In a previous post on Army structures I suggested that the current 2 division structure was an impediment to agility, not cognisant of the size of the Army and results in instances of top heavy over administration. The US has also recognised this in their transformational approach with the Brigade Combat Teams, whilst the UK should not blithely mimic the US Army the approach has merit and just because it is ‘not invented here’ does not mean we shouldn’t do it.
The British Army has always gone to war with composite formations and with this proposed structure this will not change, the basic building block being a Company or Squadron, for example . But in order to provide enough concentration of combat power this proposition sees the Brigade as the basic manoeuvre element.
There has been a suggestion that the distinction between light role and mechanised (or medium) is somewhat artificial and more flexibility could be obtained by having a single type that flexed up or down depending on requirement. I think this would be difficult to achieve in practice as the training needs, particularly for vehicles might be onerous.
The proposed structure is 2 Armoured Brigades, 4 Mechanised Brigades and 2 Light Role Infantry Brigades. Carrying out the rapid reaction role will be 16 AAB and 3 Cdo.
Overall this is a modest re-organisation and expansion that adds an additional 3 light role infantry battalions (2 Army, 1 RM Cdo) and re-roles/re-equips some of the existing Challenger, Warrior and AS90 based units. Other changes include the reinforcing of engineering, intelligence, medical and other ‘influence’ type capabilities.
This is only a high level overview, more detail on equipment and capabilities in later posts.
Armoured Brigade (Heavy) x2
There is still a need for the heavy hitters and in military terms (at least on the ground) this is an armoured brigade. The current armoured brigade structure is based on 1 Formation Reconnaissance Regiment, 1 Armoured Regiment, 2 Armoured Infantry Battalions and 1 Light Role Battalion plus supporting units. Existing Mechanised Brigades typically substitute an armoured infantry battalion for a mechanised one.
The Armoured Brigade would revert to the older square structure of 2 Armoured Regiments and 2 Armoured Infantry Regiments plus the Formation Reconnaissance, combat support and combat service support elements.
7th Armoured Brigade would consist of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Royal Hussars in Challenger 2 with 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland and 3 Battalion Mercian Regiment in Warrior. Formation Reconnaissance would be carried out by 9/12 Lancers and the existing combat support and combat service support units retained.
20th Armoured Brigade would consist of Royal Dragoon Guards and Kings Royal Hussars in Challenger 2 with 1 Battalion Prince of Wales’s Royal Regiment and 5 Battalion the Rifles in Warrior. Formation Reconnaissance would be carried out by 1 Queens Dragoons and the existing combat support and combat service support units retained.
AS90 would be retained, 1 Regiment per brigade but one of the gun troops will be replaced with GMLRS.
Mechanised Infantry Brigade x4
Whilst the proposal for the Armoured Brigades is relatively conventional the Mechanised Infantry Brigade is a departure from the existing structure in that it sees the removal of Challenger and Warrior, in recognition that traditional state on state armoured conflict whilst still possible is less likely.
One Regiment’s worth of Challengers would be retained as war stock and the three Regiments worth of Warriors would be used as a base vehicle for conversion into the various types that currently use an FV43x series base. The armoured brigades would then comprise solely of Challenger and Warrior based vehicles, plus FRES for Formation Reconnaissance and one or two other smaller types.
The Mechanised Infantry Brigade would be equipped primarily with a range FRES and Protected Patrol Vehicles but could also assume a light role should it be needed. A Brigade would be structured with 3 infantry battalions and a Medium Armour Support/ Reconnaissance Regiment in addition to the normal range of combat support and combat service support elements.
The existing armoured infantry battalions would be re-rolled to the Medium Armour Support Regiments and any excess personnel would be transferred to a new formation concept, the force protection company. This force protection company would be responsible for fixed location guarding and convoy protection to enable the combat power of the Brigade to be applied without being drained by force protection duties, as these tasks are much more likely given the likely asymmetric nature of future conflicts. One of the great weaknesses of the US Brigade Combat Team structure is its leanness, there exists little recognition of the impact that combat losses will have, especially in combat support and combat service support elements. The new UK Mechanised Infantry Brigade concept should be designed so as not to repeat these shortcomings.
Recognising the likely need for more soft power capabilities the new structure would have reinforced engineering, medical and ISR capabilities.
3 AS90 regiments would also be re-rolled with medium weight indirect fires equipment.
Equipment should be deployable by a combination of C17 and A400
Light Role Infantry Brigade x2
The two existing light role Brigades (19 Light and 52 Infantry) would be augmented with an additional 2 Battalions (either Ghurkha or UK based)
The Light Role Infantry Brigade would be equipped with light weight protected mobility vehicles and should be deployable by A400.
Rapid Reaction Brigade x2
Although part of the RN I have included the Royal Marines in the Rapid Reaction capability, alongside 16 Airborne Brigade, pretty much mimicking what we have now.
The Royal Marines should be expanded to form an additional Commando rather than relying on an attached Army unit as is presently the case, 1st Battalion The Rifles would return to the Light Infantry role.
The existing structure of 16AB should be retained (2 Parachute and 2 air assault) but organised on the lines of innovative Commando 21 RM structure of Close Combat and Stand Off companies to promote interoperability and standardisation. The RM Command Support Group concept should also be introduced in 16AAB.
I will cover these in more detail in later posts.
Divisional Support and Headquarters Element
Both existing field army divisional support elements and theatre troops would be held in a flexible formation that can deploy as required.
Typically these would consist of combat support and combat service support elements, for example air defence.
In operations with multiple brigades, a composite headquarters and support force can be assembled and deployed as needed