The End of a Maritime Strategy?

Thought I would bounce this one out with a provocative title

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/algeria/9814597/War-against-al-Qaeda-in-Africa-could-last-decades.html”]

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…

 

About The Author

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

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Sir Humphrey
January 20, 2013 10:37 pm

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.

paul g
January 20, 2013 10:59 pm

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

January 20, 2013 11:01 pm

Drones can be launched from ships too.

mickp
mickp
January 20, 2013 11:57 pm

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

Jed
January 21, 2013 12:38 am

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 ?

martin
January 21, 2013 1:33 am

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.

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 1:44 am

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.

IXION
January 21, 2013 1:52 am

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.

Obsvr
January 21, 2013 7:46 am

@ 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.

Repulse
January 21, 2013 8:09 am

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.

TrT
TrT
January 21, 2013 8:15 am

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….

martin
January 21, 2013 8:31 am

@ 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.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 21, 2013 8:42 am

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.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
January 21, 2013 9:01 am

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…?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 21, 2013 9:42 am

@ 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.

Simon
January 21, 2013 9:46 am

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.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 21, 2013 10:49 am

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)

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
January 21, 2013 10:53 am

“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.

IXION
January 21, 2013 11:00 am

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.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 21, 2013 11:05 am

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?

IXION
January 21, 2013 11:22 am

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.

Challenger
Challenger
January 21, 2013 11:24 am

@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.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 21, 2013 12:01 pm

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….

x
x
January 21, 2013 12:01 pm

“why can’t someone else do it?”

That only works here if it is a naval capability.

You forget 430,000 odd Turks too.

IXION
January 21, 2013 12:35 pm

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.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 21, 2013 12:41 pm

Like it!

I had assumed that the Turks might have one or two problems closer to home…..

Phil
January 21, 2013 12:54 pm

Arm the Africans and support them. I agree. But then we have the daily rant against the DfID budget…

x
x
January 21, 2013 1:11 pm

@ 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.

Tubby
Tubby
January 21, 2013 1:23 pm

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.

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 1:42 pm

@ TRT – Just been reading about Wingate and the WW2 campaigns in North East Africa. Was a strong supporter of British leadership of local forces. Need to sign up to read but it is free:

https://www.tjomo.com/article/2/Orde_Wingate_And_Paramilitary_Support_Operations_Messages_For_The_21St_Century/

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 21, 2013 1:45 pm

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……

Drover110
Drover110
January 21, 2013 1:45 pm

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.

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 1:50 pm

@ 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)?

TrT
TrT
January 21, 2013 1:51 pm

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…

Bob
Bob
January 21, 2013 3:19 pm

@ 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.

x
x
January 21, 2013 5:05 pm

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.

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 5:06 pm

@ 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?

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 5:31 pm

Future recce/Cavalry vehicle?

This: http://defense-update.com/products/a/AHED.htm

Armed with this gun: http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/us_army_rolling_along/3566120143/

To make a modern version of this:

Ace Rimmer
January 21, 2013 5:56 pm

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.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 21, 2013 6:23 pm

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.

Ace Rimmer
January 21, 2013 6:47 pm

NaB, ok, I’ll put off my invasion of the Arabian Peninsular for now…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqRp3XsZeFg

I know it was made for a ‘teen’ programme but its still worth watching all the way through. The fundamental concept is is inspiring, or is it just me….

Simon257
Simon257
January 21, 2013 6:59 pm

End of a maritime strategy?

So why are the French sending the Mistral class LHD FS Dixumde to West Africa? Loaded with IFV’s and two companies worth of Infantry!

http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=847

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 7:04 pm

Hmmm… You could do the same with a Endurance class LST/LPD… Just saying… :)

Repulse
January 21, 2013 7:15 pm
TrT
TrT
January 21, 2013 7:22 pm

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…..

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
January 21, 2013 9:46 pm

@ 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? ;) )

Simon
January 21, 2013 10:26 pm

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.

Mark
Mark
January 21, 2013 10:37 pm

Who better than the former sea lord to answer the question

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdRH5wzCQQw

Sounds much like the sdsr strategy fwd engagement

JohnHartley
JohnHartley
January 21, 2013 10:48 pm

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”.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 21, 2013 11:02 pm

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?

ChrisM
ChrisM
January 21, 2013 11:13 pm

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.

Opinion3
Opinion3
January 21, 2013 11:39 pm

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

Gareth Jones
January 21, 2013 11:52 pm

@ 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.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 22, 2013 12:01 am

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

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 22, 2013 12:05 am

Hi ST,

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

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 22, 2013 2:09 am

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.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 22, 2013 2:52 am

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…

Party0929
Party0929
January 22, 2013 4:54 am

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

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 22, 2013 5:31 am

@ 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.

martin
January 22, 2013 8:19 am

@ 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.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 22, 2013 8:41 am

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)

martin
January 22, 2013 9:14 am

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.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley
January 22, 2013 9:17 am

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.

martin
January 22, 2013 9:20 am

Interesting here just as call me Dave begins to talk of a decades worth of conflict Obama is stating the Obvious seems like America will no longer be battling Alqeda across the globe.

http://blogs.defensenews.com/intercepts/2013/01/how-much-will-obamas-ambitious-domestic-goals-squeeze-dod-spending/

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 22, 2013 9:39 am

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.

Alex
Alex
January 22, 2013 10:19 am

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…

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 22, 2013 12:41 pm

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.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 22, 2013 1:04 pm

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.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 22, 2013 1:38 pm

@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!

Mike W
January 22, 2013 1:56 pm

@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.

martin
January 22, 2013 2:25 pm

@ 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.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 22, 2013 2:27 pm

@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

Challenger
Challenger
January 22, 2013 3:12 pm

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?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 22, 2013 3:19 pm

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.

martin
January 22, 2013 3:47 pm

@ 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.

x
x
January 22, 2013 4:05 pm

@ 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.

Simon257
Simon257
January 22, 2013 4:24 pm

We are sending a small team of SAS and Reaper Drones to Mali.
http://worlddefencenews.blogspot.it/2013/01/united-kingdom-sends-20-soldiers-of.html?m=1

wf
wf
January 22, 2013 4:35 pm

@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”

Alex
Alex
January 22, 2013 4:50 pm

You’ll be interested to know something regrettable happened to ARA Santissima Trinidad. http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1547741-buscan-evitar-el-hundimiento-del-un-buque-de-la-armada

x
x
January 22, 2013 5:02 pm

@ 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.

x
x
January 22, 2013 5:05 pm

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

I said with MRAPs and light mobile….

x
x
January 22, 2013 5:12 pm

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.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 22, 2013 5:15 pm

@ 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.

Jeremy M H
January 22, 2013 5:34 pm

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.

ChrisM
ChrisM
January 22, 2013 5:41 pm

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.

TrT
TrT
January 22, 2013 5:44 pm

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.

x
x
January 22, 2013 5:49 pm

@ 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.

wf
wf
January 22, 2013 5:51 pm

@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

x
x
January 22, 2013 6:35 pm

@ 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

WiseApe
January 22, 2013 6:46 pm

“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.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 22, 2013 7:06 pm

@ WiseApe,

Ahem…… (clears throat)

….. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ;)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 22, 2013 7:08 pm

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.

Mike W
January 22, 2013 7:26 pm

@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.

Phil
January 22, 2013 7:29 pm

“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.

Phil
January 22, 2013 7:31 pm

“The cap-badge supporters would somehow block it.”

Because its a dumb idea.

x
x
January 22, 2013 8:20 pm

I see Solomon has some nice pics of French equipment being loaded on to the Dixmude. Super stuff.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 22, 2013 8:38 pm

@ 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.

Phil
January 22, 2013 8:55 pm

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

x
x
January 22, 2013 8:55 pm

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.

Phil
January 22, 2013 9:19 pm

“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.

x
x
January 22, 2013 9:54 pm

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.

Phil
January 22, 2013 9:58 pm

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…

Phil
January 22, 2013 10:01 pm

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.

wf
wf
January 22, 2013 10:03 pm

@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 :-)

Phil
January 22, 2013 10:09 pm

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.

x
x
January 22, 2013 10:32 pm

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….

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
January 22, 2013 10:55 pm

@ 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.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 22, 2013 11:16 pm

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?

x
x
January 22, 2013 11:17 pm

@ 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”.

x
x
January 22, 2013 11:24 pm

@ 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.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
January 23, 2013 12:00 am

permanence and persistence.

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

WiseApe
January 23, 2013 12:04 am

@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.

x
x
January 23, 2013 12:10 am

@ 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.

Stuart H
Stuart H
January 23, 2013 12:21 am

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.

martin
January 23, 2013 2:10 am

@ 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.

Repulse
January 23, 2013 8:32 am

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”… :)

Tom
January 23, 2013 10:00 am

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.

IXION
January 23, 2013 11:57 am

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.

x
x
January 23, 2013 12:02 pm

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.

January 23, 2013 1:18 pm

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.

McZ
McZ
January 23, 2013 1:22 pm

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.

wf
wf
January 23, 2013 2:02 pm

@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!

Phil
January 23, 2013 2:24 pm

“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.

Challenger
Challenger
January 23, 2013 2:33 pm

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!

x
x
January 23, 2013 2:51 pm

@ 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.

x
x
January 23, 2013 3:20 pm

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?

Topman
Topman
January 23, 2013 3:29 pm

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

Phil
January 23, 2013 3:33 pm

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.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 23, 2013 3:45 pm

@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!

x
x
January 23, 2013 3:53 pm

@ Phil

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

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

Phil
January 23, 2013 3:58 pm

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.

Phil
January 23, 2013 4:23 pm

“I understand your logic but no it was Guards pulling strings”

Prove it then.

Phil
January 23, 2013 4:30 pm

“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.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 23, 2013 4:30 pm

@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!)

Phil
January 23, 2013 4:35 pm

“@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.

Tom
January 23, 2013 4:43 pm

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.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 23, 2013 4:51 pm

@ 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.

Phil
January 23, 2013 4:52 pm

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?

x
x
January 23, 2013 5:17 pm

@ Phil

No you prove otherwise. :)

@ TD re “rigorous”

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

wf
wf
January 23, 2013 5:19 pm

@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.

Topman
Topman
January 23, 2013 5:25 pm

@ Phil
Thanks, I thought there was more to it than that claimed.

x
x
January 23, 2013 5:27 pm

@ 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.

Phil
January 23, 2013 5:41 pm

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.

Mike W
January 23, 2013 5:56 pm

@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!

Phil
January 23, 2013 6:16 pm

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.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 23, 2013 6:21 pm

@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…

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
January 23, 2013 6:43 pm

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.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley
January 23, 2013 7:05 pm

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.

Mike W
January 23, 2013 7:13 pm

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.

wpDiscuz
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