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

In the previous post I looked at a few issues that might influence equipment and structure decisions. Do we employ stealth or fight for information, have organic or non organic reconnaissance units and what is the relative importance of secondary roles that reconnaissance units tend to get used for.

If the answer to the first question is to use stealth then this will result in a completely different set of equipment than if we chose the fight for information route. The resulting equipment will also likely be used for secondary roles, probably more often than pure reconnaissance, so the answer to question one is even more important.

The problem here is that often, the ‘model answer’ for one question results in an unacceptable compromise for another.

If we attempt a one size fits all approach we inevitably over complicate matters by trying to meet diametrically opposed requirements, this drives price up which inevitably reduces quantities. The time taken to come to a conclusion drags out the process, making it vulnerable to the latest military trend and that is before we start the process of taking pen to paper.

Welcome to the wonderful world of FRES, where a C130 transportable vehicle would have the protection of CR2 and cost the same as a Land Rover.

I am of the opinion that until someone invents anti gravity plasma drives we cannot produce a single vehicle that does it all and must therefore accept the very simple notion that a single vehicle cannot possibly meet every single requirement.

As much as I think CVR(T) is a brilliantly executed concept that has proven itself time and time again, the FRES Scout approach is more relevant for many situations. I do not however, think the CVR(T)’s combination of tactical and strategic mobility be discarded so lightly, if only we had those plasma anti grav generators.

The answer to this conundrum is simple; accept there exists a need for a range of vehicles with varying levels of mobility and protection that be deployed as the situation dictates.

To repeat a phrase from an earlier post;

One job, one tool

To carry out effective reconnaissance we need everything from a shanks pony to a Challenger tank and to carry out those all important secondary roles we need an equally diverse range of equipment.

The arguments about fighting or sneaking become irrelevant, because you need to do both, is this unrealistic in light of fiscal constraint, arguably, yes. But as with all the ‘future of’ posts I have tried to shift the funding levers to reduce some capability areas to free up funding for others.

This is one of the ‘others’

Despite the complete discrediting of the FCS/FRES/RMA PowerPoint fest about information being a substitute for old fashioned concepts of combat effectiveness the impact of timely information and the rapid dissemination of usable information should not be underestimated.

ISTAR is an area where we can leverage our technological superiority at the expense of personnel numbers where continuing cost pressures will drive them down.

A Sensible Approach

If we look at the current approach it is entirely logical.

FRES Specialist Vehicle will create a family of vehicles based on an Infantry Combat Vehicle, the GD ASCOD2. Protected mobility, scout, repair, recovery, command, ambulance variants are planned with bridge laying and a direct fire variant using a common base vehicle.

These will replace CVR(T) and some FV432’s although the final make up and distribution of variants amongst the planned Multi Role Brigades is still ‘work in progress’ and therefore anyone’s guess.

Because of several decades of frankly scandalous incompetence we have found ourselves in a position where instead of an innovative vehicle industry that could create a decent vehicle with export potential we have had to settle for a gold plated version of an in service foreign vehicle that first started trials 20 years ago.

By 2017 when the first FRES SV comes into service the base vehicle will be a quarter of a century old.

£500 million will buy us 7 prototypes which whilst I understand things are expensive it is still difficult to comprehend, no matter how clever GVA and CIDS are, how the concept phase will cost this much.

FRES Scout is in many ways a conservative design, technologically mature concepts throughout. Whilst TRACER was proposing hybrid electric drives, survivable crew capsules, remote main weapon, acoustic sensors, band tracks and silent running FRES Scout will be conventional in almost all aspects.

Whilst the electronic architecture will be modern, reflecting the current norms of the automotive industry, it will feature conventional tracks, a diesel engine, flat bottomed hull, conventional layout and manned turret. TRACER took an innovative approach to crew survivability, the three sitting in a single capsule with the driver at the front on the centreline. ASCOD has the driver over to one side, near the tracks.

Reading the tea leaves and having a wild stab in the dark the FRES SV will eventually replace CVR(T) and some FV430’s. Eventually they will also replace Warrior so we will end up with a pretty common vehicle fleet.

To keep the short term costs down Warrior will be retained but have a very similar set of overall characteristics to FRES so the direction of travel should be obvious.

At the lighter end of the weight scale the new build Spartan/Scimitar hybrid will continue to provide a tactically and strategically mobile light armour support capability for 3CDO and 16AAB, supplemented by various combinations of Jackal, Foxhound, Viking and even Bronco until the promised land of FF2020 extra money comes up with something new, maybe based on OUVS.

Who knows

So a sensible future might just be exactly what it is planned.

Of course, budget pressures may result in the complete cancellation of the FRES programme (this has been signalled in various rumours in the press) and if this happens I would expect to see Warrior and CVR(T) continuing their double act. The Warrior upgrade programme and purchasing a few CVR(T) Mk2 may well be the accepted alternative.

In the next post I am going to look at a less than sensible future, which I actually think makes more sense!



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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Phil Darley
June 24, 2011 9:23 am

TD I agree of course. One thing that did concern or rather puzzle me was the reference to OUVS!

A. I thought it had died.

B. OUVS was very much an off the shelf programme of vehicles that were not armoured in anyway, certainly not to be used as a CVRT replacement, not to mention they would be wheeled not tracked!

Surely it is not beyond the capabilities of the UK defence industry to take the basic concept of CVRT/Stormer and build to modern standards using, for example capsule designs aka Foxhound or Tracer, band tracks, maybe hybrid drives and active counter measures ti give us a battle capable fighting vehicle of about 12-16 tonnes,

June 24, 2011 9:34 am

OUVS is very dead, it has been replaced by a new but completely unfunded programme. The entire armoured vehicle strategy for the UK Army has failed catastrophically and expensively and the fact that nobody has been called to account for it demonstrates the complete lack of accountability in UK military procurement. The failure has not just been in project planning but also in industrial policy an in addition to costing a fortune this failure has also cost British lives.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 24, 2011 9:52 am

Was the Spartan/Scimitar mash-up created for 3CDO and 16AAB in particular? To equip them while the other CVR(T) get the cola can treatment, or were they knocked up just for general use in Afghanistan?

Do we know anything about this, other than the few photos that everyone’s seen?
Phil. Is it beyond the capabilities of the UK defence industry? At a guess, yes.

It’s a mystery to me where they would find the delays and the cost overruns in something as simple as you make it sound; but I have complete faith in our government and defence industry’s capability to arse things up.

I had thought that a lot of the work had been done developing TRACER, and that the tech could easily be turned into the CVRT replacement you describe.

It’s interesting to note that not so many years ago there was debate as to whether TRACER could be abandoned, with UAVs filling the recce role. Sounds like a poorly conceived idea.

June 24, 2011 10:30 am

This was just a guess on my part, but I assumed the CVR(T) fleet was just out of lives.
Coming up 50 years old with a hard life, its not hard to imagine that any and all breakdowns put them beyond economic repair.

June 24, 2011 10:55 am

Given that we have so many regiments equipped with CVR(T) which as Dominic says is surely out of lives isn’t the only option to actually buy something that is available now to replace the capability gap that is present now. The future will have take care of itself otherwise we’ll be another 40 years at this. It’s got to be CV90 Armadillo surely for the recce formations and mechanised infantry plus Warrior upgrade plus gradual rationalisation of the light vehicle fleet into one family of MRAPS (the Ranger for my money). Then at least we can do Heavy, medium, and peacekeeing/rapid reaction. COIN will stretch us again due to the absence of a genuine medium MRAP heavy hitter but we could fill that gap later as the tech improves with UOR.

Phil Darley
June 24, 2011 11:03 am

@Bob could not agree more. People need to be brought to account for this shambles. The problem is, so many people have been involved over such a long time, it would be almost impossible.

As I have said before and has been stated by those in the know, the money has never been there ti actually buy something. The fact that when you add up all the failed programmes it would have gone some way to buying new fleet. Each failure / cancellation is another budget period, so they have all avoided spending the 10-20billion to re-equip the army with a new fleet of vehicles.

I don’t think they ever will get them now. The country us broke, defence gas never been a priority, so I can the treasury saying the wars are over. Why do you need new fighting vehicles.

You have managed the two Gulf wars and Afghanistan without them, we have bought you 100s of new Jackals, Mastiffs, Ridgebacks, £700million on the TSV not too mention the upgrades to the FV432 and CVRT. Why do you need FRES? The kitty us empty fcuk off snd make do with what you have!!!

June 24, 2011 11:16 am

We shan’t have much to read about if that happens Phil. Unthinkable surely :)

June 24, 2011 11:24 am

The problem with the anti gravity plasma drive is it wasn’t originally developed for hot and high operation,so once you’ve added a cooling system and bigger power plant it no longer fits in the dropship cargo bay.

Phil Darley
June 24, 2011 11:26 am

Viceroy, you can see sone MoD or Treasury whizz kid, coming up with that idea, claiming he has saved billions and getting a fcuk-off big bonus cheque for suggesting it!!!

June 24, 2011 11:32 am

Sadly I can see it all too clearly Phil, with some justification though, if I’m honest. Something has to give though.=

June 24, 2011 12:39 pm

Once you’ve found a rare over worked cargo shuttle to get around the payload limitations of the showboating assault dropships – please note that the anti gravity plasma drive has been procured via an Urgent Operational Requirement, without provision for training, supplied documentation or any spares.
You must learn how to start it up and operate it correctly first time. Pay will be docked for unwritten ‘elf-n-safety violations and absolutely no breakages are permitted.

June 24, 2011 1:30 pm

TD – this is just what the media industry call a ‘teaser’ for your next great article !

Be careful now, or confused ex-officers will accuse of being a professional journalist :-)

And as we know, once they have figured out your a professional journalist and this is your day job, it is only a matter of time until they figure out what your secret agenda is, and which “vested interests” are funding you …..

Sorry, had to stop there for a fit of girlie giggles !!

Please don’t make us wait too long for part 3

Phil Darley
June 24, 2011 4:11 pm

Viceroy, I truly fear for the armed forces. The military have been found wanting in many aspects. Our doctrine and tactics where found wanting in Basra. You can can dress it up all you want but it was essentially a defeat. Caused by lack of equipment and insufficient troops YES! But the failure to change tactics and appreciate that we were doing things wrong compounded the situation causing the British Army to be forced to leave and the Americans to have ti cone in and sort the mess out! A very black period in the Army’s history! What makes it worse is that I don’t think they accepted their failings so no lessons learned?

That has made the politician’s very nervous of believing all that the senior commanders tell them, you combine that with watheir obvious inability decide what vehicles they actually want and they start to look very weak.

From a treasury point of view to see the Military not knowing what they want, the MoD wasting billions on failed programmes and the wars coming to a close, you can see that Defence is going to be and us being decimated

Just a few examples, 34 RAF squadrons at the time of GW1, we could end up with as few as 6 combat squadrons!

The number of helicopters has been a source of
endless discussion. Despite numerous promises, the helicopter fleets will be decimated come 2015! Here is a snapshot. 42 HC4 Seakings
replaced by 28 Merlins, 28 Merlins to be replaced by less than 10 Chinooks, 60 Navy Lynx replaced by 28 wildcat, 100 Army Lynx & 27 Gazelle’s replaced by 34 wildcats. Overall there will be a 23% reduction for the RAF, 47% reduction for the Navy and a 48% reduction for the Army!!!

Just as well we”ve got a fcuking surplus of Helicopter lift, because if we had a shortage that would ve really bad news! ;-)

June 24, 2011 4:17 pm

Yup, I agree with all of that. It’s a total mess. Add in the blockhouse strategies in Helmand and you have a real copperbottomed cockup. Will we get (post-2015) a proper, open (and very painful) analysis of where our strategy, tactics, doctrine, procurement and leadership failed? Will all that lead to changes and reforms? Stop laughing at the back.

Phil Darley
June 24, 2011 8:11 pm

Viceroy… We can but hope!

I am not holding my breath though!

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 24, 2011 10:12 pm

There have been at least four internal studies conducted by the army on the Iraq Campaign, at least 2 of which are known to be scathing.
The UK’s COIN doctrine in 2001 was fit for purpose, in fact FM 3-24 (the US doctrine produced in 2007) was largely based on the extant UK doctrine. The problem the UK approach was that it did not follow it’s own doctrine which was neither taught nod understood within the Army.
Not that the UK was facing an insurgency in Basea, the problem there was entirely different.

June 24, 2011 10:30 pm

Has the Army understood that it did not understand its own COIN doctrine and begun teaching that it did not teach it and thereby reached a clearer understanding of where and why it failed to teach and understand. This is the only way to understand how its COIN doctrine should be updated in 2011 so that it can be taught and understood in future in the light of the failure to teach and understand in the past. To paraphrase Petraeus, once we understand the above, we’ve won the war.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 24, 2011 10:40 pm

It is not the army did not understand it’s own COIN doctrine, it did not know it’s COIN doctrine. Now the Army knows it’s COIN doctrine but does not understand it…
The Army is pretty simplistic. By and large soldiers want to know what to do; they do not seek to understand why that ‘what to do’ is applicable. Without understanding ‘why’ one cannot hope to adapt, nor to get the campaign plan right.

June 24, 2011 10:46 pm

Asking soldiers to ‘defeat’ an insurgency without the framework of a established and functional civil society to pick up the slack and exploit such increased security as can be provided is I think mission near-impossible.

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
June 24, 2011 11:14 pm

Soldiers can only defeat an insurgency by killing all the insurgents and so cowing the local populace that it will not consider supporting or condoning an insurgency.
The ‘Western Way’ of COIN is for the armed forces to buy sufficient time and space for the recognised government to gain credibility and legitimacy. This latter way implies having a functioning government of sorts!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 25, 2011 1:08 am

An interestimg idea from the Scrapboard site which deals with COIN issues and touches on the benefits for wheels in certain situations;

June 25, 2011 9:57 am


A link further , from the link that you provided has an interesting sequal to the desperate attempts to up-armour Humvees in the field (in Iraq); the Turks have done it ‘industrially’:
“AM General and Otokar have revealed a design for a next-generation Cobra,
-based on AM General’s XM1211 ECV II upgrade of the high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV).
-15 ECV II demonstrators have been ordered by the US Army, which are due to begin trials in 2008.”

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 25, 2011 5:16 pm

@ ACC – I believe the Cobra has grown n to a small family of vehicles.