UK defence issues and the odd container or two

The End of a Maritime Strategy?

Thought I would bounce this one out with a provocative title

 The End of a Maritime Strategy?

Does this mean all talk of a maritime decade and the end of protracted land wars is somewhat premature?

Does anyone else think those in green will be seeing a opportunity?

Does anyone else think those in blue are having a depressing week?

They are questions by the way…

 

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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!

354 Comments

  1. Sir_Humphrey

    Depends on whether a war which will last decades requires more than small training teams or SF support? Hard to see a requirement for sustained UK commitment to the region beyond this, and hard to spot the desire for it either.

  2. paul g

    or those drones/airships are gonna get some more funding, eyes in the skies don’t tend to come home in a box. Sounds harsh i know, and i’ve seen it first hand, sadly in the politicans eyes it’s not a soul lost it’s a vote. That’s why i can see a bit of SF and mainly the above

  3. mickp

    We will surely not make the same mistakes again, it will not be thousands of ground troops – SF, with larger contingents only in raiding and assault type roles, drones, missile / air strikes and some degree of training and support for appropriate regimes (with no scope creep), if we can find any.

    So, on the contrary I would say, expeditionary maritime capability should be at the core of that sort of operation

  4. jed

    Rhetorical question ? Are we supposed to have a maritime strategy then ?

    Haven’t the French been engaged in brush wars in Africa for over 50 years, without anything like the cost in blood and treasure we have incurred in the last 10 ?

  5. martin

    Have to agree with Jed 19 surface combatants and 7 SSN’s hardly sounds like a maritime strategy.

    That being said I think rapid intervention forces on short term deployment handing over to African Union peace keepers is the only way to go. I am not sure what this says about the bulk of the Intervention Force 2020 plan being based around 3 armoured brigades. I think we are only likely to enter a ground conflict with support of the local government as with Mali and Sierra Leone. If we do have to take out a dictator it will only be in an air campaign as with Libya. I am sure that for the forseeable future 2003 style nation building will not be attempted again and certainly not in Iran under any circumstance. I think we are more likely to glass the place than go back through a decade of protracted nation building.

  6. Swimming Trunks

    I was wondering the same thing myself TD. As a leading European nation – and one of the few with the means and interest to – will containing unrest and tackling terrorists near Europe’s borders in North (and North East) Africa become the new primary mission/focus? If so how does that affect the plans for Army 2020? Will the tactics and equipment from Afghanistan suffice? What about those for the “Peer” competitor?

    RE: Maritime Strategy. Still need one (We are an island you know!) and (North) Africa does have lots of useful coastline… A forward presence squadron(s) might be useful for engagement, intelligence and MSO while delivering troops by sea is easier than air if slower.

  7. IXION

    TD

    Yep But I can’t see another Afghan or Iraq being particulary Afghan as there are no semistate approved safe havens for proper substantial bases supplies etc.

    I suspect this time the concentrated attention of the west will be rather more effective.

    A lot of these rebels do not have local support, are not as routed in the local populations, Nor indeed are there in north africa that many people. They posses huge areas of territory: – With the population of swindon.

  8. Obsvr

    @ Jed

    “Haven’t the French been engaged in brush wars in Africa for over 50 years, without anything like the cost in blood and treasure we have incurred in the last 10 ?”

    Foreign Legion blood doesn’t count, they don’t have a Joanna Lumley.

    The CGS’ interview comment about normal troops increasingly doing what SF used to do, and related policies, then I’d say a training mission will be normal units.

    Am I the only one amused by naive folk who think SF are the solution to anything somebody cares to dream up? What insurgency has ever been defeated by SF – answer zilch. Storming Jebel Akbar did not defeat an insurgency, although it may have recovered a stuff-up. Recce and raiding, that’s what SF do. Leave the grind to proper soldiers.

    The units earmarked to be regional specialist in N Africa look like getting a workout over the next couple of decades. Of course the biggy is N. Nigeria, but they probably won’t ask for help.

  9. Repulse

    I read somewhere that the UK and France decided a couple of years ago to split the anti terrorist fight in North Africa with France focusing on the West and UK the East. Anyone know if it’s true?

    We should be training and equipping the African Union to hold and police the ground supporting them with high end capabilities (Logistics, intel, sf etc). Why on earth would we or Africa want UK boots on the ground beyond limited strategic raiding if needed.

  10. TrT

    Mali is, if anything, Oman, not Afghanistan.

    I think there are 500 Frogs in the area?
    Most of whom were either already there, or have been diverted from other African bases.

    Its not the death of maritime focus, but a return to it.

    We arm, we train, we lead, but locals make up the vast majority of the ground troops.

    I’m sure someone once posted an ill thought out road map, using British Officers and NCOs with local privates….

  11. martin

    @ Trt, I would not mind seeing us raise and African force of 3-5 light brigades with British officers and NCO’s and African privates. Essentially an African Gurkhas with out the need to be paid the same as British squaddies. The force could then form the core of African Union and UN intervention missions. Would be even better if we could get DFID to pay for it. This way our forces could focus on what they do best which is k*cking the s**t out of other Armies and providing rapid reaction and SF rather than low grade peace keeping.

    I know we already support AU missions financially and to some extent this model works well in many places but I am not sure if the same guys are going to be able to stand up to hardcore islamic fundamentalists with out more direct support from us and the last thing we need is a large British presence in theatre to attract even more fundamentalists from across the world.

  12. All Politicians are the Same

    A couple of points.

    1. We will attempt to contain the situation in N Africa and the easiest way to do that is to keep it South of the natural fire break provided by the Med. Militarily I would expect ISTAR/Advisors/Air Strikes/SF and Maritime surveilance to be important.

    2. We have been engaging and helping countries in the region for years, be it Uk through MONOGRAM tasking or the NATO advisory team to the AU.

  13. Fluffy Thoughts

    Surely – considering the ‘prowess’ of the opponent in the Sahel – it is the green that need to worry, no? Why invest in a 34-45 tonne Austro-Spanish FRES system when you lack the logistics – mainly port facilities – to deploy them where they are needed?

    Light-blue are probably scratching their scalps too: What use is the A400M Euro-Turkey if it will take you whole fleet to deliver an unneeded armoured-infantry unit to fight Hilux-mounted ‘martyrs’…?

    Historically the UK has never contested the centre-West of Africa (or the vast regions of Asia and Latin-America), but has stuck to littoral areas. [Ok, Rhodes did chew-up a large chunk of the centre-south, but he was a bit wierd (by all accounts).] By focusing on maritime the UK will be able to spoil Jihadist attempts to reach choke-points and challenge global-trade vital to our open-economy.

    The real problem is – once again – placed in the Light-blue inbox. Considering the might of AQIM-AF they are probably focusing on Tranche-3B and less on extending the service-life of Sentinel. A rebalance in the RAF might be useful militarily but awkward politically.

    On the political-front the question is how this effects medium- to long-term geo-politics. The resources of the Sahel could be protected by the West only to see China take the spoils. Should the West spill blood for Eastern gain? It is interesting to see that China is giving vocal [UN Security-Council] support to the French (whilst elsewhere it appears many African locals are turning anti-Chinese). Could be be throwing more fuel on the fire by intervening…?

    Which returns us to ‘Ole Blighty’: How should we focus our nation’s defence? The best solution would be a bit of military Anglo-sphere isolationalism; at least within the Atlantic waters. We have no local enemies (nation-wise) in the vacinity atm. Focus on the Old Commonwealth as a defence alliance. On reflection the world is currently looking very Orwellian: Who are we at war with today…?

  14. Chris.B.

    @ Fluffy,

    One problem with focusing on the old commonwealth is that most commonwealth countries can find better partners elsewhere. India and the UK are not even close in terms of major strategic priorities. Australia is better off aligning themselves closely with the United States and other near neighbours.

    The only thing we have in common with a lot of commonwealth countries is a shared history of sorts. We need to let go of the commonwealth paradigm and shift to something new.

    Look at how much support we’ve gotten from somewhere like Denmark, both in regards to Afghanistan and Libya, who also happen to be a quick trip over the North Sea from us. The Canadians are still good allies, as obviously is the United States.

    But we need to start thinking less about the colonies and more about who are our most beneficial allies. The middle eastern countries buy a lot of our equipment for example, so keeping them sweet is always useful.

    And if we really want to go down a certain road and look at the EU and the eurozone as working against us with their rules etc, depending on how you view Europe, then the traditional strategy has always been to cultivate as many continental allies as possible to work against them (though I think Russia might be off the cards this time around).

    It depends on where you want to go, who you see as valuable, what threats you consider the highest priority, or indeed what you classify as a threat. The reality is we have very differing priorities to most of our Commonwealth “partners”. We should be looking at the stark reality of the world today for allies and trade deals, not calling on people just because we have historical ties to them.

  15. Simon

    I think we should play the age-old game of arming and equipping the side that best suits us. A few live weapon system demonstrations and a few peace-keepers. Other than that, let them go through the teething that all countries seem to need to go through. Hopefully they can then emerge at the other end as a stable democracy with all physical fighting replaced with financial competition… like the real war that we’re currently in against all up-and-coming financial powers.

  16. ArmChairCivvy

    An interesting parallel
    TrT says:
    January 21, 2013 at 08:15
    Mali is, if anything, Oman, not Afghanistan.
    - in Oman, too, the opposing group(s) were ethnically separate from the bulk of the population (when not down-right foreign)

  17. jedibeeftrix

    “Does anyone else think those in blue are having a depressing week?”

    It is a good question ask, but the answer is “no”.

    The choice has already been made, and this will not change that.

    The big-army crew led by Max Hasting as PR-in-chief were calling for:

    “My own strongly held view, shared by some much cleverer people on both sides of the Atlantic, is that the only credible way forward is to undertake a drastic restructuring, which explicitly prioritises ground forces. We should plump for a properly funded fighting army with appropriate support, including helicopters and transport aircraft, and a big commitment to unmanned drones. In a rational world the RAF, already smaller than the US Marine Corps’s organic air wing, would be integrated with the army.”

    This would have seen the army remain at 105k, and possibly even grow to 110k, with the brief to provide long-term persistence in theatre-wide low-intensity deployments. The navy would have dropped much further to ~25k and the airforce to ~30k.

    Given the pressure on the procurement budget, and the reduced role for the other two services the following would have been cut:
    Carriers (both of them – now we get two)
    MARS (at least two of the four we will now get)
    JSS(would never have seen the light of day)
    LPD (one scrapped, instead of putting it in ER)
    LSD (two sold instead of one)
    T26 (at most eight, instead of the thirteen we hope to get)

    As things turned out, it is the army that will drop to 82k, with the RN and RAF staying around 30k.

    Now, rather than an army designed for persistence, we have a structure that is designed for two things:
    a) a rolling surge with a heavy core in the middle
    b) intervention forces (16AAB and 3Cdo) that are back to providing rapid-reaction.

    A permanent ability to intervene, rather than a persistent ability to sustain large scale ground operations.

  18. IXION

    Actually I would like to echo much of the above.

    The region is vast. And mostly Arid and very sparsely populated by a mixture of Arab, Bedouin, and Tuareg. Large parts of it have buggerall population and less roads.

    IT has a govt of sorts in situ, In Mali Chad Tunisia, and Algeria

    If we are going to play then we play, the arming and supporting Local govts, playing the locals off against the Jihadis, (the Tuareg are already pissed of with the erstwhile allies apparently over their enforcement of Sharia law.

    The one exception is Libya where the govt is very weak everywhere and sharia types are running around, that is a bit more like Iraq.

    If I was the army I would be worried.

    Need for tanks Nope
    35 ton MICV and recon vehicle nope.
    Need for motorsied light infantry – yep

    If I was In the light blue, i would be worried.

    How are Typhoon and f35 going to handle the heat and dust?

    I am sure that there are many on this site who are more familiar with the area and the problems of desert war, than me. i have been in the Eastern Sahara. It is so hot in summer even the locals pack up all work by about 11.30 a.m.

    More how are the super jets going to used?

    Overall that are the problems of logisitcs getting into Northern Mali, Chad etc will make getting stuff into afghan look like a short trip up the A1. we will send logistaclly light vehicles and troops – we are going to have to. We are not going to be able to fly in aupport for anything else.

    So you can tear up the last ‘defence review’ break ou the khaki shorts and the longrange desert group shorts.

    So Will the navy get in on the action- probablky in support of the national gov in the north. Will the army and airforce get involved yes.

    However we have had 10 years of “Afghan/ Iraq are one offs we need to retain/ return to broad spectrum force”.

    Another 10 or more years of ‘North africa is a one off we need to retain a broad spectrum force’ Is not going to be sustainable. If I was in the armoured infantry or tanks I would be worried, was going to be thrown a pair of boots and being told to get use to the back of a truck. Now where did we put those Jackals???

    If I was in the RAF someone somwhere is going to be looking for Coin aircraft and more transports.

  19. Not a Boffin

    The Mediterranean rim (ie Europe’s southern borders) includes the following armies :

    Spain – 61000
    France – 122000
    Italy – 108000
    Greece – 86000

    By my count that’s north of 350000 troops between the “problem” and the UK. Of those four, two maintain either sovereign territory or significant bases in the North and West of Africa. To quote the great Homer Simpson – “why can’t someone else do it?”

    Now obviously, it doesn’t quite work like that, but you get the idea. Keeping two Bde groups and a couple of dozen aircraft operational on Herrick is costing a marginal cost (ie on top of pay and usual costs) of over £3bn pa.

    If it is to be suggested that the UK gets involved in an area where we have no historical interest and where logistic costs will again be quite significant (if not on the scale of Herrick), there had better be a more compelling reason than “the army needs to do something to reverse Future Army 2020″, don’t you think?

  20. IXION

    NAB

    Good point about the ‘Armies in the way’.

    My post above was predicated on the fact that we seem constitutionaly unable to keep our beaks out.

  21. Challenger

    @NaB

    You make a very good point that this region of Africa is one in which the UK has very few historical ties, it’s mostly French with a smattering of Spanish.

    However, UK support doesn’t have to mean a large scale and sustained ground intervention, as I’m sure many people have already pointed out the combination of other European and adjacent African contributors means that the most sought after commitment from the UK could be further heavy lift, surveillance aircraft and maybe drones.

    At most perhaps some eventual fighter-jets to relieve the pressure on the French and one off deployments by special forces.

    We should be bringing stuff that either no one else can provide or would struggle to sustain to the party, not the same old generic components that anyone with a military can throw in.

  22. Not a Boffin

    IXION

    Our posts crossed – absolutely agree that someone needs to make a cast-iron case for sticking our c0cks in the custard with ground forces on this one.

    Chally – again, agree entirely, merely countering the original question of the thread, which was is this an “opportunity” for Perce at the expense of dark blue….

  23. x

    “why can’t someone else do it?”

    That only works here if it is a naval capability.

    You forget 430,000 odd Turks too.

  24. IXION

    X why the naval capabillity? Mali and Northern chad are about as far away from the sea that you can get – unless the mongolians or Kazaks kick off.

  25. x

    @ IXION

    “why can’t someone else do it?”

    That only works here (at Think Defence) if it is a naval capability because the navy here (at Think Defence) is expendable but the Army must have its tanks and bands and the RAF its £35bn air superiority fighter, drill teams, air display, infantry force, etc.

    Do the over egged bits in italics help? :)

    @ NaB

    The Turks, our NATO allies (though they are nowhere near the North Atlantic), still sit between us and crap holes like Syria and Iran.

  26. Tubby

    Isn’t the scale of the French intervention (looking to deploy up to 2,500 men to the region for a relatively short period of time) totally within the ability of Army 2020 to as currently planned?!?

    It would have thought regional instability in Northern Africa, and the Middle East would have been the corner stone of any scenario’s that the MoD gamed out in order to inform the decisions of the last SDSR – and while most of the last SDSR is cuts lead, at it’s core there does seem a good amount of good ideas – so logically speaking there should be no need for major changes to the strategies already agreed in the last SDSR.

    Still I think IXION is right, in the future we are going to find our low numbers of high end kit, which need large amounts of support infrastructure to function well being a burden rather than a benefit – still I cannot see the RAF buying COIN aircraft or a cheap mud mover (not that anyone but the Chinese are making them nowadays) any more than I can see the Army deciding to not go ahead with FRES Scout and buy something smaller, lighter, more air mobile and cheaper off the shelf.

  27. Not a Boffin

    X – Yep. Those are two of the problems closer to home I was referring to, “Kurdistan” being one of the others.

    Tubby – “It would have thought regional instability in Northern Africa, and the Middle East would have been the corner stone of any scenario’s that the MoD gamed out in order to inform the decisions of the last SDSR – and while most of the last SDSR is cuts lead, at it’s core there does seem a good amount of good ideas – so logically speaking there should be no need for major changes to the strategies already agreed in the last SDSR.”

    Hmmm. You might think those sorts of scenarios were also “gamed” as you put it, during SDR and indeed SDR New Chapter. The strategies have not changed for nigh-on fifteen years, only the force structure available to deal with them has. One might credibly argue that ideas on force composition and strategies can be traced back to Options for Change, it’s just that the force structure for each has shrunk.

    I suspect many on here will remember “Golf bags” back in OfC/FLF days, which is actually very little different from what SDSR2010 produced. The navy is making a big thing about Response Force Task Groups (RFTG), which is in fcat just a new name dreamed up for a naval task force, only slightly rebadged to reflect thte fact we don’t have a carrier at the minute, so can no longer differentiate between carrier and amphibious task forces.

    Same things to do, less things and people to do them with……

  28. Drover110

    Comes down to what our armed forces are for…what do we a) want them to do, and b) what can they do? The answer to a) is of course ‘everything’ and b) not that much…or, to be fair, quite a few things but not to a great extent: we don’t have a large MBT force; we don’t have many surface combatants; ditto carriers and no planes to put thereon anyway; hardly any air force and what there is optimised for air-to-air combat.
    What we do have though is swarming masses of senior ranks and MoD officials and civilian ‘back-up’ organisations who have succeeded in leading us to defeat in Iraq and failure in Afghanistan.
    UK defence should be firmly prioritised towards the Navy and the Army with the latter using its reserves much more intelligently.

  29. Swimming Trunks

    @ Jedi and Ixion – “b) intervention forces (16AAB and 3Cdo) that are back to providing rapid-reaction.” and ” Need for tanks Nope
    35 ton MICV and recon vehicle nope.
    Need for motorsied light infantry – yep”

    Could the circle be squared by giving more tactical/operational mobility to the Paras and Marines (without unduely affecting their strategic mobility)?

  30. TrT

    Are we backing the right side?

    The Tauregs, after all, are demanding a national homeland first and foremost.

    They are quite likely to win it.

    Should we be trying to prop up a Malian Occupation?
    Or guiding Tauregia into a civillised direction?

    We know they arent overly keen on AQ-IMs version of sharia, what if we offered a better alternative?
    We can bully the various coastal nations into giving up their claims on the desert, in return, the Tauregs annihilate AQIM…

  31. Bob

    @ Jedi and Ixion – “b) intervention forces (16AAB and 3Cdo) that are back to providing rapid-reaction.” and ” Need for tanks Nope
    35 ton MICV and recon vehicle nope.
    Need for motorsied light infantry – yep”

    Insn’t that the role of the lightweight protected mobility infantry units in the 2020 force structure?

    Foxhound does seem to be a much better bet than a stripped down landrover in the protection stakes. Along with Jackal mounted “light cav” it should provide a decent but fairly transportable capability.

    Although a lightweight armoured car like AMX10 RC (like the old Saladin in role) does seem like an idea as well if we intend to get involved in Brushfire wars all over again.

  32. x

    Bob said “Although a lightweight armoured car like AMX10 RC (like the old Saladin in role) does seem like an idea as well if we intend to get involved in Brushfire wars all over again.

    Just like South Africa do. Wheels all the way.

  33. Swimming Trunks

    @ Bob – “Insn’t that the role of the lightweight protected mobility infantry units in the 2020 force structure?

    Foxhound does seem to be a much better bet than a stripped down landrover in the protection stakes. Along with Jackal mounted “light cav” it should provide a decent but fairly transportable capability.”

    Quite so. I was getting too focused on aircraft/helicopter deployability (been reading about rapid deployment forces). How many Foxhounds and Jackals can the A400m and C-17 carry by the way?

    “Although a lightweight armoured car like AMX10 RC (like the old Saladin in role) does seem like an idea as well if we intend to get involved in Brushfire wars all over again.”

    Something based on the AHED testbed? I think a 105mm gun would be overkill; perhaps armed with something like the 75mm ARES automatic cannon?

  34. Ace Rimmer

    Military capability aside, and looking at religion for a moment; for me the elephant in the room is written in the first couple of lines of the ‘The Telegraph’ article at the top: Islamic extremism.

    I don’t believe Islamic extremism appears spontaneously all over the Islamic world, it’s nurtured and sustained. And the place its nurtured and cared for the most is Saudi Arabia. The form of Islam in the Kingdom of Saud is Wahhabism, an extremly conservative form of islam, which tends to upset a great many muslims. Unfortunately politicians in the West fail to see or accept the paradox of supplying advanced weapons to the Saudi’s in return for their oil, the money from which is then used to uphold and sustain Wahhabist values and teaching, which creates the extremists that we end up fighting. Talk about the proverbial vicious circle….

    Rather than fighting in North Africa for decades as David Cameron suggests, maybe we should provide logistical support to a combined Islamic force instead and help them invade Saudi Arabia.

  35. Not a Boffin

    Or seriously try to invest in energy beyond oil (no me neither) so that those that wish to live in the Middle ages can be given a stiff ignoring by the rest of us and allowed to do so in splendid isolation…..

    Shale gas may be part of the temporary bridging solution, but f8ck knows what the long-term answer is.

  36. TrT

    Ace
    Well, for one, we dont give the Saudis Cash.
    Typhoons and Tornados arent great for supporting terrorists, and thats mostly what they get off us.

    I cant imagine Iran would use Saudi wealth any better (for us). Although of course they would quickly collapse production.

    And of course, Wahabi’s greatest triumph was in the Balkans, when we bombed their enemies…..

  37. jedibeeftrix

    @ Swimming Trunks – “Could the circle be squared by giving more tactical/operational mobility to the Paras and Marines (without unduely affecting their strategic mobility)?”

    I rather think that will be the job of the foreign force partnered adaptable brigades, possibly with one of the unattributed light cavalry regiments if a little mobile muscle is needed.

    I still like the new BAE CVR(t) 21 for this role, the simpler the better.

    After all, the adaptable brigades are designed for the build up and wind down of a conflict, with the reaction forces doing the door kicking (remember that phrase? ;) )

  38. Simon

    Unfortunately the “oil” problem doesn’t just stop at energy… there are plastics and chemicals aplenty. Not sure what the split is but I remember reading that only 2/3 of oil is used for fuel/energy.

    Perhaps we should build a stealth sailing ship with solar and thermocouple supplemented electric drives.

  39. John Hartley

    Nurse, is it time for my daily rant on the DfID budget?
    We give the Saudis money for their oil.
    ICI just before it was trashed (would the French or Yanks allowed the dismembering of one of their world class companies?)developed a process for making perspex with CO2 rather than oil.
    If Al-qaeda take over Saudi Arabia we will be fighting jihadists armed with F-15E, Typhoon, etc.
    Not keen on Cameron, but lending C-17s for “Operation land Hollande in it” was a stroke of genius. Let the French do the fighting for once. Or as the American sign said “French rifle for sale, never fired, only dropped once”.

  40. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Simon, I used to think like that, too

    Take UK in 2011, in mln tonnes of oil eqvlnts:

    Oil/ petroleum inputs 145
    Total final consumption of energy 147!
    - that includes gas, coal, bio and other electricity!!

    Conversion losses between energy sources before distribution or any other uses 48
    - once converted, further losses in distribution 17

    Non-energy use (DIVERTED) of oil 8.7 (call it 9)
    - 6 % of input of oil/ petroleum (within the UK that is, not accounting for the content in imported goods)
    - 18 % of what is lost just because the inputs (of all energy sources) are not optimal relative to the capacity using them
    - 50 % of what is lost by the energy industry in use, including transmission

    So the laws of physics might be hard on trying to change the last mentioned proportion, but you can still see that the 2/3′s is the old fish wives talking?

  41. ChrisM

    The RAF and Army could hold hands to fly Challenger 2s in C-17s….
    If you were sat in the back of a Hilux in an offensive convoy and you heard there were a couple of Challenger 2s sitting outside your target town you might start making peace with your god…
    More seriously the two of them could fly Apache’s in. A Toyota based war would be a turkey shoot for them. Sure the French would love that kind of support (apart from it being Brits flying Yank equipment of course…)
    Re the comment about Tuaregs – I bet the better behaved Tuaregs take on the Northern Alliance role and with French ISR/SF/airpower support give the Islamists a pasting. They are then in defacto control of their area – a strong bargaining position for a more federal system.

  42. Opinion3

    I suspect hands off fighting will be the aim of the game for the Yanks and ourselves after what has been quite a long period of having to place boots on the ground. Naval and Air forces will be the winners together with Intell

  43. Swimming Trunks

    @ Jedi – I was thinking of something even lighter… Like I said in my reply to Bob I’ve been researching rapid deployment concepts (and some related ideas). Thinking about writing a post for TD about it.

  44. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi ChrisM,

    Always a good way to go ” a strong bargaining position for a more federal system”, to get lasting peace that is.

    We have such, Switzerland from early on, Germany of course, Spain & Belgium & the UK reluctantly being dragged that way, we have Finland (though not in law, but effectively incorporating an autonomous Aland that would otherwise have become part of Sweden)… these are long historical developments, as opposed to the “ruler-drawn lines” in Africa where now the ethnic entities are there regardless of language zones or commercial interests, and reasserting themselves, either because of opportunity or because of advversity

  45. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi ST,

    Yes, do ” Thinking about writing a post for TD about it.”
    - but the sooner, the better (not to be overtaken by events)

  46. Chris.B.

    Erm, the likelyhood of the Tuaregs getting their own independent state now, after starting this whole debacle and then being kicked aside by the militants, is probably below the likelyhood that Wales will get independence before the end of the decade.

    This militant force is seriously lacking in equipment, particularly heavy anti-tank weapons, comms, supplies for a sustained campaign and any serious artillery. They don’t have a Pakistan or an Iran nearby to supply them with additional equipment and men, and they’re fighting in positions amongst a hostile population.

    Oh, and they’re up against a French/African force that will – in the next few weeks and months of build up – achieve parity or even superiority in terms of numbers, with a massive superiority in armour, mobility, comms, intelligence, supply, fire support and air support.

    This is unlikely to end well for the militants.

  47. ArmChairCivvy

    hi Chris, I quite agree

    The only problem is in the latter part in your ” French/ African” force
    - those forces have always been funded by some sort of UN/ bilateral mixture
    - it is actually working in Somalia now? No UN in it (as in funding?)
    - just that in West Africa it always takes a fraction of years (over one is also a fraction) to get anything in place

    But, not a bad start…

  48. Party0929

    I don’t think it will be as long as we keep large scale ground forces out ŵhich to be honest we don’t have anymore we should look at increasing The Royal Navy fleet numbers I think that there should be an order or an 8th astute class also at increasing the Royal Marine mobility and mobile fire power as the Current ampihibious vehicles are inadequate for the job of protecting the RM once ashore also the FAA need more lift capability than what is projected once the Merlin fleet is transferred from the RAF if we are to fully in race this concept then a dedicated Martime Patrol Aircraft is a must with adequate ISTAR and limited ELINT capabilities also the RAF need additional tactical lift maybe keeping the C130J’s which is a crazy plan to get rid of them as the A400m is too big in certain circumstances a new lightweight armoured recce vehicle like as mentioned the BAE CVR(t) 21 or even a wheeled vehicle but they must fit inside a C-130J to allow the maximum number to be brought in in one airlift bringing in too few would hinder 3Cdo or 16 AAB ability to rapidly enter an area and exit when and where needed we have for too long been drifting along as a military without a strategy as the COIN approach akin to Iraq and Afghanistan was always hindered by lack of political will to fully fund the strategy due to the costs in blood and treasure the lot of them should be ashamed of themselves especially bungler brown who decimated the armed forces until it came to his constituents the political class in the UK is devoid of military thinking when funding comes up all they see is social headline grabbing projects.
    Where are all the frigates the now Prime Ministers was saying we don’t have enough of when in opposition ?
    No where intact he’s cut 4 more
    Political interference has cost brave men and women there lives through incompetence and lack of political courage to stand up and argue for more funding

  49. Chris.B.

    @ ACC,

    The French are mostly in or close to arriving. The first build up of African forces are being brought into Bamako now, which could be part of the next mission for the UK’s C-17′s.

    That’s really the crux of the French task. They don’t neccessarily have to go on a massive, one nation offensive right now, they just need to shore up the Malian lines and bring some stability, stop the militants from pressing any further south, and give the Malian army a chance to breathe and reorganise itself, resupply, whilst the other African nations finish assembling their forces and supplies.

    Then in time the AU/ECOWAS force can take over alongside the Malians and start pushing back. By that point it’s likely that French involvement will mostly consist of air support, intelligence gathering (described on channel 4 news either yesterday or the day before as “counter intelligence”?), logistical support and probably some ground capabilities that the Africans can’t manage themselves, like armoured support, some armoured recce, and perhaps the odd complex infantry op.

  50. martin

    @ Chris B

    “Then in time the AU/ECOWAS force can take over alongside the Malians and start pushing back. By that point it’s likely that French involvement will mostly consist of air support, intelligence gathering (described on channel 4 news either yesterday or the day before as “counter intelligence”?), logistical support and probably some ground capabilities that the Africans can’t manage themselves, like armoured support, some armoured recce, and perhaps the odd complex infantry op.”

    In my mind operating in this way is the only means of success for any ground campaign against insurgents. If we look at the British Army’s casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq compared to previous “successful campaigns” they are quite light. However when the aim of the game is to simply grab a few headlines we have to realise that we can never win with a large scale forced deployed for decades. Our ground missions should be limited to short scale rapid interventions in support of existing government’s or in extreme circumstances a division sized force used along side a US corps for a 2003 style invasion. if we can’t achieve the goals in this way then we don’t go in under any circumstances. If we do go in a get bogged down then we pull out. The good thing about Force 2020 is it recognises these facts and is not based on the idea of maintain a medium brigade in theatre indefinitely.

    In many ways I would like to see 3 Commando and 16 AAB merged to form two identical brigades that specialise in rapid insertion by land sea or air but its probably. Neither force has been particularly wedded to it’s traditional mood of entry as of late. Do we gain anything having them in this way? We could always go with a similar ethos to the USMC and have three amphib infantry battalions and three air assault and deploy them together 1 amphib 1 air.

    If more money is to go into the army this would be the area I would like to see it go maybe increasing to 3 brigades like 16AAB and 3 com.

  51. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Chris,

    I hope it works ” give the Malian army a chance to breathe and reorganise itself, resupply, whilst the other African nations finish assembling their forces and supplies.”
    - they were doing that for 5 years with American training and support (incl. some kit)

    But maybe by this time they will have some motivation as there has been ample demonstration of what lies ahead if they don’t fight (or can’t fight because of lack of kit, logistics or both).
    - please remind me of an effective African deployment, other than that which is going on now right on the side of Kenya’s border (in southern Somalia), or the same circumstances when Tanzania kicked Idi Amin to be pensioned off in Saudi Arabia (again, it was just on the other side of their own border)

  52. martin

    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130121/DEFREG04/301210002/Early-Lessons-From-France-8217-s-Mali-Action-Emerge?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

    Some interesting lessons learned about the Mali campaign. Interesting stuff about having second rate light kit forward deployed as opposed to having first rate kit stuck at home that needs C17 to get it their.

    Seems the French are struggling to get their Tigers into theatre and are taking five from Afghanistan. One wonders if we could do more maybe going in with Apaches.

  53. John Hartley

    On C4 news last night, the locals were delighted when liberated by the French. However they did not think much of the Mali army. They ran away rather than fight the militants. Worse, a couple of soldiers joined the jihadists.
    I do not want British troops on the ground, but those surplus SA Rooikats would be ideal (& cheap) for operations like this.

  54. All Politicians are the Same

    Martin,

    Seems the French are struggling to get their Tigers into theatre and are taking five from Afghanistan. One wonders if we could do more maybe going in with Apaches.

    I read that report as stating that the deployment would be in greater numbers than the 5 sent to Afghanistan. Do not be suprised if Dixmude deploys Tigers. Abidjan to Bamako is easily within their range if they carry tanks on the 2 internal hardpoints.

  55. Alex

    From the Defense News piece: “The ATL-2 used as an ISR platform in Mali is a stopgap solution. They are good aircraft, and some of them are now equipped with a new surveillance turret, but new-generation equipment is needed,” Viellard said.

    One possibility is a system of roll-on, roll-off pallets of sensor equipment for transport aircraft such as C-130, C-160 Transall or A400M.

    Isn’t it just…

  56. Brian Black

    This op doesn’t mean Afghan-style protracted land wars should be at the heart of our planning, or that talk of the end of such wars is premature. Politicians are wise people who are known for never digging the same hole for themselves twice. Offering specialist capabilities, rapid reaction forces, and training to support local national forces or regional groups -like the AU- is the only practical way forward.

  57. Brian Black

    The need for rapidly deployable vehicles have been mentioned above. The French VBMR programme should be of interest to us; intended to replace the multi-role VAB, it will deliver relatively light air-transportable vehicles in every flavour you could ever want.
    Shifting the road-bound Mastif in the Reaction Force brigades to the TA (where they would surely be better suited to their intended stabilization role, and easily maintained in most TA centres), and equipping those wheeled battalions with VBMR troop and weapon carriers would provide the Reaction Force with genuinely quick and easy response to emergency. A similarly equipped Armoured Support Unit in 16AAB should also be considered.

  58. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Martin – re-task and re-equip The Rifles to provide a second Air Assault Brigade and provide the Royal Marines with Navalised Apaches; with BAE Systems already in the USA and (I think) involved in Apache production it might even be possible to negotiate a take-over of the relevant production lines when the US concentrate fully on the Apache successor, as I believe they intend doing in due course. A kind of reverse-engineered version of the USMC take-over of the Harrier…

    It would leave us with an older aircraft than the USA, but still a better one than pretty much anyone else…that we could continue to develop. Furthermore it would give us a hard-hitting in-and-out capacity unmatched in Europe, especially if we built up our expeditionary logistics still further – making us very desirable partners for the French in North Africa or Germans in the Balkans without requiring British “boots on the ground” for long periods.

    Unfortunately it would need money, a proper defence/industrial policy, and a certain vision about what we might need to do in the next fifteen or twenty years…so it won’t happen!

  59. Mike W

    @Brian Black (the first part is for you,Brian. The second bit is general.)

    “Shifting the road-bound Mastiff in the Reaction Force brigades to the TA (where they would surely be better suited to their intended stabilization role, and easily maintained in most TA centres) …”

    Well, that bit certainly makes sense, Brian. Not so sure about the French VBMR, though. We certainly need something like that but I suppose I don’t like giving any advantage to foreign defence industries and anyway, won’t FRES UV be along eventually? That would presumably be available in every flavour? I suppose it’s that word “eventually” which makes for doubt. Maybe an acceleration of that programme is needed. Or is FRES UV too heavy?

    General

    There seemed earlier in this thread a notion that the future for our land forces should be one based more on drones, helicopters, lighter air-transportable vehicles, etc., in other words that the Army should be configuring for COIN wars a la Afghanistan and Mali. This is a difficult subject. I feel that it should not be forgotten that even in Afghanistan heavier equipment has had an important role to play. I am thinking of Artillery units equipped with GMLRS, Exactor (Spike NLOS?) and the Light Gun. There have also been frequent calls for Challenger MBTs to sent out. So it is far from simple.

    I must say that I was a supporter at first of the notion that we should not let campaigns such as Afghanistan dictate too much of our thinking and that when the Army re-organized after that campaign, we should concentrate more on traditional, high end formations and heavier equipment once again. However, now I feel that the emphasis has swung too much the other way. The three Armoured Infantry Brigades proposed in the Army 2020 Structure seem excessive and perhaps at least one of those brigades should be made more mobile and flexible and equipped with the kind of lighter wheeled vehicle Brian (and Bob earlier with his armoured cars idea) have suggested. Confused after all this? So am I. Just think of the dilemmas faced by our Army planners. Perhaps the old Multi-Role Brigade idea (now thrown out) had at least something to be said for it.

  60. Martin

    @ Mike W

    I think we need something lighter than FRES UV along the CVR (t) line for 16 AAB.

    I agree about the three armoured brigades. There main purpose seems to be to provide a single once a decade armourder brigade for a british division. Would seem to me that that was possible with 2. That could free up the funds for a 3rd rapid deployment brigade to complement 3 com and 16AAB.

    @ APATS – I read it wrong. It did seem a bit strange taking the tiers from the stan :-)

    @ GNB – Would be great to see a Navalised Apache. I was not aware the US had an active program to replace apache. I like your suggestion of the rffles very 1815 of you with Col Sharp in the lead. However do you think the Riffles would have sufficent ability to recruit the bet along side the comandos or the para’s. Maybe UK rangers kind of Army Commando’s would be better.

  61. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @MW – Perhaps one solution would be to give Infantry Battalions some tanks, Cavalry Regiments an infantry company, and everybody integrated gunners, engineers, et al; turn each cap badge into a pre-formed battle-group with an Armoured, Mechanised or Light specialisation. I am aware that this is how things work on deployment – I just wonder if it might be an effective way to use cap-badge tribalism to its best effect in a smaller Army – with the TA coming into their own if we need to send a Brigade

  62. Challenger

    I think the whole reaction/adaptable force structure that integrates territorial units is the best way forwards after the failure of the MRB concept and under the difficult limitations the Army currently faces.

    Although despite supporting the general idea I do find the intended balance a little off target. The 3 armoured infantry brigades do look a little heavy for my liking and seemingly based on a broad idea that reaction/adaptable should be overtly focused on a heavy/light divide. The air assault brigade also looks ridiculously light, will it only have 2 para battalions as it’s principle formations?

    Also are the 7 adaptable brigades essentially the old regional brigades that contain a larger amount of regular units mixed with territorial ones? If this is the case then could/would these brigade structures be able to deploy on rotation with sufficient notice, or will they simple exist to parent formations that can detach and contribute elsewhere?

  63. Chris.B.

    Couple of points;

    – Specifically to the Malian army, let’s not forget that about a year ago their army practically fell apart at the seams. When the military coup took place last year, the leader was a Captain, because that was the best they could rustle up at the time. This was an army that was (and still is in some cases) struggling to get food to the frontline. Never mind bullets, or shells, or batteries, just getting the fellas their rations was hard enough. They were getting hammered at every turn, because their morale was rock bottom and they were poorly supplied. The French can give them some breathing room and help them to sort some of those issues out, while the AU/ECOWAS will probably pick up the offensive slack when they arrive. They may even take over some of the defensive duties and the French might take the lead, who knows?

    – It’s unlikely that France will get bogged down in an Afghanistan like op, for the simple reason that they don’t have enough men to even attempt some kind of large scale nation building exercise.

    – Mali is not Afghanistan. All the countries surrounding Mali are just as anti-jihadist as they are, and none of those nations has anything to gain by pouring money and expertise into an insurgency against the French, not least because all of them are more vulnerable to backlash than Iran is. And they literally have nothing to gain by supplying explosives, remote triggers, bullets etc to any insurgents. And the Malian population is, for the large majority, opposed to the militants, who they have very little in common with.

    – How many “light” armoured vehicles can you get in a C-17? Given that we only have what 8 now, and each one can carry 2 Warriors/FRES?

    – We may have three armoured brigades, but that’s to facilitate a rotation of readiness levels for what are fairly expensive bits of kit to be running all day long, 365 days a year.

    – Mali gives us a great example of the AU being able to produce large blocks of men, but little in the way of heavy equipment. Why then would we throw away the stuff that we have and they don’t (and very few countries can claim a capability like Challenger 2) in order to buy more light vehicles, which pretty much every country has in significant abundance?

    – The Patriots suck, go 49ers for the Super Bowl.

  64. Martin

    @ Chris B – do you not think we could do it with two rather than 3 armoured brigades? Large ops like 1991 and 2003 take months to set up. How ready does the brigade have to be? Would we not be better served having three brigades like 16 AAB or 3 com that could rapidly deploy and would have to be on very short notice.

  65. x

    @ Martin

    Occasionally here I have said similar. The Army should have one armoured brigade based in Salisbury. That is one x Chally T58 and 3 armoured infantry (all in Warrior) and artillery regiment (AS90 plus MLRS) plus support. Concentrate all the good kit in one spot. Even concentrate TA units to support it like a mini-BAOR. Assign units to it for 5 years and that is all they do armoured warfare. Practice and honed to perfection. Occasional trip to BATUS or wherever for training. And that leaves the rest of Army to play in MRAPs and with light kit like Vikings and packing stuff into planes and ships on the Army’s 6 months away in 36 months preferred deployment cycles. Apparently by suggesting this I am talking rhubarb; all about force regeneration or something which in turn I think is utter custard. We use armoured forces en mass once a decade. We send troops to play police all the time. If GW1 ground element had lasted longer than it did the UK contingent would have run out of steam; they would have had to have been cycled out of the line; go look how long units fought in WW2 before being rotated out. We don’t have the manning or industrial base to keep 3 full armoured brigades going anyway. Look at BAOR during the Cold War. But questioning the holy of hollies and suggesting the Army stops playing with tanks and IFVs and go lightweight mobile is nearly as bad here as questioning Typhoon.

  66. wf

    @x: three armoured brigades is about what we would need to sieze Basra and environs. It’s not a lot, and given that Jackal/Foxhound/Mastiff would last approx five minutes under even ATGM and artillery fire, it doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable bit of insurance. Equipment like this is expensive to buy compared to Mastiff (3m vs 1m), but over 25 years manpower cycle costs dwarf the capital anyway.

    And…Mastiff (30t), Jackal and Foxhound (8t) are hardly “light mobile”

  67. x

    @ wf

    We can’t field 3 can we? GW1 was 3 x Chally, 3 x armoured inf batts, and an artillery group and that put a much large armour orientated Army under strain. I am not suggesting we deploy light forces against tanks. All I am saying is that Army spends most of its time playing policeman and needs to recognise the fact. If the “rest of the army” in my model can supply one additional Chally regiment and one additional armoured inf batt that is what we nearly fielded in GW1 anyway. And as I said build the TA around re-enforcing that armoured brigade as the TA supported BAOR because that worked.

  68. x

    WF said “And…Mastiff (30t), Jackal and Foxhound (8t) are hardly “light mobile”

    I said with MRAPs and light mobile….

  69. x

    wf said “Equipment like this is expensive to buy compared to Mastiff (3m vs 1m), but over 25 years manpower cycle costs dwarf the capital anyway.”

    Better for expensive high performance to be concentrated then in one spot. All elements mounted in Warrior so only one vehicle to maintain. As for manpower costs better then they be spent on what the Army spends it time doing and not replaying Africa 1942.

  70. Chris.B.

    @ X,

    Shouldn’t really feed you but, look at the French intervention. One of the key attributes they bring on the ground are IFV’s and potentially tanks (waiting in readiness apparently). Armoured capabilities have been a big feature of our fights for a long while now on the ground. But you want us to just bin some of the best, most used kit we have? For what? Pick up trucks? That due to space considerations would only be marginally more mobile than armoured vehicles.

    One armoured brigade would probably not be able to sustain the high level of readiness needed. And if you deploy that brigade and the thing goes on longer than you thought, where do you go from there? Home? Replace needed armour (if it’s being deployed, presumably it’s needed) with land rovers, or foxhounds, or UltraMarines?

    You talk about GW1 potentially running out of steam without seeming to realise 1) your structure makes that operation impossible and 2) it does nothing to help the force from running out of steam, on account of their just being one brigade.

    @ Martin,
    The more brigades the merrier!

    In all seriousness, three gives you one on high readiness, one working down so to speak (going on courses, leave, bringing in new recruits etc), and one working up, getting ready for its rotation on high readiness footing. It also gives you more depth for a semi-enduring brigade sized op.

  71. Jeremy M H

    I am curious what the future of large armored forces will really end up being. Right now, if you don’t control the air, that force is going to be massacred by a modern, western opponent.

    That is the huge issue that I think faces other nations contemplating dealing with the most modern of Western weapons technology. A US/UK pattern armored brigade/division has a huge amount of firepower and mobility. The only way to stop it is with a concentrated force of similar kit. But the problem is if you try to concentrate against it you make yourself a target for things like CBU-105′s, Apache’s and Brimstone (originally it was designed for this type of thing exclusively).

    The defense against weapons like that is to spread out and be a low density target so they have to hunt you one vehicle at a time. But that means that the opposing armor will crash through you quite easily. I honestly think A2G weaponry has advanced enough that outside of sustaining an insurgent campaign that one could not sustain a meaningful ground based resistance against even a moderate sized armored formation if you lost control of the skies over your forces. This vastly multiplies the strength of even a brigade sized armored force in my view. If that brigade has the backing of a 1st class airforce it is going to be very hard to concentrate sufficient force in front of it to stop it.

  72. ChrisM

    Re the piece about lessons learned by the French in Mali.
    It reckons that the action shows that cheap light equipment should be pre-positioned in Africa. Which is odd after detailing how they lost two.
    Surely if you are only going to keep limited capabilities like Gazelle out there you would be better off donating your old stuff to the Africans and then helping them support it? Cheaper and also less of a big line to cross in using them.

  73. TrT

    Scattershot

    The Tauregs have been in rebellion pretty much forever, 5 open in the last hundred years, and constant disobedience in between.
    Crushing them now might shut them up for a decade, but they’ll be back. People dont like being conquered.
    They arent much meeker over the matter because they were conquered before they were born.

    Light/Heavy
    I’m not sure I would agree a “light gun” can be classed as heavy, but I fully agree that “Heavy” kit is useful, even in a small war like this. That said, we might need ten tanks, not ten tank divisions.

  74. x

    @ Jeremy M H

    The idea is to keep moving so they can’t hurt you. My thinking has nothing to do with cutting armour. More about making the best use of it. Not even saying the rest of the Army can’t have a few real tanks and Warriors too; as I said they will need to supply some reserve element. It might run against “join the Army and see the world” but many armies never leave their owns borders, may be even a boon to recruitment. An armoured brigade is a 2 perhaps 3 day in the field asset before wear and tear means it needs rest and repair. Best perhaps sliced up in to battle groups and used as a big stick to crack the nuttier problems that a light force can’t manage.

  75. wf

    @x: at the time of GW1, there were only 6 CR1 and 4 Warrior battalions. Given that the Russians were still over the border if supposedly friendly, it’s hard to see how they could have sent more. We fielded another 8 Chieftain and 9 FV432 battalions, but were understandably cautious about attempting to deploy these!

    “MRAPs and light mobile” . Sure

    “Better for expensive high performance to be concentrated then in one spot. All elements mounted in Warrior so only one vehicle to maintain. As for manpower costs better then they be spent on what the Army spends it time doing and not replaying Africa 1942.”

    I think the British Army post war has been the story of trying to maintain an Empire organized armed forces, despite us losing an empire. We’re not going to re-fight Malaya, but our recent forays over the last 30 years have indeed tended towards mechanised conflicts. Even Afghan has required lots of expensive armoured vehicles, despite supposedly being a “light” war.

    We need to stop obsessing on end strength manpower, and talk more in capabilities…and there is precious little need for Light Role these days. At the very minimum, we’re talking about Foxhound, so reduce the numbers and equip and man real, usable, deployable units

  76. x

    @ wf

    I never said I expected them to field more. But we are talking a 180,000 man army. By 2020 it will be 80,000. But surely a Chally 2 / all Warrior (improved don’t forget) with modern systems backed by air power is worth a division or more of a 70s based system. We have to recognise that driving these modern vehicles is more akin to say flying or driving a ship something that gets better with practice. Heck I don’t care if they go onto 3 day weeks after the first two years because they have trained enough. Perhaps the armoured brigade could become HMG’s civilian support formation? Perhaps schools could be set up to teach trades and degree courses? Perhaps they could train the TA?
    Lots to do. But as long as we have a settled formation. None of this force regeneration nonsense.

    I suppose to a degree everything is armoured these days. But I think a Royal Marine in an armoured Viking is still “light” while some soldier in a “Warrior” is still heavy. Or do you mean Light Role in its British MoD sense? I take that to mean “we can’t afford to buy a proper vehicle” so you get to ride in a 4-tonner, and nothing to do with “light” as in marine, parachute, funny fast marching, or mountain warfare. If the latter then you are right.

    “We’re not going to re-fight Malaya,” no? :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Mali

  77. WiseApe

    “The Patriots suck, go 49ers for the Super Bowl” – Swearing is frowned upon here, hence I am lost for words.

    On a happier note, apparently we have a maritime strategy. Do tell.

  78. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Amongst our competitive advantages in Military terms are high levels of professionalism and esprit de corps, technical competence, and a considerable amount of high end kit – probably more than we can use at any given time; so all our soldiers need to be multi-skilled…allowing them to take whatever they need for any given mission, not make the best use they can of whatever they already have…

    I would also like to see all service personnel trained first and foremost as riflemen in USMC style – and then providing warships and airbases with containers carrying the equipment for ad hoc field detachments where appropriate.

  79. Mike W

    @Gloomy Northern Boy

    “@MW – Perhaps one solution would be to give Infantry Battalions some tanks, Cavalry Regiments an infantry company, and everybody integrated gunners, engineers, et al; turn each cap badge into a pre-formed battle-group with an Armoured, Mechanised or Light specialisation.”

    It’s an intriguing idea you’ve floated. It might be “how things work on deployment” but I just feel that in terms of formal organisation of formations the cap-badge supporters would somehow block it.

    @TrT

    “I’m not sure I would agree a “light gun” can be classed as heavy, but I fully agree that “Heavy” kit is useful, even in a small war like this.”

    Yes, sorry, I wrote that about the Light Gun rather thoughtlessly. It is after all the main Artillery support for 3 Cdo Bde and 16 AA Bde and is called a “Light” Gun.

  80. Phil

    “I would also like to see all service personnel trained first and foremost as riflemen in USMC style”

    The Army does but without the LOOK AT US HOORAH bullshit the Marines use. They do 4 weeks after Boot, ours do it as part of their ph1 and ph2 training and PDT. The Marines are very good at making it look they have a monopoly on sensible ideas and they do everything very loudly. And it’s bullshit really. Infantry is a frame of mind AND specialist training. 4 weeks after boot or a PDT package doesn’t make for a unit that can suddenly be an infantry unit. You’re looking at a self defence capability at best.

  81. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @ Phil – I would have guessed the Army did – I had in mind the RN and RAF as well – so that they could look after themselves adequately without using valuable infantrymen better deployed elsewhere, guard rear areas, man rapier batteries and the like.

    As I understand it when deployed Armoured Battle-groups do have attached infantry and Infantry ones can have attached Armour; if so why is organising them on that basis under the same Cap-badge so self evidently a “dumb idea”? Surely the more they operate together when not in action the better they will perform when they are?

    Only asking.

  82. Phil

    I don’t know how the RAF and RN do it. Not very well judging from the RN Medical Assistants that took over from us. Not for one second to disparage them just they looked like Crows and the younger ones were a bit clueless but I have no doubt they settled in quick. Their rifles looked like they had just been minted the day before.

    Anyway, it’s a bad idea because it’s a question of peacetime efficiency.

    It makes more sense to centralize the equipment types and base the regiments around one primary role and equipment type for training, doctrine, maintenance, planning and admin purposes. The units already train as combined arms battle-groups anyway and they rarely seem to deploy as per any peacetime ORBAT since our force packages are always bespoke. People talk about unit cohesion but really that is only an issue at Officer level and most Officers in a garrison will know each other very well – it makes no difference to the Toms since they’ll stay in their Platoons and Troops. And questions of interoperability are satisfied because we’re all working from the same hymn sheet in all our TTPs and planning assumptions etc

  83. x

    Lots of groups work together without belonging to the same organisation. It is natural that the line of demarcation is decided by task. Units don’t spend all their time working together do they if you think about it. Tribes exist even in organisations like the RN and the RAF. Now you could argue for a Royal Infantry Corps and that would be different matter. And trickle drafting. But that is a different argument.

  84. Phil

    “Now you could argue for a Royal Infantry Corps and that would be different matter.”

    They were going for something similar in the 1950s when memories were still sharp regarding what a PITA the regimental system actually is for general war.

    I’ve always argued that the morale component of fighting power is important and unit identities support this but I daresay the evidence would show that those identities don’t need to be county regiments.

    Also, the Guards are the only odd ones out now – I prophesy that it will not be long before there is a Regiment of Foot Guards combining all the Guards battalions – all we then need to do is wire up the National Grid to the graves of the now spinning old Colonels and we’ll have our energy security for about 500 years.

  85. x

    Phil said “I’ve always argued that the morale component of fighting power is important and unit identities support this but I daresay the evidence would show that those identities don’t need to be county regiments.”

    You see we do agree occasionally. ;) :)

    I don’t know about the large regiment system verses arms plot. Apart from “concentrate armour” in one brigade (for longer than a normal tour/role) thought exercise I believe in variety. (Actually that is more to do with the vehicles that men in the back.) And I think that variety is better achieved by the battalion changing role as a one instead of soldiers (which I suppose will be senior NCOs and career long service officers) moving between battalions in the same large regiment. Infantry soldiering is infantry soldiering. And the FIBUA or desert skills or whatever can be trained in on top. What the Army gains from the “Divisions of Infantry” system I don’t know. Especially seeing as The Rifles sit outside the system. The Guards Division is just the Guards. And the Scottish Division is just the Scottish Regiment. I expect as soon as somebody comes up with good names for two large regiments that covers King’s Division and PoW Division I suppose they will disappear. Um. Sometimes I wonder if the Army needs another national recruited unit on par with the Parachute Regiment and RM. But considering the infantry’s already high standards perhaps not. Perhaps there aren’t enough suitable recruits? Perhaps there is? Just sometimes the idea of a Army commando brigade appeals.

  86. Phil

    No idea what the divisions do anymore. They were training organisations but now I can only think they help administration in some way. As for the arms plot – was speaking to a friend whose husband is in the Royal Anglians and she happened to mention that they were told the battalion would stay where it was for 20 odd years but now they’ll be moved every 2 years.

    One wonders if the arms plot returneth…

  87. Phil

    The trouble with too many specialist regiments is that they tend to suck in the best and brightest, especially Officers with a resulting drain on the rest of the Army.

    I think we have the balance about right and only have specialist regiments where they really are needed (air entry, sea entry and SF support). Anymore and I wonder if the price is worth it viz the brain drain from the rest of the Army. One of the big criticisms of the WWII Army was too many exotic specialist units were impacting on the quality of line infantry units which meant more dead.

  88. wf

    @Phil: I don’t see why we don’t organise regiments the way we expect to fight them. Task organisation is unlikely to change in practice, and assuming we’re never going to have a no notice come as you are war seems a bit foolish to me.

    Instructive that you brought up the Brigade of Guards. During WW2 they raised their own tank units, so it would seem to be entirely practical :-)

  89. Phil

    I think there is an appetite amongst some in the Guards for change. There is a strong bond between the Foot Guards that could easily manifest itself into a regiment I think.

    Why don’t we organise the way we fight? Because it makes not a jot of difference and there are big problems around doctrine, admin and training.

    Same reason why there aren’t RAF squadrons that have 6 Typhoons, 2 C130s, 1 C17, 2 VC10s, 8 Chinooks and 4 Merlins I suppose.

  90. x

    Phil said “they were told the battalion would stay where it was for 20 odd years but now they’ll be moved every 2 years.”

    That is why the new system is/was flawed. I know the Cold War is slipping further back into history but when I was 10 it was the Soviets fighting in Afghanistan, 10 years later there were no Soviets, and 20 years after that “we” are fighting in Afghanistan. As I said infantry have basic skill set and everything else is variety on top that brings interest. What makes an infantry soldier is health, awareness of ground, knowing how to movement across ground, and good weapons handling. Getting in and out of a Warrior well, or any other vehicle, can be taught to anybody, it isn’t a fundamental skill. ** Tying a battalion to one role as such just make any sense.

    ** Now manoeuvring (and fighting) that vehicle on to the objective probably falls outside that basic infantry skill set. And that takes us back in history to the concept of RTR driving APCs. But that is another kettle of kippers….

  91. jedibeeftrix

    @ X – “Just sometimes the idea of a Army commando brigade appeals.”

    An argument I am sympathetic too, tho not sure there is room in an army of 82,000.

  92. Gloomy Northern Boy

    So – wind up the Divisions and work from all-arms brigades whose Infantry Battalions and Cavalry Regiments can maintain a number of cap-badges in a meaningful way; integrate TA Units with them; and set them up as Operational HQs as well as Administrative ones; and make some of them heavier on armoured units than others. Keep 16th Air Assault “as is” – and I would like to see The Rifles re-tasked and re-equipped to provide a second Air Assault Brigade.

    Would that work, and could the consolidation of admin and command functions save the money needed for 60+ extra Apaches?

  93. x

    @ Jedi

    I would recruit from within the line infantry. I see it a half way house between the regimental system and a corps of infantry. I am not enamoured with the latter idea, but I think the former is slowly sinking. And secondly being nationally recruited the “risk” is spread. The Army appears to like infantry in company sized chunks not battalions sized ones and its all arms grouping in battlegroup sized chunks not brigades. Looking back into history none of this stuff is fixed. And if you look across to Europe everybody does this stuff slightly differently. An alternative would be to put the Parachute Regiment on the same footing as RM. And raise a “battalion” to replace 1PARA and the RM contingent in SFSG. Shove it all into one “division”.

  94. x

    @ Jedi

    Um. So I would end up with an “intervention” division, “sustained ops” division, and a specialised independent armoured brigade (and as I said get the TA to support that formation). (I would put the Guards in the “intervention” division and Spearhead would be drawn from that division rotated through Para, RM, and Guards.) Sort of. Plus the Ghurkas. And the RAF Regiment. And the Girl Guides.

  95. jedibeeftrix

    permanence and persistence.

    its a sensible mix, i bow to my betters on how exactly that is achieved, and in what proportion. :)

  96. WiseApe

    @Chris B

    I didn’t expect the Ravens to beat the Colts. I didn’t expect them to beat the Broncos. Naturally I didn’t expect them to beat the god-like Patriots. I don’t expect them to beat the 49ers. So fingers crossed my forecasting stays true to form :-)

    Anyone else watch that defence discussion on Newsnight tonight. Typical journo performance. Ask the pre-prepared questions on your clipboard with complete disregard for what your guest experts are saying. And constantly interrupt them.

  97. x

    @ WiseApe

    The BBC is only good for The Sky At Night, the occasional game of rugby, the weather, that Sherlock programme, and showing Scandinavian crime and political dramas. I don’t watch the rest. Sorry.

  98. Stuart H

    How about having a split between administrative regiments and the front line battalions? For example a soldier from Newcastle could be badged as a Northumberland Fusilier and learn their history (and that of the RRF) but be free to join any unit.

    If you want to retain a named battalion then we could raise new units, 8 battalions of The King’s Own Regiment representing Northern England, the South would have The Queen’s Own Regiment with another 8 battalions and so on. Makes for an interesting debate on names.

    As for the Guards, there are 2 battalions in the Public Duties role (4 companies each?) and a further 3 incremental companies representing 2nd battalions. Using this as a template, why not have these 11 PD companies representing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Grenadiers, Coldstream and Scots with one each for the Irish and Welsh. The remaining 3 battalions worth would be available for deployment as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Guards.

  99. martin

    @ Chris B
    “In all seriousness, three gives you one on high readiness, one working down so to speak (going on courses, leave, bringing in new recruits etc), and one working up, getting ready for its rotation on high readiness footing. It also gives you more depth for a semi-enduring brigade sized op.”
    Agreed but would we not be better to have three brigades along the lines of 16AAB than three along the lines of 7th Armoured.

  100. Repulse

    I say train and equip the TA for territorial defence only. Merge the RM and Army with the expeditionary elements of the RAF and organize into JEF commando units. Then give each JEF a Wasp style LHD…

    Now that would be a “Maritime Strategy”… :)

  101. Tom

    All this talk of Army Commando Brigades ignores that fundamental truth wars aren’t won by elite bands; they’re won by the quality of your main force.

    Regular infantry units in Afgan have performed just as well as PARA and RM Cdo units. Regular infantry can conduct Air Mobile ops just as well as Airborne/Commando units. The main advantage of these units is that they can be maintained at higher levels of readiness and undertake higher operational tempos – but they can only do that because they represent a small part of the military. An elite isn’t an elite if forms a third or quarter of your army.

    Going against the grain I think the reductions to 16 AA Bde were not a terrible idea. Have we ever used it in its entirety in operation that couldn’t of been conducted using a regular infantry brigade? After an initial securing of a air/beach head there’s no reason not to use regular forces.

    We don’t have enough airlift to conduct Parachute/TALO ops with more than 1 or 2 battalions anyway, and that isn’t like to change.

  102. IXION

    Tom

    I have never been in favour of popski’s private armies, be they RN, RAF, Or the Armies private armies. We should indeed be looking to create a high standard for troops with as little specialisation for role, that we can get away with. The whole elite thing can get very corrosive.

    If it is true (as a documentary on tv last week alleged) that when the regular army units of the welsh guards turned up on the beaches of the Falklands a Jnr officer was greeted by a marine Sgt with ‘What the fuck are you doing here’ and made to feel about a welcome as a fart in a space suit. That is a very bad thing.

  103. x

    Martin says “Agreed but would we not be better to have three brigades along the lines of 16AAB than three along the lines of 7th Armoured.”

    Yes. I think 16AAB and 3Cdo provide just enough high readiness capability. How much can we move quickly in one go that is the question. Better the UK get a light battle group formed around a battalions and commando and off PDQ than wait. Speed on occasion can mitigate the need for mass. As I said above if we draw Spearhead from a division based on 16AAB (though I don’t like it in its current form), 3Cdo, and perhaps one or two battalions from as I said above the Guards to pad out numbers there will be plenty of formations in a work-up, high-readiness, type rota. This is the nature of war now. Be there quick and if you are there a long time you will be viewing the world through a block of bullet-proof glass riding in a Mastiff.

    The trouble is high readiness armoured warfare for an island nation is a bit silly. Lets have a look at high readiness. Let say a Gulf war like situation looms on the horizon. The worked up armoured formation packs up its tanks and Warriors, sends them to Marchwood and other ports, and off they go to spend weeks at sea. How long would those first two phases take? One week? Two week? Probably close to three. Enough time for soldiers to return from leave, probably enough time for some to go on leave and return. Enough time to pull soldiers back from BATUS. It is hardly getting a shake in the middle of the night to go action stations. What about levels of training then? Well if all the brigade did for 5 years was armoured warfare then they will be worked up. Instead of spreading training (and wear and tear) around 3 brigades spend the budget on one. Same for kit. Everybody in the infantry in Warrior. Get the TA keyed into supporting this formation and perhaps some regulars then can be fed back into the system for going abroad. An armour war is a once in a decade event. We need it without a doubt. But to build the Army around it, no. Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Libya are war now.

    What about Chally and Warrior in support of those operations? Well I think there is a bit of difference in driving Chally in a massed armoured charged back up with Warrior, and using it the same way as the Danes used their Leopards as moving pillboxes with a big gun against guyes with AKs. Same with Warrior. A 6 month work up will do.

  104. mike

    IXION

    “If it is true (as a documentary on tv last week alleged) that when the regular army units of the welsh guards turned up on the beaches of the Falklands a Jnr officer was greeted by a marine Sgt with ‘What the fuck are you doing here’”

    I thought that quote referred to the very bad landing time choice and position, I remember reading that the Para’s were also rather surprised about the piss poor management of the Welsh landing.

  105. McZ

    So, let me get this straight.

    When in 2000 someone came up with helping Afghanistan, anybody was saying “what the fuck is Absurdistan?”. 13 years later, we find ourselves being the stewards of Afghan security.

    When in 2011 someone came up with Mali, the common reaction was “Malee? Isn’t that a singer?”. A year later we find ourselves being the stewards of Malian security.

    Both countries have two things in common:
    1) no one gives a fuck about what’s happening there
    2) we have basically zero interest in both areas

    But still – because we are so kind!? – we cannot help but to intervene. We easily get the “GO” from the UN, quite happily we think anybody supports our cause.

    The possibility, that China and Russia are viewing western intervention at the arse of nowhere as good means to play catch-up in the vital fields of air and sea power, is being ignored. That our diplomatic attention is distracted from more vital world regions, and the sorry undermining effect of Afghanistan on Britains credibility, is just the icing on the cake.

    As a proof, the only conflict of strategic relevance – Iraq – hence was waged against all diplomatic odds. Found a pattern?

    We above all tend to view interventions as low-hanging fruits. 12 years fighting terrorists with armies, and we can firmly tell the results are poor, from any POV, be it economic, diplomatic, ethic.

    So, proposing a “green” intervention strategy is indeed no strategy at all. We have no goals that see boots on the ground as #1 means of accomplishment. They are crucial, if we are forced to fight, but this isn’t the case.

    We simply don’t have the capacity to assure security in countries doubling their population every 20 years. The only low-hanging fruits for a country lacking relative manpower and having the technological edge is in regions, where population is no factor. Sea and (air)space.

    Shooting satellites into space, visits by state-of-the-art vessels and aircraft made in britain, having a (in the UK now practically defunct) media and software industry,… we need above all strong pictures portraying Britain as a country it is worth to follow. Then we will be able to lead, as our seat at the UNSC implies.

  106. wf

    @McZ: yes, it’s remarkable how “R2P” is great when it’s nothing to do with our actual interests, but to be opposed when it serves our purposes. Just don’t tell a Syrian or Iraqi how wonderful it is. You might almost think of it as a planned!

  107. Phil

    “If it is true (as a documentary on tv last week alleged) that when the regular army units of the welsh guards turned up on the beaches of the Falklands a Jnr officer was greeted by a marine Sgt with ‘What the fuck are you doing here’ and made to feel about a welcome as a fart in a space suit. That is a very bad thing.”

    It was also 30 years ago and an awful lot has changed since then. An awful lot. That said there are still and always will be arseholes.

  108. Challenger

    I understand the merits of an reaction/adaptable mix, and also accept the hard reality that territorial integration with deployable units is important when you only have 82,000 regulars to play with.

    I keep thinking though that the currently planned set-up seems a little messy and apparently favours armoured/mechanized formations over any faster/mobile ones. Id prefer a straight up mix of 3 heavy and 3 light brigades with each group having 1 brigade at fairly high readiness and each of those having 1 battle-group at very high readiness.

    My 3 light brigades would consist of something like 1 parachute, 1 amphibious and 2 light battalions, plus all of the relevant supporting arms and integrated helicopter assets. This would obviously mean forcing through the transfer of the bulk of the Royal Marine’s to the Army with only a small fleet protection group remaining.

    This would mean 6 reaction brigades instead of 5 and would obviously require more manpower to fill it out. My suggestion would be a smaller adaptable force, also of 6 brigades, 3 of which would be purely tailored for UK operations and the other 3 suited to slotting in with the 3 light reaction brigades for a long enduring operation if the future ever calls for it.

    Maybe the above is a bit short-sighted and full of holes, but it makes a bit more sense to me than the current plan.

    Id welcome any feedback!

  109. x

    @ Tom

    Yes I see your point. The discussion was to more about the validity of the regimental system to the modern Army more than setting up a whole new unit per se. The Commando stuff was more an aside about tailoring forces to meet needs and transport capabilities. And a lot of that thinking came from the fact that our line infantry is better than many states’ special forces. Then again US SOCOM is bigger than the entire British Army.

    As for elites becoming a quarter or more of our infantry forces. The Parachute Regiment and SAS account for approximately a tenth of the infantry so hardly a majority. I don’t include RM in Army figures on purpose…….

    @ McZ

    Exactly! So we need to make our infanty more mobile. Really start to see them as a “weapons system”. That is why I mentioned light vehicles and kit. I only mentioned MRAPs because I think HMG will drag the UK into the next US nation building exercise without a second thought. My “current” thinking is an Army (outside armour) mounted in Bushmaster, Viking/Bronco, some Foxhounds, and with suitable cavalry vehicles wouldn’t be too bad.

    @ Stuart H

    I see what you are driving at with the Guards. It will be interesting to see how long they survive in their current traditional form.

  110. x

    IXION said “If it is true (as a documentary on tv last week alleged) that when the regular army units of the welsh guards turned up on the beaches of the Falklands a Jnr officer was greeted by a marine Sgt with ‘What the fuck are you doing here’ and made to feel about a welcome as a fart in a space suit. That is a very bad thing.”

    I have never met a disrespectful RM NCO. It would have been, “What the fuck are you doing here, sir?” ;)

    But I think you are missing a subtlety here when you are discuss elitism. The Guards should have got nowhere near the South Atlantic. If memory serves the regiment that should have gone and had just spent three months in Norway was the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Guards’ Old Boy Network exerted its influence and hey presto off they go. The Scots may have worked magic at Tumbledown but really it could have gone the other way. The Welsh put a lot of strain on logistics chain because they just weren’t fit enough. And so why were they allowed to go? Because the Guards views themselves as an elite and the Army supports them in that view. As for what RM NCO said or didn’t say that really is neither here nor there. They do tend to call a spade a spade. And they are also very “aware” of the big picture. I can imagine how they felt 8000 miles from home in a dicey situation and see soldiers turn up who are distinctly not ready for what was happening. And probably if you had done the Commando Course too and slogged your arse off you would probably feel a bit insulted that the powers be just send because of its cap badge; why bother train? So on balance which elite are you having a pop at? The professional light infantry man or the officer with the right cap badge, from the right school, and from the family?

  111. Phil

    It wasn’t Old Boy network, it was about not weakening NATO as far as was possible. Considerable efforts were gone to not to strip everything from NATO we fancied and goo carting it off to the South Atlantic to defend a pissy little bog.

    We had already taken the northern flank reinforcing unit, we obviously did not want to further weaken it by removing the UK contribution to AMF(L).

    And so there wasn’t much choice, once you stripped away what was already down there, what was committed to NATO and what was committed to Northern Ireland and what was GOING to be committed to them, there wasn’t a whole lot left except some Guards battalions on PD.

  112. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Challenger – The RM Commando Brigade are a high quality unit who appear to be very happy to be a part of the RN – not least because they need this close working relationship to maintain their specialist skills in amphibious warfare; however they seem to work alongside the Army perfectly happily as and when required by the CGS; why force them into the Army? A move likely to have no practical benefit in operational terms – but calculated to hack off some our best people!

  113. x

    @ Phil

    Well 3Cdo shouldn’t have gone then because of Norway….

    I understand your logic but no it was Guards pulling strings.

  114. Phil

    No I am sure a lot of NATO allies weren’t impressed they were sent which made it all the more compelling not to weaken NATO further. This is why we used B52 stripped belts of 7.62 and purchased additional latest model Sidewinders and so on and so on – it was made clear as far as I am aware that NATO earmarked forces and war stocks were to remain as untouched as possible unless they could be covered in some way.

    One wonders if a USMC MEB or at least its logistical component was not ear-marked to take 3 Cdo place if it had all kicked off with everyone’s eyes fixated on the South Atlantic. A lot of careful and quiet re-shuffling went on in NATO for a good few months.

  115. Phil

    “How true is that about the W Guards, I’ve seen it written many times, but were they that unfit?”

    I know plenty of people who are fit but who would not have been able to carry the weight they were packing. And it’s not just down to the individuals fitness, it is down to the ability of the battalion to man pack its kit and move and fight at the end of it.

    It seems to have been more a case of funny ideas and inexperience about what the blokes should carry and how to move kit that was the problem, not fitness per se.

    There was more than enough time to get the Toms fighting fit.

    The whole WG involvement appears to have just been a cluster fuck from start to finish.

    I don’t know who was making or forcing decisions for them, or on them, but their whole involvement seems to have been characterised by amateurish mistakes.

    However, it’s just as likely everyone’s approach was amateurish to a degree except the WGs never got their chance to shake out and earn valuable experience before they got smashed. Everyone else did. 3 Commando had already learned a LOT of lessons before 5 Bde got amongst it and 3 Commando were lucky in their landings, it could just have easily have been 3 PARA on a burning Sir Galahad in the Sound for example.

    The question really is did the information needed to benefit from 3 Commando experience reach 5 Bde commanders and if it did what stopped them benefiting from it?

    Saying the WGs were unfit misses the point and they probably were not unfit at all. Their inexperience fucked them over.

  116. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Phil – blimey…are we going to have to start proving stuff now! I might have to retreat to a less rigorous site…

    (Shouts of “get lost then” will make me even Gloomier than usual!)

  117. Phil

    “@Phil – blimey…are we going to have to start proving stuff now! I might have to retreat to a less rigorous site…”

    Well if you’re going to say something, and I say you’re wrong and give some reasons why, and you just say you’re still right and leave it at that, its a pretty shit discussion isn’t it?

    I’m not after peer reviewed papers or even named sources – but one particle of supporting evidence wouldn’t go amiss.

    I think that’s a reasonable position otherwise there’s no point ever having a discussion, it just becomes two or more blokes talking to themselves.

  118. Tom

    x – The increasing size of US SOCOM is going to come to a head at some point in the next decade.

    I see what you are saying about a “Commando” force. However my suggestion would perhaps go differently:

    - Disband 2 and 3 PARA*

    - Reform 19 Light Brigade as the Army’s rapid deployment force with 3 – 4 light infantry battalions drawn from rotating Adaptive force battalions. Rotating them helps to maintain a even spread of experience within the Army and helps to maintain the rapid deployment force at a high level.

    The life of a light infantry battalion would be something like (in 6 or 12 month periods): R&R – Training – Adaptive Force deployment – R&R / Other Tasks – Training – 19 Light Bde

    * – SFSG covers the only reason to maintain a small airborne force. Parachuting is only useful with a small force for raiding / special operations. Australia withdrew 3 RAR jump status for this reason. As a regular airborne infantry they were never going to jump into action because 2 Cdo could cover the raiding role.

    *2 – I am convinced that The Parachute Regiment as only survived because of the Maroon Mafia. The Paras are (almost) as bad as the Guards are for unjust influence in the Senior Ranks.

  119. Chris.B.

    @ WiseApe,
    Well, I thought the 49ers were going to win each of their playoff games and they did, so hopefully my forecasting continues! I still can’t believe the Ravens won, bit of a shock.

    @ Martin,
    “Agreed but would we not be better to have three brigades along the lines of 16AAB than three along the lines of 7th Armoured.”
    – Where are you going to find the money for two more brigades worth of helicopters? I imagine there are certain details and nuances to helicopter assaults that go beyond “get into helicopter, get out of helicopter”, but I would have thought the nuances between that and regular infantry work are a lot slimmer than the nuances of armoured warfare.

    A lot of soldiers rotating through Afghanistan appear to have had a crack at various points doing certain helicopter assaults on various scales. I’d also suggest that such air assaults are something we do less commonly (in terms of having to call up 16AAB specifically for a job) than we have armoured warfare.

    It’s worth remembering that even after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, warriors and tanks still came in quite handy. I personally associate armour with one of the “hard cores” that TD often refers to when talking about British defence. I think we’d be silly to throw that away in favour of something that sounds good but we don’t do all that often on a large scale.

    @ X,
    “If memory serves the regiment that should have gone and had just spent three months in Norway was the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders”
    – There’s various versions of this story, all of which seem to be a little dubious. There was one that sticks out in the mind, that the Royal Green Jackets had, immediately following the invasion, begun a period of brief but intensive training, only to get swapped out for the Welsh Guards at the last minute. We’ll never really know I guess.

  120. Phil

    So disband a light infantry brigade based around a practical means to delivery a task force to create a, err, a light infantry brigade.

    This achieves what beyond binning The Reg?

  121. Think Defence

    Gloomy, is this a rigorous site then?

    Interesting to see how it is perceived.

    I do love having the odd discussion on other forums but each has a different character

  122. x

    @ Phil

    No you prove otherwise. :)

    @ TD re “rigorous”

    There could be advantages. It would stop me spreading rhubarb all of the site.

  123. wf

    @Tom, @Phil: I’d favour the retention of the Paras, purely because for theatre entry, there are times when you need to sieze an airhead, and assuming that there will always be an pair of LPH 100k away is rather optimistic. The additional cost is minimal since they can be used for other tasks and the air transport we will have anyway.

  124. x

    @ Chris B

    Yep. If weakening NATO was a concern HMG would have just rolled over on the peat bog issue. Whatever Fieldhouse said to Mrs T.

  125. Phil

    Yet there’s plenty of evidence to show there were concerns about weakening NATO. It was why the AMF(L) Bn was not sent despite the fact it was perfect. Same goes for the regular elements of UKMF which again represented a pool of regular battalions in a war role. Untouched. There were 4 regular army infantry brigades in 1982, they folded most of one into 3 Cdo and backfilled it with random units. Instead of sending one of the other 3. Ask yourself why.

  126. Mike W

    @Tom

    “Going against the grain I think the reductions to 16 AA Bde were not a terrible idea.”

    I don’t know so much. The loss of infantry battalions is quite serious. The two Para battalions remaining are no doubt first-rate infantry but would they have enough bulk for anything other than a relatively minor intervention? 16 AA Bde has also lost its AA battery and surely some air defence is necessary in most interventions. Phil, of course, is going to say, well, an AA detachment is easily borrowed from elsewhere and would slot in with no difficulty but surely working together and cohesion mean something.

    @Wise Ape

    “Anyone else watch that defence discussion on Newsnight tonight. Typical journo performance. Ask the pre-prepared questions on your clipboard with complete disregard for what your guest experts are saying. And constantly interrupt them.”

    Yes, I agree about journos, BBC ones especially. The defence correspondents are not so bad: they have usually had military experience but the rest seem to be Left-leaning, liberal-minded television types with no knowledge of defence at all. And they don’t even bother to mug up on it. What was the famous quotation from Andrew Marr?

    “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people” … It has a liberal bias, not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”

    And that’s why its journos know zilch about defence!

  127. Phil

    The ABTF is envisaged as being used in such “relatively minor interventions”. Light parachute inserted infantry has a limited utility but inside its “envelope” is is very useful.

    ABTF is meant for interventions like Mali or Sierra Leonne where we can have a company on the ground in hours.

    It is expressly not for parachuting into a peer enemy threat like Arnhem. If AA is needed, the ABTF should not be going there alone.

  128. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @TD – it is indeed a rigorous site, which is mostly a great thing – provided people spot that the odd remark added to a thread is intended to raise a wry smile not add to the overall sum of human knowledge…in just the same way that one might try to lighten the mood in the pub if a lively debate is morphing into a punch-up in the car park…

  129. Chris.B.

    Just to clarify a point, I was thinking of dumping 16AAB, just not dumping two armoured brigades for two new AAB, as was suggested earlier.

  130. John Hartley

    If Atlantic Conveyer had not been sunk & its Chinooks survived, then the Welsh Guards could have been moved by air, making them useful in looking after Argentine prisoners, thus freeing Cdos & Paras for the fighting. With airlift the Guards made sense for secondary duties. Without airlift their use was limited.
    Weakening NATO? I seem to remember the Russians were tied up in Afghanistan & the Israelis were invading Lebanon.

  131. Mike W

    On the subject of Heavy versus Light formations and kit, has anyone heard the reports that the French have a squadron of Leclerc MBTs ready to be sent to Mali if need be. Their planners must think that the heavy stuff is needed in certain situations! I think that Caesar 155 mm guns are already there, sent because the opposition encountered was more robust than they thought it would be.

  132. Chris.B.

    Mike,

    I’d heard the same about the LeClerc. Apparently they’ve got that and some more VBCI mounted troops ready to go if the need arises.

  133. IXION

    Mike

    I have not heard about the tanks.

    The Caear- are they not just guns on the back of truck chassis- and therefore relativly easy to shift.

    If leclerc are to be sent then they will take a lobg time getting there as they will need transporters etc.

  134. Challenger

    @Gloomy Northern Boy

    ‘The RM Commando Brigade are a high quality unit who appear to be very happy to be a part of the RN’.

    OK, you make a fair point, so instead keep 3rd commando where it is and in pretty much the same shape and form, but have it work to a pattern of 1 working up 1 working down and 1 on call with 2 Army light brigades (16th air assault and 1 other).

    As appreciative as I am about a reaction/adaptable force split I think 3 heavy brigades and only 1 light leaves the Army reaction element rather unbalanced. If the justification for 3 armoured infantry brigades is to have 1 at constant readiness (with a battle-group at high readiness) then the same should apply to the lighter reaction elements, surely?

  135. Mike W

    @Chris.B.

    Yes, I’ve read one or two reports to the same effect, Chris. Does that strengthen the case for our retaining a decent amount of heavy kit, though?

    @IXION

    Yes, the are truck-carried, portee-type systems, I think. I would not claim that they are the equivalent to a SP 155 mm tracked gun but the 155 mm, in any form, carries a hefty punch, and should be considered heavy, I think. Your point about time taken to transport the Leclercs is a valid one.

    @Challenger

    “As appreciative as I am about a reaction/adaptable force split I think 3 heavy brigades and only 1 light leaves the Army reaction element rather unbalanced. If the justification for 3 armoured infantry brigades is to have 1 at constant readiness (with a battle-group at high readiness) then the same should apply to the lighter reaction elements, surely?”

    It’s a strong point you make. I think there is rather an imbalance too, as I implied in an earlier comment.

  136. Chris.B.

    @ Mike W,

    I think it acknowledges that armour has a use even against enemies without it, as it provides an over match capability. And that’s before we get into the question of when armour is needed to fight armour.

    Soldiers in Warriors can always dismount and fight on foot, leaving the vehicles at home. If all you have is the dismounts and no armour then you can’t do the reverse.

  137. Phil

    Agreed. Generating an armoured force from a light force takes 2-3 years. Generating a light force from an armoured force can be done in a matter of weeks, probably days in extremis.

  138. Mike W

    @Chris.B. and Phil

    Thanks to both of you for your replies. You are making me think more than is healthy for my little brain. As well as our views, I have been pondering on x’s ideas about how long heavy armour takes to deploy and how we only deploy it once a decade anyway.

    @IXION

    Sorry, rather missed your point about Caesar, which was that being truck-mounted, it would be easier to shift than an MBT. Point now taken. However, the wider point, I think, is that if the French have found they need a heavy weapon like Caesar in because of stiffer opposition than expected, that rather lends strength to the argument for the retention of heavier gear, including main battle tanks, doesn’t it, because it might be needed.

  139. Phil

    Heavy armour has been deployed more than that. It was deployed three times in the 90s: GW1, Bosnia and Kosovo. We deployed heavy forces to Iraq and Afghan too albeit in smaller numbers in Afghan. Heavy forces have a clear utility. Their time to deploy is not just a factor of their literal weight, but also the fact they are deployed for more demanding roles and consequently need more stores and supplies. X berates the idea of heavy forces on VHR and HR but that means forces arriving and operational up to a month earlier than they would be if they were not HR and VHR.

  140. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Challenger – I agree about the need for more rapid reaction elements, but personally would re-task and re-equip The Rifles as a second Air Assault Brigade (and in an ideal world the Guards as a third!) – but equipping them would be costly; my offered solution to that would be to talk to BAE and the Cousins about our taking over the Apache production lines when the US move on to the Apache Successor – much as the USMC took on and developed Harrier. If there are other Apaches out there needing maintenance/updating, or possibly even new customers it might(?) be possible to make this work commercially. (The Czechs used German Car Production lines for years when they rejoined the West)

    Beyond that three Armoured Brigades and Four “Line” Brigades with overseas links as planned – 80,000 full-time personnel in ten brigades, with 30,000 TA to reinforce and provide Divisional Units in a big war; with the Brigades providing Operational HQs and the kind of administrative work the Infantry Divisions do now…and comprising an appropriate mix of cap-badges, gunners, sappers et al.

    How does that look?

  141. Challenger

    @Gloomy Northern Boy

    Yeah you’re idea seems fine, I just feel that the currently planned Army structure is a little unbalanced and heavy. So 3 armoured infantry and 3 light brigades (including 3rd commando) would do me fine, I don’t think we require more than that, just enough to keep the lighter reaction elements on the same work down, work up and on standby cycle as the others.

    I see the value in retaining a degree of armoured capability and understand that it’s far more difficult to regenerate than other formations, but I still think we need to acknowledge that heavy armour/mechanized brigades aren’t needed as much as lighter units in an everyday sense and do take a long time to gear up when they are required.

    Despite the tight limitations the Army will be facing I’m sure the adaptable force could be tweaked to provide an extra light formation to the reaction side of things and even things out. Beyond that I’m not too concerned about the details if I’m honest!

  142. jedibeeftrix

    “If the justification for 3 armoured infantry brigades is to have 1 at constant readiness (with a battle-group at high readiness) then the same should apply to the lighter reaction elements, surely?”

    Again, an argument I am sympathetic to, provided there is room fora commando brigade as well in an 82000 army.

  143. ArmChairCivvy

    I like wf’s line above, and hence the French are/ have been flying in 26 t armour and Ceasar – both on wheels once they get there
    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/01/mali-heavy-firepower/
    - much on the lines of what we would have by now, had we stuck with Boxer and went ahead with the 155mm on wheels (we just experimented with a model that would have been too weak for the job, but there are plenty of wheels to choose from)
    - in this sort of campaign it is surely more useful to have the arty include heavy mortars (as the French do) rather than the 70 km ranged artillery missiles

    Wheels give you the tactical mobility to quickly (to get to the right palce to) engage at range – the best way to minimise casualties

  144. wf

    @ACC: no idea about Leclerc, but the AMX30 could travel on wheels. Hence, during GW1, the French unloaded in the west of Saudi, and motored their tanks on their wheels until the staging area. I daresay Africa was a factor in the design too….

  145. Tom

    Phil – Come on… aren’t I allowed one ridiculous plan on the site? Surely that’s half the point of the comments section on the site? For somewhat poorly thought out commenter plans? … The other half being for well reasoned debate.

    To clarify my comments about 16 AA – I think be reducing its size it actually makes it closer to the rapid response/commando force that people want. Perhaps it needs to go further and remove the AAC regiments and leave them under JHC control. This would give you light but rapid response force, both in terms combat capability and (more importantly) in terms of its logistics footprint. You can’t deploy Apaches quickly.

    3 Cdo Bde has a different role to any Army Light Brigade – at any one time 1/3 of its strength is deployed as a Commando Group at sea. You can’t (realistically) do that with a regular Army Light Infantry Battalion.

  146. ArmChairCivvy

    RE ” You can’t deploy Apaches quickly.”
    - all it takes is some preplanning (USAF did a lot of work on their Bare Base concept and kit to make it happen)and priority in the use of airlift. On the latter aspect, the French have been using C-17s (5 from US, 2 from us and 1 from Canada) as well as the normal Antonovs, the ones that have been pre-booked for NATO members’ use

    I agree wholly on the RM comment, but maybe it was exactly this “burden” that made them rename an existing unit, so that they got the 4th Commando.
    - RE “at any one time 1/3 of its strength is deployed as a Commando Group at sea”

  147. x

    The only way the UK could have high readiness armour is if it had 6 to 10 of these sitting in Southampton Water (plus a tanker or two, plus ammunition ship plus other stores) preloaded with a brigade’s equipment….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USNS_Watson_(T-AKR-310)

    What you have to ask yourself is this, if the Falklands had been an armoured venture how quickly would they Task Force got away from the wall? Most of the TF’s land element loaded it self on to ships carrying bergens and a SLR. Tanks take a bit longer. How many vehicles does a Warrior armoured infantry battalion have? Do we have the shipping pre-positioned ready to go, or are they all over the globe? Do we have enough or will more have to Ibe charted? f we had one brigade that just did armour for that once in a decade war they would always be ready to go. A light infantry battalion on Spearhead entirely different matter. High readiness. That is what HMG pay the Army to be, ready. Rhubarb! Rhubarb! And thrice rhubarb I say! :)

  148. wf

    @x : if the FI troops all had CVR(T) and Bandwagon’s, the whole thing would have been over far faster, with far fewer expensive helicopters required.

  149. x

    @ wf

    I am dying of cold this may be last transmission…..

    There is a bit of difference between a CVR(T) and a Chally2 isn’t there? And between a Volvo BV and Warrior isn’t there? Yes 3Cdo would have been well served if it had been entirely mounted in vehicles. But that isn’t high end armour is it? The numbers of vehicles available was small because of available lift. Imagine if the FI ARG had had the same amount of specialised shipping as a USMC MEU of that era. There is being mounted in vehicles for transport and there is fighting vehicles. Just as there is a difference between transporting troops by sea and amphibious warfare.

    I am going off to die of cold now. Got to do it now as I have got to go out later…..

    EDIT: Yes about the helicopters. More landing craft and more vehicles. And more ships. Always more ships. :)

  150. wf

    @x: there is indeed a bit of difference between a CR2 and CVR(T). The FI was a somewhat atypical recent conflict in that the terrain was very difficult, but that’s not the case with the others. And declaring light infantry to be wonderful because it’s easy to deploy won’t help the poor buggers when they are asked to advance into shell and heavy small arms fire, let alone packed a company at a time into LCU’s and sent off to beaches “probably” clear of enemy :-(

  151. x

    @ wf

    If you look back through my posts here you will see I am very much in favour of “protected transport” for light forces. Can’t see the point of them (light forces like RM and Para) training to the peak of fitness then being used as pack animals. All I said above was the number of vehicles available in the FI was low because of available not because they weren’t needed. Go look up the story of Kelpers using tractors to help move UK forces forward. I think you are confusing “armour” as form of warfare and use of (protected lighter) vehicles for transport. Or I am confusing you. Probably the latter….. :)

  152. jedibeeftrix

    @ Tom – “3 Cdo Bde has a different role to any Army Light Brigade – at any one time 1/3 of its strength is deployed as a Commando Group at sea.”

    Is the ATFG one third of 3Cdo?

    I ask not least because there are four principal combat units; three commandos and the rifles battalion.

    Quite frankly, would be very receptive to the idea of seeing 3Cdo and 16AAB reduced to three principal combat units apiece, with the intention of supplying one battalion/commando (plus support) on V high readiness, with that brigade on high readiness for the same period.

    I would at the same time like to see an army commando brigade formed to act alongside 16AAB and 3Cdo as a light weight reaction force.

    To work the same 2:1 ratio given to the heavy reaction brigades.

  153. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Jedibeeftrix – Why not re-task The Rifles and tool them up accordingly – another two or three Regiments of Apaches and extra Chinooks.

  154. jedibeeftrix

    because, and i bow to minds of greater military experience than my own, we can’t properly use 16AAB as it is notionally intended as thing stands, due to the lack of airlift, and this certainly won’t in future.

  155. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @jedibeefitrix – fair enough; just use them as the light unit then…can I daydream about having the airlift though? Lots of snow here tonight, so it will guarantee a good nights sleep and ample energy for building an Action Man Snow Bunker in the morning…Boy is nine.

  156. Challenger

    @Jedibeeftrix

    ‘Quite frankly, would be very receptive to the idea of seeing 3Cdo and 16AAB reduced to three principal combat units apiece, with the intention of supplying one battalion/commando (plus support) on V high readiness, with that brigade on high readiness for the same period.

    I would at the same time like to see an army commando brigade formed to act alongside 16AAB and 3Cdo as a light weight reaction force.

    To work the same 2:1 ratio given to the heavy reaction brigades’

    It makes sense doesn’t it! Temporarily putting aside the comparative difficulty in regenerating armour and the question of what will and won’t be useful when musing on possible future conflicts it makes sense to have the same ratio of working up, working down and high readiness for the lighter units as well as the heavier ones.

    I personally wouldn’t really mind what form the third light brigade should take. As many people have pointed out most British infantry battalions are of a superior quality to a lot of other line infantry units around the world, so id be happy with re-rolling the Rifles or the Guards or whoever really in-to a solidified light reaction force.

    I’m sure that by evening out the rest of the reaction force to the magic three unit structure and also raiding the adaptable force for a bit of extra manpower it would be feasible to raise an extra brigade. The adaptable force could be geared to provide three more light brigades and slot into an enduring operation with a fair bit of notice, with the rest of it providing purely UK based regional presence.

  157. Chris.B.

    Two things I see (and I can’t normally see much at half 3 in the morning);

    – The reason 16 AAB and 3 Cdo have “non-commando” infantry units mixed into them is for the practicalities of war. So you’ve just conducted an amphibious assault on some piece of coast line; Who looks after the beach head? Who provides security for that position in case the landing force needs to withdraw? Who pulls security around temporary landing sites for helicopters? Who handles prisoners sent to the rear by the leading elements? Who provides escorts for heavy kit (artillery) being sent forward? Who comes up eventually to provide reinforcements for the leading elements?

    Answer to all the above is the regular infantry battalion attached to 3 Cdo (1st Rifles). Unless you want to strip a whole Commando for all those tasks? Think back to the Falklands when the Royal Marines were reinforced by the Paras to give their brigade a bit more combat weight.

    For 16 AAB, replace “beach head” with “Air head”, presumably thinking more about helicopters than para drops. Still, parachuting has its merits. No, we don’t have enough air lift to realistically drop the entire of 2 and 3 PARA together. But then we don’t have a requirement to do that either. Parachute deployable forces still have their uses though, not least because it takes a certain kind of mentally backward individual to voluntarily throw themselves out of a working aircraft attached to nothing more than a very large pair of silk undies, trusting that the person who inspected it and packed it was not having an off day ;)

    – This idea of creating an army Commando Brigade (setting aside the fact that we already have one), designed for rapid intervention. My question is; why? What capabilities will they possess that are unique to them and not every other light infantry unit that we already have in the army, pretty much any of which you could pack onto a plane and organise some light support for?

    Light infantry is light infantry, unless you have some highly specific and very demanding requirements for it to fulfill that require very specific training. I mean even the dedicated Commando brigade is pushing its luck, what with Overlord as a historical example of a few exercises prepping an infantry force for an amphibious assault (I’m guessing a lot of the unique skill is contained in the people who drive the landing craft plus the planning cell).

    What is the justification for another army brigade, labelled as rapid intervention?

  158. jedibeeftrix

    I accept the premise, but the full 3cdo is little beside the point without sufficient amphibious tonnage to move it.

    Re army commando – an African specialist long range cavalry force on French style wheeled vehicles.

  159. Martin

    @ Chris B – After a lot of thought on the subject I have decided you are correct. The role of 16AAB should be to have one of three battalion sized battle groups on high readiness for rapid insertion in addition the RM can provide one of three commandos on high readiness for rapid insertion. This gives us the ability to deploy tow battalion sized forces by air or sea which in most instances like Sierra Leone or With the French in Mali will be enough. The intervention brigades then provide one of three brigades for instance such as Bosnia and Kosovo where larger heavier forces are required. In an all out effort AKA 2003 then 16AAb 3com and 1 on the intervention armoured brigades are all deployed in the entirety.

    It actually makes a lot of sense when you really think about it. Having 16AAB and 3 com with some form of Army Commando brigades with one ready to deploy rapidly would mean that we would be nable to have either a para or commando unit on permanent high readiness. Stripping out a heavy intervention brigade would mean that we would be unable to have a heavier force on high alert. One has to say that Force 2020 seems to deliver almost of of the capability of the previous force with 20% less men which begs the question of why it was not done in the past.

  160. Gloomy Northern Boy

    If we mostly deploy from the UK Brigades with three manoeuvre units make sense; however if the forward deployed strategy has any traction the four unit model allows one unit to be out there doing in their “allocated overseas area” – whilst still leaving the option to send the other three somewhere completely different if needed.

    The Wheeled Commando for Africa sounds attractive – but could we find a way to pre-position the kit – Sierra Leone? Kenya? As a flyer, Northern Somalia (BS as was) – where diplomatic recognition and strong engagement could pay huge dividends if delivered expertly enough…

  161. jedibeeftrix

    The three-to-deploy-one ratio (2:1) is one I like, for heavy reaction forces too, and I have long termed it “permanent” effect.

    Gabbie makes an interesting point that “persistent” effect might in future be delivered in a six-to-deploy-one ratio (5:1).

    A thirty-six month schedule which works for reaction forces too, hence my desire for a third light reaction brigade, or, three basic deployable battleground from each of 16aab and 3cdo. This could include a fourth infantry battalion to provide company strength staging support to the deployed commando/para.

    This is particularly relevant for our forward deployed adaptable brigades.
    Two three battalion adaptable brigades could between them tag-team a theatre of interest…….. And provide a contingency function.

    Six months workup > six months forward > six months r & r > six months workup > six months readiness > six months r & r

    Six adaptable brigades could between them keep a battalion in the ME, Africa, and Asia as part of persistent mentoring and security regime.

    So we have reaction and adaptable forces well occupied, but, and here it gets interesting:

    What does that seventh adaptable brigade do?
    What do the three as yet unattributed light cav formations (in jackals) do?

    Havewe just identified the core of the Scottish army, if things go sour in 2014?

    The Scots won’t be able to do anything useful with the reaction forces, they are too complicated and too expensive for an army of 6900 (roughly one twelfth of the UK pop) to manage.

    But an infantry brigade and cavalry brigade with a regiment of engineers, logistics, etc, give scotland the perfect little pocket-army.

    However, my speculations aside, and to return to the question in the OP, this is very much not the end of a maritime strategy.

  162. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Jedibeefitrix – sounds plausible – does that suggest we need an East of Suez Main Base ideally placed to support forward deployed assets in the Gulf, East Africa and somewhere suitable to meet our SEATO obligations rather more robustly. More precisely do we need to talk to the Cousins about the future scale of our presence at DG? Especially if they are now looking further East and North and might want to scale back…also Australia, possibly India?

    The West Africa/Atlantic Ridge can be run from home (or Freetown?); the Mediterranean from Gibraltar/Cyprus…sounds like a plausible basis for the forward-deployed strategy…with boots and planes on the ground onshore where we can win hearts and minds by spending MoD and DfID money and providing decent jobs and business development; ISTAR/UAVs/UUVs based on secure bits of rock; and HM Atlantic Coastguard Squadron (based at Gibraltar?) looking after things in the various relevant EEZs.

    After all, big oil companies move people about on a two months on one month off basis all the time; surely we could manage the same with HMAF…

  163. x

    I thought 3Cdo had lost the Rifles battalion which was to do with numbers on the ground in Afghanistan and not the Rifles being true commandos?

    Martin says “Stripping out a heavy intervention brigade would mean that we would be unable to have a heavier force on high alert. One has to say that Force 2020 seems to deliver almost of of the capability of the previous force with 20% less men which begs the question of why it was not done in the past.”

    Actually yes it does or it would. But only if the true armoured role is stripped out into a brigade on its own, leaving the residual brigades to do “force generation”. Even if that extends to deploying a tank battalion or Warrior battalion to support peacekeeping/extended interventions, or as a reinforcement to the single role armour brigade. 3 rapid intervention armour brigades is stupid. And what do you take
    on high alert to mean? A paratrooper being hauled out of bed to climb into a plane to be dropped on some target is high alert. Moving tanks and Warriors to Marchwood, loading them (if the ships is there and not being charted/STUFT), then sending for a month or so voyager isn’t high alert, and then another week or more being unloaded at the other end and move towards the front certainly isn’t high alert. If the UK’s armoured brigades were fully manned and trained and ready to go in theatre that is all of a week’s worth of fighting capability.

    Now if our tanks looked like this…..

    http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/dangerroom/2011/03/submarinetanktreads.png

    I might think the idea was a goer.

  164. Simon257

    @Mark

    Last night, I drove 400 miles from Port Talbot to Warrington and back. Through all that snow as well!
    Now bearing in mind, that 1000 miles is in Africa and not the UK’s Motorway network, its roughly 3-4 Days from the Port of entry to getting to Mali, unless they change Driver’s and drive non-stop, then they could do it in two. That’s if they drive. Does anyone know what the railway network is like in that part of Africa?

  165. Mark

    Simon257

    Yes I’m not saying its impossible but force protection must be a consideration too. IED on supply/long range convoys seem to be a preferred tactic if these types of opponents.

  166. Gloomy Northern Boy

    On the other hand if the relevant kit is pre-positioned in a Warehouse in Freetown…close to the Airfield where the C-17s allocated to the Atlantic Ridge Expeditionary Air Wing are based…alongside the forward presence Battle-Group who are already in Mali establishing an FOB alongside the Frogs…the reinforcements can come in by chartered commercial airliner in some comfort.

    When we expected to fight the USSR to a standstill in the Fulda Gap the BAOR lived in Germany (a fair few still do!) – surely it is not beyond our means to ensure that in future Military Families will be able to put down permanent roots in the UK – but the Soldiers and Airmen will be away on sixth month tours much closer to the potential sharp end at pretty regular intervals; much as it is now for anybody on deployment, much as it always was for the RN.

    I might add that in terms of Families the one MOD operation I would wind up would be anything to do with housing and welfare – I would argue for a Military Housing/Welfare Association to do the job properly…under the management of Service Personnel themselves, supported by the key forces charities.

    However, that is probably a whole different web-site..!

  167. All Politicians are The same

    The original French intervention force also deployed from a base in Abidjan. It is a drive of approximately 1000 Km but the Geography means that they are entering Mali frpm the South away from the theater of Ops which is in the North of the country.

  168. Challenger

    I’m still not convinced on the future Army structure. As much as I think that the reaction/adaptable split is the way forwards I still don’t fully understand how three large armoured infantry brigades are considered essential and the lighter equivalent has to made do with two far smaller formations.

    Perhaps someone could sum up in a simple way just why it’s so important to have more of one than the other?

  169. All Politicians are The same

    Far easier to get together a rapid intervention force. especially as long as we have 3 Commando and 16 Air Assault. Once you lose the ability to filed a ” heavy brigade ” it becomes a far more difficult asset to regenerate.

  170. Challenger

    @APATS + Phil

    I understand what you’re saying, and I don’t disagree with the idea of retaining the heavier stuff, I get that it’s far more difficult to regenerate and the future is uncertain.

    To me though it just seems that the Armoured Infantry element of the reaction force is a relic of the failed multi-role brigade concept, albeit without the light infantry. Add to that the fact that 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando will survive but in a significantly smaller form and it feels as though the whole thing is a little off balance.

    That aside I think it’s a far better structure which will hopefully serve us well.

  171. Phil

    There was no such thing as a failed multi role brigade concept. All brigades are multi role! They are combined arms formations. That’s the point. I never understood why people put MRBs in a special box. They were just Infantry Brigade Groups.

    It’s not off balance when you consider the strategic realities and objectives I wrote about in the SDSR 2015 thread.

  172. ArmChairCivvy

    Heh-heh, Phil

    Aren’t you putting up a brave face there a little bit?
    “There was no such thing as a failed multi role brigade concept. All brigades are multi role! ”
    - as you know all I have been posting here was always MRB agnostic
    - can you find a good official posting between now and 2008 re: what they were (exactly) supposed to be?

  173. Phil

    No not at all. The whole MRB thing was a description that suited the politics of the time. It was touted as having an armoured regiment, some light role, armoured role and mechanised roled infantry battalions with an end state in 2020 or so of all one medium vehicle platform. It was just an infantry brigade.

  174. Mike W

    @Phil

    “All brigades are multi role! They are combined arms formations. That’s the point. I never understood why people put MRBs in a special box. They were just Infantry Brigade Groups.”

    In one way you are perfectly right, Phil. If you look at the organization of a Mechanised Brigade, it has (or had – I am not sure of the latest developments) the following elements: Armoured Regiment (Challengers), an Armoured Recce Squadron (CVR(T)s), an Armoured Infantry Battalion (Warrior), a Mechanised Battalion (FV432 or Bulldog), a SP Artillery Regiment (AS90), an Engineer Squadron, an RLC Squadron, REME Workshops, a Medical Squadron, an Air Defence detachment, etc. etc. Well, I can’t remember them all but you get the point. Sometimes they even had an AAC detachment.

    So in that sense you are correct. There would not have been that much difference between a Multi-Role Brigade (as planned) and a good old Mechanised Brigade, apart from the presence of Light Infantry in the latter.

    Now, I think what Challenger is driving at is that with the planned 2020 set-up, all the Infantry in the Armoured Infantry battalions are precisely that – mamely armoured and in Warriors. Doesn’t the preponderance of heavy armour in those three Armoured Infantry Brigades make for a lack of flexibility and mobility? I’m afraid that, given the nature of the crises and contingencies breaking out in the world at the moment, I think that our planned structure does seem a little off balance, as Challenger says.

    @Chris.B.

    “This idea of creating an army Commando Brigade (setting aside the fact that we already have one), designed for rapid intervention. My question is; why? What capabilities will they possess that are unique to them and not every other light infantry unit that we already have in the army, pretty much any of which you could pack onto a plane and organise some light support for?”

    Chris, I was at a loss to answer your question about the difference between a commando formation and others. However, I have looked up the definition of “Commando” in the dictionary and got the following: “a soldier specially trained to carry out raids”. Now that might not be a perfect definition but, for our purposes, let’s just take it for a moment. I know that there are some excellent Infantry formations and units in the British Army at the moment but are they all trained to carry out the super-fast and, one would hope, devastating raids that the Paras and Royal Marines are trained for? The kind of operation that is increasingly in demand in the modern world and the question is whether the Army 2020 structure pays enough attention to that fact. Isn’t that why people have raised the subject of an Army Commando formation?

  175. All Politicians are The same

    Surely history proves that regardless of cap badge presumed role or specialty when the shit hits the fan what is available is sent to do what it can and we do it!

    Slight rant of a post but if we spend any longer “inventing” our perfect mix they will be caught between barracks when required.

  176. ArmChairCivvy

    Phil, you agree with me then?
    “The whole MRB thing was a description that suited the politics of the time.”
    - a mirage, with no seriously thought-out application?

  177. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for rescuing me when the debate about the MRBs vs. the then existing (armoured) formations was raging at its high (with your exact counts of who has what, and what does it total up to).

    RE “units in the British Army [at the moment but] are they all trained to carry out the super-fast and, one would hope, devastating raids that the Paras and Royal Marines are trained for? The kind of operation that is increasingly in demand in the modern world and the question is whether the Army 2020 structure pays enough attention to that fact. Isn’t that why people have raised the subject of an Army Commando formation?”
    - isn’t it the SF (and the SFSG) that are for recce, raiding and the occasional hostage rescue?

  178. Phil

    I’m sure the Infantry Brigade Groups had an awful lot of internal thinking behind them. The British Army does not turn on sixpence. But they were built on a different foundation, probably a different policy option. Delete the option and you deleted the need to have 5 uniform brigades.

    If enduring medium operations was an option that had been taken they’d have made sense. They came up something different. More imaginative, definitely long overdue by two decades.

  179. Chris.B.

    @ Mike W,

    Question is how often do we do that very specific kind of raid? We have Royal Marines who can conduct amphibious and heliborne attacks. We have 16AAB who can conduct either a parachute or helicopter borne assault.

    My query about an “army commando brigade” is what will they do that neither of the other two above can do? Will they do whatever it is we want them to do on a regular enough basis, and is the importance of the task a justification for having another army Commando?

    I’m just struggling to see what task this new army commando would perform that we don’t have already?

  180. Mike W

    @ACC

    I don’t know that I rescued you. You seem to do pretty well in debates without any help.

    ” isn’t it the SF (and the SFSG) that are for recce, raiding and the occasional hostage rescue?”

    Yes, but I don’t think they are enough numerically for some of the larger raids we have had, and shall have to carry out. You have to remember that UK Special Forces still today only number a few hundred.

  181. Challenger

    @Mike W

    ‘I’m afraid that, given the nature of the crises and contingencies breaking out in the world at the moment, I think that our planned structure does seem a little off balance, as Challenger says’

    Yeah that’s all I was really saying. I’m not denying that it’s good to keep a fair amount of armour around, just that it’s probably going to be less called upon than the lighter elements when it comes to fast reaction and intervention. We will have adaptable brigades, that’s great when you have enough notice to get them geared up for a rotational deployment, but they are unlikely to be able to contribute anything on day one of an operation. So have three light formations to mimic the heavier ones and ensure that all the bases are covered.

  182. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Mike W, a good point “You have to remember that UK Special Forces still today only number a few hundred.”

    Takes me to the Gordon Brown slip-up: practically all of the SAS being deployed in Iraq, and putting the number at 500+.
    - SBS has practically been merged into the main body, is their 200 or so in that number?
    - the well-kept secret is the RM recce rgmnt (that makes it a bn, then)
    - then there is the SFSG

    Put those three together, with some specialised “air”
    - and voila (voisi?): there is the third bde being called for

  183. ArmChairCivvy

    We don’t consider the terminology quite in this way
    “French air controllers, which in the U.S. are considered special operations forces, have also coordinated the aerial bombardment, helping fighter pilots spot targets on the ground.

    These “Tactical Air Control Parties,” as they’re known, are a relatively new specialty for the French. “Since 2001, a lot of progress has been made in terms of TACP development, training and equipment,” Henrotin says. Four years ago, Paris acquired its first handheld Remote Video Terminals that allow ground troops to exchange video directly with drones and pilots in the air.”
    - but, as a direct consequence of the A-stan experience and requirement, we now have 40+ of such to field
    - apologies for reusing part of my earlier quote from wired.com (new context)

  184. jackstaff

    It’s a grand thread going so far (and yes, Boss, I have to side with the “rigorous site” folk, we can take the piss about it a little but it is broadly and thankfully quite true.) A smattering of thoughts in my usual random fashion:

    - From their slightly different angles (and thank you, Phil, for “every brigade is multi-role!”, which they would tell the pollies…) Phil and ACC hit on the fundamental problem with the MRB plan. In its own way, it was following on the US reformation of brigade structure a few years prior. Certainly they met the same goals: both created brigade structures designed for rotating units through long-term colonial policing-style deployments, in each case (US bdes and the MRB plan) by dicing up existing maneuver units to create a maximized base of rotating elements (bdes), by supplying as much CS/CSS supporting power organic to the brigade as possible (done rather better by the Yanks) and by skimping, in different ways, on actual combat power. In the American case, only the Stryker bdes remained properly “triangular,” the lighter and heavier sorts only kept two proper maneuver units (a half-sized “third” recce formation getting sweated in the maneuver role in the field.) In the MRB’s case it involved pasting two — likely to be understrength for anything above the colonial-policing operation (like the “Type 38″ armoured figleaf design) — armoured formations onto an infantry brigade and then waving a lot of powerpoint slides about how that made them “multi-role” ie able to fight big baddies while keeping HM Treasury happy. Died a deserved death. The sort of “hybrid” (a polite term for chaotic, multilateral, and messy) conflicts that (Mali aside) are likely to be priorities in the next 10-15 years require a different “combination” for combined-arms than either just-armoured or just-light, but MRB on paper was the worst-of-both-worlds sort of mix. Good to start over and rethink.

    - I think the seven — seven! — under-equipped “adaptable” brigades are an entirely understandable and entirely bad idea. A comparison about the “understandable” bit. Over time in the mid-Aughties there was something about the RN’s T45-plus-C1/C2/C3 plan that felt, for lack of a better word, like putting on a comfortable old pair of shoes. Naturally it made me suspicious :) Sure enough, just shook my head and said, “d’oh. Of course. It’s T42 and T22/T21/modernised MCM all over again. Only now they want to have real carriers and bodge the Hunts and the Castles into a single-hull design.” And really, it was. No novelty at all. All the carefully measured calculations of threat and technology and training and requirement, and of HMT’s likely attitude and that of the other services, resulted in a plan to recreate the approach to fleet design en vogue when these admirals were being hazed at Dartmouth.

    In the Army’s case it’s an even longer lineage: literal “colonial policing” guaranteed the Army’s ability to sustain any size at all post-Crimea. After 1945, the wars of decolonization and policing the IGB with BAOR’s big motor pool did likewise. It’s why, as Sir H just pointed out at his shop, a smallish island (roughly the size of the US state of North Carolina, plus aggravating fiddly bits on a neighbouring outcrop) that has to go a bloody long way to fight anywhere has only two Air Force 4*s and only a single Naval one, but *four* Army 4*s. And post-Bosnia, a confluence of interventionism and service savvy has resulted in a return to form. (In the middle, between the withdrawal from Aden and the escalation of presence in Bosnia in ’95, Ulster and Germany were the *only* long-term commitments, Ulster the only active-service one, against multiples before and since.)

    Using entire (albeit smallish and under-equipped) brigades to do “upstream engagement” is counterproductive in oh, just so many ways, from the cost of basing and logistical overhead in transport to and fro, the chance of alienating the locals by being a garrison rather than friendly advisors, the chance of getting sucked into any number of brushfire wars …. But if I was even more cynical I would say the General Staff look at that and think, brushfire wars kept the Army going for 300-odd years when there wasn’t Nappy, or Adolf, or Kaiser Bill to fight, and was many an officer’s education in soldiering so why fix what’s not broken. Of course the main objections, and they’re good ‘uns, are that the UK doesn’t have the fiscal or institutional stamina for that kind of thing anymore, and because you end up making more enemies than friends. Even the froggies, who are past masters at having an empire without having an Empire, don’t scale their long-term presence above roughly British Forces Cyprus.

    A half-dozen British Army Training Teams each made of around 150-200 multifarious experts, in a half-dozen far flung places for a couple of years at a time per individual, would do the job far better. And there’s still plenty left over to send a battlegroup (or two) or a brigade of carying capacity (whether beret-topped gorillas or heavy armour) if needed. As someone (Jeremy? Mike W?) said upthread, it really does look like the core elements of FF 2020 can get the relevant jobs done (esp. with some tweaking) with a smaller force. This is the inner pants-crapping terror of the senior establishment in the service I’m sure — as it is in any service, in any military. Scaling down reduces your pool for senior promotion, reduces your budget, and reduces your institutional heft viz. your other services, your nation’s bursars, and its politicians. That’s before we even get into how the old boys will feel (Phil’s on to something with that renewable resource, we could just run cable into the In & Out and power the Greater London grid for decades….) Frankly there are two answers to that, 1) it’s the Army’s turn since RN and RAF have already been sliced to the bone, and 2) it makes a good deal more sense for the UK to have a more powerful RN and more powerful RAF (glass of water for TD, and x, for different reasons) and a smaller, intervention-oriented regular Army.

    - On that last note: squaddies are, within reason, the easiest element of the Army to regenerate. We have three World Wars to prove that (yes, three, I’m counting Napoleon and don’t get me started on the Seven Years’ War ‘cos I love the smell of pedantry in the nighttime :) What’s far harder is the specialist stuff like armour, like Army Air Corps (which really ought to have the Chooks, the crabs can do local lift and SAR with Pumas), like trained raiders, like the British Army Training Team careerists I just spitballed above. Four out of five retired brigadiers may loathe the fact, but while the eight to ten (depending on what you bundled where) Regular divisions available in 1939 were an invaluable institutional core, it was the *twenty-five* TA divisions that provided longer term staying power. (And that was still barely the size of fully-mobilised Belgium’s army, so none of the usual jokes in that direction :) ) If you want to stay and fight for a while on a medium scale a la Herrick, or run a very big city or two for a while, or carry on a nagging, drawn-out defensive war in terrain that helps negate air power like the Scandinavian or Swiss militias (hard to think of anyplace besides Finnmark, but you never know), it would be much much better to build up a bundle of protected-vehicle TA brigades (“protected” in the Jackal/Foxhound class) that aren’t just porkers and paper, but rather are trained part-time for just that sort of thing, and then put through a few months’ sickener to get them ready. *And*, most of all, chain that capacity for “enduring presence” back to the Royal Prerogative as was, so that the ability to stick around bloody-mindedly for more than a couple of years, without being substantially more creative in one’s approach to conflict resolution, or truthful about objectives, depends on clearing that hurdle. That would be a genuinely strategic step, especially as it would restore democratic accountability to the process, rather than playing the classic modern institutions’ game — fiddling figures and sticking at it so you can punt the situation to the next set of managers and not answer awkward questions that inhibit your career rise.

    Last thought right now (no really ;) ) “air assault brigades” are incredibly unwieldy as real rapid-deployment formations. Better to get all three Para units back together (the muddle of SFSG is a subject for another day) trained equally in a para-commando role, to generate a single rapidly-droppable Spearhead battlegroup once Atlas is online backed by the C-17s. And behind that, if you haven’t the ready carrier/’phib group nearby, a battlegroup in mixed Ridgeback/Foxhound is Atlas-portable, even more so with C-17s. That’s plenty of stuff to hit most of these sorts of situations with (and one of the best methods is still the Amphibious Task Group, whose ships are designed to carry the cargo for a “surged” force — assault load, roughly twice the pax they carry for long duration.) That stuff exists in the force now, isn’t going away in the cuts, and can be done entirely without the “Adaptable” JobCentre for brigadiers.

  185. jackstaff

    Lor’ that took a while. Rereading the thread today has put a bee in my bonnet about an alternate FF 2020 organisation to spitball. More focused on generating different scales of intervention in the regulars, on fleshing out the more powerful bdes so they’re useful and quicker to go, and one big filip on sacred cows — getting rid of the battalion system in the Infantry. Actually solves a lot of “capbadge wars” problems, and I could get back to that. If there’s any time tomorrow and it’s not obsolete by then b/c of things Chris B. or Mike W or ACC or x, etc., have said I may have to run it by the chief. Probably shorter than that last comment too ;)

    Oh! And x,

    After your comment about the Yanks’ T-AKR classes, these are not entirely without use:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_class_sealift_ship

    Trouble is you need all six on establishment, permanently loaded with one of the strong brigades’ kit, and probably moored at Gib (four or five days to Cyprus or Narvik, about a week to Angola, longer to the Gulf, but Oman has a lot of sand for prepo basing.) And if those cargo airships work out, it’s another wrinkle. Ways and ways to skin a cat, etc.

  186. Simon257

    @ Jackstaff

    Very good.

    Post 2020, would it be an idea to permanently forward deploy a CVF TG to Gibraltar? Visions of a reformed Force H come to mind!

  187. Mike W

    @ACC

    “Put those three together, with some specialised “air”
    - and voila (voisi?): there is the third bde being called for”

    And surely then, ACC, they would cease to be “special forces”. Once you make them an “open” brigade, all their ability to carry out clandestine, stealthy, covert, stealthy (and any other adjectives you can think of) operations would end.

    Am going out now but will try to answer some of the other very interesting points by Chris.B., Jackstaff etc.) later on.

  188. x

    @ Jackstaff

    No I had forgotten the Points. I picked on TAKRs just add that extra bit of ridiculousness to my rant. As for pre-positioning kit abroad well that is what the Americans do isn’t it? Yes Gib would be a good idea. And as I say often it has we choose to spend our money. But it still takes me back to how often do we need mass armour? Where is the mass armour threat anyway? Are we really saying that two NATO modern light brigades with Javelin en-masse, air support, and modern comms aren’t enough to hold the line against a motley collection of Third World T72s? Or even go on the offensive against such? Wasn’t the lesson of 1940 was it doesn’t matter about how big you tanks are if the opposition if better organised? Go look at the French tank force and the German tanks? Which were greater in number, size, and firepower?

    Now where pre-positioning may work for us if the Army did have a light brigade’s worth of equipment sitting in a fast RFA TAKR style ships in Southampton Water. Or perhaps more realistically two battlegroups’ worth sitting in ships. One tracked based on Viking/Bronco style vehicles and the other wheeled based on Bushmaster-esque type vehicles. Ideally the ship would be a TAKR-meets-Karel Doorman. Then the Army could truly have a high readiness brigade. Imagine a scenario where we need to protect country A from country B. The RM ARG is despatched stalks about about off the coast of B. Parachute battalion is flown into country A to act as blocker on the highway between the two capitals; a line in the sand if you will. The Army high readiness brigade is stood up and the ships or ships are despatched. Tensions still rising. B eventually invades A. RM make landing in B. Secure AOA allowing the high-readiness ship to enter AOA unload and with RM support heads toward B’s centre of gravity.. The other high-readiness ship unloads is battlegroup in A. While A Forces act in defence the high readiness battlegroup goes on the offensive. And so on. Don’t see why my TAKR-meets-Karel Doorman can’t accomodate 1300 battle group personnel wise. Remember transporting troops by sea isn’t amphibious warfare. That task is RN/RM’s role. Think of it a Venn diagram with two circles one labelled land and one sea. The intersection which is AOA is shared. Both services are ultimately responsible for the security in their own sphere. All good fun.

  189. Tom

    I think people have the wrong idea about the adaptive force brigades and what the reactive force is. As I’ve said before the reactive force is NOT a rapid reaction force. It contains forces that can be rapidly deployed but the main idea is that they are forces that concentrate on being prepared for major crisis and major deployments – i.e. being Reactive rather than PROactive.

    The Adaptable Force is intended to fulfil several low level deployments. Firstly the need to maintain the long-standing overseas garrisons (Cyprus, FI, etc), small-scale peace keeping deployments and ceremonial duties.

    Secondly, to generate Training Teams and deploy forces to undertake training with developing nations.

    Thirdly to do “Homeland Resilience” missions. The 7 adaptable force infantry brigades are not all gong to be ready-to-go brigades. As I understand at any one time, only 2-3 of the Brigade HQs would be ‘Active’, actually able to be deployed and command substantial forces. The remainder would be only exist of cadre, only suitable to local regional support. Army 2020 is designed to make better use of the regional brigades HQs. 52 Brigade went from being a regional brigade to being a combat brigade in Afghanistan – this is the model that the Army want to take forward.

    Just because 3 of the reactive brigade HQs are designated as Armoured, doesn’t mean that they can only be used to command Armoured Forces. They could just as easily be used to command light forces. The point is that they are the 3 worked up brigade HQs, able to be deployed relatively quickly. They are Armoured because armoured forces, deployed in force need well-trained Brigade HQs to co-ordinate, fight and support them. High end Armoured warfare is high end skill that needs regular practise. That skill can be easily applied to lighter forces, but light brigades are not as adept at deploying armoured forces.

    As part of a Afgan style deployment, one of the Adaptable Brigades HQs would be worked up and command a mix of light, armoured and mechanised infantry, armour and allied forces. In the same way that we already have done for Divisional HQs, Army 2020 intends to the same for Brigade HQs – they are all modular, able to command what ever force mix that is required.

  190. Repulse

    If the UK invested in some JEF aviation / amphibious support ships then I think the whole rapid response would be more creditable. Something which could support in ferry role a sqd of F35Bs, Chinooks and Apaches, but not a CVF. Also, would need the the amphibious capacity of Ocean and Albions combined. These could be RFA manned.

    Buy 3, then you have 3 ARGs when each is combined with 1 Bay and 2 Points. Enough to support a rapid reaction group. One forward based in Gib would make a lot of sense, with one in the UK waters and one in reserve / repair.

  191. x

    @ Tom

    No I use the term rapid reaction because that is what the Army call them. I know what they think the term means which is more as you say in line with rapid transformation, adaptable or being pro-active. And they should have chosen a better term shouldn’t they? You ask anybody with the faintest interest in military matters what “rapid reaction” means they won’t say anything about adaptability in form it will be rapidity of deployment. Further as an island nation with a small defence budget we should really ask if armour is a suitable base, for that is what being used, for “rapid reaction”. This site isn’t about drinking MoD Kool Aid.

  192. jedibeeftrix

    Excellent post from Jackstaff at 8:28, cheers.

    @ AAC what is the royal marine recce regiment that you speak of, sounds interesting?

    @ ChrisB – “My query about an “army commando brigade” is what will they do that neither of the other two above can do? Will they do whatever it is we want them to do on a regular enough basis, and is the importance of the task a justification for having another army Commando?”

    Well, my interest is in the rule of three, and i’d be quite happy to see that instituted with the current light reaction brigades that we have.

    On the other hand, i did posit the notion of using the three light cavalry formations, currently unattributed, as the core of a third light reaction brigade specialising in long range africa style deployments.

  193. Challenger

    @Tom

    I broadly like what I see in the future Army structure, It’s just the uncertainty over a few details, specifically the provision of light forces that concerns me.

    However if the armoured infantry brigades can swap force elements to tailor themselves for different situations, and if 16 air assault and 3 commando can each keep a battle-group at high readiness, and if the adaptable brigades can switch from regional command posts to active and deployable units as easily as you say…if all of those points are met then I can see it working fairly well in meeting our future needs.

    Although, as Jedibeeftrix has also stated the rational behind ‘the power of three’ is a powerful one! Id like a third light brigade, but based on what other people have said about the ease with which light battalions can be re-deployed I’m OK with only basing our light reaction force around 16 air assault and 3 commando if that is they both have at least three manoeuvre formations to keep the proper cycle of active, work down, work up going.

  194. martin

    @ Jedi

    Well, my interest is in the rule of three, and i’d be quite happy to see that instituted with the current light reaction brigades that we have.

    I was think down the rule of three with an extra commando style brigade to complement 16AAb and 3 com however I realised it would not work. That is to say if we have one of these three brigades on high alert ready to deploy in a brigade format then we will not be able to always have a RM commando at sea or ready to go. We could not stand the RM commandos up as a brigade and individually as well. However having the two brigades each with three unit’s means we can have an Air Assault battalion and an amphibious commando on high alert at all time. As with Sierra Leone this is probably a much more useful force than an entire brigade deploying with Apaches and all the rest of the stuff.

    I am also starting to think that having forces designated as special might not be a good idea. The likes of the RM and Paras already suck up a great deal of the best talent of the Army. With such a small professional force of just 82,000 regulars we really should expect any of our infantry battalions to take on the roles of the paras. In instances in the stand and the FI the Rifles and Guards have shown themselves to be every bit as capable and I think setting up another special type of brigade only detracts from the rest.

  195. jedibeeftrix

    “That is to say if we have one of these three brigades on high alert ready to deploy in a brigade format then we will not be able to always have a RM commando at sea or ready to go.”

    Why not?

    Why would the addition of a third light reaction brigade preclude the two existing ones from keeping three primary units with the intention of one at HR or VHR?

    p.s. Has it been confirmed that 3Cdo have lost the Rifles, and/or that 16AAB have likewise lost its fourth primary unit?

    p.p.s. i though that 3Cdo and 16AAB were basically intended to provide two deployable battlegroups, not three?

  196. Challenger

    @Martin

    Yeah that’s a stumbling block I recognised as well. Without a major shake-up and additional investment standing up a third light brigade would mean having three very different units on rotation. Given the limitations it is probably true that single air assault and commando battle-groups on high reaction offers a good solution. The only way to my mind of having three light brigades working on an effective rotation would be to break up the para’s and commandos and spread them across all three, with some regular light battalions mixed in, though of course that itself would create a whole bunch of new problems!

    I just hope 16 air assault and 3 commando aren’t left with the bare-bones of five (albeit very high quality) light battalions between them. Id like to see 1 para return and for both brigades to retain an extra regular unit so that they could stand up a second reaction battle-group with fairly short notice.

  197. Mark

    The 3rd rapid reaction brigade could be formed on the Royal Gurkha rifles for jungle and mountain warfare with lead unit fwd deployed in Brunei.

  198. jedibeeftrix

    Or, those three light cavalry regiments.

    We decry the rise of the underwater knife-fighter and yet still expect rapid-reaction to mean “infantry”.

    X has eloquently made the case on many occasions precisely how anti-rapid moving an armoured battlegroup will prove, let alone a brigade, yet how much more responsive could a light-cav formation be?

    You know the drill, 1990′s era Brigade Reconnaissance Regiments mounted on CVR(t) style vehicles.

    Which expressly means:
    Low tech (reduce the technical support required)
    Low weight (reduce the logistic column required)
    Low maintenance (reduce the engineering support)
    Low cost (leave a battlegroups worth of equipment in Kenya)

    Africa’s a big place with exceptionally poor infrastructure (i should know), if we want to have influence beyond a 100 mile radius of STOM or a friendly international airport, then we need something capable of long-range with little support.

    Jackals = awesome
    Or, even better:

    http://www.armyrecognition.com/french_army_france_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_uk/sphinx_panhard_lockheed_martin_turret_40mm_cta_gun_combat_reconnaissance_6x6_light_armored_vehicle_.html

    Let me turn this into a series of question:

    1. How far can a C2 Armoured battlegroup travel a day?
    2. What does it consume in CSS terms to achieve this?
    3. What does it need in terms of technical maintenance to keep on functioning in the field?

    4. Would this be significantly different in a formation using low-tech jackals, foxhound, and something like a sphinx?

    If there would be a significant uplift in mobility over an armoured formation, and a significant uplift in punch over a para battalion in WMIIK’s, the intention would be to have:

    3 Cdo (3x Commandos)
    16 AAB (3x Para)
    LRDG (3x L Cav)

    Each able to stand up a unit at HR.

  199. x

    Ideally we need a Commando at sea and Parachute Regiment battalion ready to fly 365 or as close as possible to that as we are able. We have then (limited) ability to answer a crisis in 2 places. Or we can use the latter to re-enforce the former in one crisis. To do this we need ships, more air lifters, and a raise a battalion to act in the SFSG roll to replace 1 Para and the RM company. And then we need the ability to move a line infantry battalion (or two) ASAP to go firm. I regard brigades more as centres of excellence than deployable formations.

    My thinking is it is better to own a Focus with wheels than a Mondeo with one wheel and have to charter or rent the other three.

  200. martin

    @ Jedi

    “Why not?

    Why would the addition of a third light reaction brigade preclude the two existing ones from keeping three primary units with the intention of one at HR or VHR?”

    If it was all done in three’s then 3com would have to stand up for say 6 months as intervention brigade ready to deploy then after this 6 months say 42 commando would have to stand up on its own as amphibious force for the next six months so the guys would be standing up for a year. In the next six months 40 Commando would have to stand up then the entire commando brigade would have to stand up again. So units would have to stand up for up to a year. It would be the same story for the paras if we wish to always have an air insertable battalion on ready. What would the guys in the third rapid reaction brigade do? Would they have the same type of tempo? Do we have another specialist entry requirement? It just starts to get messy if you break out of the three’s. Also do we have sufficient air transport to actually rapidly move a force the size of a brigade. If we don’t then it kind of neglects the benefit of having a brigade on high alert rather than a battalion sized battle group.

    That’s how I squared it all in my mind but I am open to other structures.

    What might work better is following the lines of the USMC where we might pare an air insertable battalion, amphibious battalion and light armoured infantry battalion into a single brigade. This would avoid the issues of rotation. Kit could be standardised so that attack helicopters and vehicles could operate from the sea, land or air transport. Its maybe a bit to purple and idea though. I am sure some one will tell me off. :-)

  201. martin

    @ Challenger

    “The only way to my mind of having three light brigades working on an effective rotation would be to break up the para’s and commandos and spread them across all three, with some regular light battalions mixed in, though of course that itself would create a whole bunch of new problems!”

    great minds think alike :-)

  202. martin

    Maybe we need some purple berets with their own transport and attack helicopters and some of those submarine tanks that X was on about :-)

  203. jedibeeftrix

    Martin, do we not have exactly that problem now?

    Given that 3Cdo is expected to provide a battlegroup that is roughly half (or perhaps a third?) of the brigade as a whole?

    The same for 16AAB.

    I don’t see how the addition of a third light reaction force would compromise this further, for as far as we know:

    1. 3Cdo is losing the rifles (please, someone speak up if this is not true)
    2. 16AAB may be reduced to just two para’s (again, speak up if i’m wrong)

    So they are either working on thirds right now (battlegroup formed from one commando/para), or halves if they still have four principle units.

  204. x

    Martin says “purple berets”

    Ooh! Funny you should say that. Our local recruiting centre is moving because the building it is situated in is being demolished. And it is moving to our side of the border into our town’s now redundant TA Centre. Going to town the other day I could see the purple sign boards have already been put up. But as I got closer I noticed something. No RN logo. No Army logo. The only “brand” I could see was >chokes< RAF Careers. Well one wasn't best pleased. The county regiment may be gone. And yes the RN is smaller than it was but this still is the county that produced Jervis and Anson. And you lot say there is no conspiracy? Really? That TA centre was where I learned that Santa didn’t really use reindeer and a sledge but actually rode around in a Series IIa Landrover FFR. The first place I ever held a SLR. One feels like one's childhood has been dessicated…..

  205. x

    @ Jedibeeftrix

    Yes. And I am unanimous in that. ;)

    EDIT: Own up. You googled dessication so you could a nice concise definition didn’t you? :)

  206. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @J, Jedibeefitrix – Not sure about an RM Recce Regiment; they certainly have a Brigade Recce Company not a part of the three Commandos, because a good friends son was O/C a few years back.

    On the overall structure (and notwithstanding previous posts) why not use the Kings, Queens and Prince of Wales Divisions as the basis for administration/recruitment/training/basing with each containing an “Assault” Component (Paras, Rifles, Guards) a Heavy Armoured Component (the remaining Challenger Regiments) a Recce Component (the other “Cavalry” Regiments), Infantry Battalions, Gunners, Sappers et al; each with 10,000 TA slots, a forward deployed responsibility, a fully worked up Brigade HQ specialising in possible risks in that area, and skeleton Divisional and extra Brigade HQs in case a big deployment is required in it. Would these Divisions be big enough for the flexibility people seek, whilst still accommodating intensive training in opposed assaults/armoured warfare/whatever? Could also forward deploy parts of the Operational Brigade HQs alongside pre-positioned equipment, training and hearts and minds teams, forward-deployed air assets and so on…

  207. michael partington

    Hi all
    before there is talk of standing up an additional high readiness brigade would it be better to properly equip the two we have ? for starters we need additional lift both tactical and strategic and 3CDO and 16AAB need more helicopters for transport and attack they should have dedicated Squadrons who train with them to enable better interoperabilty. 3CDO also needs its own amphibious assault vehicles wether there wheeled or tracked doesn’t matter but they need to be armoured with the 40mm CTA gun the new Mars RFA SOLID SUPPORT SHIPS need to have a vehicle deck and a well deck as the latest images show i’d even give them more helicopters so they can act like mini a LHD when one isn’t available.
    I like the idea of a light /medium cavalry regiment possibly with a 105mm auto loading direct fire weapon like the stryker MGS why when we need a new vehicle we have to piss about redesigning it why not just buy off the shelf and just add our radios like why not buy the RA the LIMAWS(G) and(R) both can be transported in a C-130J giving the RA mobility and punch no the last government cancelled nearly every new weapon system for the RA maybe if they we built on the clyde gordon brown may have bought them ? or buy the M777 howitzer to replace the 105mm light gun standardising ammunition.
    But the problem is instead of investing in the future were being slowly being relegated to a second rate armed forces by weak political parties more worried about giving money to countries that don’t want our help.

  208. Mike W

    @Chris.B.“Question is how often do we do that very specific kind of raid?”

    Surely the Royal Marines and the Paras have been in operation in fast, hard-hitting raids over recent years. For instance, there was the amphibious operation by the Royal Marines on the peninsula of El Fawr in Iraq in 2003. It was an early operation in the war and was a joint operation with the US Marines to capture the gas and oil platforms there before they could be sabotaged by the Iraqi military. Then there was the raid into Somalia by the Royal Marines in 2011, the purpose of which was to capture a tribal leader – successful by all accounts.
    Then there were the deeds of derring-do by the Paras in Sierras Leone.

    “My query about an “Army commando brigade” is what will they do that neither of the other two above can do? Will they do whatever it is we want them to do on a regular enough basis, and is the importance of the task a justification for having another army Commando?
    I’m just struggling to see what task this new army commando would perform that we don’t have already?”

    If one were to be formed, I would follow jedibeeftrix’ idea and make it a third light reaction brigade specialising in long range Africa style deployments but equipped with lighter wheeled vehicles.

    I am not opposed to heavy armour. In fact, before and after the SDSR came out, I argued vociferously for their retention. It is all a matter of fine-tuning to the balance of our forces, given the nature of the contingencies we have to face nowadays.

    @jackstaff

    Am most impressed by the “random” ideas in your article, fired off as if coming from a Frisbee Flinger (you remember the old U.S. mine dispenser?)

    “Better to get all three Para units back together (the muddle of SFSG is a subject for another day) trained equally in a para-commando role, to generate a single rapidly-droppable Spearhead battlegroup once Atlas is online backed by the C-17s. And behind that, if you haven’t the ready carrier/’phib group nearby, a battlegroup in mixed Ridgeback/Foxhound is Atlas-portable, even more so with C-17s.”

    Well, I’d be all for that (apart, I think, from the dual training of the formation in a para-commando role).

    Are you really going to write something about an alternative FF 2020 organisation and run it past the chief? If you have the time, I look forward very much to that.

  209. jedibeeftrix

    “Well, I’d be all for that (apart, I think, from the dual training of the formation in a para-commando role).”

    i think he may be using the term “commando” in the traditional WW2 sense, rather than the modern RM-era usage.

  210. x

    I know a good number of Marines who are jumped quall’ed. They don’t think there is much skill in stepping into fresh air.

    Culturally speaking Marines are a different species to Para’s. I can’t see how a merger would work. Better for us to build on two fine traditions that fulfil different roles (even if they share common traits) than force them together.

  211. Think Defence

    Just thought I would light the blue touch paper and ask what so special about stepping off a bit boat onto a smaller one and then stepping off that small boat onto a beach

    Don’t they do that on cruises :)

  212. Simon257

    @TD
    As my wise old Sergeant use to say..” Only a Complete F*****g Idiot jumps out of perfectly serviceably Aircraft”.

  213. Phil

    “Then there was the raid into Somalia by the Royal Marines in 2011, the purpose of which was to capture a tribal leader – successful by all accounts.”

    Not to piss on Royals parade but by all accounts it was more like Safari than a raid.

    Raids have a use, usually in the context of a wider conflict (Pebble Island etc) or for a very specific fleeting aim. Basing large chunks of our forces on being able to conducts raids is silly. They are a very specialist and very particular type of mission.

  214. x

    Phil said “Not to piss on Royals parade but by all accounts it was more like Safari than a raid.”

    I don’t think you are. Far from it. I like all the romantic imagery “Troops out!”, storming up the shingle, explosions, and tracer flying but it isn’t very realistic….

  215. Mike W

    @Phil

    “Basing large chunks of our forces on being able to conducts raids is silly.”

    Well, of course it is. I wasn’t suggesting that. My reply to Chris.B. was in response to a question by him which went as follows: “This idea of creating an army Commando Brigade (setting aside the fact that we already have one), designed for rapid intervention. My question is; why? What capabilities will they possess that are unique to them and not every other light infantry unit that we already have in the army, pretty much any of which you could pack onto a plane and organise some light support for? Light infantry is light infantry, unless you have some highly specific and very demanding requirements for it to fulfill that require very specific training.”

    I then replied, perhaps rather ill-advisedly, that I was at a loss to answer his question about the difference between a commando formation and others but that I had looked up the definition of “Commando” and got the following: “a soldier specially trained to carry out raids”. He then asked me how frequently such raids were carried out and hence my reply from which you have quoted. That’s all.

    Now, it must have appeared from what I said in more recent comments that I think the ability to carry out raids is the only capability that distinguishes commando formations from line infantry. Far from it. They have many other specialist skills that make them different: in the case of the RM commandos, they have the ability to move from the sea, establish a beachhead (in the case of the Paras an airhead), the tactics and drills to move out of it rapidly, etc. etc. etc.

    If people on here are suggesting that seaborne commandos and airborne troops are just the same as other infantry, they are surely mistaken. The former have specialist skills which are rehearsed and rehearsed until considerable proficiency is reached. These make them different (not necessarily better). If they are just the same as other infantry, why practise separate and specialist disciplines? Mountain troops are mountain troops because they practise fighting in hills and mountains and get good at it. What is silly is to suggest that all infantry is the same.

    Could a line infantry formation have conducted the amphibious operation onto the El Fawr peninsula (which did involve heavy fighting) as well as the Marines did? I very much doubt it.

    Any proposed Army Commando formation would presumably possess special capabilities which would set them apart too (e.g. the ability to arrive quickly, be inserted quickly and move around with considerable mobility and speed on specially chosen vehicles).

  216. Phil

    I think a definitional argument over the term “commando” will, like 90% of definitional arguments, generate more heat than light.

    At least nobody I have read has used the term “strategic raiding” yet.

    Oops.

  217. Mike W

    @Phil

    “I think a definitional argument over the term “commando” will, like 90% of definitional arguments, generate more heat than light.”

    OK. Phil, if you think so, I accept that.

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