Medium Armour Support/ Reconnaissance Regiment
In addition to contributing to an intelligence picture it will provide medium armour support and a number of other functions, primarily equipped with the FRES Scout and related variants, although there is still a place for the lightweight vehicles in order to provide a degree of flexible capabilities.
For FRES Scout and the Base Platform the MoD have opted for a tracked chassis, recognising that the advantages of tracks outweigh the disadvantages, in our proposed Mechanised Brigade structure the Medium Armour Support/ Reconnaissance Regiment would be equipped with the FRES Recce Block family, including the protected mobility, scout, repair, recovery and fire support variants.
Each Regiment would consist of 2 Reconnaissance Squadrons, 1 Fire Support Squadron, 1 Support Squadron and HQ elements. The HQ element would consist of protected mobility and command variants, enough to support distributed operations as the Regiment may be deployed over a wide area.
A Reconnaissance Squadron would consist of a Squadron HQ, 3 Reconnaissance Troops and a Logistic Support Troop.
2 of the Reconnaissance Troop’s will be equipped with 4 ASCOD FRES Scout each and the Logistic Support Troop would be tasked with various support functions like repair, recovery, force protection and ambulance.
The third Reconnaissance Troop would be equipped with a combination of lighter vehicles like Jackal, Coyote, Force Protection Ocelot (if it hopefully replaces LR and maybe even Jackal) and quad bikes depending on the requirement. It is important that at least one troop in the squadron retains some degree of helicopter air mobility.
Dismounted infantry might be organic or attached from other units as needs dictate (thanks gents)
The existing Formation Reconnaissance squadrons are nominally scaled for another troop, the Guided Weapon Troop, that uses the Striker version of the CVR(T) equipped with the long range Swingfire Anti Tank Guided Weapon. The Swingfire is now long out of service so this capability area remains essentially unfilled, originally they were designed to provide overwatch and anti tank cover for the Scimitars that would be deployed in harms way forward and on the edge of the area of operations. It might be argued that this role is now taken by the Apache AH1 Attack Helicopter and RAF aircraft to some extent, but they are a finite and usually over tasked resource that might have trouble operating in restrictive airspace or very bad weather.
I think there is still a need for ground launched long range guided weapons.
The certainties of the Cold War produced some extremely advanced autonomous anti armour weapons like Brimstone, able to selectively destroy large quantities of military vehicles with very sophisticated guidance technology in fire and forget mode. Iraq and Afghanistan have confirmed the ‘old fashioned’ man in the loop systems are now of greater use, as evidenced by for example, the dual mode Brimstone. Top attack weapons are also of less value when attacking small targets hiding behind cover in buildings for example, restrictive rules of engagement and the desire for greatly reduce collateral damage means that some of the advanced modes of operation are now less practical. The increasing use of Javelins to attack small groups or even individual Taleban in Afghanistan is another stark example.
The UK has engaged with MBDA in along term partnering arrangement for complex weapons but there is some synergy between an Army requirement for a long range anti tank missile and the RAF Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) programme. SPEAR has been going in one concept form or another for nearly a decade and included 5 capabilities; Capabilities 1 and 2 to be met by developments of the Raytheon Paveway IV and the MBDA Dual-Mode Brimstone, respectively, other improvements are also being considered. Capability 3 is understood to correspond to what was previously SPEAR Drop 2 and there was some talk of an extended range Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) or Sea Skua replacement, being used by the RAF. The fourth element of the revised program encompasses upgrades to the Storm Shadow cruise missile, while the fifth element could cover a longer-range cruise missile. Up to date information on SPEAR is hard to find but the partnering arrangement does not appear to include any ground launched missile or a replacement for the Attack Helicopter’s Hellfire missile. The UK has also participated in a number of other programmes including the European Modular Missile and the Multi Role Combat Missile. The US has also finally got to grips with a common missile in its revitalised Joint Air to ground Missile (JAGM) that will be launched from both helicopters and fast jets and will have a tri mode seeker, multi purpose warhead and 16-28km range, depending on launch platform.
If the UK decides that a ground launched long range missile is desirable then in the long term it should be striving for commonality across all three services with a single family of missiles that can be launched from fast jets, helicopters, small ships and vehicles/ground mounts. Dual and tri mode seekers might reduce logistic complexity but will inevitably drive costs up so a single missile ‘family’ might be an appropriate route, one thing is certain, we need to maximise commonality across all three services, the Common Anti Air Modular Missile programme is an excellent example of this, we should ensure that the same approach is followed for anti surface target missiles as well.
In the short to medium term, it should be relatively straightforward to use the already designed Hellfire vehicular launching system on the ASCOD base platform or even design one similar to the Striker configuration. The Hellfire II long range guided missile has a number of warheads options, 500 – 8,000m range, fires from a defilade and has the ability to detach the fire control unit from the launching vehicle (like Striker) would make this a powerful and versatile system. Although the Hellfire is larger than Swingfire, the ASCOD2 is larger than the Striker.
An even cheaper option might be to use Javelin and a dismounted infantry team.
Another alternative might be the CRV-7PG I mentioned in the post on heavy armour.
Fire Support Squadron
The role for this squadron would be to provide direct fire support for dismounted infantry and other units, in this proposal the Mechanised Infantry brigade is much lighter than the existing ones, no Warrior and Challenger for example, so this squadron is the Brigades heavy hitter.
The ASCOD2 already has a version that uses a 105mm tank gun and the version with the Royal Thai Marines have selected the version with the Denel Land Systems LMT105 turret
Other options that have been prototyped with the ASCOD chassis include the Oto Melara HITFACT turret and the General Dynamics M6801 auto loading system from the Stryker MGS, although the latter is the perhaps the least suitable as it uses a complex/expensive unmanned mounting and the main reason the US selected the weapon was because it came from old M1A1’s rather than any inherent suitability for a lighter chassis.
The CMI 90mm or 105mm weapons might also be considered.
The 105mm direct fire canon would seem a sensible route to take for direct fire support and there are many NATO standard ammunition natures in production from a variety of sources, it is a low cost and low risk option although there are also a number of 120mm weapons that might also be considered from Rheinmetall and Oto Melara to name but two.
Each Squadron would be scaled for 4 troops with 4 vehicles each plus the standard Logistic Support Troop.
The final element of the Medium Armour Support/ Reconnaissance Regiment is the Support Squadron that would provide a number of disparate functions but comprise 4 Troops plus the standard Logistic Support Troop.
1 Troop – Remote Fires Integration, this troop would be manned by forward air controllers and make up Tactical Air Control Parties as needed. Individuals would be able to integrate all forms of indirect fire from land, air or maritime platforms. Given the increasing need and availability of precision indirect fires the ability of Army units to direct those fires needs to expand. Vehicles might be split between a FRES ASCOD Protected Mobility and other high mobility vehicles such as Jackal/Panther in the short term and in the medium term, hopefully the Ocelot. In any case, a mix of vehicles should be used.
2 Troop – Observation, this troop might be larger than normal with a broader range of roles including long range sniping missions, ground observation and NBC Reconnaissance. In an increasingly urbanised environment and where there might be restrictions on the use of aircraft and UAS the need for enduring passive and active ground surveillance remains.
A typical vehicle might be the FRES ASCOD with a hydraulic articulated boom that mounted a sensor head; electro optical, radar and acoustic. For an idea of a similar vehicle have a look at the Czech Sněžka reconnaissance vehicle.
3 Troop – UAS, in an earlier post we suggested a Brigade level UAS to compliment and/or replace the Watchkeeper 450 and the Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle would be the preferred system because it does not need any fixed launch and recover facilities. As ground based UAS become viable they might also be integrated. Each troop would be equipped with 3 systems. Again, vehicles would be likely a mix between FRES ASCOD and lightweight vehicles.
A fourth troop might consist of an NBC Reconnaissance capability, detached from a centralised ‘pool’ of divisional support units although this would not be the norm.
This is a departure from currently accepted structures because it places UAS and remote fires control outside of the Royal Artillery.