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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

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

The Security Assistance Group, now the 77th Brigade Part 2

Part 2

77th Brigade/SAG sub-units

The MOG

Three out of four of these units are well known as there were quite active in Operation Herrick in Afghanistan. The MOG for example, was there to present the Army’s and the armed forces role to the Afghans and the wider UK and international community. The MOG sends out teams to HQ or battlegroup teams to report the new or teach personnel how to deal with the media. (See also this explanation for media operations) The MOG has obviously being displayed through the British Army’s own blog, especially through a certain Captain Lisa Irwin. There’s also Captain Lorna Ward, who’s full time job is a producer at Sky News but also a MOG team member in Iraq (see Broadcast, 2008 “A window into Iraq” Broadcast, 11 January 2008). Its teams are most probably the Combat Camera Teams (CCTs) as seen by a news article on Major Paul Smyth (PR Week, 2010, “Major Paul Smyth – Facing two lines of fire”, PR Week, p.16, 5 March 2010). There was also this news release detailing then 4th Mechanized Brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan (UK Government News, 2012, Communicating 4th Mech’s upcoming Afghanistan Tour, UK Government News, 3 September 2012).The MOG itself has a <a href=”https://twitter.com/MediaOps_Group”>twitter account, though that hasn’t been updated since 2013 (not exactly the twitter warriors you want eh?).

While all this may have painted a rosy-red picture of the MOG, some other reports do not. A certain TA now Army Reserve (AR) Captain Christian Hill in one CCT apparently saw the CCT/MOG as twisting the truth about the Army’s/Armed Forces role in Afghanistan. Hill resigned his position/commission in (Leicester Mercury, 2014, “‘I’m no Goebbels. There was never an occasion when I thought I was peddling military propaganda'”, Leicester Mercury, 25 April 2014; Gallagher, P., 2014, “Second officer resigns to tell truth about war; ARMY”, i-Independent Print Ltd, 12 April 2014). There’s also this Guardian news article about Hill. Another less serious resignation was that of the MOG’s CO in 2014. Lieutenant Colonel Vickie Sherieff was appointed as CO sometime in 2013, as stated by her predecessor. The Telegraph article said her elevation would be a poster girl (not boy) for the drive to get more people to get more people to join the AR. Sherieff’s resignation was due to her promotion in a new job scope. Anyway, it is undoubtedly the case that the MOG would skew the image of the British Army/Armed Forces. But let’s skip down to a more well-known unit.

The MSSG

The MSSG is probably more famous than the MOG and one of the few famous non-combat British Army units across the last decade. According to page 1685 of this book, the MSSG was established in 2009 to help reconstruction/stabilisation of Afghanistan. This unit was formerly known as the the Joint Civil Military Cooperation Group and has long been under the control of the Royal Engineers. The MSSG’s website gives a clear indication of the unit’s mission and it is NOT PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE! Rather, it is a “unique defence organisation that provides the UK with an array of skills and knowledge, that can be used to provide military support to the civilian efforts to stabilise countries around the world that are either emerging from conflict or are at risk of sliding into chaos.” It is therefore clear this sub-unit is not primarily aimed to counter regions and states conflicts and post-conflicts.

This can be further elaborated through various news articles detailing the MSSG’s activities:

1)One of the earliest I can find is MSSG personnel training Ugandan soldiers in disaster management (Africa News, 2009, “Uganda; British Soldiers Train Locals, Africa News, 24 August 2009).

2) A second article, this time by the MOD, details the success of the unit in Afghanistan. The article mentions influencing the Afghan population, but not directly through psychological warfare. Instead it emphasises the terms “CIMIC (Civil Military Co-operation)” and “stabilisation” pop up, indicating the unit’s actions (States News Service, 2010, “Stabilisation in Afghanistan: Winning the population from the insurgent, States News Service, 4 August 2010).

3) Further articles again highlight the MSSG’s role again in training others for disasters (Bagnall, S., 2010, “I’m helping Africans prepare to face disaster; TA OFFICER ORGANISES EMERGENCY RESPONSE”, Daily Post (North Wales), 17 November 2010, p.17; Kernan, L., 2010, “Sergeant’s live-saving African trip”, Aberdeen Evening Express, 18 November 2010, p.16; States News Service, 2011, “MOD Staff help Ugandans prepare for disaster relief, States News Service, 10 January 2011; Sutton Observer,2011, “Officer’s key role in project to help flood disaster plans”, Sutton Observer, 2 December 2011).

4) MSSG Stabilisation exercises (The Times (London), 2012, “Stabilisation exercise in Botswana; Military matters News in brief”, The Times (London), 7 January 2012; see also this MOD release and this blog entry (which also contains references to the MOG). Most prominently, an MSSG team was sent out to Jakarta for a disaster management exercise in 2014. You can read the four blog entries for yourself: part 1, <a< span=””> href=”https://britisharmy.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/jakarta-an-exercise-in-disaster-management-pt2/”>part 2, part 3, <a href=”https://britisharmy.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/jakarta-an-exercise-in-disaster-management-pt4/”>part 4, also see <a href=”https://www.</a<></afacebook.com/BritishEmbassyJakarta/posts/865543133459243″>this facebook entry. This exercise once again highlights the group’s role of role of disaster prevention and ultimately country stabilisation or BOSOS.

5) The rest of the news articles I could find were personnel with the MSSG awarded for their duties (see for example MSSG awarded for humanitarian work in Afghanistan; Free Press Series, 2011, “Chepstow colonel delighted at New Year’s honour”, Free Press Series, 5 January 2011; West Briton, 2012, “Exemplary soldier ‘Pez’ is killed on his final tour”; West Briton, 12 July 2012, p.4; Navy officer recognised for Engineering role.

6) Finally, an article relating to a contract (News Bites – Private Companies, 2014, “UK MOD Awards Safety Contract to BMT 03 June 2014”, News Bites – Private Companies, 4 June 2014.

As the various news reports show, the MSSG is certainly not a unit to spread psychological change but to implement the UK’s interpretation of stability. Of course, stability can mean spreading of British values (which the Army has been in tool in all of the UK’s conflicts) but it can also mean instilling certain international norms as part of the intervention process. This certainly isn’t direct psychological warfare. What else…oh as the MSSG’s website and above news reports state that its is a tri-service unit. It is also a hybrid unit–one that combines both regular and reserve personnel. This Financial Times (you may have to subscribe to read) article shows a high-flying management consultant as a reservist in the MSSG. The unit itself was also a recipient of the SUN newspaper military awards. In summary, the MSSG is a unit that works closely with UK departments to ensure stability and peace in foreign countries, perhaps promoting British interests and values, or international standards. It is certainly far away from the area of Psyops.

15 POG

Now, the next unit in the 77th Brigade/SAG evidently/obviously is focused on Psychological Warfare. 15 POG came into being in 1998. It gained “Initial Operating Capability with new multi-media equipment supplied through MOD DEC ISTAR Project DRUMGRANGE during 2007” further cementing role a a PSYOPS unit. (See this link

OK what is really known about this unit? There used to be primary webpages for 15POG: One on the British Army’s website and on the Royal Navy’s website (UK Armed Forces are notorious in not moving web links when they update their webpages or even produce accurate orbats.) These pages not only introduce the unit–its emblem and its naming–but also give a historical background to British Psyops. 15 POG was previously under the 1 or 1st Military Intelligence Brigade, page 107. As with the MSSG, it is also a hybrid and tri-coloured unit, drawing reservists from the Royal Navy and RAF Regiment (see also Derby Evening Telegraph, 2013, “‘I’m so proud of my reservist husband over his Afghan role’ “, Derby Evening Telegraph, 14 September 2013). There is even a LinkedIn page set up by some one for forme members to join. Members of the unit include (former) Royal Navy Commander Steve Tatham, Stephen Jolly, former Director of Defence Communications at the MOD and Colonel Colin Mason. Another British Army Corporal, Sarah Bryant was a member of 15 POG but tragically killed in Afghanistan (Johnson, A., 2008, “‘She died doing the job she loved. She was a truly special person who died a hero’ “, The Independent on Sunday, 22 June 2008).

If those archived webpages and the psywar.org link doesn’t explain 15 POG’s mission,this BBC article by ex-Defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt gives a succinct report on the unit’s operations in Afghanistan. 15 POG wasawarded the Firmin Sword of Peace in recognition of their work in Afghanistan. It has uses all form of traditional media–music, radio, print, and now internet–to influence both military and civilian adversaries. With the 77th Brigade’s announcement, 15 POG (possibly joint or along with the MOG), will use social media to “attack” or influence its enemies. Undoubtedly, it’s future mission will be that of PSYOPS but PSYOPS can be a means to stabilise and develop conflict/fragile states.

The SCBT

The SCBT is probably the newest member of the SAG/77th Brigade–I can’t find any information on it (Or am I incorrect?) At the very most, I can find two LinkedIn profiles–here and here of serving person working in the SCBT. Judging by its name, the SCBT is not a PSYOPS unit and probably is, like the MSSG, concerned with stabilisation or conflict prevention. One wonders whether it compliments or duplicates the role of the MSSG. I do hope the MOD/British Army releases more information on the SCBT.

Well, that’s an overview and partly a review of the sub-units of the Security Assistance Group, or now the 77th Brigade. It is quite clear that only one of them is primarily dedicated towards Psychological Warfare and that they have the mission of stabilisation and upstream prevention in mind. More of this will be discussed in part 3.

To Be Continued.

SCBT https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=300758373&authType=name&authToken=wDpa&trk=prof-sb-browse_map-name

SAG https://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-corden/23/954/397

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-corden/23/954/397

USSOCOM similar units

https://www.facebook.com/8MISG

https://www.facebook.com/pages/96th-Civil-Affairs-Battalion-Airborne/213977188784316?ref=stream