade (1 ISR Brigade), especially 21 and 23 SAS Regiments, the new Human, Environment, Reconnaissance and Analysis (HERA) patrols.

These paragraphs thus show that the SAG and now the 77th Brigade is not a unit for psychological warfare, no matter what some on wikipedia or the mainstream or social media claim it to be. Yes, as shown above and below, several of the units are dedicated to psychological warfare, but this is not their only goal nor is it the primary mission of 77th Brigade. The unit is to aid in the mission of stabilisation. To further substantiate this point, the next section delves into the roles and part of the histories of 77th Brigade’s sub-units.

Update 1: A parliamentary written question by MP Jim Shannon finally revealed the role of the 77th Brigade. Minister Mark Francois stated that:

“77th Brigade is the new name for the Security Assistance Group. Its continuing role includes:
Providing support, in conjunction with other Government agencies, to efforts to build stability overseas and to wider defence diplomacy and overseas engagement;
Leading on Special Influence Methods, including providing information on activities, key leader engagement, operations security and media engagement;
Military capacity-building at various stages in the cycle of conflict, through mentoring, support and training, including providing training support to Force Elements to enable delivery of security assistance tasks.
There will be 440 military posts in 77th Brigade.”

Quite simply then, the Brigade is the renaming of the SAG and continues its stated objectives. IT IS NOT A UNIT FOR FACEBOOK WARRIORS OR JUST PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS.

Update 2: MP Kevan Jones asked about the number of reserves in the 77th Brigade. Answer by Julian Brazier:

“As the reorganisation of this formation is taking place, we do not yet have any figures for recruitment but at 1 January 2015, there were 160 members of the Army Reserve (Group A) in the Units that make up the 77th Brigade.
We intend to expand the number of Reservists to 235, some 53% of the total.”

End of Part 1

SCOUT SV: Are (my) numbers correct?

I know this is news from last year but its been bugging me again lately. The much delayed Future Rapid Effects Systems (FRES) (Scout Vehicle) (SV) became the SCOUT SV and finally had a contract signed last year. The Coalition Government of course used it as a sign to say they were really spending on and focused on defence. What is interesting, or more interesting to military nuts are the exact break down of numbers. The good old JANES.com website broke down :

589 SCOUT SV vehicles to be built for the British Army.

244 of the turreted Scout SVs, which holds a three-man crew, in three variations: 198 Reconnaissance and Strike variants, designed to operate as armoured cavalry; 23 Joint Fire Control variants, for use by artillery forward observers; and 24 Ground Based Surveillance variants, equipped with a man-portable radar system.

The remaining orders are for the [Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support] (PMRS) type, which holds a crew of two and four passengers. These include: 59 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) variants; 112 Command and Control (C2) variants; 34 Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch variants; and 51 Engineer Reconnaissance variants, which have specialist engineering equipment but cannot carry dismounts.

Another 88 engineering vehicles based on the PMRS type have been ordered for use by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). These comprise 38 Recovery Variants, designed to recover and tow damaged vehicles, and 50 Repair vehicles to support the remainder of the fleet in the field. The Recovery variant holds a three-person crew, with space for a fourth, while the Repair variant carries a four-man crew.

 

 

What has been bugging me are whether the numbers above match the numbers for the Army 2020 units, especially those in the Reaction Force (RF). Let’s look at the turreted and PMRS types, including the cutely named Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch variants. The old 2012 Army 2020 brochure, 1 x Armoured Cavalry Regiment (Reconnaissance Regiment in the RF) is suppose to have 3 x Sabre Squadrons of 16 vehicles each, and a Command and Support Squadron. The no longer posted on the British Army website, possibly a fake article, Combat Capability for the future, provides a more detailed ( or perhaps too detailed) organisation of the Army 2020 Calvary Regiment. The Document states that:

Each Armoured Cavalry regiment will be structured around three Sabre squadrons, optimised for reconnaissance tasks, a Command and Support squadron and a Headquarters squadron. The Sabre squadrons will have three Reconnaissance troops, each with four vehicles, and a Support troop. The Command and Support squadron will contain three Guided Weapons troops and a Surveillance troop (p.4)

Working on this “information”, it means that 1 Troop will have 4 x SCOUT SV turreted vehicles. 3 Troops, 12 x SCOUT SV (this excludes the Support Troop, which will be covered shortly). 3 Troops (excluding the Support Troop) makes 1 x Squadron. 3 x Sabre Squadrons makes 1 Armoured Cavalry regiment, or 36 SCOUT SVs. Multiply that by another 3 (the total number of Armoured Cavalry regiments in the Reaction Force), and you get 108 SCOUT SVs. But that’s not all the trurrets SCOUT SVs. The Command and Reconnaissance Squadron of the Challenger 3 Type 56 Regiments also have reece vehicles. So far as I can gather, there are 8 of them (Scimitars CVR(T) at present then SCOUT SV). So 8 x 3/4 Type 56 Regiments (including the Army Reserve Royal Wessex Yeomanry). This means 108 + 32 or 108 + 24 meaning, 140 or 132 turreted SCOUT SV.

SCOUT SV (turreted version), according to the Combat Capability for the future document, also is found in the Reconnaissance Platoon in the Support Company of Warrior Armoured Infantry Battalions (see this link). The link says 8 x recce vehicles, so with 6 armoured infantry battalions, that means another 48 x turreted SCOUT SV vehicles allocated. This brings the total to 140+48= 188 turret vehicles, or if you ignore the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, that means 180 vehicles. Against the total order of 198 matches. Of course, the Battation HQ squadrons in each regiment would probably get 2 or 3 turreted vehicles, meaning 189 or 197 active turreted vehicles.

Let’s skip down to the cutely named “Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support (PMRS)” units. The 2012 Army 2020 plan and its final 2013 version gave the impression that 1 armoured cavalry squadron would have 16 turreted SCOUT SVs. We now know from the unofficial Combat Capability for the future document that there is 1 Support Troop in each squadron. This is similar to this old layout, where there are 4 x Spartan Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) vehicles in a support troop. It is therefore inferred that there are 4 x PMRS vehicles in each support troop. That means for a full regiment, 12 PMRS. And for all three cavalry regiments, 36 x PMRS. With and order of 59, that 23 for spares, training, etc. (Perhaps they will still be allocated amongst the RF units). Or do any PMRS vehicles go to the HQ Squadron of the Armoured Cavalry units (HQ meaning HQ Squadron not the Battalion HQ).

That’s ok for the moment. But there’s still the Command & Support (C&S) Squadron vehicles to worry about. The old ORBAT by armedforces.co.uk says “Expect the Command and Support Squadron to include a ground surveillance troop, a TACP/FAC party and an NBC protection troop in addition to the normal command and control elements.” Well, I don’t think the Army 2020 ORBAT or even present ORBAT includes a NBC troop. Instead, the Combat Capability report says “[the] Command and Support squadron will contain three Guided Weapons troops and a Surveillance troop“. Now, within the PMRS numbers ordered, there’s also another variant with an even cuter name–the “Formation Reconnaissance Overwatch (my acronym FRO)” variant. Official sources have not identified what a FRO does or contains, but chatter online by “experts” say that it is for anti-tank personnel, or colloquially, Javelin troops.

Now, the order is for 34 FRO PMRS vehicles. With a total of 9 Guided Weapons Troops amongst the 3 cavalry regiments, that would be either 27 FRO PMRS (3 SCOUT SV vehicles per troop) or 18 FRO PMRS (2 vehicles per troop). It can’t be 4 vehicles as per the old ORBAT where there were 4 x Striker CVR(T)s, because that would demand a total 36 FRO PMRS, 2 more than the total order of 34. These suggested numbers mind you just over the “Guided Weapons Troops”. There’s the “Surveillance Troops”, one per C&S squadron. In the CVR(T) world, I’m not sure which of the variants were used as ground surveillance, or whether that existed. But the SCOUT SV ordered “24 Ground Based Surveillance variants” under the turreted version. With 3 “Surveillance Troops” in the RF, that means around 12-18 surveillance variants. (What exactly is ground surveillance will be ignored for now, I may write another short entry on it). It should be noted that the surveillance variant comes under the turreted group. I don’t believe that type of SCOUT SV would have both the CTA 40mm gun and a man-portable radar. Perhaps the gun part will be a dummy gun.

Any other numbers? 112 Command and Control PMRS. That’s a mouthful, covering enough for the RF 3rd (United Kingdom) Division core regiments/battalions, and possibly even 101 Logistic Brigade Regular Army units, if you spread them out. SCOUT SV weighs a pretty heavy basic weight of 38 tonnes, but the PMRS version sits four (4), one more than thePanther Command Liaison Vehicle, which it will definitely replace in the RF units. So that’s a plus, even though 4 personnel in my view is still to small for a C2 vehicle. Then there’s “51 Engineer Reconnaissance variants”, most likely going to the Close Support Engineer units in 8 Engineer Brigade under Force Troops Command. If you divide equally, that might man around 15 such Engineer variants in operation amongst 22, 26, 35 Engineer Regiments. Finally, 88 PMRS types for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). There are distinct REME units in 101 Logistic Brigade, and REME Light Aid Detachments (LADs) in the armoured cavalry, armour and warrior armoured infantry and even heavy protect mobility units. These 38 Recovery Variants and 50 Repair vehicles could either be spread between the REME units and the LADs or just stay in the REME units. 88 such vehicles should be just sufficient for the RF.

Anything else? 23 Joint Fires Control variants, again under the turreted variant. Divide by the close support artillery regiments, say about 7 such vehicles per regiment, again the gun as a dummy. One missing variant is the ambulance variant. Some debate whether there could be a SCOUT SV ambulance variant, but it has to hold more than 4 personnel and needs medics inside. 38 tonnes is rather heavy for a medical armoured vehicle. Others say that the future medical vehicle could be from the yet-to-be finalised Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle (Warrior without turret) or (in my view) from the FRES/SCOUT Utility Vehicle (UV) variant.

In any case, I hope my numbers are correct.

The British Army in the future: Regional Alignment

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

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

Alignment of Adaptable Force Brigades:

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

7th Infantry Brigade: Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

Alignment of Force Troops Command Brigades:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update:

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

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

Thanks.