Second part of IXION’s guest post
I have been accused of being anti RAF Anti Navy but not yet anti Army, still the day is young..
Given that there is no credible, likely, short, or medium term threat of actual state invasion of the UK mainland, or any other member Nato we might realistically beable to help’s mainland. Jus because we are in Nato does not mean in land terms we can do any more good for some of our fellow members than our guarantees did Poland in 1939.
Just why do we keep an Army?
I mean it, I really mean it Why?
I can see a role for one but not the current one it clings to.
All of our wars since ‘The last unpleasantness with Germans’ (as my late father-in-aw always called it), have, including the Nameless isles been elective, (even if I was in favour of that one).
Korea, Gulf 1 and 2, Afghan: – We were not needed, (quiet at the back oh no weren‘t), It all would have happened anyway without us. I will ignore / not bother with the various Malaysian and African scraps of the imperial kind.
In short then we have been in the habit of sending our soldiers out around the world to fight and die; in cases where we felt able to, and justified in so doing. And mostly as part of a coalition.
But not just that.
We have sent proper armies, Divisions with heavy kit etc. In that we have been in the same league as the Americans for retaining that capability. Ok not in anything like the numbers but none the less we have tried to keep the ability to send a couple of armoured divisions worth of troops, (if not actual division structures), to the Middle East and beyond, and to try to support and supply them in fighting a ‘Hollywood style high concept war’. Only the French in Europe attempted anything like that capability. Even the Soviet Union would have struggled to do that.
However IMHO, It has frankly lead to little more than trouble and blood; some ‘prestige’ I am sure, but how much in Pounds Shillings and Pence, and real world influence?
More importantly; How has it contributed to our defence.
What would we lose if we ditched it the capability?
North Korea would have kept out of south Korea. Sadam would still have fallen. The US would have fought Afghanistan alone, but still would have fought it.
I genuinely struggle to see what intervention by large scale, heavy armoured forces that the UK has carried out have done us any good long term.
Before people start shouting ‘Special relationship’ the US is both suffering serious Relative economic decline; (in 1945 it was more than 90% of the world manufacturing economy, by 2011 less than 35%); A debt crises (but then aren’t we all), and more importantly a refocusing of its priorities, away from Europe.
It was special when it suited the US now it does not. I invite those who believe in it to consider how we got all that logistical support in Gulf 1 and 2 but not exactly a ringing endorsement of Suez or Northern Ireland….
Has the time come to stop trying to fool the world, (who increasingly aint fooled anyway), that WASAWPYK. (We Are Still A World Power You Know).
So the first challenge to the old order is this:- Construct me a scenario in which we:-
1) Would deploy support and supply unaided by allies a British armoured division abroad?
2) Where a coalition of Heavy Land forces would not be sent because the UK could not contribute/ (in other words where our forces were necessary).
1) In either scenario why is it worth keeping it?
Our successful foreign interventions, like, Sierra Leone, and the Falklands have been with lighter forces in… Drum role ‘Strategic raid’ type scenarios.
Why mess with the current deployment of the army, or even the MRB plan?
We have had some successes, some tatty short lived glory and some benefit from doing it this way so why stop?
If there is any of the HM armed forces that is long on fur coat and short in the Knicker dept it is the Army.
The RLC has never really been given the trucks the manpower etc to supply at distance large scale, forces we have been totally dependant on the US for G 1 and 2, and to a lesser degree in afghan. There were scandals! I say again Crimean type scandals, regard the supply of our forces in both conflicts, covered up in part by US largess. The tales of no bullets for officer’s side arms 3 magazines a man, body armour, etc etc. Much of our equipment is old (Bulldog for heavens sake is as old as I am)! And a lot of stuff is in desperate need or repair/upgrade. (The fact that FRES is a cluster fu*ck does not mean the idea is unsound). Many of our formations are in reality still at the Bedford and land rover scale of equipment. So Even if we can play big armoured formations we cannot play for long.
In short should we stop trying to play Goliath in high heals and padded jackets, and try and be a harder David….
MRB is an attempt at that but only an attempt, it is still wedded to some idea world power dom.
MY proposal is:-
First we need to take a serious axe to the upper ranks. Brigades need to be commanded by brigadiers beyond that there is not any reason for more than a handful major generals Lt generals and one 3 star in charge of the whole shebang. Up or out should be the norm, if you haven’t reach colonel by 40 sorry your out. We can lose 2nd Lt and Lt colonel from the rank structure as well. Whole areas of power point warriors and Ponti’s need to go.
Second ditch the guards in all their donkey walloping and bearskin wearing glory. They can become a territorial unit, trained in crowd control and security, and paid for out of the police budget, and the tourism budget.
Thirdly Rock Ape’s and marines go to the army. TD is of the opinion that the RAF should run anything that flies because it makes no sense to have 3 air forces 2 tiny and one small. For a variety of reasons I disagree, but the same logic applies to Popski’s private armies of the RN and Airforce.
Fourthly The marines the Raf Parachute section, Para’s SAS SBS/artillery spotters/ Forward air controllers etc should all be part of an special forces command with it’s own home and expeditionary units. Ranger Battalions for stuff like amphibious and air assault. We should have a full battle group with special forces support ready to go at the drop of the hat, with special forces support
I have heard many arguments about the difference in roles between the paras and the marines I have considered them all researched their past current uses, and have come to this opinion…. They are self serving bollocks. In practice both units have been used interchangeably for decades and it implies marines are too stupid to jump out of aircraft or the paras too short to wade ashore from landing craft.
Thirdly we need to reorganise and equip to fight strategic raids and nothing higher.
Eg why do we have 5 nominal divisional structures in UK ? I propose a 2 division structure for the army. One home Division and one expeditionary Division.
The home division should be made up of 3 brigades North middle south (feel free to argue amongst yourselves for boundaries and sexier names). The brigades should be structured for training and support and made up primarily of reserves / territorial’s and units on rotation from the expeditionary Division, working up or down. It would also have a role similar to US national guard to help in times of emergencies. I am not the only one who was annoyed that during the last 2 cold snaps lots of perfectly capable if not equipped with snow plough and gritter equipment sat idly by… It should be commanded by a Lt General.
The Expeditionary Division should be made up of nearly ready to go/ ready to go units units having worked up in the ‘home division’ before transferring to expeditionary command. The brigades deployed to the Expeditionary division should be 1MRB (in heavy configuration) and 1 (in Light Ratel style- see below), and one special forces brigade as proposed.
Equipment wise we need to upgrade / replace, but I do not want to be too equipment specific. Arguing about FRES SV etc. Above all else we need to be able to supply and support these units on our own. Frankly this is where it really gets controversial.
There remain on the historical a number of recent conflicts of the all out war variety; where better trained, better lead, more technologically advanced armies have destroyed ‘heavier’ armed forces of the massed formation variety. The Chinese for all their bogey man status are struggling to create a more professional better equipped army, that is smaller…
One of my favourite conflicts was the ejection of the markedly superior Libyan forces from Chad by opposition forces using missile armed technical’s to engage armoured formations. The recent Libyan conflict became was really one sided and the rebels barely had a tank or 152 mm artillery piece to their name…
Many people I respect on this site have argued strongly in favour of heavy armour and heavy artillery.
Both are serious logistical drags.
IMHO we have reached the point where the rising APC reaches the falling tank. It should be perfectly feasible to move to a single heavy chassis sharing engines/transmissions/ tracks internal systems etc. Merkava style but in the 40- 50 ton bracket. (This is a bit blue sky thinking I know) but we cannot afford specialist vehicles in the penny packets we can afford to buy. We should get out of the separate heavy tank business. 155 mm artillery should go truck mounted we should loose the heavy tracked heavy artillery.
One major thing what’s wrong with a Ratel style APC based on the MAN Chassis is?
It would fit the UK road and rail loading gauges, be self deployable, logistically cheap (relatively), give it GPMG and 40 mm grenade with anti armour missile capability, and use it in largish numbers….. Forget boxer etc.
This is not about flying armour everywhere but is about reducing the amount of logistics needed by each vehicle when it gets there.
The Air angle of this needs to be looked at. I remain of the view that the AAC are the right people to run Army transport helicopters and inter theatre transport, not the RAF where it remains very much a 2nd class part of the service. 3 air brigades 1 home 1 foreign (organised as above with units moving in and out of each as maintenance etc requires) and one for the special forces.
As for numbers all this would at a rough estimate reduce the Army to approx 55,000 regulars and 20,000 TA (I am prepared to see those numbers as approximations and they may vary somewhat either way.
The whole point is to cut the army to fit it’s logistical cloth, and to recognise that we cannot take on comers any more.
A harder David.
But not in terms of having some small units of top notch kit which we don’t train with properly or can support properly
The idea is what we have we can use and use fully. Such an army would be easier to move abroad and use in the way we have actually used it/had to use it in the last 60 successfully.
And by the way the reduction in numbers and dead wood should fee up some cash for proper pay rises for the fighting soldiers.