A conventional Mechanised Infantry Brigade has a mix of armoured, armoured infantry, mechanised infantry and light role infantry in addition to HQ, combat support and combat service support elements.
One of the central debates preceding the order of battle or establishment of Army formations is what are they required to do, this come from strategy and doctrine. Strategy and doctrine often lag real time events and no matter how units are organised there are likely to be unforeseen events that make that structure sub optimal. For all their much vaunted military prowess, the Israeli experience in Lebanon was that they had prepared for the wrong option and were found seriously wanting. Instead of poorly trained insurgents then encountered small highly effective teams that had lots of firepower and a sophisticated appreciation of terrain and manoeuvre. The Israelis had concentrated too much on counter insurgency or anti terrorism and unlearned the lessons of combined arms close combat, not realising that the enemy had evolved. They didn’t make the same mistake in Gaza.
The Israelis have the advantage of knowing intimately the terrain they will be fighting on and even then they got their choices wrong, this illustrates the difficulty of matching strategy, doctrine and organisational structures. It also highlights the dangers of neglecting combined arms close combat because Lebanon might have been classed as an asymmetric conflict against non state actors but the fact is that those non state actors needed an old fashioned combination of indirect fires, close combat manoeuvre and concentration of armour to provide protected mobility.
The distinction between traditional armoured, armoured infantry, mechanised infantry and light role infantry is disappearing with composite brigades that incorporate all types, although many of the armoured regiments and armoured infantry battalions are now either based on Mastiff or provide drivers for such. The Future Army Structures (Next Steps) seems to be reinforcing this composite approach although this may be as a result of shrinking numbers, ongoing commitments and cost concerns rather than any grand doctrinal shift.
When we look at these issues it is easy to come up with simple answers to simple questions but the reality is that seemingly simple questions usually require complex answers beset with uncertainty and messy compromise.
So this is one idea amongst many.
In our proposed structure the idea was presented to retain a traditional mix of armoured, mechanised and light role formations with some changes in composition and equipment. Conservative, perhaps, but the structure has served well and still provides a reasonable basis on which to flex up or down depending on need.
In summary, the armoured brigades reverted to a more traditional 2×2 square formation (2 armoured regiments and 2 armoured infantry battalions) with a single FR regiment in order to concentrate combat power yet in a smaller overall package and the mechanised infantry brigades had 3 mechanised infantry battalions and a medium armour support/ reconnaissance regiment. In line with UK doctrine the armoured vehicles in general provide protected mobility rather than as fighting platforms, dismounted infantry generally engaging with the enemy whilst support fires are provided by vehicles.
The choice of vehicles is an interesting conundrum; generally speaking we should be pushing for FRES types but as Afghanistan has shown, there may be a requirement for vehicles that provide enhanced protection against IED’s, that conventional tracked vehicles cannot provide unless some scientific or engineering breakthrough occurs.
The proposal here then is to recognise that one vehicle simply cannot provide the mix of protection and mobility that suits every threat environment and to keep moving towards this Holy Grail (the old FRES concept) will result in huge amounts of wasted time, wasted money and a solution that meets neither requirement in its entirety. As I mentioned in a previous post, the IED is not going away any time soon but then neither is the 30mm canon or 155mm shell fragment.
This means that FRES and its variants will still be introduced into the mechanised infantry brigade but the existing vehicles like Bulldog and Mastiff will remain. There is plenty of life left in both types.
The mechanised infantry battalion will be based on the innovative Commando 21 organisation. This is a relatively conservative proposal, no masses of high technology but, a straight forward reorganisation to provide greater firepower at the battalion level.
Command Company; will consist of a pair of HQ groups, reconnaissance troop, indirect fire troop, anti tank troop and machine gun troop.
The reconnaissance troop will have 4 FRES Scout, 2 FRES Sensor Platforms (in our previous post) and 2 protected mobility FRES that will carry sniper/forward air controller sections. The troop will be supported by a recovery variant. Depending on prevailing requirements the FRES variants may be replaced with lighter wheeled vehicles such as the Light Protected Vehicle or other similar types.
The indirect fires troop will consist of 8x 81mm mortars. I have kept the 81mm in this formation because its true advantage is its light weight and logistics footprint, to go with the heavier 120mm strips the weapon system of its principal advantage. In of the earlier posts in this section I proposed SPIKE-NLOS as a possible supplement to 81mm mortar for organic precision fires but its range is longer than would be needed across a typical battalion area of operations and the US NLOS seems to be heading for failure. 81mm precision mortar rounds seem to be showing promise but the main concern is the proportion of the bomb weight that is taken up with guidance equipment reduces the combat effect on target. The ‘missile in a box’ idea has great potential but would not be able to moved by foot, which again, makes the 81mm so useful. There are many options here but in general I would propose to stay with the 81mm and migrate to supplement (not replace) with precision systems as they mature.
Anti tank troop will be equipped with the Javelin guided missile, either being carried in FRES protected mobility, Bulldog or lighter vehicles.
Machine Gun Troop, the sustained fire role for GPMG continues to demonstrate its relevance and should be retained.
Logistic Company; will provide engineering support and logistics for the battalion.
Close Combat Company x2; will comprise a company HQ and 3 close combat platoons (1 more than existing)
Stand Off Company x2; will comprise a company HQ, one close combat platoon, a heavy machine gun platoon and an anti tank platoon. Vehicles for both close combat and stand off will be either Bulldog or wheeled protected patrol i.e. Mastiff and related vehicles.
I will be looking at vehicles in more detail in the next post.