Doing more with less or rather higher quality

This post by the pretty famous aviation-centred geek Foxtrot Jalopnik takes a critical view of a graphic presented Contemporary Issues and Geography. The picture as show below shows a graphic or rather ORBAT of almost all or all the UK’s active military aircraft, combat, combat air support and even training.

UK military aircraft Feb 2016

UK military aircraft Feb 2016

(All rights go to

Foxtrot Jalopnik (henceforth FJ) goes on to say:

The Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm and the Army Air Corps have shrunk dramatically over the last decade, but the recent Strategic Defense and Security Review has ordered the UK begin to reinvest heavily into its air arms…Of particular note in this case is just how small the UK’s front-line fighter force is…Even the Army Air Corps helicopter transport fleet looks particularly small…

It does however end on a positive note:

This graphic will dramatically change once again in the coming decade as the F-35 is introduced into the Fleet Air Arm and RAF inventory, as well as other aircraft such as the P-8 Poseidon. Still, its unlikely that the UK’s air combat end-strength will ever look anything like it once did as recently as 2003 invasion of Iraq. Then again, the same can be said for America’s air combat aircraft inventory.

If FJ’s post could be said to be critical, the commentators below are far more acerbic. Sxay91 bring up the common swipe that previous (Labour) governments have destroyed the UK military. Buzz Killington is even more biased, using the “usual” line hat the UK (and European nations) have to spend more on welfare (than the Us, which by the way, has some sort of welfare system in certain areas) and now has to tend to (Muslim) refugees. JohnDiz cites his (possible) own experience saying that UK Special Forces needed UK rotary and aviation support (damn the Special Relationship?), FSBCyberPropagandaDivision calls the UK’s future carriers “useless” (not exactly about UK aviation) the list goes on and on. To sum up, These commentators who I guess are mostly American or Brits who want to jump on the bangwagon, agree the UK military aviation is shrinking, lousy, useless (insert your own negative adjective here).

Ok, fine, it is a small force. It’s smaller than it was during World War Two (where by the UK did get US help through the Lend-Lease Act and the wider Commonwealth), it’s a smaller force since immediate post-World War Two, it’s a small aerial force since the Falklands, Gulf War One, Operation Telic. But ok, since FJ brings up the 2003 invasion. Back then, the UK just did have the Tornado Gr4 and the classic Harrier, but it did not have the high accurate Brimstone missile. It ha only the Tornado ADV, the air defence fighter which was definitely less agile and deadly as the Eurofighter Typhoon or its USAF counterparts. In 2003, the Nimrod was was certainly in the ORBAT and in more than one squadron, but not that it was really need for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The Harrier version in Op Telic was the GR7, not the GR9. There was at best one Army Air Corps (AAC) Regiment there, but not the famous Apache. The UK used its old Lynx AH7 and Gazelle AH1s in the initially campaign. As for Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) assets, Op Tellic saw the ageing Sea King, not the Merlin helicopter.

The bottom line is, in 2003 Iraq War (or previous campaigns), the UK did have a numerically larger force of aviation assets and a larger variety. What it did not have back with those numerical quantity was quality. Today, even with a smaller FAA, AAC, and Royal Air Force, it has far better equipment and weaponry. The UK has Apaches (and soon to be upgraded AH-64s), Merlin HM2 and later HM4s, Lynx Wildcats, Eurofighter Tranche 1/2 and later versions, as well as other support and ISTAR aircraft. One most common touted weapon by politicians and the media is the Brimstone missile, used in Op Ellamy and the present Syria/Iraq campaign, Op Shader. Everyone wishes for a larger force and FJ did mention that the US aviation force is smaller than it was in Gulf War One and Two. Power doesn’t just come through quantity alone. Ok fine, quantity does matter, but as I’ve quickly shown, it matters at best with high quality.

It’s a good ideal world to have large quantities of forces, aerial, maritime or land-based. But that’s an ideal world. For now, a good quality force helps more than just a larger quantity.


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 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 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.