The Future of the British Army 06 – ISTAR and Formation Reconnaissance (01)

When it comes to reconnaissance there are many issues to look at, first of course is what does it mean, then, do we fight for information or do we sneak around looking for it, how is technology likely to impact the role, what about the secondary non reconnaissance roles that we have traditionally used the existing equipment for and that is before we get into the inevitable cap badge struggles between the chaps with red trousers and nice blazers and those that like to make loud bangs.

Before we even get to the weapons grade mother of all omnishambles that is FRES, there is much to consider. However, in looking at the general subject you cannot avoid FRES so I will weave it in as we go.

In Afghanistan, the Brigade Reconnaissance Force concept has seen a rapid evolution, integrating snipers, forward air controllers, the latest surveillance technology with lightweight vehicles and CVR(T) for example. This rapid evolution and experimentation is as we all know, nothing particularly new but the relative and changing emphasis of armour, infantry, engineers and artillery is interesting to note. The BRF initially gained traction within 16AAB and 3CDO and has since evolved to include a wide range of trades and larger size overall. In Afghanistan for example, it has a greater emphasis on interacting with the local civilian population and obtaining information from this source in addition to straight forward observation. Because of operating at some distance from existing units they tend to need a bigger punch than other similarly sized units, hence greater numbers of forward air controllers or mortars and the like.

More information from the MoD hereand here

The Brigade Reconnaissance Force as constituted in Afghanistan clearly has a different composition to that of the Formation Reconnaissance units used in the liberation of Kuwait but the underlying concept remains the same, as reflected in the core role of the cavalry, mounted or dismounted depending on terrain and objectives. Armoured units have always had a dismounted element but flexibility, it would seem, is the cornerstone of effective reconnaissance and we are as likely to see a cavalry trooper in the dismounted sniper role as we are seeing one driving a Scimitar.

No news there then.

So we should be wary of too closely associating the concept of reconnaissance to equipment, especially vehicles. A future BRF may be based around a core of a traditional Formation Reconnaissance squadron with attachments from pretty much everywhere else in the Army.

Almost infinitely variable the BRF will likely draw capabilities from all corners but this becomes a challenge when those corners are in reduced circumstances.

An ISTAR Corps

We are no stranger to creating ad hoc formations of multiple trades and even equipment that work fantastically on operations it just that when the Army gets home it reverts to its comfortable regimental and corps structures, often forgetting the hard won lessons of others.

An operation comes around again and we often and expensively have to relearn exactly the same lessons learned at great cost before.

Would it be possible therefore to institutionalise this experience and create an ISTAR Corps or are the current ways of doing things good enough?

I tend to think instead of managing the problem we should be attacking the cause of our seeming lack of ‘corporate memory’ but for the sake of this post I would like to explore the concept of a multi disciplined ISTAR Corps.

This is also one of those ‘capability plus’ areas I would like to see over developed, we already do it brilliantly well, let’s build on that to leverage our technology and skills advantages whilst reducing pressure on personnel numbers. Whether it is simply a permanent grouping of multiple cap badges or something completely new and independent i.e. a Corps, is I suppose less important that what it does, but we should never underestimate the power of the old boy network, regimental associations and plain old fashioned conservative inertia when looking at new ideas.

The new Corps would have the full range of capabilities and able to operate across a range of terrain, fighting for information in an armoured thrust across open terrain to stealthy observation in urban terrain to working with local populations to provide enhanced intelligence for a coalition force.

This is a wide remit, difficult to create a coherent organisational structure that meets all requirements without having to resort to smash and grab from other units. For example, if an armoured formation needs to know which route is the optimal one for an objective it would be disastrous if that information came from a reconnaissance unit that had no appreciation of the requirements of a Challenger in terms of terrain. It might be a small detail but these things are important.

So this proposal is simply a set of loose ideas around structure, roles and equipment.

We would have to come up with a better name as well, let’s face the Royal Corps of ISTAR sounds cack!

Primary and Secondary Roles, Sneak Around or Fight It Out

A while ago I asked what did armoured reconnaissance actually mean and Sven ran a brilliant post in response, have a read here

Sven proposed categorising the tasks into three broad areas, traditional armoured reconnaissance, combat missions as light forces and other combat tasks by virtue of being in place.

With due acknowledgement to Sven I have reproduced them here;

Category I (The undisputed armoured reconnaissance core missions)

(a) Inform manoeuvre commanders about the situation out of the reconnaissance radius of his combat troops (& his own reconnaissance element). This is the biggest chunk and gets the most attention.

(b) Cooperate with air power and long range artillery (detection, tracking, identification, target designation, battle damage assessment).

(c) Probing in order to detect gaps or weak spots.

Category II (Combat missions as auxiliary combat troops or at low force density)

(a) Defeat hostile reconnaissance elements when encountered (possibly hunt them down)

(b) Coups de main against establishing defensive positions, airfields, bridges, depots, combat (service) support troops, headquarters, SAM sites and radars

(c) Flank security

(d) Advance guard / vanguard

(e) Deception (attacks) – this is especially an option if armoured reconnaissance vehicles look similar to the combat troops’ vehicles

(f) Rear guard action

(g) Convoy escort

(h) (Last ditch) reserve in crisis (in a defensive battle) together with engineers

(i) Assault gun-like support of otherwise imbalanced (combined arms minus armour) efforts

(j) Skirmishing combat force for fighting in & control of terrain in low force density

(k) Engage (with surprise effect) not battle-ready hostile combat troops

Category III (“As you’re already there…”)

(a) Report air situation far forward (passive ground/air sensors)

(b) Pick up air crews who crashed or ejected

(c) Infiltrate/exfiltrate special forces and agents

(d) Radio relay function

(e) Capture OPFOR equipment for technical analysis (especially rear unit’s equipment)

(f) Disable infrastructure (rail lines, land lines, dams, civilian radio towers, bridges, tunnels, power lines, fuel stations)

(g) Emplace/retrieve unattended sensors

(h) Destruction of crashed or emergency-landed aircraft (especially helicopters)

(i) Ambush hostile (hopefully unsuspecting) helicopters

(j) Intercept hostile supply convoys

Into this list you might include the roles currently being carried out by the BRF in Afghanistan, liaising with the local population, sniping and others.

Beyond the traditional role of reconnaissance the units in possession of CVR(T) have been used for a wide variety of secondary roles (category II in Sven’s list) in all manner of operations, so much so, that one might be forgiven for thinking that the secondary roles are in fact the primary ones.

So the two key questions are

Do we fight for information or rely on stealth and technology?

What is the mix between the primary and the secondary?

Two very large questions that have taxed many people with an infinitely better grasp than me, but still worth looking at


Fight or Sneak

To start this section I think it is worth looking at the experience of others.

In this day and age, long distance reconnaissance must be organized to fight in execution of its mission, to fight for time to send information in, and to fight for time for the main body to properly utilize the information sent in. . . . Reconnaissance capable of only observation is not worth the road space it takes

US Major General Charles Scott, 1942

In the aftermath of WWII several studies came to the conclusion that effective reconnaissance always required fighting for except in the rare situations where a stealthy infiltration was an option.

Yet despite this, British forces in North Africa proved the concepts of long range lightly armed reconnaissance, the Long Rage Desert Group and emergence of the SAS for example.

UK experience in the Gulf also confirmed the viability of lightly armed and stealthy surveillance as a means of obtaining information.

In the early nineties the ‘return to stealth’ became the accepted wisdom as the promise of technology was swallowed wholesale by all modern armies.

In common with their approach to learning lessons from combat, US forces conducted an extensive study of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including an in depth look at reconnaissance.

It reported on 6 themes, again worth repeating.

Theme 1 – Tempo Drives Reconnaissance, speed of operations demand that reconnaissance keep up both in physical and information terms

Theme 2 – Movement to contact is the most common type of offence,uncertainty required that detailed reconnaissance was carried out but because of Theme 1, this was more often than not impossible.

Theme 3 – Adaptive enemies often do not fit doctrinal templates,this is going to be especially relevant when fighting diffuse enemies that do not always have neatly delineated units that occupy defined boundaries. Size and equipment of opposing does not always relate to difficulty to overcome or combat effectiveness.

Theme 4 – Commanders require human intelligence more than imagery, the amount of UAV, satellite or aircraft derived imagery was often overwhelming but of dubious value. Information collected from individuals was often of much higher value.

Theme 5 – Most useful intelligence is bottom up, the report found that the most useful information came from within units rather than delivered from higher formations. Many interviewees were particularly scathing of JSTARS and satellite feeds were created as many false alarms as useful information. This was compounded by bandwidth restrictions.

Theme 6 – Lightly armoured scouts cannot high tempo operations, this was a particularly interesting find because it was in direct contradiction of the technology led conclusions of the early nineties. Lightly armed and armoured vehicles were simply outclassed, leading to their withdrawal and in many cases, M1 tanks were used, even in preference to the M3 Bradleys, let alone Humvees.

Whilst this study has relevance to fast paced advances some of the themes are less relevant to other kinds of operation. Afghanistan for example, is not a fast paced advance to an objective and so we have to look at things with different eyes.

Some are just as relevant though.

The study linked above concluded that when building a reconnaissance model the two main variables are operational tempo and battlefield density. Combat is always needed to obtain useful information unless time was available for passive observation and the general transformative impact of modern surveillance technology was often over stated.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the lessons of pretty much every recent conflict were reaffirmed!

The report has this to say, a key paragraph below

Lightly armored scouts survive on the battlefield by trading armor for stealth. Stealth requires time—one luxury tactical commanders can expect to do without in the future. Future conflicts will almost certainly occur above the threshold that allows for stealthy reconnaissance. Additionally, the evolving nature of the threat will make that passive reconnaissance less and less useful. If the enemy looks just like the population he is hiding among, then observing him from a distance reveals little information of use to a maneuver commander.

Effective reconnaissance in the future will almost certainly require fighting. Ultimately, someone must go forward into the unknown and make contact with the enemy. If that element possesses the combat power to survive that contact and the flexibility to react, tactical commanders can sustain the tempo advantage, understand the enemy based on his actions and react faster than the threat. This will be the key to victory on the future battlefield. To engage in combat beyond the supporting range of friendly forces, reconnaissance forces must have access to the full suite of combined arms critical to tactical success.

Apart from the shocking spelling of armour and manoeuvre I think that is a pretty good summary!

The answer to the fight or sneak question is closely tied to equipment evolution.

The British Army has in recent times chosen to take the stealth route when seeking information, hence the small, highly mobile but lightly armed and armoured CVR(T) series and collection of open top soft skin vehicles, culminating in Jackal.

We also tend to look at the problem through a CVR(T) shaped prism.

The change in emphasis to a more combative approach to carrying out the formation reconnaissance role is reflected in FRES Scout, replacing a 10 tonne vehicle with a 30 tonne vehicle. Protection and firepower have assumed a greater emphasis than tactical and strategic mobility. CVR(T) could be delivered by air, carried on the back of more or less any truck, self deploy on the road, easily carried in an ISO container, able to traverse very poor ground, use austere roads and bridges and go places that are simply off limits to any vehicle weighing in excess of 30 tonnes but it has survivability issues where its diminutive size weighs heavily against it.

Other nations are wrestling with similar problems and with the introduction of the Fennek, the German Army would seem to be going down the stealth route although Sven will be able to provide more details.

We should also look at the use of the CVR(T) Striker, equipped with Swingfire long range anti tank weapons. It was not, as many think, an offensive anti tank weapon but was designed to provide overwatch for Scimitar and Scorpion operating beyond the cover of the Chieftain and Challenger main battle tanks. So whilst Scimitars might have been sneaking around they certainly had a big brother watching out for them. In complex terrain, with increasing urbanisation, arguably the most likely we will encounter, we can no longer rely on this concept.

All that said, one cannot deny the success of the British model using CVR(T), a lighter vehicle and stealthy observation.

This brings us on to the second question, the effect of primary and secondary roles on subsequent structures and equipment.

I am now retired from the Army and embarking on my second career, but I spent most of my 22 years serving in CVR(T) and most of what has been written here has been discussed by the men that did crew them and still do!

It is a fantastic piece of equipment, years ahead of its time when designed and that very fact that there is literally nothing that can do what it does, on the market today, marks it as still being a unique and valued capability, that as was written in the article, we loose at our peril.

In the Falklands, it was 10 years old, relegated to secondary roles for fear it would not be able to traverse the terrain, well it did and in the post op reports, they wanted a Sqn, if not a Regt down there.

In Granby it was written off again because “it wouldn’t keep up” with Challenger/Warrior. Well not only did it, but it was proved that both in the Close and Formation Recce role, the need for the manned platform to FIND the enemy, FIX him and if it went pear shaped could stand up for itself till the big boys arrived, was as valuable as ever and the platform of choice?

In the Balkans, during the winter of ’93-’94, the only vehicle that could move over roads with inches of black ice, offer protection against IDF and traverse the steep, snowy terrain to get the job done was CVR(T).

During Telic 1 it was engaging and holding its own in fights with T55 while it’s human crew made the decisions to use Arty, Air or other ground units to out manoeuvre the enemy.

On Herrick with Mine blast Protection, ballistic protection and bar armour, not only does it mean the crew walk away from mine strikes and RPG strikes, I’ve seen it first hand, but in some cases the vehicle not only survives, but continues to fight! (But the extra protection does push it to 11 tonnes!)

Why is CVR(T) so good at what it does?

It has the perfect balance of Armour/Protection/Firepower but it is its size and weight that means it can go anywhere and do anything.

I for one, along with many other will shed a tear when it finally backs into the hanger for the last time.

Dean, a Think Defence commenter

An illuminating quote from someone with a lot of practical experience but what is interesting is that many of the operations mentioned were not traditional reconnaissance, in Sven’s terminology, Category II roles.

As I mentioned above, these seem to be just as prevalent as the traditional reconnaissance roles. For these some of the assumptions change, strategic and tactical mobility become of greater importance than combat strength.

This leads me to the conclusion that that the UK must retain the ability to carry out both, stealthy observation and combative acquisition of information.

A different set of compromises for a different set of requirements

A second conclusion is that those secondary roles are every bit as important and whilst we might sometime use the same equipment we should avoid being straight jacketed into assuming that one size fits all, because it doesn’t.

Next post will look at structures and tools.


The Future of the British Army Series…

The Future of the British Army 01 – Scene Setting

The Future of the British Army 02 – Tasks and Capabilities

The Future of the British Army 03 – Rank and Size

The Future of the British Army 04 – Structures

The Future of the British Army 05 – Heavy Metal

The Future of the British Army 06 – ISTAR and Formation Reconnaissance (01)

The Future of the British Army 07 – ISTAR and Formation Reconnaissance (02) A Sensible Future


Supporting Articles

The Need to Rethink FRES

A Brief History of FRES

Medium Armour – what is it, and what does it mean for the post 2020 force structure?



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June 19, 2011 12:31 am

I’m not sure what the different BRFs are based around but in 16 AA Bde it was the PF platoon.

Each Brigade seems to raise the BRF prior to ops but I’m pretty sure that it is not normally based around an FR Sqn.

Task Force Helmand is scaled on H14 for a BRF and an FR Sqn.

June 19, 2011 1:10 am

Not sure what the RM is up to but the BRF is a pretty small organisation and the RAC regiments have several tasks out there (a) FR Sqn (b) Brigade Advisory Group contribution (c) Warthog Group and maybe as part of a BRF. I think it really is down to the Brigade commander what he wants in his BRF – I imagine that the formation is very flexible and atts and dets come and go but its nucleus is relatively small.

June 19, 2011 2:42 am


– Love the Secret Squirrel. He goes on the Royal ISTAR Corps capbadge.

– Bundle the “pure” ISTAR role, which it seems to me separates out from some of the other recce roles (up to and including the classic “oops — there they are lads — move to contact” :) to the Honourable Artillery Company. It makes a “legacy” sense — they’ve done BRF in the Stan and they were on Corps Patrol together with Artists’ Rifles for BAOR into the early Nineties — and gives you a streamlined unity of training/capbadge. Plus it fits the institutional eccentricity of an army whose world-league Tier 1 SF has a name that suggests first-class stewardesses …

– Much of the rest of the role could be dealt with (and I should head back into Jed’s thread and the Heavy Armour thread on this) with an integrated model for “armoured cavalry” regiments in the RAC. Since armour seems headed back towards a combination of classical cavalry roles and Chobham-tiled taxis for squaddies, away from the clash-of-knights tank battles between 1940 and 1991, mixed-capability tables of organisation in the RAC would seem the way to go. Let the cavalry be, well, cavalry. Everything new is old again after all :)

June 19, 2011 2:45 am

PS: Thanks for bringing up that American report; I read it after it came out and my response remains the same now, “a-fecking-men”.

June 19, 2011 2:50 am

Good posting but surely the main point to note is that the areas encompassed by that damned ISTAR acronym are extremely broad, and therefore some will come to the fore depending upon the nature of the conflict your engaged in, while others may languish a little…….

Intelligence – gathering is not the same as:
Survaillance – which might require stealth, and might lead to:
Target Acquisition – forward observers and JTAC’s and beyond
Recce – which is not just about armoured recce………..

Formation Recce Regts evolved in a particular way, just as 3 Cdo BRF evolved from the Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre, and 16 AAB BRF has evolved from 5th Airborne Pathfinders (elite light infantry formations).

I could be wrong but I don’t actually think CVR(T) was specifically designed to “sneak” about stealthily – I think the 70’s tech used to design a fast vehicle with good cross country performance resulted in a small (visually stealthy) and relatively quiet (aurally stealthy) vehicle, that had a big passive night sight which was good kit for its day, and a gun which could kill BMP, BRD and maybe even T55 (?).

Meanwhile we are 10 years into a population centric COIN campaign where humint and survaillance are possibly more important than “recce by fire” , and where TA came to the fore when ROE allowed blue forces to call in fast air or artillery against fleeting targets or those out gunning our infantry patrols.

Does this mean we need the Royal Corps of Finding Badies?

Personally I don’t think so, however maybe a multi-disciplinary (all cap badge) ‘joint school’ approach to codify what the guys and gals do already, to continually develop doctrine based on lessons learned (by others too).

June 19, 2011 2:59 am


I dunno, think of all the creative phrases an RCFB would lead to on ARRSe … :)

But the “school” approach is an interesting one if you had ‘faculty’ across the breadth of those roles, with varied emphasis as you say by the nature of the conflict. (Of course that does open up the problem of fads and fashions — like whether it was better to spend so long COINing around Aghanistan getting limbs blown off in the mud than to pursue more ops like the one that killed Bin Laden. But that’s in the nature of the business I suppose.)

I’ll stand pat with the armoured cav model for RAC, though. Flexibility plus firepower.

June 19, 2011 3:04 am

Jackstaff has a good point and perhaps we need to spin this way round: ISTAR is now “business as usual” and needs to be embedded into all arms as an organic element.

This also links the sneaky versus fight for it elements: Formation Recce Regt has organic dismounts – Scout Snipers, who can creep about as required and deploy micro-UAV.

Mechanised Infantry have appropriately equipped vehicles to support the Recce Platoon etc

All are able to deploy mast mounted EO/IR/radar/ELINT etc from appropriate vehicles as required ……..

Does that make sense?

June 19, 2011 3:43 am

Does to me — didn’t realise I was that clever :P :) ….

But the Finding Baddies corps still resonates. I remember back when they wanted a City university (for civic pride) in Newcastle-on-Tyne until someone pointed out the acronym ….

June 19, 2011 3:55 am

On a more sober note that does seem like a good way of creating a ‘trade school’ which could easily take on the existing HAC capbadge (to keep from having to invent something.) They help train all the integral recce-types from the various arms in the finer points. Could even, also, serve as a permanent “light” OPFOR (like the one at the US’s Joint Readiness centre), staging the kind of enemy operations that need skilled ferreting out, just to help hone their teaching skills. (Set a thief, etc.)

June 19, 2011 9:32 am

great read admin.

i love reading this stuff as it fills in the fuzzy blanks spaces under the titles.

June 19, 2011 10:26 am

I believe 3 Commando Brigade uses the Brigade Patrol Troop from 30 Commando IXG as BRF. Perhaps a similar unit to 30 Cdo, made of an amalgam of capbadges, for army brigades wouldn’t be a bad idea. (Apologies if this is mentioned before, I had to skim as battery is on last legs.)

June 19, 2011 10:44 am

I’m confused – is TD advocating 30 tonne scout (AKA FRES SV or as TD might like to call it FRES FUBAR) or 11 tonne scout (new CVR(T)) or a mixture of both?!?

Personally I think we should have both in our arsenal, maybe limit the 11 tonne scout to 16 AA BBe and the Royal Marines (and the Para’s if it can be made air drop-able, though at 11 tonnes it should be still be possible to carry one under a Chinook)

June 19, 2011 11:08 am

“the German Army would seem to be going down the stealth route although Sven will be able to provide more details.”

It has been on the stealth route for decades, save for using pairs of main battle tanks for reconnissance in force as well.

The important change from the stealthy (extremely silent) Luchs to the stealthy (silent+small+hiding behind concealment while using mast-mounted sensor) Fennek is this:
The Fennek is only armed for self-defence. It has no combat mission at all any more. It’s not meant to defeat OPFOR armoured recce, or to raid or throw OPFOR in confusion. It’s meant to sneak in, hide and observe. It’s a forward observer vehicle, not a scout.

relevant to this ISTAR topic:

June 19, 2011 12:50 pm

I can’t really argue with the logic of this post at all. My only question or concern; (and where perhaps someone with combat experience at whatever level can help), is does this deal mainly with ‘planned recon’ for want of a better term.

I.e. we have a recon element in a unit (and I think I agree with everyone who thinks that they should be embeded). But will that designated unit be where it need to be all the time? Could we not consider training everyone in some degree of recon capabality. So that when Unit A, (be it a foot patrol or an armoured brigade) needs to know whats over the hill OC can tell Smithers to go look, whether Smithers is on foot with 2 squadies, or a troop of challangers. I am not entirely sure that designanted trained and equiped recon units are necessarily available and again where’s the ruthless commonality element of giving them different vehicles? Unless like CVRT they are so different that they bring a differnt capability to the batttle. NOT convinced at all about ‘lopping a wheel of FRES’ (likewise the BMP V BMD) as you end up with two vehicle not THAT different.

My personal view is that recon is a ‘Come as you are’ capability.

June 19, 2011 1:18 pm

3 Cdo should have had one of the FRRs assigned to it years ago. How the tankers would cope with commando course is another matter….. :)

I just think this new Amry BRF concept is tank/cavalry with no or fewer tanks and some defence management speak to gloss over that the Army higher ups can’t afford to play pretend WW3.

Also I sense it is a bit rough on the line regiments. All this talk of intelligence and adaptability in the field. I am sure there are a good few infantry men with more than adequate skill set to do the job (and drive a vehicle.) Do you really want the “management” telling you that people who have spent their career riding around in tanks have better field craft? Smacks of “somebody” looking for a role in light of the threat of the ever expanding UAV arsenal.

One more thing. At defence exhibitions there always manufacturers with vehicles weighed down with a sensor fit that would sink a frigate. Surely to do ISTAR properly we need some/more of these type of vehicles? In the 21st century surely we are beyond a bloke standing on top of his tank turret with a pair of binoculars?

June 19, 2011 2:54 pm

“I.e. we have a recon element in a unit (and I think I agree with everyone who thinks that they should be embeded)”

Not at all. No recon element should be organic in a combat unit or formation anywhere unless corps or higher HQ is really sure that there won’t be any mobile warfare.

It simply does not work properly (it does in smallish training areas and when looking from the unit’s perspective, but it’s a sheer disaster on the operational level).

Let’s say a battalion battle group is moving eastward, and the recce element is scouting ahead (there are not really enough scouts for flank security in any army).
The movement could be fast, but the recce element can only scout at a low speed (well below 20 km/h) for the reason of survivability.
Now things get ugly. Bde HQ orders the Bn BG to intervene in a crisis 50 km to the north.
The scouts would need to return for up to 30 km, then do route recce et cetera for 50 km. Meanwhile, another Bn BG is being destroyed in the north because our Bn BG was incredibly slow and thus useless.
And that’s before we include all the staff work lags.

In both movements the use of organic scouts created a sense of security for the unit – at the expense of speed.

Non-organic, pre-positioned scouts with an area mission should have had all possible routes in view.

There’s no way how combat formations could have enough organic scouts to keep an eye on all routes. That’s why they need to be non-organic, attached to corps.

There’s also an attrition problem; organic scouts can be lost. Now what? Non-organic scouts would still be available, but organic scouts would need to be replaced by non-scouts (or scouting would be neglected).

Organic scouts are only great on confined training areas, in limited PC training scenarios, from a unit’s perspective – and for people who do not take attrition into account.

Non-organic scouts are the way to go in actual mobile warfare.

June 19, 2011 3:02 pm


Good point about embeded units.

What about making it organic in the sense that all units are trained to carry out at an appropriate level recon.

So that whatever unit in whatever point in the formation, can be told to recon that sector, in our modern network centric era is it really that different? prepared to be told I’m wrong.

June 19, 2011 3:15 pm

Combat troops (infantry, armour) need some scouting and security training, that’s self-evident.
The quest is for a force structure that makes better use of specialisation advantages than to just tell some standard troops to do a specialist’s job.

Scouts/cavalry (or my working title; “heavy skirmishers”) should be area-oriented, LRS are point-oriented and combat troops should be vicinity-oriented.
They gotta pull their own security, advance guard and rear guard as well as short-range patrols. The usual water shed in doctrinal literature is iirc at 30 km (everything below 30 km distance being “close”).

I’d also advise to keep scouts in contact with OPFOR, while combat formations/units should only be in contact if there’s considerable gain to it. The relative inability of combat troops to break contact on short notice is a huge operational problem and drives up the need for combat strength reserves.
Being in contact with OPFOR is furthermore psychically exhausting, and you better only expose a small share of your troops (scouts) to this exhaustion than many at once.

June 19, 2011 5:06 pm

Reading the Paper by Curtis Taylor that was provided, I came away with a few distinct impressions.

– Units/formations were better off employing their own forces for recce duties. Armoured units needed their own tanks to conduct their recce. Therefore training units to conduct their own recce task by fire is more useful in a fluid operation than relying on “someone else”

– However, the circumstances of the various observations made by Mr. Taylor were limited to fluid operations. When given sufficient time before an operation begins (say 24-48 hours) specialist recce units are usable and might even be preferable.

June 19, 2011 5:39 pm

Modern warfare has typically not enough force density for the establishment of front lines. As a consequence all the functions of a front line are either lost or have to be replaced.

This in turn destroys the notion of 24-48 hrs preparation time in most conventional warfare.

Missions or needs for responses change every few hrs in conventional warfare unless two similarly sized incompetent or otherwise largely immobilised armies face each other (see Gulf War 1980-1988).

You did ignore the possibility of prepositioned specialised scouts, right?

June 19, 2011 6:33 pm

Let me try and put this in context;

What Taylor basically found was that at the start of both Iraq wars the opportunity was there for proper scouting by specialised units, often using soft skinned vehicles.

But as soon as the ball started rolling there was no time for proper scouting. Essentially units were being sent out in front more as a kind of Advanced party or Forlorn Hope, discovering the enemy by triggering meeting engagements. For this task, the HMMWV was inadequate, being too poorly protected.

The Bradley was better suited, but even they came up short sometimes. The Abrams was the ultimate tool for the task.

June 20, 2011 12:54 am


I understand your point, but your focusing purely on armoured manouvre warfare, which is not what we are undertaking at the moment, but that was part of my original point: R is only one of the letters in ISTAR.

I agree though that what your describing is the conops of the CVR(T) equipped Formation Recce Regts, while the Fennec seems to be moving more towards the S and the TA ???

June 20, 2011 1:45 am

Good old wikipedia, even has U.S. forces Job descriptions :-)

US Army D19 ‘Cavalry Scout’

USMC MOS 0317 ‘Scout Sniper’

June 20, 2011 1:54 am

That’s a long story.

Back in WW2, Germany had success with 8×8 recce vehicles (with a 2nd driver and as many rearward as forward gears for quick escape). They weren’t really good in Russia, but Cold War expectations included the much-improved Central European road network.

As a consequence, the Bundeswehr wanted such vehicles as well – and it got one. the Luchs; large, but silent 8×8 armoured recce vehicle.

It aged, and aged .. and the peace dividend after ’90 prohibited a similarly large and complex successor. The Bundeswehr had to adopt a new, cheaper concept.

4×4 was the choice. It had to be amphibious, though.
There was a competition, and the engineering-wise impressive Zobel won against the french Panhard VBL.

The VBL was a simple 4×4 armoured vehicle. Its employment as a scout looks like this:
Vehicle drives to edge of concealment (wood or settlement), commander opens hatch, looks at distant concealment with hand-held thermal sight, closes hatch again and VBL drives forward.

That looked was too improvised for the Bundeswehr. It had almost no new vehicle programs at the time, so there was enough attention to dream up a ‘better’ vehicle.

The end result was the over-engineered Fennek, somewhat based on the Zobel demonstrator vehicle.

Something like FRES Scout was never possible for budget reasons. Besides, we still used upgraded Leopard 1 in armoured recce during the 90’s.

June 20, 2011 10:09 am

I think two very different concepts get confused here.

On the one hand, we have MI6/SAS/SBS type spy operations, half a dozen men droppod in, days or even weeks in front of the ground forces.
These are entirely reliant on stealth, even if they do engage and destroy an enemy patrol, that simply brings on a bigger patrol that destroys them.

On the other hand, we have a Brigadier who wants to know whether the guys at the other end of the field will stand or run.
The only way to answer that is to put some fire on them and see what they do.

Its simply not the job of a battlefield soldier to sneak into a compound and take photographs of everyone.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 20, 2011 10:45 am

Not sure if I agree with the OIF report, much depends on whether it was differentiating between strategic, operational or tactical recce. Recce does not have to be fast or operate at a high tempo. It has to be fast enough that it gives you time to act on the information they provide. That means that at the strategic and operational levels recce by stealth is still probably the most viable option. In the Land environment strategic and operational level recce are generally the purview of Special Forces.
At the higher tactical level (corps – division) recce is still generally by stealth but by conventional recce elements (formation recce). A corps takes 48 – 72 hours or so to launch an attack so you want recce 72 hours ahead so to speak. At division level it is 36 hours and so on. The lower the level the less requirement there is on stealth and more on fighting for information. Stealth still plays a part, but the requirement to fight for information and survive on an increasingly dense battlefield becomes more pressing.
The UK Army’s current BRF concept is to my mind confusing. The BRF was heavily used in the early stages of the Afghanistan conflict as a shaping and disrupting force and not strictly as recce. While the use of the force to do thiese tasks is legitimate it appears to have come about because there was no other asset available to do so. From these early beginnings have grown the BRF as is which is as much a manoeuvre element as it is an enabling (recce) element. The BRF role I believe will be taken on by Formation Recce Regiments in the army.
@SO is entirely right in stating that we need as far as possible to keep recce non-organic. One of the dangers of the current UK army’s emphasis on brigades is that all the enablers are moving from div to brigade level, combine this with the UK army’s customary disdain for the chain of command (orders are often seen as a starting point for dicsussion and not as direction to execute…) and there is the danger that the whole will become less then sum of the parts. @SO is wrong however in stating that there are no front lines per se. There are clearly defined front lines in Afghanistan and Somalia, as there were in Iraq and Sri Lanka. In Afghanistan there is the ‘Forward Line Enemy Troops (FLET) and Forward Line Own Troops (FLOT) with contested space in-between. The delineation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ on the ground is very clear in Helmand, and I believe to the east as well (‘Restrepo’ seems to bear this out); it just does not form nice lines on a theatre or even provincial level map.

June 20, 2011 12:50 pm

The German emphasis on stealth has had some very impressive results. Their involvement in Libya for example is completely undetectable :-)

June 20, 2011 1:20 pm

My understanding of the OIF report was that he wasn’t talking at all about special forces etc. That’s not what the guy meant by stealth.

He was talking about using HMMWV as a scout for say, a Battalion level commander. I thought he made it clear that on training exercises the HMMWV crews could quietly take their time to pick their way through enemy territory (stealth) to gather the information needed.

But in OIF, they didn’t have the time. If the armoured coloumn behind you is advancing at 20Km/h, you can’t roll around at 5km/h searching out the best spot to have a sneaky peak from.

Thus the HMMWV were having to dash forward somewhat. Without the benefit of careful route planning etc, they were forced to engage the enemy to find out where they were and who they were. The HMMWV was not up to this task.

So again, kind of repeating myself here, the commanders were forced to use their own standard forces, be those Abrams tanks or Bradley fighting vehicles to acts as their makeshift scouts.

They didn’t have a choice in the matter, they were forced by circumstance to do it (who’d have thought eh, doctrine not surviving contact with the enemy!).

Therefore you either have to put specialist scouts under heavy armour, or you just train your men to perform certain scouting missions, a useful skill for them to have.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 20, 2011 1:57 pm

The OUF report is clearly pitched at the lower tactical level,and highlights the mismatch inherent in putting LASS on HMMWV and then adding both to an armoured unit or formation. Nothing very new there. The US (as did the Brits) still used recce by stealth at the operational and strategic levels, the US just found that soft skinned vehicles in an armoured battle don’t really work. I would need to read more US doctrine, because a troop of recce per BCT is not much (troop equates to a sub-unit) and is certainly not enough to find, fix and then handover to follow on forces at a Bde level unless advancing on a very narrow axis.
With the tempo of the US advance on OIF 1 one wonders why they never used Soviet tactics, optimised for just such operations. Combat Recce Patrols out across the frontage, then advance guard (sub-unit all arms) then vanguard (Battlegroup) and then Mainbody. The advance elements either destroy or fix en elements in situ, allowing the main body to deploy into a quick attack or bypass, in either case with very little loss of momentum.
To return to topic… At Div level and above recce by stealth at Bde level and below less emphasis on stealth.

June 20, 2011 2:33 pm

Here’s a more lengthy history and discussion of US Cavalry & ISTAR formations,

To Fight or Not to Fight?

Organizational and Doctrinal Trends in Mounted Maneuver Reconnaissance from the Interwar Years to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
Robert S. Cameron, Ph.D (600 pages)

June 20, 2011 3:27 pm

I think the list of tasks up at the top is the bit to bear in mind. Especially the number of them, even in an army that doesn’t have a fight-for-information doctrine, that involve fighting. Not just surviving, but also actually initiating the combat in some of those cases.

As a result, I don’t think the “ISTAR Corps” thing is a go-er. There did used to be a Reconnaissance Corps though.

I also think the FRES Mess has a lot to do with incoherence about what the army is going to be doing in future. The original concept was all about SDR ’98 expeditionary warfare and being more deployable. The medium weight concept originally comes from that although the weight is now too much to be very deployable.

An alternative version of that was to give the light infantry something to provide a good cavalry element, better transport to the edge of the battlefield, and some heavy weapons.

Later it was “lessons of Iraq” which at the time were that we needed a lot of armoured but roadbound patrol vehicles. By the time those were being delivered the lessons had changed! It was more about light infantry again with regard to counterinsurgency, getting out of the vehicles, basing closer to the fight. At the same time, the heavy metal was wanted for the offensive operations in the “belts” around Baghdad.

And the procurement consequences are a huge variety of all sorts of stuff piling up, a Scout FRES that’s the size of a Warrior but doesn’t have a big gun, a re-manufacture of CVR(T)s, all kinds of expensive chaos.

If I may make a suggestion, let’s cancel FRES, buy some Antonov 124s instead (the EU, NATO, and the yanks would be delighted to have more both nationally and through SALIS), and do a “CVRT 2.0” design.

June 20, 2011 6:05 pm


The Libyan attack on Germany is as undetectable as our counterattack.


The most important thing about a front line is that it’s uninterrupted. This appeared in WWI when lines were extended to the sea and a neutral border; it was not possible to simply infiltrate or outflank the enemy army any more.

This is not going to happen in most modern conventional warfare. Most modern conventional warfare will rather resemble the fluid post-breakthrough situation known from WW2, with 100% motorised/mechanised forces while WW2 had at least one side with less than 20% motorisation in all theatres but the North African one.
Modern conventional warfare can be much quicker, much more violent than seen in WW2; similar to ’67 and ’73 when outrageous material losses happened in a few days.

Your assumptions about the operating speed of a corps are off, too. Even WW2 campaigns were quicker.
Think about the German breakthrough at Sedan in May 1940. The French staffs were chastised for being unable to mount the necessary corps counter-attack in less than a day. Your 48-72 hrs firmly puts a corps into the total failure category of 1940.

June 20, 2011 7:22 pm

Less applicable than I first thought, but interesting none the less.

Is that “Scouting” or “Soldiering”?
And who should be capable of it?

June 20, 2011 8:04 pm

The German infantry of WW2 was so successful because it had a great repertoire. Part of that repertoire was an infiltration tactic.
An entire infantry battalion could dissolve, infiltrate and re-assembly at a rally point behind enemy lines before it attacks its objective in force.

Neither this nor small-scale raids (Stoßtruppunternehmung)of any nature were ever considered to be tactics for recce forces only. They’re simply parts of a tactically well-rounded combat unit’s repertoire.

June 20, 2011 8:30 pm

That was pretty much my thinking.

Breakthrough, encircle, destroy, doesnt really matter if breakthrough is armoured fist or sneakie buggering.

But if all i8nfatry should be capable of that, I’m still not seeing a need for scouts, outside special forces.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 20, 2011 8:43 pm

@SO. Uninterrupted frontlines are probably an oddity of the European theatre of operations in WW1 and WW2. I accept what you say about modern conflict having the capacity to focus violence more effectively in time and space.

I might be out on Corps planning yardsticks, but a Div works on 24 hours from a standing start to crossing the line of departure for an operation. A maximum 8 hours of that is div planning time, less if prelim moves are required. Most of that is based on the physical realities of movement and logistics. The pass time of a brigade moving at 40km/h with a vehicle distance of 50m between vehicles (so we are assuming an admin out of contact move with air superiority) is just over an hour. To move a division on a given route it will take 3.75 hours just for that division to pass a given point. Now normally divisions move on multiple routes, but especially with the weight of heavy armour et al it remains a very difficult and time consuming process to move large formations. Could a Corps meet a 24 hour timeline? It would find it intellectually and logistically very very difficult to do so nowadays.

Which gets us back to Recce! The higher up the food chain one goes the more important recce and Fires are. The battle at Div level is about delivering the brigades at the right time and place to fight the close battle having shaped the battlespace (with Fires) to give them the best possible chance of doing so. The same is true at platoon (a platoon commander delivers his sections to assault, having ensured that he has the fire support (direct and/or indirect) in place to enable them; the only difference is that recce is normally non-organic at platoon level.

PS – movement speeds on average in the drive to Baghdad are on a par with the German Sedan breakout and formation speeds on the Eastern front (both sides). The US 3rd Infantry Division had reached Baghdad by 5 Apr, some 500km in 17 days, or 30 km a day. The German break out from Sedan saw them arrive at Abbeville on 20 May, 7 days after breaking out from Sedan – 240km in 7 days or 34km per day. I put the fact that modern armed forces are slightly slower down to the amount of logistic drag and staff friction imposed on formations now.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 20, 2011 8:53 pm

@Dominic J. It all depends on the level of expertise that you want, eg: All soldiers are trained in tracking (Ground Sign Awareness), but the best are those employed only in the scout role and who constantly practice it.
Scouts tend to imply non-specialist personnel used at platoon and company level within the US and UK armies in a recce context, but the US also (I think) uses the term as an employment category for those employed in recce units. For the latter there is an additional skill set of being able to interpret what you see and pass it up in a manner that provides intelligence to the commander. For the former a high level of fieldcraft and a nose for trouble is all that is required.

June 20, 2011 8:56 pm

One reason is to take advantage out of specialisation. Specialised training, specialised equipment, specialised OOB.
Another reason is that the trained mindset is different. Scouts and normal combat forces have a different mindset, just as infantry and armour branches have a different mindset.

Combat troops are for example less accustomed to severing their supply lines intentionally than scouts are.

A universal super multi-talent military unit that can do all jobs from MI to arty to helicopter assaults would be great, but it’s not reasonable to allocate resources to its development because that would be utterly inefficient.

June 21, 2011 12:11 am

I thought a comment and gone through last night, but apparently not, and now the conversation has moved on…. ah well….

Looking at just the Recce element of ISTAR, does not the stealth come in at the lowest possible tactical level ? In the US model, Cav Scout’s de-buss from M3 CFV and belly crawl to the point where they get eyes on the bad guys from a hidden vantage point, knowing that they have radio comms with a substantial force with considerable firepower if they get detected. If they get detected we are out of stealth and into high tempo recce by fire ?

Add to this the hand launched micro UAV to see down the block and round the corner in a stealthy manner.

How far do 4 Cav Scouts sneak away from their Bradley ? Who knows, but surely this is towards the ideal solution of being to mix and match capabilities ?

June 22, 2011 11:31 am

I think what this discussion has shown is that FR is extremely diverse and depends hugely on the mission, terrain, enemy etc etc. Should FR regiments be equipped with 2 vehicle sets, one heavy with 40mm CTA and one light (maybe jackals) for sneaky work. They pick the vehicle that matches the mission and then are deployed?

June 22, 2011 12:24 pm

Should FR regiments be equipped with 2 vehicle sets, one heavy with 40mm CTA and one light (maybe jackals) for sneaky work

Sounds good, but if there’s going to be a separate set of sneaky-peeky vehicles, you may as well make the heavy “advance to contact with the enemy” ones as heavy as possible. Challenger 2, for example. Or a slightly modified Chally 2 with less gun (or at least less ammo), more sensors, and more comms.
You could even strip out the gun completely and have a Recce variantChally 2 with a load of armour, lots of sensors and comms kit, maybe a couple of 50-cals in the turret, a dummy main gun, and possibly room for another bloke – so instead of commander-driver-gunner-loader, you’ve got commander-driver-machinegunner and two sensor ops/signallers/dismounted scouts if necessary.

That would seem to be the lesson from the Iraq experience, at least – put the heavies on recce.

Telling the STA specialists to do formation recce in front of the armour is, as watchers of Generation Kill will know, “retarded”. :)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 22, 2011 12:32 pm

Traditionally scouting and reconnaissance were done by light infantry and/or light cavalry. As Sven says they were covered by the term skirmishers;These units also had important combat roles. I see a return to such concepts, such as my “real” rifles and my (heavy burrowed) idea of dragoons as a return to skirmishing. I also think they would be useful as (part of) any rapid reaction /raiding force we develop in the future.
I am not a fan of the Fres SV and would rather see a light armoured vehicle replace CVR(T) that is airmobile, even helimobile. It can then be readily deployed around the battlefield as required and give the light infantry forces some armoured fire-support.

June 22, 2011 12:45 pm

@A, I personally feel Chally is too big for this role but every situation is different and it would have it’s merits as the US found out. Seperate turret… in trying to keep with commonality I don’t think a seperate Chally turret would be cost effective given the size of our armed forces now let alone in the future. FR also have a requirement for bods in the back of the vehicle, Chally would fail here and would require a third vehicle for this role.

This is why i’m not keen on FRES UV, it will be a fleet within a fleet. It should be the same size as the IFV varient so it is more usefull within the WHOLE fleet of FRES. I do think it should have a couple of javelins though to deal with heavy armour should it come accross it.

June 22, 2011 2:12 pm

in trying to keep with commonality I don’t think a separate Chally turret would be cost effective given the size of our armed forces now let alone in the future.

Good point – but it needn’t actually require a completely new turret, just a standard Chally turret with the gun, gun mount and ammo storage removed.
The commonality would still be extremely high – except for additional sensor and comms kit, and an armour blanking plate across the hole in the turret front left by the removal of the gun mount and mantlet, it wouldn’t have anything on it that wasn’t also on an existing Challenger. And with five tonnes of hardware removed, it would presumably be significantly nippier.
Or, as I say, just use a standard Challenger.

FR also have a requirement for bods in the back of the vehicle, Chally would fail here and would require a third vehicle for this role.

Scimitar doesn’t allow bods in the back, though. If we’re OK using Scimitar for FR now, why not use Challenger for it in the future?
This is the point of the distinction between sneaky-peeky FR and advance-to-contact FR. When you’re charging down the road in a Challenger looking for the enemy, how much are you going to want to dismount and walk around?
When the FR crews are riding Jackal, that’s different.

June 22, 2011 3:53 pm

Talking about stealth, a civvie once told me ‘camo’ on vehicle and personel was useless now… with high tech equipment and recon etc etc

Took me a while to ge it into him it was still as relevant in todays conflict as it ever was.

Would be interesting in what measures of stealth replacement equipment like future recon vehicles; not only camo, but heat/electronic immissions etc…maybe even radar and sound to a certain extent?

Then again, I’m not armour minded; when these things roll in, normally its after a over-flight of recon assets like reaper, sentinel, RAPTOR or satellites… but it is just a thought.

June 22, 2011 4:27 pm

@pab and td,
I agree about having a range of options available depending on the task at hand and think the army has shown itself to be very flexible with regards to re equipping tank units with mastiff for Afghanistan for example. I suppose the peacetime to@e is what’s normally discussed and not knowing what the future holds a medium weight all-rounder is a likely outcome. I’d like to see stocks of mrap and lighter types retained after the post war drawdown on the principle that its easier to re train a tanker to drive a big truck than the other way around.

June 22, 2011 5:25 pm

@ A, you’re right Scimitar doesn’t have a boot, Spartan does though and this is used for dropping off dismounted recce, ATGW, sniper teams. My line of thinking was that with FRES, at least all vehicles have this capability, should make them even more flexible.

@ Paragon & TD, totally agree, give the tankes an official second role. This frees up infantry for their core role and gives the tankies something to do when not using heavy armour.

June 22, 2011 6:09 pm

Pab: well, if we are already sending Challengers up as formation recce, why not stick some IFVs with them to carry the dismounts? No need for a separate armoured scout vehicle at all then – you’ve got the same vehicles in your Bde recce screen as in the rest of the Bde, IFV and MBT. Admittedly you lose a bit of flexibility as you say.

The ideal would be Merkavas – MBTs that can carry dismounts – but absent that…

June 22, 2011 6:21 pm

What I don’t understand is that we live in a world where we can buy “webcams” at the supermarket till, portable DVD players for less than fifty, and yet look at Afghanistan and those mudbrick compounds and “we” are just funnelling troops into choke points and kill zones. You could march a battalion through some of those Afghan villages and have the Taliban just the other side of the wall and be none the wiser. UAVs have the place. But I would like to is some simple robust cameras on light telescoping masts mounted on ATV. You wouldn’t catch every movement the enemy, but you would drive them out of the line of sight, and force then to keep their heads down. There appears to be lots of cover in Afghanistan in the compounds and around the water courses, but none of it is very high.

Similarly with targets at distance. No more relying on the rifle sight. Our Victorian ancestors took their machine guns into the field on small carriages. Imagine a large calibre weapon with a good rugged video camera mounted on top mounted on ATV. It wouldn’t work everywhere. But when patrols are mounted in open areas and there is a need to protect against collateral damage it would I think be useful. Guaranteed target identification with good probability of a hit. Perhaps it could be operated remotely via cable so the firer can sit in a convenient ditch.

June 22, 2011 6:28 pm

They wouldn’t be “ideal” at all.

To illustrate that an anecdote:
Back in 1940, during the second stage of the French campaign, some German divisions made great progress against French resistance. Their recce was vastly superior.
The secret? They had some recce teams mounted on horse and thus able to swim through rivers. The French didn’t expect that and were infiltrated handily.

Merkava may be much, but some things it ain’t for sure; well-prepared to cross a river, capable of crossing weak bridges, capable of climbing unusually steep slopes, capable of negotiating unusually narrow roads or capable of crossing swampy terrain.
It ain’t capable of feigning it’s a harmless truck by sounding like one, or having a trucks’ radar echo. It’s also not going to astonish people with 1,000 km road range (at least not with dismounts or good ammo load).

June 23, 2011 8:31 am

Of just level the ****ing compounds and rebuild them.

Level the town, rebuild proper houses with indoor plumbing, gobar gas and solar electric.
Build a curtain wall and arm and train the townspeople to defend it.

If they still support the Taliban, drop a MOAB on the town and repeat with a neighbouring town, or not.

Merkava Namers arent all purpose, but for Israeli needs, they are ideal.

Not everyone considers the Franco German border a likely warzone…. To be fair, if were German, I would.

I really dont see a war in which the UK could use light cavalry sensibly

June 23, 2011 10:38 am

Back in 1940, during the second stage of the French campaign, some German divisions made great progress against French resistance. Their recce was vastly superior.
The secret? They had some recce teams mounted on horse and thus able to swim through rivers. The French didn’t expect that and were infiltrated handily.

I’ve never heard that before.

That aside, I take your point; I’m not suggesting heavy armour for recce units at all times; I’m suggesting that recce units should have the option of Jackal, for sneaky-peeky stuff in a lower-threat battlefield, and Challenger 2 (or Challenger 2R) for the heavy-duty advance to contact work.

June 23, 2011 3:21 pm

Level the town, rebuild proper houses with indoor plumbing, gobar gas and solar electric.
Build a curtain wall and arm and train the townspeople to defend it.

If they still support the Taliban, drop a MOAB on the town and repeat with a neighbouring town

There are roughly 20,000 villages in Afghanistan. (Giustiozzi) Rebuilding one village is going to take (let’s be optimistic here) six months. Providing security for that rebuilding operation is going to take (again, optimistic) a rifle company.
So you can rebuild, at most, 20 villages per year per brigade.
So you need a thousand brigade-years of troops…

Not really practical.

June 29, 2011 5:08 pm

Is there any reason why all 5 Formation Recon Regiments shouldn’t be scrapped and 5 Armoured Infantry Batallions equipped with Warrior/Bulldog be tasked with that role instead? Indeed with increasing use of UAVs and the cost pressures the Army is facing, surely this is a logical place to look for cuts?

With the 4 Armoured Infantry Batallions required to support to Armoured Brigades that would give us a total of 9 – we have more than enough Warriors (789) and Bulldogs (500+) to provide interim upgrades to to fill out this 9 batallions. This could then be followed up by a simple replacement buy of an IFV in the future…..

We have to be realistic – the defence budget is NOT going to increase and billions of pounds of savings need to be found!

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 29, 2011 5:49 pm

Formation recce regiments are considerably smaller (half) then Armoured Infantry regiments so there would be a manpower saving too.

However formation recce (all recce in the UK army) are trained to find the enemy through stealth, not to fight for it (albeit that is changing with the BRF Concept of Operations (CONOPS)). So losing the AI battalions would be able to do one or other, but not both roles.
There is also a considerable training burden on both roles meaning that a battalion could not do both roles.
Warrior and Bulldog are also not best suited to recce by stealth (I would hazard to say that Bulldog is just not suited to recce period) so there is another reason to change the CONOPS)

So why not scrap 5 x Armoured Infantry battalions and keep the recce?

June 29, 2011 6:32 pm

@ DomJ

I was joking………………..

Rebuilding all those villages would cost too much.

What they should have done is sanitized an area of Taliban and then used the protected village strategy. Plug the perimeter walls of the villages. Surround them in razor wire at a good distance. Control movement in and out as best you can. Then once the area begins to flourish then you can make head with hearts and minds with the surrounding open districts. But it would take too many troops to do it. Um. You would need an airmobile reserve too. If the Taliban are brought to battle you can then over whelm them. Too many troops. And not enough helicopters. Well helicopters at Western prices…….