Multi Role Brigades

The Strategic Defence and Security Review framed the future of the British Army in terms of the Multi Role Brigade. This had been signalled from as long ago as 2008 and subsequently featured as part of the Future Army Structure and Future Army Structure (Next Steps) initiatives.

This original thinking envisaged 8 identical Brigades and 3 deployable Divisional HQ’s, each larger than a conventional Brigade and broadly configured for enduring operations like Iraq or Afghanistan.

In 2009 a report in Daily Telegraph;

He announced that the time between fighting on operations would be increased from two years to two-and-a-half years by re-ordering the Army’s brigade structure into larger units that could be sent away less often.

In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, during which he addressed the issues of equipment, troop numbers and training, Gen Dannatt said: “Many families and marriages have unfortunately fallen victim to the relentless pace of operations.

“A gap of one year between operational deployment is not unusual. Often soldiers are spending much of the year before deployment away from home in training and preparation. This is unacceptable.”

It was a question of how much could be asked of soldiers, he said, adding: “We have seriously stretched our soldiers – both their good will and their families’.”

Clearly, the underlying thread was to ensure sustainability for a long operation or even continuous operations with each Brigade deploying for 6 months every 3 years.

From the existing brigade/divisional that defines the function of a Brigade as armoured, light role or mechanised the Multi Role Brigade will be homogenous. The final composition is not yet known and even well past the SDSR much of it was still under discussion, there have been reports that the final establishment of each brigade will be announced soon.

I find it rather silly to try and speculate which units will be disbanded or which ones will be where and what unit, the details will reveal themselves soon enough.

The SDSR described the MRB’s as

We will restructure the Army around five multi-role brigades, keeping one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation and four in support to provide the ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation. Key to the utility of these multi-role brigades is their “building block” structure, allowing greater choice in the size and composition of the force that might be deployed, without having to draw on other elements from the rest of the Army as has been the case in recent times. With suitable warning time, the brigades could be combined to generate a larger formation.

The multi-role brigades will include:

Reconnaissance forces to gain information even in high-threat situations;

Tanks, which continue to provide a unique combination of protection, mobility and firepower; and

Infantry operating from a range of protected vehicles.

The brigades will be self-supporting, having their own artillery, engineer, communications, intelligence, logistics and medical support. Territorial Army personnel will be fully integrated into the new structures, in both specialist roles and reinforcing combat units.

The basing review reported on the location of the 5 MRB’s

Army brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five multi-role brigades. The other two MRBs will be based in the east of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh. The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Government. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars, increasing the number of posts there from 1,200 to more than 1,300. Consequently, the Typhoon force due to be built up there will instead be built up at RAF Lossiemouth. Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle barracks and eventually Arbroath, as we intend over time to bring the bulk of the Royal Marines together in the south-west. We are also planning to place Army units in Kinloss in around 2014-15, continuing its long-term relationship with defence.

Taken together, this represents a significant increase in the defence footprint in Scotland of well over 2,000 posts. This is in line with the Scottish tradition of supporting our armed forces and is a recognition that these are United Kingdom forces under the Crown, protecting the citizens and interests of this United Kingdom. With the move to five multi-role brigades, we have concluded that 19 Light Brigade in Northern Ireland will be disbanded. Other units returning from Germany will move into the vacated bases and we remain committed to maintaining a permanent military garrison in Northern Ireland; 160 Wales Brigade will remain in Brecon.

In addition to the historic pattern of enduring operations the influencing factor in the MRB concept is that in those same operations a range of capabilities have been used, from heavy armour to light infantry including artillery, engineers and the other enabling functions.

When these other capabilities have been used they have been pulled in from all over the Army, creating disruption and upsetting established rotation patterns.

So it is these three factors that have informed the creation of the Multi Role Brigade; sustainability within harmony guidelines, likely operations and reduction in disruption.

I must add that I think there is another factor at play, that is the retention of Regiments by dispersing them but that of course is a cynics view!

Iraq and Afghanistan have informed the Army structure, thinking and equipment for over a decade and the MRB is recognition that the future may well encompass an Afghanistan style enduring operation but also something that requires a more traditional combined arms manoeuvre approach.

Each Multi Role Brigade (MRB) will consist of 6,500 personnel and comprise a mixture of an armoured regiment, brigade reconnaissance regiment, armoured infantry battalion, mechanised infantry battalion, light role infantry battalion and a cast of supporting functions. The Combat Support functions such as artillery have also started the transformation process with RA Close Support Regiments, for example, likely to comprise both Light Gun and AS90.

Incidentally, the Australian Army is walking the same path, I think they may have actually come up with the original idea, under Project BeerSheba.

From this article in Defense Update

Planning for the next phase of the Adaptive Army Campaign, the Army will form three new Multi-role Maneuver Brigades with the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades. Each brigade will be supported by two reserve brigades. Adapting to a mission dependent formation, each brigade will be able to generate 7-10 subunits. Under Plan BeerSheba ten battle group maneuver units will be formed to support this formation. The Multi-Role Maneuver Brigades will include infantry, armor, artillery, engineers, logistics and communications and will be fundamentally alike in structure, to enable sustained operations within a new 36-month Force Generation Cycle. The six Army Reserve Brigades currently operating under the 2 Division forming the Reserve Force will be more focused on stability operations. These units will be structurally aligned with their regular counterparts. Through the training cycles they will be involved in major exercises with their partnered Multi-role Maneuver Brigades.

I wonder if this is similar to what the British Army will actually end up looking like.

What I find hardest to understand in this is exactly how it is going to be achieved with 82,000 regular soldiers.

The SDSR based 5 MRB’s on a total Army number of 95,500, not 82,000.

The only way I can square the circle is by assuming that CSS will be sliced to the bone, the Territorial Army will play a considerably larger role than even the SDSR considered and what we consider a battalion or regiment will no longer look the same in FF2020.

Another possibility is merging some of the CSS functions to reduce the rank overhead, the Royal Support and Everything Else Corps remains a distinct possibility although this will provide a relatively small saving.

If the CSS functions are going to be sliced in order to preserve historic regiments and the illusion of numbers then this is nothing short of a re run of Options for Change and Frontline First, a reorganisation the Army has been rowing back from constantly since it happened. Afghanistan has shown that the British Army at the scale as configured for that theatre is not sustainable without extensive ‘partner’ support, i.e. US logistics and transport.

So beyond the ‘how are we going to do this’ question we might also ask if the concept of the MRB is sound anyway.

If you envisage a horizontal line that represents the span of possible operations, the MRB is designed to cover as much of that line as possible. At the margins are where the MRB will be either too heavy, too light or comprising not enough of capability x or y.

If the MRB’s does not cater for those margins then it is logical to assume that the deployed MRB will have to pull formed units and/or personnel  from non-deployed Brigades, thus throwing those carefully planned rotation schemes out of sync. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, we have been doing it for centuries, but it is a problem that the MRB was supposed to solve.

Of course the MRB may mean it is less of a problem than normal and that may be acceptable.

I have also not seen any mention of the enduring deployments of Brunei and Cyprus, where they fit into the grand plan, perhaps they will sit outside of the MRB.

It also takes the path of least resistance with 3 CDO and 16AAB, i.e. leaving them alone.

I am not sure if this is wise.

The Army has an image problem, its performance in Iraq and Afghanistan, rightly or wrongly, is perceived to have fallen short and its leaders equally assumed to be politically astute but essentially spineless careerists with not a creative thought in their bodies.

The ability to change its own future is very limited.

Whilst the official line is that the MRB is the only game in town, General Nick Carter has been looking at alternatives and although details are sparse it seems they are getting a little traction. General Nick Carter is a proper military thinker and anything he comes up with should be taken very seriously indeed.

Underpinning the this thinking is that the armed forces should not be configured for the most likely type of operation but one that presents the most danger to the UK or the most operationally challenging situation.

This, the armed forces in general, and Army in particular, must provide genuine options against things that cannot be foreseen or easily prepared for. They must therefore be configured for high intensity operations against competent enemies. Reading between the lines, he believes that the MRB is mediocre and does not provide enough combat power to do anything much at all, or offer sufficient deterrent or even much worth in a coalition.

In my previous posts on the Future of the British Army I have wondered the same thing about the MRB and suggested a return to the Heavy and Light formations, concentrating combat power, modularising the supporting functions rather than attaching them to formed brigades and concentrating the capability at a Divisional level.

General Carter envisages more numerous but smaller infantry and armoured brigades with very little or no permanently attached CS and CSS.

He also sees a greater forward role, mentoring, building local security and generally seeking to prevent rather than react with a more integrated approach with DFiD and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Hi concept seems to be forming around the idea of 4 brigades structured in heavy and medium formations with those being predominantly regular soldiers. The basic position is that the TA cannot be safely relied upon to provide infantry and armoured capabilities but CS and CSS could take a higher proportion of a reserve element although this is difficult to see with highly specialised trades.

I find myself agreeing a lot with this newer concept, especially concentrating combat power, moving CS/CSS to a divisional level and engaging in more conflict prevention activity.

Some thoughts and questions…

What roles are an increased reserve component going to fulfil and how exactly are they going to play a greater role without additional primary legislation. Not sure the new Engagement Model and Whole Force Concept have this question adequately addressed.

Could the Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Artillery merge, many of their roles in ISTAR seem to have a lot of crossover and with the likely reduced need for the Queen of the Battle to engage in monster counter battery and battlefield preparation activities their shift to ISTAR and fire support (artillery, air coordination etc) would not be a wholly bad thing.

Tour lengths, the MRB nails up the 6 month tour but as we have seen from Afghanistan in some cases this is too long and some, arguably too short. We need to retain flexibility rather than put uniform boundaries around everything.

To what degree do we go purple, a tri service electronics, communications and vehicle support command for example. Or is this far enough, the problem seems to have been presented as an Army rather than MoD problem. A look at the units deployed in Afghanistan will show that all three services have representation, not necessarily in their traditional roles.

Contractorisation, how much of the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Signals and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers can we outsource to civilian contractors or hybrid units with retained reserves like the RAF’s FSTA aircraft fleet.

Can we extend the Whole Fleet Management concept to people for certain support functions?

These may save personnel but would have a significant impact on morale and unit cohesion so in a final analysis may not actually be worth it but it still leaves the problem behind.

Does an MRB have enough combat power and sustainability given it is likely the original 1-2 Light Role infantry battalions will likely be 1 and not 2?

Does the General Carter vision of mainly regular combat brigades (inf, armour) with non-organic CS/CSS that have a greater proportion of reserves and an increased concentration on conflict prevention appeal to anyone, I find it compelling?

One thing is for certain, creative thinking is needed because having the same but smaller is not really an option.

What is encouraging is that the latest generation of officers with experience of the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan know full well what the problem is and I have no doubt there is some creative thinking going on.

My fear is that the creative thinking and bold solutions will be stifled by political influence, careerism and vested interests.

Let’s hope not.

 

 

 

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

544 Comments

  1. Observer

    Interesting. My guess is that it will come down to one Armour (Intervention) Brigade and 4 Mechanised Infantry.

    Greater mechanization might be the reason for the lower troop numbers, one tank/APC uses less men than a section of soldiers, so I suspect we’ll be seeing lots of mechanised infantry, though with the budget, I suspect lots of these will temporarily be “mechanised” by old equipment at least until the economy picks up. Or maybe even their legs….

    We’ll see.

  2. solomon

    ok. now i’m beginning to understand. but understanding on one hand has me confused on several others.

    *why isn’t anyone stressing light infantry? that’s what will be needed for most missions short of war with a peer threat…from humanitarian assistance, COIN, to assisting with another countries internal defense…
    *why the FRES and Warrior upgrade paths?
    *why isn’t aviation (helicopter) made a part of these units? you would have MEU type units across the board…tailor made to jump on Royal Navy ships and get to the scene of action….
    *why the heavy emphasis on tanks? the USMC has 202,000 Marines and we have a total of 3 tank companies and one of those is in the reserves….in Okinawa we have a combined company that has TOW missile vehicles and AAVs.
    *i like where your Marine Corps is at the moment but they are missing in discussions of manpower and equipment fits…why is that?

    thanks in advance.

  3. solomon

    i meant 3 tank battalions…but if we’re going by size then that would mean that the British Army keep one battalion of tanks and expect for them to be farmed out to units going on deployment as detachments.

    the example for the British Army is the MEU…as a side note, the Australian Army is forming a pure Army unit to conduct amphibious operations…its being styled similar to an MEU and will be the “first responders” for the Australian govt. it might be nice for the UK to provide that same type of action afloat…the Army, Navy and Marines would be covered and your amphibious ships would be forward deployed and fully staffed. the RAF would have to fix it on there own.

  4. Observer

    Solomon, mechanised Infantry is more flexible than straight infantry, if you need the job done by regular infantry, you can use them too, just move their vehicles back from the front.

    As for FRES and Warrior, well, it’s what they already have, changing horses in mid stream costs more, needs more retraining and has a greater possibility of not performing up to spec.

    Intergrated aviation really isn’t that critical as long as you can liase properly with the department that manages them. It’s duplication of jobs if you have the airforce doing the same thing as the RM are doing, a bit redundent and less flexible. i.e Marine helichopters will usually only be tasked for Marine jobs while the Army and Airforce have their own show. It’s harder this way for Marine helos to be assigned to Army/Airforce jobs and vice versa. A centralised force gives more flexibility for inter-service tasking. The US is an oddity due to their size, it’s easier for them to control units if intergrated, but if C&C is not a problem, it’s a bit wasteful.

    And is there something wrong about an emphasis on tanks? This is their overall army structure, not simply beachstorming but also for things like “Drive to Bagdad”, configuring for a total amphibious force without consideration for what happens after that will leave a big lack of equipment in the followup phase.

    Come to think of it, how many amphibious operations have there been in the last 2 decades? I’m not really sure this emphasis on “amphibious” forces may be the way to go, most of the time, neighbouring countries will allow basing/transit rights.

  5. Repulse

    In my view, the UK should have the capability to get a brigade sized force rapidly to a theatre of ops anywhere in the world either by sea, air or even road. However long gone is the time where we had the luxury of size (or money) to have specialized troops for each.

    Equally having generic multi-role brigades that can do rapid shock and awe, whilst equally being able to enduring stabilization / defence ops seems wrong to me. Why not have different flexible structures for each? A “commando+” force for the first and semi professional brigade structures for the second?

    Repeating my thoughts from a previous approach, the commando+ could be an amalgamation of the following units:

    * 3cdo plus support units
    * 1st Rifles
    * 16 AAB plus support units
    * 6 additional battalions from regular army (Ghurkas, Guards etc) – mixture of light infantry and mechanised.
    * 7th Armoured Brigade

    Now, we are hopefully not planning to have enduring offensive ops outside of a very hot war (in which case all bets are off), therefore you could argue splitting this force into 3 commando units is reasonable. One would be on high alert, another on medium alert (training) and the last stood down.

    This could cover I believe a 2 brigade scenario such as the Falklands.

    The semi professional brigades (say 6 in total) would be mixed not in terms of infantry vs mech vs armour but would have a significant % of reserves – maybe even as high as 50% (why not?). You could rotate these on a one in six basis for stability ops and when stood down use the professional parts for FI / Cyprus garrisons.

  6. Repulse

    Sorry ” The semi professional brigades (say 6 in total) would be mixed not in terms of infantry vs mech vs armour” should have read ” The semi professional brigades (say 6 in total) would be mixed not only in terms of infantry vs mech vs armour”

  7. Lord Jim

    One problem I can see rom this desire to “Mechaise” everything is ti wil reduce the number of boots on the ground. This is an important lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, where in the former tank crews were used to man infantry checkpoints! Mobility is important, but I would rather see a pool of transports attached to each brigade, three quarters of which are manned by reservists, simmilar to how the Bv210s are managed by the RMs.

    I am a big fan of the MBT and I have always thought it has been a mistake not to deploy them to Afghanistan. How many expensive Javelin ATGWs have been used on targets that could have just as easily and much more cheaply be dealt with by a much cheaper 120mm round from a Challenger II.

    The MRB idea could work but it needs funding and this is the elephant in the room. Part of me wished we has simply converted the UK based Mechanised Brigades in “Striker” Brigades at the beginning of the last decade, whist retaining the Challenger II Regiment. We could have linked in to the US programme, buying the equipment straight from the US or licenced manufature in this country. Doing this we would have introduced kit like the 120mm Mortar and ground launched TOW providing improved integrated fire support and a replacement for the Striker. Afghanistan would have probably led to the conversion of at least one additional brigade to this type of formation and by 2010 we would in essence have at least three MRBs already in exsistence.

    Areas I would like to see expanded ae first the Apache force. An additional buy to allow an additional regiment (24 ac) to be stood up. This platform and its equivilents have shown themselves to be the ideal workhorses for present and future conflicts as part of a combined arms package. Secondly it would be beneficial to have a persistent UAV/UCAV capabilty over the area of operations, able to observe and pursue enemy combatant rather like a Police Helicopter pursuea car theives. We need to be able to train and operate UAV/UCAVs in the UK rather than the US.

    Finally the JHF works and in reality it doesn’t matter what colour uniform the pilots are wearing it is a pool of assets to be used. If anything the senior officers of all threee services need their heads banging together to stop them thinking of platforms as their services personal assets. Jointery doesn’t meen the creation of a single service but there has to be an end to the in service bun fights and a concentration on the bigger picture. Without this and with limited funding the MRBs are simply going to be anither admin programme with no benefit to this country’s ability to operate its armed forces.

  8. jackstaff

    Well, despite a desire to wander over to the now-safely-defused CVF thread and ruminate (again, check the alias) and will instead have one proper bash at this crucial subject — which as TD’s said is really “what will the British Army look like for the next fifteen to twenty years at least” — before the whole life thing spirits me off to intermittent lurking again.

    Brigades are not in themselves a bad idea — here looking at what the French have done is a good plan. Likewise the thing the US Army have got right despite the dinky maneuver-element aspect of their “brigade-based army” which is really and bluntly designed for roulement of garrison/patrol units through the sandbox rather than either “major theatre war” or short-and-sharp intervention.

    So what did the Froggies and Yanks get right? They invested a strong, able support component into the brigade formation directly. The desire for divisions, and the two-star job creation program that goes with them (probably a good three to five two-stars in staff and support jobs for every one with a divisional flag), has put blinders on this approach so far it seems. If you want a capable, independent brigade, you’ve got to invest not just RA and RE, Corps of Signals, etc., but the Large Corps in meaningful strength, some redcaps, a beefed up Medical Corps regiment, and the like right at brigade level. There’s a variation on that approach I’m surprised Solomon hasn’t mentioned, the USMC’s Expeditionary Brigade (which would be more like a division in British Army hands, with each ‘component’ flagged as a brigade.) There you’ve got a maneuver ‘component,’ a CS component, and a CSS component (plus fast air but that’s another kettle of piranhas and unique to the USMC.) They then task-organise. But if you don’t go that road, then you need muscular brigades that are probably going to man out at around 8-9000 pax in order to be truly effective, rather than 6500.

    It seems to me that there’s much more room in overhead for the Army to be smaller than OGH credits. And not just in shuffling CSS off to the reserves although it’s a good way to put a leash on thoughtless long-term interventions. You’d need to kill the division as we know it in the British Army, casing the old brigade flags (which, despite their import, have less emotional drawing or rallying power than divisional flashes or regimental badges) and transfer the divisional livery and lineage to brigade formations, much as 7 Armoured Bde did donkeys’ years ago (and 51 & 52 Bdes in the Scots bits of the TA.) You can have a couple of two-star task forces — strictly command and echelon-above bits with lots of TA manning — one of which is designed to manage a single big brigade as its combatant element (basically Afghanistan-sized), the other designed to handle two (an Op Granby/streamlined Kosovo invasion sized force, to draw more parallels.) Above that you can have either a British or multinational expeditionary corps structure designed to employ probably three to four UK bdes and one or two allied units of similar dimensions to the new UK bdes. Again, those structures really need to be about command and management, while most of the rest right down to delivering the mail is invested on appropriate scale right inside the brigades.

    It’s getting late so I’ll try to hit high points with potential design:

    – Leave behind the division structure and go for big brigades, again probably 8500-9000 strong, as your basis for maneuver.

    – Sod FRES. Or at least FRES as we know it. Buy a tailored RG 35 off the shelf for mechanised battalions. Look at refits or OTS for support vehicles. Take Warriors with the new CTA 40mm, add electronics and some kind of ATGM launcher (like the twin TOW on the Kuwaitis’ Desert Warriors) and make them an M3-like cavalry scout to ride in mixed cavalry regiments with the C2s.

    – Keep more armour than Mr. Toad at the Exchequer wants. Most of the Warriors and probably about three-quarters of the Chally 2s. This solves some of the problems Carter’s spotted. With due respect, the folks who want armour transferred to the TA have stuck the cart right in front of the gee-gees. Put the wallop in the regulars. If you are forced, by sheer circumstances or the idiocy of politicians, to fight a “war among the people,” use your own people (in this case bags of TA leg infantry) to fight it or go the hell home.

    – Use the reserves to provide echelon-above and central command personnel, specialist types with civilian crossover like (in American argot) Civil Affairs, some replacement tank crews in the Yeomanry, and bags of leg infantry to “flood the zone” if you’re forced to operate in areas with high population density. Also, just to hamstring the pols, write some new statutes that (Continental-style) demand Parliamentary approval for TA deployments *and* require the whip be withdrawn for any such vote. It’s conscience or nothing. This is just what the reserves ought to be there for. Despite Field Marshal Carver’s efforts to destroy it, the TA and the draftees it helped shepherd are who won the two world wars that go with that World Cup. They can and should now provide corps-level functions for the well-trained Regular maneuver elements, and the manpower base for foot-patrol warfare.

    I like Observer’s basic suggestion: one heavier brigade, four that look more like the MRB, and then the relatively small 3 Cdo (16 AAB disappears but I’ll get into that.)

    Lots of back-room positions disappear from the Regulars, lots more Rupert-sacking, and some structural changes, like getting rid of personnel attached to the heraldic “divisions” which should just be a nicety of language in an old country rather than an actual excuse to fill barracks with a typing pool.

    The one major structural change to maneuver units I’d make is with the RAC. The old American “armoured cav” seems like a nearly perfect match; make the mixed C2/”Warrior cav” regiments look like a squadron in those American regiments (with similar size of 8-900 pax.) The heavy brigade would have three squadrons of 9xC2 and 13xWarrior cav, and 1×13 C2 tank company (that’s 40 Challys and 40 scout Warriors, counting one for the regimental OC.) In the mixed brigades, swap the tank squadron for another of the standard model, so 36 Challys and 52 cavalry Warriors. Backed with a 120mm mortar platoon and the usual fixings that’s decent power for maneouvre.

    Then your armoured inf, mechanised, and light-role units remain the same (Paras excepted, but I’ll tack that on the end.) Difference is, like the RAC and in continental style, each battalion reflags as a regiment. Reform, reduction, and restructuring always has to get by gatekeepers who hate it. And frankly, though our blog-boss is suspicious (except when it comes to sappers…) regimental legacies matter, they are actual lived history through ups and downs that tie young men and women to their forebears, not some tarted-up Disney job at a country house. So you save regimental legacies (even down to company level in amalgamated regts, the RAC and Royal Anglians do this already, for example.) Investing the brigades with real CS/CSS staying power and preserving historical connections is how you cut the regulars’ infantry maneuver elements by a third but preserve both combat power and a sense of rootedness.

    What do you get with the five brigades, then?

    You get the heavy brigade, 7 Armoured, with:
    3x “Type 40″ (?) cavalry regts
    1x light-role infantry (to provide scouting, harrying, quick provision of infantry to support armoured attacks or defend against breakthroughs, air assault, etc.)
    1x now standard RA regt (2×8 AS90, 1×6 MLRS, and yes that probably means buying a few more of those off the Yanks)
    1x now standard AAC regt (9x Apache Longbow, 9x Chinook transferred over from RAF, 6x Lynx Wildcat)
    All the RE, Large Corps, medical, REME, etc. support (including some kind of mixed Corps of Signals/Intelligence bn) to go with, *not* at divisional level but right there sized to support the brigade

    Four standardised “mixed” brigades (1st, 2nd, 3rd — flagged from the old divisions — and Guards, because zombie-like those cap badges will never die so they might as well earn their bloody keep):
    1x “Type 36″ (?) cavalry regt
    1x armoured inf in Warriors
    2x mechanised inf in RG 35
    1x light role
    plus the familiarised bits from before (possibly including a new Royal ISO Container Corps (Maersk’s Own) unit ? ;)

    Each of these standardised brigades would, in fact, have three mech inf battalion/regiments assigned, rather than two. The third spot would place hold for a unit assigned either (Guards) to public duties/security ops in London (axe the specialised public-duty companies and let it be a roulement bn) or to rotational readiness as the “enduring battlegroup deployment” core. That would be four spots deep: work down, work up, active training as the Northern Ireland regular bn, and then alert station or deployment with the battlegroup.

    7 Armoured would probably field the smallest force size, perhaps as low as 7000-7500 pax, while the others would be at least 8500. I can hear concerns already about bloating out with support units or penny-packeting Apaches, but my own mental exercise here is to provide as much power as one can to each unit that’s actually in the field without dragging a massive tail behind. Of course there’s need for coordinating structures and echelon-above work like civil affairs, ports coordination, army postal, psyops, etc. But more of that can be invested in the TA, so that HMG has to get public approval to embark on missions big enough to need it, and the positive feedback loop of specialised military professions and specialised civilian ones can have a chance to do its work.

    From there you can look at how to get one of these 8-9000 strong forces and their gear deployed by sealift, because without diving into the mess of CVF threads unless you plan a snatch raid against Alex Salmond (a man can dream …) getting British squaddies in any real strength to any conceivable fight involves transit by sea. (Even if you’d like to chug across Europe to a defensive line on the Vistula against future Russian perfidy, all it needs to nobble you is son-of-Stuxnet on the points for the European rail grid. Not even the romance of dashing Spetsnaz types with sticks of dynamite.) But by “packaging” to a properly beefed up brigade, that’s more rather than less possible as it would be with an ever-task-expanding multi-brigade division. (For example, and with Nick Carter very much in mind, this 7 Armoured would give you more than half the frontal punch of 1 UK Armd Div in Granby — a little less on the arty I grant but you might attach a regt for task purposes — for a third of the personnel.)

    So my guess is then you have:
    7x RAC regiments (including Household Cav into which I’d level-up 1st Queen’s DGs) plus Royal Tank Regt as your all-purpose armoured vehicle training unit
    24x infantry “regiments” of battalion size (4×5 in the mixed bdes, 1x in 7 Armoured, plus Royal Gurkhas in Brunei, Royal Irish in NI and permanently on the battlegroup roulement, and then the Paras)
    7x RA gun regts (5x mixed heavy for the bdes, 1x M777 as 29 Cdo ARty, 1x M777 for battlegroup roulement)
    5x AAC mixed regts, plus the various support elements (Commando Helicopter Force is its own deal)
    Re-sized regts of RE, REME, and Large Corps tailored to fit the needs of the brigades but also downsized overall

    As for gear, you cut out the old Light Gun for M777, reduce AS90 a bit, probably by a handful more MLRS, keep around 300 Chally 2s (so you can outfit 7 Armd and at least a couple of the other bdes, all if the nightmare Bizarro-world baloon goes up), around 600 Warrior many in the new “scout” refit, and pretty well all the current or projected Apaches and Chinooks swapped over from crab blue.

    I have a real suspicion, based on the structure and sizes of the other “big three” armies in Europe (France, Germany, Italy) that you can have a force like that with around 80,000 personnel in regular service.

    Right, the paras — since this is on a “battalion equals regiment” model, remake the Paras as an organic battlegroup-sized force, probably around 1200 or so. Something that RAF transport driven by C-17 and A400M can actually haul and drop in one load. Four big maneuver companies (three “line” platoons and one weapons platoon in each), a battery (heirs to 7 Para RHA) of 120mm mortars mounted on Spartans designed to airdrop, and the relevant support bits incl. sappers and such as specialists under the regimental flag. Roulement to have one rifle coy permanently ready for SF support. Then you roll the regiment into 3 Cdo as the main army element.

    So there you go. A ramble like I’m wont to before life gets in the way again.

    PS:

    Observer,

    I suspect that “amphibious operations” will make a comeback, but not in the Overlord/Narvik/Gallipoli/Inchon/San Carlos Water sort of way. More like countries will either be reluctant to get sucked in with basing rights (transit may be another matter until it starts to cost — the Israeli raid at Entebbe saved just over 100 airline passengers, but the Kenyan decision to let the IAF refuel cost hundreds of Kenyan lives to Ugandan retaliation) or creative forms of “area denial” designed to queer the neighbours’ interest in helping you get used. In that case, it’s more a mix of amphib feints, air assault, airborne assault (drop the paras right in to help your marines at the lodgements, or to hit the enemy counterattack from odd angles), amphib reinforcement, and then a “sea-basing” throughput of regular army forces onto shore where they can go do their work.

    What about the Paras? Well, with the

  9. jackstaff

    Gah — disregard the last fragment (if you could stand it to get that far :) I miss the edit-friendly setup I remember from a past chance at lurking.

  10. dominicj

    lets all be honest for a moment, we’re stealing the usmc expeditionary unit/brigade idea……

    Personaly, i really dont get the problem.

    The uk is going to have 4/5/6 of each of the ‘teeth’ arms, they’re going to be divided equaly, and given organic tails.

    If they lack fighting power, well, thats simply because the uk lacks fighting power.
    6 small tank regiments is 6 small tank regiments in 1 army 2 divisions or 6 brigades.
    We can always combine the mrbs into a cohesive larger force if we wish.

    In its way, it prevents the all fur coat no knickers problem.

  11. jedibeeftrix

    “The SDSR based 5 MRB’s on a total Army number of 95,500, not 82,000.”

    Was it really?
    I never got that impression. In fact, i rather got the impression that the 95k number was always a fudge designed to solve too needs:
    1. Afghanistan
    2. Cutting the army……. while doing afghanistan
    When will those MRB’s exist anyway, i.e. really be boots on ground as existing and resourced formations? 2014………. 2015?

    As mentioned elsewhere, change the harmony guidelines and you can reduce numbers while keeping the basic ambitions alive. 4x MRB’s working a 3:1 ratio over 32 months……

    “It also takes the path of least resistance with 3 CDO and 16AAB, i.e. leaving them alone. I am not sure if this is wise.”

    I’m all open to arguments that 16AAB may be in need of reform, but there basic existence I do not question. Nor to do i question there continued existence while other brigades shrink, for it is entirely in keeping with the greater requirement for intervention over large-scale persistence.

    “Underpinning the this thinking is that the armed forces should not be configured for the most likely type of operation but one that presents the most danger to the UK or the most operationally challenging situation.”

    Exactly the opposite conclusion reached by Dannatt, why so, and who is right? The proper thinking soldier or the party political hack? ;)

  12. DominicJ

    Sol
    “why isn’t anyone stressing light infantry?”
    Too expensive for too little effect.
    Three MRBs have to take Basra as well as one has to fight in Hemland.
    Also, Warriors have been massivly effective in Afghanistan.

    Observer
    “Come to think of it, how many amphibious operations have there been in the last 2 decades? I’m not really sure this emphasis on “amphibious” forces may be the way to go, most of the time, neighbouring countries will allow basing/transit rights.”

    Sort of…
    Amphibious isnt so much essential “because its essential”, but because it opens more doors for much more useful land basing.

    Its a control issue.
    If your only option is to invade country A through country B, they can demand pretty much any price for their support, just look at what the various Stans get for allowing the US into Afghanistan.
    If you have an alternative, over the beach and seize a port, well, the price they can demand plummets, because they have to make land push *less* expensive than a sea one.
    The same goes for Carriers, in themselves, they are useful, but if you have a viable alternative to land bases, then the price Italy can charge for lending theirs plummets, because you can walk away.

    Lord Jim
    “One problem I can see rom this desire to “Mechanise” everything is it will reduce the number of boots on the ground.”
    But thats NEVER a fight the army is going to win.
    Average pay is something like £25k, thats before you tack on pensions and employment taxes.
    Whats average pay in the chinese army? £5000 per year? Less?

    Its not a choice between a mechanised infantry battalion and 30 light infantry battalions, its a choice between 1 mech and 3 light infantry, and thats being generous.

    “I am a big fan of the MBT and I have always thought it has been a mistake not to deploy them to Afghanistan. How many expensive Javelin ATGWs have been used on targets that could have just as easily and much more cheaply be dealt with by a much cheaper 120mm round from a Challenger II.”

    But how much does a litre of fuel cost in Bastion? How much would the UK be paying in “security” payments to the tribal militias of Pakistan to get them to stop stealing the fuel en route?

    “The MRB idea could work but it needs funding and this is the elephant in the room. Part of me wished we has simply converted the UK based Mechanised Brigades in “Striker” Brigades at the beginning of the last decade”
    But the army didnt want Stryker, or at least, didnt at the time. It wanted its super sensor fusion system (which rather missed the point of sensor fusion, but thats another story).

    Jackstaff
    “If you want a capable, independent brigade, you’ve got to invest not just RA and RE, Corps of Signals, etc., but the Large Corps in meaningful strength, some redcaps, a beefed up Medical Corps regiment, and the like right at brigade level”

    I thought that was the point?

    “*and* require the whip be withdrawn for any such vote.”

    The Whip isnt a legal instrument, it amazes me how many MP’s seem to think it is.
    At worst, they can be expelled from the party, whoopie. Its a threat against pole climbers.

    ***************
    My understanding of the MRB is as follows, probably wrong, but here goes.

    Everything thats “the same” gets formed in Army Corps, so the Army Air Corps, the Army Engineer Corps, the Army Infantry Corps, the Army Medical Corps, the Army Police Corps, the Army Police Corps and so on.

    These are office/college corps, in that they handle recruitment, specialised training, (possibly some VERY high level functions), career development paths and the like.

    The Army is then organised in 4/5/6/7/8 Brigades(lets say 6 for now).
    Each of these has a detachment from each of the Corps permanantly attached.
    So, the Waterloo Brigade is made up of detachments, each of which are permantly assigned to the Brigade, practice with, live on the same base with, go on the piss with and deploy with the same Brigade throughout their career. Well, obviously, there will be some movement of individuals.
    How that handles the “small” overseas garrisons, I’m not sure.
    Personaly, I’d happily stick a full Brigade on Cyprus and another on the Falklands as “peacetime” deployments, but that could be a pain for family life.
    How long are units rotated into Germany for?

    I suppose theres no reason you couldnt have 6 English Bases, whch are permanant homes for the 6 Brigades, and have two of then unoccupied on a rolling basis?

  13. x

    @ DomJ re unoccupied bases.

    On behalf of the wives, husbands, and families who will continue to occupy those bases of yours while their loved ones are away I thank you…….

  14. DominicJ

    X
    Not quite sure what you mean there…..

    Yes there would be a “rear party” that stays behind, but that would be the same on a Falklands Garrison duty or an invade Iraq duty…..

  15. Mark

    Is the most likely future operations state on state warfare, medium level coin operations or multiple small scale operations of sierra leone scale?
    Is it head long charges into armoured formations, or Kosovo type entry operations or finding, tracking and strike persons or organisations in multiple locations?

    The army has probably since suez never deployed more than 2 fighting brigades to any operation. And I fail to see that changing. In both gulf wars we deployed really heavy formations which wasn’t exactly what the us wanted but we had nothing else so they went. I simply dony see the need fo mrb

  16. Mark

    More apaches maybe more lynx in its armed configuration more tactical Istar uav more commando type forces more specialist language and interpretation specials more traing teams much less armour and heavy mech forces. More the other stuff to the reserves keep a couple of heavy brigades configures like a US heavy armoured brigade team in the regulars only.

  17. solomon

    wow.

    i’ve read some arguments that are beyond silly. “light infantry is more expensive than mechanized infantry” wow. “light infantry isn’t as flexible as mecchanized infantry”. wow.

    ’nuff said i’m outta here.

  18. DominicJ

    Sol
    I dont think anyone said light infantry is more expensive than mechanised, merely that the cost saving isnt as great as it first appears.

    You might get two or three infantry units for each mechanised unit, but the machanised unit is far more effective in real war, and the light unit far quicker to recruit from scratch.

  19. Rupert Fiennes

    @TD: artillery is about smashing stuff, cavalry is about manoeuvre. They both employ shock, but given that the old days had endless friction between Garrison and Field, not sure it’s such a good idea.

    On the other hand, merging armoured regt’s and armoured infantry sounds very sensible. They are always mixed on operations after all.

    Now watch James go loopy at the prospect of tone being submerged under brawl :-)

  20. Think Defence

    In Afghanistan, I wonder how many RAC are employed on manoeuvre and how many RA are employed on smashing stuff, compared to, how many of both are employed in ISTAR type roles.

    One for James, Phil and Observer.

    Its an interesting thought though don’t you think

  21. Brian Black

    Hi, Rupert. I suggested a while ago, with a nod towards the US Army set-up, that it might be an idea to have two combined armoured battalions -one tank squadron, one armoured infantry company, one mech inf coy; four platoons/troops to each- didn’t go down to well though. It would have given two light manouevre units and two heavy, with the most appropriate (light or heavy) componant able to take the lead with support from the other. The US army is likely changing from the two battalions in its armoured and light BCTs to three now, matching the Stryker set-up.
    ———
    For a brigade to work, you need duplication at battalion level; two or three identical units working in conjunction. If we go down to three infantry battalions -armoured, mech, light- then duplication is only at company level; we would be bringing the manpower of a brigade to the party, but without the utility of a brigade.

    If we can’t afford the fourth battalion for each of the five MRBs, then maybe it’s time to cut a brigade or to bin the multi-role idea and just go with a traditional set-up.
    ———
    I agree with what Jim said, that we should have gone with the Stryker plan. Can’t do everything, but it would have provided a reasonably capable force at a practical cost.

    I’d still like to see the MRB’s two light battalions go towards a wheeled protected mobility form; with a mix of vehicles such as Foxhound, Jackal, and something like the Patria Havoc. And the mech battalion going the same route once the Bulldogs finally die. Then retain a Warrior/Challenger componant for the heavy support.

    It’s all afffordable, we just need politicians with some balls. They try and cap child support payments and introduce an upper benefit limit, then lose their nerve because a system designed to give better service to the majority of people leaves a few anomalies. If evrey time we try and save some cash we have to scrap the plan because of unavoidable loop holes, or we have to bring in some exemption or tax credit for a few unlucky sods who didn’t grab as much money as their neighbours, then nothing in this country will ever get sorted.

  22. Phil

    I would say, from staring at the matrix for hours on end out there, that there are far more RA doing Cortez etc and Desert Hawk etc and FST etc than are actually manning guns and GMLRs and EXACTOR out there.

    RAC deploy solely as 1 RECCE Sqn, 1 BRF and 1 Warthog Group and I think they provide some MAISTIFF sqns sometimes.

    We had about 11 RA with us at any one time, 1 JTAC, 3 FST, 2 Cortez and about 5 in the UAV det.

  23. Phil Z29

    I to have my doubts about MRBs. They are neither armoured, mobile, or easy to deploy.
    It was also my impression that it was 5 MRBs pre the cut to 82.000.
    I would much prefer the armoured units to grouped into brigade/brigades of there own.
    But I do prefer the idea of X amount of brigades, which in fact are small divisions, with a single deployable divisional HQ.
    I am not sure the 5 MRB plus 2 specialist brigades will be the future for the army, there has been so much said about the TA taking on more, this must been deployable units?
    But lets not get carried away, about armour, the majority of challengers, warriors, bulldogs, and AS90’s are going to be in storage. So most soldiers will be using the Mark 1A boot for most of the time, and as most of the infantry battalions are light role, the Mark 1A boot looks to be the most operational army vehicle for years to come!
    Let’s also remember there is a very tight budget, so please don’t start saying we should buy 200 of these and 300 of them, because gentlemen, it’s just not going to happen!
    In fact, I fear the Army will be the subject of further cuts post Afghan.
    I like many, have my own idea for FF Army 2020, which I have shared with Gabriele,
    But as yet, Mr Hammond has not posted a reply!

    Regards
    Phil Z29

  24. Monty

    TD,

    I love your comment about organising a raid to snatch Alex Salmond – the sooner the better, frankly. On to more serious matters…

    I quite like the idea of Multi-Role Brigades, but their structure has to be based on a credible means of deployment.

    It can take weeks to move tanks and tracked AIFVs by ship. So as soon as you have a battalion of Armoured Infantry and a regiment of MBTS, any notion of rapid deployment goes out of the window. This is why I have become such an ardent supporter of 8×8 AIFVs supported by 8×8 tank destroyers. They hold the fort while the tanks get there.

    The brigade structure I would adopt would comprise three battle groups as follows::

    Heavy BG
    1 x Heavy armoured tank regiment (Challenger 2)
    1 x Heavy armoured infantry regiment (Upgraded Warrior)
    1 x Heavy armoured artillery regiment (155mm AS90)

    Medium BG
    1 x Medium armoured tank destroyer regiment (8×8 Centauro equivalent with 120 mm gun)
    2 x Medium armoured infantry battalions (8×8 FRES UV with 40 mm CTA cannon)
    1 x Medium artillery regiment (8×8 FRES with 105/ 155 mm gun)

    Light BG
    1 x Light mechanised infantry battalion (4×4 Foxhounds)
    1 x Light reconnaissance regiment (True tracked CVR(T) replacement, i.e. weight less than 15 tonnes)

    1 x Brigade artillery regiment (MLRS)
    1 x Brigade artillery air defence regiment (8×8 mounting land-based version of Navy’s CIWS -Phalanx 30 mm cannon)

    I would maintain 16 AAB and 3 Cdo brigades as two independent light brigades:
    4 x Infantry battalions in each
    1 x 8×8 tank destroyer regiment in each
    1 x artillery regiment in each (105 mm light gun towed)

    The commandos would have Warthogs and the paras would rely on helicopters. I would make Chinooks centrally-controlled army assets and equip the airborne brigade with enough Blackhawks to airlift an entire battalion in one lift (50).

    This would make a total of 4 ordinary brigades and 2 light brigades.

    I would add a further 2-4 infantry regiments as a strategic reserve.

    This gives a total of 24-28 infantry regiments with 250 Warriors and 500 8×8 AIFVs, 14 cavalry regiments with 250 Challenger 2s and 350 8×8 tank destroyers, and 16 artillery regiments with various gun platforms. The overall size of Army would be smaller, but it would still be a formidable force.

    With this structure, I would not use the ASCOD SV Scout at all. Instead, I would like to see a true CVR(T) replacement, which would be a tracked vehicle weighing less than 15 tonnes that provided the same level of protection as an upgraded Warrior. Having said that, I increasingly believe that the recce role could be better performed by regiments equipped with the 8×8 Centauro equivalent.

    The italian Army is adopting a structure very similar to this and the Americans are using it as a blueprint for upgraded Stryker brigades.

  25. x

    For a change I am going to try avoid playing fantasy brigades.

    MRBs are a bit silly. We have no money. So……

    1) Um. Sorry. I would bring back the arms plot. There said it.

    2) I would create an armoured brigade with all our best kit. Infantry in Warriors; 3 battalions. A full 55 tank regiment. A FRR with regiment with that ASCOD wotsit. Latest UAVs. Best we have. Just in case the US or NATO want to do another Gulf War-esque adventure. High end traditional armoured warfare.

    3) Then I would create a second brigade. 1 regiment of 55 C2. FRR Scimitar whatever being replaced with ASCOD. 3 battalions of infantry; as much of it mounted in Warrior as possible, but if not “old kit” and stop gap off the shelf buys. The role is to train to replace the regiments in the brigade detailed in (2), to augment the brigade in (2) with whole formations and replacements, and to start preparing the next brigade along.

    3) Light role brigade mounted in whatever. FRR old kit. Armoured regiment one of current truncated formations.

    4) Light role brigade for garrison and UN tasks. The two cavalry regiments mounted in whatever.

    5) Same as above (4). Just stepped from being primary armoured brigade.

    6) Disband 16ABB. Line regiments back to the line.
    2/3 Para form a demi-brigade with the rump para-assets (7RHA) Put into a light infantry division with 3 Cdo. None of this para-commando crap either. Both perform complimentary roles but aren’t interchangeable. 3Cdo looses 1 Rifles uses 2/3 Para as necessary. One FRR assigned to division; needs new light tank-type vehicle off the shelf. Extra Vikings/Broncos etc. Albion brought out of extended readiness.

    7) MoD licences Bushmaster type vehicle to get light role infantry into a proper vehicle. Built in Britain not by BAE. £500million. Plus Foxhound.

  26. Phil

    MRBs are just Brigade Groups. Nothing new there at all. They are diffuse because the possible missions they might get used on are diffuse. Let us not forget that they might not always even be deployed as brigades, but rather one or two battlegroups might be employed from that unit which has happened more often than it has not. Bosnia and Kosovo saw only elements of brigades going on tour.

    Brigade Groups make sense. There is no one or two tangible and clear threats. The Army might be employed on the whole spectrum of operations, and it undertakes more than any other rapid reaction interventions using light forces for short durations and longer peristant operations whether this is peace keeping, COIN or post invasion stabilisation.

    The Brigade Groups simply realise this reality.

    The trouble with shortening tour intervals is that the readiness cycle takes around 12 months to build up a formation to deployment status. 12 months is taken because there’s a shed load to do and to try and give everyone a semblance of normal life with luxuries such as weekends and leave and because it takes a while to cycle sub-units through all the exercises etc because the Brigade doesn’t seem to do it all in one go I imagine for resource reasons.

    Despite efforts this 12 month period is still a busy time, so really you have 24 months off but half that will be spent building up, you can reduce that time but you make the build up more intense which means blokes are going to be working flat out with PDT and tour for 12 months at a time (assuming you half the PDT time by beasting the cycle).

    5 units is ideal to create a comfortable cycle. TA units could be used to reinforce those deploying units so that unlike now, reinforcing sub units aren’t poached from the rest of the Army. So for example, a Brigade Group deploying on Operation X needs 5 more company groups then all five could be sourced from the TA.

    It would mean a big change in TA terms of service and mobilisation periods of up to almost two years from start to finish and putting them all through a catch up training package and then through the whole brigade PDT, tour and then recovery.

    Ideally, my TA (oh my God I’m dipping into fantasy stuff) would be attached to each brigade with each brigade having a TA shadow unit for each regular sub unit. So for example each Brigade Group would have a Yeomanry Regiment, 1-2 Infantry Battalions, an Artillery Regiment, Engineer Regiment, Medical Regiment, RLC Logistic Support Regiment, REME Battalion and RMP Company.

    Further TA units would reinforce certain units in HQ Theatre Troops, provide specialist pool personnel, further specialist units (like RE Works Units) and further 3rd Line Support within the Logistic Brigades to be mobilised on enduring operations or national operations.

    The whole CCRF crap would be binned as well.

  27. Phil Z29

    @ X and others,

    I think we all have our own FF2020 Army organisation, and they all have there points.

    But I have to agree with TD and X, I find it hard to see the MRB as a deployable force.

    I do agree that a modern brigade should be, an all arms self contained formation.

    I don’t think 4 battalions per brigade is a problem. In fact I have re-written my FF2020 Army, and given it 5 battalions per brigade! But please note Gabriele, no parachute units!

    I am told by am ex bootie mate that the boot necks have more parachute trained guys than that regiment that fall from the sky? (well the one battalion of them that do anyway)

    Regards
    Phil Z29

  28. x

    @ Phil re CCRF

    In light of the summer riots and the performance of the police I think there is a need for more of civil contingency crap.

    Don’t want the UK to follow the Continental or Banana Republic model of putting troops on to the street when the PM sneezes. But if we did have some disaster and the police struggled it might be useful to have formations specially trained. A sort of mini-gendarmerie/anti-terror unit if you will.

    Being recruited from all over the UK I would push the Household Division into this role……..

  29. Phil

    I can count on one hand how many bootie’s I’ve seen with wings up.

    There’s nothing undeployable about a brigade group. It is simply a holding formation, a means to work units up to deploy – they might not deploy as anything like the Brigade Group peacetime ORBAT is.

    For example, with WFM there’s no problems getting the kit to make 2 battalions armoured infantry for example.

    And there’s no reason why ORBATs can’t be tweaked based on horizon scanning and likely interventions on a semi-permanent basis. So for example Iran gets messier, so a Brigade Group in the readiness stage can meet up with a bespoke set of kit for that likely role which if it does not get deployed the next brigade in the cycle inherits. Our units rarely, if ever, apart from the rapid reaction units, deploy in their peacetime ORBATs.

    It’s all very flexible, it can all be changed with relative ease and if you use the TA more to make up for the changes it means less blokes get poached from other regular units.

  30. Phil

    “In light of the summer riots and the performance of the police I think there is a need for more of civil contingency crap.”

    The Army should be involved in civil contingency planning, but must always be as a last resort and not to plug gaps in civilian capabilities in the planning stage. This is central government policy.

    To show you why CCRF is a pointless waste of time and money I have copied this paragraph from the Pitt Report on the 2007 floods in June and July.

    “12.136 The Review has been asked why the
    Civil Contingencies Reaction Forces (CCRF),
    thirteen 500-strong groups of volunteers from
    the Territorial Army capable of being mobilised
    at short notice to assist in dealing with a major
    civil emergency such as the floods, were
    not mobilised. Behind the question was the
    suggestion that help was not brought in as
    quickly as it might have been if the CCRF had
    been used.
    12.137 The Review has been advised by the
    MoD that the use of CCRFs was considered but
    that it would have taken longer to mobilise the
    CCRFs than it would to deploy regular forces
    to the scene. Since time was of the essence,
    regular Armed Forces personnel were used.
    Further, after the first 24 hours the majority
    of the work undertaken by the Armed Forces
    required specialist skills which the CCRFs did
    not have – for example engineering skills to
    construct semi-permanent flood defences and
    logistics specialists for the distribution of water
    supplies. Finally, any reserve personnel in the
    local area may have had other responsibilities
    in the community which would have been lost if
    they had been called up.”

    ie to sum up, they are shit and pointless and loads of people could have told them that from the start.

  31. x

    Phil said “I can count on one hand how many bootie’s I’ve seen with wings up.”

    Parachute trained marines aren’t exactly rare; many of them are danger addicts. I just don’t think RM and Parachute Regiment are interchangeable. Compatible yes.

  32. Phil

    “Being recruited from all over the UK I would push the Household Division into this role……..”

    I couldn’t disagree more. The Army doing MACA is last resort stuff. Civilian response agencies are EXPRESSLY forbidden from including in their planning ANY military capabilities except the very specialised standing tasks like SAR, EOD and SAS anti-terror wing or whatever they are calling themselves these days.

    A unit of the Army, trained and maintained to take to the streets to quell riots on the mainland is a wholly and utterly unacceptable route to take. It goes against every grain of sensible government thought on the matter. The MPS already has plenty of riot police and can call on mutual aid.

    If they had used them properly in the first place without abandoning the public they were meant to protect then that shit wouldn’t have taken off.

    Treasonous lack of backbone.

    Institutional cowardice.

    Damn them.

  33. Phil

    “Parachute trained marines aren’t exactly rare;”

    I think they are. There’s the SBS, Brigade Patrols etc etc etc but the vast majority of Commando units do not have large numbers of blokes eligible to wear wings. There’s not even enough sorties to keep the Para’s current – are they hiring their own planes?!

  34. x

    Did I say the CCRF set-up as is worked? Did I not say we shouldn’t follow the Continental model of troops turning out for the least little thing?

    It is obvious that inner city areas of the UK have groups that don’t really respect the law or even see themselves outside it. These islands are pretty cramped if things go Pete Tong it could be a bit nasty. But if you think we are safe I shall rest easy.

  35. x

    @ Parachute trained marines.

    Um. I didn’t say there were RM parachute formations did I? I didn’t say they were vast numbers just that Marines doing parachute wasn’t really rare as you applied.

    And I am not sure where you are going with this anyway. Or why you started this line of questioning.

    I have said in this thread and the Blackhole thread I wanted to free 2/3Para from 16AAB so they could be semi-independent formation used to back up 3Cdo (and my proposed Army commando unit in Blackhole) so that the parachuting capability is retained.

  36. Phil

    “These islands are pretty cramped if things go Pete Tong it could be a bit nasty. But if you think we are safe I shall rest easy.”

    The Army is not the answer. The Army doesn’t think so and neither does anyone who sensibly thinks about these things in Central Government.

    “Send in the Army!”

    And what, make up for the lack of preparedness, training, planning and leadership that local responders have shown? There’s too much of an inclination, despite policy being VERY clear on the matter, to rely on the Army. They did it with Foot and Mouth, they did it with the floods in 2007, some wanted it to happen in the riots. The Army is not an excuse to leave your house to fall into disorder and get bailed out.

  37. Phil

    “And I am not sure where you are going with this anyway. Or why you started this line of questioning.”

    “I am told by am ex bootie mate that the boot necks have more parachute trained guys than that regiment that fall from the sky?”

    There. I wasn’t addressing you.

  38. Phil Z29

    @Sorry X and Phil,

    I fear I am to blame for the crossed wires!

    I mentioned the bootie bragging about the number of parachute trained boot necks.

    A single light quick reaction brigade sounds the sensible way forward to me.

    I also think that 6 month tours are the best way forward. But let’s hope post Afghan that that the number of operational tours can be kept to a minimum. Just a company in the Falklands would be nice!

    Please, let’s never go back to the arms plot moves!

    Regards
    Phil Z29

  39. Brian Black

    Phil Z29 mentions having only a single light quick reaction brigade. Most visitors here seem determined that we should keep two x four battalion/commando specialist brigades in one form or another (I’ve previously suggested two combined arms brigades, maintaining specialisms at battalion level). But would it be worthwhile to sacrifice part of that capability to direct more resources to the main army brigades? Could we get by with just two commandos and two para battalions, for example, perhaps in a single brigade? Maybe reducing our ambitions for those forces to four independently deployable battalion battlegroups. Or some other set up.

  40. Brian Black

    There’s three commandos plus an army battalion in 3cdo, so you could chop off quite a lump and still have a commando to lead any amphibious operation, x.
    And should not our focus be on the enduring force provided by the main bulk of the army’s brigades; otherwise we risk losing the ability to deploy any significant force with staying power. We might end up with brigades across the board that are all flash, bang and fizzle, and have to pull out after a few months.

  41. x

    I would chop 1 Rifles anyway off 3Cdo. No disrespect to 1 Rifles.

    Who will be fighting long term with these brigades?

  42. Observer

    Just a disclaimer, I’m not British. Singaporean, I just came by to see how our Warthogs were holding up. Theory is fine, but honestly, I was much happier with 1st hand accounts. I can hear the conversation with an officer now. Officer: “In theory, it should take a mine blast easily.” Driver: “You 1st, Sir.”

    That being said, it’s starting to look like people really want an air-mobile intervention force. So would the final structure be

    1x Heavy Armour (Assault) Brigade
    1x Air Mobile Intervention Brigade with air-lift capable Light Tanks/Tankettes (Fold the CDOs/Marines into this unit? Another advantage is that only one brigade will need amphibious lift, so it can be intergral)
    3x MRBs with heavier infantry component and deeper reserves of manpower.

    Advantage of concentrating all the “door opening” assets into a single unit also means that they can have specialised “super light” equipment designed for quick deployment instead of being stuck with what “the rest of the brigade” uses.

    How does that look?

  43. solomon

    air mobile ops are a joke. especially in a forcible entry role. you can move at most one CH-47 per C-17.

    in other words by the time you could get a credible air mobile force to an area of operations you could have better used the time to move a reinforced Brigade to the same place. if its inland then you can still make you of air mobile assets that arrive by ship.

    long story short, amphibious shipping is important. especially to smaller forces with less options.

  44. Observer

    Never said shipping wasn’t. But shipping takes weeks, the heavy armour might not get there in time.

    How the CH-47 is supposed to be used in cases like this is to do in-flight refueling. If it’s across a long distance, the pilot/co-pilot will cry, but it will get the job done.

    A single Chook can carry a platoon of men, using only half the current UK fleet, that’s 30 platoons in addition to belly slung cargo like artillery guns and motars. That’s a battalion+ of infantry right there. C17s are not used to lift infantry or aircraft, they’re 2nd echelon and used to lift in semi-heavy armour like Warriors and CVRs after the infantry have secured landing zones.

    One important caveat. Initial entry requires supression of the air defences, either by air strikes or naval bombardment. This is essential for the CH-47s to operate in hostile airspace. Friendly AH support helps too.

  45. Observer

    This is also not counting paratroops inserting into the field via C5/C130. That’s another 950+ troops into the field, if you can find that many para trained soldiers. Remember, I’m only using ~50% of total lift capability, assuming the rest are needed elsewhere. Even so, by numbers, you would have almost 3 battalions on the ground, not counting follow-up C17 armour.

    So yes, I say it can be done. Not comfortable or nicely, but it can be done.

  46. Rupert Fiennes

    @Observer: heliborne ops have another issue, even if they self deploy: helicopters have a large tail, and consume large quantities of fuel. Why not paradrop vehicles instead? Fixed wing transport is one third of the cost, and doesn’t need the same degree of transit refuelling

  47. Observer

    Er… We did try airdropping a Frence AMX-13 scout tank from a pallet before. Broke the suspension and drive on landing. Project shelved.

    And I agree on the fixed wing transport, it’s the best transport economy wise, which is why the “heavy armour” is being transported by them. Bad point is, they need an airfield. Helos, despite all their faults, don’t. I also included a component paradropped by C130/C5. The 2 methods I know that don’t need an airfield.

  48. solomon

    how far away from home are you talking about operating. you can pack paratroopers into a C-17…fly them for 18 hours and drop them on the LZ but you’re going to have a pretty beat up fighting force just from jet lag alone. you can bet that it better be a short fight or you’ll lose your bridge head.

    consider it a bridge too far. additionally you’re talking about a tremendous effort…do you have enough aerial refueling to take care of the fighters providing cover and the strikers? what are your guys going to do for air support? tomahawks can only hit stationary targets so fleeting targets of opportunity will be an issue.

  49. Observer

    Jet lag? :) Those cargo transports were the most comfortable planes I’ve ever slept in. Damn economy class flights…

    And I agree it’s a tremendous effort. After all, this is a mini-invasion we’re talking about. As for Tomahawk strikes, we don’t need to destroy EVERYTHING, just the air defences. The ground troops are supposed to be the ones cleaning up the rest of the mess with 155mm and 81mm and 30mm.

    In fact, your biggest headache would be damn sneaky infantry with MANPADs.

  50. solomon

    hmmm….not so sure. by your answer i’m guessing you’re talking about an operation at a much greater distance than Libya so lets say Central Africa to get us out of a comfort zone (meaning that we’re all familiar with combat in the desert…i’d almost argue that the desert is the most advantageous area for western militaries to fight in)…so you have a sub lobbying tomahawks at Command and control…you have your SAS and SBS marking targets for your first wave of Fighters to take out anything missed by the tomahawks (mobile anti-air….ok so we’re talking about invading S. Africa just to make this interesting) and assuming that you didn’t get the Gripens on the ground then they have to do fighter sweeps. so we’re back to the western way of war….probably 2 weeks of fighter sweeps and bombing before you put anyone on the ground.

    you could have sailed there by now and arrived with a much bigger force that could either repair the airport that your fighters put out of commission or build one with proper support from the seabase that your navy is about to participate in with our exercise Bold Alligator! yep…anyway you slice it you still need naval assets and in the grand scheme of things two weeks is about right considering how we fight. western way of war. minimize casualties. minimize risk.

  51. x

    The VDV are pushed out of planes in their vehicles. But those peskie Ruskies use retro-rockets to slow the landing.

    All I want is a few parachute companies on hand just in case.

    @ solomon re long flights

    But, but we always have host nation support in theatre. Honest. So there will never be any long distance flights. Jump in the ‘plane. Fly across the border. Jump out of ‘plane. Simple. (You have to put all silly notions of the Chinese buying influence all across the Third World out of you head. There will all be bases near. And overfly rights will always be obtained……)

  52. jedibeeftrix

    @ Brian Black – “Phil Z29 mentions having only a single light quick reaction brigade. Most visitors here seem determined that we should keep two x four battalion/commando specialist brigades….Could we get by with just two commandos and two para battalions, for example, perhaps in a single brigade?”

    Not if we want to meet my ambition (and apparently the governments too), of a greater shift towards rapid-intervention from previous notions of persistent-stabilisation.

    Not least because stabilisation requires a force size that would utterly scupper all other capabilities, i.e my oft-repeated contention that it would require an 8+1 brigade army (regular+commando) working on a 3:1 deployment ratio.

    This is why both the US and the UK have come up with the idea of [limited] stabilisation, as it constrains ambitions while preserving resources for other purposes, notably [punitive] interventions.

    So, in short, it ain’t ever happening!

    7 brigades will always be a 5:2 split between regular/commando, and if we ever sink to 6 brigades i can pretty much guarantee it will end up a 4:2 split between regular/commando.

  53. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Sol,

    “so lets say Central Africa to get us out of a comfort zone (meaning that we’re all familiar with combat in the desert”
    – or let’s say Kolwezi, even further out in the Congo
    – practice run done with old, crappy equipment (worked)

  54. Observer

    Solomon, if you bomb for 2 weeks, you’re doing it wrong. Blitzkreig please. And if you’re talking about Africa, even better, stretches of undefended land, just land the troops without interference. 1 day max insertion. Day 2+, you’re into ops time already.

    And X is right, I screwed up on the strategic picture, aggressive attack is the doctrine from MY country, fighting for strategic depth. The only time the UK would ever be in such a tearing hurry is if an ally is about to come under imminent attack, which means the air transport will be coming in into friendly territory. In this case, equipment can come in by C17/5 while troops take commercial chartered flights in.

  55. Rupert Fiennes

    @Solomon: lets face it, unless it’s a small scale raid, we’re never going to be thousands of miles away from reinforcement. However, given that fixed wing can carry far more weight than rotary, I’m slightly surprised on the obsession on the having ever larger heliborne units, that cost far more than equivalent fixed wing transported units, and still have a radius of action of no more than 100 miles. The UK would be better served with a parachute brigade that could do the theatre entry and operational manoeuvre roles via parachute and TALO, with organic light armour, with 2-3 light role battalions organised and trained for air mobile operations, rather than the current mix

  56. ArmChairCivvy

    The reference to VDV by x is a good one
    – S O’s website has a piece on airportable armour and that piece includes a video link on how these drops work (with that little bit of brake applied in the very last minute)

  57. Rupert Fiennes

    @x: we could learn from those Russkies. 12 C17’s carrying 6 CVR(T) each and a para battalion would allow us to re-capture MPA quite handily after the swarms of Argie SF take it by pretending to be a tourist liner in distress seeking emergency access to Mare Harbour :-)

    Would make the amphibious follow up much easier too!

  58. Observer

    RF, mel cupa, X was right, I was too focused on an assault entry into a hostile theatre. You’re right, fixed wing is the best for this kind of scenario. No need to drop tanks too, fast intervention is for reinforcement of an ally, not breaking and entering.

  59. x

    @ JediBeefTrix

    As an idea limited stabilisation sounds a bit wobbly to me.

    @ Observer

    Singapore has no strategic depth just like say Israel. That is why offence is the best defence.

  60. Phil Z29

    @ jedbeeftrix and Brian Black,

    Having one specialist light quick reaction brigade, (I would suggest of 5 Battalions), with one RM CDO battalion, and one airmobile battalion as its spearhead makes sense to me. Why would you need two?

    I see much has been said about parachuting in infantry. In my opinion, parachute drops are a thing of the past, as are cavalry charges and pike phalanxes. I think we will find that parachute training, for other than special forces will soon disappear. (At last).

    In my view, the army must first plan for the worst case scenario, which in my opinion is still a full on war in Europe. That may not be an immediate threat, and therefore we can be at low readiness for it, but it’s still the one we must plan for. The challenge is, having a force to deal with that threat, yet still having options to deal with minor or not so minor, conflicts which may emerge from anywhere.

    Regards
    Phil

  61. jedibeeftrix

    @ X – “As an idea limited stabilisation sounds a bit wobbly to me.”

    To quote from those who coined the idea (see the pun?):

    “The limited stabilization mission anticipates opposed, minimum essential pacification of a state, territory, or region — friendly or hostile — where central authority has failed and disorder itself threatens core U.S. Interests. Likeliest use of the limited stabilization option is in the establishment of functional security in the most important areas of a crippled state or region. By definition then, limited stabilization is not optimized for bottom-up, long-duration nation-building but instead focuses on establishing and maintaining those minimum essential security conditions necessary for the local reconstitution of effective political authority.”

    “Thus, increasingly the FM 3-07/FM 3-24 blueprint will instead have to be a menu; where minimum essential outcomes are pursued through selective and limited stabilization and reconstruction efforts in pursuit of ‘good enough’ but certainly not ideal outcomes. The next failed or failing foreign regime will get something less than ‘all in’ from the USG.”

    “HEAT challenges will increasingly become the objects of dissuasion, deterrence, and, at their most intense level, coercive campaigns — certainly not regime change. Whereas, small wars of disorder need to increasingly be seen as management challenges where intervention seeks to drive active threats to levels senior decision makers find manageable. To the inevitable retort that failure to go ‘all in’ in any small war only guarantees U.S. forces will have to return, the best answer is “perhaps”; as the absolute cost of one, two, or more future wars like Iraq and Afghanistan become increasingly unthinkable.”

    @ Phil Z29 – “Having one specialist light quick reaction brigade, (I would suggest of 5 Battalions), with one RM CDO battalion, and one airmobile battalion as its spearhead makes sense to me. Why would you need two?”

    Because HMG wants to build up a capacity for punitive intervention, not tear it down, and at the same time it wants to create a limit on presumptions of our allies as to the scale of support they can expect of us: “no sir, we have 5 MRB’s on a 4:1 harmony guideline, you can have a commitment to one brigade and no more. we can surge a further battlegroup for a six month period if that is necessary……?”

    Why two in particular, because by having the day to day requirement of a reinforced battlegroup ready for an intervention we permit forces that are still capable of fighting as a brigade in time of need.

  62. Alex

    +1 Jackstaff and +1 Observer. A post on Singapore might be pretty interesting (hint).

    Also, what with all this talk about multirole brigades and spreading the heavy armour among them, perhaps we should have gone Antonov back in 2002 or thereabouts, using some of the FRES money. a couple of squadrons of AN-124 = deployability, plus lots of NATO and EU brownie points via SALIS.

  63. Observer

    Alex, yes those things are huge! They were chartered to ship our Apaches to Australia from Singapore and they did 4 of them per trip!

    On the other hand, Russian stuff are famous/notorious for being hard to maintain, so all in all, I’m glad we simply chartered and leave all the logistical/maintainence nightmares to them.

  64. Alan Garner

    In terms of combat power my best guess is that a MRB will lose 1 btn of armoured infantry and gain 1 btn of mech infantry compared to a current armoured brigade, making it more of an armour/mech/light hybrid. Any enemy Britain faces in the lives of current kit will be 70’s-80’s era Soviet stuff. Surely 1 MRB vs 1 Soviet style division with T72’s, bmp1’s/2’s in a fair fight would only have one outcome, and ideally we’d never be in a fair fight.

    Once fully realized, ie Bulldog replacement for mech inf and foxhound for light role inf, then on paper (US heavy BCT aside) a MRB looks to me to have a similar amount of combat power as most other NATO brigades. Is 1btn swapping from armoured to mechanized (if that is the case) really that much of a loss of combat power?

  65. Observer

    Well… yes and no..

    Is there a big loss of firepower? Yes, the loss of tank main guns is a big downgrade. If you were to fight top of the line equipment, the effects would be felt.

    Is it a bad thing? Maybe not. The Mechanized Infantry fighting vehicles fire MUCH faster that a tank main gun, and 30mm is enough to crack the shells of many T-72 variants. During Gulf War II, more armoured kills were made by M2 IFVs than M1 MBTs. Maybe the swap might be a good thing after all.

  66. Phil

    “Phil, that IS part of my job description, so yes, me first.”

    An opposed air assault or parachute drop is bordering on suicide. No serious military thinker expects to conduct such an operation, and certainly not at any distance against a peer enemy.

    Losses would be horrendous and likely crippling before the first bloke hit the ground – dead probably. Even with top cover.

    The Market Garden and D-Day drops took losses that would be well in excess of what we’d deem acceptable or could absorb today. The US alone lost 42 Dakota’s on 6/7 June 1944.

  67. Rupert Fiennes

    @Phil: perhaps you could mention this to the 75th Ranger regiment? They’ve conducted such drops several times in the last 30 years, without crippling losses. Declaring D-Day losses as “unacceptable” smacks of complacency: will we never, ever have to conduct such operations again? I’ll bet in 1930, no one thought WW2 was likely either…

    Secondly, just like amphibious landings, it’s preferable not to do so where large quantities of SAM’s, AAA, and eager beavers with machine guns are nearby. Unless we intend to invade North Korea, I would aver there are many locations where a parachute force could land and encounter nothing more threatening than a farmer with a pitchfork. Equip the force with vehicles to make it mobile, ideally protected vehicles, and the defensive problem becomes very hard to solve…

  68. Phil

    “@Phil: perhaps you could mention this to the 75th Ranger regiment? They’ve conducted such drops several times in the last 30 years, without crippling losses. ”

    En mass against a peer enemy?

    You can’t just ignore words in my post and then present an argument.

    There is only one air force in the world that could even afford to physically lose 42 transport aircraft and those were lost to blokes firing guns in the air, not to a modern air defence network with SAMs. We don’t even have 42 planes to lose.

    Yes parachute drops have been done since 1944 but nothing like Market Garden or D-Day. All have been in semi or completely permissive environments.

    Can you imagine the 82nd Airborne overflying a Soviet Army and dropping into its rear and still being fit to fight?

  69. Phil

    “Secondly, just like amphibious landings, it’s preferable not to do so where large quantities of SAM’s, AAA, and eager beavers with machine guns are nearby.”

    You mean, 10 miles from the bridge?

  70. Observer

    Ok, ok it took me a while but I finally got the hint Alex. Yes, DU has nothing compared to me regarding density. :P

    In some ways, Singapore is in the same straits as the UK, severe manpower shortages limit the number of platforms that can be deployed. In others, the conditions are different, especially in regards to mission scope and budget, the UK having a massively expanded mandate as opposed to local defence, and budget, Europe being the heaviest hit by the economic crisis.

    In the begining, it was obvious that we were not going to be able to match our neighbours with regards to manpower, they have 10x the population. Good luck trying to win against that. So in response, the counter was to modernise/mechanise/automate.

    Don’t think the army has much to offer in comparison, the structures are almost the same division wise, and the manpower shortage isn’t as badly felt here due to large scale conscription.

    Navy wise, there are a few things that might be interesting.

    1: Automation.

    The RSN ships are heavily automated. And I MEAN heavily. The initial investment may be painful, but it allows massive manpower savings. A T45 runs with 190? crew. A RSN Formidable frigate with approximately similar capabilities run with ~90 crew. The LSTs show an even more drastic discrepency, an Albion has 300+ crew. An Endurance has 65. Even with a 2 for 1 comparison, it’s still 130 vs 300.

    Best of all, you don’t have to pension electronics. :P That’s a 50% savings in manpower costs right there. Minus initial outlay of course.

    2: More automation. :P

    What do you do with your LSTs when your marines are not practicing “How to invade someone in 10 easy steps.”?

    Ans: Plug in some control modules, replace the landing boats with Spartan and Protector USVs and use it to replace a destroyer used in piracy protection. A single LST can control up to 6 USVs + 2 helos, on a 3 up/3 down shift (it’s not going to complain about overtime) a USV can take over the duties of up to 2-3 escorts. You don’t need an all up destroyer to stop a speedboat after all, and this saves on the need for more destroyers, allowing them to concentrate on their main job. Fleet air defence.

    Air Force, not much here too, most of our stuff is multi-roled, same as yours.

    Guess the Navy was where the interesting stuff is.

  71. DominicJ

    Rupert
    I thought Phil meant no Parachuting onto an enemy division, rather than parachuting into an enemy country.

  72. Phil

    I mean conducting a drop anywhere near a peer enemy.

    There’s plenty of times an air drop can take place, but pulling another D-Day or Market Garden is almost certainly out of the question.

    Nobody thought such a scenario even likely except the Soviets and whilst they had their dinky AFVs (all of which can be done over with a 66 LAW) they were just as vulnerable on the ingress as anyone else was. And I’d bet the farm that going up against even a degraded NATO AD network would have seen enormous casualties from plunging planes because obviously although the US lost 42 airframes, the individual airframes now carry a lot more men. The whole Soviet airborne capability was never seriously meant for central front type scenario’s – ie in a non-permissive environment.

  73. Phil

    Automation on a ship can only go so far. You need people to conduct damage control, computers cannot put out fires or shore up bulkheads or hammer wood into gaping holes in the hull.

    Which brings me onto a point about AShM I was going to mention earlier. It is fire and not blast that kills ships. An AShM that detonates with fuel still not consumed can and does kill ships far more effectively than hitting at extreme range when all the fuel is gone.

    On board USS Stark lots of sailors had terrible burns to their feet as the water run off they were wading through from fighting fires started to boil.

    Blow a hole in a destroyer and especially if she turns her stern into it, damage is not that bad. Get that ship to burn and she will go down, and the less hands on board the harder it is to put out those fires.

  74. Observer

    Phil, what bridge? You talking about Op Market Garden? A single op in WWII and that’s your example of how it can’t be done, and all your hyperbole of “serious military thinkers”? Why not use Greece as an example? Or Op Rugby? Or Urgent Fury?

    Another thing you might have misunderstood. With such a large amount of troops going in, you’re not going to seize a single objective. You’re there to seize EVERYTHING.

    And despite what you imagine of chains and chains of SAM sites protecting a border, reality is that along a long border, there WILL be gaps in air defence that will allow a force to land. Whether the gaps are a product of enemy numbers vs terrain or because the SAM site in question met with a traffic accident involving a head on collision with a Tomahawk, is irrelevant. What is important is that there will be a place to land and do a ground advance, clearing more SAM sites and increasing the area for forces to come in.

    BTW, considering that considerations for such an assault is part of my professional thinking, not to mention it’s my ass on the line, don’t you think it might be a bit insulting to imply that I’m not a “serious military thinker”?

  75. Phil

    “Phil, what bridge? You talking about Op Market Garden?”

    I was just being facetious, it’s a good quote, chill out.

    Use as many examples as you like, I think nearly all suffered air frame losses that only the US could even think about sustaining now. And that was from WWII AAA defences, not modern integrated AD networks.

    “You’re there to seize EVERYTHING.”

    Everything of what? A whole country?

    There isn’t even, with the possibility of the USAF, anyone capable of supporting and conducting a divisional sized drop.

    “And despite what you imagine of chains and chains of SAM sites protecting a border, reality is that along a long border, there WILL be gaps in air defence that will allow a force to land.”

    Ah those gaps that the enemy are somehow blind to or paralysed by? Thing is, if it’s worth dropping a division onto, it’s worth defending.

    I’m not saying that planes won’t get through, I am saying that losses would be unacceptably high before they even hit the ground against a peer enemy so don’t bang on about some second rate power you were talking about an opposed operation previously.

    “BTW, considering that considerations for such an assault is part of my professional thinking, not to mention it’s my ass on the line, don’t you think it might be a bit insulting to imply that I’m not a “serious military thinker”?”

    Nope. You’re a big boy.

    Like I said, if you think an opposed airborne drop against a peer enemy is possible then after you. The whole Market Garden, D-Day, Rugby, Crete etc days are over. Airborne drops have their place, but not a mass drop against peer opposition.

  76. Brian Black

    Parachute forces give us some tactical options, but we hardly want to go dropping onto the enemy’s heads with what we have available. If we were to drop more than a small raiding or recce force, then we could drop a battalion which would then be needed to hold the area for the next wave, rather than getting themselves immediately tied up with winning the war – with the second wave aircraft ideally touching down to disembark its force. So short hops only, no long distance invasion. And preferably avoiding unnecessary contacts on the first day.

  77. Rupert Fiennes

    @Phil: I’m with @Observer on this one. There will always be gaps, even against a peer, and rolling back AD networks can be done. Not to say it’s not a risky business, but against a peer, anything becomes a risky business, and the payoff could well be large.

    “another D-Day or Market Garden is almost certainly out of the question”. OK, why? If you have such a great crystal ball, please tell me the next Grand National winner :-)

  78. Observer

    Phil, go to Youtube and find the Australian Navy’s Collins class sub’s test firing. After you see that, come tell me again how explosions are “not that damaging” to the ship. Or the recent sinking of the South Korean corvette.

    You might want to compare the similarities of the 2 cases. Namely, that both ships broke in 2 from the blast. Still think explosions are “not that bad”?

  79. Observer

    Well Rupert, if there isn’t a gap, I’m sure we can schedule some unfortunate… trafic accident.. to happen to the SAM site. Those Harpoon/Tomahawk drivers are so careless nowadays. :P

    Phil, in case you don’t understand, if you can’t find a gap in air defence, make one yourself with cruise missiles or artillery.

  80. Brian Black

    To be fair, observer, Phil was talking about anti-ship missiles rather than torpedoes. A generally much larger warhead exploding against a hull, with the density of the water only directing the blast through the ship. Different weapons meant to have different effects.

  81. x

    @ Brian Black

    Not against the hull. The shock wave pushes the (uncompressible) water in a “plug” against the keel which breaks the ship’s back. Contact with the hull wouldn’t cause as much damage. In many ways a ASM hitting a ship and exploding within similar to a bullet striking a human body. As long as the fire can be contained and watertight zones be maintained the ship has a good chance of surviving (if not moving and fighting) the initial strike. A Long Lance / USV weapon may be one way of defeating increasingly sophisticated missile defence systems without all the hypersonic rhubarb.

  82. Phil Z29

    Have I gone back thirty years in time!

    If you lost only one plane to triple A alone, that would be nearly a company gone from your battalion! God only knows what the losses would be if there was just couple of guys with shoulder launched surface to air missiles around, it would be total carnage!

    We are only going to have 22 such planes. Those planes would have to go back a drop supplies the next day!

    If the LZ is clear, you have a clear flight path to it, why oh why would you not use Helicopters?
    It’s a soft drop; you can escort them in with attack helicopters.

    Even Special Forces prefer the helicopter option these days!

    Anyway, according to Mr Hammond today, we are to have 5 MRBs.

    Regards
    Phil Z29

  83. Brian Black

    One of the strengths of airborne forces is not what you might do with it, but that your enemy doesn’t know what you might do with it. So talk of air defence sites around a country preventing an airborne operation ignores the fact that having airborne forces requires the enemy to invest its limited military resources defending every possible approach or landing site regardless of whether you actually use your airborne troops or not. Similar can be said for amphibious forces.

  84. Gareth Jones

    @ Observer – I’ve been interested in the Endurance class as a USV/UUV mothership for a while now; do you happen to have any good links about this development?

    RE: Paratroop landings. Been interested in the possibility of airborne operations for a while.

    An idea for the Commando brigade(s)?

    http://www.g2mil.com/Rearguard.htm

  85. Phil

    @Observer

    Torpedo’s are a different matter. We were talking about AShM. And I stand by my point, fire is more damaging to vessels on the whole than blast. Ask a sailor what he fears the most and he will say fire. Sheffield burned to death. Galahad and Atlantic Conveyor burned to death.

    Glamorgan took a hit from Exocet and survived and moved away under her own power. Sheffield took a hit and the unspent fuel burned her out not least because it took out the fire main. The USS Stark only didn’t sink because the crew did a truly heroic job in fire fighting and got their feet boiled as they stood in the magazine spraying water at the bulkheads. Unspent fuel can fall into shafts, hatches and ventilation spreading very quickly and causing dramatic problems, as does the run off from the fire fighting.

  86. Phil

    “OK, why? If you have such a great crystal ball, please tell me the next Grand National winner :-)”

    I have no idea, but I can tell you it won’t be won by a three legged horse. ;-)

  87. Phil

    “Phil, in case you don’t understand, if you can’t find a gap in air defence, make one yourself with cruise missiles or artillery.”

    No doubt. But I am saying that a peer enemy will be resilient, and that it will cost you and that there is only one force that could even physically support such losses and still have some transport planes left. You are looking at enormous casualties and probably better way of getting the job done these days.

    Large scale drops against a peer enemy are suicide.

  88. Observer

    Gareth, not much, just the deployments to the Persian Gulf for area defence and anti-piracy off Somalia. You can check in wikipedia under Protector USV or Spartan Scout, links are there for more info.

    I think Phil missed the part where I calculated a one battalion+ helidrop with the CH-47s.

  89. Alan Garner

    @Observer

    You wouldn’t be losing any 120mm if they go with my guess. I estimated they’d swap 1btn armoured inf for 1btn of mech, keeping the brigade’s armoured regiment. If that regiment has 3 sabre squadrons that’s 42 CR2’s, a heavy BCT with 2 combined arms battalions, as far as I can tell has 24 Abrams. Granted there would be more armoured infantry in Bradley’s and more organic artillery, better ISTAR, aviation etc, but purely in terms of tank guns the MRB has more than the most powerful military unit in the world.

    I can’t imagine MRB’s not having an armoured regiment so if they do lack combat power then surely the brigades we have now do too?

  90. Observer

    … Phil, you make holes in air defences with missiles, not planes. Unless you’re in a really Japanese mood…

  91. Phil

    “One of the strengths of airborne forces is not what you might do with it, but that your enemy doesn’t know what you might do with it”

    That is fine when you have a blank canvas. But that’s not the case. The enemy can anticipate your movements, they can deploy to hedge their bets, they can take a look at what you might want to do and posture themselves accordingly, they might be able to discern your intentions from your maneouvres and your axis of advance – in short they can pull together a picture that can give them a reasonable idea of what might be done.

    Then there is the fact that although the objectives might be hard to discern, the approaches to that objective are more discernable which is sufficient to intercept a transport force and engage them. For example, in D-Day the transport planes could only have come from over the channel, not from any other point of the compass.

    So when you look at it, its not that hard to posture yourself to disrupt likely enemy airborne movements. Of course the other side will try deception and so forth but take down even a few transports and massive losses have already been inflicted which dramatically reduced chances of success on the ground.

    If history has shown us anything it is that Airborne forces are only useful in attacking very light enemy forces and then digging in. They just do not have the mass and persistence to break through even a relatively weak resistance.

  92. Phil

    “Phil, you make holes in air defences with missiles, not planes. Unless you’re in a really Japanese mood…”

    You’d have to be to try an airborne drop against a peer enemy on any real scale.

  93. Observer

    “If history has shown us anything it is that Airborne forces are only useful in attacking very light enemy forces and then digging in. They just do not have the mass and persistence to break through even a relatively weak resistance.”

    And this IS the point. You dig in until you build up enough mass and armour to break out, and you don’t go butting your head on hard targets, blitz them, bypass the hard targets and cut their supply lines. Surround them and bunker down, force them to come to you.

  94. x

    @ Phil

    You should have mentioned Stark took 2 Exocets…

    And this three legged horse are you alluding to limited stabilisation again? Because I am still wobbly on that one.

    @ All

    What I find interesting with all this parachute talk is that on another day in a different thread some of you would have BVR air to air missiles taking out stealth jets at supersonic speeds. Yet today we have dozens of slowing moving megajets moving through the skies with impunity. :)

  95. Phil

    “And this IS the point. You dig in until you build up enough mass and armour to break out, and you don’t go butting your head on hard targets, blitz them, bypass the hard targets and cut their supply lines. Surround them and bunker down, force them to come to you.”

    I think we have two different scenario’s going through our heads here. Break out from what?

    I’ve expressed my criticisms of manoeuvre warfare on here before.

    Against a dense battlefield, there’s no scope for manoeuvre.

    You need mass to get through. And from what I gather you propose building this mass from the air. I don’t see that as a realistic possibility at all. Not when the enemy can make a dense battlefield by surrounding you.

  96. Phil

    “You should have mentioned Stark took 2 Exocets…”

    You’re quite right she did. And it was fire that nearly killed her, not having her superstructure blasted although that certainly helped spread the fire.

  97. Mike W

    @Alan Garner

    “I can’t imagine MRB’s not having an armoured regiment so if they do lack combat power then surely the brigades we have now do too?”

    Precisely. Really the proposed MRB formation is close to that of the existing Mechanised Brigades (with the addition of a Light battalion (or two). The existing Armoured Brigades and Mechanised Brigades only have one Armoured Regiment each, although the Armoured Brigade does have two Armoured Infantry Battalions.

  98. Observer

    X, hardly with impunity, as I mentioned, you really need to pound the defences flat 1st.

    Garath, if the link you posted is what you want, you’re going to love the Singaporean Guards unit. Their equipment.

    Infantry weapons:
    SAR-21 (nothing spectacular)
    Ultimax 100 (You need to see this)

    MATADOR LAW

    Support weapons:
    Milan ATGM
    Mistral MANPAD.
    0.5 cal HMG/Spike ATGM/120mm SRAM Motar on Spider Light Strike Vehicle. CH-47s belly sling these in pairs with ammo in cargo bay.
    Pegasus SLWH. Heli-portable, only one per CH-47 though. Capable of moving by itself, though slowly.

  99. Alan Garner

    @Observer

    Yes there is. It’s a pretty safe assumption that MRB’s will keep the armoured regiment, so if there are questions over lack of combat power where are they lacking? Personally I can see a MRB being more powerful than any UK mechanized brigade, and only slightly less powerful than an armoured brigade.

  100. Phil

    The Brigade Groups are as we see them an interim solution, limited by what kit we have now.

    It does not take a great leap of imagination to realise that ideally the Army would like two infantry battalions to be identically equipped with FRES and a heavier armoured infantry battalion.

    I think the cruz is how many infantry sub units are in a brigade at all. Kit will change, both when it is replaced and also before operations to balance the force for the requirements. Arguing about whether a Brigade Group will have x number of mechanised or light role battalions is moot since they will have what is required for their mission.

    Kit can be moved about with WFM very easily.

    I don’t think anyone should get too hung up on the Brigades’ kit. It can and will change on a short and semi-permanent basis.

    Infantry has the advantage that it is very flexible in that respect. And the balance of all the other equipments can be adjusted, with any extra manning I think coming from the TA.

  101. Observer

    Phil, you don’t like bypassing front lines, you don’t like manoeuver, so you’re going to sit staring at each other till doomsday?

  102. Phil

    “hardly with impunity”

    And those three simple words hide a nightmare. Hardly with impunity = enormous casualties and enormous risk. You cannot launch such an operation and expect to 100% neutralise the threat and such is the effectiveness of modern SAMs that even a few surviving positions can wreak relative havoc.

    There are better uses for airborne troops.

  103. Phil

    “Phil, you don’t like bypassing front lines, you don’t like manoeuver, so you’re going to sit staring at each other till doomsday?”

    Hmmm. I have a hint there is a third option.

    Fight horrendous, enormously costly battles and grind through the enemy in a nightmare of misery and destruction.

    That is what happens. All this dancing on a pin head stuff is fantasy except in very much less dense battlefields.

    I don’t see how you can plan to manoeuvre when the enemy is sitting right in front of you.

  104. Alan Garner

    @Phil

    I may not have grasped the idea fully but wasn’t the idea of MRB for the whole brigade to barrack together, train together, and deploy together. If you’re tailoring (poaching) for missions that puts you back to square one on deployment gaps, the thing MRB’s were meant to solve.

  105. Observer

    They hide a nightmare only if you don’t do your job right.

    You telling me a wave of cruise missiles cannot break a hole through fixed anti-air emplacements? Or that land attack missiles fitted with cluster warheads can’t kill mobile SAMs? Even through splash damage?

    You are assuming I’m going to just throw planes and helicopters in a suicide wave against undamaged air defences? That is VERY stupid and insulting. Can’t you get it into your head that you KILL the air defences with standoff weapons first THEN move your drop it? Why do you keep harping, “they will kill you, they will kill you” when if you do things properly, YOU would have killed them 1st, and as far as I know, corpses don’t run around shooting down aircraft. KILL THEM FIRST!!

    Sheesh….

  106. Phil

    Yes it was and is. But the kit can change in the same manner it changes now. A light role battalion can be given Warriors and worked up on them. Or the change in kit could be on a semi permanent basis so that when a Brigade Group hits the build up or readiness stage of the cycle it gets different equipment from what it had previously.

    So a Brigade Group with a notional peace time ORBAT of 1 light, 1 armoured, 1 mechanised when it does its PDT or work up training can be organised in a different fashion.

    This can be on a semi-permanent basis, for example if we thought Iran was going to kick off we could adjust the kit of the readiness brigade and when that brigade finished its 6 months readiness period the brigade behind it takes over the kit and becomes heavier.

    Our operational ORBATS usually bear no resemblance to the peacetime ones.

    I’d think of a Brigade Group as more of a framework, you can hang whatever you want on it as you see fit because not all 5 Brigade Groups are going to need all the operational scaling of kit or even the training scales until they hit a certain point in the cycle. Each unit keeps a core role and a core centre of expertise when at low readiness or recovery but really they are usually very flexible in just how they go to war.

  107. Phil

    @Observer

    You’re a soldier. When you train, are you trained to (a) think the enemy is cardboard or (b) that the enemy is adaptable, tough, resilient, cunning, difficult, intelligent and very capable?

    Yeah sure you can blast holes and so forth, use all the Tom Clancy stuff to deliver “effects” but on the other side against a peer enemy who is adaptable and very, very dangerous. No operation is going to be launched with the mindset that such an enemy can be 100% neutralised.

    An airborne drop is just too risky. It has almost no utility in such a scenario.

    Drops have a role, I can think of 6-7 different scenario’s that could see parachute drops, but none of them involve going against peer enemies.

  108. Alan Garner

    @Phil

    Then that’s not a MRB, that’s a modular brigade and somewhere between what we have now and a permanent formation. I thought the problem with deployed ORBAT’s that we have now was they disrupted other units deployment cycles, something MRB’s were intended to solve.

    Just as a question, would say a Stryker BCT deploy as is or would it’s deployed structure change? I could see that being a nightmare in a 1m+ personnel military. What about other NATO armies ie the Australian Beer Shiba program?

  109. Phil

    “I thought the problem with deployed ORBAT’s that we have now was they disrupted other units deployment cycles, something MRB’s were intended to solve”

    Other units have been disrupted because the TFH laydown required more units than were found in any one brigade.

    If we are to live within our means, swapping kit is a perfectly rational path to take and one we have a long history of doing.

    I think people are being far too prescriptive about kit in these units. Yes manning new kit requires increments and so forth but these can be accounted for in the strength and do not have to come from other sub units.

    These units are simply NOT going to go anywhere in their peacetime ORBAT. No Brigade I know of ever has. It will be adjusted to suit the mission. I can see any increments or reinforcements coming from the TA.

    This is not a modular system.

    It is simply a brigade that can scale and modify kit holdings.

    It is how the Army has done business for a very long time.

  110. Phil

    Just to be clear. We wouldn’t be taking a mechanised battalion from another brigade. We’d simply be taking pooled APCs and issuing them and the associated kit to a unit in the deploying brigade.

  111. Alan Garner

    @Phil

    Obviously different gear is needed for different missions, it’s the poaching of different units from elsewhere in the army, and in Afghan, elsewhere in the armed forces, that I was led to believe was the problem.

    I get that not everybody in the brigade barracks will get on the plane but if a MRB needs extra add on detachments of personnel what differentiates it from the current system?

  112. Phil

    “I get that not everybody in the brigade barracks will get on the plane but if a MRB needs extra add on detachments of personnel what differentiates it from the current system?”

    I never said it might need them.

    I think there are planning assumptions and then there is event driven stuff.

    Planning assumption is a diffuse brigade group, suitable for nearly all missions the army is unlikely to make and which can be deployed on a persistent basis and which in that case units will not be poached.

    But say there is an intervention, or a mission that planners believe is a one off 6 month intervention then they may well reinforce from other units. They’ll use their discretion and we shouldn’t let a planning assumption get in the way of good decision making and experience judgement from the professionals.

    I don’t think the Army intends to conduct any missions requiring poaching on a persistent basis and I imagine the thinking is to get a lot of TA to make up increments and BCRs and so forth, but then again it never intended to conduct 2 medium enduring operations either.

  113. Phil Z29

    Well we are to have 5 MRBs, and 2 light role.

    I new Mr Hammond wasn’t reading my posts!

    Anyway, I have an idea for Future Force 2030 Army …………

    Regards
    Phil

  114. Alan Garner

    @Phil

    So if we’re saying unit swapping is an emergency measure and when Afghanistan is all finished units won’t routinely detach from their brigades, why are we thinking of MRB’s at all?

    I’m not questioning your logic, you make sense to a civvy like me, but what I’m hearing is MRB’s are a solution to a non-existent problem.

  115. Phil

    MRBs have gotten a life of their own.

    They are medium brigade groups. A suite of units that generally fit what likely missions we would undertake at that level of readiness. And by de-specialising the brigade persistent operations should be less disruptive to the rest of the Army.

    You can take an armoured brigade and drop it down to a light formation or medium formation, but the point is you go to all that expense of maintaining an organisation that you will hardly ever use and further expense to re-role it on a greater level than if you have a medium brigade group.

    The whole concept I believe is designed to assist harmony and make the army more persistent.

    MRBs are just brigades. Versatile brigades. Not some concept on a plinth. They are merely the extension of what we used to have in the 50s except we called them Infantry Brigade Groups. A Brigade with an APC squadron, light role infantry, tanks and armoured cars.

    They are nothing special. Just recognition of the fact that such a formation is more suitable and more easily tweaked.

    IMHO.

  116. x

    @ Phil

    I understand kit can be moved and forces worked up. And that when the balloon goes up kit will magically appear and soldiers transferred in to cover gaps.

    But there is a little utility in having mixed equipment levels within a brigade. If the UK were to undertake a Gulf War type operation it would need an armoured brigade ready to go. Not a brigade with one battalion ready to go in Warrior. And another battalion(s) waiting for Warriors to work up so it can join the brigade’s current armoured brigade. As I outlined above it is better to concentrate the best of what we have one armoured brigade ready to go, another brigade with as much heavy equipment as we have working up to replace the primary armoured brigade, the other brigades in light role, and all rotating through.

  117. Phil

    @x

    Well you just can’t have that. You cannot have a persistent medium operation and a heavy brigade. It’s not going to be funded. And dropping the brigades to 4 is going to mean the Army has less utility and a very definite shelf-life on enduring operations.

    The decision has been made, the Army must have persistence and the ability to re-generate a heavy formation. This sits well with the historical evidence and likely missions.

    And as these things tend to come with warning it is entirely conceivable that the heavy formation could be formed well before deployment.

    I don’t know how brigade level exercises work these days but they tend not to involve the entire brigade at once so it is a problem that can be worked around.

    Ideally, 5 brigade groups and a heavy formation and a light formation. But, in this instance, we can’t have it.

  118. Phil

    Personally I’d see

    3×5 infantry battalions for the brigade groups
    4 bns for 16X
    2 bns Cyprus
    1 Brunei
    2 bns public duties (like or not they are untouchable)
    1 bn LWC

    and then 5 bns kept on strength as reinforcement battalions so that in theory each brigade group could be reinforced by one battalion on a persistent basis or more on a one off basis without ruining the cycle. Maybe even 4 battalions if you consider one in Cyprus to be a regional reinforcement unit has it has been.

    Infantry is the most used and abused service so it makes sense to keep some back.

    That would leave 31/30 bns compared to 36 today.

  119. x

    Well we should just scrap all the heavy kit. Scrap the brigade structure. And have 25 battle-groups….

    If we have a brigade (1) overseas as we do in Afghanistan (your persistent medium operation.) And a brigade(2) working up to take over from that brigade (1). And a brigade(3) just back from Afghanistan. And the brigade(4) that was back just before the latter; working up to take on the armoured role. And the brigade back before (5) worked up before that worked up in the armoured role.

    If there aren’t enough brigades the Army needs to go back to 3 x inf battery battalions per brigade. Not sure where in the rule book says UK has too supply 4 x inf batts per brigade.

  120. Phil

    Those 5 brigade groups could also undertake SLE and the Falklands Roulement Company. Perhaps even drop 16X down to three battalions. Plenty of scope to drop a lot of battalions and still have a robust force structure infantry wise. I think 31 should be a good target.

    Thats as close as Im getting to fantasy army!

  121. Phil

    The Army has experimented with deleting brigades and deleting divisions. You will note that we currently still have both. I will take a leap of faith and ascribe this to the fact that divisions and brigades are a natural requirement and should a similar level of command not exist, it is necessary to create one. Or do what we did in the late seventies and call them “Field Forces” and “Task Forces”. Yuk.

  122. percontator

    TD, in his opening remarks describes the rationale behind MRBs:
    “In addition to the historic pattern of enduring operations the influencing factor in the MRB concept is that in those same operations a range of capabilities have been used, from heavy armour to light infantry including artillery, engineers and the other enabling functions.
    When these other capabilities have been used they have been pulled in from all over the Army, creating disruption and upsetting established rotation patterns.
    So it is these three factors that have informed the creation of the Multi Role Brigade; sustainability within harmony guidelines, likely operations and reduction in disruption.”

    Phil in one of his enlightening contributions expands on some aspects of this:

    “5 units is ideal to create a comfortable cycle. TA units could be used to reinforce those deploying units so that unlike now, reinforcing sub units aren’t poached from the rest of the Army. So for example, a Brigade Group deploying on Operation X needs 5 more company groups then all five could be sourced from the TA.
    It would mean a big change in TA terms of service and mobilisation periods of up to almost two years from start to finish and putting them all through a catch up training package and then through the whole brigade PDT, tour and then recovery.
    Ideally, my TA (oh my God I’m dipping into fantasy stuff) would be attached to each brigade with each brigade having a TA shadow unit for each regular sub unit. So for example each Brigade Group would have a Yeomanry Regiment, 1-2 Infantry Battalions, an Artillery Regiment, Engineer Regiment, Medical Regiment, RLC Logistic Support Regiment, REME Battalion and RMP Company.
    Further TA units would reinforce certain units in HQ Theatre Troops, provide specialist pool personnel, further specialist units (like RE Works Units) and further 3rd Line Support within the Logistic Brigades to be mobilised on enduring operations or national operations.”

    Within this context the area that does not seem to have been addressed is the role of the Divisions of Infantry in supporting the manning of the MRBs especially now that we have a target of a 30% contribution from the TA. As a result of FIS (future infantry structure) some of these divisions now operate as “large regiments”, e.g. the King’s Division, though in typical British Army fashion not all do and furthermore, not all battalions are in divisions.

    It seems to me that as a first step, FIS should be fully implemented and that all battalions should be in divisions that are run as large regiments of 5 or 6 btns.
    This could mean for example that 1 RIR became part of the Scottish Division (although I’m not sure where the PARAs would fit). Most of the btns in each division could be mapped onto an MRB with only one btn in each division mapped onto the same MRB. In this way when an MRB reached the point in the readiness cycle where it was the ready or operational brigade it would be the responsibility of the Major General commanding the division to ensure that the btn from his division mapped onto that brigade was fully manned.

    This concept can then be extended to incorporate the TA.
    With each regular btn being manned below establishment level and being brought to establishment level through the addition of e.g. a rifle company or manoeuvre support platoon manned by TA soldiers from within the same division.

    The third step in the process would be a return to localism.
    If the incorporation of the TA in particular is to be handled efficiently then each admin division has, so far as possible, to be located in its traditional recruiting area. This also affects the regular btns, witness the Cheshire Regiment, formerly oversubscribed , now rechristened 1st Mercians, based in Catterick and dependent on a Gurkha re-inforcement company to reach establishment.
    Finally, with regard to FIS, those btns not mapped onto MRBs would fullfill other roles such as Cyprus garrison, Demonstration btn and in the case of The Guards, public duties.
    I see no reason why the FIS concept should not be extended to the cavalry with one large armoured regiment of 5 btns and one large brigade recce regmt of 5 btns.
    In the meantime hesitant steps seem to be happening to support the MRB model with CBRN being off loaded to the RAF to allow for 1 armoured regmt and 1 BRR per MRB and RA close support regmts being reduced from 6 to 5 each with a mix of AS90 and light gun.

    I would like to finish with a question, how does the readiness cycle operate within or across 16AAB and 3 Cdo Brigade?

  123. x

    Phil said ““Field Forces” and “Task Forces””

    I have got several written explanations of that system. I have spoken to soldiers who were in BAOR at the time. And I still don’t get the idea.

    I have already disbanded 16AAB (2 line infantry batt’s there) and given 1 Rifles back to the infantry. So that is 3 extra batts there.

    Post Afghanistan why do you want 2 batts in Cyprus?

  124. Phil

    @Percontator

    The Divisions of infantry have no operational role whatsoever. And I don’t believe they ever had. They’re a relatively new creation. I am not up to date with my history of them but they seem like leftovers from recruiting days.

    ie PoW division had its depot that fed all its battalions.

    Guards division had its depot (Pirbright) to feed them.

    They are a recruiting artefact, I don’t think they have a relevant role today and I think they only hang around because, well I don’t know, because nobody has gotten rid of them or somebody feels sentimental.

    The depots in the 80s were I believe:

    Scottish Division – Glencourse
    PoW Division – Lichfield / Cwrt Y Gollen
    Kings Division – Strensall
    Queens Division – Bassingbourne
    Light Division – Winchester
    Guards Division – Pirbright
    Royal Irish Rangers – Ballymena

  125. Phil

    “Post Afghanistan why do you want 2 batts in Cyprus?”

    I understand that both are usually there anyway. I am not sure how that aspect works with the UN force and so on but there were 2 bns there for some time.

    If there is no good reason for 2 bns to be there then bring one home. To disband.

  126. Jed

    Phil – TA ! Well done sir :-)

    Percontator – the “Infantry Divisions” are no such thing, they are merely administrative formations, somewhere a higher echelon of pay and administrative personnel can sit to adminsiter the erk’s and oik’s.

    X – 3 battalions or 4 battalions per brigade – surely that is not a simple random number, picked to make the number of battalions fit the number of brigades ? Surely it SHOULD have more to do with application of combat power ? To achieve the miltary effect desired from a deployed brigade, should it have 3 infantry battalions, or 4 ? If the brigade level formation is the lowest common denominator for combat power in our building block approach to formations, then surely it actually matters ??

  127. Phil

    “the “Infantry Divisions” are no such thing, they are merely administrative formations, somewhere a higher echelon of pay and administrative personnel can sit to adminsiter the erk’s and oik’s.”

    I dread to think what crusty old bastards in regimental pullovers occupy whatever posts there are in these bizarre, obsolete recruiting divisions.

    I imagine they will be quietly let go and the divisions dissolved or become simple paper.

  128. Mike W

    Sorry, I have come rather late to this debate, so am referring to some points made quite some time ago.

    @Observer

    “How does that look?”

    It looks pretty good to me. If the general format of an MRB is to be what it is generally understood to be i.e.

    1 Armoured Regiment (Challengers)
    1 Reconnaissance Regiment/Squadron (FRES SV/Jackals)
    1 Armoured Infantry Battalion (upgraded Warriors)
    1 Mechanised Infantry Battalion (with who knows?)
    1 Light Battalion (Foxhounds etc.)
    1 Artillery Regiment (AS90s and 105mm Light)

    then, by choosing to have only 3 MRBs, you would seem to have enough units to satisfy the requirements for your formations.

    We have, I believe, at least 5 Armoured Regiments so you are alright there. We also have 5 Armoured Infantry Regiments (I thought 6, but apparently one is a training regiment), so OK there too. I’ve no idea how many Mechanised Infantry Regiments we have but I am sure more that 5 now, so you should be fine in that respect too.

    One reservation I have is concerning your Air Mobile Intervention Brigade. Presumably you are thinking of merging the Paras with the Royal Marine Commandos. I happen to think that the two come from different traditions and that each has a different ethos. Whether they would merge successfully is by no means certain. I would keep them as separate entities in 16 AA and 3 Commando, you would gain an extra brigade and that would help with problems of rotation and extend intervals between tours.

    Concerning the discussion in general so far. I have always been a great supporter in general of the MRB concept but I do fear that, if there were a sudden crisis in which we had to use quite heavy armoured formations, then we would not be able to assemble such formations quickly enough without adequate notice. Ideally, I wanted one of the five brigades to have a bias towards heavy armour (i.e. to have a large old-style Type-58 Tank Regiment and 2 Armoured Infantry battalions. However, I have learned that if you put 2 AI regiments into one brigade, that would mean that one of the MRBs would have to go without one, so that puts the kybosh on that idea.

    Again generally, I have only read through the comments so far rather sketchily but there have been some excellent ideas put forward. One of the difficulties, of course, is going to be how you equip the Mechanised and Light Battalions with vehicles. You really cannot expect the latter to still use Landies and 4-tonnies. I have a feeling it will be a “cobbled together” solution, with some Bulldogs, some Mastiffs, some Warthogs, some Foxhounds etc. I have a sneaky liking for X’s suggestion that we go for some Bushmasters (a tried and tested vehicle). I am sure that we could acquire some at a reasonable price from Australia. Otherwise go for the RG35, a sturdy, dual-purpose vehicle.

    I also like Monty’s division of assets into various types of battle groups. However, in his scheme of things, he raised a rather interesting point. He suggested an Artillery regiment containing GMLRS. I would have thought that such a depth-fire weapon would be kept at divisional level to be called upon as needed. What about the kit that we would keep as what used to be called “divisional assets”, though? Would the MRBs have integral AA units (HVM, Rapier?). Would they have their own helicopter support? The present-day Armoured Brigades have an AAC detachment, I think.

    Have just heard that the Army is to have 5 MRBs and 2 Light Role, so I’m not sure how much of the above is now relevant! Am posting it anyway!

  129. Phil

    Methinks the Army is to have 5 brigade groups, 1 light and the other light is 3 Cdo. I could be wrong, and the other light is going to be akin to 52 Bde which was essentially a holding brigade for infantry reinforcement and had no brigade CS/CSS units.

    An organisation which you can see reflected in my post above, it is the brigade where the 5 battalions would sit.

  130. x

    @ Phil re Cyprus

    Well post Afghanistan is the time to bring them back then. Because they have been there for a long time isn’t a good enough reason. The SBAs will still be there to stage through if infantry needs to be sent anywhere. There is no threat to the SBA. Cyprus is an EU member. Turkey is a NATO ally. So……

    Re: Battalions per brigade

    I think somebody in the MoD picked 4 to suit Post 2015 infantry numbers. 5 MRB x 4 batts is 20 batts. 20batts / 3 is 6.6666 brigades. Didn’t armoured brigades have 2 infantry battalions? Didn’t mech brigades have 3 infantry battalions? Didn’t 16AAB used have 3? And 3Cdo have 3? Didn’t 4th Armoured have just 1 infantry battalion in GW1 (Op Granby)? So yes I think 4 has more to do with maths than combat power or any product of a staff college research…….

  131. Phil

    Well the 2 Bns were there before Afghanistan. I will assume there is a pressing national need to have them out there because I don’t know any different.

    Brigade / Bns.

    4 Bde in GW1 had 2 Bns and 7 Bde had just the one. The infantry battalion organisation in those days was a fact of the entire army being tailored and bespoke to the central front and its AO on the central front. Most brigades had 1 armoured and 2 inf and some had the reverse ratio.

    As for now, there is some thought behind it of course there are plenty of models that they run to work out what is needed to do what. You could bin my reinforcement brigade for example and stick another bn in each brigade group.

    16X has always had 4 Bns I believe since it basically re-flagged from 5X. Mid 90s mech bde’s had three battalions and armoured battalions had one.

  132. x

    @ Phil re Cyprus

    Perhaps before we retreated back west of Suez and still had large defence commitments in the Gulf, and before the days when you could jump into a plane and fly to Oz in 27hours then having 2 battalions in flying distance of the Gulf would be useful. After Afghanistan where we will be flying anybody? We can fly troops into Afghanistan because we have infrastructure in place to support them. Surely if there is a NATO emergence at that end of the Med the 402,000 men of the Turkish Army will have it covered?

    Re: 16 AAB

    When originally configured it had Para’s 1,2 & 3.
    So sorry…

    Re: Models

    You drank to much of the corporate kool aid didn’t you? :) ;)

  133. Phil

    I don’t think it ever had 1,2,3 PARA. 5X always used to have 2 PARA battalions, the Royal Irish and a Gurkha Bn. And 16X went straight over to that organisation.

    As for Cyprus I haven’t a clue. I always assumed that they ponced about with the UN mission but it doesn’t seem they have anything to do with it. Who knows there then. Perhaps it will keep its role as a regional contingency force doing the less complex stuff.

    Re: model. I’m lazy, its a quick way of saying they have thought about this before and tested it in various manners against various requirements!

  134. Phil

    Meh I think that source is wrong. I have several other contemporary sources dotted about le maison that shows two PARA battalions at any one time.

  135. Gareth Jones

    @ Observer – I’ve been a fan of Singaporean kit for a while, but wasn’t aware of the Guards unit – thanks for the info. Looks very close to what I was thinking about.

  136. Phil

    Methinks that is Charles Heyman being wrong. Not that it really matters. I like those books but Internet sources are simply more up to date now. I have the 1995 version. The MoD gave it to me for free when I wrote to them when I was 12 asking how the army was organised. Bless them. I was bloody thrilled being the nerd I was and am.

  137. jedibeeftrix

    @ X –

    Dannat was quite clear that configuring the forces for general warfare, and then scaling down does not make sense anymore. The obvious corallary was that the MRB makes sense for day to day work, and when necessary we will create specialised armoured and mech brigades, ad-hoc, for when the one-off 30,00 events arrive.

  138. jedibeeftrix

    @ Phil – “The Army has experimented with deleting brigades and deleting divisions. You will note that we currently still have both”

    To quote Dannat:

    “But when prevention fails we must be prepared to intervene as part of an alliance or coalition to enable the restoration of stability or, more remotely, to defeat conventional state-based threats. And this means that we must maintain the capability to generate at readiness, deploy and employ a sizeable force – based around a Divisional Headquarters – capable of manoeuvre in a US or Alliance Corps context. So, why a Division? Well, there are several important points about this level of commitment. Firstly that on a Large Scale operation, only a properly constituted Division will realistically secure sufficient political and military influence on the coalition leader, particularly prior to the start of hostilities, and historically our political masters have always sought to have a strong voice in coalition and alliance decision making. Secondly that we expect to conduct most large scale operations in a US led alliance or coalition, and a UK Division within a US or Alliance Corps provides a militarily viable and credible level of contribution. And thirdly because a Division gives politicians and military leaders the greatest ability to manage and reduce risk – risk of casualties because of the assets it controls, and long term risk as we can be more discretionary about where and how it is deployed and employed. A single Brigade begins to look token-istic and does not give that degree of assurance as it must, perforce, be embedded into a partner nation’s Division, and control of its destiny is largely surrendered.”

  139. x

    I am not scaling down. I am shoving all the heavy expensive kit into one brigade so the UK can field one decent formation in a high end war support of our allies that is worked up and confident in its abilities. And then rotate personnel through it what ever time increments the Army see fit. There are reasons why the Army, RN, and RAF spends an awful lot of time exercising, its because war is a complicated matter. Slicing and dicing formations makes no sense at all. If the UK wants to field a competent brigade whether it be for armoured warfare, COIN, or whatever these formations need to work together with the appropriate equipment. MRB is bollox.

  140. x

    @ Jedibeeftrix

    IN GW1 the UK deployed 1st Armoured Division and it nearly crippled us. BAOR was stripped of nearly all its material. And in terms of heavy manoeuvre combat power what was deployed 3 x T58 Chally2 regs and 3 armoured infantry battalions. If we couldn’t field a division then what hope do we have now. Better to field a well equipped, well trained, (reinforced) brigade.

  141. x

    @ Phil

    1) Um. Sorry. I would bring back the arms plot. There said it.

    2) I would create an armoured brigade with all our best kit. Infantry in Warriors; 3 battalions. A full 55 tank regiment. A FRR with regiment with that ASCOD wotsit. Latest UAVs. Best we have. Just in case the US or NATO want to do another Gulf War-esque adventure. High end traditional armoured warfare.

    3) Then I would create a second brigade. 1 regiment of 55 C2. FRR Scimitar whatever being replaced with ASCOD. 3 battalions of infantry; as much of it mounted in Warrior as possible, but if not “old kit” and stop gap off the shelf buys. The role is to train to replace the regiments in the brigade detailed in (2), to augment the brigade in (2) with whole formations and replacements, and to start preparing the next brigade along.

    3) Light role brigade mounted in whatever. FRR old kit. Armoured regiment one of current truncated formations.

    4) Light role brigade for garrison and UN tasks. The two cavalry regiments mounted in whatever.

    5) Same as above (4). Just stepped from being primary armoured brigade.

    6) Disband 16ABB. Line regiments back to the line.
    2/3 Para form a demi-brigade with the rump para-assets (7RHA) Put into a light infantry division with 3 Cdo. None of this para-commando crap either. Both perform complimentary roles but aren’t interchangeable. 3Cdo looses 1 Rifles uses 2/3 Para as necessary. One FRR assigned to division; needs new light tank-type vehicle off the shelf. Extra Vikings/Broncos etc. Albion brought out of extended readiness.

    7) MoD licences Bushmaster type vehicle to get light role infantry into a proper vehicle. Built in Britain not by BAE. £500million. Plus Foxhound.

  142. percontator

    Phil and Jed

    I’m disappointed. I normally have no difficulty in explaining what I mean but in this instance I seem to have failed spectacularly as both of you appear to have completely misunderstood my post.

    I’m quite aware that the Infantry Divisions have no operational role and nowhere in my post do I suggest otherwise.

    Future Infantry Structure (FIS) made significant differences to the role and nature of the divisions of infantry and in a number of instances they have taken over the rola formerly played by regiments. As such, as I understand it, they are in effect the unit to which the soldier belongs and it is the OC of that unit who determines where they are posted.

    If a btn is allocated to a brigade and is under strength who is responsible for augmenting the btn and from which units are the additional platoons, companies etc to come from. So far as I know Dinf does not have this responsibility. Are you suggesting that it lies with the OC of the MRB?

    Perhaps we will have a structure in which 1st Loamshires always provide the Armoured Infantry Btn in 1st MRB? Even the arms plot did not have btns performing the same roles in perpetuity.

    I’m not pretending to know all the answers, just asking what I hope are relevant questions.

    It is fairly easy ( and quite enjoyable) to speculate on the ORBAT of an MRB – most of the posts on this thread do precisely that, but in the new post Herrick world who is to supply and manage the man power?

  143. Chris.B.

    re; Cyprus

    From my readings prior to that fantasy fleets type post I did, I was lead to believe that the two battalions are required because one is officially there to protect the sovereign bases and the other is there to support the UN peacekeeping mission.

  144. James

    @ X,

    you are broadly correct in your characterisation of GW as stripping BAOR, but in fact the reality was much more nuanced and deliberate – as opposed to desperate – than you may think.

    The main point is that it was combat support and combat service support units that were the limiting factor, not combat units. If we had wanted to have a third or fourth Brigade there, we certainly could in terms of armour or mechanised Brigades. But we could not have supported them adequately with logistics. Shipping was limited (CSS units take up many LIMs on ships), and the spares also limited.

    BAOR was geared up for defensive operations, so we tended to rely on pre-dumped logistics, and support lines initially getting shorter. That drove decisions on numbers of trucks, and allowed us to have fewer.

    GW1 was always going to be offensive in nature, with operations over extended distances. We did not have enough logistics to support that. Instead, Rupert Smith decided to rely on 2 manoeuvre Brigades and a third “Brigade” being the Divisional Manoeuvre Group which I was part of, and that included 1.5 Recce Regts, most of the guns and all of the MLRS and Lynx helicopters. We could function as both a Find and Fix Brigade, but were more limited on Strike (old terms now). We tended to be used for deep fix while 4 and 7 Bdes hit the more forward positions. For instance, the DMG stopped the Hammurabi Division of the Republican Guard from interfering with the 4 and 7 Brigade sequential assault on the Iraqi 12th Brigade which opened up the Wadi Al Batin for both 1 (UK) Div and the US 7 ACR. Of course, stopping the Hammurabi Division involved quite a lot of Find and Strike as well as the main effort of Fix. 7 ACR took out the northern elements later, and we took the surrender of the southern formations on D+2.

    So, Brigades don’t have to be the be-all-and-end-all of organisation. It’s quite a tribute to the British (and US) Germany-based forces that we could go from a defensive Cold War mindset to manoeuvre warfare in a desert in about 4 months, and happily encompass new types of organisations and ways of fighting.

  145. Phil

    I have absolutely no idea how the Army decides who augments whom. But I have no doubt that it is a complex process.

    I do believe that a Brigade commander would get his mission, ask his COs what they need, and then send a shopping list to LAND who sort all that stuff out. Speculation though.

    OC’s run companies and sqns, COs run battalions and regiments.

    I imagine in the post HERRICK world some cell in LAND will sort that out. Like they must do now.

  146. Phil

    @James

    Nice post. I think that is the big difference, BAOR knew its ground for 40 odd years. And then we threw some of it several thousand miles away into a complete desert and obviously that required an extra logistical effort – not least because a spare that was sat in a dump or warehouse in Western Germany was now several thousand miles away and couldn’t be got at short notice.

    That and the fact that as you no doubt know, 1 Division was a lot stronger than it usually would have been and the two brigades were stronger with I believe the infantry getting extra MICVs to mount the Milan FP for example.

    @Chris

    From what I have read TOSCA is now done by a TA unit (bless them) but before then was covered by RLC and other CSS units from the regulars.

  147. James

    @ Phil,

    “cell” in LAND is about 100 people working under the direction of the brainiest Lt Col staff monster the Army has got (typically, pre or post command tour), and half a dozen black bag ninjas straight out of Staff College. Busiest place in Wiltshire.

  148. x

    @ Chris B

    Operation TOSCA is separate from BFC.

    @ James

    I am aware that one thing that used to freak the Soviets out was the Wests lack of war reserves. They hunted for supply dumps all over NATO. When they found none the Soviets became entirely convinced that NATO would press “the button” virtually within hours. Saying that though the UK had been slowly reducing its even meagre stocks during the 80s. Materially the BAOR was suffering even given its defensive posture.

    “Divisional Manoeuvre Group”

    I think I have commented here before that GW1 was a 3 brigade effort because of the Group. But I was talking in terms of heavy tanks and infantry so I was ignoring the guns and you light tank chaps.

    Still think MRB is a load of rhubarb. Just realised in my 3 batts per brigade model I have 6 brigades to play with plus 2 battalions.

    You will all just have to accept I am right on this issue. And I am wholly unanimous on the matter. :) ;)

  149. Phil

    Really the MRB is a vanilla Brigade Group. It’s not some new paradigm and if someone hadn’t coined the bloody phrase “MRB” then everyone would have a clearer idea of them.

    @James

    I have no doubt he must have a super computer for a brain. I can’t imagine trying to untangle all that and make it work.

  150. percontator

    Phil

    “I imagine in the post HERRICK world some cell in LAND will sort that out. Like they must do now.”

    Yes I believe that is what happens currently, leading to a situation where “capabilities are pulled in from all over the Army creating disruption and upsetting established rotation patterns”. To quote TD at the start of the thread.

  151. Phil

    @percontator

    Who knows. You’d be better off asking on ARRSE but I suspect anyone on there who knows anything won’t reveal sensitive details like that.

  152. Think Defence

    Here is a question for you chaps, just forget the teeth stuff for a moment and consider some of the CS/CSS

    Royal Engineers for example, have 3 Armoured Eng Regiments, how is that divisible by 5?

    How about the equipment span, again, our MRB will have everything from a CR2 to a rover so in terms of mobility, a single MRB is going to need bridging and such like to cope.

    Also consider the REME, with an MRB they have to have within a single formation the whole gamut of vehicles and spares

    We seem to be diffusing everything rather than retaining it at a critical mass

  153. Phil

    Well therein lies the rub TD. And the reasons why I never thought this type of formation would ever come to pass. One assumes this has been looked at and the units will be divvied up.

    I know this has happened in the RAMC.

    As for kit, there is always going to be a logistical challenge but we’ve had brigades with diverse ranges of kit since WWII.

    Something has to give – we cannot organise an army in a manner in which it is almost never used and then pay to re-role it all the time in a grand manner.

    Unfortunately, the kit is what we are stuck with. Ideally the Army would have FRES and everything would be wonderful but as it is it does not. But then really, does it represent that much more of a challenge than what the old mechanised brigades were (2 mech, 1 armoured infantry, 1 challenger).

    There’s obviously an enormous amount of work to be done in the detail but frankly nobody here is going to have a handle on that sort of thing or probably anywhere else since with the issue of redundancy, and Ministers not liking their thunder being stolen those folk are unlikely to comment if they are prudent.

    In the medium term the vehicle fleet will be rationalised, even if its just by virtue of the kit being removed from service because the wheels have finally fallen off.

    It’s all about trade off. Do you accept perhaps a more complex logistical picture and have a more efficient army overall or do you organise your army in a manner it is never used and then have to accept the logistical difficulties in (a) massively re-generating a brigade and (b) having almost a wide a range of kit as you would anyway.

  154. Phil

    I think in short, operating a brigade is already an enormously complex endeavour and we have become quite good at doing it and we feel we can accept the challenge. I don’t think anyone at LAND is suddenly going to go

    “SHIT! We haven’t addresses the logistical / spares issues”.

    I imagine they probably started from there and worked forwards.

    I really don’t think these force structures are generated by virtue of a pick and mix of units of different types.

    You look at what you want to do, and then can actually support and synthesise that. I know the force generation software the Army uses is quite complex. He says.

    Again this is all speculation.

  155. jed

    TD

    Yes very good point ref the logistical aspects of spreading all the capabilities thinly across a number of “multi-role” units. French, German, Italian and American armies seem to have retained the numbers required to keep heavy tracked and medium wheeled vehicle families in different formations. France and Italy have a bias towards wheeled vehicle families in their equivalents to the MRB, but of course neither they nor the Germans have a desire for an army designed around “persistent” expeditionary operations!

    Would things be easier if we did not try to pack the full range of options from Chally 2 to light role infantry into each of these deployable formations?

    I hate to open myself to ridicule, but does this bring us back to the heavier and less well used capabilities being placed in a well funded and re-organised reserves organisation?

  156. Observer

    TD, good point about the support element and reserves picture. No idea what they are going to do about that, with no information, all we can do is speculate, so guess we’d have to wait and see.

    Personally, I’m of the opinion that parcelling out those support units into individual brigades complicates the logistics picture without increasing efficiency, you now have 5/6 different units trying to draw parts/supplies from a centralised source instead of a single source looking after it’s own requirements, similar to the intergral aviation mentioned at the start.

    What is wrong with, say, the Engineers Corp looking after it’s own stuff or the Medical Corp training it’s own people instead of 6 brigade packets which have been detached and are no longer part of the Corp’s internal structure disturbing them from time to time for supplies and training/retraining?

    Centralise the supplies pool, the training programmes and the resources, then assign them “as per” on whatever expeditions you want to go on.

  157. Observer

    PS: I severely doubt HMG would go on 5 different expeditions all at once. I hope…

    So you can actually assign more support assets to a single job instead of having 2-4 companies overworked as only “2 MRBs were assigned to the job” while the others sit back at home polishing boots.

  158. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi James,

    Nice account of the GW1 structure and effective constraints. As you say, infantry was not a limiting factor at all, but when the first count of available units was taken, 19 (!) bn’s were in the middle of the regular role change and had to be counted out, due to the short lead time.
    – such rotation (frequency of it) was re-evaluated afterwards (but many have been calling for bringing it back, in the remarks above?)

    RE ” that we could go from a defensive Cold War mindset to manoeuvre warfare in a desert in about 4 months”
    – Round 2: 20.000 sent out to exercises in Oman a year ahead, and still the political leadership put the “operations management” under similar time & supplies pressure as what you describe… a lot has been written about irresponsible behaviour, but that’s what I would call utterly irresponsible

  159. Observer

    ACC, think their main concern for the high rotation frequency is battle fatigue. During peace times, it seems like troop rotation is too fast, but for the people on the sharp end, a year can seem like an eternity and that is what they are afraid of. 6 months sounds to me like a compromise, long enough to learn, short enough to make it seem you just might be able to survive.

    RE: Political leadership- “you did it before in exercises, why can’t you do it in real life?”
    Could this be what they were thinking? Next time, might be worth it to blow a few percentage points off the scorechart, lest they ask you for one more round. :)

  160. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Observer,

    WE are talking in cross-purposes
    – you mean tour length
    – I was talking about regular re-roling: like from mechanised/ light to armoured infantry

    There was a rationale behind it (every infantry unit, without starting from scratch, potentially being capable of re-enforcing BAOR’s high-density, armour-heavy battle field… assuming there was kit for them)
    – it is no surprise that this (regular re-reroling) did not stop overnight when the Berlin Wall fell, but the shock of GW1 quantified the frictional costs (more in terms of availability than in terms of money) of the practice in very concrete terms
    – of course, lower availability leads to larger overall numbers, and that costs more

  161. jackstaff

    All,

    Good stuff all round. This is a crucial subject — really nothing less than “what’s the Army for, after the sandbox is done, and how will it do whatever-it-is?” — and the thread’s lived up to that. Makes it a pleasure to be round the old local again, unlike those CVF threads which despite a lot of bits of content in among the barracking, do often make Plastic Baby Dashboard Jesus cry. (Speaking of which, boss, mind if I do penance and gin up a considered piece on strategy, operational art, and service structure related to carriers? Yeah, I know, light blue touch paper, but really something that gets into practical details of each rather than the emotive stuff? What Phil would call, cf. the Nigeria thread, “critical bloody thinking.” Just a thought.)

    One quick word before I launch another ramble: like George Takei (only taller and a bit more heterosexual, though I do live in a house with five women) I’d like to think my proposed rethink of the Parachute Regiment is a kind of “Star Peace” between Phil and Observer. (Yes that’s me being a scifi buff.) Those six or seven scenarios Phil mentions have been the common cause for parachute drops since 1950 and those have enjoyed both greater operational success (from little Rhodesian platoon drops, or American ones in the Stan and now Sudan, to the invasion of Panama and planned jump on Haiti) than large-scale heliborne assaults, several of which have been absolute massacres particularly for the Yanks in Vietnam and Soviets on their Afghan holiday. That being said, I’d prefer any British airborne force to be small (in the West only the Americans, or perhaps the French if they begged allies and moved heaven and earth, can drop an effective brigade force. Well, the Americans’ would be more effective if they finally put some bloody tracked mobile guns back in the TO&E.) Two reasons, 1) so it’s not cadged off constantly to do the work of line infantry and must be kept in strategic reserve b/c of its rarified size, and 2) so that it can actually be dropped by parachute like it says on the tin to conduct a raid or open an extra axis of maneuver during forced entry. I think with a bit of noodling you could get my “organic battlegroup” model in at 1000 bods, to be dropped by an Atlas/C17 mix, with one of four “shooter” companies (rifle company with a weapons section tacked on) rotating SF support role (here again, so you don’t have the current SFSG army of secret squirrels roaming around perma-war “persistent operations” that tempt jockstrap-sniffing politicians’ egos /end rant)

    Been giving OGH’s, MG Carter’s, and the good commenters of the thread’s ideas attention and think I’ve come up with my own working model.

    *Divisions, Not Brigades — Well, Sort Of

    In order to make this whole model work with a smaller force, one of the layers of personnel/administrative/functional “stuff” (brigade/division/corps/admin orgs like recruiting “divisions”) has to be, more or less, eliminated. The recruiting divisions certainly need to die a death, and some similar admin collations likewise (again: it’s an old country, you can group units with heraldic language without a typing pool to hold it up.) And some mixture of regular and reserve units resembling the scale of a corps seems likely to persist(although, like the French and Italian models of reform that’s more likely to approach its task-organisation as though it were a theatre command, rather than the largest active fighting formation within an even bigger army.) There it’s more a matter of role-ing together that theatre command aspect with coordination with allied formations.

    But when it comes to deployable fighting formations, the brigade/division structure keeps holding on for practical reasons, as Phil said. (And x, I’m sure there’s a good little WTF post out there to be written by some ageing BOAR geezer about the “Task Forces.”) So let’s take a page from the book of an expeditionary ground force, the USMC. Their “Expeditionary Brigades,” which are really little divisions, give CS and CSS power to a clutch of maneuver units (usually four infantry bns, a tank bn, and a mixed light armour bn) about the same size as an MRB. There you have the maneuver units grouped in a brigade-sized bunch with an HHC, the CS units likewise, and the CSS in a third such brigade-sized unit. So your grand total comes to 10-12,000 pax to give proper fleshed-out and sustainable power to a sharp-end component about MRB size. If you posit a force of five of these, plus one (not two, 16 AAB gets the axe) light reaction/forced entry brigade that’s mostly RM with some Army specialists and paras attached, that seems plausible to me. Especially if we follow several folks’ suggestion (I’d note Phil and x in untypical harmony but I know there’s others) to back each formation with TA elements for in-depth support, reinforcement, loss replacement, etc. So then what you have, and flag for, are five two-star divisional commmands reduced in size, each with a maneuver, CS, and CSS component classed as brigades. This seems to me like a way to maximise the power of the new model while respecting the reduced size of, well, everything in this version of the Army.)

    As a sidebar, I’d want the Falklands roulement ended to be replaced with a permanent-station RM company (more their sort of environment anyway and you don’t tie down a whole line battalion) and getting the French Connection UK out of Cyprus with speed. Well, giving up Dhekelia, moving the GCHQ outpost off to Masirah (a real frontier post for the edge of British interests), and retreating back to Akrotiri, with Rock Apes doing an honest day’s work as security, Alsatians and all.

    What about Carter’s concerns? You need a heavy and a light end, as reaction capabilities, for the force. On the light end, take 3 Commando Bde as it is, scoop out The Rifles, and drop in my “battlegrouped” Parachute Regiment. You have your highly-trained light reaction forces under one roof (one command rotation in three the Booties cede the brigadier job to a Cherry Burier), you maximise avenues of advance for forced entry (by landing craft, parachute, helos off a flat-top) and concentrate both the logistics of maintaining such a force and delivering it. Also means that, again, you’re not using them as substitutes for line units, there are too few of them (from 6-7 bns to 4, two brigades to one) so they have to be kept as a strategic intervention reserve for short-duration missions (as the Yanks always kept the 82nd Airborne until they tried to fight two land wars in Asia without conscription.) That’s your elite light end, focused on delivery by sea and by transport aircraft in one or two waves. But that’s all flash and no trousers, for anything but very focused and brief ops, unless you have another force that can follow in.

    ** The Sledgehammer: Hedging for High Intensity

    Just to cheerlead the blog boss’ thoughts and x’s recommendations, here’s my own approach:

    – The sharp end means armour, and the heavy stuff. As various Western militaries shed that gear, any peer opponents would do well not to, and for opponents looking for “asymmetrical” advantages, a spell of bad weather for our aircraft plus more ageing armour than we have Javelins in the rucksack suddenly becomes a tactic rather than a death wish. If you tangle with a peer, or need to deliver a shocking blow for specific operational and strategic ends, or have to block a crafty onslaught of the type I just described a sentence back, you need a death-belching, Chobham-ized insurance policy.
    – Warrior is actually a brilliant vehicle, but I would slight it in this model and, like Rob Brydon, I’ll tell you for why. Shift the surviving armoured regiments (all under one group flag) to a new armoured cavalry model. Call it “Type 72″ and it’d involve
    4x maneuver squadrons of 18 armoured vehicles each, 2x Chally 2s for command staff, 2×4 troops of C2 as your tanks. For the other 2×4 troops, I would take a drawing-board plan from Nexter (who make the Leclerc) and from US and Israeli experiences with both conventional (other tanks) and unconventional (multiple-explosives ambushes) opponents. You take a Chally 2, remove the turret and gun, replace same with the CTA 40mm turret, if possible with an ATGM launcher/firing post attached. Should be room now to bung in decent electronic reconnaissance kit, convert your loader to the bloke who handles that kit. When risks are relatively low, make sure you have two crew aboard (not the driver, obviously) trained to get out and scout with Mk.1 boots. I thought of calling it Cuirassier (since it’s armour-plated cavalry) but for Joe Prole it seems like Champion would be a better name, and it got skipped in the C-tank progression. Commonality of parts, overland speed, bloody well-armoured and difficult to kill. There’s your heavy armour for pitched battle, scouting/fixing, and general recce by contact vs. all comers.
    – What does that mean for vehicle fleets? This model means you keep 300 Chally 2s around in fleet management, with about a 170:130 split between C2s as we know them and “Champion”. Slash the Warrior fleet to 200, all with the knobs-on upgrade. This gives you two bns in the Regulars, and the ability if needed to generate gear for an intact, full-strength TA battlegroup based on a full Warrior IFV bn with an attached company of 12-14 C2s that you could tack on to one of the other four Regular formations (I’ll come back to that.)
    So then you have your knobs-on “division” (read: heavily enhanced and logistically sustainable brigade group) for the sharp stuff, 7 Armoured Division (reflagging its lineage from brigade days.) It’d have:
    Maneuver Brigade
    3x Type 72 RAC regiments (40 C2 plus 1 for command staff, 32 Champion)
    2x Warrior IFV bns (I’d still reflag battalions as “regiments” for reasons of 1) respect for lineage, 2) restoring effective recruiting parameters and 3) ramming change past traditionalists, but I’ll leave that aside)
    1x light-role air assault bn (here that would be The Rifles, as distinct from a recreated Light Infantry or a newly created Royal Wessex Regiment for the lineages of 1 RIFLES) that would, in this case, really be trained for air-assault ops, scouting, screening, harrying actions, counterinsurgency tactics, and marksmanship (maybe even real “riflemen” all armed with 7.62mm)
    Headquarters company

    CS Brigade
    1x RA heavy regiment (4×6 AS90, 1×8 MLRS; there should be an identical regiment in the TA, and that’s the remains of the tracked artillery)
    1x enhanced RE regiment (includes an extra, heavy bridging platoon and an amphibious platoon)
    2x AAC regiments (1×18 Apache for attack, one mixed support regt with 6x Wildcat and 12x Chinook)
    Headquarters Company

    CSS Brigade
    2x RLC regiments, one focused on close support, the other on second-layer logistical support and throughput
    1x REME regiment inclusive of detachable workshop elements
    1x RAMC regiment
    Divisional HQ inclusive of a battalion sized, mixed Corps of Signals/Intelligence outfit (riffing on the interesting new model 3 Cdo Brigade has set up)

    I suspect that gets you to about 12,000 personnel when it’s at home, with 124 Chally 2 (the regiments plus 1 for GOC or his staff), 96 “Champion,” 104-110 Warrior IFV, and the other goodies. Really plenty of effective force if properly deployed, and you could if needed attach various TA CSS bits to it, even a battalion of TA leg infantry if the baloon really went up, swelling the whole thing towards 14-15,000 as a self-sustaining command. If 3 Cdo is one end of operations, this is the other.

    ** The Poor Bloody Infantry

    Back when it came out, I had a friend at uni who went to see Jurassic Park: went in a big sceptic, came back a genuine fan. That’s my point of view on the American Stryker brigades. Single-family vehicle fleet (plus of course the usual mix of trucks, jeeps by any other name, etc.), surprisingly good mix of capabilities, and if you pay proper attention to adding support elements it’s well able to be sustained in the field for a range of operations, especially in urban environments, or against varying levels of capability from your conventional or unconventional foe. Has a cavalry element that’s really focused on reconnaissance, AT and assault-gun sections well distributed to battalion and company level, plenty of mortars (Jed? You about?) and plenty of hand-held hole punchers like Javelin. Also growing attention to things like UAVs and distribution of designated sharpshooters through the line units. So in many ways it’s a much better formation, in terms of design, equipment, and operational doctrine, than the jack-of-all-trades MRB, using one set of people/gear to accomplish multiple missions just as James and Brian said.

    Now, what vehicle do you do that with? That’s a milporn thread unto itself. Stryker (as a vehicle, not an operational concept) has one customer and some faults of its own. Pandur 8×8 has teething troubles, Piranha V is an unknown quanity looking to boost its board of directors’ stock portfolio, VBCI doesn’t have enough types. I’d say the leading candidates to my mind are Patria AMV and the Italian Freccia, although the Boxer (God it’s bloody heavy, isn’t it?) might come along as a family of vehicles with more fire-support versions (mortar, ATGM, assault gun.) The type of vehicle matters less than its application closely following the evolved Stryker pattern (which was itself a laboratory for figuring out how to fight conflicts like Iraq.)
    So then I’d have four (rather than five) divisions (if the French called them that in the Cold War, we can do it now) on that model:
    1x scout cavalry regt (a little on the small side even compared to the FR model we know, but networked out the wazoo)
    3x mechanised wheeled bns (with plenty of integral firepower through 120mm mortars, 105mm assault guns, and ATGMs and a decent number of “legs”)
    1x light role bn (tacked on to, again, increase both density and deployability of infantry)

    The rest much the same except 1×18 M777 guns for the artillery and 1x AAC regiment (with 9 Apache, 9 Chinook, 6 Wildcat.) Overall this makes a smaller force, more like 9500-10,000. As I said above, in the event you’ve sent one of these in with 7 Armd to high-intensity combat, or things have gotten hot during a sustained deployment, or you’re doing initial entry with one of these formations and want some insurance, you can call up a c. 1500-strong TA battlegroup based on a Warrior bn beefed up with a company of Chally 2s to provide a bit of staying power against heavier threats.

    So you could just about get away with 82,000 in the Regulars if you had:
    7 Armoured Division (as described, c. 12000 pax)
    The Army attachments to 3 Cdo Bde
    1-4 Divisions (or Guards and 1-3 Divs) as “multi-role” formations a little under 10k each
    5x additional infantry bns (one cadged off each multi-role division’s roster plus the R Irish who, when they’re at home, are in NI) with one Guards bn on public duties/London security, and four in “sustained battlegroup” rotation (work down, work up, advanced training on NI duty, battlegroup availability.)

    In the regulars I suspect that makes 7 cavalry regts (incl. Household Cavalry in one of the multirole formations) plus RTR retained as the armoured training/OPFOR force, around 25 infantry bns (capbadged as regiments or not), 6 gun regiments in the RA (plus some of the current ADA/Targeting regts), and comparable levels for the other corps. (You can keep helicoper numbers around what’s projected, you just can’t slash them.) And despite retaining fleet management for 3/4s of the C2s, you’ve cut AS90s by about half and Warrior by a little over two-thirds.

    On top of that you have enhanced, specialised CSS roles in the Reserves, plus the ability to generate an armoured battlegroup as described, plus various leg-infantry, cavalry replacements from the Yeomanry, and CS/CSS reinforcements that could “shadow” each division as Phil (or x?) put it.

    Honestly that seems like “plenty of Army” for a range of issues.

    – For enduring ops you have your four multirole “divisions”, and might (during a 2-3 year period) be able to cobble together a TA composite division that could take a division-sized deployment set from the multirole wheeled fleet and do a tour
    – For “dynamic” forced entry you have 3 Cdo followed potentially by 7 Armoured
    – For small operations you have a sustainable battlegroup, or 3 Cdo
    – For an Op Granby/Kosovo invasion-style operation you have your heavy division and a multirole one beefed up with the TA armoured battlegroup
    – For a “balloon goes up” op in northern Norway or northeastern Poland, you mobilise a corps-sized command structure for a British contribution based on the Granby/Kosovo force, plus 3 Cdo, plus an allied attached force (perhaps in Norway a Dutch “division” modeled on my British approach rather than current Dutch plans, and in Poland the German heavy reaction division that’s there to ease the political consequences of fighting to the last Pole.)

    It goes without saying: F**k FRES. But I like to say it anyway :)

    Seems like this general model would keep the British end up.

  162. Observer

    My bad ACC. Just to clarify, what you meant was switching roles to refamiliarise the infantry with their equipment and to cross train for flexibility and redundancy, i.e being able to switch between Armoured and Mech. Is that correct?

  163. ArmChairCivvy

    Nice piece, Jackstaff

    Looking forward to this one ” gin up a considered piece on strategy, operational art, and service structure related to carriers?”
    – I don’t think the Navy has quite managed to explain what they wrap under the “Carrier-assisted Operations” concept… or I have been looking in the wrong places for the “beef”

  164. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Observer, yep
    – there always has to be a degree of that (for the reasons you stated) but previously it was overdone at a great but hidden cost

  165. Mike W

    @TD
    Re: “Here is a question for you chaps, just forget the teeth stuff for a moment and consider some of the CS/CSS ….. Royal Engineers for example, have 3 Armoured Eng Regiments, how is that divisible by 5?” and “We seem to be diffusing everything rather than retaining it at a critical mass.”

    You have raised a very searching question here or, at least at first I thought you had. I might be more than a little prejudiced in that, on the whole, I support the MRB idea, but just consider the following:

    Will the situation regarding CS and CSS be much, or indeed any, different form the situation now pertaining? At present Royal Engineers’ support for an Armoured Brigade is shown as one Engineer Squadron, not even a Regiment. The same is true of a Mechanised Brigade.

    Now I know that each of the new MRBs will be one and a half times the size of a present Armoured Brigade (which is approx. 5,000) but my point is that at the moment we have 2 Armoured Brigades and 3 Mechanised (total 5) to support and are able to do it. The situation under the MRB scheme will involve the same number of brigades (5). Will there be that much difference? We do after all still have 7 general-purpose Field Regiments of the RE available (apart from specialists such as EOD, Amphibious, Air Support, Air Assault Brigade, Commando Brigade etc. regiments). Used sensibly, these should suffice.

    The situation regarding REME units might be more tricky. As you say, within a Multi-Role Brigade there will be a complete range of equipment from MBTS to Quad bikes.

    Incidentally, do we have as many as 3 Armoured Eng regiments? In my innocence, I thought we only had one (or have things changed from the days when we had the Armoured Engineer Regiment as well as armoured division Engineer Regiments?)

  166. Mark

    Would or be worth separating the hqs from the forces below them. It is likely we will do multiple small scale (battlegroup) mission over the next decade with a lower likely hood of medium ops. So form multiple battlegroups/ meu call them what you like specialising in different missions that do indival ops for 6 months. The hqs and the he support companies are for medium ops and would do 12 months with battlegroups swapping in and out.

  167. Phil

    The thing with the French and Germans is, and if I may say so, it’s not bloody fair is that they have very large stockpiles of legacy kit so they can organise their units with this stockpile almost as they see fit since the posture is now so dramatically reduced. As their legacy kit wears out watch things change.

    I’m not especially convinced by the logistical argument as (a) they probably started from here and (b) is the organisation anymore complex than what we have had for some time since a brigade will have attached to it many different vehicle types. Just look at the old Type 57 Armoured Regiment, it had several different vehicles for one LAD to sweat over.

    I think the CS/CSS difficulties can be addressed easily enough by administrative moves, ie splitting the REME battalions into enough companies to support each battlegroup. Which has been practise for some time.

    I think we are being blinded by kit.

    What we have is a standard combined arms brigade group designed to be tailored to the task in exactly the same manner as we have done for half a century by creating battlegroups and tweaking deployment organisations. The obvious ideal would be to have all infantry battalions mounted in a common vehicle but we currently have no suitable vehicle.

    The whole MRB label does my head in. ALL brigades are “multi” role and you could easily have labelled our mechanised brigades “medium” previously. There is a diffuse range of kit in the infantry but that is easily tailored relatively speaking for operations and no more complex than current operations.

  168. Phil

    @Mark

    Brigade HQs are needed to administer and OPCON their sub units. They have to be subordinated to somebody and as we operate at the brigade, and sometimes divisional level, it makes perfect sense to have them all under brigades.

    Also it’s no good having battlegroups flying thick and fast everywhere if you don’t have the logistical lines to support them – supporting one big deployment is less resource intensive than supporting 5 smaller contingency deployments even of BG level.

    It’s just not how we intend to roll.

    Cue Jedi posting his SDSR paragraph!

  169. paul g

    i’m with phil with the REME situation, it’s been a while (quite a while now) but while i was posted at 7 Armoured Workshop it was indeed split into 2 companies to support the two brigades, A coy supported 7 brigade with chally, warrior and M109. B coy supported 22 brigade which had chieftain and abbot. companies split into MRG and FRG, (main repair group and forward repair group) people flitted inbetween the mrg and frg, generally your more experienced went into frg. Throw into that FV436’s for sigs, 1ADFA (armd medics)with 432, 32 Armd engineers with there bits and bobs.
    Basically there was a massive melay of equipment and it was dealt with, throw in some cent ARRV’s and ABRE’s as well!
    So these new fandango MRB’s will be sorted (as long as they don’t keep contracting repair out, tossers)
    Arte et Marte!!!

  170. x

    @ Phil

    It isn’t about the kit for me. The Army has some good kit but it isn’t much use spread over 5 brigades; to get maximum effect it needs to be concentrated in one brigade. And what good COIN kit we have needs to be concentrated in a brigade on the opposite of an “arms plot” cycle that will that brigade (one of six for me) deployed to some God forsaken part of the world (so retaining the 6 months away in 3 years model.) Arguments that kit has always been distributed in what I take to mean a ad hoc fashion and that troops get kit when they need it isn’t much of an argument for me.

    No for me it is about keeping teams together. Teams that have trained together, know each other, and trust each other. And it is about crediting the humble soldier (especially the infantry man) with the bucket loads of common sense they undoubtedly have. In that I don’t see why the average soldier is incapable of spending 6 or 7 months running around jumping in out of Warriors before spending the next 6 or 7 months working up to deploy to Godforsakenland in a COIN role.

    When I sit down to watch Bath vs Northampton in short while I don’t expect Northampton to turn up with their first team front row, locks from their 3rd team, Thomas Waldron from Leicester at 8, no flankers, and only some of them wearing boots. No I expect their first team pack to run out after spending the week training together and the season getting to know each other (all wearing boots) so forming an effective forward unit. As a Leicester fan that was hard to write…..

    @ Jed said “France and Italy have a bias towards wheeled vehicle families in their equivalents to the MRB, but of course neither they nor the Germans have a desire for an army designed around “persistent” expeditionary operations!”

    But this is what I keep banging on about. Those Continental states have land borders and large land armies are in their defence thinking DNA. They maybe just as dependent on imports delivered by the sea as we are so in a way they are islands too(!) but geographically they aren’t and geography still drives as defence as much politics. In some ways the UK defence wise is in the position it was in in the earlier Elizabethan period. Not a great power, but not small either. And with a geography that means sea trumps land. Yet here we are discussing our army and comparing it with those of Europe who, because of their geography, have different fundamental security needs.

    @ Jackstaff

    I am still fighting my way through your megapost. I do note though you said Phil agreed with me. Well everybody eventually concedes I am right so….. ;) :)

  171. x

    Paul G said “So these new fandango MRB’s will be sorted ”

    Just because the guys on the ground managed to work through a bugger’s muddle before isn’t an argument to do so in the future.

  172. Phil

    “Just because the guys on the ground managed to work through a bugger’s muddle before isn’t an argument to do so in the future.”

    It really twists my mellons the way some on here disdainfully denigrate how things are done with a great arrogance that belies their utter lack of experience in generating and maintaining a force element.

    How do you know its a buggers muddle x? How long did you work in FRG and MRG like Paul? Been involved in generating an Equipment Support Group lately?

    Some humbleness wouldn’t go amiss here. Waving away trillions of man hours of experience and thought with a disdainful phrase like “buggers muddle” is distasteful. And before anyone comes back to me about how this is a place for discussion, I agree it is, but let’s not forget our places hey – if you can tell a CO that his REME battalion is a buggers muddle, and back that up with evidence then fine you can gob off, but until then how about a bit less of the hyperbole and poor attitude toward professionals.

    One can criticise without putting across a misplaced sense of omnipotence.

    Rant out.

  173. paul g

    it wasn’t a muddle. New boy posted in from the factory, would do time in the MRG, as this was the more detailed side of repair, hence it moved less often, experience gained (in army life not just trade) then deployments with FRG which were a halfway house between LAD’s and MRG’s being slightly more independant of the workshop, hence more confidence as a soldier as well as a tradesman, often the 2 companies would rotate so as to get “hands on” with other equipment in the div.
    So after 3 years 2nd line, a good understanding of what happens further up the chain, good grounding of how a logs bn (armd wksp in my day) works confident on kit and therefore ready to go 1st line with any british army unit.

    shit all muddling there

    Arte Et Marte (by skill and by fighting) since 1942

  174. x

    @ Phil

    It really f*cks me off how some here think here that only the forces know how to manage complicated situations and processes. Remind me again is it practices from the military that are being introduced into business to make it work better or is it the other way around? Actually it is a credit to the soldiers that they made a far from ideal situation work so well. Perhaps Phil you should consider back in 1996 when you were what 12 I had been already been in industry for over 7 years. I have been around the block more than once. You at times a tad too arrogant. We are grateful that you took the Queen’s shilling and got shot at. Thank you. Well done. Pat on the back. It doesn’t mean you know everything about fucking everything.

  175. Phil

    I’m not arrogant, almost all of what I say on here I qualify as speculation unless I actually know about it then I will comment on it with confidence. It’s not me strutting around saying that grown professional men with 20 years of experience are shit at their jobs and some bloke from the internet could do better.

    Whoever said that the military has a monopoly on complex processes? But guess what I do happen to believe that they are best placed to work the system, I make no claims that they are infallible in the slightest but time and time again I hear decisions decried from people without the full information and when that decision is looked at there are bloody good reasons for the decision.

    Nobody here knows everything about anything and there cannot be a fully informed debate, so a pinch of humble pie I think is in order before accusing professionals of incompetence, and that doesn’t just go for the military.

    Your snide remark at the end falls flat as I have NEVER asserted that I do know everything. You have a particularly acerbic writing style, you drip sarcasm from almost every post, have a high handed opinion of your own opinions and you constantly bait and make loaded comments by your own admission.

    Would you take such a high and mighty stance lecturing a dairy farmer on how to husband his herd?

    It’s not the criticism, it’s the disdainful manner in which it is constantly put across.

  176. Alan Garner

    Ok I know I’m going to expose my lack of knowledge of this specific subject, so apologies in advance.

    What we are going to have is 5 brigades of infantrymen based around the country, with all large kit in central pools to be issued as necessary dependant on the mission? Then the infantrymen who are trained as drivers will become drivers, the cooks become cooks and so on….? If we need CR2’s and Warriors they are released from the pool? Equally if all we need is Scimitars or Landy’s that’s what’s released?

    Now, by all accounts there won’t be enough of any one thing (tank, IFV, body armour or whatever) to fully equip more than one brigade on depolyment. So if we need to deploy a division sized force for any reason, and formations in future will be kept apart, doesn’t that obligate HMG to keep large enough pools of equipment to support these MRB’s?

    Sorry to drag the discussion back to kit, it’s just I can get my head around the likely formation, but not how it’s going to be equipped.

  177. Observer

    Well, considering disdain, I’d say both Phil and X made posts to that effect, so why don’t we call it a 1/1 draw and start over?

    The discussion I mean, not WWIII. :P

  178. Observer

    AG, most of the equipment will be organic to the unit. No point having been trained “in theory” without the hands on practical that people need to become proficient in their work. This means equipment will always be in the hands of the soldiers.

    What this phase of the discussion is about is for those resources that are few in number but something all brigades want. Do we penny packet them out? Or concentrate the rare resources in a central pool for maximum effect.

    An extreme example, if you only had 5 CEVs, concentrating them for use of a brigade in active operations may be more meaningful than splitting 1 vehicle per brigade where the single vehicle is overworked while the other 4 go..zzzz….

    Conversely, the reverse could take place, where the central pool is depleted by a brigade in action when the call comes for another deployment. Bare cupboard. Such mixing and matching also does not allow for training in teamwork as the attached unit is not really part of the parent unit, but on loan.

    There is also this other subtopic that keeps getting mixed in, namely the problem of logistics for what is essentially a mess of vehicle types, and how to supply them.

    Should be interesting to see what conclusions are drawn.

  179. Phil

    “Well, considering disdain, I’d say both Phil and X made posts to that effect,”

    You took me as saying that I was calling you a non-serious thinker. I was talking about other thinkers and historical evidence.

    Nobody should feel like they can’t comment because they are ignorant or something or haven’t worked in that environment or been there and done that, but then I think unsavoury to have such a dismissive attitude of professionals.

    Sure as you get near the top and the politics meet the strategy things can get murky and decisions not always made in the best interests of the armed forces and its mission; but in the every day nuts and bloody bolts and the mechanisms and systems of generating and sustaining force elements all three services do a sterling and on the whole bloody good job considering the friction and restraints and unavoidable semi-chaos they must work in.

    If the mechanisms and systems to maintain kit at the unit level was such a bloody muddle then it’s a wonder we can even do an exercise in Sennybridge.

    I am very sure there is room for improvement, but those criticisms do not have to be delivered with a high and mighty “I know better” attitude.

  180. Phil

    @Alan

    I am pretty sure that Whole Fleet Management has been introduced across the Army. There is no need for all army units to hold their full warscale of equipment at any one time. Units will hold different scalings dependent on their place in the readiness cycle. So a unit that is recovering from deployment will have quite a small holding of vehicles since it is likely to concentrating on adventure training, courses, leave, sport, individual skills and platoon level training. It would just be silly to have 58 Warriors in the vehicle park when there is no need and the REME blokes getting beasted while everyone else had Wednesday afternoons off for a bit of sport. It made sense in the Cold War when the Army as a whole could be engaged with minimal notice.

    As a unit moves from through the cycle it gets additional kit as needed from the central WFM pools.

    If the mission is to deploy a division then one assumes enough kit is laid in to fight that division for whatever amount of time the planners think reasonable. Of course, resource constraints might mean that kit holdings are less than ideal.

  181. percontator

    @TD re: ”Here is a question for you chaps, just forget the teeth stuff for a moment and consider some of the CS/CSS
    Royal Engineers for example, have 3 Armoured Eng Regiments, how is that divisible by 5?
    How about the equipment span, again, our MRB will have everything from a CR2 to a rover so in terms of mobility, a single MRB is going to need bridging and such like to cope.
    Also consider the REME, with an MRB they have to have within a single formation the whole gamut of vehicles and spares
    We seem to be diffusing everything rather than retaining it at a critical mass”
    I know Mike W has already addressed this point in general terms. However to be more specific the RE can follow the model set by the RA (with AS90 and light gun in the same regmt).
    An Engineer Regmt in an MRB could consist of Field Squadrons drawn from existing RE regmts to provide a range of kit. So the MRB RE regmt might contain Trojan, Titan and Terrier amongst other kit.There might also be an opportunity as we have ordered as many Terriers as Titan and Trojan combined to convert some Terriers to bridge layers. The corollary is that the total number of RE regmts would be reduced.
    I am not clear what “critical mass” is when applied to RE regmts or kit.

    @Mike W
    Re: “ At present Royal Engineers’ support for an Armoured Brigade is shown as one Engineer Squadron, not even a Regiment. The same is true of a Mechanised Brigade. “

    My copy of the Charles Heyman handbook also shows this but I think it is incorrect. Other sources show a full regmt in support of each brigade.

  182. jedibeeftrix

    @ Jackstaff – great post, took me a while to plough through it, and looking forward to the strat piece. cheers.

    @ Phil – “It’s just not how we intend to roll. Cue Jedi posting his SDSR paragraph!”

    If people are actually aware of the ambitions we seek to meet when dreaming up fantasy forces then great, my work is done. Too many don’t, but apparently your not among them, congrats! ;)

    @ X – “Those Continental states have land borders and large land armies are in their defence thinking DNA. They maybe just as dependent on imports delivered by the sea as we are so in a way they are islands too(!) but geographically they aren’t and geography still drives as defence as much politics”

    Very much agreed, worrying about tanks rolling over the border on a friday afternoon is simply not something HMG needs to worry about, and that has implications for what you can do with your Armed Forces.

  183. James

    1 (UK) Armd Div certainly had an armoured engineer regiment per Brigade (32, 35 and one whose number I can’t recall), plus 28 Amphibious Engineer Regiment as a Div asset. Maybe times have changed – that was the case as recently as 2003.

  184. Mike W

    @Percontator

    “An Engineer Regmt in an MRB could consist of Field Squadrons drawn from existing RE regmts to provide a range of kit. So the MRB RE regmt might contain Trojan, Titan and Terrier amongst other kit.”

    Good idea in principle. Engineer Regiments already contain a range of Plant and Bridging equipment (e.g. BR90 etc.). Nothing wrong, it would seem, in distributing Trojan, Titan, Terrier etc. to the MRBs. However, the problem has been described very succinctly and incisively by Observer when he says:

    “What this phase of the discussion is about is for those resources that are few in number but something all brigades want. Do we penny packet them out? Or concentrate the rare resources in a central pool for maximum effect.”

    And I believe the dilemma still remains. I think that the overall numbers in service for Trojan and Titan are 33 of each. That would not give many to each MRB, would it, and maybe they would be better in a central pool? However, personally I hope that the Engineers get an opportunity of regularly exercising alongside MBTs within a Brigade, otherwise the whole concept of cohesion in training (one of the main rationales behind the MRB concept) in this and other instances begins to be eroded.

    It’s all very well to say we’re getting bogged down by discussions of kit but like Alan Garner: “I can get my head around the likely formation, but not how it’s going to be equipped.”

    Thanks for the info about number of RE Squadrons/ Regiments per Brigade, by the way.

  185. Phil

    “And I believe the dilemma still remains.”

    Not really. Units at low readiness just do not need anything like full war scalings.

    There is no assumption that the entire Army is going to be engaged in combat now so brigades simply do not own all their kit anymore because they don’t need to and I suspect don’t want to.

    Even US Army WWII divisions did not receive full equipment scalings until they were warned off for overseas service.

    Until then they had training scales.

    Same now in the British Army.

  186. Chris.B.

    “Very much agreed, worrying about tanks rolling over the border on a friday afternoon is simply not something HMG needs to worry about, and that has implications for what you can do with your Armed Forces”

    — If I may pitch in.

    For me this is a simplistic argument. GW1 and 2 required armoured deployments. If somewhere like Syria or Iran were to ever become such a problem that a ground intervention was considered, it would most likely involve tanks leading the way. And the scenarios role on.

    Tanks are for life, not just for Christmas (or defending the cliffs of Dover).

  187. jedibeeftrix

    “Tanks are for life, not just for Christmas (or defending the cliffs of Dover).”

    Very much agreed, but i’m not advocating doing away with armour. apologies for the misunderstanding.

  188. Mark

    Iraq 91 and 03 did require armoured deployments but did we deploy to much because that’s all we had. There is more than a little evidence to suggest the US would have preferred the uk to deploy a different force mix with less tanks than they did.

  189. Phil

    Not in GW1. The USMC wanted 7X but we were worried that the 20-40% casualty rate would be publicly and politically unacceptable. So the US deployed another heavy bde from USAEUR. 2 Armoured Bde I believe from NORTHAG.

  190. Mike W

    @Phil

    “Units at low readiness just do not need anything like full war scalings.

    There is no assumption that the entire Army is going to be engaged in combat now so brigades simply do not own all their kit anymore because they don’t need to and I suspect don’t want to.”

    Well, that puts rather a different complexion on things. Thanks for the information.

  191. James

    @ Phil,

    the USMC may have wanted to keep hold of 7 Bde, but Schwartzkopf and the UK MoD wanted a British Division on the left hook. Decision jointly made by de la Billiere (having gained London’s support) and Shwartzkopf in late November 1990, before the deployment of 4 Bde and 1(UK) Armd Div HQ and Div Troops. The predicted casualty rate among the USMC fighting up the coast road may have influenced London, but it was not the only consideration. The reason we upped from a strong Brigade to a strong Division was to get involved in the left hook, not fright of casualties.

  192. Mark

    Phil

    Did the Americans not want use to support the attack with the us marines into Kuwait and general billiere withdrew the division because it was neither suited, trained or equipped for such an operation much to the US dismay.

  193. Jed

    @Jackstaff – nice – not too far off what I had been thinking

    @Jedi (I think) – tanks are indeed not just for Xmas :-)

    @Phil et al – whole fleet management scares me, largely due to training issue, but way more due to “war reserve”

    @x – really, did you go there ? “Remind me again is it practices from the military that are being introduced into business to make it work better or is it the other way around?”

    Shed loads of practices from the military have been absorbed into the business world over the centuries ! Leadership and team building training for a start – Commented versions of Sun Tsu’s “The Art of War” specifically for MBA’s etc

  194. Phil

    My info about the move comes from an interview with de la Billiere where he emphasises the issue of casualties in UK forces. It’s been a while since I have read anything on the Gulf. The interview was part of a very good documentary I think by the BBC. It managed to get interviews with almost all the big players. Can’t remember it’s name now. I want to watch it.

  195. Phil

    Jed. I don’t know enough about WFM to comment on it. It makes sense in theory and really there is no need to keep our Army at a Cold War BAOR level of readiness. How it works in detail I don’t know. I know vehicles can be booked by units. I’ve heard good and bad things but wonder how many bad things are down to the fact it represents a change or teething problems.

  196. Phil

    @Jed.

    Two definate militaryisms:

    The word ‘strategy’. Everything is bloody strategic now.

    And writing certain verbs or nouns in CAPITALS.

    And also dropping the word ‘the’ so for example pilots fly TYPHOON, not the Typhoon.

    Urgh.

  197. James

    @ Phil, re staff duties writing,

    rule of thumb, if some piece of kit is not yet in service, it is written in CAPITALS. If in service, lower case with an initial Capital. So CHALLENGER 2 was endlessly written about before it came into service in 1998, after which it was Challenger 2.

    Also, named units are in CAPITALS, i.e. SCOTS DG, CHESHIRE, etc. Numbered units are in Title Case e.g. 32 Armd Engr Regt RE. You also have to aim off for funnies like SG (Scots Guards) against GREN GDS (Grenadier Guards). They used to get a bit mental if you wrote to them as GG.

    I’m told it’s the same in the Navy, and I do know you can get a predictable rise by confusing ships with boats in conversation. Always good for a laugh.

    I don’t know why. I just know it was better to learn these things before getting green-inked comments from the DS.

  198. paul g

    @ james, british forces even as a JNCO you had to be taught how to write informal memos properly before promotion to SNCO!

    Somewhere i have a map of who went where in GW1 i can’t remember much it was a mad 3-4 days, we came in from the north west and then back down through kuwait to the start point, I do remember it was raining though!!

  199. James

    @ Paul G,

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/DesertStormMap_v2.svg

    Yes it was wet, particularly at the initial breach and passage of lines into Iraq itself. and there was a sandstorm blowing, apparently a rare weather combination. I recall it was “can’t see your hand in front of your face” dark. I had to navigate my Squadron 87 kilometres in around 5 hours, which does not seem much, but the route was complex as it took us around known Iraqi positions (dealt with later by 7 Brigade) and known minefields. 107 waypoints plotted on my map, which I still have. I had the one GPS the Squadron was issued with, but the sandstorm blocked coverage, so it was back to manual with compass bearings and my driver reading off distance on his trip meter. Still we all got there. Took the full 5 hours though. Brought us up to the left rear of the Iraqi 12th Armoured Division, which we started stomping with F18s and MLRS at dawn. That must have ruined their breakfast.

  200. Think Defence

    Sorry for not taking part much on this one, been on other things.

    Just to pick up on a few themes since my last questions

    I am not sure if any British Army unit has ever had its full war time establishment of equipment or even people, hence things like training fleets, ‘pre-packed unit equipment’ and even the term wartime establishment. In these times of making do with less I don’t think we ever will either. Whole fleet management and things like the ALC C vehicle PFI have taken this concept even further but this wasn’t my main point, it was about having 5 supposedly uniform formations that had a similar span of training, roles and equipment on an enduring basis, not put together for specific operations.

    MRB’s might seem like the Emperor’s new clothes because as many have said, putting together theatre specific composite divisions and brigades is the norm not the exception but the whole point of the MRB, FAS and FAS(Next Steps) was to stop this ad hocery and establish a consistent deployment cycle using homogenous groups. These groups would also have exactly the same home and away command infrastructure.

    The point I was trying to make is that this would be fine if the MRB could actually meet the demand of 100% of operations but history tells us it won’t and therefore we are back to creating theatre specific ad hoc formations which although will have the bedrock of an MRB will still need to pull in units and individuals from all over the place, somewhat defeating the objective of the MRB in the first place.

    This is why I like the idea of function specific units rather than spreading them around.

    I don’t for one minute think that just because nothing has been released about the CSS/CS spread in the new MRB structure it has not been thought about but everything I have seen seems to indicate it is not something that has been finalised, hence it being a worthy subject of discussion.

    Jed mentioned putting the heavy metal into the reserves and it is an alluring idea but the TA struggles to maintain currency as a formed unit in much less demanding areas, I just can’t see it happening and if we look at Nick Carter’s musings it looks like he has also come to the same conclusion, retain your armour, recce and infantry in the regulars and use a higher proportion or TA/Contractors in the CSS areas. I think this has a lot of merit.

    Mark mentioned the idea of a separate permanently established deployable HQ function which I like and wrote about in one of the Future of posts.

    Jackstaff, great comment, look forward to the post. I went for an oversquare armoured formation in an earlier post and your ideas are very interesting. I also suggested re turreting some CR2 with a high elevation CTA40 for urban areas and recce but generally, got laughed at, perhaps you will have more luck!

    On the whole airborne thing, again, I think we all understand that just like landing from the sea, it gives you options to appear at a time and place of your choosing, generally speaking where the enemy is not. We are simply not equipped for opposed ‘landings’ at scale in any domain, air or sea, and doctrine reflects this. Amphibious and parachute is something we need to retain.

    Paul, do you think REME will survive as a Corps, or be incorporated into the RLC?

    Alan, the intention is that the MRB’s will be combined in a larger operation but only with sufficient notice so the equipment will be withdrawn from storage and updated to whatever theatre entry specification in the build period, at least that’s the theory.

    Paul has already described how it works in the REME world but just to illustrate the kind of issue I am talking about with spanning equipment across the 5 MRB’s and diffusing the capability to use it let me use a bridging (sorry chaps) example. A typical armoured engineer squadron will be full of chaps who probably haven’t seen an ABLE or MGOB since their Phase 2 training because you train for your role. Now, in an MRB, a single engineer unit will be expected to span the whole gamut of equipment which could be done by actually retaining that specialism, instead of armoured engineering regiments you have a regiment that consist of 1 armoured and 1 close support squadron, plus a field support squadron and possibly a plant squadron. This is markedly different and whilst I am not at all saying it’s impossible, it does create a number of issues to be overcome.

    On RE units
    22 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 1 Mechanised Brigade and consist of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    26 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 12 Mechanised Brigade and consists of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    32 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 7 Armoured brigade and consists of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    35 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 20 Armoured Brigade and consists of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    So, I was wrong about there being 3, I forgot about 35

    Incidentally, if you want to see how reserves and regulars can really work as a cohesive and genuinely complimentary role have a look at the RE Works Force, or 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group as it is called now. I suspect Phil would also provide a good example for the RAMC.

    Anyway, to move things on, a few more questions from the post….

    What roles are an increased reserve component going to fulfil and how exactly are they going to play a greater role without additional primary legislation. Not sure the new Engagement Model and Whole Force Concept have this question adequately addressed

    Could the Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Artillery merge, many of their roles in ISTAR seem to have a lot of crossover and with the likely reduced need for the Queen of the Battle to engage in monster counter battery and battlefield preparation activities their shift to ISTAR and fire support (artillery, air coordination etc) would not be a wholly bad thing.

    To what degree do we go purple, a tri service electronics, communications and vehicle support command for example. Or is this far enough, the problem seems to have been presented as an Army rather than MoD problem. A look at the units deployed in Afghanistan will show that all three services have representation, not necessarily in their traditional roles.

    Contractorisation, how much of the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Signals and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers can we outsource to civilian contractors or hybrid units with retained reserves like the RAF’s FSTA aircraft fleet.

  201. Jed

    Long comment alert – I want to answer TD’s questions specifically, so here goes:

    “What roles are an increased reserve component going to fulfil and how exactly are they going to play a greater role without additional primary legislation. Not sure the new Engagement Model and Whole Force Concept have this question adequately addressed”

    Personally my whole experience of the Army is based on being a part timer, in an “army” unit, that was in fact completely purple, with a rotating Officer Commanding post, and that started of as maybe 75% reservist but has seen an influx of regulars. It think everyone would agree it worked well, but it was a very specialist unit.

    However when I talk about passing whole capability sets to the reservists, I have noted many times that this would have to be a reorganized and properly funded reservist component, not today’s TA as it stands.

    What roles can be increasingly reservist ? Is the CS / CSS stuff actually just an “easy” response to this question. Sure loggies don’t need to practice their soldiering as much blah blah, so we can pull them in from the reservists as required. IF we really believe we need 5 MRB’s to give us a generic, infantry based persistent capability to screw around in other people’s backyards, then I think they need a full time, regular army based CS function, and similar for CSS. These could be expanded by reservists for a full deployment, but there must be that ‘hard core’ that remains with the MRB in “non deployed” state, for major exercises etc.

    “Could the Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Artillery merge, many of their roles in ISTAR seem to have a lot of crossover and with the likely reduced need for the Queen of the Battle to engage in monster counter battery and battlefield preparation activities their shift to ISTAR and fire support (artillery, air coordination etc) would not be a wholly bad thing.”

    Most people ignored this question when you first asked it, perhaps because they think you have finally tripped over the edge ? How does an RA UAV squadron have cross over with Armoured Reconnaissance ? Yes they are both elements of the bigger thing we call ISTAR, but really what is the commonality at the base level ?
    Perhaps we should ask why RA staff are needed for fire direction element of ISTAR ? Why is a trained infantry officer less able to call for fires than a trained RA officer ?

    Forget ISTAR for a minute. The RA’s ‘core mission’ (IMHO and all that) is manning the guns. That is what it is to be an artillery-ist. Setting up, firing, maintaining guns from 105LG to 155 self propelled and MLRS launchers.

    The Royal Armoured Corps is about fighting from tanks, understanding the nuances of fast manouvre warfare etc etc. The Formation / Brigade Recce Regiments (the ‘Cavalry’) are not the whole of the be all and end all of armour.

    So really, now I have responded, please tell us if you truly think they could be merged, and why ?

    As for making the RA the chief battlefield ISTAR agency, because the we no longer have the need (?) for massed fires – sounds a bit like making the RAF Regiment responsible for CBRN rather than just getting rid of it ! Having said that, I have no problem with the RA developing this role, but I have espoused my idea for a joint service Information Operations Command before; this command would include ISTAR, with ‘schools’ for infantry recce, armoured recce, fire direction etc as required. So I would suborn the RA in the battlefield ISTAR role to the 3 star Joint Information Operations Command (JIOC).

    “To what degree do we go purple, a tri service electronics, communications and vehicle support command for example. Or is this far enough, the problem seems to have been presented as an Army rather than MoD problem. A look at the units deployed in Afghanistan will show that all three services have representation, not necessarily in their traditional roles.”

    Is what far enough ? Not sure I understand the question entirely. What are the benefits of a joint support command ? Can an RN technician trained on maintaining a ships electro-optical systems do a shore billet maintaining the EO in tank turrets, or maintaining the SNIPER or Lightning pods of the RAF ? However if deployed in hostile country, I want soldiers, who are trained to be soldiers first and maintainers second to be doing the work; no disrespect to RN or RAF people, but if things are so bad we need to train sailors to be soldiers in order to maintain kit, then we have gone too far.

    “Contractorisation, how much of the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Signals and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers can we outsource to civilian contractors or hybrid units with retained reserves like the RAF’s FSTA aircraft fleet.”

    We have already gone too far. Every military post that is contractor-ised is a post that cant be used to pad the numbers at the front end should we ever need to do so. When I joined the RN my recruitment was basically stopped by the Falklands because a large portion, if not ALL of the instructors from the Communications School at HMS Mercury joined Naval Parties on STUFT ships.

    A good friend of mine from RAF Cosford was one of the first dual trade trained Corporal’s – being able to teach airframe and engine maintenance: he was given a package and returned to the same job as civvy contractor (earning more!). Now you might say that taking him out of uniform is VFM, he does not need to know how to defend an air base, how to deal with CBRN issues, etc etc he is just an instructor “asset” providing a core service.

    However you can also say you just reduced the flexibility of the armed services, but replacing someone who could stag on, handle weapons, wear a noddy suit etc as required by higher command, by a civvy who MIGHT have a reservist commitment built into their contract.

    Similarly I know TA Royal Corps of Signals personnel who took MOD contracts to work in Iraq as civilian MOD staff; they wore uniform, with no rank or unit badges, they had body armour – they did not have personal weapons. I know TA Psyops specialists who have taken NATO contracts as civilian Psyops planning staff in Afghanistan – you can “civilianise” many support roles – but in the end should we ? Just because you can do it does not mean you should, and applying civilian Value For Money judgements to the military does not always apply !!

  202. Jed

    The whole MRB conundrum has fascinated me as I read everyone’s comments and ideas. Also all the responses to the previous posts on the future of the army, and responses to my own posts on medium armour, guns versus missiles, mortars etc etc

    That’s what I love about TD’s site, I am learning, and my opinions are changing.

    However I am still at a loss where it comes to the heavy armour element. I have always said there is no “either – or” argument when it comes to wheels versus tracks, you need both, the right tool for the right job etc.

    However the MRB seems to be that “jack of all tools and master of non” as TD has noted. It has some heavy tracked, some medium tracked, and god only knows what the wheeled vehicle piece will look like.

    I have pushed to get heavy armour capability into the reserves rather than loose it (how many of our CH2 fleet is actually in storage right now ?). Others are suggesting that Tanks were not just for the Fulda Gap and that they need to be kept in to the fore; I agree, an MBT’s ability to “soak” up hits in an urban environment was proved in Iraq. I have also ruminated on how a FRES with a big gun becomes “medium armour” – whether we really want it to or not.

    So I am still all of a quandry on the best way to move forward with reduced budgets etc.

    We acknowledged in previous posts that fitting the 120mm “NATO standard” smooth bore to the Chally 2 was too technically difficult; and that developing state of the art ammo for the rifled gun was probably going to be too expensive. Developing a new turret would also be expensive.

    Meanwhile TD has often mentioned we should look for niches – areas where we can provide specialist capabilities to the NATO alliance, or to ad hoc coalitions.

    Meanwhile others ask why we don’t follow allies and go for a more “wheeled” AFV fleet like the French and Italians. However how many of our NATO allies are keeping large MBT fleets ? Even the Germans who apparently still love their Panzers have slashed their tank numbers since the wall came down, and continue to salami slice at them.

    Sorry, this is becoming more of a recap of the problems (as I see them) than anything else !

    So, should we keep heavy armour ? What should it look like, where should it sit (regulars, reserves, both ?) and more to the point of this thread, how does it sit within the concept of the generic, infantry centric Multi-Role Brigade ?

    Here is a straw man for you to pull to bits, or set fire to:

    We go all niche and specialist….. but at the same time we don’t :-)

    1. Bin FRES SV Ascod – we binned Nimrod with even bigger sunk costs, and much of the FRES investment might be re-used.

    2. Invest in FRES UV – procure instead of the Ascod based tracked vehicle family, a family of wheeled AFV’s to fully equip the MRB’s with mechanised infantry – as you all know, I don’t believe in “Infantry, General Service, Light Role” – if you need to be light, i.e. un-armoured then it needs to be for a reason). The Formation / Brigade Recce Regiments would have the same vehicle. Suitable 8×8 candidates are probably AMV and STK Terrex, RG41, Boxer etc because these are more wheeled armour than simple APC, I am not going with my previous suggestions of RG35 type vehicle for this role; if we need the “high – low” mix, then developments of the Foxhound might be the affordable approach.

    Possibly the Recce variant would just mount the turret developed to go on the Ascod ? Perhaps a 90 or 105mm gun for direct fire support, but as you expect from me, I would go with turreted 120mm mortar :-)

    3. Put the Jordanian Falcon turret with is 120mm smooth bore and auto-loader on the Chally chassis. Yes, I understand all the arguments about having men sat up in the turret etc but really this is now a ‘tank destroyer’ or a tank able to do the armoured thrust across open country type operations, but I note it would be less than optimal for urban combat – but then I believe the high pressure 120mm tank gun is also less than optimal for the close range city block battle. In the end, this MIGHT be the only affordable way to upgrade the Chally. So enough of them for 4 x 50 tank Regiments, plus training etc. (Do we really then just need 100 or so,because we are only planning on deploying 1 regiment with an MRB ? Or do we need 250, because we may want to deploy a division for a high intensity, short duration op in the future – whole fleet management raises its ugly head again).

    4. Upgrade enough Warrior for a full brigade of 4 x Armoured Infantry battalions BUT make the section vehicle an APC with a RWS with 40mm GMG & 7.62mm MG. An Anti-tank platoon of 12 vehicles would get the turret with the 40mm CTA, plus side mounted Javelin launchers, and an Recce Platoon would get another 12. The Fire Support Company would get 12 versions with turreted 120mm AMS II mortars. Engineer vehicles, command vehicles, manouvre support (bridges) ambulances, even some ‘logistics’ versions with the seats taken out – ever vehicle needs to be Warrior based. Include enough for Recce and Command vehicles for the tank regiments – we have enough remaining Warriors to do all this.

    So, we end up with:

    4 x MRB: 1 x Brigade Recce Regiment and 4 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions on 8×8, with all supporting arms using same vehicles were possible.

    1 x Armoured Infantry Brigade: 4 x Battalions of Armoured Infantry all on upgraded Warrior

    1 x Armoured Brigade: 4 x 50 tank regiments of upgraded Chally 2.

    Add to this the intervention brigades – 3 Cdo (3 x RM plus 1 x Army battalion) and 5 (Army) Cdo brigades (3 x Para, and 1 x line infantry battalions) and we have a total of

    25 Infantry battalions.

    We can then get into discussions about whether we need to keep 2 in Cyprus, whether a weird version of the TA can do London ceremonial etc etc. But lets say we end up with 5 more, for a total of 30, and we have some kind of “arms plot” that rotates the battalions through the MRB and “garrison” unit roles ?

    Is that well balanced enough for everyone ? Does it tick all the boxes, is it affordable ???

  203. James

    @ Jed,

    merging RAC and RA. I am going to have to take some smelling salts.

    Seriously, doable, with changes in responsibilities which do often overlap “a little”. Practicable without losing beneficial overlaps? Mmmm, less convinced. I’ve got to do high tea for the children but will try to come back later with some more meat on the bones of those thoughts.

    I think we’d have to have separate messes though, or seriously improve the typical RA taste and style. ;)

  204. James

    @ All,

    completely OT, but if anyone has children or grandchildren, try the Chinese State Circus whose UK tour has recently started. I’ve just got back from watching with the children the show in Cambridge. It is quite seriously excellent. Amazing feats, including a ballet dancer “en pointe” on one foot standing literally on another dancer’s head, no support whatsoever. Jaw-dropping.

    Bit of a eye-opener for me at the audience rapturously applauding one final act in which a huge Chinese banner drops down as a backdrop, but what the hell.

    http://www.chinesestatecircus.com/tourdates.html

    (I’ve got no financial beneficial connection to the Circus, merely went to see them.)

  205. Mike W

    @TD

    I have just read your first-rate digest of some of the themes in the thread so far. Since that time we have had a couple of Jed’s excellent and detailed comments, so I probably don’t stand much of a chance of getting a response to this but here goes anyway.

    You seem very much in favour of not (to too great an extent) “spanning equipment across the 5 MRB’s and diffusing the capability to use it.” You say, for instance:

    “Now, in an MRB, a single engineer unit will be expected to span the whole gamut of equipment which could be done by actually retaining that specialism, instead of armoured engineering regiments, you have a regiment that consists of 1 armoured and 1 close support squadron, plus a field support squadron and possibly a plant squadron.”

    Actually, I think that such an expanded regiment is not such a bad idea. Presumably
    every component in an MRB would want to carry out regular training on the equipment they would normally employ. That would include the armoured component on Challengers. Now say, for instance, that the armoured unit at some time wanted to practise river crossing with tanks. Under a centrally held system, presumably the armoured unit would have to contact a central pool or one of the locations which provide storage to the fleet and say, “Look, on the 25th of May we wish to practise river crossing. Could you send us up a couple of Titans and a couple of Trojans to help.” Now further say, for example, that the said MRB was located in Scotland (there are plans for one to be so based) and the Titans and Trojans were held at a storage centre in the south of England (there are only 33 of each vehicle). So out come the HETs or low-loaders and travel the 300 miles north! What expenditure and waste is involved in that kind of arrangement! What I am saying is that it makes sense for each MRB to keep its own reservoir of training kit so that it is immediately available and in this case that would mean an expanded Engineer regiment, which possessed some integral specialist kit, at least enough to train on. Am I completely wrong on all of this?

    Another point. You say at one point in your comments about MRBs:

    “and therefore we are back to creating theatre specific ad hoc formations which although will have the bedrock of an MRB will still need to pull in units and individuals from all over the place, somewhat defeating the objective of the MRB in the first place.”

    Surely the point is that such “ad hocery”, to use your term, will take place to a much LESSER extent. The “building-block” of the MRBs structure will allow far greater choice in the size and composition of the force to be deployed, without having to draw on other components/elements from the rest of the Army. The MRBs will also presumably train together, liase more efficiently, have the same command structure, know their personnel better, etc., all helping to create greater cohesion and eliminate your “ad hocery”. Am I right?

  206. James

    @ Paul G,

    two points:

    you clearly never worked with 16/5L. One of our subbies in Herford in 1988 – I won’t publicise his name as he is now tremendously high up in the London commercial property market – used to work the decks as a guest DJ at the “Go Parc”, a converted multi-storey car park that was then Germany’s largest acid house nightclub. Wearing slashed tight tartan trews, chains, a psychedelic t-shirt and a black leather jacket with his brass pips and 16/5L brass shoulder titles, and full eye makeup.

    On the other hand, I was quite a fan of the blood red trousers and 8 button double-breasted blazer, with an open neck shirt. I was wooing a Spanish lady at the time, so weekly trips from Hanover to Madrid. No-one among her family or friends thought to tell me that red trousers were the tribal hallmark of the then very unpopular Franco supporters, so I appeared to the Spaniards as a swaggering Fascist. You live and learn.

  207. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Jed,

    Good posts as always: Fully agree with you about “contractorisation” having gone too far in some areas.

    I know that you put this one in just as an afterthought to another argument: “sounds a bit like making the RAF Regiment responsible for CBRN rather than just getting rid of it ”
    – but if chemical weapons are ever going to be used, the likely target is (for incapacitating, even if for a limited time) the ever fewer in number airbases (goes also for those that are expeditionary, rather than here).

  208. paul g

    Isn’t the site brilliant, it’s like a taliban snipers recognition course!!
    No i did SCOTS DG, QDG and 13/18th did a bit of work for QOH, we were on our to jail for not saluting some battle honour at the bottom of the HQ flagpole, but we were let off because we were the “bloody REME inspection team”

    Best say something about the thread, I would hope (ha ha ha) that pools of equipment would be held on or at least near to exercise areas, still last few UK exercises i did it was dé rigour to send from right to left (suffolk to wiltshire) then a quick 48hr peek at hadrians wall before going back to suffolk for tea and medals.

  209. paul g

    @ james, OT chit chat, we found that if you tipped up to hannover airport in the 80’s it was a doddle to fly to berlin no need for 6 weeks clearance and collecting berlin travel documents (BTD’s). Just don’t get caught!

  210. Chris.B.

    One thing to keep in mind about shipping jobs out to the private sector is that you’re then off the hook for the pension, which is something that the Government (especially the current one) can only see as being an attractive option.

    Regarding the wider debate, I’m still not convinced by the multi-role brigade concept. I’d rather see smaller brigades (3 regiments/battalions roughly with some attached companies of the various needed support) that focused certain capabilities into a relatively easier to deploy and manage brigade.

  211. x

    Paul G said ” that pools of equipment would be held on or at least near to exercise areas, ”

    If the new system went to 3 infantry battalions. (and the 2 battalions left over borrowed a Parachute Reg Battalion for light role duties to make up numbers) that would mean there would be 7 brigades. 1 brigade be stationed near SPTA with all the heavy equipment for 3 to 4 years. That would leave 6 brigades to do, what was that distasteful term again? Oh yes “wog bashing” on the 6 month out of 3 year rotation.

  212. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Jed,

    Here “Put the Jordanian Falcon turret with is 120mm smooth bore and auto-loader on the Chally chassis. Yes, I understand all the arguments about having men sat up in the turret etc but really this is now a ‘tank destroyer’ or a tank able to do the armoured thrust across open country type operations, but I note it would be less than optimal for urban combat “come together
    – the Falcon (been a proponent)
    – have 100-250 C2 in all
    – in whatever mix of the infantry support type as proposed by James (and I have been linking to the Russian T-72 derived, bristling with auto-cannon, bunker buster missiles and 2 x AGL as direct fire weapons close up, just a few design clues for the conversion)

  213. James

    @ Paul G, re Hanover Airport and not being caught.

    without wishing to expose either my own military indiscretions, or the names of the ladies involved, I recall regularly flouting direct orders. I went hunting and shagging with the Galway Blazers for a whole season in ’86 while *innocently* not knowing as a Cavalry subaltern posted to Tidworth and BAOR that the Republic was a bit off limits without at least Adjutantal permission, and some form of briefing which I never had time to take. Of course, when I was Adjutant a few years later, I knew all of the tricks…

    It’s a bloody good thing I wasn’t ever caught, because I never in my mind factored in the huge embarrassment to the Government or to my parents of being caught and dealt some serious politics by an IRA unit. Young man being stupid was me. Got away with it.

  214. jedibeeftrix

    @ Jed – “4 x MRB: 1 x Brigade Recce Regiment and 4 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions on 8×8, with all supporting arms using same vehicles were possible. 1 x Armoured Infantry Brigade: 4 x Battalions of Armoured Infantry all on upgraded Warrior. 1 x Armoured Brigade: 4 x 50 tank regiments of upgraded Chally 2. Add to this the intervention brigades – 3 Cdo (3 x RM plus 1 x Army battalion) and 5 (Army) Cdo brigades (3 x Para, and 1 x line infantry battalions) and we have a total of”

    Good suggestion, i like it.

    Re: CRBN in RAFreg – i had similar reservations as noted by AAC. it might be most appropriate after all.

  215. jed

    Jedi, ACC

    Really ? WTF?? where does this CBRN threat to our remaining airfields come from ? What a load of tosh – i have worked with Rock Apes, it is nothing personal but really, since the demise of the Soviet threat to RAF Germany, and the budgetary decision to run down ground based air defence I see no role what so ever for the regiment and firmly believe the ‘lead service’ for CBRN training was a political cop out by leadership that did not want to deal with fall out of getting rid of them.

  216. Topman

    @ jed, even if it was gotten rid of totally, it wouldn’t have followed that they were disbanded. Main threat to our airfields are in dusty places.

  217. jackstaff

    Paul G ref: red trousers,

    You’re a bad, bad Welshman :)

    James,

    I think you’ve actually trumped the quality of your comments on structure and detail with the biographical stuff. For the sanity of everyone round here OT posts (like charitable goings-on, WWII bunkers, and the like) are always a pleasant relief. I think a quick “Tales of the Travelling Trousers” would make a good read of a quiet Sunday night. Also, as we get on towards another anniversary of the events, cheers for ruining those Iraqis’ breakfast.

    Jed,

    Good stuff, mate. I like that we’ve collectively decided that MoD/Parliamentary wallys/Army staff have got it wrong about not creating a base of 8×8 maneuver structures for the service. I’d probably melt the two armoured formations into one but while we’re at my “Champion” 40mm scout-on-steroids we can certainly do your Falcon turret. (Especially since my own quirky outlook on all this has decided maybe “armoured” infantry should be just that, with 3x Warrior coys and a company of feck-off tank style assault guns, for which just putting the boys in Falconized Challys would do nicely. If the Guards could be armoured back in the big war, why not tweak the concept for the age of salami and sandboxes?)

    All,

    Thanks for the good wishes wrt a carrier post. I will get cracking, though it may look a bit different from what some might expect (especially since this post on carriers is going to start with a call for everyone to call their MPs and demand they stop the further hacking-up of decomissioned VC-10 airframes ….)

    Jed again,

    I would save the Rock Apes, not just because the sunglasses are just so damned cool (/endsark) but because I’m a seamless-garment believer in combined-arms operations wherever possible, so (with reduced strength, probably by about half) the Regiment should stick around so the RAF can defend its own airfields instead of soaking up proper squaddies to do the job. But CBRN? Yep, that’s a Mk.3B cop-out, arses, for the covering of during budgetary politics.

    Boss,

    Have to say I’m with Jed’s comments on the distinct problem with the Contractorisation of Everything That Isn’t Nailed Down (and that just because they don’t have to pay pensions to the tenpennies.) Like my fellow North American relocatee (what with him being a proud son of the People’s Republic of Hull and all that) I lean to the left. But this whole issue of The Horrible Debt Monster (much of it created, after all, by the same folks who think it’s the worst thing since Satan’s colon) is actually a major historical one (in the present tense, e.g. this as a historical moment) for the constitutional politics of Western nations. Public deficits, and the way governments in the past have sometimes tried to inflate their way out of them, are especially a crucial problem for the financial sector of any given nation’s economy. Inflation hurts creditors (well, hyperinflation hurts everybody unless you can port the value of your own wealth offshore and ride out the destruction.)

    But at base there’s a bigger question: you can decide on slash and burn, to balance the books and protect the ability of one sector of the economy to carry on what’s essentially a well-adapted variation of feudal rent-collecting and marketing putative valuation of financial instruments, or you can expand the wealth of the whole system by, y’know, making or doing (via services) stuff that’s actually useful. That generates enough income to help manage future pensions, keep public debt from growing obtusely, and so on, among its other good effects. And that’s not a simple “right-left” thing: folks who work for or run companies that build cars and wind turbines and computer keyboards and tea kettles may be capitalists red in tooth and claw. Or who build roads, run ISPs, truck around ISO containers, etc.

    But they’re not in financial services or property, which are in themselves (and I’m talking over, say, the last five hundred years here) the most adaptable survivals of the Middle Ages. (The greatest trick feudalism ever pulled on Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Maynard Keynes, and Friedrich Hayek alike was convincing them all it was withering away.)

    So I suspect over the next generation, leave aside failed states, the climate, resource wars, or elsewise, there’s a coming structural reckoning about whether you can continue to run an economy trying to get blood from a stone or not, at what point you get pushback. And that’s not to say any of the old solutions of pouring money at problems and pretending they’ll leave work either.

    Simply that judging problems in terms of how to eliminate the cost of actual humans doing important things for their community (their country) and their ideals is

    1) missing the MV Knock Nevis-sized boat and

    2) failing to get ahead of a developing global-historical curve.

    Also, that’s not in any way meant as a personal knock on OGH or any of our commenters. But the fact there’s been nearly two generations of “well, it’s all downhill from here, need to trim sails, forget anything in the past ever happened, cut the costs of our actual humans, assume there will never again be more income than their is now, etc.” being heard and one all round has developed the atmosphere.

    Well, that’s 1) a blink of the historical eye even though it’s most of a lifetime for all round here and 2) it’s due for a shake-up that’s already started to happen. How that will pan out in the end is up to the billions of pointy-headed humans running around now. But it will involve changes and those will have effects, and both the changes and their effects will be different from the seemingly permanent circumstances of the recent past and this moment.

    So adaptability isn’t just “more with less,” it’s “we’re back round to a period where the world ten years from now may really look quite different than the difference between now and 2002″ which (leave aside 9/11 and the slow erosion of the Cold War once Gorby showed up) we haven’t really seen the like in quite some time.

    I think that ought to factor in — the uncertainty of it, and the need to add some breadth of possibilities to the notion of being flexible — more often.

  218. Rupert Fiennes

    @James: at this rate, we are getting an impression of a seriously dashing cavalry commander, who spent the 80’s and 90’s having his way with half of Europe, and perhaps half the Sovblock as well :-)

    I know making love is better than making war, were you trying to have it both ways?

  219. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Jed,

    I can see it was a late night comment (from Canada, though).

    An exercise in lateral thinking: If you were “the enemy” other than of the Taliban type and you were expecting start of hostilities, or sudden ramp-up in reinforcements, which one would you rather do first:
    – confront in the front line, knowing that you can only lose on fire power and mobility
    – attack the logistics chain at both ends (dusty places and here)

    Who did say anything about air defence; many other ways of delivering nasties. And if you do it with the “C” in your four-letter word (joke, joke) and only at this end, it might even be deniable to some extent, and help to avoid retaliation (only because that would unavoidably set the “whole thing” off, on full scale)

  220. x

    Re: RAF Reg and CBRN and airfield defence.

    Airfields are very windy places not the ideal place for a gas attack I would think.

    Sincere question are there really no concentrations of RAF Reg in either FI or Cyprus?

  221. James

    @ Rupert Fiennes,

    merely conforming to stereotype. How do you expect cavalry subbies to behave? My troop would have been disappointed if they didn’t have some new outrage to discuss and pretend to be shocked by. Now, in my mid 40s, still merely conforming to stereotype: mortgage, school fees, children, daily commuting to London, like a hamster on a treadmill…

    That said, I was desperately proud for my troop and slightly for myself when we won the Brooke Cup in the late 80s, the annual “top troop” competition in 16/5L. There were 2 Troop Leader positions on the establishment for Staff Sergeants, and the Brooke Cup had been held by them for 7 or 8 years. This was a serious 4 day competition covering every aspect of recce soldiering, and some oddities like the troop leader doing an individual night navex followed by a capture and interrogation dreamt up by the Ops Officer who’d himself been with the Hereford Hooligans. I recall a massive cheer when the CO announced the prize went to Assault Troop B Squadron. Really special moment.

    16/5L mantra was “work bloody hard, play hard at what you want, and don’t take yourself too seriously”. Applied to all ranks, and still to me seems like good advice for life generally.

  222. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Jackstaff,

    While I agree, must say that that is the nature of risk management “the world ten years from now may really look quite different than the difference between now and 2002″ which (leave aside 9/11 and the slow erosion of the Cold War once Gorby showed up) we haven’t really seen the like in quite some time.”
    – what statistically should be a once-in-a-thousand years” event seems to happen 2-3 times in every 30 years

    True for the military as well, but reading long trends (only a decade or two, mind you) should help in coming up with a realistic and effective defence posture
    – having said that most militaries tend to confuse transformation (I know, a “bad” word) with recapitalisation (more of the same, just slightly better)

  223. Alex

    @James: Ah, the Soviets may have had a lot of tanks but they could never offer anything to match the Western Way of Life your comrade did so much to personify…

  224. Think Defence

    Mike, I think the likelihood of ad hocery being used less with the MRB is a very good point and absolutely right. If you read the post I use a clumsy analogy with a horzontal line, extremes of types of force needed at either end. If the MRB sits as a blob over the majority of the middle then that is an improvement I guess.

    On the whole red trouser thing, give me bloody (dashing) strength :)

    Paul, you still haven’t fessed up with how you found that site

  225. James

    @ X,

    seems like the old Persistent / Non-Persistent conundrum to me. Persistent was sticky stuff if I remember correctly, hard to wash off. I don’t think wind speed had much to do with it.

    There used to be RAF Regiment in the FI, at least when I was part of a week long HQ LAND inspection.

  226. jedibeeftrix

    @ Jed – “Really ? WTF?? where does this CBRN threat to our remaining airfields come from ? What a load of tosh – i have worked with Rock Apes, it is nothing personal but really”

    Easy fella! :D

    I am not hard for the argument either way, i just followed the reasoning AAC presented and do not (yet) understand why it might be more appropriately placed elsewhere?

    Edumacate me.

  227. Rupert Fiennes

    @James, I presume @x was referring to persistent vapour hazard from the chemical agent, so presumably windy areas would suffer less. On the other hand, you could make the argument that airfields were a great place to slime, on the basis that the aircraft were tied there and so would be repeatedly contaminated, and unfortunately require rather more maintenance than a ground vehicle, which would cause even small amounts of agent to have a big impact on the sortie rate :-(

    The time required to fully decontaminate an aircraft is long…

    http://www.edwards.af.mil/news/story_print.asp?id=123034070

  228. James

    @ Rupert,

    yes, persistent was nasty. A bit like that gungy stuff some trees drop on your car if you park underneath the branches. I can imagine it would take a while to clear an airfield, but what better use for a squadron of RAF Regiment fellers.

  229. DominicJ

    TD
    “Here is a question for you chaps, just forget the teeth stuff for a moment and consider some of the CS/CSS

    Royal Engineers for example, have 3 Armoured Eng Regiments, how is that divisible by 5?”

    Well, I find it unlikely that the 3 Armoured Eng Regiments dont contain 5 of everything.

    At the end of the day, the RAF can organise completely self sustaining squadrons with a mere 12 aircraft and 20 pilots.
    They fit every specialism required to maintain a sodding Typhoon into 7 people.
    I simply refuse to believe there is an army specialism so specialised, that there are not 5 in the entire army. A task so bizare in its complexity, that only “Dave” can do it, but he can do it for the entire army.

    Yes, that means 6 bridging regiments, 6 trucking regiments, 6 cookery regiments, and 6 AAC regiments, I dont see the difficulty.

    Having 10 Armoured Divisons is pointless if you dont have 10 Logisitics Regiments to deliver fuel to them.
    ***Insert Rant about Nellie and Dumbo***

    Surely the MRB just formalises what happens now?
    Either the 3 armoured engineer regiments are deploying 6 months out, 12 home, or they are sending sub units to Afghanistan, sub units that hit every speciality.

    Mike
    I read it, very sensible, and what I thought was exactly the point.

  230. Observer

    Dom, it’s not just having more than 5 of anything, it’s more of getting the numbers into the field that might make a difference.

    For example, if 5 Trojans are divided into 5 brigades, they only get one each. If the unit hits 3 or 4 minefields, that 1 CEV isn’t going to be of sod all use in an overall sense, too few hulls, too many jobs. And what happens if it breaks down?

    In your example, if 12 aircraft were divided to 2-3 plane detachments for brigades, you are likely to only have ONE plane flying at any time, the other ones in reserve for rotation overwatch. And a solo plane is simple a flying “shoot me” sign.

  231. DominicJ

    Observer
    “For example, if 5 Trojans are divided into 5 brigades, they only get one each. If the unit hits 3 or 4 minefields, that 1 CEV isn’t going to be of sod all use in an overall sense, too few hulls, too many jobs. And what happens if it breaks down?”

    But how is that different from now?

    Each Trojan can only be deployed for 6 months in every 3 years.
    If we only have 6 Trojans, we can only maintain cover of 1 Trojan.

    If we want more than that, we either rip up the harmony guidelines (so A and B Brigades engineers are out for a full year), poach from other units (So A Brigade gets two CEVs, B Brigade gets none on the next deployment), or buy more.

    But thats the same for any organisational system.

    I repeat, there is no point having 6 armoured brigades if you dont have the logisitics to support 6 armoured brigades.

  232. Phil

    The CSS units will be re-organised. It’s happened already in the Army Medical Services. There should now be or soon will be six medical regiments. This is why the Army desperately needs re-organising. There needs to brew harmony throughout the force structure. Ideas about CS and especially CSS have outstripped their actual organisation. It’s why the Army suffers so badly in certain areas. Back in the mid nineties a division had a general and a close support logistics regiment. This worked fine but then when you deploy a brigade things go tits up because you then need a logistical HQ and a division had two of those but three to four brigades. Car crash.

    Kit is treated very differently. It can be left in situ for the relief in place if we’re going to be there a while.

  233. Gabriele

    “On RE units
    22 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 1 Mechanised Brigade and consist of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    26 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 12 Mechanised Brigade and consists of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    32 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 7 Armoured brigade and consists of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    35 Armoured Engineer Regiment support 20 Armoured Brigade and consists of 3 armoured engineering squadrons plus HQ/Support and REME LAD
    So, I was wrong about there being 3, I forgot about 35″

    Unless i’m missing something and the regiment has been closed down without me hearing about it, you are still missing another regiment, 21 RE, also on 3 Armoured Squadrons, assigned to 4th Mechanized Brigade.
    Deployed on Herrick 12 last time, with 15 Squadron attached from 38 RE regiment in the Talisman role.

    38 Regiment is the regiment assigned to 19 Light Brigade and has been or is being disdanded along with the brigade.

    As to Titan and Trojan, the original plan was:

    6 of each in 2 RE Regiments of 7th and 20th Brigade

    4 of each in the 3 remaining regiments.

    1 of each in the School of Electric & Mechanical Engineers

    1 of each in the Cross-Capability RE troop in the training fleet at Warminster

    2 of each in BATUS

    The rest in reserve/maintenance.

    Possible new force will be 4 per each regiment, with more vehicles in reserve, i guess. Something on these lines, anyway.

    Each regiment should also get some 6 or 8 Terrier, and there’s the floating question mark of the 35 (probably less if not none) Medium Weight assault bridgelayers that had to be procured in FRES SV and that seem to be set to go onto modified Warriors.
    A fleet of around 30 would suggest a similar assignment than that for Titan and Trojan.

    “There should now be or soon will be six medical regiments.”

    16 Reg with 16AA
    3rd with 3rd UK Division
    4rth is with 101 Logistic Brigade
    5th with 102 Logistic Brigade
    224 Reg is TA
    225 Reg is TA

    Is it correct?
    If another Regular regiment is created (anyway they are all mixed regular-TA if i’m not mistaken…) it would point to a direct assignment of a Regiment for each Brigade, right?
    Would make total sense in my personal view.

  234. Mike W

    Tremendous stuff, Gabriele. Thanks for all that information.

    Incidentally, according to “Jane’s Defence Weekly”, the first Terrier combat engineer vehicle (CEV) has been handed over to the British Army at BAE Systems Global Combat Systems’ Newcstle-upon-Tyne facility. So we are getting them finally. A small bit of good news, then.

    What will succeed them to keep production facilities open at that factory is anybody’s guess.

  235. Gabriele

    “What will succeed them to keep production facilities open at that factory is anybody’s guess.”

    I think the factory is already scheduled for reductions, if not full-out closure…
    Perhaps, if the Bridgelayer order was finalized things would improve, but we all know how tight the budget is.

    “that would require seven surely?”

    Sorry, i’m not sure i understood the question. Seven medical regiments, you mean…?
    One more medical regiment would suffice assuming that the existing ones are redistributed, one to each MRB.
    16 Air Assault already has its own medical regiment.
    3rd Commando is low on capability on this one side. I guess the 7th unit you suggest would be for the Commando brigade. Would be a good idea, sure.

  236. Phil

    That’s out of date.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 16 Medical Regiments. 1 supports 20X. 2 supports 7X. 16 supports 16X. Can’t remember who the others support in detail.

  237. Jed

    Jedi

    Ref Rock Apes and Edumacation – I don’t want to take the thread of track, my points are:

    1. Why do you need a special regiment to protect airfields ? (in the current post-cold war threat / fiscal environment)

    2. Where is the perceived threat of a persistent nerve agent attack against an air base coming from ? I can see bio / radiological terror attacks against civvy targets but decontaminating slimed aerodromes ???

    3. Finally – politics, as I said, they just gave ther regiment something to do, that was being done just fine by someone else, rather than going through the pain of disbanding them !

  238. Topman

    @ jed
    1. Overseas they do, recently kaf, bastion, and basra.

    2. Slim but best not to take a capability holiday, there role is greater than just airfields.

    3. Not really they have been doing NBC/CNRN for decades.

  239. Phil

    I imagine in real life most of the RAF Regiment in the UK would have spent most of their short lives wielding hard bristle brushes sweeping up persistent agents.

    I suppose though if you bin the Rock Apes the Army will have to just take over any similar mission, which I think is a relevant one since we enjoy expeditionary warfare and make heavy use of air transport.

    Probably though they could be trained through the CIC in Catterick. And drop a few squadrons.

  240. Monty

    @Jed,

    I thought your proposals some way above were great.

    I agree that putting a new 120 mm smoothbore turret on a challenger 2 is likely to be expensive, possibly as much as 2/3rds the cost of buying a new tank (M1 Abrams or Leopard 2A7). I think we should stick with Challenger 2 until we need to replace the chassis and then go with new 120 mm smoothbore at that time.

    I agree that we still need both tracks and wheels. I don’t think that both types of vehicle work in the same tactical formation. I think in this respect the MRB structure is simply an alternative to the arms plot: it easily allows units to swap roles within a common structure. If a real war’ looked likely then we would need dedicated Heavy, Medium and Light brigade structures.

    Whether wheeled or tracked, there seems to be a need for three common armoured platforms:

    1. 120 mm tank gun platform (Ch2 / 8×8 tank destroyer)
    2. AIFV with 40 mm CTA cannon (Warrior / RG41)
    3. 155 mm artillery gun platform (AS90 / ?)

    Recce can be with either 1 or 2?

    RG35 with 6×6 is an order of magnitude less capable cross-country than RG41 8×8. If you want a wheeled vehicle to match a tracked one, then 8×8 is the magic number.

  241. Jed

    Topman – all understood, there is no reason, apart from emotional, that the Army cannot provide force protection to deployed Air Force units. As for doing CBRN for decades, well so have every other arm of the armed forces, so why cant you stand up the premier CBRN training and expertise unit in the bloody RNR ?

    Monty – Interesting point – flog of Chally 2 now ? To Jordan, Oman ? To someone who can afford to fit new turrets ? In return pick up 300 second hand Leopard 2 and upgrade to A7 or above ???

    Believe it or not, I am not sold on 8 x 8 despite your arguments. I am just swallowing the bitter pill of wheeled IFV in purely expedient way, accepting that wheeled may be cheaper in maintenance and running costs. However my wheeled mechanised brigades would possibly need up to 100 vehicles each, so that’s 1600 vehicles minimum !! Probably 2000 minimum including support units. So perhaps there would still be room for a cheaper, less cross country capable 6 x 6 like RG35 for many of the support units ?

    I guess at the high end I would suggest Patria AMV for the 8 x 8. Lighter and cheaper than Boxer, but big and roomy (lengthed version for UAE is 0.4m longer, to fit 8 x dismounts and the big turret bustle of the BMP3 turret – so I reckon we can get 10 dismounts, a BV and Bowman in there !!). Maybe STK would do us a good deal for the Terrex, and maybe the RG41 would be good enough and cheaper still ???

    Do you think we could get 1600 wheeled IFV / APC for the same prices (or less) as 800 Ascod 2 based FRES SV ?????

  242. Jed

    Just building on last comment, for all to ruminate on:

    Can we afford to fully re-equip basically the whole Army with the same family of 8 x 8 (and say a 6 x 6 for supporting units) if we reduce the size of the regular force, and take up my old theory of passing the heavy/medium tracked force to well constituted, organized and funded reserve force ???

    Perhaps a single regular army tank regiment with 4 x squadron of 14 Chally 2, with the squadrons on a 1 in 4 roulement, so there would be at least a single squadron of 14 ready to go on short notice for contingency ops ???

  243. Jed

    Oh, sorry, spamming the comments, but thought I should justify my commment about stretched AMV variant.

    I have been swayed by Sven Ortman’s comments about the reduced infantry numbers in armoured / mechanised infantry formations. Also the comments to my post (Is the MICV past it’s use by date) have led me to believe the section vehicle should be an APC with RWS (40mm GMG AND 7.62mm MG), but if possible we should return to the 10 man section, and the Platoon HQ should be a full 10 man section in itself (with the 60mm mortar team and designated marksmen).

    The USMC swears by it’s 13 man “squad” and the RM on its recent Herrick has reorganized to put more 12 man “multiples” into the field.

    Anyway – a question if any one wishes to run with it:

    Say we have an AMV or whatever with room for 10 dismounts and at least a driver and gunner. Do we need a “vehicle command” as a 3rd member of non-dismounting vehicle crew ? Do the vehicle crew belong to the Royal Armoured Corps, easing the way for the infantry units to move between roles (MRB to ‘garrison duty’ or light role) ???

  244. Observer

    Jed, depends. If you were just a normal tanker, 2 people is fine, driver/gunner. If you were a unit commander though, the commander might end up shooting more than what he should be doing, co-ordinating the unit.

    I’m not even sure mechanizing reduces manning requirements. Yes, it increases firepower, but an effective squad size still remains the same, all you’re doing is putting them on vehicles and using lesser squads. For example, you replace your heavy support MG section with a vehicle mounted GMG. Isn’t the number of people allocated almost the same? Or an AT support section with an APC mounted ATGM, any big change in numbers?

    Yes, you get better protection, mobility, and ammo supply, but it still doesn’t reduce manning requirements.

    Might be wrong, still half asleep…

  245. Topman

    @ jed, ‘Topman – all understood, there is no reason, apart from emotional, that the Army cannot provide force protection to deployed Air Force units.’

    Well you would think so, and that arguement could be used for all sorts of changes. But they are still needed, for a lot of people (banter aside) it’s difficult to accept, but look at why they went to FP at Bastion, that’ll tell you why.

    ‘As for doing CBRN for decades, well so have every other arm of the armed forces, so why cant you stand up the premier CBRN training and expertise unit in the bloody RNR ?’

    Well your comment suggested it was something that had just been handed a couple of years just so they could keep going. My point was they have been doing it in a training role day to day, wasn’t anything new. You could but it’s been decided to keep it in the regulars, no doubt for skill fade reasons.

  246. dominicj

    if the army can fp airstrips, why not ports? Why not ships? Why cant it storm beaches?

    I dont get the fascination i really dont

  247. Lord Jim

    Mechanisation can only reduce manning levels if the size of the battalion is reduced. For example reduce the number of infantry companies to 2 or reduce the number of infantry platoons per company to 2. Also if the MRB has an intergral Recce Regt do the Infantry battalions need their own recce sections? As for the MICV being a thing of the past, well if you are limited in numbers and funding, having more units mechanised, but in APCs such as Boxer armed with 12,7mm HMG or 40mm AGL is a better proposal. Using the upgrades Warriors instead of ASCOD2 for the Recce role has beel repeatedly discussed an I am in favour of it using the money saved to part fund the APC purchase.

    However my biggest fear concerning how the MRBs seem to be shaping up is the lack of boots on the ground as I have previously mentioned. The US Army had huge problems in Iraq where their mechanised formations were short of infantry, where as the USMC was much better able to cope.

    I think most of us agree that we are fairly unlikely to be fighting a stand up conventional war. IF that is the case we need boots on the ground above mechanisation if only one can be afforded.

    There maybe a ay to square the circle though but again it involves additional funding. Massively improved ISTAR would allow persistent observation of an area allowing troop to respond rapidly using land or air transport, which would reduce the need for persistent ground positions to control areas. It would almost be a return to the Vietnam era Firebase, but each if which would have a far greater area of control. Given funding is short this third option may also be unaffordable though.

    So we come back to funding, without a genuine increase will mean the majority of ideas suggested here will remain as such.

    P.S Don’t count on the promised 1% real increase until it actually happens which give the economic situation forscast, I have severe doubts about. Remember promises by Politicians are NOT worth the paper they are written on.

  248. Lord Jim

    When I referred to the reduced need for persistent ground positions and went on to mention firebases I meant that each firebase would control an area currently controlled by a number of current sized positions, therefore reducing the number of boots on the ground needed to control a given area.

  249. DominicJ

    “I think most of us agree that we are fairly unlikely to be fighting a stand up conventional war. IF that is the case we need boots on the ground above mechanisation if only one can be afforded.”

    The problem is, the UK spends about £90,000 per year per member of the army. Including the costs of running tanks and the army air corps and all stuff like that.

    The average wage in the army, is about £25,000, pension costs, payroll taxes and the like easily bump that much higher, but lets call it £30k to be generous.

    Replacing armoured infantry with light, only gets you 3x as many men.
    Now frankly, I’m not convinced 30 light infantry are better than 7 plus a warrior and crew in urban warfare, but even if they are, we are completely surrendering our “warfighting” capability for a fairly limited peacekeeping one.

    If the entire UK defence budget went on nothing but light infantry, at absolute best, we’d be able to deploy 100,000 men. Less than the US already has in Afghanistan.

    We cant do Afghanistan stlye peacekeeping, we NEVER EVER have done so before and it does not work now.

  250. Phil

    “Now frankly, I’m not convinced 30 light infantry are better than 7 plus a warrior and crew in urban warfare,”

    Of course 30 is better. At least you’ll have a few still alive at the end of the operation instead of 7 dead infantry and a knocked out Warrior.

    FIBUA just eats men. Very heavy casualties indeed against a peer enemy. Even with AFV support.

    “We cant do Afghanistan stlye peacekeeping, we NEVER EVER have done so before and it does not work now.”

    You’re just wrong.

  251. Phil

    “There maybe a ay to square the circle though but again it involves additional funding. Massively improved ISTAR would allow persistent observation of an area allowing troop to respond rapidly using land or air transport, which would reduce the need for persistent ground positions to control areas.”

    Pie in the sky thinking. You need density. And you need depth. Before 2009 we had neither in Helmand. We now have both with a battlegroup CO having ground holding units and depth strike units with additional depth strike units available from TFH.

    Checkpoints and PBs dominate the ground in a way that any ISTAR asset cannot. If we do a similar operation in the future this must not be forgotten. Having ISTAR and plenty of boots is the ideal, boots and no ISTAR at a pinch but ISTAR and fewer boots, may as well go home.

  252. DominicJ

    ““We cant do Afghanistan stlye peacekeeping, we NEVER EVER have done so before and it does not work now.”

    You’re just wrong.”

    Provide examples.

  253. ArmChairCivvy

    Without any knowledge of this topic
    “3rd Commando is low on capability on this one side. I guess the 7th unit you suggest would be for the Commando brigade. Would be a good idea, sure.”
    – what is the RN role in supporting RM 3 Commando; is it only from the floaty bases…or even more forward?

  254. Phil

    The fact that there has been a MASSIVE drop in violence and insurgent support in almost every AO of TFH except NES(N) which we have only just moved into in strength.

    The great tragedy is we finally have got it on COIN. We have finally managed to conduct a model COIN campaign and it is marred by poor planning and risk management from when we went in in 2006 and poor resource allocation (because there was no more to give) until 2009.

    There’s been two campaign in Helmand, 2006-2009 and thereafter. One was never going to succeed, the other is really picking up steam. And like in 2006, it will be the politicians and senior leadership who stand to jeopardise this success as we get closer to the end of combat operations.

  255. Think Defence

    Has anyone ever compared population density and deployed strengths between Northern Ireland and Helmand

    Without knowing one way or the other I wonder if we signally failed, for whatever reason, to apply those hard won 30 year lessons.

    I remember quite early during Afghanistan deployment someone from 2 Para (I think) suggesting the way to dominate ground was to erect a series of NI style sangars all over the populated area with linked up CCTV and use them as a base from which to mount foot patrols. Seem to equally remember he was dismissed as a loony!

  256. Phil

    “what is the RN role in supporting RM 3 Commando; is it only from the floaty bases…or even more forward?”

    The Army provides a good deal of support to 3 Commando. Medics wise, I really don’t know how they organise it since they like to keep it a Navy thing. They certainly didn’t have the resources to make the Medical Group all Navy but then the situation in Afghanistan with the medical laydown is unique and a lot more resource intensive than a conventional medical laydown.

  257. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Jed, I second that “the Platoon HQ should be a full 10 man section in itself (with the 60mm mortar team and designated marksmen)”

    The texts about AMVs in the UAE use state that they have the same standardised turret/ armament as the BMP3 to be able to work together because the AMV has BETTER mobility
    – it is unclear if the hint is at the greater speed (recce & screening) rather than at “cross country”, but anyway (for their terrain and relevant distances) they have decided to mix tracks and wheels

  258. Phil

    “Without knowing one way or the other I wonder if we signally failed, for whatever reason, to apply those hard won 30 year lessons.”

    I think the lessons were there, and at the forefront of the thinking, but there just was not the resources and this is a problem much further up the chain.

    At the tactical and operational level there is an enormous amount of ability and experience that has and is being well used. But you can’t do it without the resources and that is what was lacking in 2006 because of faulty assumptions and Iraq.

    We had nearly 3 times as many infantry battalions in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles plus the RUC plus the UDR so density was pretty reasonable and from what I gather concentrated in places where it had the most effect.

  259. x

    There are 600,000 approx more people in Ulster than Helmand; 2,100,000.

    Highest troop number Op Banner 21,000 fell to 9,000 approx.

    Ulster is a more complicated environment. And the people of all Ulster all look European.

    If only the IRA/INLA had painted themselves green and Orange Men were truly orange things might have been a tad simpler over the water.

  260. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi LJ,

    I also have been thinking about this “Also if the MRB has an intergral Recce Regt do the Infantry battalions need their own recce sections?” and would suggest that organisational part to be focussed on ground surveillance
    – would be in line with your later mention of massively improved (and integrated) ISTAR
    – could be done from vehicles with lesser armour/ weapons/ maintenance intensity than FRES SV/ Warriors

    Your PS at the end, about the 1 %
    – if you do the math over the years of it kicking in and the estimated start of the construction of the CASD boats, it is just compensation for the leading items hammering the core defence budget along the way to reach that point in time, as opposed to the earlier arrangement of being outside it
    – so really no change (until the next Parliament decides about CASD – then a real crowding-out effect would take place within the procurement budget)

  261. DominicJ

    TD
    The biggest influence in NI were the “peace walls”, but anyone who suggests engineering being the way to victory in Afghanistan is usualy shouted down.

    The Malayan Emergency was fought primarily by the 250,000 Malayan Home Guard, 50,000 Malayan armed police, and 40,000 commonwealth soldiers.
    ISAF is about equal with the “hoped for” strengths of the ANA and ANP isnt it?

    80% of the ethnic chinese were relocated into new built villages, whih were fortified, under semi penal colony isolation.
    They were fairly happy with the arrangement, new houses and legal title to land.
    The insurgents couldnt get in or out of the city gates.

  262. Rupert Fiennes

    @Phil: you and Dominic are effectively both right, because we need density, and mechanised support. In Afghanistan, we also have large numbers of armoured vehicles, whether they be Mastiff’s, Warriors or Warthogs.

    There are no operations, barring jungle bashing, we could conceivably mount that would not utilise large numbers of armoured vehicles, whether wheeled or tracked. The requirement to carry ever heavier weapons leads to the requirement that all this “signature” requires protection. The old “2 land rovers per Coy HQ and some 4 tonners” light role battalion never deploys on operations. It’s no longer a choice to make, so using it for comparison is pointless.

    As for the costs, lets assume we are buying Bradley’s, because it has a full range of weapons on board, even if it’s produced at more economical rates. Life cycle cost is say 10 million UKP each, say 70 per battalion, with the light battalion buying some crew served weapons like Javelin and GMG, costing 20% of the Bradley cost. 650 soldiers for light role, 850 for armoured, @50K pa each. Assuming the vehicle lasts 20 years, over that time, the crude costs come out at 700M capital/ 850M personnel for armoured, with 140M capital/ 650M for light role: so we are looking at double the cost, not 4 times.

  263. Phil

    We’re moving into a comparative analysis of Helmand and Ulster. Very interesting if done in depth but not very relevant if we skip loads of stuff and just compare military and security operations.

    “but anyone who suggests engineering being the way to victory in Afghanistan is usualy shouted down”

    I’m not following.

    There is no scope to move populations in Helmand. The Green Zone is densely populated and virtually maxed out on space. And if populations were to be moved that would be a GiROA domain and nothing to do with ISAF. We’re not there to rebuild their mud huts. And unless we re-direct the river and kill the current Green Zone there’s no more room to move entire vilages. Just looking at Google Earth can show you that.

  264. James

    @ ACC,

    infantry battalions definitely need their own recce. The difference between tasks for brigade and battalion recce is huge. The old UKMF (which was fairly similar to the proposed MRB) proved that repeatedly.

  265. Monty

    Phil,

    As General Sir David Richards said only last week, we were never going to succeed in Afghanistan until we allocated sufficient resources to control our areas of responsibility. The ‘success’ you describe is because we finally realised that it was pointless being there if we were constantly vacating ground from which the Taliban had been eliminated, allowing them to so easily return and then forcing us to re-take it again a week or so later.

    Ultimately, however, the cost of our hard won victories is only worth the price if we produce lasting change and beneficial change in Afghanistan. Right now, the Americans are forcing Karzai to negotiate with the Taliban, because they want to exit the region. Let’s not forget that the Taliban still don’t believe in democratically elected representation, in women’s rights or education, and that minor crimes against Islam should be punishably by death. In other words, we have betrayed the very ideology that sent us haring off on this ill-considered moral crusade. We’re leaving because we no longer have a stomach for the fight.

    It is fun and interesting discussing military structures, tactics and equipments but they all need to be designed to support specific, worthwhile and achievable foreign policy goals. I don’t think we have got that right at all. But, if we leave without achieving our aims, this is the same as losing.

    Gulf War 1 was a resounding victory because the aims were clear and the way in which we ‘prosecuted’ the war caused minimal collateral damage. Our job was to liberate Kuwait, pure and simple. Gulf War 2 was ostensibly to take control and eliminate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Do I need to remind anyone here there were none? Instead, our flawed plan for installing a government we could control has led to civil unrest, destroyed the country’s entire infrastructure and now Iraq is descending into civil war. Worse still, Iran’s growing Shia influence in the region may potentially make Iraq an ally against us. In short, I have yet to see tangible evidence that Iraq is any better off than it was before.

    The net effect of all this is that following 9/11, America rightfully had the sympathy of the world. Today, it is hated by the Muslim world. So is Britain by association. Good old Von Clausewitz said war is a continuation of policy by other means. While it is essential to have sufficient means and military resources to achieve those policy goals, he forgot to say a war can only be won if policy itself is credible.

    We are now slowly edging towards a confrontation with Iran. They are developing nuclear weapons and both Israel and USA fear they may use them because Iran dislikes both countries. Can we blame Iran? Let’s not forget that the USA deposed a legitimate elected government in 1953 and transferred its power to an unelected leader, the Shah – all for the sake of oil.

    We reap what we sow.

    How we respond to a belligerent Iran is going to be very different from intense skirmishes with well-armed Taliban hiding in the foothills of the Hindu Kush.

  266. Observer

    Agreed with James, the jobs for brigade recce are middle range scouting, more for strategic usage than tactical. Battalion scouting is more close range and is more to develop tactical awareness just before contact.

  267. Phil

    “The ‘success’ you describe is because we finally realised that it was pointless being there if we were constantly vacating ground from which the Taliban had been eliminated, allowing them to so easily return and then forcing us to re-take it again a week or so later.”

    That’s precisely what I have said and what I have maintained from the first post I made on the subject on here.

    I have also maintained that it is pointless to engage in fantasy forces without a realistic appraisal of foreign policy and security policy and intentions.

    How we respond to Iran will be very different. I have no idea on how best to accomplish this as I probably don’t have access to even 1% of the critical information needed to make an informed decision or even form a lose opinion. However, resource allocation will again be key – time and time again the boys and girls on the ground and in the air and at sea show they have exceptional ability to accomplish their missions in isolation but it the devil is political/strategic direction and leadership and how it can be skewed away from the military ideal. Perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly – probably both at different times.

  268. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi James,
    – how? RE “The old UKMF (which was fairly similar to the proposed MRB) proved that repeatedly.” Not doubting it, just don’t know
    – was a great fan of the formation at the time. It was very specialist whereas the MRBs are the proposed standard

    What I was mainly aiming at: Do they need the SV/ Warrior variety to do the job, or can they be made lighter?

  269. Observer

    Interesting post Monty, nothing there that I can disagree with. It seems that the US is a bit too fond of the “big hammer, straight line” approach. If it were me, I’d have gave OBL a few months to get complacent, then have someone feed him and most of his immediate subbordinates a 0.5 Cal round or even a Hellfire from long range as an object lesson. Much cheaper, safer and easier to extricate from than a full scale undeclared war. Unfortunately, now that the “war” is fully engaged, there is no way to withdraw without it being seen as a humiliating loss.

  270. DominicJ

    Phil
    “I’m not following.
    There is no scope to move populations in Helmand.”

    You dont have to move them 500 miles.
    Simply move them to a new town built right next door.

    Except this town has a curtain wall the ANP, or even better, the town militia, can defend, it has solid gates through which people must enter and exit, gates which can be closed to none residents.

    The houses in this new town have solar panels on all the roofs, providing a supply of electricity that the Taliban cant tax, and are built above Gobar Gas generators for cooking. Not to mention, these houses come with indoor plumbing.

    The streets in this new town can be wide and regular, rather than the death trap alleys in the town it replaces.

    “We’re not there to rebuild their mud huts”
    Obviously not….

  271. Lord Jim

    A lot of people seem to be still looking at the MRBs with large scale operations in mind. Regarding recce, the old/curretn infantry battalion organisation needed its own close recce for reasons that have been stated but ISTAR has moved on considerably. At present integral recce is used more as integral light armour. Planned and proposed ISTAR assets would cover the recce requirement without the need for a AFV to carry out this role. If we have to go down this route I would rather see a platform like the Dutch/German Fennek or a version of the Foxhound in this role. My preference would be for a troop of FRES/Warrior attached to a battalion as required from the Brigade Recce Regiment rather than have integral recce within the battalion. This is important if the mechanised battalions are to be reduced in manpower terms.

    Returning to recce, if the Warrior was moved to the Recce regiment then it maybe affordable to equip not just the existing Armoured Infantry adn mechanised battalions but possibly one of the light role battalions within each MRB with a APC. Alternatively instead of the third mechanised battalion funds could be available to replace the 105mm LGs with 155mm M777s

    With ISTAR their needs to be assets at both Brigade and battalion level, including UAVs. I understand the vulnerability of these to an organised AD network, but given the greater abundance of light AT weapons I would rather risk a UAV that a manned AFV. Besides it is the job of other assets to neutralize hostile GBAD assets above MANPADS. As a commander I would rather have realtime images and GPS co-ordinates of hostiles than a move by move commentary from a recce AFV commander. In fact I would rathr see any future recce AFV teamed with the Challenger 2 in recce troops similar to the US ACR idea.

    Finally if funds are forthcomming and everything goes as planned, I personally do not think we will be in any real shape to contribute much to any operations undertaken against Iran. The new kit planned will not be ready for operations before 2025, and most of what we still have is old and reaching the end of its useful life. We really should stay out of elective overseas operations until 2030 by which time the army will have recoverd from Afghanistan and hopefully been re-equipped. The danger is that if we do not use what we have, the powers that be might see more equipment programmes as unneccessary and make further cuts. The only way I can see any Government giving defence the resources it actually needs to meet the Governmnet’s aspirations is for the Falklands to be occupied by the Argentinians, but their armed forces are in such a state, this isn’t going to happen. Failing that an nuclear terrorist attack against the UK or another european country that is linked clearly to another nation amy provide a sufficient kick up the backside.

    P.S once the Trident replacement is in the core budget not Governemnt is going to take it out so there goes your 1% increase and then some.

  272. Phil

    “You dont have to move them 500 miles.
    Simply move them to a new town built right next door.”

    Again you don’t seem to comprehend what I write. There is no spare space. The only spaces that don’t have fields or mud huts on are in the desert, useless for living in.

    “Except this town has a curtain wall the ANP, or even better, the town militia, can defend, it has solid gates through which people must enter and exit, gates which can be closed to none residents.”

    What do you think was the principle behind their own indigenous compounds?

    They have massive, high walls and they have solid gates.

    The communities around the Green Zone evolved with precisely the principles you describe in mind and they governed how they lived and defended themselves.

    So your solution is

    (a) impractical as there is literally no space. Again, Google Earth it.

    (b) re-inventing the wheel as far as the Afghans are concerned.

  273. James

    @DominicJ,

    Just how much of a logistic operation is it going to be to move enough building materials into the area? It took a brigade to move 1000 tonnes of equipment to Kajaki dam and took months to plan. Building a new town is not going to be possible, let alone 20 new towns.

    This is beyond Murmansk mad if you don’t mind me saying. This is truly inspired. ;)

  274. Observer

    Please guys, go easy on Dom, he’s just describing a tactic that has worked before. Though in different conditions, it was still worth a look.

    The persistance of the Taliban is a problem with no simple solution, after all, they don’t run around with big signboards saying “Taliban. Shoot here->” (..might be worth marketing shirts like that…) 1st, we’ve to figure out WHO the Taliban are, hired mercs? Zealots? Nationalists pissed off at the invasion? Simple racists? Bored kids?(Most likely a mix of all). Only once you identify them can you take steps to break them up. One of the rather interesting things ole Percy did during Malaya was to set up anonymous drop boxes for people to turn the communists in without fear of reprisal. I’m sure they lost more than a few boxes to arson and got many false leads, but it did increase citizen participation as the fear of reprisals was lessened, and frankly, you want to know what goes on in a neighbourhood, who do you go to? The ISAF? Or the people LIVING in the neighbourhood? Lots of strangers coming in might be a prelude to an attack, one that the people living there will pick up, or even IED placements. Remember the documentry “War Wagons”? Remember them saying that the people living in the area will line up stones on an IED placement to warn others to avoid it? That is the kind of intel coverage commanders will LOVE to have, even better that UAV overflights.

  275. Phil

    “The persistance of the Taliban is a problem with no simple solution, after all, they don’t run around with big signboards saying “Taliban. Shoot here->” (..might be worth marketing shirts like that…) 1st, we’ve to figure out WHO the Taliban are, hired mercs? Zealots? Nationalists pissed off at the invasion? Simple racists? Bored kids?(Most likely a mix of all).”

    Already done in a general sense. The number of Tier One Taliban in the whole of Afghan is about a 1,000 at any one time. And generally speaking locals are more than happy to identify Taliban when you earn their trust or offer them something in return.

    The local community is the single biggest and most valuable source of intelligence on the Taliban there is. Some of them are so pissed off by the Taliban they they will not hesitate to point them out right in front of us and the accused. Obviously you apply the normal filters etc to weed out feuds and the such like.

    Befriend and secure the community, engage and kill the Tier One, and they will spill their guts and by and large they will bag a few Taliban themselves, either by threatening the younger yobs or beating them or simply killing them to encourage the others.

  276. DominicJ

    Phil
    “What do you think was the principle behind their own indigenous compounds?
    They have massive, high walls and they have solid gates.
    The communities around the Green Zone evolved with precisely the principles you describe in mind and they governed how they lived and defended themselves.”

    So how come the robber barons find it so easy to infiltrate the towns?
    Most of the Towns along the Helmand river were built fairly recently, and were “detribalised” by design.

    Every House A Castle is quite the opposite of my suggestion.

    I say town, and you reply with “compound”

    James
    “It took a brigade to move 1000 tonnes of equipment to Kajaki dam and took months to plan.”
    And?
    Surely thats evidenced of just how broken the current system is?
    It takes 60 officers a month to plan a 200 mile drive?
    And the turbine still hasnt been installed, and the Taliban control the distribution network, so theres little point anyway.

    Build a train from Karachi to Kabul. There, thats logistics.
    Thats being serious about winning a war.

    Not pissing about with a wimmins empowerment lecture

  277. DominicJ

    Observer
    Thats pretty interesting.
    The biggest problem we face is the locals are scared of reprisals, theres only so many solutions to that, and all of them pretty much boil down to the locals being able to comprehensivly beat the Taliban.
    That means city walls and a town militia.

    Not individualy fortified houses.

  278. Observer

    Dom, why they can simply waltz in is the point I’ve already mentioned. Taliban don’t were “shoot me” T-shirts. Strip their AKs down, pack RPGs into bags and they can just simply walk, ride or bike into town, gates have nothing to do with the problem though it helps limit access points. But for commerce to take place, those gates by nature have to be porous. Nevermind Afgan, it’s the same problem worldwide, commerce and convenience vs security.

  279. Tubby

    Is there a post here that summarises the different world views as expressed by say Phil when he talks about the key to victory being attrition and the views taken by Sven (and possibly James) which is more in favour of manoeuvre warfare. The reason I ask is that as a fat civilian with no understanding of the Army, that the difference in opinion over which is better (or even realistic) – attrition or manoeuvre comes down to which cap badge the poster wore – for example the recent posts by an ex-Para seemed to be in favour of the use of manoeuvre to overcome fixed enemy forces (i.e. drop your troops away from the enemy’s strong points to roll them up by attacking their supply lines), which I know is something based on my understanding of Phil’s comments that Phil always shoots down as a fallacy – it seems to me that he advocates critical mass to grind down your enemy until they break. I assume that there must be different staff courses in the Army depending on cap badge and that there must be a doctrinal difference which is worth exploring further i.e. does being an officer in the para’s or the RAC give you a different doctrinal outlook on how to secure victory from say an officer in the Fusiliers – hope I have not made an arse of myself by making a big assumption (and apologies for name dropping certain regular contributors).

  280. Phil

    “I say town, and you reply with “compound””

    The towns are some of the most secure areas. Bandit country out in the sticks is where the insurgency largely hides and strikes on a daily basis.

    If the Afghans want a wall around Gereshk then they can ask for one.

    But moving entire towns is even more ridiculous than moving villages.

    “Surely thats evidenced of just how broken the current system is?
    It takes 60 officers a month to plan a 200 mile drive?”

    Your arrogance is utterly breathtaking and more than a little annoying. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

    How on earth can you call the system broken from behind your keyboard?

    This is an exact example of what I was talking about on another thread with regards to a dismissive criticism. It makes you look like an idiot Dom.

    “Thats being serious about winning a war.”

    Building a railway? To win a war. Okay Dom.

    You comment on such things with a very misplaced sense of confidence Dom and with an impressive array of shallow sound-bite comments like the women empowerment lectures.

    Prescribing exactly what is needed to accomplish this and accomplish that when frankly what you say reveals that you haven’t got a clue how it all works. Which is fine, but then you promulgate all these solutions with a weary disdain for whatever system is currently in place.

    You could have just asked why it took so long to get the turbine up there. You might have simply commented that it took a long time and offer reasons why, but no, the system is broken and the officers incompetent by implication. A big leap Dom.

  281. Phil

    @Tubby

    There is an enormous amount of literature on the subject. Frankly I think a vast amount of it is flawed as it presents the argument as a choice of which strategy it is better to pursue.

    I firmly believe there is no such choice and that manoeuvre is earned by attrition in high density battlefields.

    General dePuy makes my point for me.

    “People talk a lot about attrition versus maneuver. This is not an intellectual choice. The same generals who so brilliantly dashed across France were suddenly forced back into conducting attrition warfare. Nobody doubts that General George Patton preferred maneuver, but maneuver warfare is not a doctrinal choice; it is an earned benefit.

    The efforts to break through and obtain operational maneuver in the Fall of 1944 at Arnhem, with the great air-ground operation called Market Garden, failed; the attacks through Huertgen and Aachen were bloody and indecisive, and the attack by the Third Army across the Saar bogged down.

    In a last operational effort in the middle of December — three months later — the German Army once more sought freedom of maneuver through the Ardennes.”

  282. Observer

    BTW, back to armoured recce. I envy you guys. When I did recce, all I got was a bloody motorcycle kicked out of a Puma helicopter, binoculars, thermal imager and a radio set…

    Which is just as well. Smaller signature than a tank and removes any temptation of a desperate bde commander ordering us to stop APCs.

    And as recce, my biggest next gen worry is thermal imagers, simply can’t hide from the bloody things. We need a way to spoof them or we’ll be picked off by long ranged fire even before we can get close. I believe the problem will also carry over into normal infantry. A sec-com with TI can see enemy troops forming up even through foilage and drop motar rounds to break up the party even before it begins.

  283. Alex

    What do you think was the principle behind their own indigenous compounds? They have massive, high walls and they have solid gates.

    Whenever I hear the word “compound” I always remember a family back in my home village in the Yorkshire Dales. Alongside the farmhouse, and the farm buildings, they built a house for one of the kids, and then a granny flat, and then another kid got theirs, and their petrol-head tuning workshop needed premises and that got built, until they ended up living in essentially a small village forming a square around a courtyard, surrounded by (you guessed it) a big fuck-off wall and looking remarkably like something you might find in Afghanistan, just built out of millstone grit.

    And, well, they get on with being inbred and unpleasant to outsiders and doing things with old Toyota vehicles and sheep and firearms in there, and everyone leaves them well alone. People aren’t as different as they sometimes make out, or rather they are but they’re different in the same way.

  284. Phil

    “People aren’t as different as they sometimes make out, or rather they are but they’re different in the same way.”

    My Grand Hypothesis on human behaviours (which I have neither the intelligence or time to ever verify myself) is that generally our cultures are broadly determined by our environment and our distrust of people outside our social group and that cultures make sense in their organic environment.

    You might call me an environmental determinist in the same vein as Jared Diamond.

    But anyway, there are also only so many ways to skin a cat so if you become distrustful of neighbours or fear other cultural groups then the instinct is to literally throw up a wall and live in your own castle. Same all over the world.

    So drop folk from a different culture into a new environment and I’ll bet you’ll see a gradual take up of the indigenous cultures way of life because there are actually very powerful forces determining that way of life.

  285. Observer

    @Tubby

    Me on the other hand, as opposed to Phil, opposes static warfare due to the prevalance of support artillery. Sitting on a fixed position is simply begging to be hit by motars, 155mm, or the jokingly called “grid-square removal system” MLRS. If you were a hardened emplacement like the SAM sites we were arguing about, you might even be worth a Tomahawk.. or 10. Artillery may not 100% kill a military unit, but it can reduce the unit to near ineffectiveness, not to mention inflict horrendous casualties.

    I do agree on the comment by him about “manoeuvre is earned by attrition in high density battlefields” but to butcher a phrase by Patton, “it’s to make the other guy be the attrition”.

    The other advantage manoeuvre warfare has over attritional is the ability to concentrate forces on the Schwerpunkt (point of concentration) allowing for greater chances of forcing a breakthrough to enemy rear lines. An attritional strategy relies on spreading out defending forces throughout the battle area, which may leave it vulnerable to strategic dispersal. This is partially countered by fortifications and good terrain choices, which may be countered by artillery etc.

    But as you can see, we can argue round in circles all day without conclusion, so it’s really best to agree to disagree.

  286. Observer

    Oh yes, there is also the problem of not having “attritional warfare” defence lines is that the enemy is going to feely “manoeuvre unto you what you were manoeuvring unto him”. So as you can see, Phil does have a point on defence lines, you just have to balance the two.

  287. DominicJ

    Observer
    “But for commerce to take place, those gates by nature have to be porous”
    But do they? To who?
    We arent talking about cities with a population of millions here.
    It should be fairly easy for a register of permitted traders to be thrown up.
    If your names not on the list you arent getting in…..

    “Er.. Dom, misunderstanding, Phil’s “compound” is your “fortified town”.”
    Not quite, much of the green zone, or certainly, a considerably portion that I have seen, is in fact strings of isolated “house forts”. These will house a small family, maybe a dozen people at the most. surrounded bytheir own farmland, they are essentaly one man nations.

    Easy pickings for even the smallest bandit group to grind down.

    Phil
    “The towns are some of the most secure areas. Bandit country out in the sticks is where the insurgency largely hides and strikes on a daily basis.”
    So why did a third of all British deaths occur in Sangin? The count only stopped rising when we pulled out an the US started.

    “Your arrogance is utterly breathtaking and more than a little annoying. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about.
    How on earth can you call the system broken from behind your keyboard?”
    Typing skills?
    Critical thinking?
    Are you saying that Eagle Claw “won hearts and minds”? Despite the fact that the turbine it delivered hasnt been installed? And even if it was, the Taliban still control the distribution lines?

    ““Thats being serious about winning a war.”
    Building a railway? To win a war. Okay Dom.”

    If you were paying attention, you would know that James questioned the logistical requirements of building these new towns.
    I suggested building a railroad from Karachi to Kabul.
    Thats the logistics problem sorted, because you could use trains to transport everything.

    If we were serious about winning a 40 year war, its the first thing we would have done.
    Since we arent, and are just killing time till the US declares victory and goes home, we dont even bother putting proper runways in our airbases.

    “but no, the system is broken and the officers incompetent by implication. A big leap Dom.”
    I said the first, not the second.
    Doesnt matter how good you are, if the process you have to follow is stupid, your results will be stupid.
    Michael Yon is complaining at the moment that the US Army is happily murdering its own men in the quest to maintain unarmed medevac helicopters and insisting a general authorises each flight.

    Alex
    Exactly.
    But thats not a defendable proposition.
    20 families who share a wall is a different matter entirely, they can stand off the bandits fairly easily.

  288. James

    @DominicJ,

    there’s already a railway from Karachi to the Pakistani / Afghan border near to Kandahar, and plans in 2014 to extend the railway to Kandahar itself. But, it passes right through the Pakistani Taliban area and would need extensive security on both sides of the border. I imagine the Taliban wouldn’t find it too hard to blow up the line if it was left unguarded.

    The construction of the railway is going to be a monumental security task for whoever does it.

    Afghanistan is surrounded by 3 countries with 3 different rail gauges, an added complication.

  289. Observer

    Dom, you seriously underestimate the amount of trader through traffic through these towns, and one shot pictures don’t always tell the whole story. Trust the guy on the ground. Which is why Phil may have a point when he got mad at you.

    As for the train… I can just see some guy in a turban prying up tracks now. Never mind asking the obvious question “Is the train RPG/IED proof?” “Are the tracks tamper/IED/RPG proof?”

  290. Phil

    “It should be fairly easy for a register of permitted traders to be thrown up.
    If your names not on the list you arent getting in…..”

    There’s a lot of reasons why that wouldn’t work, not least paperwork being an Afghan weakness. And again, if the Afghans want such a thing they can sort it out for themselves. We are not there to hold their hand on every issue or throw walls they haven’t asked for around their towns. And besides, you’d have a nice little fort that would take enormous numbers of men to police whilst the Taliban harry and kill people travelling to and from it and get them in their homes and set up their own fiefdoms in Bandit Country.

    “Are you saying that Eagle Claw “won hearts and minds”? Despite the fact that the turbine it delivered hasnt been installed? And even if it was, the Taliban still control the distribution lines?”

    The Taliban control nothing. Control implies they can defend. They cannot. They lose almost every engagement. They control by default areas we are not yet operating in but that control lasts only as long as our and ANSF absence. I am sure if that turbine ever gets going, in the medium term it will make a lot of Afghans happier and any attempt to control it by the Taliban only make them more hated.

    “Thats the logistics problem sorted, because you could use trains to transport everything”

    That’s right Dom. You can spend all that money building that railway, and defend it, and provide rolling stock and I am sure you could have a lovely regenerated town at the end of it and a lot of stockpiles of materials that now have to be escorted to other areas. So no, that hardly solves the problem at all and it would take longer to build the railway than we ever intend to be there in a combat guise.

    “Since we arent, and are just killing time till the US declares victory and goes home, we dont even bother putting proper runways in our airbases.”

    Another little out of date tidbit gleaned from the internet? There’s a perfectly good runway as BSN and another at KAF and another at Bagram. Along with enormous ISAF bases.

    “Doesnt matter how good you are, if the process you have to follow is stupid, your results will be stupid.”

    Seeing as how at this level Officers create the system you imply that they are incompetent. Moving something from A to B in that place is an operational concern, the logistical planning for which is done almost entirely by the military.

    “Michael Yon is complaining at the moment that the US Army is happily murdering its own men in the quest to maintain unarmed medevac helicopters and insisting a general authorises each flight.”

    Michael Yon is talking out of his arse on this one. I never saw an unarmed PEDRO and there certainly was no need for a general to approve them. PEDRO’s do need to be approved by someone as a decision has to be made on resource allocation and suitability. PEDRO pilots cannot just zoom around the airspace doing what they want, like they used to in 2008.

  291. Think Defence

    I think it is obvious that there is never a magic bullet solution, it is always complex, it is always difficult and it is always costly.

    Some methods might work, some might not, most will probably be ambiguous or displace the problem.

    There are many pointy heads looking at this problem but the old ways, i.e. Malaya are simply off the menu because of the age we live in, no point complaining or harking back to the golden age of COIN or whatever.

    Personally, I think our problems stem from a chronic inability to join up the efforts of the various arms of government which I assume afte many years of practice, is finally getting back to where we were a century or so ago :)

  292. Jed

    Seeing as we have gone down the stan-tasitc COIN rat hole, can we get back to the future of the MRB by considering this:

    The MRB in it’s persistently deployed COIN role might not need 4 x Inf Battalion all on 8 x 8 IFV, or Warrior or whatever…..

    BUT

    if the MRB is to be the core of the deployable army,

    AND

    if the SDSR says we need to be able to do a single large, high intensity short duration conflict (i.e. 2 x MRB plus other units in a “Division” ?)

    THEN

    Surely the MRB must be equipped (as far as budget allows) for the higher end, peer or almost peer threat, and therefore not exculsively organized for “Sandpit Redux” ?

  293. DominicJ

    Phil

    Another little out of date tidbit gleaned from the internet? There’s a perfectly good runway as BSN and another at KAF and another at Bagram. Along with enormous ISAF bases.”
    So C17s can land now?
    How about the big Anatovs?
    Or are we still sending those to Khandahar and then shuttling on C130’s in between?

    Assuming I am wrong, how long did it take for Bastion to be C17 capable?

    “Michael Yon is talking out of his arse on this one. I never saw an unarmed PEDRO and there certainly was no need for a general to approve them.”
    Pedros are USAF, and are armed.
    The Army equivilant are not armed.

    Thats the point.
    Bureaucratic inertia leads to stupid decisions.

    Presumably the captains and majors who have commented and admited they wont give the order for a launch, they kick it up stairs, are also “talking out of their arses”?

  294. Rupert Fiennes

    @Phil, Yon is specifically calling for US Army med choppers to be armed, he lauds the USAF Pedro’s for being armed. Personally I cannot see why they don’t, I thought medical were specifically permitted to be armed for the protection of patients, some SSVC video told me so :-)

  295. Phil

    “@Phil, Yon is specifically calling for US Army med choppers to be armed, he lauds the USAF Pedro’s for being armed”

    Mea Culpa! It’s pretty retarded not to have armed medevac. MERT is armed. I didn’t realise PEDRO was USAF although I should have.

  296. Phil

    “So C17s can land now?
    How about the big Anatovs?
    Or are we still sending those to Khandahar and then shuttling on C130′s in between?”

    All land at BSN.

    “Assuming I am wrong, how long did it take for Bastion to be C17 capable?”

    4 years. Actually C17s probably could have used rough field much earlier.

    “Presumably the captains and majors who have commented and admited they wont give the order for a launch, they kick it up stairs, are also “talking out of their arses”?”

    No idea what you are talking about. I have no idea how US Army medevac works. If US Army Generals want to approve their medevac flights I don’t care. My information on who launched PEDROs was based on the misunderstanding that PEDRO was US Army. PEDRO’s are integrated into the casevac decision making process and assigned to less critical cases.

  297. DominicJ

    TD
    Oh well, I cant remember everything, still, it took 5 years, not exactly what anyone could call a serious effort.

  298. Phil

    Actually it was 2007 C17s started using BSN runway.

    Yes Dom. Once again your tunnel vision and simple way of looking at complex things strikes. It took 18 months to get C17s landing at BSN, so that means no serious effort was made.

    Despite the fact that BSN started out as dirt in 2006 and every little thing down to tents and chairs needed for it had to come by air or overland.

  299. Gareth Jones

    I believe that the Manoeuvre/defensive split is a false dichotomy. Even the hardest charging unit will need to pause sometimes, and dig in for defence. Similarly many, if not most, defensive plans involve a counter-attack when the enemy is depleted and overstretched.

    The Germans during the second world war used a shield and sword tactics – anti-tank guns and infantry block the enemy attack, allowing the manoeuvre units (usually armour) to out flank, attack the lines of supply, etc.

  300. Phil

    “allowing the manoeuvre units (usually armour) to out flank, attack the lines of supply, etc.”

    In Western Europe there simply is no scope to flank until you get through an enemies defences.

  301. James

    Medieval? Medical! Bl**dy spell check thinks it knows better than me.

    There are some medieval attitudes around in the MoD though.

  302. Observer

    GJ, you’re right on the “false split” part too, it’s just that an overall army’s strategy would focus on a “preferential mode” of operation, which in turn determines how often the army would stand on the defensive and how likely is it to be aggressive. For example Israel. You can hardly say that they play on the defensive, even though they did have defence lines in the 6-day and Yom Kip wars, but their prefered mode of operation was the armoured attack.

    And as for the article, I agree that they would still have to wait for an armed escort even if the medivac was armed. Armed flying medivacs a gunship do not make. The writer was just trying to make hay while the sun shines. Do you really want medivac loaded with wounded to do a strafing run?

  303. Phil

    Geneva Schameva!

    That argument gets rolled out all the time. I remember me and my Doc having an argument about it because I said I would not hesitate, and never did hesitate, to fire my rifle at any moment if I felt threatened or felt the need to. The stock argument is “medics can only use their weapon in self defence” to which I reply, “bullshit, I can open fire in other scenario’s all that happens is I forfeit my special status, which, I do not have in Afghanistan anyway”.

    The US Army has a point about waiting for an escort although the PEDRO’s don’t, they tend to come in pairs, one circling like a bad ass as the other swoops in and a PJ ignores the handover to concentrate on looking like a badass too.

    US Army medevac Blackhawks have space to stick a pintle mounted M60 and PEDRO’s tote a minigun.

  304. James

    X,

    would have been crossbows in those days…

    I found a link showing the US DoD’s policy on complying with the Geneva Conventions, which clearly states their interpretation of the GC:

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/4-02-4/appa.pdf

    Clearly, the British think a little differently if we arm the MERT Chinook, so there’s room for debate. As far as I can work out, the US PEDROs are in fact a CSAR asset being used for a medical role, and if a plane / helicopter came down in Afghanistan they would be tasked to pick up the downed crew, whether they were wounded or not. In that role they’d be expected to be bristling with weapons.

  305. Observer

    James, maybe not. The evac chopper may not be armed, but it’s escorts certainly will be armed to the teeth, like the Skyriders during the Vietnam war.

  306. Observer

    Anyway, anyone else think we’re off topic?

    Back on track, how would your dream MRB be configured, from the section level up?

    I’m going to regret asking that. Big TOE incoming.

  307. Phil

    “You can hardly say that they play on the defensive”

    Israeli strategy is a product of its long borders and very limited manpower. It is not a dense defence so manoeuvre must be used. Manoeuvre has more scope in less dense battlefields (ie Eastern Front, Israel) but at the point of decision and at the micro level its attrition ie when the Company Commander has to simply drive forward and take the objective or secure a position.

  308. Observer

    In that case Phil, every contact would be counted as an attrition contact. Which, while true in a micro scale, seems a bit deceptive when used to describe an overall strategy, which is definately not a micro scale situation.

    Anyway, we both obviously have different viewpoints and we both agree that our methods are correct situational depending, so as I said earlier, agree to disagree?

  309. Phil

    “In that case Phil, every contact would be counted as an attrition contact.”

    Well if you had to attack or defend then arguably that is the case although at that level individual factors will play a role ie courage, fanaticism, confidence, perception etc

    I can agree to disagree certainly.

  310. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Observer,

    The Israeli line with fortifications along the Suez Canal were never meant to be more than a friction factor, to be able to properly mobilise and concentrate force
    – they were so well built (as point defences, rather than a continuous line) that some could direct the operations as Forward Observation Posts all through, without being overwhelmed despite a rather thin manning

  311. ArmChairCivvy

    Yeah, but you need to wake up and mobilise plenty quick ” Manoeuvre has more scope in less dense battlefields (ie Eastern Front, Israel) ” as in the past the shortest distance from border to sea was 18 km
    – normally manoeuvre also includes defence in depth

  312. Jed

    Attrition – context is king.

    In the second battle for Fallujah one marine Platoon of 45 men was reduced to 28 non-wounded by the end of a single day of urban combat. Was this the result of an “attritional strategy” by the Marines ? No.

    Was it the result of a deliberately attritional strategy by the Muj – not really, they did not typically stand and fight, but “manouvred” around the streets trying to outflank the USMC teams.

    This is a micro-context, tactical, but that Marine platoon was still heavily attrited, however you spin it.

    BUT

    This is in no way the same as the Soviet meat grinder taking a deliberately attritional strategy both on the defensive and on the offensive against Germany – simply throwing vast quantatities of men into the battle.

  313. DominicJ

    Phil/James
    ““Surely thats evidenced of just how broken the current system is?
    It takes 60 officers a month to plan a 200 mile drive?”

    Your arrogance is utterly breathtaking and more than a little annoying. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

    How on earth can you call the system broken from behind your keyboard?”

    Ok, lets work through an example.

    Day 1
    Argentina invades the Falklands Islands.
    Day 18
    ISTAR Overflights of the Falklands
    Day 19
    Special Forces begin operations
    Day 23
    South Georgia retaken
    Day 29
    Falklands island bombed
    Day 30
    Enemy Flagship sank
    Day 49
    Initial landing
    Day 56
    Goose Green liberated
    Day 60
    Main force completes landings
    Day 70
    Main enemy strength broken
    Day 74
    Enemy surrenders

    Now, you can understand my confusion when, in the real world, we have formed several naval task forces, sailed them half way round the world, landed two Brigades assaulted dug in enemy infantry and forced their surrender in a mere 74 days from start to finish.
    Yet, on the internet, people from the armed forces say such nonsense as it takes 6 months to prepare a ship for deployment, and a month to plan a 200 mile round trip through a desert defended by goat herders.

    Now, something is wrong there.

    Either I’m missing something pretty fundamental that for some reason you wont explain, the historical records of the falklands war are flat out lies or you are wrong and it doesnt take years to do these things, the forces are simply following unnecessary procedure.

  314. Tubby

    Thanks for the answers about attrition vs manoeuvre, part of my musing was to wonder if you different parts of the Army have ingrained in them one of the doctrinal views, i.e. if you are in command a platoon of tanks do you see the world different with regards to attrition vs manoeuvre to say a mechanised infantry platoon.

  315. x

    @ DomJ

    You could also add that MoD knew next to nothing about Argentina’s capabilities. That HMNBs not only reversed the decommissioning of a major fleet unit but also undertook substantial works to a considerable amount of civilian tonnage in less time than it would take BAE today to plan a press conference.

    BUT they could have only done this because the armed forces and their supporting civilian organisations were professional and well exercised.

  316. Phil

    You’re comparing apples and oranges, no wonder you’re views are so bizarre.

    First, where did you get 60 officers and a month to plan from?

    Secondly let’s look at it in more detail:

    –The Falklands saw national resources deployed. The Kajaki move saw TFH resources deployed.

    –The Falklands had a pressing and unmoveable deadline. The Kajaki operation had no such time pressures.

    –The Falklands was a unilateral operation with marginal support from other nations usually in the form of technical, logistical or burden sharing. The Kajaki operation was very multinational.

    –The Falklands operation saw naval forces deployed which were already at a state of high readiness and which could sail unmolested into the operation zone. The Kajaki operation was through hostile territory from the moment it left the front gate.

    –The Falklands operation was an example of having resources thrown at it, an operation conducted on an international stage under intense scrutiny and with a focused and resolute national purpose. The Kajaki operation was an example of one operation amongst many in the theatre, with no similar national or international scrutiny nor a similar mobilisation of national resources specifically for the operation.

    There are very good reasons why both events happened as they did. TFH wasn’t going to run out of steam after 90 days, its vehicles weren’t going to start to fall apart, its logistics weren’t going to stress and then break – planning could be done at a leisurely pace and done properly to involve the ANSF. I am very sure the operation could have been conducted much quicker if there was any pressing need to.

  317. DominicJ

    Phil

    “First, where did you get 60 officers and a month to plan from?”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7593901.stm
    “For the past four months, 60 British officers have been planning for every eventuality and war-gaming what might happen on the ground.”

    “–The Falklands saw national resources deployed. The Kajaki move saw TFH resources deployed.”
    As I said, no one in the UK takes Afghanistan seriously.

    “–The Falklands was a unilateral operation with marginal support from other nations usually in the form of technical, logistical or burden sharing. The Kajaki operation was very multinational.”
    So you agree coalitions make things less effective?

    “–The Falklands operation saw naval forces deployed which were already at a state of high readiness and which could sail unmolested into the operation zone. The Kajaki operation was through hostile territory from the moment it left the front gate.”
    What?
    Both of our carriers were at “high readiness”?
    Didnt a considerable portion of the harriers fly themselves down because they werent ready to leave with the carrier?
    There were two Argentine Task forces in the Atlantic trying to intercept our fleet, one of which was centred on a CATOBAR carrier.

  318. Phil

    Dom you draw the most bizarre conclusions.

    Coalitions make things less effective? Completely you’re right they do. If only we hadn’t have had the damn Americans hanging around our necks in 1944 we’d have won the war in Europe with much more efficiency. And if only we didn’t have NATO to worry about we’d have gotten all that logistical support from the US in 1982 much more efficiently. And we’d have won in Suez if it wasn’t for having to hang around with the French. As for the Alliance’s in the Napoleonic Wars, what did they ever do for us?

    As for the carriers – so there was an Argentine battlegroup in the Channel was there? Or in the Western Approaches? The Med? North Atlantic? Even the South Atlantic?

    Fact is Dom planning probably took four months because there was plenty of time to plan and we would have known about this operation probably 12 months in advance. Why on Earth would you rush something when you have a lead in time measured in months? Especially when there is no deadline? Why wouldn’t you spend all that time war gaming, planning, co-ordinating whilst at the same time having to run a huge battlespace? Just do it all a few weeks before in a big rush job? Maybe pull an all nighter the night before?

    I mean I spent three months writing an assignment, because I had to take into account such things as working full time, planning the essay, conducting literature searches, researching, taking notes, drafting and editing. I could have physically done it two weeks before, thus by your reasoning being much more efficient.

    Two Argentine Task Forces plying the North Atlantic? Pushing up the Solent. Don’t think so.

  319. Gabriele

    “Even the South Atlantic?”

    Technically, there was. Argentina sent at sea their carrier, the ‘Venticinqo de Mayo’ loaded with Skyhawks and escorted by a couple of destroyers.
    They ran back into port after the Conqueror sunk the General Belgrano, as they felt the risk was too great.

    But yes, there was an argie carrier out there, and one has to wonder how things would have evolved had they had more courage. The naval Skyhawks ended up flying against the task force from land, with all the known disadvantages this implied.

  320. Phil

    “But yes, there was an argie carrier out there, and one has to wonder how things would have evolved had they had more courage”

    I’d be willing to bet another capital ship at the bottom, and it wouldn’t have been a British one. They had enough trouble sinking frigates with dumb bombs, Hermes and Invincible were pretty sturdy and big designs by comparison even if they had been hit. And I imagine if Argentine planes had been able to hang around longer over the fleet it would simply have meant more being shot down.

    I could see her planes blown from the sky with minimal damage to the fleet, perhaps a CVL holed, the Argentine fleet located and then every SSN converging on her and sinking it completely.

  321. Gabriele

    It is likely that the carrier would have been holed, but as a matter of fact the SSN assigned the task to locate the carrier never did find it. It was HMS Spartan.

    25 the Mayo was about to launch an attack on the task force on 1st April, but the bad weather made it impossible to launch the Skyhawks that had to be loaded up heavy due to the launch being done from safe distance.

    “And I imagine if Argentine planes had been able to hang around longer over the fleet it would simply have meant more being shot down.”

    Not even Tom Clancy would be THIS optimist. But i don’t want another war to start, so i’ll just ignore the point.

  322. Phil

    “It is likely that the carrier would have been holed, but as a matter of fact the SSN assigned the task to locate the carrier never did find it”

    That’s not surprising, naval forces are very hard to find indeed when they don’t want to be found. But had she launched strikes it would have narrowed down the area of sea to search and there is more of an opportunity to shadow the Skyhawks back from whence they came.

    “Not even Tom Clancy would be THIS optimist. But i don’t want another war to start, so i’ll just ignore the point.”

    So the longer planes hang around AAW units and AAA armed vessels, their chances of getting shot down you think should decrease? As opposed to increasing by simple fact that they are in the engagement envelope for longer and thus there are more opportunities to shoot at them? It’s nothing to do with Tom Clancy or techno-masturbation and all to do with the simple logic that the longer you are getting shot at the greater the chances you’re going to get hit. Unless the Argentines came in and at a stroke crippled the entire battle group then that is the game.

    Skyhawks criss crossing between various vessels AAW defences and Sea Harriers on CAP whilst trying to drop dumb bombs for long period of times would almost certainly have seen more shot down because engagement times would be longer.

    Time and time again Skyhawks got away because they just made the one pass. And like the planes since WWI, a second pass was usually a dumb idea.

    But obviously that’s just me banging one out to some Clancyish fantasy.

  323. Observer

    Phil, who was it that said to me not to assume the enemies would be pushovers?

    Oh, right…

    Though I do agree that Dom seems to be trying to be disagreeable. Dom, coalitions increase EFFECTIVENESS, but decrease EFFICIENCY. Big difference. And more often than not, the increased effectiveness overweighs any efficiency loss. For example, an efficient pilot might get a 2:1 kill ratio before being shot down, but a pilot in a coalition can theortically get almost infinite ratios as he won’t get shot down as enemies tend to run when they see an opposing force that outnumbers them 4:1 or more. And even if he were suicidal enough to engage, the coalition pilot can simply focus on evading, confident that the other pilots will finish that guy off for his stupidity.

  324. Observer

    Phil, AA during the Falklands had a bit of a teething problem, the result is far from certain. Remember what sunk the Coventry? Computer failure took the SAM defences offline long enough for Skyhawks to make 2 passes on her and her sister ship.

  325. DominicJ

    Phil

    One of the reason everyone thought the Falklands effort didnt stand a chance was Argentina jets were much much better than ours.
    Harriers aint a match for skyhawks.
    The advantage of course, being distance, they skyhawk lacked the fuel to use any of its advantages, or even stick around for a fight. 20 launched off the carrier could have been an absolute disaster.

    Why should we have “rushed” eagle summit?
    So we could do something else afterwards of course….

    Fighting at such a sedate pace is not a way to win wars, but as I’ve said, the aim isnt to win, simply to stick it out until the Americans get bored (unless you think we’ll stay after they leave?) in the hopes of gaining “influence”.

  326. Phil

    “Phil, AA during the Falklands had a bit of a teething problem, the result is far from certain. Remember what sunk the Coventry? Computer failure took the SAM defences offline long enough for Skyhawks to make 2 passes on her and her sister ship.”

    I am relatively aware of the problems. But really, you disagree that the longer you spend in a kill zone, even if that kill zone is made up of GPMGs blasting away (which achieved kills), the chances of you being hit increase? And that out in the wild blue yonder a lot of the problems with clutter from the terrain etc would have been diminished and the longer engagement times would have meant more time to correct malfunctions.

    Maybe I am mad but the longer I spend exposed above a trench, the more chance I stand of being shot even if some of the rifles of the enemy jam. The longer I spend flying over a fleet armed with several types of AAW the more chance I stand of getting shot down.

  327. x

    It went off line because we had two ships doing the job that should have been done by one properly equipped ship.

  328. Phil

    “Phil, who was it that said to me not to assume the enemies would be pushovers?”

    I’m not assuming the enemy here would be pushovers. I am assuming that the RN stand their ground, that the gunners keep firing even when their vessels are hit and that AAW failures have more time to be corrected. All borne out by what actually happened.

  329. Observer

    And what happened to the Glasgow, Gohmoran(?spelling), Coventry, Shefield and Broadsword not withstanding? Not to mention the Atlantic Conv.?

    Every ship in that list took at least a single hit, fortunately quite a few were duds. And you want MORE?

    Yes, they MIGHT have won, but it won’t be a certain thing. I’m with Gabriele on this one, it would be touch and go, but your declaration of a “no loss total victory” is pushing the bounds. Clancyish for sure.

  330. Phil

    “20 launched off the carrier could have been an absolute disaster.”

    So could an Argentine sub holing Hermes. So could Invincible ramming Hermes in a storm.

    The Argies almost certainly would have had one chance to take out the TF before their TF gets shadowed or located and every SSN tasked to sink everything. And unless those 20 Skyhawks take out both carriers then we’re still in the fight, and I imagine the Argentine carrier is prey.

    “So we could do something else afterwards of course….”

    Dom tell me how long it was from the Turbine arriving in BSN to how long it took to get going? Do you think someone rang the Chinese factory and asked if they could shit out a bespoke Turbine by Saturday?

    But I have to say, it’s amazing that you think conducting one of the largest and most complex ground moves in 1945, in a multinational environment, with a 360 degree threat arc, without any losses whatsoever, fighting all the way, is an example of a broken system.

    “Fighting at such a sedate pace is not a way to win wars, but as I’ve said, the aim isnt to win, simply to stick it out until the Americans get bored (unless you think we’ll stay after they leave?) in the hopes of gaining “influence”.”

    You’re nobody to lecture anyone on what the best way to conduct a war is. You seem to think it’s a business transaction and measure success in “efficiency” and time spent doing things without knowing the full facts yourself.

  331. Phil

    @Observer

    Where did I say I want more? The purpose of the RN was to engage the enemy fleet, either on, over or under the sea and if necessary absorb damage, which on the whole the fleet did.

    I’d love to know where the no loss victory comes from? I never said any such thing. I simply stated that if Argentine a/c could fly over the fleet longer then there is more chance of them getting shot down. I think that a pretty damn logical conclusion.

    I by no means talked of the fleet coming out unscathed.

    Nothing Clancyish about my outlook thanks.

  332. Observer

    Think I’m going to follow Gabby’s lead on this one. Though you might want to take a look in a mirror once in a while Phil. Pot and Kettle you know.

  333. Phil

    Lets look at it logically shall we.

    If the Argentine carrier launched a raid on the British fleet the RN would have the following advantages:

    –More room for ships to manoeuvre.

    –Better arcs for all weapons.

    –No clutter from terrain.

    –Harrier CAP able to stay on station longer, turn around faster and be reinforced much faster.

    The sole Argentine advantage would be

    –More fuel to make more passes

    This sole advantage is not much of an advantage when historically, planes making second passes tend to get shot down. So their only advantage is a very double edged sword. Flying from a carrier isn’t going to make them more accurate than they were from land, and it isn’t going to get over the bombs not arming.

    They also very likely reveal themselves and their location.

    So instead they decide to launch strikes from the land against the more important landing fleet, accepting the dubious advantage of a second or third pass would not be available and thus save their aircraft carrier which would have been put at great risk for little extra advantage.

    At no point did I say there would be NO damage, I said there would be MINIMAL damage which is born out by events. MINIMAL damage is not some wolly civilian risk averse term, it is perfectly acceptable for ships to be sunk and damaged and still suffer minimal damage in military terms if the objectives can still be achieved.

  334. Phil

    And to be frank, that decision to strike from land shows the Argies probably made the best decision and didn’t fight as dumbly or as cowardly as some on here have alluded to in this thread.

  335. Observer

    Tubby, interesting idea, that our branches of service and overall army strategy predisposes us to certain prefered methods of operation. There is certainly a possibility in mine, Armoured Brigade Recce.

    Since I get to do all the fun stuff like call in MLRS fire, 155mm artillery or airstrikes, I see what happens when a target gets “fixed”, which automatically disinclines me to become static.

    Overall strategic picture, any enemy will outnumber us 10 to 1, which means any attritional game will almost surely end in us losing, only hope being to strike as hard and fast as possible and do enough damage to throw the enemy totally off their game (another reason why we didn’t sign the landmine ban or Ottawa convention). Locationwise, we also do not have a defence in depth. Hell, we don’t even have “depth”, our initial starting frontline is the doorstep of our homes, there is a serious need to push any invader back, at least 100km, just out of artillery range, to stop civillian casualties.

    So yes, I’ll probably say you might have something there. Not sure about what predisposes Phil to static defence though.

  336. Phil

    “Not sure about what predisposes Phil to static defence though.”

    I have said that in a high density battlefield there is no scope for manoeuvre over attrition.

    I have not said manoeuvre does not play a role or precludes a mobile defence in depth.

    I personally find it hard to see how one can defend an objective without being static to some degree but there we go.

  337. Observer

    Thanks GJ, that was the one. Bomb hit that carried all the way through I think. Lucky bastards. Or was that the Glasgow, and the Glamorgan the one hit by an Exocet?

  338. Phil

    “Lucky bastards.”

    Nothing lucky about it. Argentines were using unsuitable weapon systems against our ships. They couldn’t drop from medium height as they’d have been far less accurate and far more likely to be shot down, so they dropped from low altitude when the fuzes would simply not arm.

    So a lot of our warships suffered Bruce Willis wounds (ie through and through). Luck was nothing to do with it.

  339. ArmChairCivvy

    That’s the “Ike School of Military Thinking”?
    – ” have said that in a high density battlefield there is no scope for manoeuvre over attrition”

    Cost a year more of fighting and at least 100.000 extra casualties
    – that is not to say it wasn’t clever politics, but that balance should be (have been) found by other means

  340. Phil

    “that is not to say it wasn’t clever politics, but that balance should be (have been) found by other means”

    Perhaps developing teleportation so we could just materialise in Berlin?

    How do you propose to get through a competent and aggressive and still highly mobile enemy falling back on its LoCs and on fortifications other than fighting through them?

    It was entirely logical to try and be strong everywhere so that the Germans remained weak everywhere. Concentrating our forces for an attack simply would allow the Germans to concentrate to engage it making that part of the front a high density battle of attrition. There was no way the Germans would have allowed us to drive on without worrying about our flanks if they still have an operational grouping to throw against it.

    Any fast dash bogs right down in detail. Which is precisely what happened.

    The Germans were simply not defeated in 1944.

  341. Observer

    Phil, so all the bombs never exploded? If some did and some didn’t, I’d say there WAS an element of luck involved.

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone worked out how many men it would take to “high density” a border?

  342. Observer

    Once again, agree to disagree, I wasn’t trying to go round 2 Phil, I was answering Tubby’s question. Maybe you can walk him through your reasoning as to why attrition is better in your eyes? I already mentioned that I might be predisposed to being aggressive due to training and overall situation, maybe you can help him understand how you arrived at your conclusions?

  343. Phil

    “Phil, so all the bombs never exploded? If some did and some didn’t, I’d say there WAS an element of luck involved.”

    No it was simply a technical feature of the bombs arming mechanism and their unsuitability for low level delivery against naval targets (a deliberate function since at low level the a/c could easily be taken out by its own bomb detonation). Sometimes the attack profile allowed the fuses to arm. That’s simply not luck.

  344. Phil

    “Maybe you can walk him through your reasoning as to why attrition is better in your eyes?”

    I never said it was better, I have said that sometimes there is simply no choice in the matter.

    For example, Normandy, the allies had no opportunity to conduct manoeuvre until they had attrited and literally ground down the German defences to a thin crust in one area. Hurtgen Forest, Metz, Scheldt Estuary, Alamein, Casino, Anzio and almost every battle in the First World War on the Western Front. In both World Wars the Eastern and Western Fronts are interesting as there was much more scope for manoeuvre on the Eastern Fronts because of the much lower density.

  345. Observer

    Sigh… never mind, let’s get back to building fantasy brigades. Playing around with the idea of getting micro-UAVs down to the platoon level, but having a bit of trouble deciding if the section leaders need it more than the platoon commander. Will bang up an Orbat soon. Hopefully…zzz…

  346. Mike

    Just to add on to that ‘task force readiness’ a few comments back, the RN shars were still working toward FOC at the time, some considerable input from the RAF’s harrier pilot community was used to boost the RN’s ranks.

    Readiness I dont think we were, I remember 1 (or 2?) para’s kit all being ready to deploy because of an exercise planned, but a fair few ships, aircraf and units had to be made ready further for the operation, either before or whilst on route. It was a good think the breacons’ training area resembled the Islands so well-ish!
    think it was more goodplanning and co-operation (especially with dock workers/refit staff!).

    As with Micro-UAV’s, Observer, arent the US Army pretty interested in those? Quite a few ‘toy’ off-the-shelf things, plus that RC car camera TD had a post about a while back.

  347. wf

    @phil: Martin Middlebrook’s opus from the AR point of view did a fair job of covering the fuze issue. It seems the AR Navy pilots were aware, and both Ardent and Coventry paid the price. Thankfully the air force wasn’t until quite late in the game

  348. DominicJ

    Phil
    “The sole Argentine advantage would be
    –More fuel to make more passes”

    I’d say the ability to attack in numbers
    We barely managed when under attack from 4 aicraft at once. The two forces were considered a big enough threat to send submarines hunting and maintain a “ready to launch” harrier on the coveyor.

  349. Phil

    “It seems the AR Navy pilots were aware, and both Ardent and Coventry paid the price.”

    I believe the Navy had different fuses for its Mk82s namely the M904 I think, a fuse that had a variable arming time and initiation time and was suited to attacking naval vessels at low level. The AF used a different fuse on non-retarded GP bombs.

  350. Observer

    Hmm…

    Banged up a semi-decent Mechanised section orbat. Expensive as hell though.

    3x 10 men squads:
    2x 5 men fireteams
    2x LSW, 2x M-203 with 1.5x scope, 1 Fireteam leader with radio and laser designator.

    1x 8×8 (120 or 105mm main gun)
    2x 8×8 (120mm motar)

    1x Command squad:
    2x UAV pilots with 2x micro-UAVs
    2x Mechanics
    1x Platoon Commander

    1x 8X8 (Command/overwatch variant with SAM and UAV catapult)

    Total: 43 men.

    I’m sure I forgot things, still half asleep.

  351. Observer

    … change the LSW to SAW please, one of my zzz moments. And think you use SUSAT (4x) on the 203s, not 1.5x scope.

  352. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Observer,

    Nice to see that someone else is also talking about catapults right in the battle field:
    “1x 8X8 (Command/overwatch variant with SAM and UAV catapult)”
    – don’t think one can take both (Crotale or the like, like installed on the AMV, is a pretty big piece of kit)?

    RE “1x 8×8 (120 or 105mm main gun)”
    One of anything is never good; did you see my linking to the Poles putting together the AMV and the Belgian 105mmm, which also has a serious AT punch through add-on missiles, not the BMP3 sardine-tin size, but proper; while the gun is also truly multi-purpose, rather than a gun-mortar combo

  353. alan garner

    On brigade ORBAT, would anyone have an objection to merging RE and REME into one battalion size support unit? So your non-combat units could go something like-

    1x support btn- the merged RE/REME units

    1x logistics btn- the everything else battalion, field hospital, kitchen, post office, maybe provost etc….

  354. Observer

    ACC, my bad. On mature consideration, I forgot the motar ammo, so the main gun tank (120mm or 105mm) has to go. In it’s place would be the section ammo carrier. Though it would be possible to replace the gun with some one shot AT rockets.

    The UAV catapult doesn’t need to be big, it’s simplest form is a rail with a bloody big rubber band. Some micro-UAVs can even be hand launched, the rail is just there for convenience and initial launch speed.

    ag, Engineers would be ok as a big group, but the logistics, I’ve no idea how that would work out.

  355. Phil

    @Alan

    Look up 19 Combat Support Battalion, a merging I believe of a number of CSS elements under 19X.

  356. alan garner

    Observer

    I suppose the logistics would be similar to a BCT special troops btn but without it’s signals component, I’d still have a signals squadron.

  357. Gabriele

    “The sole Argentine advantage would be

    –More fuel to make more passes”

    I was thinking of more serious advantages, actually, such as the possibility of attacking the massive number of ships that went down south after the thick of the Task Force (and the carriers and Harriers) had already passed.

    For example, the carrier task group was already in the TEZ on 1st May and bombing the argies in the islands, but the Amphibs arrived only later well into May. 3rd Commando and the vessels carrying the brigade were still in Ascension on 3 May.

    5th brigade set sail from Portsmouth on the Queen Elizabeth only on May 12.

    1st May saw the 25 de Mayo at sea, north of the carrier task group which it did locate and tried to attack.
    The submarine HMS Spartan instead had not found the 25 de Mayo.

    Instead of focusing on the carrier task group, the argies carrier could (and arguably should) have stayed at distance, moving further nort-east and menaced and attacked all the other ships coming from Ascension. In particular, north-west of the carrier group the 25 de Mayo could have found the vulnerable, slow LSL (Galahad, Percivale, Lancelot and the others) escorted by the sole Plymouth and Antrim.

    But on May 2 the Belgrano was sunk and the 25 de Mayo retired instead of trying and assume a position midway between Ascension and the Falklands to hit as many of the ships passing there as possible.

    The following day the rest of the amphibs, with all of 3rd Commando brigade on board, left Ascension to head south with Ardent and Argonaut as escorts.

    The Argies did select the wrong target. To the east of their position they had the best opportunity to inflict a battle winning blow, had they been more courageous and ready to play cat and mouse.

    Basically, the problem for both sides in that case would have become finding each other’s ships before the enemy could do the same. The UK could have used the Nimrods from Ascension, the Argies the embarked Trackers and the famous civilian 707s used to spy movements in the Atlantic.

    End of rant, anyway. The game of the “if” is a way too complex one.

  358. James

    @ Gabriele,

    you are probably correct in a purely military sense. There is lots of sea room from 400 miles north of the FI in which Argentina could have placed her carrier to intercept British Task Force ships sailing south from Ascension and be clear of interference from Harriers to the east of the Falklands. But remember at the time Argentina was still publicly “trying” to get a negotiated peace settlement via the UN. If they had taken out a British ship 1000 miles north of the Falklands in international waters that would have turned the world against them.

  359. Gabriele

    “British ship 1000 miles north of the Falklands in international waters that would have turned the world against them.”

    It is part of why playing the “if” game is so complex.
    But i can’t help but wonder if such an event would have really brought much change in the state of things.
    Argentina as it was hadn’t much in terms of political support. It probably would have had even less… But in terms of firm reactions of the international community, i struggle to see much happening.

    At a technical level, even the Atlantic Conveyor was in international waters when it was sunk, wasn’t it?

    What about their C130 dropping bombs against the British Wye tanker north of South Georgia?

    Again, the General Belgrano was in international waters and still outside the TEZ when it was sunk, right?
    Did cause quite some discussion, long lasting in the years, but that was the end of it.

  360. Phil

    Personally if the Argies had started spilling a poxy little colonial conflict into the deep North Atlantic things would have gone south for them. And frankly if they had managed to take out our entire amphibious force I could easily see NIMRODs getting the keys to the B57s or being hastily cleared for WE177 like they were going to be and dropping them on the Argie carrier once detected.

    Nobody else in the world wanted this thing to spill over outside the immediate area.

  361. Observer

    Phil, that is speculation. Think the international community’s reaction to Falklands was that it was between the UK and Argentina, so even if it did spread into the Atlantic, it’s hard to see the other countries giving a damn. Unless someone else’s ship got sunk of course.

  362. Phil

    Of course its speculation. But it’s thoughtful speculation.

    I cannot see HMG standing by and allowing the RN to be gutted in a turkey shoot in the mid Atlantic. I personally cannot see NATO not getting jumpy as its second largest Navy and key ASW force is effectively neutralised.

    Nuclear weapons release at sea was a whole different kettle of fish (if you’ll excuse the pun) to release on land.

    Would HMG have stood by and allowed the destruction of key strategic national and NATO assets caught in a helpless situation in mid Atlantic when we had the weaponry to annihilate the threat?

    I would guess not.

    It was in nobody’s interest to spill this over and I think the Argies once again made the prudent decision to keep the conflict localised and seek international support.

    You do NOT back a nuclear power into a corner especially when that nuclear power can take a swing with far less consequences than would normally be case involving nuclear release on land against the Soviets.

    All round smart thinking by Argentina.

  363. Observer

    Phil, you underestimate the anti-nuclear movement during that period of time. Use ANY nuke and the world would stand ready to condemn you. The entire Asia was a “Nuclear weapons free zone”, some countries like New Zealand went even further, not even carriers or subs. Even America would have had to condemn the UK if it used nukes then. Hypocritical, but that’s international politics.

    BTW, were you born in the 80s-90s?

  364. James

    @ Phil,

    I can’t see the use of nuclear weapons being seriously considered. Of course, there’s uncertainty, as Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby demonstrate:

  365. Phil

    I have to disagree.

    The nuclear question sometimes pops up over the Falklands but more over Polaris.

    My point is, would we have stood the destruction of our fleet, if it was caught out and was being sunk at a rate of knots?

    A WE177 could have been detonated as a show of force away from the Argentine fleet; that might suffice and would be little more than a weapons test. Our vessels carried them for use by ships flights.

    This is a theoretical thought because I don’t think the Argentines with their 8 plane carrier would ever have been in a position to destroy a national strategic asset with such impunity.

    It is an interesting thought exercise though. And perhaps shows why this conflict was very much best kept local.

    I don’t think we would have suffered the loss of our fleet and if attacks were on-going I can easily see a Sea King or Wessex making such a demonstration. We at all times reserved the right to use our nuclear weapons in the national interest and preserving the Royal Navy would have been a most fundamental national interest and I suspect, both the US and Soviets would have quietly agreed.

  366. Observer

    I can safely say that if the UK had used a nuclear weapon, they would have lost the war right there and then. The international community would see the UK as having lost the moral right to rule the Falklands, and Argentina would have won by default. And it would be “bye bye Conservatives”. I’ve a lot of respect for the Iron Lady, so I’ve my doubts to if she would have done anything that suicidal.

  367. Gabriele

    uhm… Russia and US do not tolerate the Suez adventure, but nod silently at a nuke in the South Atlantic…? A nuke, even demonstrative, used in response to conventional and legitimate acts of war…?
    Does not sound right.

  368. Observer

    Phil, go wiki up “Nuclear Free Zone” and see how many of these were set up in the UK in the 1980s, the time of the Falklands. That should give you an estimate of how antipathic we were to nukes, even as “demonstration weapons”.

  369. Phil

    “even demonstrative, used in response to conventional and legitimate acts of war…?”

    A conventional act that destroys a fundamental national strategic asset.

    As for the nuclear free zones etc it didn’t stop GLCMs being approved for basing in the UK.

    Trying to control the Suez Canal and making a big bang in the middle of an ocean defending against a war of aggression – two very different things indeed.

    The crux of the issue is that it is highly likely nuclear weapons become a card that may be played if fundamental national strategic assets are attacked.

  370. Observer

    Wait, the South Americas were a declared Nuclear Free Zone too, talk about a monumental diplomatic black eye, detonating nuclear weapons in a continental nuclear free zone. No one could even vaguely support the UK after that. It’s almost along the lines of looking for excuses for someone caught practicing incest. Incredibly hard to justify.

  371. Lord Jim

    The problem the Argentinians had with their bombs was they lacked the retard gear to allow low level drops with the plane having time to get clear.

    Any use of a Nuke would have made us public enemy number one. We would have lost the substantial logistic support from the US (Guess where all those invaluable AIM-9L came from? it wasn’t in UK service at the time!)

    Speaking of wacky plans, a group a UK oficers at AFCENT during the Falklands war did a mock plan to cross over the German border and steal one of the new NATO AWACS birds from their base then fly it to the Couth atlantic. All a bit of fun and sort of along the line of the “Escape Committeees” in WWII

  372. Observer

    Phil, even if the national asset was going to be destroyed, no, the price of using nuclear weapons would be far too high. UK would have been sanctioned and the government then brought down in no-confidence votes and civil unrest.

    I don’t question your time in Alfganistan, you don’t question my experiences in the 80s. You simply don’t think like we did then.

  373. Phil

    Well I guess we would have to agree to disagree. The nuclear deterrent was for the defence of vital national interests, the defence of the RN was a vital national interest.

    It’s all academic anyway, like I said, just an interesting thought exercise about what nuclear powers might do when a vital interest is at stake and there is no reasonable conventional defence.

    I think the US political fall out would have been far less than people anticipate.

    Afterall the US was willing to run the political gauntlet in basing GLCM and Pershing II in Europe and in principle fully supported the British use of nuclear weapons in the defence of vital British interests.

    I would bet the farm that in another couple of decades papers will come out to show that there were contingency plans to use the WE177s, especially if the Argentines stood to capture a load of them.

  374. Phil

    “Wait, the South Americas were a declared Nuclear Free Zone too, talk about a monumental diplomatic black eye, detonating nuclear weapons in a continental nuclear free zone.”

    I’m not talking about using them down South. Someone put forward the idea of the Argentine carrier being used to pick off the amphibious force moving south from Ascension. It made me think what could conceivably be done if the Royal Navy was caught with its pants down and faced essential destruction – ie what would happen if a vital interest was going to be destroyed, and nuclear weapons were kept for the defence of vital national interests and the United States officially, privately and publically, supported the British use of such weapons to defend vital national interests.

    The scenario is based on an engagement in international waters around Ascension, nowhere near the nuclear free zone in South America.

    I’m not suggesting for one minute that we’d have used them against the Argentine mainland or moved them anywhere near the nuclear free zone (we did not) but a national interest, caught with its pants down, no other means of defeating the threat, in international waters – easily see a demonstration being made in such extreme circumstances.

    You can guarantee the Argentines thought about our nuclear weapons capability and knew full well that those weapons were effectively useless down South, hence the need to keep the conflict localised.

  375. Observer

    Phil, location had nothing to do with it. Best way I can possibly describe it to you is that there was an undercurrent of “nuclear weapons are the devil’s tools”. So if you used them, what are you? Location? We didn’t care, whoever used them = evil. The UK would have been seen like the Iran of today, evil.

  376. Observer

    And you think the papers are going to say “UK uses nukes close to but not in nuclear free zone?” Hell, the 1st accusation the Argentinians would make would be you VIOLATED the NWFZ. No matter how much you’d say “we exploded it just outside the zone”, no one’s going to believe you.

    I seriously think you drastically underestimate the aversion to nuclear weapons then. Maybe you might want to talk to some of the older folks in their 40s, see what they say.

  377. Phil

    “Best way I can possibly describe it to you is that there was an undercurrent of “nuclear weapons are the devil’s tools””

    That might have been some public opinion but that was not the policy in official circles.

    It’s a matter of public fact that we reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in the defence of vital interests and that the United States unquestioningly and without reservation supported this stance.

    “I seriously think you drastically underestimate the aversion to nuclear weapons then. Maybe you might want to talk to some of the older folks in their 40s, see what they say”

    How about instead of asking laypeople, I read sources that provide me with official minutes, policy papers and conversations amongst the people who made such decision?

    A good place to start is Peter Hennesy.

    And Ascension is nowhere near the nuclear free zone.

    “No matter how much you’d say “we exploded it just outside the zone”, no one’s going to believe you.”

    It doesn’t really matter if vital national interests are at stake. Of course they’d cry foul. And you can be that the decision to use them would be communicated to them before it was done, a secret ultimatum effectively. And you can bet the US would apply great pressure on Argentina to withdraw its naval forces from the Atlantic and bring them closer to home because the United States would have supported the use of nuclear weapons in the circumstances where our vital interests were in danger of being effectively anniahlated.

    And as I said, it’s simply a thought exercise since 8 planes, baring some miracle, isn’t a particularly potent force to apply that sort of pressure.

    We could equally ask whether the Russians would use their nuclear weapons if Dom gets in charge of the UK and invades Murmansk. Or would the Chinese use them if a naval blockade began to undermine the country in a fundamental way.

  378. All Politicians are the same

    My understanding is that the Strategic Nuclear Detterent is the final guarantor of UK sovereignty and would only be used as such.

  379. Jed

    Can someone please tell me what spouting bollocks about the sinking of Coventry and nuking south america has to do with MULTI-ROLE BRIGADES ???

    TD would you think it appropriate to move everything since Dom showed up at 010842Z to an “open thread” ?

  380. wf

    I’m with Phil on this one. Nukes are a tool to be used if necessary, and in extremis. However, I cannot see how we could reasonably use a WE177 or mk57 depth charge where a Buccaneer with Martel (assuming an Ascension island area operation circa 1982) would probably do a better job. If we were going to use them, it would have to be on the Argentine mainland, on air and naval bases: no other target would have the effect required. And yes, the consequences of such would be serious. On the other hand, no one would threaten the UK for 50 years afterwards, and given how the professional hand wringers usually behave towards the worst offenders today, a consistent “don’t attack us, the consequences can be unpredictable” would ensure acceptance soon enough

  381. x

    @ Jed

    I am waiting to see if WE177 is more effective than the 5.56mm.

    Does the blog run to Zulu time or Alpha time?

  382. Phil

    “Can someone please tell me what spouting bollocks about the sinking of Coventry and nuking south america has to do with MULTI-ROLE BRIGADES ??”

    What’s bollocks about a little thought exercise? TD usually moves things when it suits him so how about you just pick up your train set and read around it until it gets moved? And nobody suggested nuking Argentina.

    Threads go off topic sometimes, it’s not big deal is it.

    “My understanding is that the Strategic Nuclear Detterent is the final guarantor of UK sovereignty and would only be used as such.”

    The RN was and is an integral part of our national sovereignty.

  383. All Politicians are the same

    @Phil, yes but it was 7,000 miles away from the UK, the detterent at that points becomes a means of saying, even without a Navy we can still defend the UK as a means of last resort.

  384. wf

    @phil: I would sort of part company with you on the “RN was and is an integral part of our national sovereignty”. It’s part of our armed forces, and as such is used to *protect* our national sovereignty. There’s precious little point in nuking all and sundry to say “leave our sailors alone, you horrible boy”. If we have to resort to such extreme measures to protect our citizens and territory, so be it

  385. Phil

    But the Navy was also a means of defending other vital interests. And the deterrence is more of a take you with me system than a useful physical defensive measure.

    Also, tactical nuclear weapons were not always thought of in the same manner as the strategic ones, although it was and is a fierce and polarised debate with the Russians simply seeing them as a useful weapon but understanding that over land their use would bring about consequences.

    I imagine it has to do with radiation. It is a “dread” risk, and used in the oceans this isn’t such a big problem. Or was not perceived to be.

  386. James

    Leaving aside all thoughts of nukes, I’m adding to my mental list a third strategic mistake Argentina made in 1982.

    1. Never put enough forces on the islands. They wouldn’t make that mistake again, as for every man they put on, we need to take 3 men to kick them off, and rapidly we run out of ships / sailors / troops.

    2. Never extended the runway at Stanley to accommodate fast jets. A single cargo ship with civvy plant and loads of tarmac and aggregates would have sufficed. Of course, now we’ve built MPA, not such a consideration. But in 1982, if they’d had half of their Squadrons based in Stanley rather than flying at the limits of range, the result could have been different.

    3. Did not capitalise on a huge risk the UK took on putting a 4,000 mile gap in between the carriers and the amphibious forces (for a few weeks anyway). Easy work to plot a maximum reach for SHAR from 50 miles east of the islands, and a maximum reach from Ascension. There’s probably 2,000 miles of open sea where we had zero air cover against FJ, and not many answers to an Argentinian carrier with 8 A4s embarked. Possible counters would have been to sail a route close to Africa, but that added to the time it took to get there.

  387. Phil

    “and not many answers to an Argentinian carrier with 8 A4s embarked. Possible counters would have been to sail a route close to Africa, but that added to the time it took to get there.”

    Precisely why I mentioned nuclear weapons. And after having thought about it I can imagine that the message would go out that we were in a prickly situation and that Argentina would do best to keep the conflict localised lest we get put in a corner.

    They made some good decisions (and some bad), and I imagine that the diplomatic word in the ear would have made them think twice about extending the conflict to that far outside the area.

    It seems it was in no-ones interest to see the conflict spill over. Not the international communities, not Britain’s and certainly not Argentina’s.

  388. wf

    @james: I might take issue with 1. AR had issues supplying the troops they did have, let alone even more. The FI were and are a very austere environment, and even assuming non-stop mutton munching, more troops might not have helped, rather hindered. Greater tactical mobility via tracked vehicles and helicopters and option 2 would have made a UK landing much harder of course :-)

  389. James

    @ wf,

    I agree, but my remark was more in the context of them learning lessons, not what they could (or could not) do in 1982. A civvy cargo ship with containers of supplies is not too hard to organise, and one day’s sail from the mainland, and one day of unloading. You can feed a Division for 2 months from 50 ISOs (a loggie once told me). Add in ISOs for ammo, spares, tentage, fuel (not sure fuel goes in ISOs, but you take the point), and you’ve still got change from a mid-size 500 ISO carrying cargo ship. Add in the ARA amphibs carrying plant, MHE and basic jeep-type transport, the cargo ship with tarmac and aggregates and you’ve got a 3-ship convoy making a 24-hour run to the Falklands from Argentina, and a 24 hour unload at Port Mare or Stanley. I think Argentina can manage that. OPSEC on assembling and loading the ships would be important.

  390. James

    @ Phil,

    I’m assuming that the amphib group sailing from Ascension was also escorted by subs, otherwise the risk was bigger than I thought.

  391. Gabriele

    “strategic mistake Argentina made in 1982.”

    Biggest one is easily identified. Waiting a few months more they would have had:

    – 14 Super Etendards, and carrier-qualified crews and a big stock of Exocets (instead of 5, none and 5)

    – The Uk would have had no carriers.

    Second worse error was no doubt not lenghtening the runway on the islands.

  392. Think Defence

    Sorry Chaps, been out and about

    I do love a spot of subject creep, always fascinates me how one subject morphs into another and as you will note, I am as guilty as the next man.

    Going nuclear in 1982, a fascinating subject but I have to say I don’t find it completely unfeasible. National strategic means in response to a national strategic humiliation with thousands of dead service personnel and loyal British subjects (I understand the legal position of the Islanders but it would be irrelevant) being evicted.

    What the fuck has Tom Clancy got to do with whether the Argentine Navy were right or wrong to stay in port? Personally I do not think it had anything to do with a lack of courage as implied but a common sense decision to apply ones resources to the best effect. Having Skyhawks sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic was the likely outcome of them staying at sea so transferring them to land bases was a sensible decision, nothing I would say, to do with the size of their bag. Being closer would have enabled them to perhaps carry some defensive armament and a greater fuel load for manoeuvre but then they would have suffered other penalties as Phil pointed out, lets not forget pretty much the vast majority of air to air losses of Argentine forces were a result of them being shot in the back whilst defenceless after dropping their bombs.

    Some cracking ideas on this thread I have to say but shall we get back to three letter acronynms?

    I note Paul still hasn’t fessed up to how he found the red trouser blog

    By the way, this blog operates neither on Zulu or Alpha, it operates in the ‘when I am online’ time zone!!!

    Oh, and whilst I am at it, humble pie for missing of 21 Eng Reg from my list but although it might look like we have 5, one for each MRB, the reality is they are not currently homogeneous with different squadrons and troops within squadrons having different kit. The fact remains that we would be spreading our engineer jam very thinly

  393. Gabriele

    “they are not currently homogeneous with different squadrons and troops within squadrons having different kit. The fact remains that we would be spreading our engineer jam very thinly”

    That is also due to some squadrons going Talisman and other Afghan needs at work.
    With Terrier arriving and Spartan to be replaced change is going to happen anyway and a restructuring is potentially a very good thing.

    28 and 36 General Support regiments are both expected to stay at divisional level, too.

    I don’t see why the restructuring can’t work. We should at least wait and see how the 5 regiments are reorganized, before judging.

  394. Think Defence

    Its due to them supporting different brigades and am pretty sure Talisman is supported by a Fd Sp Sqn but as you say, who knows what will actually happen.

  395. Chris.B.

    8 Skyhawks. Against the entire UK Task Force. In the open ocean. Making repeated passes.

    And people are calling Phil “Tom Clancyesque”.

    Unbelievable. I need a tea and a biscuit.

  396. wf

    @Chris.B. I think Phil was talking about unescorted amphibs, so the 8 Skyhawks can make all the passes they want. Suggest you have a beer instead, it’s a bit late for tea unless on stag :-)

  397. Phil

    “I think Phil was talking about unescorted amphibs, so the 8 Skyhawks can make all the passes they want.”

    I wasn’t really talking about any particular ships, I was just interested in what might have happened had the Argentines effectively ambushed us and taken out most of the more important vessels in the Navy and sunk the troopships. I don’t think 8 Skyhawks was anywhere near enough to make a big difference unless they sank one of the big cruise ships.

    And if that happened and the 8 A4Qs got lucky and 2,000 soldiers drowned I honestly think they’d have been like the dog that caught a bus and would have thoroughly shit themselves.

  398. Gabriele

    “Its due to them supporting different brigades and am pretty sure Talisman is supported by a Fd Sp Sqn but as you say, who knows what will actually happen.”

    15 Sqn, but for sure at least 8 Armoured Engineer Squadron re-roled on Talisman prior to a deployment and i suspect other Sqns also did.

    By the way, one would hope that the Talisman is preserved post-Afghanistan, possibly in a Sqn of 36 RE regiment. Any whispers about that?

  399. Chris.B.

    Can’t remember what thread the subject of taking out Taliban leaders came up on, so I’ll just drop it here where most people can find it;

  400. DominicJ

    “looking for lots more bite in smaller groups.”

    But without artillery, logistics, medical, signals, engineers or anything else.

    It amazes me how people billed as the best thinkers in the armed forces can possibly have learnt so little.

    Lessons from Libya, AAR, ISTAR ect are at least as important as strike assets
    New plan, scrap all the enablers.

    Madness

  401. Phil

    Some of it sounds like pie in the sky to be honest and won’t get past the bean counters (more dispersed stationing) or is not the role of the Army (used for resilience as a matter of routine) and some of it sounds a bit odd.

    Smaller brigades, but with 5 manoeuvre units and less CS and CSS? That makes sense only if he is comparing to TFH which is indeed more of a division than a brigade. But it doesn’t add up if you are comparing them to the proposed Brigade Groups.

    And I sense a lot of tension here over how he wants to use the Army (insurance, punitive) and how the political masters will probably use it (enduring, stabilisation, peace keeping).

  402. Phil

    “It amazes me how people billed as the best thinkers in the armed forces can possibly have learnt so little.”

    Of he goes again. Professional with 25 years of service yet he’s learnt nothing and the Keyboard Kommando knows better.

    If you read it properly you see that he envisages the Army operating at Divisional level with the CS/CSS at Divisional level and presumably parcelled out. He essentially envisages a divisional grouping fighting with less tail heavy brigades with CS/CSS delivered by division.

  403. Think Defence

    The use of the Army for resilience is an interesting subject because prior to this government and the SDSR I would have agreed that they are the last resort, as per the Civil Continengies Act and supporting guidance but if you look at the SDSR and noise before, it made a big play for a greater resilience role for the armed forces in general. Now reality may have dawned and that committment swept under the carpet but you never know.

    Although I see the dangers in cutting the enablers, just like as in the post I mentioned Front Line First did, it is worth considering. There may be an element of cap badge preservation going on but in general, I think Nick Carter is absoltely spot on and echoes a lot of what I wrote in the future of series some time ago.

    Great minds must think alike :)

  404. Observer

    Phil got you there Dom. You did jump the gun there. Off a cliff…

    In a way, it’s a 50/50 split, brigade combat teams like the new structure has been proposing, while retaining the support elements in the divison, similar to our “concentration of assets” discussion that we had.

  405. ArmChairCivvy

    ” essentially envisages a divisional grouping fighting with less tail heavy brigades with CS/CSS delivered by division”
    – I think with that Phil captures it well
    – Carter also emphasised investment in battle field networking, to enable the smaller groups with more bite operate as a cohesive whole
    – I penned down my view how such a group could look like, when we were on the Army 04 thread [ ArmChairCivvy says:
    August 23, 2011 at 9:09 pm] at about 40% of the planned MRB strength, with only artillery and CE permanently assigned from the divisional CS/CSS pool. So if the latter makes up to 20% of the overall numbers, then you CAN double the number of manoeuvre units

  406. DominicJ

    “But which capbadges will go? It is too early to say, but the Carter vision puts the ‘teeth’ arms – the infantry and the cavalry– firmly centre-stage. One of Napoleon’s generals said of the British infantry that they were the most dangerous in the world, ‘but fortunately there aren’t many of them’. Carter is determined to keep them at the expense of ‘enablers’ and support units, accepting that contractors might have to be an option if a deployment runs on.”

    That sounds a lot like keep tanks scrap diggers.
    But I could be wrong.
    I could somehow of misinterpreted a clear as day paragraph…..
    Perhaps he really does mean that the currently understrength support arms will be preserved and the overstrength (relative) teerth arms will be cut, but thats not what the linked article says.

    “He essentially envisages a divisional grouping fighting with less tail heavy brigades with CS/CSS delivered by division.”

    So why does it say “The Carter vision puts the ‘teeth’ arms – the infantry and the cavalry– firmly centre-stage. Carter is determined to keep them at the expense of ‘enablers’ and support units”

    Seems perfectly clear to me.
    What exactly am I failing to read properly?

    Observer
    “In a way, it’s a 50/50 split, brigade combat teams like the new structure has been proposing, while retaining the support elements in the divison, similar to our “concentration of assets” discussion that we had.”
    No, its not.
    Carters suggestion is that the 20,000 posts that will go to reduce the army from 100,000 men to 80,000 men come from every service except the infantry and armour.

    Its Capbadge warfare.
    Doesnt matter how many armoured divisons you’ve got, if they cant leave their base, they might as well not exist.

  407. wf

    I think Dom had a point. Where certain CS&S assets are best held is a valid debate, but every level should have it’s own, under it’s own command and co-located: battalion, brigade, division. To put things in perpective, looking at it from an REME perpective, there should be a LAD at the battalion, a Close Support unit at the brigade, and a Force Support at the Division. Centralising support units is usually a good excuse to reduce their number, so that when all the brigades deploy, it’s suddenly clear that there’s not enough support to do so.

    There’s precious little worth in fielding 8 brigades, of which only 4 can deploy at any one time, but we seem to think this is a good idea: better to have 6 that can all deploy, with another 2 in the TA.

  408. Phil

    Resilience:

    Trouble with this is there are some very sensitive political and social issues with using the armed forces as anything more than a uniformed labour force.

    The Government seems committed post London Riots to maintain the Peel Model of policing in this country so I cannot see the Army being considered for public order on the mainland except in the most gravest of circumstances. And the other trouble with giving it a greater resilience role is that civilian practitioners with no idea how the military work will get lazy in their planning and expect the armed forces to get them out of holes like happened with Foot and Mouth and like happened in 2007 with the flooding. It is a slippery slope.

    However, the Army has re-affirmed that it maintains no standing forces for MACP beyond specialist roles like EOD. The 2007 floods showed the CCRFs were a useless waste of time and money. I think the balance will continue whereby the Army etc liaise with Cat 1 responders and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat but remains at arms length from the whole process at the same time. Otherwise every local authority will start expecting tented cities and Army catering and sanitation and uniformed labour gangs and not bother providing them for themselves which goes against the grain of the whole Concept of Ops.

    I think Carter envisages the TA providing more CS/CSS support, presumably the higher threshold for Army deployment means these units can be mobilised in time.

  409. Phil

    “trained to a common doctrine and able to combine in a more ad hoc fashion, with the ‘synergy’ created at divisional level and above”

    You didn’t read that properly Dom.

  410. Observer

    “British infantry that they were the most dangerous in the world, ‘but fortunately there aren’t many of them’. Carter is determined to keep them at the expense of ‘enablers’ and support units, accepting that contractors might have to be an option if a deployment runs on.”

    -That sounds a lot like keep tanks scrap diggers.
    But I could be wrong.
    I could somehow of misinterpreted a clear as day paragraph…..-

    Yes you did. It was scrap tanks, keep diggers….

    I’ve no idea how you did it too…

    wf, Dom might have had a point, but he was a bit too quick on the insults. The other guy had a workable idea too, and that was nothing to be insulting about.

  411. DominicJ

    Phil
    Ten engineers are ten engineers.

    So the REME are going to form synergystic alliances allowing them to do tomorrow with ten men what they did yesterday with 100.
    Yeah, I can see that working….

    “Carters suggestion is that the 20,000 posts that will go to reduce the army from 100,000 men to 80,000 men come from every service except the infantry and armour.”
    Simple question.
    Is the above right or wrong?

  412. Observer

    So the REME are going to form synergystic alliances allowing them to do tomorrow with eighty men what they did yesterday with 100.

    -Fixed.

  413. Phil

    Carter’s model won’t happen. Simple as that. It is entirely at odds with how the political masters want to use the armed forces. If it does happen, it will immediately be skewed by events. IMHO.

    “So the REME are going to form synergystic alliances allowing them to do tomorrow with ten men what they did yesterday with 100.
    Yeah, I can see that working…”

    I don’t think you understand. He seems to want to make the CS/CSS centre of gravity at divisional rather than brigade level. There is nothing new about this and it is a very sound concept, the Soviet Army followed this concept although at higher levels than division. It allows resources to be focused where needed.

    If he does not envisage brigades operating independently then there is no need to give them such a large slice of CS/CSS.

    And as I said, he seems to again envisage the TA providing a good deal of the CS/CSS units since it is better at generating these force elements than infantry or armour.

    So in short, CS/CSS cut from regular, generated in TA and grouped at divisional level which allocates resources to the brigades. It is far from a revolutionary or risky model. It represents sound thinking.

    And I agree with it to a large degree.

    The trouble is, it’s not how HMG thinks.

  414. Observer

    Agreed Phil, in fact, it is just another repetition of what the whole lot of us were talking about earlier, the concentration of CE assets.

  415. Phil

    It’s essentially the BAOR model from the late 80s where a brigade had its manoeuvre units and a signals squadron and that was it.

    Everything else was allocated from division either ad-hoc in response to the situation or on a semi-permanent basis for an operation or phase of battle.

    Then afterwards, with the emphasis on brigades operating independently they had to be beefed up with CS/CSS and they became allocated more permanently since it was better for the manner in which they were employed.

    Now he wants to turn full circle again. Brilliant thinking if the Army is used as it should be. A poor organisation if it is not, since history will simply repeat itself.

  416. jedibeeftrix

    @ Phil – “Carter’s model won’t happen. Simple as that. It is entirely at odds with how the political masters want to use the armed forces. Brilliant thinking if the Army is used as it should be.”

    How do you see HMG [wanting] to use the Forces?
    How do you see that the Forces [should] be used?

  417. DominicJ

    Phil
    “I don’t think you understand. He seems to want to make the CS/CSS centre of gravity at divisional rather than brigade level. There is nothing new about this and it is a very sound concept, the Soviet Army followed this concept although at higher levels than division. It allows resources to be focused where needed.”

    But the REASON he wants to do this, is to disguise massive cuts to those services.
    If you need ten thousand engineers you need ten thousand engineers.
    No reorganistation is going to mean 3,000 can do the same job, unless there is a catastrophic amount of waste at the moment.

    Combining 6 brigade medical teams into a single divisional medical team doesnt mean less of your soldiers are going to get shot. Whatever way you slice it, the same number of your men will get shot regardless of which way your medical resources are organised.
    Now, there *IS* an arguement that a single big hospital can get by with fewer doctors, but its far far far from proven, and much of the evidence points the other way, that beyond a certain point, efficency savings are overtaken by organisational costs.

  418. Observer

    Unfortunately, there are not many situations in the world that would warrant a Divisional size intrusion. Most stuff on the boards now are simply peacekeeping and COIN, and a division is way too big for that, so my guess is that history WILL repeat. Unless Iran gets really proddy, which I have reason to doubt.

  419. Think Defence

    Just because yo uhave a divisional HQ, divisional combat units and divisional support does not mean you have to deploy as a division. The centralised model would still allow, as we always have done, to allocate resources to the need. We would not have an engineer division, but lots of regiments with lots of squadrons with lots of troops etc.

    It makes perfect sense to me and allows you to streamline some of the peacetime admin overhead.

    As for if you need 3,000 engineers etc, then Dom has a point but the trust of the argument is that you have 1000 engineers plus contractors plus 4000 TA to make up the difference when on ops. This being cheaper than maintaining 3,000 regulars. If that combination can work and is cheaper then its worth looking at seriously.

    Don’t forget, the traditional army, division, brigade, regiment… heirachy is donkeys years old and stems from a time before instant communications

    Maybe we need to look at how we organise our forces as well

  420. Observer

    Dom, calm down and rethink it through. I see the validity in that approach, Phil sees the vaildity in that approach (and the world is going to end tomorrow), might it behoove you to consider that you might have misunderstood or overestimated the problem? He’s not talking about a new system, he’s avocating an old system that has worked before.

  421. Phil

    Dom you still don’t get it. He seems to want to cut regular CS and CSS and use TA units. That does not represent a cut. And you have no idea what the background thinking is because you haven’t spoken to him. Concentrating them at divisional level is no new stance and reflects how he wants to see the Army employed. Yet your better than anyone crystal ball is telling you it’s just to hide cuts. I dont know how the Army manages without your half thought through, high self worth input.

    How do I see HMG using the Army. I see it being used for stabilisation and persistent operations.

  422. DominicJ

    Phil
    I get your point.
    There should be a central pot of bridging engineers.
    These should be assigned to the particular armoured brigiade thats going to fight its way across a river/canal.

    I agree.

    However, thats not Carters arguement.
    His is that we need less bridges because of the central pot.

    And thats fine, to a point.

    But what happens when 6 Brigades reach the river, and you only have three bridge laying detachments?

    What happens when the 7th Shock Army makes a run for your 6 Infantry Brigades, and theres only two field works teams in the army to dig them in?
    Well, 4 get ran over and slaughtered.

    Its scrapping the surface fleet to pay for nellie and dumbo, or scrapping MPA/AAR/ISTAR to pay for whatever a perjorative term for Typhoon is, but painted green

  423. Observer

    TD true, but the reason for the shift of assets down to the brigade was because brigades are easier shifted around as more or less self contained entities. Full circle, as Phil mentioned.

    Our current system really isn’t donkey years old, our last global strategic re-org was just done 60 years back, when that dang newfangled thingys called the machine gun and tanks were used. Don’t think they’ll catch on. ;P

  424. Observer

    Dom, if you want to play “imaginary armies”, it’s so much more fun imagining an alien invasion. :)

  425. Tubby

    Out of interest in a up build up to conventional war (I’m thinking a land/air war fought between professional forces with no element of COIN) what is easier to regenerate or ramp up via recruitment CS/CSS or armour and infantry? If it’s easier to regenerate/ramp up CS/CSS then Carter has the right idea, keep those parts that are hard to regenerate fully funded at the expense of the enablers. I work in a university, and the general rule is that disproportionately (in relation to the number employed) it’s the support staff who get cut over academic staff (but it’s the academic staff redundancies that may the press) – when you think about this its logical as you can only deliver your core mission as a university with academics and it’s easier to regenerate support staff than academic staff.

  426. DominicJ

    Phil
    “He seems to want to cut regular CS and CSS and use TA units”
    But how?

    I just dont see how the TA is ever going to provide anything but casualty replacement or “Weird Stuff” and I’ve seen no force successfully prove otherwise in the real world.

    Lets face it, a first action in war is pretty much going to be knocking out communications to immobilise the enemy (its certainly what we do).
    A Brigade with organic engineering assets can dig itself out.
    A Brigade with Divisional Engineering Assets has to wait to be dug out.
    A Brigade with TA Engineering Assets has to wait for someone like me (seriously I’m near a TA engineering depot) to find out he’s been called up, make my way to muster, wait to be transported the 800 miles to the war zone, be transported, wait for kit to arrive, and then dig out the Brigade, which is hopefully still in a position to fight a war that hasnt already ended.

  427. Think Defence

    Some, but not all, CS/CSS skills exist in civvy street

    How many tank gunners do Tesco employ?

    Generally speaking, I would imagine it is easier to regenerate support than it is combat elements with a few big caveats

    Infantry and Armour can be trained in short time i.e. a general call up, but then this is never likely to happen because that is not the world we live in and we don’t want low skill/experience in our fighting arms, we want practiced efficiency. The old thick infantry squaddy is long gone because of the ocmplexity of modern operations and equipment.

    Not all support functions can be found in the civilian sector.

    So, the answer seems to be about shades of grey

  428. Observer

    Tubby, Engineering units are harder to train up, but conversely, they very rarely get shot up, whereas Armour/Infantry is “relatively” easier to train, but their loss rate is very often dispropartionate to support staff as they would be trying their hardest to keep a breakthrough from reaching the back lines. So not only the replenishment time needs to be taken into consideration, but also the loss rate.

    “A Brigade with organic engineering assets can dig itself out.”

    How the hell did a brigade bury itself 6 feet under? Dom, you playing with the bulldozer again? :P Engineering assets are not for exhuming units, they are mostly for clearing minefields, fording bridges and building obstacles with some demolitions on the side.

  429. Phil

    Dom that is the plan as he would like to see come to pass. There is more institutional confidence that TA can generate CSS and CS over combat arms. TA RLC and medical units are the only ones deployed as formed units on operations. They would be mobilised as part of the force generation of the division which in Carters model would be a very rare event since he sees the Army as a deterrent and insurance policy. Not a stabilisation force.

  430. Think Defence

    Phil, I think 131 Cdo Sq RE also deployed as a formed unit and didnt some of the HAC but in general you are right, TA as a rule, do not deploy as formed units and unless we have a hybrid model where the TA has a much greater percentage of regulars then I dont see that changing

  431. DominicJ

    Observer
    “How the hell did a brigade bury itself 6 feet under? Dom, you playing with the bulldozer again? :P Engineering assets are not for exhuming units, they are mostly for clearing minefields, fording bridges and building obstacles with some demolitions on the side.”
    Come on, I clearly wasnt being literal….
    If the “red” side blows the bridges between your teeth formation and the combat zone, theres not a lot your teeth can do until the bridges are back up.
    If your teeth have organic bridging, ace, they can head off straight away, if they dont, they have to wait for someone to come and get them.
    If that someone is a TA bloke from Cumbria, and “the war” starts on a saturday night, it might be late sunday morning before he even knows he’s needed.
    So off he drives, still hungover, for an 800 mile trek to where his bridge layer is.

    Does this sound sensible?

    TD
    “The old thick infantry squaddy is long gone because of the ocmplexity of modern operations and equipment.”
    I fully accept, a Javelin is a complicated piece of kit. I dont accept that clearing a mine field in a Challenger Based Combat Engineering Vehicle is much simpler.

  432. Phil

    You might see things clearer if you didn’t think of everything through your odd examples.

    The TA were an integral part of BAOR in the late Cold War. And Carter wants to see more TA CS/CSS units generated. This is nothing new. All the odd stories you say have been thought through decades ago and ever since.

    Nobody envisages a division being fired from our borders at such short notice the TA can’t send a letter. CS and CSS take less time to generate which is part of their appeal.

  433. Phil

    And it’s you that’s become fixated on engineers. Perhaps less reliance will be spent on TA engineers although they certainly had a big Cold War role.

  434. Observer

    Dom, do your CEVs normally deploy alongside Combat units? Hope not. Attrition of CEVs in your army would be horrendous. CEVs are deployed at HQ discretion, regardless of if your HQ is a Div HQ or BDE HQ, same effect either way.

    And I think you misunderstand deployment systems. The TA isn’t going to start out from Britain when they find out they are needed, they are going to be deployed as a unit IN THEATRE too.

    Or maybe you don’t want to get it, after all, if you did, then you won’t have any reason to government bash any more. In fact, I suspect that your “objections” to the plan does not stem from problems with the plan itself, but with the “person” from where it stems from.

    If you want to play politics, do it during elections, not here. But remember, there is a reason why “Politics” is such a dirty word nowadays. Are you cleaning up the dirt? Or adding to the smear campaign?

  435. DominicJ

    “Nobody envisages a division being fired from our borders at such short notice the TA can’t send a letter.”

    Well thats good then, I was just worried the other side might not give us sufficient notice that they intend to mount a surprise invasion.

  436. DominicJ

    Observer
    “And I think you misunderstand deployment systems. The TA isn’t going to start out from Britain when they find out they are needed, they are going to be deployed as a unit IN THEATRE too.”

    Ok, I could be wildly wrong here, but I didnt think there were any TA units based overseas?
    I thought that was the point?

    “Or maybe you don’t want to get it, after all, if you did, then you won’t have any reason to government bash any more.”
    I’m a member of the currently ruling party, and am standing for election for the third time in May…
    But think the SDSR was shit

    “I suspect that your “objections” to the plan does not stem from problems with the plan itself, but with the “person” from where it stems from.”
    Nope, no personal, proffessional or other type of grudge against Carter.

    “Are you cleaning up the dirt? Or adding to the smear campaign?”
    I throw the truth, liberaly, and without shame.
    Claim 250k in allowances and expenses, and you can bet your arse I’ll let every deprived area know.

    I’m afraid its just I disagree.
    I disagree the UK should concentrate on a “Big Army” and I find it incredible that a “Big Army” should be without the support arms it needs to operate outside our borders.

  437. Phil

    Dom. Really. I know you must get the idea that TA gets mobilised, the whole package is generated and then deployed. Why are you splitting hairs and making such obtuse arguments?

  438. DominicJ

    “No such thing as a “suprise invasion” any more.”

    Really?
    Since when?
    Georgia was very much surprised when a Russian army poured through the Roki Tunnel
    Hamas was entirely caught of guard when the Israelies launched a massive bombing campaign and Hezbollah certainly wasnt expecting a full scale war over its snatch operations.

    The Iraq / Kuwait war was over before Kuwait even had time to issue ammunition.

  439. Observer

    Seriously Dom, I really agree with Phil on this one, your arguments smack of convolution.

    Question is, why? What motivates you to make arguments that cause logic to stand upside down, twist it’s arms behind it’s back and touch it’s nose?

  440. Phil

    There was warning of some sort before all those events. It entirely depends on how hard you’re listening and choose to believe.

    Anyway, you’re the most vocal voice usually when it comes to no tanks driving over the White Cliffs of Dover.

    You’d make a good local politician. No consistency.

  441. Phil

    There was warning of some sort before all those events. It entirely depends on how hard you’re listening and choose to believe.

    Anyway, you’re the most vocal voice usually when it comes to no tanks driving over the White Cliffs of Dover.

    You’d make a good local politician. No consistency.

  442. wf

    @TD, @Phil: something to consider when centralising CS&S at divisional level, and manning it with TA.

    Carter (correctly IMHO) believes we need to be prepared to do warfighting first, and COIN second, on the basis that the first could arrive at short notice. What effect will the manning of our CS&S TA have on our whizzy regular teeth unit’s readiness?

    This silly idea is not new, John Hackett led the review that did just this in the 60’s.

  443. paul g

    ok, some general observations from moi,
    options for change in the 90’s the optronics section that i was in at an armd wksp (supporting 2 bdes) went from 22 on strength to 10, we were evaluated by some blokes and obviously didn’t sell it well enough!
    Couple of mates went on a reunion to the workshop last year and the optronics hanger had a load of box body repair shops ( general purpose thermal imaging repair facility, GPTIRF. and diagostics, GPTRDF) both expensive bits of kit and a 3 month specialist course, sitting on the floor not on trucks with a sign saying they belonged to REME TA wksp. I remember back in the 80’s the REME were keen on the reserves, which i believe had a name change to TA specialists. These guys would a 2 week camp and a much lower attendance rate than normal TA for a bounty, HQ was bordon. It was set up so that people with the skills and experience who had left the forces could be kept “current” if the balloon went up. In fact i now remember one of my old WO1’s used to come to the aldershot wksp for 2 weeks to repair clansman as a TA sgt, great for him as he lived 10 mins away.

    BTW the trouser link was from arrse, a “are they really on the same planet as us” type thread

  444. Observer

    Dom, when nations go to war, relations must deteriorate to a point where going to war makes sense. Would France invade Britain one fine sunny morning? Or the US? Why not? Because relations have not gone down the crapper to that extent yet.

    Georgia is a civil war, more or less, not an invasion, Hamas is not a country. The only possible valid example in your list is Kuwait, and the “pending war” flag was up for a long time already when Iraq started accusing it of slant drilling. It wasn’t that there were no warning signs, but that the warning signs were ignored. Which is unfortunately the case in most invasions.

  445. wf

    @Observer: that would seem to prove @DominicJ’s point for him. With hindsight, the signs are always there, but they are rarely seen in advance, which is exactly the point of having armed forces with a reasonable level of readiness. I can imagine tomorrow a brigade of Argentines sitting on MPA, and a year later all sorts of “pundits” declaring it was all “obvious”.

    With regard to Georgia, neither the UN nor any country other than the likes of Nicaragua recognise the independence of South Ossetia or Abkhazia, which says it’s not much of a civil war :-)

  446. Chris.B.

    @ DomJ

    “Hezbollah certainly wasnt expecting a full scale war over its snatch operations?”

    Actually they were. It was very much a part of their planning.

  447. Phil

    There’s no indication that he envisages ALL CSS to be generated by the reserves.

    And there’s no excuse for a lack of foresight. There’s no reason why warning signs should be dismissed.

  448. wf

    Phil: but I’ll bet he wants the majority of CSS found by the reserves. Hence, the readiness of a large part of the active force drops to that of the reserve component. If that is the case, why have such a large active component?