This is the final post on infantry structure that has seen the suggestion of a slightly enlarged infantry and a reduced armoured component.
16AAB is unusual in the context of the British Army because it is the only one designed to deliver air manoeuvre, yet as usual, the helicopter assets do not exist to actually fulfil on the vision. Permanent fixtures are 2 and 3 Para with the 1 Battalion Royal Irish, 5 Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland and 2 Battalion Gurkha rotating through the air assault role and 52 Light Infantry Brigade on a 5 year timescale.. 2 out of the three are assigned to 16AAB. With our previous proposal to increase 19 and 52 light infantry brigades by a battalion each these might also rotate into 16AAB
It is important that any equipment remains fully air liftable by Chinook and/or Merlin and A400.
The parachute battalions are the lightest of all forces, by definition, all its vehicles must be air droppable so these are generally AMTP’s, Land Rovers and Pinzgauers.
In the previous discussion on light vehicles I suggested that the LPPV winner would replace both Land Rovers and Pinzgauers but at 7.5tonnes starting weight the Ocelot or SPV400 might be a little on the heavy side but if these can be air dropped it would make sense to standardise on these. If not, then specialist vehicles like the PInzgauer must be retained because although the likelihood of a parachute drop requirement is low, there would be no point retaining the capability of it could not be fully utilised.
On the subject of parachute capability, it is acknowledged that combat air drops are a rare beast but the cost in retaining the capability is not massive in a wider context and it is better to have the capability should it be needed. Therefore 2 and 3 Para should be retained as they are now, even if this means hiring civilian aircraft or making arrangements with other nations to maintain parachute skills whilst the tactical air transport fleet is being heavily utilised elsewhere.
The Supacat All Terrain Mobility Platform provides supreme off road capability and is fully amphibious.
The air assault battalions would again be more or less retained as is. The LPPV in 4×4 and 6×6 variants would be the main vehicle type but the air lift weight of a Chinook should form the upper limit, about 9.5 to 10 tonnes. To provide additional high mobility the ST Kinetics Warthogs purchased as a UOR for Afghanistan should be retained for use by the air assault battalions and increased in number.
The Warthog has been ordered in troop carrier, ambulance, repair & recovery and command variants. To be moved by Chinook as an underslung load they will have to be split, as with the Viking. Warthog is an 18 tonne version of the ST Kinetics Bronco that provides greater protection and capacity than the Vikings, which have suffered from the excess weight caused by extra armour and they have also proven vulnerable to IED’s. These will be returned to the Royal Marines.
The Warthog will have a number of modifications including external fuel tanks, a Platt MR550 Shielded Ring Mount, ECM, additional armour and many others.
Additional variants include a load carrier, equipped with a hooklift system and a fuel carrier. As the UOR vehicles are taken into the main equipment programme these additional variants should also be obtained.
Attached to the brigade is a small contingent of the Household Cavalry (D Squadron) equipped with CVR(T) but as CVR(T) is withdrawn and replaced with FRES Scout the weight issue will mean that the brigade will no longer have any light armoured recce or armour support capability, at least that can be moved by Chinook.
To compensate for this capability gap it may be possible to modify the front section of the Warthog to mount a light canon in a remote turret or other lightweight mount, sacrificing the troop carrying compartment for ISR equipment and ammunition storage.
The Recce Warthog would be equipped with an elevating sensor turret and fully amphibious as with all variants (except logistics)
Although not having the characteristic V shaped hull for maximum IED protection, additional armour and other survivability enhancements can be applied. Not ideal, but in this case the extreme mobility and role can offset this.
The only other major change I would make would be to remove the aviation element, helicopters are a strategic asset and should be retained as such.
This might seem contradictory, an air assault brigade without any organic helicopters but until the time arrives when the UK armed forces have enough helicopters there will also be too much need and not enough reality.